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Biking in the Florida Keys is especially fun on stretches where you don't have to worry about riding next to traffic.

Biking in the Florida Keys is especially fun on stretches where you don't have to worry about riding next to traffic. (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

For people still shaken - or shaking - from the recent stretch of frigid weather, an escape to a warm locale seems overdue. Here are five places that I wish I'd escaped to recently - places to help you endure the rest of winter, if you can get there.

The Florida Keys: The red tide that has intermittently affected beaches on Florida's Gulf Coast is not present in the Florida Keys, an area known for fishing, nightlife and Hemingway's house. Most important, though, the area promises the kind of weather winter-weary folks could relish: The forecast the other day called for 74 degrees and sun.

St. Kitts and Nevis: Farther south and a passport away, this island nation offers two volcanic islands from which to choose. When a friend idly wondered where she should take her family over the holiday break, I told her that I'd been eyeing Nevis. She adopted the idea, and returned raving about the island's beauty, snorkeling and relaxed vibe. (If I couldn't get there, I am glad others could.)

Austin, Texas: If ever there was a Brooklyn of the South - plus barbecue and warm weather - it's Austin. With a population of nearly 1 million, it has hip boutique hotels, a robust music scene and parks where biking, hiking and boating abound. Plus, the surrounding Hill Country, rich with German heritage, makes a nice day trip.

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Phoenix: This city never fails to offer dry desert air and pure sunshine.

Cancun: The all-inclusive hot spot of Mexico has long lured Americans. And why not, when beachside resorts range from luxe (think Ritz-Carlton) to bargain?

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