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Instead of trying to beat the winter blues by traveling to a tropical beach, why not delve into the season? There’s an invigorating feeling that comes from being in a snowy wonderland, enjoying the fresh air and often all sorts of fun activities like building a snowman, skiing, tubing, or even old-fashioned sleigh rides. In America’s most magical winter wonderland towns, you’re guaranteed breathtaking surroundings and often charming streets lined with historical buildings or perhaps simply an ideal eatery for sitting next to a roaring fire, a glass of wine, or a cup of hot cocoa in hand.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte is one of the most beautiful towns in the country and a fresh coat of powder enhances it in a big way, allowing visitors to enjoy the snowy slopes for skiing in a picture-perfect destination. Afterward, explore the historic downtown lined with colorful buildings. This is also an official creative district with many artist-owned studios and galleries, several co-op galleries, and multiple performance venues.
Stowe offers it all as a postcard-perfect town with opportunities for every snow sport imaginable, not only skiing and boarding but sleigh rides led by Percheron and Belgian draft horses with beautifully lit Santa-style sleighs that can bring you through the snowy forest. The downtown area with its well-preserved buildings is a delight to explore, with breathtaking views, eateries serving locally grown artisan food and drinks, and plenty of places to shop.
Lake Placid, New York
Nestled in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid has hosted the Olympic Winter Games twice, so you know your odds are good when it comes to snow and winter activities. Visitors can even ride the Lake Placid Toboggan Chut, which was converted from a 30-foot-high ski jump. Of course, skiing, ice skating, and other snow sports are available too, while the dining scene is innovative and diverse, with lots of restaurants serving locally sourced foods.
North Pole, Alaska
What could be more appropriate for a winter wonderland vacation than a visit to the North Pole? Blankets of snow are pretty much guaranteed, and this Alaskan Town offers lots to do during the season too, including the annual North Pole Christmas In Ice Contest that draws ice sculptors from across the globe. This is the best season for northern lights viewing, and you’ll be in one of the top spots for it. Plus, if you like Christmas, it doesn’t matter what month you arrive, it’s always Christmas here with holiday decor up 365 days of the year – drive down streets like Kris Kringle Drive, Mistletoe Lane, and Santa Clause Lane, or pick up gifts, decor, and local Alaska-made items at Santa Claus House.
Bear Valley, California
If you’re looking for a less-crowded destination for outstanding skiing and other winter activities, Bear Valley offers the ultimate snowy California escape with an average of 30 feet of snow annually. Located in the Central Sierra Mountains, the white powdery stuff is often piled as high as 10 feet or more, while the many mountain cabins are laced with icicles and surrounded by towering redwood trees. After a day of play at the Bear Valley Ski Area or one of the tubing/sledding hills, there’s nothing better than coming back to enjoy the warmth of a roaring fire.
With the Gros Ventre and Teton mountains rising in the distance, world-class ski resorts, and a wealth of outstanding eateries, bars, shops, and eclectic galleries in town, Jackson offers an idyllic winter wonderland getaway. In addition to skiing and boarding, enjoy everything from sleigh rides through the National Elk Refuge to mouthwatering apres-ski meals and indulging in s’mores with hot cocoa at a local bakery.
The tiny town of Snoqualmie is just 40 minutes east of Seattle, but it’s a delight under a blanket of snow. When its famous waterfall is surrounded by snow and icicles that cling to the rocky cliffs, it looks like something straight out of a film set. Plus, you can enjoy dazzling lights via the Snoqualmie Winter Lights trail that runs from Salish Lodge and Spa through the town. There are countless Instagrammable shots, but another one of the most popular is the historic Shell station, looking especially impressive decked out with lights and at least a dusting of snow.
A Victorian-era silver mining community tucked deep into a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains, Telluride is often called North America’s most beautiful mountain town. While it’s gorgeous year-round, with the Victoria storefronts and frontier-era facades framed by the red stone mountains and highlighted by snow, it’s truly stunning in winter.
Whitefish is an outdoor adventure hub that’s been named among the world’s top ski towns by National Geographic. The scenery looks like something out of a dream with snowy mountain backdrops, while the uncrowded slopes of Whitefish Mountain Resort offer affordable skiing with outstanding beginner terrain and challenges for experts too. Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and other activities are all available too.
North Conway, New Hampshire
North Conway sits beneath the beautifully forested White Mountains, surrounded by natural wonders that are highlighted under the glistening snow. There are many winter activities available too, including skiing, ice skating, and sleigh rides. In town, there’s a storybook church, a fun and nostalgic general store, and eateries for enjoying New England classics.
West Yellowstone, Montana
West Yellowstone is the western gateway to Yellowstone National Park, a region that gets more than enough snow to create a spectacular wonderland. Plus, the park is idyllic in the winter, with few other visitors there while offering all sorts of winter activities, including guided snowcoach tours through the park. The town is surrounded by three national forests with extensive groomed trail systems that provide access to backcountry areas too.
The Bavarian Village of Leavenworth, located just east of the Cascade Mountains, was originally called Icicle Flats. Not surprisingly, winter activities here abound, including ice climbing, backcountry skiing, and snowmobiling. With 150 inches of snowfall on average annually and 150 miles of trails to explore, you’re guaranteed lots of fun here. Plus, downhill skiing is available less than 40 minutes away at Stevens Pass and the “Village of Lights” festival brings brilliant displays with over a half-million lights to town.
Bethlehem is an obvious place to visit for Christmas, with its annual Christkindlmarkt inspired by the markets of Germany and a top Christmas market in the U.S., but it offers a whole lot more throughout the winter months. Skiers and snowboarders can enjoy Bear Creek Ski Area’s 86 acres of slopes, trails and terrain, plus ice skating is possible at the Steel Ice Center. The area is home to many covered bridges that, under the snow, make for some fabulous photo-ops and for a week in February, chocolate lovers can indulge in all sorts of special treats along the Bethlehem Chocolate Trail.
Winter is magical in the sleepy town of Kennebunkport. Enjoy ice skating at Waterhouse Center Ice Rink and horse-drawn sleigh rides followed by a fire and hot chocolate for warming up. If you’re here for the annual Christmas Parade, you can watch Santa arrive by lobster boat, and throughout the holiday season, there will be lots of lights, seashore trolley rides, lobster bakes, wine tasting, and more.
Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
Lake Tahoe gets an average of more than 215 inches of snowfall and at the higher elevations surrounding it, there can be as much as 500. In the winter, snow almost always blankets the ground but the skies are typically bright and sunny, making it an idyllic place to be, not only to take advantage of some of the country’s best ski resorts but activities for all sorts of adventurers. Enjoy ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and more, followed by a visit to a lavish spa for some pampering. There’s plenty of entertainment as well, from casino gambling on the lake’s Nevada side to live music concerts.
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
The charming town of Elkhart Lake is the quintessential winter wonderland during the season. You’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy it from snowshoeing and ice fishing to spa experiences and brewery tastings. After a day of any chilly adventure, warm up with a whiskey at the Brown Bear or a hot cocoa at Lake Street Café.
Wallace may be the “Silver Capital of the World,” but it also boasts a stunning setting in the winter with lots of white powdery snow while sitting about midway between two ski and recreation areas. After a day of play, explore the downtown with every building on the National Register of Historic Places. Today they house eateries, eclectic shops, and colorful, interesting museums like the Oasis Bordello Museum and the Wallace District Mining Museum.
Bayfield gets around 100 inches of snow annually and is a great base for exploring the remarkable ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore while offering a wide range of things to do of its own, including the Ashwabay Alpine and Cross Country Trails just south that offer spectacular trails for alpine and cross-country as well as snowshoeing. Guided ice fishing excursions are available and if conditions allow, you can even take a scenic drive to Madeline Island via the Madeline Island Ice Road which traverses the frozen waters of Lake Superior. There are plenty of places to warm up afterward too, including pubs, cafes, bistros, and more.
York definitely gets into the Maine snow globe spirit. In the winter, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, and snowboarding with dazzling views across a snowy backdrop, but the highlight here may be the Nubble Light, which, surrounded by a white blanket, looks like a painting. When it’s illuminated after dark, it’s stunning too. If you bundle up, you can enjoy tranquil walks without the crowds on the beaches and free ice skating at Mackey Skate Park; you’ll just need to bring a pair of skates.
While Breckenridge offers outstanding slopes for skiing, the town with its Victorian buildings is like stepping into a snow globe. There are all sorts of attractions in the winter here, from the Lighting of Breckenridge, which sees hundreds of Santas race down Main Street to the International Snow Sculpture Championships in late January. Activities like sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are all possible too, or you can sit back and enjoy the breathtaking views with a hot cup of cocoa on a sleigh ride.
While it may not always be snowy here, when the flakes fall, Essex is stunning. Bundle up and enjoy a stroll along the Connecticut River or picturesque Main Street with its colonial-style buildings. Around the holidays, you can hitch a ride on the Essex Steam Train, AKA, the North Pole Express, and anytime warm up at the Savour Cafe & Bakery with a delicious bowl of soup or a mouthwatering baked treat.
Set along the scenic St. Croix River, Stillwater has been named one of America’s prettiest towns by Forbes magazine. It’s even more picturesque when the historic homes and buildings are dusted with snow. It gets 42 inches annually while three ski resorts are nearby, making it an ideal destination for anyone who loves the snow. There are lots of festivities for the holidays and beyond, along with plenty of restaurants for warming your soul with tasty comfort foods.
Newport, Rhode Island
While Newport is very popular in the summer as a coastal town known for its beaches and sailing, wintertime means glorious sunrises, snow-covered stretches of sand, and its magnificent Gilded Age mansions look even more breathtaking surrounded by a blanket of white. They’re seriously decked out for the holidays and visitors can attend all sorts of holiday parties, concerts, performances and balls. There will be tree lightings throughout the town along with an illuminated boat parade and much more. And, anytime during the season, you can enjoy a unique experience: dining in a heated igloo overlooking the bay at Gurney’s Resorts.
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Klamath Falls is surrounded by wilderness and sees 38 inches of snowfall annually, bringing opportunities for sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating, and fun events like the Snowflake Festival and Winter Wings Festival. Plus, it’s a gateway to Crater Lake National Park with its deep sapphire waters especially magnificent surrounded by snow. The lake typically gets around 41 feet of snow and offers a myriad of recreational opportunities that will immerse you in the winter wonderland scenery.
Some say Bethel is Maine’s most beautiful mountain village, opening up to the White Mountain National Forest, and it would be hard to disagree. The downhill skiing is some of the best around and it’s also known as the cross-country ski capital with some 60 miles of groomed trails and back-country skiing in the forest. With the winter sun reflecting off snow-dusted steeples and glistening across the village common beyond to the row of 19th-century homes, it’s especially picturesque. Plus, this was also the home of the world’s tallest snowman (technically a snowwoman), which towered 122 feet above the landscape.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley is a small resort town surrounded by natural beauty. It’s a top spot for skiing and all sorts of snow sports, drawing plenty of celebrities to Dollar Mountain and Bald Mountain, known for offering one of the best skiing experiences in the country. Snowshoeing, backcountry, and cross-country skiing are available too, with about 125 miles of groomed trails and endless spectacular mountain views.
Munising experiences long winters while offering a wide range of activities in the snow, surrounded by magnificent scenery. The chance to explore ice caves is what draws many, located in the Rock River Canyon Wilderness just west. The breathtaking ice walls can be marveled at from various angles, or even climbed, with rental equipment and lessons available for beginners. Over the second weekend in February, the annual Michigan Ice Fest offers climbing classes and seminars conducted by world-class climbers. Visitors can also enjoy snowmobiling on the groomed Munising trail system that stretches for hundreds of miles, snowshoeing, and visiting frozen waterfalls.
Park City, Utah
Park City hosted some of the events in the 2002 Winter Olympics and visitors today can ride the bobsled at Utah Olympic Park, which hosted the bobsled event. Of course, it’s also famous for its world-class skiing and countless other snow sports, including snow biking on fat tire bikes and tubing. Plus, under a dusting of snow, historic Main Street is especially picturesque and it’s fun to explore with unique boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and the Park City Museum for learning about skiing and mining history here.
Located in the remote western San Juan Mountains in Colorado’s southwest region, Silverton is surrounded by soaring snow-covered peaks while the streets are lined with Victorian homes and buildings. It’s truly like a magical snow globe when the flakes fall here – and, as it’s home to the Kendall Mountain Ski Area and Recreation Center, you can enjoy some excellent skiing too.
Sitka weather would be considered cold compared to most places in the lower 48, but it’s mild for Alaska standards, with high temperatures averaging in the low- to mid-40s. There is an average of 44 inches of snow each year which means you can enjoy the flakes without the frigid cold. It’s surrounded by soaring mountains that provide a breathtaking backdrop and there are a number of winter festivals like the Sitka WhaleFest and Sitka Jazz Festival to enjoy too.
Lincoln, New Hampshire
Tucked into the White Mountains, Lincoln is a great base for enjoying the slopes for skiers of all levels along with tubing, snowmobiling, ice skating, and snowshoeing. It also offers many idyllic photo-ops, including covered bridges like the Flume Covered Bridge. Listed in the World Guide of Covered Bridges, it was built in 1871 and is especially picturesque in the snow.
Deadwood, South Dakota
The Black Hills are incredibly scenic in every season, but winter brings a glittering sheen across the enchanting landscapes with waterfalls that freeze into beautifully sculpted icicles, and the snow-covered forests are ideal for some serene snowshoeing in a winter wonderland. Enjoy all that Historic Deadwood has to offer under a dusting of fresh powder, including dining, shopping, gambling, and entertainment in Victorian-era buildings that date to its Wild West days in the late 1800s. Plus, skiers can take advantage of the slopes at Terry Peak Ski Resort just a few miles away.
Skaneateles, New York
Set on one of the scenic Finger Lakes in Upstate, the town of Skaneateles has a vibrant downtown with lots of festivities to enjoy during the holidays along with plenty of dining, shopping, and opportunities to sample the local wine. Visitors can also enjoy ice fishing on the lake and skiing at Greek Peak Mountain Resort, less than an hour away in Cortland, the largest ski resort in Central New York.
Frankenmuth is a Bavarian-style town that’s ideal to visit around Christmas, drawing many to enjoy the festivities that include everything from a Christmas tree light show to sleigh rides. But it offers a lot throughout the winter months and beyond. Not only is it postcard-perfect under snow, every January, it hosts the Frankenmuth Snowfest festival featuring talented ice artists who massive slabs of ice into works of art. Ice skating, whiskey and rum tastings, and horse-drawn carriage rides are all possible too.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
New Hope is like walking into an antique snow globe in the winter and as you stroll the streets downtown, you can check out unique boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and more. Foodies can enjoy culinary tours to sample delicious eats and everyone should take a ride on the New Hope Railroad, which serves as Santa’s North Pole Express during the holidays.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Steamboat Springs is another world-famous ski town, renowned for its slopes, but visitors can also enjoy sleigh rides, snowshoeing, snow biking, and tubing. After a day of chilly play, soak in the soothing hot springs. There are even hot-air balloon rides if you want to see the beautiful landscapes from above.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Tucked in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs is an enchanting destination with Victorian-era architecture housing historic hotels, manors, and restaurants that are all enhanced by winter snow. Indoor ghost tours are available of America’s most haunted hotel, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, and you can head underground to explore the sights in Cosmic Cavern too.
The 18th- and 19th-century buildings along Main Street in Stockbridge have changed little over the decades and under a dusting of snow, it feels like stepping into a painting. In fact, Norman Rockwell painted the scene in 1967 to epitomize the essence of Christmas in small towns across the country. Stockbridge hosts the Norman Rockwell Museum, which features the world’s largest collection of original Norman Rockwell art, many of which were inspired by Stockbridge and the Berkshires. Visitors can also enjoy guided cross-country ski or snowshoe excursions via the 1773 Red Lion Inn, one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the country.
Alta pretty much guarantees deep, powdery snow with the Alta Ski Area its main attraction, although extreme skiers can take a helicopter into the backcountry with Powderbird. This is definitely the place for untouched snow, epic mountain views, and some of the world’s best skiing.
McCall is a picturesque town that gets over 130 inches of snow a year. Cross-country skiing is possible in the surrounding forest, while nearby Brundage Mountain offers skiing for all experience levels. There is also a winter festival in late January that includes an ice sculpture contest.
Charming Winona becomes a snowy wonderland in the winter, and for the holidays, the Christmas market offers all sorts of gifts, food, games, caroling, and ice skating. Adrenaline seekers head here to climb the ice walls that cascade hundreds of feet from Winona’s towering buffs that overlook downtown, with the views alone worth a visit. In mid-February, the city hosts the Winter Festival with a polar plunge and snowshoe race.
Concord has been called the best winter town in Massachusetts (and the most charming), looking like something out of a storybook during the season. It’s also one of the most historic towns, settled in 1635 by English Puritan families. You’ll find many historic homes to marvel at with a gorgeous blanket of white powder, including the 1690 Orchard House, one of the country’s most authentically preserved historic home museums. It’s most notable as the home of the Alcott family, the very place where Louisa May Alcott wrote her classic, Little Women.
Burlington is known for its laid-back spirit and in the winter, it’s beautiful. The holidays bring lots of decor and twinkling lights that brighten up picturesque snowy scenes while a pedestrianized roadway is lined with unique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Take a stroll along Lake Champlain and perhaps even walk on it if it’s frozen over. The ice rink at Callahan Park is free to use with skates available to borrow and sledding is possible at Finney Quad.
Wintertime in Bend is beautiful, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It’s not all that cold either, with many bright sunny days. In a typical season, there’s not much snow on the ground right in town, but just minutes away you’ll find a ton of powder for skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. Live music, fireside shows, and numerous pubs and eateries can be enjoyed after a day of play too.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes is one of the most popular ski resorts in the country, with superior snow conditions for skiing and snowboarding. There are miles upon miles of cross-country and snowshoe terrain along with snowmobile adventures, sledding, and plenty of other family fun. You’ll find many cabin rentals here that provide the perfect base, complete with indoor fireplaces to cozy up to with hot cocoa.
Homer is the perfect place for a blissful escape without the crowds in an oceanfront town with views of dramatic snowy peaks. Cross-country skiing is popular and flightseeing tours are possible year-round with winter bringing the opportunity to soar over snow-covered icefields and mountains. The Homer Winter Festival in mid-February is a weekend-long celebration with a parade worth planning your trip around.
Woodstock is like a postcard with its historic buildings and the tranquil Ottauquechee River running through. With a blanket of snow, you might think you’ve walked into a dream. It’s especially charming during the holidays with all the lights and decor, while Nordic skiing trails provide a great way to immerse yourself in all of it.
Nestled along Lake Michigan, Holland may be medium sized but it feels more like a small town. The downtown area has heated sidewalks, so while you’re likely to be surrounded by snow, there’s no need to worry about falling on the ice. At Holland State Park, you can explore the frozen shoreline and then head to New Holland Brewing for a pint.
New York City, New York
Temperatures may be below freezing, but New York City will be livelier than ever in the winter. Enjoy the scene at Rockefeller Center with its famous ice rink, snow-covered Central Park, and winter markets throughout the season, or visit for larger-than-life holiday attractions, including the Times Square Ball, which drops from a height of 141 feet to mark the New Year.
Marquette sees an annual average of 200 inches of snowfall. It sits along the shores of Lake Superior and is often blanketed in the white powder while nearly 75 miles of cross-country ski trails, 60 miles of groomed trails for fat bikes, and 400 miles of snowmobile trails await. The daring can even try winter surfing. If you’re here at the start of the season, join in on the Winter Solstice Celebration with music, food, and shopping. There’s a New Year’s Eve ball drop downtown too.