K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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I’ve enjoyed many winter getaways in New England over the years. While it’s definitely not the place for a beach escape during the colder months of the year, there are some fabulous destinations where you’ll be immersed in a postcard-perfect white wonderland while enjoying opportunities for all sorts of activities in the snow or taking advantage of the opportunity to explore enticing cultural attractions without the summer crowds. You’ll find something on this list in all six New England states, ensuring the ideal pick.
Stowe is the quintessential winter wonderland destination, located at the foot of Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. It’s also home to Stowe Mountain Resort which has a gondola that links Mount Mansfield with Spruce Peak, providing some of the best skiing in New England and other activities like sleigh rides pulled by Belgian and Percheron horses, ice skating, and cross-country skiing. After a day of play, you can enjoy a pampering massage at the spa, head to a brewery for a local beer, or enjoy fine dining on Main Street at the Cork Restaurant and Wine Bar or Harrison’s Restaurant.
For a city escape in Maine, it’s hard to beat Portland, one of the top spots for a winter getaway in New England. While it may be quite a bit smaller than Boston, you can enjoy a more laid-back atmosphere and plenty of things to do, including visiting its famously beautiful lighthouse, Portland Head Light. Ice skating can be enjoyed at The Rink at Thompsons Point, and Pineland Farms is the place to go cross-country skiing. Afterward, warm up by delving into the outstanding food scene. Brew lovers can take advantage of the city’s long history of micro-brewing, with some fantastic local institutions like Allagash which offers tours that have been named among the best brewery tours in the country. You’ll enjoy a tasting session in the barrel room too.
Burlington is a small city with lots of things to do, and in the winter, you can take advantage of the ice rink at Callahan Park for free ice skating with skates available to borrow. Sledding can be enjoyed at Finney Quad and there are nearly endless opportunities for snowshoeing too. It’s easy to fuel up for all your activities with the restaurants here known for their delicious farm-to-table fare. You won’t want to miss exploring Church Street Marketplace which is beautifully decorated with twinkling lights and offers many unique shops, cafes, and restaurants. In the evening, catch the local artists and performers by enjoying a show at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts or the Vermont Comedy Club.
Winter is the time to enjoy Cape Cod and its spectacular natural beauty without the crowds. The sunsets are particularly impressive when enjoyed from one of the more than a dozen lighthouses from Chatham Lighthouse to the Nobska Light in Falmouth and Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown. Bundle up and enjoy a peaceful stroll on the Cape Cod National Seashore which stretches along the outer shoreline all the way from Chatham to Provincetown. When you want to warm up you might check out the many art galleries and museums which you’ll find in abundance between Sandwich and Provincetown, one of the cutest coastal towns in New England and the cultural capital of the Cape. For antique lovers, head to the Sandwich Antiques Center with an impressive selection of nautical-themed antiques, or the Antiques Center of Yarmouth, one of the largest co-ops of its kind on the Cape with a vast inventory of all sorts of treasures.
There’s plenty going on all year round in Boston and there is a long list of things to do in the winter, too. If you’re a sports fan, you can attend a Boston Celtics or Bruins game while those who want to be more active might skate at Frog Pond which is especially romantic at night. The Taza Chocolate Factory is always fun (and delicious) to tour and you’ll definitely want to put a few of the renowned institutions on your must-visit list. That includes the Museum of Science, one of the world’s largest science museums, The Institute of Contemporary Art on the South Boston waterfront, and the Old State Museum. If you don’t mind bundling up, you can walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail that features 16 important sites pertaining to the Revolutionary War.
Stockbridge is one of Massachusetts’ most charming small towns and it’s even more delightful under a dusting of snow. It’s changed little over the years with the buildings on Main Street dating to the 18th- and 19th-century, a scene that Norman Rockwell painted in 1967 to epitomize the essence of Christmas in small towns across the country. while you’re here you can explore the largest collection of original Norman Rockwell art at the Norman Rockwell Museum, much of which was inspired by the town and surrounding Berkshires. Snowshoe and cross-country skiing excursions are available at the Red Lion Inn, one of the country’s oldest continuously operating inns, dating back to 1773.
Acadia National Park sees the vast majority of visitors in the summer but if you visit in winter you’ll get to enjoy it at its most tranquil. It’s likely to be a magical white wonderland with the inland areas covered in deep snow that’s perfect for activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. If you can rise early to catch a sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, it will be worth the wake-up call which is a bit later in the winter, between 6:20 a.m. and just after 7 a.m. Adventurers might want to sign up to climb a frozen waterfall through Acadia Mountain Guides, while those who appreciate more gentle pursuits might hike the Great Head Trail to take in the coastal scenery.
The charming little town of Litchfield offers lots to do in the winter whether you want to relax or get active. Enjoy outdoor activities like ice skating, ice fishing, tubing, sledding, and cross-country skiing as well as indoor fun, such as mini-golf, paintball, and laser tag. There are lots of interesting shops to browse, including Housatonic Trading Company where you can search for treasures like antiques. The spa at Litchfield Hills is the place to go for pampering while the Litchfield Distillery offers tours and tastings.
Mystic is always enjoyable to visit with lots of attractions that stay open throughout the winter. It has a very rich, well-preserved history that can be explored in the country’s largest maritime museum which includes four National Historic Landmark vessels such as the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last remaining wooden whale ship. It also has a collection of more than 500 other historic vessels, a working preservation shipyard, a recreated 19th-century seafaring village, and a planetarium. Don’t miss the Mystic Aquarium which includes African penguins, or simply wander the cobbled streets of Olde Mistick Village, a reconstruction of an early 18th-century village. Some might want to try what’s called a “slice of heaven” at Mystic Pizza too. The 1988 Julia Roberts film, “Mystic Pizza” is what put the town on the map and inspired the popular eatery.
Newport is a fabulous city and one of the best places to visit in Rhode Island during the winter. Just one of the reasons is the Newport Mansions. If you’re here between late November and early January in particular, you can’t miss a tour of its most famous: The Breakers, The Marble House, and The Elms. They’ll be open and stunningly decorated for the holidays. But anytime it’s worth getting a look at the incredibly lavish lifestyles of the country’s wealthiest industrialists in the 19th and early 20th centuries with the interiors featuring everything from ornate gold ceilings to diamonds, rubies, and other precious gems encrusted in the walls. For a unique experience, you can enjoy dinner and drinks in one of the heated igloos at Gurney’s, and ice skating is possible at the Newport Harbor Island Resort too.
Rangeley is a beautiful area popular for its mountains and lakes in the summer, and in the winter, visitors can enjoy skiing at Saddleback Mountain which Down East Magazine named the best in all of Maine. Enjoy breathtaking views, 68 runs, and over 600 acres of terrain. Or, stay in town and go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at the Rangeley Lakes Trail Center. Whatever you do, you’ll find a great aprés scene to take advantage of afterward. Be sure to keep an eye out for moose, because this region is one of the best places in Maine to see moose.
One of the best mountain towns in the U.S., North Conway is a great base for skiers and snowboarders in the heart of the White Mountains with five ski resorts that can be reached within an hour, including one that’s right downtown, Cranmore Mountain. If you want to cross-country ski or snowshoe, there are more than 250 trails nearby. Snowshoeing or hiking to frozen waterfalls, including Diana’s Bath, is possible or you can enjoy a more relaxed adventure with a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad. It travels from North Conway to Sawyers River, providing the chance to enjoy the romantic rail days of old on a steam train. There are lots of fun shops to explore along Main Street with everything from locally-made gifts to arts and crafts, chocolates, and sporting goods.