Skip the Forbidden Palace for a neon-lit ice palace.
Hours From New York: 15
DAYTIME TEMP: 20 °
TYPE OF VACATION: Family Friendly
The temperatures around Harbin, about an hour and a half north of Beijing by plane, are subzero for most of the winter, making it the perfect location either for mass depression or a psychedelic frozen compound that looks as if it was created by Las Vegas ice carvers. There are two parts: the Snow Sculpture Art Fair, with its mammoth, almost Constructivist alabaster-white sculptures, and the flashy, neon-lit Ice and Snow World, where you’ll see achievements like Beijing’s Summer Palace re-created in ice, with a built-in slide. It’s dramatic during the day but spectacular at night, when the whole area is illuminated by a breathtaking spectrum of reds, blues, yellows, pinks, greens, and oranges. A fireworks display pushes the drama over the top. Pile on the fleece and get there in the early afternoon to see it all by daylight; pass the time ice fishing, or slipping down an ice slide, until the nighttime display. Book a room for the night in the north wing (it’s newer) of the massive Songhuajiang Gloria Inn (from $40; gloriahotels.com). Back in Beijing, thaw out in a Diplomat Deluxe Room at the St. Regis (from $200; starwoodhotels.com/stregis), and make sure you stop by Din Tai Fung’s sleek, modern dining room for Beijing’s best dumplings (dintaifung.com.cn). If you can stand more outdoor activity, make a trip to the Ghost Market, outside the Second Ring Road, where merchants sell everything from cricket cages to what they will tell you are Ming-dynasty ceramics.
Puerto Iguazú, Argentina
Go into the jungle, and get off the grid.
Hours From New York: 13
DAYTIME TEMP: 73 °
TYPE OF VACATION: Romance
Leave your converter at home because you won’t find any electrical outlets at Yacutinga Lodge, an eco-resort in the middle of nowhere, Argentina. Hop the 90-minute flight from Buenos Aires to Iguazú Falls, where a guide will pick you up for the two-hour ride deep into the dense jungle of the Misiones Forest. Over the next five days, you’ll see 2,000 kinds of plants but no phones, no TVs, and no lights after 11 p.m. (that’s when the electricity goes off). Take advantage of the early nights, because that 6 a.m. knock on your private forest bungalow is your guides Gustavo and Corino, fetching you for a morning nature stroll to catch glimpses of rare plants and birds (spotted tinamous, yellow-headed caracaras), and bugs, snakes, and iguanas. The lodge takes care of all meals (the parilla barbecue is a highlight) and activities, from tropical-butterfly watching to river boating and tree planting to sense-heightening night hikes that teach you to explore by sound and touch rather than sight. Yes, that’s Brazil across the river. Yes, the mangos were cut that morning. And no, you can’t use the lodge computer to check your e-mail (about $1,224 for six days and five nights; yacutinga.com).