The United States of America is a truly massive country, spreading far and wide from the Arctic all the way to the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. There is so much to do and see that you can enjoy vacations every season of the year, including in the winter.
Whether you want to embrace the chill and visit ski resorts or escape winter for something a little more tropical, you can thanks to the huge variety of climates throughout the country. Winter can be just as fun as the rest of the year, with as many places to go and things to see as there are in the USA.
Throughout the following list, you can find places that feature some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the nation as well as some of the world-renowned national parks. Many of the locations are entire regions you can explore, setting your agenda and enjoying things at your own pace.
Prepare to have a winter full of fun with all these 21 places that make for some of the best winter vacations in the U.S.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited national parks, and like most of the parks, it’s open year-round. Winter offers unique recreational opportunities and is much more crowded than in the warmer seasons.
Enjoy outdoor activities that highlight the grand nature of the surroundings at Yosemite. You can slide down a mountainside on an intertube, snowshoeing through a tranquil meadow, and ice skate under the Half Dome.
If you visit Yosemite for sightseeing, you’re treated to the heightened contrast that the snow-capped mountains and ice-lined waterfalls experience as the cold moves in. The forests take on a new and serene appearance as the snow builds throughout the season.
Accommodations are available in and near the park in the form of the classic, log cabin-style lodge buildings full of modern traditional rooms. Look into Yosemite Valley Lodge, Rush Creek Lodge, and Yosemite View Lodge for some of the most frequently recommended spots to warm up for the night.
Keep in mind that if you’re traveling into the park during winter, you will need to be ready for the weather to turn on a dime. It’s not uncommon in mountain passes to experience clear skies one moment and a whiteout the next.
Located just west of Denver in the middle of the White River National Forest, Vail attracts over 650,000 visitors every winter to enjoy the great outdoors. Vail is one of the top ski destinations in Colorado, so it’s an obvious choice for an exciting winter vacation.
The iconic and massive Vail Ski Resort is a world-class location to hit the slopes with over 5,300 acres of total skiable terrain. Within this acreage, there are 32 lifts to get you to 195 different trails ranging from the peak elevation of more than 11,500+ feet descending to the base elevation of 8,120 feet.
For those brand new to skiing, you won’t find a better place to learn with some of the best facilities and instructors in the world residing here all winter to help. Seasoned skiers can also find an abundance of intermediate, black diamond, and double black diamond runs to test themselves.
At the base of the mountains that comprise all of this world-class skiing sits the iconic mountain resort town of Vail. This is a fantastic place to find accommodations as well as stock up on any gear you may need for a winter trip.
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
Wisconsin is home to the Apostle Islands, one of the country’s national lakeshores. This chain of small islands sits in the northernmost location of the Badger State in the ice-cold waters of Lake Superior and is one of the top winter destinations you can come to enjoy.
The same ice that blankets the lake this time of year makes the Apostle Islands a spectacular place to visit. The iconic red cliffs that jut out from the lake become enveloped in layer upon layer of icicles. These formations give an otherworldly cavelike appearance to these rocky islands that you can only experience if you brave the frigid winters of northern Wisconsin.
If you are lucky to visit when conditions are right, take a tour of the Lake Superior ice caves, a phenomenon that only occurs in the winter when ideal conditions are met. With the all clear, you’ll hike out across the ice of Lake Superior for approximately two miles and enter a cave created entirely by the ice that has built up under the Apostle Islands.
A visit to the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin is a fantastic retreat for those who want to enjoy winter and aren’t afraid to brave the truly freezing temperatures. It’s way up there, far from everything, so there’s no need to worry about crowds at all.
You will find no shortage of things to do on a winter getaway in Lake Tahoe. It’s an excellent destination that was made for the winter season but just happens to be gorgeous year-round. First and foremost, Lake Tahoe is an outdoor lover’s dream in the winter, with abundant skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice skating opportunities.
The skiing around Lake Tahoe is among some of the best in the U.S., and you will have several options for slopes to check out. The best of the best are Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, and Sierra-at-Tahoe. Between these three resorts, you can find thousands of acres of some of the most well-maintained and pristine runs in all of the Sierras.
There are accommodations on all sides of Lake Tahoe, and some of the best choices are in Incline Village to the northeast side of the lake in Nevada and of course, in the village of South Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe is where you will find the most conveniences, including shopping, a huge variety of dining and drinking experiences, and even a resort and casino right on the state line. Be sure to book your accommodations well in advance since Lake Tahoe is an extremely popular winter destination.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park provides a spectacular backdrop for a winter vacation, with the snow-peaked cliffs spiraling out from an otherwise colorful and forested surrounding. All of this is a magnificent display just to behold, but it’s also a great place to enjoy outdoor recreation.
Get out there and enjoy the snow at the park with a ranger-guided snowshoe walk, sledding at a designated area in Paradise at the base of the mountain, or hitting the slopes for some skiing and snowboarding.
When visiting for any of these outdoor activities, stop by the visitor’s center as well as the park’s website to learn of any weather-related conditions you need to be aware of. Mount Rainier is an excellent spot for winter fun, but the weather around the mountains is unpredictable and can become dangerous in a hurry.
A little preparation goes a long way to have an enjoyable visit to Mount Rainier in the winter. You’ll want to look into accommodations months in advance because the park remains busy throughout the year.
If you want to stay right where all the recreational opportunities are, check out Paradise Inn. This guest lodge is smack in the middle of the place with the most activities around the mountain.
New York City, New York
Winter in New York City is borderline magical. There is so much to do that we may fail to even begin to cover it all here. Suffice it to say it’s a classic destination for a reason, and a visit during winter ensures things you won’t see anywhere else on the planet.
New York City stands to this day as a premier vacation destination no matter what time of year, with winter adding the energetic buzz of the holiday season. If you visit any time around the holiday season and New Year, there are some must-see items every year.
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is one of the most iconic trees in the world and is always an impressive sight. While here, visit the ice rink for a few laps on the rink that you’ve almost certainly seen on television and in movies. Bundle up and take a carriage ride in Central Park for a romantic evening with that special someone.
Enjoy a one-of-a-kind shopping experience in New York City, and go check out the displays on 5th Avenue. This is a staple experience and a reminder of the storied past of this famous American metropolis.
In truth, you can visit every winter of your life and still not experience everything New York City has to offer. It’s still worth a shot to try.
The Windy City is no stranger to harsh winters, but it’s a place that makes the best of the season with plenty to do and see. We love coming to Chicago in the summer and winter as there is always a fun event going on, and Millenium Park is always the place to be.
There is an ice skating experience that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in Chicago at Millenium Park. Affectionately dubbed the Skating Ribbon, this circuitous, river-like ice rink winds around the heart of the park with breathtaking views of the towering buildings all around, with Monroe Harbor and Lake Michigan on the opposite side.
Any good winter adventure in Chicago should include a walk near Lake Michigan to see the beautiful frozen display. The contrast between the peaceful reflective ice against the cityscape of skyscrapers, topped by a crisp blue winter sky is a phenomenal sight to behold. Make sure you bundle up good and tight, the winds of the lake are truly bone-chilling.
Or you can escape the cold and enjoy one of Chicago’s world-class indoor botanical gardens. Either the Lincoln Park or Garfield Park Conservatory will provide a welcome retreat to the warmth and fragrant beauty of exotic flora. Chicago is one of the best Midwest vacation spots you should consider traveling to if you haven’t already.
Head over to Soldier Field if there is snow and take a few trips down the sledding hill, or head over to Northerly Island Park and snowshoe or hike through a snowy stretch of wilderness right next to the lake.
You can use Denver as your base of operations for a full winter exploration of the Rockies. It’s a destination in and of itself as well as a fantastic gateway to the surrounding slopes in Vail, Winter Park, and Loveland.
If you want to make the most of your time in Denver in the winter and escape the elements, be sure to check out the thriving museum, food, and shopping scenes available. Some must-see examples are the Denver Art Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Denver Aquarium, which houses over 500 species of aquatic life.
While you’re out shopping swing by the centrally located Union Station and warm up with a hot cocoa or coffee before your next move.
Enjoy the outdoors with ice skating in Skyline Park, take a tour in and around the famous Mile High Tree, or take advantage of the city’s thousands of acres of parks with a brisk hike. When you want to head up the mountains for some action on the slopes, you can find everything you need to make for a fun trip.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells is one of the finest family vacation spots in the United States, no matter what time of year you visit. It’s a charming Midwestern town filled with plenty of attractions and end-to-end indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities. Growing up, it was always one of my favorite places due to the incredible waterparks.
The best part about it is that you can visit the waterparks of Wisconsin Dells any time of the year. There is no reason these need to be a summer exclusive. Many resorts feature massive indoor waterparks, and you can spend your entire stay just enjoying fun normally reserved for the warmer months.
If you want to experience the best of the best, look into the Kalahari, Wilderness Resort, Chula Vista, and Mount Olympus. I’ve visited all 4 and would highly recommend them to couples and families. The Chula Vista is one of the top Wisconsin all-inclusive resorts.
For outdoor recreation, you can go skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and tubing at one of the nearby hills. Engage in an active outdoor activity and go trail hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing with the many trails around the Dells. Once you’re ready to warm up for the day, visit the iconic downtown Wisconsin Dells for fantastic restaurants, unique stores, breweries, and wineries.
Try out a Midwest staple and go bowling at Chalet Lanes & Lounge, or get far out with a game or two of cosmic bowling at Knuckleheads.
Mammoth Mountain, California
Mammoth Mountain resides in the Inyo National Forest, with its iconic rounded top reaching a height of more than 11000+ feet. From this fantastic vantage point, travelers can view much of the Sierra Nevada range on either side, it’s truly breathtaking in every direction.
From this spot, you can also see just how many ski slopes a mountain can have. On just this one amazing area, there are 125 trails, accessible by 25 lifts, making up over 3,500 acres of sublime snowiness. Take a free, guided ski and snowboard tour of the mountain by visiting the Main or Canyon Lodges.
Hitch a ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain on the famous gondola and enjoy the view all the way to the summit. Once you’ve arrived, check out the Eleven53 Interpretive Center & Cafe for exhibits about the mountain and pick up a hot beverage, soup, or some chili.
Visit the village of Mammoth Lakes at the base of the mountain and enjoy a shopping, dining, and entertainment experience. This is also the best place to search for award-winning accommodations, such as Austria Hof Lodge, Canyon Lodge, and the acclaimed Village Lodge.
When we visited Miami, one of the Uber drivers told us that Miami was just as popular in the winter as it was in the summer due to the warm weather all year round. The reasons to go to Miami in the winter are just as abundant if you are using it to escape from a cooler area of the country like we did since we’re from Wisconsin.
Throughout the season, Miami stays comfortably warm and downright balmy. Spend your days lounging by a pool in the bright sunshine, walk down the expanse of Miami Beach, or get in the water for some swimming and snorkeling in South Beach.
Head over to Ocean Drive and see some iconic Miami architecture bursting with vibrant color and personality for days. Visit at night to see a dazzling display of brightly colored nightlife hotspots with bars, clubs, and restaurants for miles.
If you want to enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city, take a quick trip over to the Everglades National Park. Go for a hike across the over-swamp platforms and gaze out over one of the largest protected tropical wetlands in the world that’s filled with alligators.
We rank it high as one of the best winter vacations since if you come during the cold season, you can miss the huge crowds of spring and summer while still enjoying incredible weather. It’s a high-energy city that is a great choice for people who love to party but can still spend time exploring the outdoors. There is rarely a dull moment in Miami.
If the thought of Alaska in the winter doesn’t scare you off, Anchorage is an excellent spot to enjoy the most outstanding outdoors in the U.S.
Experience the wonders of winter in the Last Frontier by getting yourself out and into some powder. Skiing and snowboarding opportunities abound on the slopes as well as in cross-country settings.
Take advantage of the location and traditions of Alaska and find yourself a dog-sledding tour that can have you racing across land and lakes at high rates of speed, driven by canine copilots. Give ice skating and ice fishing a chance in the many frozen lakes.
Bundle up and head outside in the evenings to witness the Northern Lights. You’ll be in one of the few locations in the country that routinely catches a glimpse of this beautiful phenomenon, and it really is otherworldly.
When you’re ready to spend time inside, see the Alaska Native Heritage Museum and Anchorage Museum. They both offer a unique glimpse into the lives of the native peoples who first settled here and are still alive and well to this day.
Be prepared for your trip and perform proper research to know what you should bring to brave the elements. The harsh winter in Anchorage is no joke.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City sees a few months of fairly typical winter weather a year, with the occasional outburst of snow. It’s just down the mountain from Park City, one of the later entries in this list, and results in milder conditions within just a few miles.
Due to this location, the weather can change on a whim, and it’s always best to be prepared for a sudden drop in temperature and precipitation. Come prepared with layers or find anything and everything you might want to shop for downtown at City Creek Center, The Gateway, or The Gateway Plaza.
No matter what time of year you visit, you need to see the wonders of Temple Square. This piece of living history encompasses nearly five blocks of downtown Salt Lake City and serves as the centerpiece of the crown of the LDS Church.
A stay anywhere in the greater Salt Lake City area is a great way to save money on accommodations, thanks to the many options in this metropolitan city. This makes the city a fantastic base camp for wandering the surrounding mountains with all of the skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing activities.
Avoid winter entirely and simultaneously cross an item off your bucket list with a warm winter vacation to Hawaii. The Aloha State is the dream spot to visit during the cold season because they simply don’t experience anything close to winter here. We can’t even begin to describe the number of memories or experiences we had when we visited Hawaii, like swimming in the Wai’ale Falls to hiking the Canyon Trail.
There are many islands to choose from, including the most popular ones of Big Island, Maui, O’ahu, and Kauai. Every island has a different strength, and you can find something for everyone across the island chain.
Visit Big Island to see unbridled nature in the form of Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park. Check out Maui for the world-famous beaches and surfing. O’ahu is home to Honolulu and gives you a chance to experience the energy of a city in paradise while staying in an all-inclusive resort.
Kauai is fantastic if you want to disconnect from the world and connect with nature on scenic hikes, with the added bonus of being less traveled. Waimea Canyon State Park and Poipu Beach are some of our favorite spots on Kauai.
Visiting in the winter gives you the unique opportunity to view humpback whales during their annual migration across the Pacific. This once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these gentle giants is one you can experience from any of the islands by booking a tour.
Hawaii gives you all the reasons to get outside and enjoy nature, even in the winter. Lay out on the beach and get a tan, hit the water for some surfing or snorkeling (but watch out for the dangerous winter swells), or go on an unbelievable hike. It makes for a beautiful tropical vacation no matter the time of the year.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon National Park is a testament to just how big and beautiful the parks in the U.S. are, and a visit during winter is a chance to see the landmark in rare form.
Winter brings out the highlighting power of snow as it drapes over the cascading layers of the Grand Canyon with bursts of the characteristic red color you are accustomed to seeing. From the viewing platforms on the South Rim, you may experience limited visibility due to rapidly changing conditions, but just as soon as you lose a view, you can easily find another.
Come prepared for the winter weather by wearing a comfortable set of light layers, and bring extras in case you need to layer up. All of the preparation is worth it to make your way out to Mather Point, Yaki Point, or Shoshone Point, which are all easily accessed via road and short hike.
Coming to the Grand Canyon in the winter means that you can avoid some of the crowding that takes place during the milder seasons. You will have a better selection of accommodations to choose from in every category. Campsites and RV sites for the DIY types, and for those who want to stay at a lodge in Grand Canyon Village, there are plenty of rooms available in the winter months.
Boston is like much of the East Coast during the winter, where they really lean into the decorative displays around the holiday season. For this reason, it’s a great time to visit Boston and see the flickering festivities at Boston Commons, Copley Square, and Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.
Do one of the touristy activities and hit up the Boston Common Frog Pond, Canal District Kendall, or The Rink at 401 Park for some ice skating. Afterward, walk to a nearby shop and grab some hot chocolate to warm up again before venturing back into the cold to wander Beantown.
The museums are another great way to escape the cold in Boston, and they are world-class. The Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of African American History, and the Institute of Contemporary Art are all fine choices and could occupy an entire day of your vacation.
If you want to see the most things possible during your stay, consider going on a walking tour. Walking is the best way to get around Boston, and if you join a tour, you can observe the ins and outs of places like Copley Square and the Downtown Boston Freedom Trail and historic sites like the Paul Revere House.
Lake Champlain is an idyllic glacial lake set in the Adirondacks in the northern portion of Vermont, with parts of the lake crossing over into Quebec.
Winter in this part of the country is wild, and a vacation here ensures loads of opportunities to embrace the cold with a rosy-cheeked smile. Outdoor recreation is encouraged, and there is no shortage of ways to get outside and get going in Lake Champlain.
It’s a great place to experience ice fishing, lake hockey, ice skating, and a local favorite, kitewing on skis. What is a kitewing, you ask? It’s as if windsurfing and downhill skiing had a baby, and the baby shredded across a crystal-clear body of ice.
When you want to hit the slopes, find a great place just under an hour southeast of the lake at Bolton Valley Ski Resort. This resort features 71 trails, serviced by 6 lifts from one of the highest base elevations in the northeast of 2,100 feet.
Cross over onto the New York side of the lake and check out Au Sable Chasm, a 500 million-year-old cavern formation that can make you feel like you’re in a different time. It’s one of the not-kept secrets of the region and is worth the hike to see.
Park City, Utah
Park City is the best place to find fresh snow in Utah, thanks to 10s of thousands of acres of dedicated slopes across several world-class resorts. This is the area of the greater Salt Lake City area that was host to the Winter Olympics in 2002, and with good reason.
The slopes here are among the best in the United States, rivaling those in Vail and Lake Tahoe. In addition to all of the slopes and obstacles created by Mother Nature herself, there is the massive complex that was and remains in use to this day thanks to the Olympic Games. There are feature parks for skiers and snowboarders alike that include half-pipes, steep jumps, manmade falls, whalebacks, and rails.
Or you can hit the trails with horsepower and go snowmobiling at places like Thousand Peaks, where they have over 60,000 acres of terrain to explore at high speed. You can also opt for something a little more of a workout and try snow biking or going for a snowshoeing excursion. Enjoy the birds-eye view of the surroundings when you bundle up and go for a hot-air balloon ride.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is right near the base of the Sangre De Cristo range, northeast of Albuquerque. It maintains much of the Old West charm of a Southwestern city due to the carefully preserved plaza downtown.
The plaza should be among the first things to check out during a visit to Santa Fe with its vibrant architectural flair, modern amenities, and shopping. During the winter holidays, it features a dazzling light display.
There are slopes within a couple of hours up the range, including Ski Santa Fe, Sipapau Ski & Summer Resort, and Taos Ski Valley. These all make excellent day trips out from the center of Santa Fe, where you can return in the evening for a warm meal and a warmer beverage. Focus on the area around Canyon Road for the best options that the city has to offer.
Leave some time in your schedule to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, a tribute to one of New Mexico’s cultural icons. While you’re at it, also buy admission to the Museum of International Folk Art, a gallery featuring southwestern pieces as well as works from around the world that display aspects of daily life.
Portland is a great winter vacation because it adds a noticeable hint of drama to the surroundings. As with any time of year, one of the main attractions to see on your visit to Portland is some of the nation’s most beautiful lighthouses.
Portland Head Light, Bug Light, and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse are must-stop points for your trip. Bundle up and be careful not to slip when you visit, the views are unmatched, but winter is a serious affair in Maine.
While touring the city, visit one of the holiday markets that pop up during the winter. If you’re planning a visit specifically around Christmas, check out the Merry Madness, a massive retail event that offers deep discounts and specials throughout the month of December.
Make the most of your time downtown and attend a performance, or take a wobbly walking tour of the breweries before you retreat to warm accommodation for the evening. Folks don’t hide from winter in Portland, and the downtown comes to life.
Experience one of the best metropolitan centers on the West Coast in Seattle. You may be surprised to find that you won’t see much in the way of snow around Seattle in the winter, save for a few events a year. Instead, you should be prepared for a chilly, wet visit, as this is what you’re likely to encounter.
Any visit to Seattle needs to include a trip to the Space Needle and if you can brave the heights, a walk out onto the glass-bottom viewing platform. You’ll get a chance to view the city from the place you have seen in all of the TV shows and movies. On a clear day, it’s possible to see the snowy cap of Rainier off in the distance to the south.
Stroll over to Pike Place Market and join a tour that shows you all of the ins and outs, along with a history lesson about this iconic open-air market. You can also go at your own speed with a self-guided tour and enjoy popular Seattle food and beverages.