These Travel Ideas Guarantee You'll End 2020 on a High Note

2020 is almost over. Go out with a bang.


Editor’s note: We know COVID-19 is impacting travel plans right now. For a little inspiration, we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places around the world. Be sure to check travel restrictions and protocols before you head out.The best part of December 2020 will no doubt take place at 11:59pm on the 31st, when all of humanity shotguns a bottle of champagne and welcomes 2021 with something resembling hope. 

But until then, we’ve got some clutch ideas for holiday getaways so you can leave 2020 on a high note. Ski slopes are open, holiday lights are twinkling, and road trips are still up for the taking. Bust out the Gore-Tex and carpe the diem… 2020’s on its way out.


Chill out in Vermont

For a place that’s likely covered with a thick layer of powder as you’re reading this, Vermont in the winter sure gives off a lot of cozy vibes: think glittering icicles on historic covered bridges and mom-and-pop general stores stocked with some of the best beer in America. We’re eyeballing friendly Burlington as an ideal place to visit this winter, where you can eat heartily, hit the slopes, and fall in love with Vermont. Even if you just hole up in a log cabin and smoke a ton of (legal!) weed next to a wood-burning stove, it sounds pretty magical. Just make sure you’re following COVID protocol.

Or warm way up in Arizona

Arizona is straight-up gorgeous, and yet somehow manages to be overlooked among its Southwestern brethren. No more! Winter is a fantastic time to visit Arizona, whether you want to explore one of America’s most under-appreciated ski scenes outside Flagstaff or take advantage of all-season camping in its vast wildernesses, which includes the Grand Canyon and the criminally under-visited Saguaro National Park. Stop off in lively Phoenix or artsy Tucson and you might find yourself considering a move. They legalized cannabis last month… just sayin.’

Find yourself in the desert

Speaking of deserts, those expanses are looking extra appealing right now. Maybe it’s time to load up the RV and jaunt through West Texas to see the Marfa lights. Cruise Nevada to gawk at psychedelic geysers and ghost towns. See art both prehistoric and wildly hallucinogenic in New Mexico. And while California is on lockdown right now, the wide-open outdoor gallery that is the Greater Palm Springs area will still be there when it lifts-or just head to the seemingly apocalyptic lake full of stunning playground of abstract art nearby.

Get a whole national park to yourself

While some national parks close up for the winter, others are at their absolute best when the season changes. And it’s not just cold places like Mount Rainier, Bryce, and Denali, either: You’ll find crowds way, way down at Zion and Channel Islands, too. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, December’s also a prime time to go chasing waterfalls… a cliche, yes, but way easier to achieve when they’re totally frozen

Photo courtesy of Icicle TV
Photo courtesy of Icicle TV
Photo courtesy of Icicle TV

Get holly and jolly across the US

The holidays are going to be a slog this year, even while the pandemic gives you a solid excuse not to listen to your uncle bloviate about election fraud over dinner. But there’s still cheer to be had. New York, for one, will still be as magical a place as any, with the outdoors serving as a safe and festive release for anyone bah humbugging. St. Petersburg, Florida is leaning into the North Pole-with-palm-trees vibe on its new pier and beyond, offering up multiple holiday markets, a boat parade, and more. Or head to the festive Bavarian mountain town of Leavenworth, Washington, or any number of small towns that go full Clark Griswold with holiday displays.

Go rocketing down a mountain

First, the bad news: You’re likely not going to be hitting Banff or the Alps this year, unless you’re a Kardashian celebrating a birthday. But the ski resorts at places like Tahoe, Colorado, California, the northeast, and other mountainous regions are up and running. Sure, the apres ski scenes will be a little different, but if your biggest problem right now is adjusting your expectations for happy hour at a ski resort, well, your 2020 is going pretty ok. The best ski getaways near New York, Boston, LA, Phoenix, Vegas, Denver, Seattle, Philly, DC, and Chicago are callling. 

Slow way down on a Georgia island

While NYC’s Rockefeller Center has become a holiday symbol, the place where the actual Rockefellers spent many a winter is very likely off your radar: bite-sized Jekyll Island. Located just north of the Florida border, this Georgian barrier island is a laid-back antidote to city-induced winter doldrums. Spend your days wandering the forests and driftwood-covered beaches, or navigate the state park by bike. The island goes all in for the holidays, but honestly, if you wanted to just post pat the old Victorian Jekyll Island Club Resort and inhale a massive Low Country Boil at waterfront restaurant The Wharf, you’d still be doing things exactly right. 

Go outside and look up

Unless you’re living in Argentina or Chilewhich… maybe?-you’re unlikely to see the total eclipse of the sun. But the skies this month are filled with cosmic action. The Geminid and Ursid meteor shower will peak. Saturn and Jupiter are having close encounters. To experience them, you don’t need to head to a certified Dark Sky site (your back yard will suffice). But it wouldn’t hurt. Try Utah: There are 16 of them

Actually, maybe just stay home and pretend you’re somewhere else

OK, real talk: Many of us probably aren’t going far, if anywhere, as the pandemic continues to spike. Fill your time with a little virtual travel: Pretend you’re on a beautiful beach in the Maldives or the Greek Isles. Take a digital tour on one of Japan’s iconic bullet trains or pretend you’re in a proper Dublin pub. This downtime can be spent dreaming big… and doing your travel homework so that when the world is open again, you’re ready to trot it with renewed vigor.  Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Next Flight Out for more travel coverage, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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