Though some skeptics refute the existence of seasonal affective disorder — or SAD, as it is often (appropriately) called — studies show that one in every 30 Americans is impacted by this disorder each year. Many Pacific Northwest residents who live under a near-constant cloud cover believe this disorder is real — especially after last year’s seemingly unending winter.
Decreased exposure to sunlight over a prolonged period of time can wreak havoc on the body and the mind due to decreased levels of vitamin D. This can leave sufferers with decreased energy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depression, and increased need for food and sleep.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a treatment for SAD other than waiting for less rainy, gray days. Unless, of course, you’re willing to do talk therapy or phototherapy, during which sufferers are exposed to artificial sunlight.
You know what sounds better? A change of scenery! We’ve come up with a list of some shiny winter destinations near and far to help you recharge and shake off the winter blues.
It’s cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason — it’s warm, it’s beautiful, and you don’t need a passport to travel there (yet). Plus, if there were ever an antithesis of Washington, Hawaii would be it. Forget all your troubles with a fruity, umbrella-accented drink on dazzlingly sunny beach, or go for a dip in the ocean with the local aquatic life. Hang 10 on some killer waves, learn some U.S. history at the Pearl Harbor memorial, go for a hike and pick a wild pineapple, take a flight over active volcanoes, or luge through antiquated sugar plantation irrigation channels on a tube. By the time you’re ready to come home, you won’t even remember what SAD is.
You might think that winter in the Mile High City is all about skiing, but Denver has plenty to offer off the slopes as well. Take a tour of the U.S. Mint and discover how money is made; ice skate at Skyline Park; and bundle up and take a hike along Dinosaur Ridge, where you can glimpse Jurassic dinosaur bones and cretaceous dinosaur footprints. You and the family can even tour the Coors Brewery, and see how the factory still uses the same Rocky Mountain spring water that Adolph Coors discovered in 1873 — but be warned: Only people over 21 will be allowed to “Taste the Rockies.”
Palm Springs, California
Located 110 miles southeast of Los Angeles, this southern California town isn’t situated on sandy beaches or stunning vistas, but if you’re looking for sunshine, this city boasts an average of 360 days of sunshine each year. Add in the gorgeous scenery from surrounding mountains and majestic palms, and you’ve got a destination worthy of your time. If you’re traveling sans children, you’ll enjoy the eclectic nightlife and revel in the star sightings in the city known as Hollywood’s playground. Alternatively, Palm Springs boasts many playgrounds for the younger set, too, like the Big League Dreams Sports Park, which allows visitors to play ball in one of many scaled replica baseball fields that resemble stadiums like Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
Arizona should be renamed the “Sunshine State” (sorry, Florida). Yuma, Arizona, takes the crown as the sunniest place on Earth, with more than 4,000 hours of sunlight per year and an average of 11 hours of sunlight each day — that’s even more sun than Egypt — while Seattle sees an average of only 3.8 hours of sunlight daily. Granted, there’s not a lot to do in Yuma directly, but Arizona has a ton of notable attractions like the Grand Canyon, for starters. Additionally there’s an actual meteor crater, Old West towns like Tombstone, the boneyard of retired U.S. Air Force aircraft via the Pima Air and Space Museum, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, Red Rock State Park, and a church built into the side of a mountain. Besides, where else can you stand in four states at once?
Las Vegas, Nevada
If you’re feeling particularly lucky during a trip to sunny Arizona, it’s only a five-hour drive from Phoenix to Sin City itself. And why not enjoy the southwestern road trip, including a drive right over the Hoover Dam? After all, there’s plenty of sun to be had on the road. If parties, gambling, Cirque du Soleil, and Elvis-themed shotgun weddings aren’t your thing, don’t worry; there’s more to do in Las Vegas. Go for a ride on the Nevada Southern Railway, roll in to the Pinball Hall of Fame, explore more than 300 artifacts recovered from the Titanic, and marvel at the signs of Vegas past at the nearby Neon Museum in the Nevada desert.
If you’re looking to stay somewhat local, consider a trip to Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula. We know what you’re thinking: There’s no way to escape the cloud cover for hundreds of miles, but as it turns out, Sequim is the sunniest place in western Washington. Due to its location, the city experiences what is called the “rain shadow effect,” which is caused by the Olympic Mountains sheltering the valley from the rain. Despite the sunlight, Sequim does get very cold in the winter, but its coziness makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of a postcard. Shop downtown, bundle up and take a hike in the forest, or visit one of the many lavender shops for some mood-boosting aromatherapy. We suggest ordering a hot lavender-infused latte!