Winter is a fun time to travel, but summer always seems to take center stage. While the winter months in the United States come with colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours, there are also some cozy and unique benefits. Traveling during winter means fewer crowds, lower prices, scenic beauty, winter activities, and endless excuses for a steamy hot chocolate, spiced apple cider, or mulled wine!
Here are some top places to go on winter vacation in the USA:
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The mountains come into their own in winter and Jackson Hole, part of the stunning Teton range in Wyoming, attracts people from all over the world. Known for its rustic, Western charm you’ll likely spot a few cowgirls or boys, but come winter even they are swapping lassoes for snowboards. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has some of the best back country in the world, steep chutes and incredible scenery. Skiers and snowboarders will love the varied runs whilst snowmobilers have miles to explore. Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone are also nearby so outdoor lovers could spend months exploring. If winter sports aren’t your thing, there is plenty going on in Jackson with cozy cowboy bars, hot springs, lodges and a vibrant cultural scene.
Faced with economic decline in the 1960s some smart cookies in the community of Leavenworth, Washington decided to rebrand the town as a Bavarian wonderland. They transformed the architecture, to create a European Alpine town, started hosting an Oktoberfest and a Christmas Lighting Festival. Now people flock to the town for some cozy festive action as well as all the outdoor activities you’d expect from a town nestled deep in the Cascade Mountains.
There’s no denying Woodstock is a charming town. Historic buildings, quaint shops, and a small-town atmosphere that includes a bulletin board to announce town events. During winter you may feel like you’ve stepped into a movie as the twinkly lights and blanket of snow make everything almost Hollywood festive. The Wassail Weekend, a beloved holiday tradition, includes a parade, caroling and the lighting of the community Christmas tree. The historic Billings Farm and Museum dresses up for the holidays too and offers sleigh rides across its snowy fields.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Visitors flock to Maine in the summer and come to gawp at the leaves in Fall but winter is its best kept secret and you’ll encounter way fewer people. Choose a lodge and get cozy by the fire or get outside and play in some powder. With an average snowfall of 70 inches along the coast there are nearby ski hills and hundreds of miles of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing trails. You can also try fat-tyre biking or dog sledding. For something a bit more sustaining try a brew pub tour, bowl of chowder or a famous spicy lobster roll.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
If you’re feeling a bit like Scrooge this year, or just want somewhere quiet to avoid the holiday madness we’ve got you. Mackinac Island, Michigan, is a true winter escape. With only 500 locals on the island and zero cars, you may even get stuck there. Ferries can’t always make the trip from island to mainland if the harbor in Mackinaw city freezes over. On the island, horse drawn carriages are the main mode of transport. Pair them with the Victorian architecture and you may really feel like you’ve woken up in a Charles Dickens novel. The warm inns and lodges provide cozy places to stay. That might go someway to warming up any less-than-festive attitudes.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
There seems to be a theme developing here. Another quaint historic mountain town, Eureka Springs is on the National Register for Historic Places and was originally known as ‘The Magic City’ or the ‘Little Switzerland of the Ozarks’ for its mountainous terrain and winding streets. Warm up in the eponymous springs at the Blue Spring Heritage Center, which Native Americans believed to have healing powers. For a little festive ghost hunting check into The Crescent Hotel. Built in 1886, its rich history as a women's college and hospital attracts ghost hunters who have reported paranormal activity and called it America's most haunted hotel.
Oooo winter in the desert is a real treat. Imagine a light covering of snow on Sedona’s famous red rocks as a magic winter sunset sets everything ablaze. In Arizona daytime temperatures are perfect for hiking and the crisp air makes everything look even better. A lot of the resorts and lodges have outdoor fire pits or hot tubs, perfect to retreat to in the evening. If you want to find some zen this holiday season there are yoga retreats and spirituality centers with cozy places to stay and a direct line to the energy from Sedonas famous vortexes.
Long Story Short...
Whether snuggling into a comfy chair by a crackling fireplace in a mountain lodge is your speed or a little more adrenalin is needed, like ice climbing or skiing down a black diamond trail, there are many perfect winter destinations to pick from. Pack some winter gear and pick your cozy winter adventure!
Written by Andrea Jeschke
Edited by Laura Sedlak