Roam for the Holidays


Outside magazine, December 1997

Roam for the Holidays

Easy ways to assuage that seasonal wanderlust
By Cristina Opdahl


No Hot Toddies Here
Have a blue Christmas at the world’s largest igloo. Each December, the 5,000-square-foot “Ice Hotel” goes up in Jukkasjärvi, Lapland. Room furnishings, from chairs to candle holders, are carved by local artisans who pride themselves on the elaborateness of their art, ignoring its ephemerality. And of course, the transparent, shimmering bar is admirably
well supplied with ice shavings. Its vodka stock will brace you for a Christmas Day reindeer sleigh ride. Rooms cost $80-105 per person, and the hotel remains open until spring thaw. Call 011-46-980-66-800 for reservations.

Santa Claws

A hundred million tiny red crabs deck the sands of Christmas Island — where else? — during the crustaceans’ annual egg-laying foray. Their migration from the inland rainforest turns this volcanic Indian Ocean island into nature’s own Christmas bulb. For details, call the Aussie travel helpline (847-296-4900) or Christmas Island Lodge (011-61-891-648-585),
which sets aside a special crab-viewing space on its lawn each year.

Jingle Boat
Want to carol without the strain of perambulation? Head to Chelan, Washington, for the Christmas sing-along boat ride. One of the prettiest caroling routes imaginable, the 90-minute cruise carries you past the craggy shores of Lake Chelan as choruses of “I Saw Three Ships” echo back from the pines. Cost is $3, plus a can of food for the local food bank. This
year’s cruise is December 10. Call 509-682-2399 for details.

Relish the Season
Once radishes merely garnished holiday plates in Oaxaca, Mexico. Today the vegetable is a Christmas star in its own right. During the annual Night of the Radishes festival, the little purple root is transformed by local carvers into representations of the Virgin Mary and other less-exalted visages (including some nicely gnarled Emiliano Zapatas). The December
23 event starts with an informative radish-carving workshop. Attendance is free. Call 800-446-3942 for information.

Gifts with the Gators
Less festive than fetid, a bayou tour could be the perfect antidote to White Christmas ennui. Cypress Swamp Tours of Westwego, Louisiana, plans several holiday-themed trips in traditional lafitte skiffs, December 1-31, complete with caroling and refreshments, for $20 per person. Call 800-633-0503.

Hordes A-leaping
Join 1,500 plummeting Santas (red hats suggested) during the Christmas Skydive Boogie in Zephyrhills, Florida. An introductory lesson and jump costs $165. Big groups or families whose holidays could use a jump start might want to invest in the 50-leap package, just $775.The festival runs December 20 through January 4. Call 800-404-9399.


Passing the Torch

Runners will relay a lighted taper the 31 miles from Modi’in to Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s 50th anniversary on December 23, the eve of Hanukkah. Meanwhile, 50 candles will be lit at 50 sites nationwide, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem’s Old City. For details, call Israel’s travel hotline at 800-596-1199.

T H E   N E W   Y E A R

Snow Ball

The West’s longest and woolliest New Year’s Eve torchlight ski parade slaloms its way down Vail’s Gold Peak slope beginning at about 7 p.m. on December 31. Ski instructors shimmy to the music of Neil Diamond and later, in a demonstration of their more offbeat downhilling skills, fly off ski jumps to dunk basketballs. All while carrying roadside flares. The
public can’t join in the skiing, but you can watch, for free. Call 970-476-9090 for details.

Chilly in Sheboygan
In homage to the hardy if eccentric stock that produced them, dozens of Wisconsinites will load up on beer and brats at the Armory in downtown Sheboygan, Wisconsin, on New Year’s Day, then march to North Shore Beach, and jump into icy Lake Michigan. Diapers — symbolizing the baby new year — are optional, and other clothing is discouraged. Call the
Sheboygan Chamber of Commerce at 800-457-9497 for the chilling details.

Illustrations by David Miller