For one hemisphere at least, temperatures are dropping quickly, woolly layers are coming out of storage, and snow and sleet are starting to wreak havoc on travel plans. But winter doesn’t always have to be bleak. From snow huts in Nagano, Japan to oceanfront igloos that bring the North Pole to New York, here are 11 pop-ups that celebrate all that’s merry and bright about winter.
Iiyama Kamakura Village, Nagano, Japan
In the northernmost part of Japan’s Nagano prefecture, Iiyama Kamakura Village takes advantage of its bountiful snow to build an entire village just outside the city center. From the end of January to the end of February, hunker down in one of around 20 lantern-illuminated snow huts to eat noroshi nabe (hot pot), served with rice balls made with locally-grown rice. Also inside the enchanting snow village is Kamakura Shinto Shrine, constructed from snow and marked with a vivid red torii gate typical of traditional Shinto shrines. The glowing igloos and backdrop of the snow-capped mountain range create a frozen fairy tale.
Camp Zachary at Hotel Zachary in Chicago, Illinois
Glamping gets a little more merry this season. The boutique Hotel Zachary has partnered with The Fields of Michigan, a local luxury camping company, to offer plush tents overlooking Chicago’s famed Wrigley Field, outfitted with chic furniture to rival your own living room, plus tartan plaid blankets and fire cauldrons. Though they’re not meant for overnight stays, groups of up to 10 can book two-hour slots from now until late February. Hot toddies and other seasonal drinks and snacks are on the menu, with complimentary cookies and hot cocoa for kids under 12.
Nordic Village at Bobby Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee
Last year, the rooftop lounge at the hip Bobby Hotel in Nashville transformed Music City into a winter wonderland with see-through igloos and fire pits. This year, the igloos are back, along with a new Nordic Winter Village, with cozy cedar cabins filled with woolly blankets and flowing Champagne. Also on the menu: roasted nuts, popcorn, hot cocoa, and hot toddies served in thermos mugs.
Bubble Bar at Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel, Lausanne, Switzerland
The historic Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne has partnered with Ruinart, the world’s oldest Champagne house, for this winter’s lakeside Bar à Bulles, or Bubble Bar. From now until February 29, in the property’s glimmering 10-acre garden, guests can step inside the transparent structure to sip effervescent blanc de blancs, paired with a menu of caviar, Scottish smoked salmon, and Mont Blancs (sweetened, puréed chestnuts with whipped cream) for dessert, all with an unobstructed view of Lake Geneva and the picturesque Swiss Alps.
Gingerbread Bar at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Grand Cayman
The waterfront Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in Grand Cayman overlooks the Caribbean island’s Seven Mile Beach and has a sweet new place to order a cocktail throughout the holiday season. Constructed in the middle of the hotel’s lobby with a staggering 800lb of spiced cookie dough, 350lb of icing, and 100lb of candy, the Gingerbread Bar is a festive outpost for toasting the season in the tropics. Try a signature drink like the Santa’s Cider or Yuletide Julep.
Chalet au Lac at Baur au Lac, Zurich, Switzerland
Celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, the Baur au Lac in Zurich is pulling out all the stops for an over-the-top holiday season. In the property’s lakeside private park, the city's tallest Christmas tree dazzles with more than 70,000 lights and, this month, Chalet au Lac opens. The rustic wooden chalet is home to a pop-up restaurant – decorated with red poinsettias, swaths of fir garland, and glowing candles – serving signature Swiss dishes like cheese fondue, raclette, and Bündner soup, plus hot punch and mulled wine to stay toasty.
Festive Igloos at Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, Montauk, New York
In the off-season, this seaside resort in The Hamptons gets into the holiday spirit with heated igloos that overlook the ocean. Each of the seven huts at Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa has a different theme, with its own cocktail pairings and activities, including Northern Lights, which has stargazing books and a telescope, Après Ski, decked out in 80s-themed ski gear and retro board games, and Fortune Teller, with a crystal ball and tarot cards. Snacks and drinks are also on theme, like the South Pole, with hot cocoa, peppermint schnapps and house-made marshmallows. (The US$25 per person rental fee is donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.)
Winter Igloos at Coppa Club, London, England
The terrace at Coppa Club in London has sweeping Tower Bridge views, making this all-day cafe a lovely spot to dine anytime of year. But when the temperatures dip it becomes just a little more magical. Tables are surrounded by transparent igloos, hygge-fied with plush pillows, sheepskin rugs and woollen blankets, all glowing with candlelight. Snack on small plates and pop a bottle of Champagne to toast the season.
Winter Chalet at the Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Overlooking Rittenhouse Square in Center City, Philadelphia, the elegant Rittenhouse Hotel celebrates the season with chestnuts roasted daily, kid-centric teddy bear teas, and large-scale gingerbread houses that celebrate some of the city’s favorite monuments, including Boathouse Row. This year, tucked into the hotel’s secluded courtyard, there's a pop-up winter chalet with a fire pit and boozy hot chocolate. If guests are still cold, the staff will even lend a cashmere blanket.
Serra Alpina at Eataly, New York City
In New York City, the rooftop restaurant at Eataly’s Flatiron outpost changes with the season, and this winter it’s transformed into Serra Alpina, an Italian Alps–inspired greenhouse. High above the bustling streets of Manhattan snowy trees and twinkly lights make a magical setting for dining on northern Italian specialties. A special menu features small plates for pairing with hot or cold cider that's customized with spices, liquor and garnishes, and poured tableside. And, thanks to the retractable roof, you can dine at the lofty wonderland in any weather.
The Elyx Chalet at Rosewood London, England
The courtyard of the Rosewood London in Covent Garden is home to a Nordic-inspired lodge this winter, in collaboration with Swedish brand Absolut Elyx vodka. Fur and velvet throws, glittering trees, and golden gnomes are the backdrop for dining on bites such as locally-sourced oysters and house-cured salmon. Elyx, which is made with winter wheat grown in southern Sweden, is the base for cocktails like Tomte’s Nectar, served in a copper gnome glass, or traditional glögg, served in a wooden vessel.