It’s the day many teachers look forward to all semester – the last day of school before winter break! School may be out during the holidays, but we never stop learning. In fact, winter break is the perfect time to embark on your next educational adventure. We believe the best lesson plans come from experience. What better way to share your love of learning with your students than by leading by example?
That’s why we’re highlighting eight of our favorite learning adventures for teachers on winter break. From Santa Fe to Sorrento, read on to discover why you should spend the holidays somewhere new this year.
Santa Fe, N.M.
Holiday season in Santa Fe is a mosaic of colorful traditions. Boasting a diverse mix of Spanish, Native American and Mexican heritage, the city’s many celebrations are layered with rituals and cultural significance. From Pueblo Indian dances and feast days to Hispanic customs like farolitos and the burning of luminarias, there’s a lot to learn about in the Land of Enchantment.
If you’re an art teacher, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the inimitable paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe as you step inside the largest collection of her work in the world – more than 3,000 pieces in all. Wander through beautiful displays of pottery and jewelry at The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture while learning about each item’s storied past. Santa Fe’s history is deeply rooted in the arts, with many museums highlighting topics such as International Folk Art and Contemporary Southwestern Art.
Road Scholar recommends: Santa Fe Holiday Traditions: Beyond the Ordinary
Victoria, British Columbia
Revel in the spirit of the season while immersing yourself in the learning opportunities the city of Victoria has to offer. Canadian holiday traditions date back to the gold-rush era, when fur traders at Fort Victoria settled in what is now historic Old Town. Bundle up and explore quaint streets lined with horse-drawn carriages, while a local expert recounts stories of the city’s history.
Victoria’s human and natural history is showcased at the Royal British Columbia Museum and Art Gallery. Wander through authentic artifacts, displayed in their original environment, transporting learners to another time and place.
Enjoy “Festive Afternoon Tea” at the Grand Empress Hotel, a time-honored tradition, while soaking in a lecture about tea trade around the world. While you’re there, pay a visit to the hotel’s stunning library to work on your lesson plans for next semester.
Marvel at the resiliency of nature at the Butchart Gardens as you admire flora that’s always in season, and learn how the fifty-five acres of manicured gardens are maintained. The Garden’s impressive holiday display features tens of thousands of lights that cover every tree, lamp post and walkway in a kaleidoscope of color.
Road Scholar recommends: Victorian Christmas at the Grand Empress
After the clock strikes midnight and another year blossoms into existence, there’s no better place to spend New Year’s Day than in Pasadena, California. Since 1890, the city’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade delights thousands of spectators along Colorado Boulevard with magnificent floral floats, high-stepping equestrians and spirited marching bands. Learn about the history of this great American tradition and the dedication it takes to cover each float with blooms. Parade officials estimate it takes 60 volunteers working 10 hours a day for 10 days to decorate just one!
Make a New Year’s resolution to discover something new, and journey to nearby Los Angeles to learn how the city’s landscape and gardens were shaped by historic events. Amateur gardeners will want to go behind the scenes at the Homestead Museum for an expert-led exploration of the grounds and a lecture on the history of landscape from the early 19th century to the present. Art and literature enthusiasts may admire the works of Titian and Rembrandt at The Getty Center or peruse shelves of rare books and manuscripts at the Huntington Library.
Road Scholar recommends: Rose Parade®: A Heritage to Celebrate
Paris has no shortage of rich culture and fascinating landmarks. Holiday season in this romantic city consists of evening strolls along famous boulevards aglow with twinkling lights. It’s an exciting time to learn about Parisian history, art and architecture!
From the Louvre to the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris is well known for being home to several of the best art museums in the world. Admire the works of da Vinci and Monet, visit iconic monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe, and marvel at the many incredible examples of Gothic architecture surrounding you.
History teachers and enthusiasts alike will appreciate the covered passageways and hidden courtyards of the Palais Royal, the city’s seat of power and high position for centuries. Explore old neighborhoods like the Marais District with a local expert, and enjoy the sights and smells of the Marché Aligre, a true Parisian open-air market.
A winter break learning adventure to Paris isn’t complete without heading outside the city to take in the chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, decked out for the holidays with tables laden with gourmet delicacies and colorful Christmas decorations.
Road Scholar recommends: New Year’s Eve in Paris
Old Town Scottsdale, Ariz.
Step inside Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, where the region’s cowboy western roots and arid desert landscapes contrast against upscale Southwestern architecture and style. Historic Old Town Scottsdale was established in 1894 when early settlers began cultivating desert farmland, but Native Americans were there long beforehand. Trace the area’s Native American historythrough the ages as you wander through the famed Heard Museum’s outdoor courtyards and gleaming art galleries. Continue your exploration of the vibrant culture of the Southwest by walking the labyrinth of halls inside the Phoenix Art Museum and observing works created by members of the Cowboy Artists of America.
Choir teachers, band directors and music lovers will delight in the interactive exhibits inside the Musical Instrument Museum, with its immersive audio and visual galleries dedicated to music from every continent. Learn about the museum’s many notable instruments alongside knowledgeable experts, many of whom are trained musicians themselves.
Your visit builds to a sweeping crescendo at the Phoenix Symphony New Year’s Eve Celebration, where you’ll bask in the dulcet tones of Strauss waltzes, Broadway favorites and seasonal classics before toasting to the new year.
Road Scholar recommends: Signature City Phoenix-Scottsdale
Sacred Valley, Peru
Unlock the secrets of the Inca as you wind your way through misty mountaintop cities, agricultural centers and temples in the Sacred Valley. December marks the beginning of summer in Peru – comfortable average highs of 69°F make it a pleasant time of year to uncover countless hidden treasures in the country’s highlands. Just make sure to pack your raincoat!
Journey back in time as you learn about ancient Inca civilizations while exploring notable landmarks like Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman and the Koricancha temple. The Inca were master builders, producing sophisticated feats of engineering far ahead of their time. Some, like the drains and baths at the ruins of Tipon, are still functioning today!
Modern-day descendants of the Inca still practice many of their ancestors’ traditions. In the weaving community of Chinchero, children grow up playing with their mothers’ spindles and looms. In Chinchero you can attend weaving demonstrations and learn about the history of the craft from local artisans. At nearby Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, gaze at colonial buildings and churches erected on top of Inca foundations, a result of its 16th-century Spanish conquest.
Road Scholar recommends: From Alpacas to Machu Picchu: Exploring Peru with Your Family
New Orleans, La.
What better way to spend the holidays than in a city known for its celebrations? Located along the Mississippi River, vibrant New Orleans offers learners a jambalaya of art, music and cuisine to devour. Surrender to the intoxicating charms of the Crescent City and discover the history behind its eclectic mix of cultures.
Discover the history of Mardi Gras in Louisiana and study the craft behind the intricate floats that parade down historic St. Charles Avenue every year. You can even trace the festival’s origins through artifacts and memorabilia at the Presbytère — part of the Louisiana State Museum. The Cabildo, another key component of the museum, is next door in Jackson Square and houses many other rare artifacts from American history.
New Orleans’ position on the Gulf Coast keeps it comfortable year-round, so leave your snow boots at home! Follow in the footsteps of a local expert and witness how French Creole and Spanish influences come together in the architecture of the French Quarter and Garden District, as soulful jazz fills the air from nearby Cajun restaurants.
Road Scholar recommends: A Special New Year’s Eve on the Mighty Mississippi
Panoramic views of the Mediterranean and sobering visits to ill-fated cities inspire quiet reflection in the charming seaside town of Sorrento, Italy. Spend the holidays immersed in Italian history and culture along the Amalfi Coast, and enter the new year with plenty of firsthand knowledge to share with your students.
In Sorrento, glamorous coastal views give way to narrow streets lined with shops selling intricate collections of ceramics, lacework and marquetry. The city is known for its inlaid woodwork artistry. Enjoy a lecture on the history of this art form as you step inside the Tarsia Museum to observe antique pieces decorated in the traditional style.
Learn about Sorrento’s origins from a local historian, and brush up on your knowledge of Roman art and architecture before traveling to the nearby ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. These sites are an incredible reminder of the power of nature and a detailed snapshot of ancient Roman life forever frozen in time.
Join the crowd in colorful Piazza Tasso, Sorrento’s central square, for a dazzling fireworks display on New Year’s Eve – an explosive conclusion to your educational adventure!
Road Scholar recommends: New Year’s in Sorrento
Find out how teachers can travel for free in North America with the PEAR Scholarship for Educators.
Discover more ways to make the most of your winter break with holiday learning adventures from Road Scholar!
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