Banff, Alberta

Culture: Banff may “spring” to life for ski season but the land of peaks, valleys and lakes offers much more in outdoor snow-sporting culture. From snowboarding in Banff National Park to ice skating, sledding and tobogganing at Fenlands Banff Recreation Center, any trip here must include an homage to the great outdoors.

Food: Banff is a resort town in the province of Alberta, Canada and luxury is not at a shortage. Treat yourself to a meal at Eden Restaurant where four different tasting menus await in a dark-paneled dining room which overlooks the snowy town. Your table “consultant” will walk you through each course, pairing your meal with the perfect beverage.

Shopping: Caribbean folks will be familiar with the term “rude girls” and the shop by the same name does not disappoint. Reviewers love the racks of edgy sweaters and tees, all reasonably exclusive to this one-store brand that caters to locals and visitors alike.

Cocktails: A pitcher of beer or ale will certainly warm you up in cold Banff come February. Grab a pitcher of Grasshopper and settle in for some local, live music at Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery where area bands not only play, but join in on the drink.

What’s Hot this month: The Train Station is the name for the venue of “Big Bear,” part of the annual Snow Days Festival. Watch top ski and snowboard pros do their best tricks at this unique location, where DJs, music, food and bevvys are on heavy offer. See online for details.

 

Marrakech, Morocco

Culture: A oasis and riot of color in the middle of the city, Jardin Majorelle was designed by a French artist back in the 1920s and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent. Wandering among its lily-studded pools and towering cacti, you’ll come across a cobalt blue villa housing an array of Berber textiles and artifacts.

Food: Latitude 31 puts a contemporary twist on Moroccan cuisine, with signature dishes including delicately spiced tagines and stuffed briouat pastries. Nestled deep in the Medina, the restaurant’s shaded courtyard setting is miraculously tranquil.

Shopping: Exploring one of the labyrinthine souks is a must – each is dedicated to a different ware, from slippers to spices. If haggling isn’t your style, though, fixed-price boutique 33 Rue Majorelle showcases more than 100 Moroccan and foreign designers, while its neighbor Chabi Chic specializes in stylish homeware.

Cocktails: Sir Winston Churchill was such a fixture at Hotel La Mamounia that they named a bar after him. Sink into a black velvet armchair and savor a martini (or if you’re really imitating Winston, a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne) as the pianist plays old jazz melodies.

What’s Hot this month: Thousands of Renault 4Ls are set to zoom into the city on Feb. 24 for the final leg of the 4L Trophy Rally, laden with school supplies for Morocco’s most underprivileged children. The teams will have raced through some 6,000 km of mountains, dunes and wadis all the way from France for Europe’s largest student rally. See online for details.

 

Madrid, Spain

Culture: Travel insiders know that author Anneli Bojstad’s five-day “Madrid Gardens, Palaces and Tapas Tour” is one very luxe way to immerse yourself in the gardens, history and food of Madrid. Bojstad arranges access to Spain’s most coveted cultural spots, often with tours by actual owners.

Food: We love the simple allure of good coffee and local tostada con tomate (toast with fresh tomato puree). This classic breakfast is best enjoyed drizzled with small-batch olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt. Venta el Buscón serves the iconic combo with cured ham and fresh OJ.

Shopping: Spanish brand Zara reigns king in the high streets of Madrid, but for local goods such as espadrilles and even wall hangings, Casa Hernanz on Calle Cruz is well-loved. At Mercado de San Miguel, gourmet foods are beautifully packaged and you can sip wine while you shop. Salud!

Cocktails: At Macera Tallebar, gin-infused tonics, rums and whiskeys are on the menu along with delicious hot sandwiches served small plate-style. This is a perfect place for late night drinks and bites.

What’s Hot this month: Charismatic Madrid-based curator Xavier Bray will organize an exclusive tour dedicated to the 2016 Goya Portraits exhibition at the Madrid National Gallery. See online for details.

 

Sarasota, Florida

Culture: Visit the Ringling Museum of the American Circus to see performers’ wardrobes, props and all types of equipment, including beautifully carved parade wagons, and even “the human cannon” for a vintage taste of circus culture.

Food: Even for Floridians, Madfish Grill is “off the beaten path.” Located on I-75, this classic seafood restaurant puts a twist on some of our Florida favorites. The fried shrimp is crusted with coconut macadamia nuts and Benny’s Jamaican Jerk Wings are crispier than the Caribbean version, doused with copious amounts of Ranch or Bleu Cheese dressing. Wash it down with chilled “mangospacho.” Yum.

Shopping: Sarasota Architectural Salvage in downtown is a 10,000 foot warehouse space dedicated to antiques and functional art including elaborate stained-glass windows, vintage circus relics and high-end furniture crafted from discarded materials from historic buildings.

Cocktails: Social Eatery & Bar is famous for its creative, locally-sourced Italian meals but the craft cocktails and beer are what make news, as well as the well-heeled loyal patrons who lend credence to the tag line of  “Eat. Drink. Be.”  This place is touted as a must-stop for bar-hoppers who enjoy sipping and people-watching outside on the patio in the beautiful Florida winter weather.

What’s Hot this month: Are there any SNL fans in the house? Steve Martin and Martin Short are performing a one-night only show in Sarasota at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the Tamiami Trail. Whether you love SNL, or its Canadian counterpart Second City, this revue will be a treat. See online for details.

 

Seoul, Korea

Culture: For a taste of old-school imperial Korea, start your visit with a trip to Gyeongju, once home to the 1,000-year old Silla dynasty featuring eighth century temples, twin stone pagodas and a large bronze Buddha for that perfect photo op.

Food: Buzzy dishes like fermented veggie kimchi and the newly-popular rice bowl phenomenon known as “bibimbap” all hail from Korean food culture. Visit Gogung in the Myeongdong district for the latter, which is a mixed rice bowl consisting of rice, vegetables meat and red curry paste.

Shopping: Korean beauty products have been taking over the skincare scene for some time. Visit Meyongdong for the biggest concentration of flagship Korean beauty stores and get your glow on, along with access to all the big-chains like Nike, H&M and Forever 21.

Cocktails: You will be hard-pressed not to find Korean “soju” in every restaurant you visit on your trip. The slightly sweet, vodka-tasting liquor is the nation’s drink of choice and can be found nearly everywhere, but especially in the happening Gangnam area (famous for its eponymous name and dance “Gangnam Style”).

What’s Hot this month: Seoul’s natural landscape may be limited due to development, but technology does not disappoint at the LED Flower Garden, open during the slightly cooler winter months in Jung-gu. Walk through a bed of illuminated roses at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and revel in a celebration of light and design. See online for details.