Decisions, decisions. Head south for Mardi Gras, or pack the skis and swing into New England for a little fun in the snow? You can combine the two - sort of, and on a smaller scale - in Vermont's Lake Champlain Valley.
OK, it might not have the pizazz and history you'll find in New Orleans, but Burlington's 12th annual Mardi Gras Weekend is a party with a parade and costumes at the right time of year.
The difference, of course, is that it's winter in New England and you're within driving distance of ski slopes. Unlike the traditional Mardi Gras celebration, this one is only on one weekend, Feb. 16-18. But if you think this is just a few bored ski bums having an extended party, check out the photos of last year's crowd. By the way, the Magic Hat emblazoned on the Web page is a local microbrewery with a sense of humor.
Unless you're driving in from one of Vermont's ski resorts, you'll need a place to stay. The Greater Burlington Region covers Burlington and surrounding towns with everything from hotels to bed & breakfast inns. And if you want to do something other than watch the parade, they provide a directory of attractions and things to do, including tours of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Waterbury and the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. in Shelburne, or the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington.
History buffs should also take time to visit the Ethan Allen Homestead the last home of the frontiersman, writer and leader of the Green Mountain Boys militia. The homestead is located just north of town.
You want skiing to go with your Mardi Gras? Look for "Skiing/Snowboarding" at the top of the Greater Burlington Web page for links to resorts and lodges in the region, including Stowe, Smugglers' Notch and the Trapp Family Lodge.
It's been a bit of a dry winter in parts of New England, but as of mid-January Smugglers' Notch was reporting a base of 10 to 28 inches of snow, with 15 trails open and six lifts operating. Stowe listed 24 to 42 inches on its snowmaking trails, with up to 16 inches on natural trails, and nine lifts running for 16 trails.
For daily reports on slopes all over the state, Vermont.com has entries ranging from Ascutney Mountain at Brownsville to Suicide Six at Woodstock.
Can't make it in time for the Mardi Gras? There's another party coming up in April, the 41st annual Vermont Maple Festival at St. Albans, just a short drive north of Burlington. This celebration of maple syrup is no place to start a diet.
There's plenty more to see and do, plus places to just relax, in Burlington's corner of Vermont. Stop by the regional map page of the state Department of Tourism and click on the Burlington-Shelburne area or any of the surrounding ones. Only the town names are shown on the map, but if you park your cursor over the various regions for a few seconds, a flag should pop up giving the region's name corresponding to the list on the right.