Lief Milling

Jonesing for a winter jaunt that’s suited more to Criminal Minds’ Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) than her more buttoned-up associate Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson)? CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg suggests five eccentric escapes that will deliver memorable vacation experiences.


Visit IceHotel to truly experience a winter wonderland! Now in its 22nd year, the hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, is a custom-built structure made of snow and ice. These guys don’t kid around! It’s as much of an art project as an engineering feat, with the process beginning as early as March when they harvest 2-ton ice blocks from the Torne River. Construction starts in fall, and by early December sections of the hotel are open to spectators. Guest rooms are made entirely of ice, including beautifully carved columns, sculpture and even the bed! (Don’t worry; mattresses are covered in reindeer skin, so you don’t freeze at night.)

If traveling north of the Arctic Circle isn’t on your itinerary, rest assured there are plenty of other options. The same group runs the IceBar in central Stockholm, which is kept at a cool 23 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, with everything—including the glasses— made from the same ice blocks harvested from the river. Or, if you prefer to stick a little closer to home, just head to the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec, which borrows from the same concept and opens for the season in early January.


I love hotels that have been repurposed from industrial structures. The Liberty Hotel in Boston’s Beacon Hill is housed in the old Charles Street Jail. After $150 million in renovations, you’d never recognize the space as a former jail. Fortunately, the owners added a few touches to maintain its historic roots, including an aptly named restaurant called Clink and a bar called Alibi, conveniently housed in the jail’s former drunk tank.


Ever felt like climbing a tree to escape your dysfunctional relatives during the holidays? How about the real thing in the form of a treehouse hotel? Just a few miles from Mount Rainier National Park in Washington is the crafty and creative Cedar Creek Tree House. Talk about a room with a view! The treehouse B&B sits 50 feet in the air, with a separate observatory propped nearly 100 feet high, offering outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and forests.

Alternatively, spend the holiday where winter equals warm weather. Near the Brazilian city of Manaus is the Ariau Amazon Towers Treehouse resort. This one is less of a traditional treehouse and more of a hotel built on a canopy of mahogany trees that spans 10 miles,but it’s an eco-adventure nonetheless.


Afraid of heights this Christmas? Dive down for your hotel room. Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Fla., sits 21 feet underwater in a lagoon. At this former research laboratory, each bedroom boasts a 42-inch window to view the dizzying array of marine life up close. Dive enthusiasts can take advantage of the free scuba gear. Keep in mind, if you’re not a certified diver, you have to participate in a three-hour course to spend a night, or you can opt for a complete certification package.


Make it an exotic getaway and head to the region of Cappadocia in Turkey. The otherworldly landscape features soaring rock formations, massive mountains and deep caverns, making you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world. Many locals have actually built homes and businesses into these caves, including the Asmali Cave House. This boutique hotel features “cave suites” equipped with all the basic amenities and is in the unusual village of Uchisar, with views of a magnificent castle carved into rock and Pigeon Valley.


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