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It may be cold, but New England is spectacularly beautiful in the winter. The season brings a white wonderland while providing all sorts of things to do indoors and out. And, as many tourists come to enjoy New England’s best beaches in the summer followed by the brilliant fall foliage, you can often enjoy the scenery without another soul around. From popular snow sports to more unique experiences, you’ll want to put some of these things to do in New England this winter on your list.
What Is It? Every year in Lincoln, New Hampshire, ice artists come together to transform thousands of icicles into magnificent castle-like formations that are featured at Ice Castles.
Why Do It? It’s a fantastical world to witness and a great attraction for families, as the kids can explore a frozen world that includes ice-carved tunnels, mazes, and illuminated ice sculptures along the quarter-mile-long walk through the forest. While there are a few other ice castles in the country, this is the only one in New England.
Good to Know: As Ice Castles is an attraction that’s illuminated with thousands of LED-colored lights following a choreographed “dance” to music periodically, you’ll want to go after dark. Be sure to get your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
What Is It? New England’s ski slopes offer a fun getaway for everyone from beginners to experts, with four of the highest rated slopes in the state of Vermont.
Why Do It? Mad River Glen, Smuggler’s Notch, Cannon Mountain, and Killington are among the top picks for skiers, but Killington may be the best all-around with its varied terrain and outstanding aprés ski scene.
Good to Know: Killington hasmountain ambassadors stationed next to the large maps at the top of all lifts. They provide skiers with helpful information about which trails connect to get them to the lift of their choice or back to the base.
What Is It? Insulated igloos have become all the rage for dining and drinking during the winter and you’ll find some of the best in New England, including the Cliff House, a romantic clifftop resort, which features a menu from the resort restaurant, Nubb’s Lobster Shack.
Why Do It? In addition to enjoying spectacular views at the edge of the ocean, you can look forward to a mouthwatering lobster meal.
Good to Know: Dining igloos are more popular than ever so be sure to book your reservations well in advance.
What Is It? Ice fishing brings the opportunity to be surrounded by a winter wonderland while testing your luck at catching everything from trout and bass to landlocked salmon.
Why Do It? There are many places throughout the region to enjoy it, with Moosehead Lake in Maine particularly ideal, as you can rent a heated ice shack through The Birches Resort. Landlocked salmon, lake trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, white and yellow perch, chub, and cusk are all possible catches here.
What Is It? Snowshoeing is winter’s answer to hiking but with specialized outdoor gear for walking over the snow.
Why Do It? It’s a family-friendly activity for all ages that provides the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise in at the same time.
Good to Know: Your options are just as varied for snowshoeing in New England as they are for hiking, but we love Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Flume Gorge trail is outstanding, with snowy forests, rocky gorges, massive icicles, and a covered bridge all in one two-mile loop.
What Is It? A sugarhouse, or sugar shack, is a small cabin or group of cabins where sap that’s collected from sugar maple trees is boiled into maple syrup. With around two-thirds of maple syrup in the U.S. produced in New England, you’ll find many of them in the region.
Why Do It? You can learn all about the centuries-old craft of maple sugaring, enjoy a delicious tasting, and bring some home too.
Good to Know: There are hundreds of sugarhouses that can be visited, but during the annual New Hampshire Maple Weekend in Andover, held over a weekend in late winter, there will be dozens open for tours and tastings. Maple candies and other maple products, doughnuts, and coffee are all available too.
What Is It? Ice skating is the quintessential winter activity best enjoyed outdoors on the nation’s most stunning rinks. There are numerous places to enjoy it throughout New England, from official rinks to ponds and lakes.
Why Do It? It offers great exercise, fun, the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, and perhaps romantic moments too.
Good to Know: Frog Pond at Boston Common, the oldest park in America, is a great place to spin around on the ice. It was even named the best place for outdoor ice skating in the U.S. by USA Today’s 10 Best.
What Is It? Dog sledding, also called mushing, involves traveling through the snow and ice on a sled pulled by one or more sled dogs.
Why Do It? While there are horror stories of animal cruelty in some dog sledding operations, Eden Ethical Dogsledding in northern Vermont is run by an international sprint sled dog champion and the welfare of the dogs is top priority. Many of the dogs are rescues and all are highly pampered today, with no chaining. You’ll enjoy a fun ride through an extensive trail network carved out just for sledding.
Good to Know: When there isn’t snow, wheeled sleds can be used.
What Is It? Bald eagles can occasionally be spotted in New England during the summertime, although most sightings occur during the winter, as they’re particularly active on a chilly day.
Why Do It? These majestic birds are incredible to watch with up to 7.5-foot wing spans as well as being the country’s national emblem.
Good to Know: There are multiple destinations in New England for viewing the birds, with Quabbin Reservoir near the towns of Hardwick and Ware, Massachusetts being ideal, with many different vantage points and easily accessible by car. You’ll find more information at the Quabbin Visitor Center in Ware.
What Is It? An old-fashioned sleigh ride is a fabulous winter pastime where you can bring the favorite holiday song Jingle Bells to life, literally dashing through the snow in a glorious wonderland. You’ll sit back, relax, and let the horses and driver do all of the work.
Why Do It? Sleigh rides are ideal for the whole family – it’s like traveling through a postcard.
Good to Know: Top Notch Resort in Stowe, one of Vermont’s best hotels, offers rides pulled by gentle giant draft horses through the Vermont countryside, complete with jingle bells and warm blankets to cozy up under.
What Is It? Winter in New England can mean snow on its beautiful beaches, providing the opportunity for tranquil walks with stunning scenery and no one else around.
Why Do It? Cape Cod is jam-packed with tourists in the summer, but the wintertime is wonderfully quiet on one of the East Coast’s best beaches. When there is snow dusted across the sand, it’s particularly surreal and you can even enjoy a romantic stroll to one of the many lighthouses like Nobska Point in Falmouth.
Good to Know: From Nobska Light, you’ll take in an incredible panoramic vista of Woods Hole, Vineyard Sound, and the Elizabeth Islands.