The Kosher Traveler: 4 Kosher Winter Break Alternatives
Kosher Travel insights from YeahThatsKosher’s Dani Klein
For many in the U.S., flying down to warmer climates like Florida, the Caribbean, or even to Israel has been a rite of passage for many families. However, many have been asking for alternative locations either to save on costs or to avoid Zika stricken areas typically in the warmer climates (although Miami has recently been cleared of Zika).
Here are four alternate ideas for your next Winter Break:
- Charleston, SC
I chose Charleston as my alternative Winter Break for my family this past year, and I highly recommend it as an inexpensive location, especially for those flying or driving from the Northeast. The city is rich with both American and Jewish American history, as well as culturally entirely different from what I’m used to in NY or Miami, which is a welcome educational experience. We were able to explore the region’s plantations, museums, historical shuls, architecture, and unique shopping.
The city has small number of kosher establishments, including a kosher certified vegetarian eatery on campus and a late-night kosher cookie café that also serves breakfast. There’s just enough for you to enjoy over a few days so you won’t get hungry. The local orthodox community was also very welcoming for our family to spend Shabbat. Expect cool weather, even though it’s in the south. We spent 1.5 days on a side trip to Savannah, GA which is only a short 2 hour drive away. I wrote about our Charleston experience in detail here. Charleston also serves as a great detour option for those driving south to Florida.
Sriracha Cauliflower from Marty’s Place in Charleston
“Georgia Peach” Cookie from King Street Cookies in Charleston
- New England
Sure, it’ll be cold, but this is a drivable region for nearly all in the Northeast. So long as you pack thermals and layers, exploring cold weather locations can be just as fun as warm ones. Earlier this year, 2 new kosher options opened up in the region that should make life easier for frum families wanting to explore New England’s mountains, forests, and slopes.
The Arlington Hotel in New Hampshire is a brand new, year-round, glatt kosher hotel on the edge of the White Mountains. The luxurious hotel offers kosher meals throughout the day and over Shabbat. There’s a shul situated next to the hotel which will surely be packed daily during Winter Break.
Just north of Boston, which in and of itself is worth visiting, is the historical town of Salem, MA. A kosher Middle Eastern restaurant, Adea’s, opened only a few months ago. This gives kosher travelers an easy way to explore the historical region and not go hungry.
Arlington’s dining room
Adea’s Restaurant storefront
- Paris, France
The magical capital of France has had a rough time lately, but all the more reason to pay it a visit. By happenstance, I spent a week in Paris less than two weeks after last year’s horrific attacks on the city. There was never a point in time where me or my family didn’t feel safe in our exploration of the city. Even though it’ll be chilly, you’ll get a true feel for the hustle and bustle of Paris that you’d miss if you only visited in the summer (when many Parisians leave for their own summer break).
From a kosher perspective, Paris rivals New York and Yerushalayim with the sheer volume of quality kosher restaurants, bakeries, and other options. Speaking of the bakeries, this is where you’ll be able to explore a number of kosher French “patisseries” to try their fresh breads, croissants, donuts, and other goodies. As far as restaurants go, there are so many quality eateries, it’s hard to only recommend a few. A number of standouts included a number of the ethnic kosher restaurants:
L’as du Fallafel – known as Europe’s best falafel, shwarma, and hummus joint, there is always a line to get in, so be prepared to wait since they don’t take reservations. Oh, and it’s waiter service only.
Darjeeling – one of the very few kosher fleishig Indian restaurants in the world is also one of the best. The menu is extensive and includes dishes from multiple regions in India.
Le Baan Hai – this small but posh restaurant serves delectable Thai dishes, which is a cuisine hard to find for kosher palettes.
For more on the best kosher options in Paris, read up here.
- Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland is the wildcard here because there is no kosher food officially available on the ground, but that doesn’t mean Iceland isn’t worth visiting, it just means you’ll need to spend more time prepping and bring food with you. Note: Iceland does not grow many fruits and vegetables domestically. The food you bring with you to Iceland should not be dependent on picking up local produce. When I was in Iceland, their economy was strong and it was expensive to fly there. I am including them in this list because flights to Reykjavik (KEF) are much cheaper than they used to be from multiple cities in the U.S. You can read more about my experience in Iceland here.
Iceland feels like another planet, it is unlike any other place on earth I have visited to date. In the winter time, the amount of daylight hours per day can be counted on one hand. The benefits of no sunlight are access to views of the aurora borealis lighting up the dark sky.
Places not to miss near Reykjavik include:
- Blue Lagoon (outdoor natural thermal spa);
- Golden Circle including: Þingvellir National Park where you can walk through the continental divide, the original Geyser which blows every few minutes, Gullfoss Waterfall which is awe inspiring, Kerið Crater Lake which is exactly what it sounds like, a lake inside a huge crater. The Golden Circle can be easily done within one day with a car rental, or by tour bus.
- If you have the time to travel further outside of Reykjavik, be sure to hike or snowmobile on a glacier and visit all the waterfalls along the way … there are many and they are all beautiful, especially Seljalandsfoss which you can walk behind.
- Inside Reykjavik, be sure to check out the bars and nightlife, museums, and the multiple outdoor geothermal pools open year round. It’s pretty exhilarating to be swimming in near 100º temperature water when it is below freezing outside. It’s also a great way to get to know the locals.