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A vacation can be a bright spot in the depths of winter. However, an overcrowded beach is anything but relaxing. Instead of hitting up the in-demand hotspots, choose from this list of lesser-known getaways where you can soak up the sun without fighting the crowds.
1. Jekyll Island, GeorgiaGeorgia has more to offer than delicious peaches and charming accents. Jekyll Island boasts 10 miles of sandy beaches and four golf courses. Some of America's most famous families helped develop the island, and for a while, it was known as "the richest, most inaccessible club in the world." Now, however, people from around the world travel there to enjoy the island's temperate climate and visit its more than 30 historic sites. Be sure to check out the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, located in a restored power plant.
2. Marfa, TexasMarfa is the perfect affordable getaway for both art lovers and explorers. Rather than confining art pieces to a museum, much of the town is covered in outdoor art installations, including the famous Prada Marfa in nearby Valentine. In addition to a thriving art and culinary scene, Marfa is just a 100-mile drive from Big Bend National Park, the largest state park in Texas. Both locations offer plenty of outdoor activities for the entire family, as well as an assortment of accommodation options.
3. St. Augustine, FloridaSt. Augustine contains the best of Florida: sandy white beaches, balmy temperatures and historical sites. In fact, it's the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the country. It features stunning Spanish architecture around every corner, including the historic Castillo de San Marcos, the country's oldest masonry fort. If you're brave enough, check out the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, the only place in the world with 24 species of alligator in one place.
4. Charlottesville, VirginiaThere's a reason Thomas Jefferson chose Charlottesville when founding the University of Virginia. The scenic UVA campus sits nearby a charming downtown with shops and restaurants, and there are miles of hiking and biking trails along the James and Rivanna rivers, as well as breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Charlottesville is the home of former presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison, and the city is home to many historical sites, including Jefferson's Monticello and Madison’s Montpelier. History buffs will also love the Rotunda on UVA's campus, which was modeled by Thomas Jefferson after the Pantheon in Rome. After you drink in the history, sip on the local wines on the Monticello Wine Trail, which boasts more than 30 wineries and is considered the birthplace of American wine.
5. Valley of Fire State Park, NevadaThis massive state park is Las Vegas' polar opposite. It's more than 40,000 acres wide and has stunning rock formations that date back 150 million years. The park is great for hiking and camping, and winter high temperatures hover around 75 degrees. Plus, if you need a little man-made excitement, it's only an hour drive to Las Vegas, where you can experience an entirely different type of beauty.
6. Bentonville, ArkansasBentonville is more than just the home of Walmart. The Walton family has helped grow this unassuming town into a unique getaway. Art enthusiasts will love the Crystal Bridges Art Museum, a world-class American art facility featuring some of the most prominent American artists, as well as stunning architecture. Slaughter Pen Hollow offers mountain bike trails for thrill-seekers and casual cyclists alike. The Peel Mansion Museum & Heritage Gardens provides a look into Bentonville's history, and, of course, there's always the Walmart museum.
7. Eugene, OregonEugene is Portland's smaller, equally hip cousin. It was one of the epicenters for the 1960s hippie movement and still boasts plenty of lush green parks, charming outdoor markets and a thriving arts district. Watch an opera or ballet at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, or browse one of the city's 20 art galleries. Sports fans can catch a Ducks game on the University of Oregon campus, and beer enthusiasts can "Run, Hike or Bike to Beer!" along the Eugene Ale Trail.
8. Scottsdale, ArizonaBeautiful scenery and fun activities make Scottsdale a great family vacation spot. The Bajada Nature Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve features beautiful hiking and biking trails, and for water lovers, the nearby Lower Salt River is great for kayaking and fishing. The Heard Museum spotlights the city's Native American history and offers hands-on activities for the young and young at heart. If you're tired of solid ground, there are several hot air balloon options providing unforgettable views of the Sonoran Desert, Sedona Red Rocks and the Grand Canyon.
9. Pismo Beach, CaliforniaPismo Beach is the quintessential California town, with a huge pier, miles of beautiful beaches, golf courses and shopping outlets. Take the family horseback riding along the shore, surf the Pacific waves, ride ATVs in the Oceano Dunes or enjoy some saltwater fishing. Plus, Pismo Beach is located near three major California wine-growing areas, including Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande and Avila Valley.
Hurry and gather your family! These spots may not be crowded for the moment, but could attract more of the masses as people discover how great they are.
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