Best USA Winter Wonderland Destinations

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Best Winter Destinations in the USA

There are two types of winter travelers. The travelers that are looking to escape the cold, and the travelers who embrace winter and all of the fun activities that come with it! If you want to escape to warmer temperatures, you are best to check these USA warm winter getaways here. For the rest of you, we are covering some of the best USA winter destinations!

Rockefeller Center in December with holiday decorations! One of the top places to visit in NYC for the Holidays!
New York City is a Winter Wonderland Destination around the Holidays

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Fairbanks, Alaska

Recommended by Kay – The Awkward Traveller

Although Fairbanks is the second-largest city in the state of Alaska, it only has a population of a little over 30,000, making it a great small-town getaway. Coincidentally, Fairbanks is also one of the best winter destinations in the USA.

For those dreaming of a white winter season, you are in luck! Fairbanks is known for its winter activities and events, but the most popular things to do in Fairbanks in winter revolve around reindeer ranches, hot springs, dog sledding, and chasing the Northern Lights.

The best places to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks are at Creamer’s Field and Cleary Summit, about 30 minutes from downtown. If you happen to arrive at the start of the Winter Solstice, the entire city transforms into a wonderland where all of the storefronts are decorated in garland and tinsel, and the street posts have fairy lights wrapped around them.

The month of December is an especially magical time to visit Fairbanks, in particular, the small town of North Pole just twenty minutes down the road.

You can see the world’s largest Santa sculpture, as well as visit Santa’s workshop. On weekends, you might even get a chance to give ol’ Saint Nick your holiday wishlist in person!

To make your trip truly memorable, plan to visit Fairbanks during a big winter event or festival, such as the World Ice Sculpting Championships, the Festival of Native Arts, or even Iditarod. By attending a festival, you will have the opportunity to experience a more cultural side to Fairbanks and understand their unique art and traditions deeper.

Find awesome Fairbank Alaska tours here!

Where to Stay in Fairbank: Pike’s Waterfront Lodge | La Quinta | Best Western Chena River Lodge | Fairbanks VRBO

Fairbanks Alaska Northern Lights
Northern Lights in Fairbanks Alaska

Moab, Utah

Recommend by Jarrod – Ramble Around The World

Another great USA winter destinations to add to your bucket list is Moab, Utah! A tiny town located in the middle of the Utah desert, Moab is an absolute paradise for outdoor lovers. Ruby red cliffs jut to the clear blue sky everywhere in town and it’s often regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Utah.

Winters also make Moab more unique due to the cold temperatures giving way to snow, which blankets the red rock formations from December to February each year.

But while the beauty begins in Moab, it extends to nearby Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park — all three within the city limits of this quaint desert town.

From hiking and mountain biking to off-roading and white water rafting, there’s surely something to do in Moab for every type of adventurer.

The most popular destination in Moab is by far Arches National Park, which sees visitors flocking from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the incredible sandstone arches that are unlike anything else in the United States. Arches National Park is also a great National Park to visit in the winter!

The small town has had a tourism boom in recent years, so there are plenty of hotels to stay at, restaurants to eat in, and even a brewery in the heart of downtown.

But since much of Moab is public land, there are plenty of free campsites on the outskirts of town to help you enjoy the outdoors a little more and save a lot more money.

Find awesome tours and guides in Moab here!

Where to Stay in Moab: Hyatt Place Moab | Homewood Suite by Hilton | Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn | Moab VRBO

Denver, Colorado

Recommended by Kara – Destination: Live Life

Nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Denver, Colorado is a fantastic winter vacation in the US. Despite being on the smaller side (as far as cities go), the Mile High City, as Denver is lovingly referred to, has many incredible things to do. Especially in winter!

For those who embrace the snow and cold, a short drive to the west will bring some of the best skiing of your life. You can base yourself in a great area to stay in Denver, and hit the slopes during the day.

The closest options include Eldora Mountain, Winter Park, and Arapahoe Basin. You can enjoy a variety of winter activities in the mountains beyond skiing – like tubing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and more.

If even thinking of trekking through all that snow has you chilled, don’t worry – there’s plenty to do in the city during winter as well!

Denver is most well-known for beer and sports, which are luckily year-round activities. You can book a bar crawl tour and simply go with the flow, or even put together your own brewery hopping experience!

Local favorites include Great Divide Brewing Co, Denver Beer Co, and Wynkoop Brewing Company. And after all those suds, catch a winter game at the Pepsi Center – Denver’s premier indoor arena.

And if you happen to visit during the holidays, Denver comes alive with a variety of Christmas experiences. The Denver Christkindl Market is a favorite featuring a variety of vendors, authentic German food, and a beer hall with live music. Or catch the annual lighting displays at The Denver Zoo (“Zoo Lights”) or the Denver Botanic Gardens (“Blossoms of Light”)

Want to save money on Denver attractions? Check out the Denver City Pass

Find awesome tours to do in Denver here!

Where to Stay: Grand Hyatt Denver | Homewood Suites Downtown | AC Hotel by Marriott Downtown | Denver Airbnb

Denver Colorado City during Christmas
Denver Colorado City during Christmas

New York City, NY

Recommended by Sam – Find Love & Travel

New York City is easily one of the most magical USA destinations to visit in the winter, especially during the holidays! From the famous tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, Ice skating in Central Park, or the Christmas Market at Bryant Square, there is a ton to see and do!

Let’s not forget the Holiday Windows at Macy’s or the beautiful Christmas decorations at Saks Fifth Ave and Cartier; all of which are free NYC activities. And of course, there are still all the other things about NYC that make it such a special destination to visit all year! To see the best the city has to offer, I would recommend 4 days in New York!

If you plan on visiting NYC during the Holidays, don’t forget to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular and Dyker Heights, Brooklyn for over-the-top NYC Christmas decorations! And if you’re lucky, you might even get to experience a blanket of snow in Central Park.

Additionally, you even have the option to take a day trip to Mountain Creek or Hunter mountain to go Skiing, Snowboarding, or tubing!

So if you think NYC might be your perfect winter getaway, peep my New York travel tips that are full of useful guides from me- aka a New Yorker along with my list of all the fun things to do at night in NYC.

 Additional New York resources include tours and New York passes which allow you to receive a discount for the major NYC tourist attractions like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, etc. The best passes and tours can be found at City Sightseeing Pass | Hop on Hop Off Bus | Get Your Guide NYC Tours | City Pass

Where to Stay NYC: MOXY NYC Times Square | Hyatt House Chelsea | Hotel Edison Times Square | New York Marriott Marquis | Lotte New York Palace

Mammoth Lakes, California

Recommended by Allison – She Dreams of Alpine

What better place to spend a USA winter vacation than in a cute mountain town? Though you might think of beaches when you think of California, skiing is actually the main attraction in Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain offer all-levels terrain and stunning mountain scenery. But don’t worry if you don’t ski, since there are plenty of other things to do in Mammoth Lakes during the winter season.

You can ride a gondola up to the summit of Mammoth Mountain and bask in a panoramic view of the Sierra Nevadas or take a snowcat tour to Minaret Vista. If you prefer to choose your own adventure, lace up your skates and glide around the Mammoth Ice Rink or traverse the snowy backcountry on cross-country skis or snowshoes.

When you’re ready to come inside and get cozy, Mammoth Lakes is full of wonderful places to spend your après ski time.

Warm-up at 53 Kitchen & Cocktails which features delicious American food and house-infused and barrel-aged cocktails. Schat’s Bakery is an institution in Mammoth Lakes, and you must visit this European-style deli to sample the excellent sandwiches, bread, cheese, and so much more. Grab a picnic lunch to go before you play in the snow!

If you’re excited about outdoor adventures, escape to the wintery wonderland of Mammoth Lakes and appreciate all this mountain town has to offer!

Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes: The Westin Monache Resort | The Village Lodge | Juniper Springs Resort | Vrbo

Mammoth Lakes Mountain views

Poconos, Pennsylvania

Recommended by Derek and Mike – Robe Trotting

One of the best winter destinations in the USA is the Pocono Mountains. In this beautiful region of northeastern Pennsylvania, visitors have a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities to plan during their trip.

Because it’s only about two hours from Philadelphia and New York City, a trip to the Poconos makes an ideal escape from the city.

It’s a perfect getaway for families, couples, and singles with so much to do and see. Most travelers to the region book a cozy Poconos Airbnb rental to stay in a mountain house, ski cabin, or a large group home.

Once in the Poconos, many visitors enjoy skiing at one of the thrilling Poconos ski resorts like Camelback, Montage Mountain, or Jack Frost and Big Boulder. Most of the ski resorts also feature snow tubing and have spa treatments available.

Ice skating is also available when the mountain lakes of the Poconos freeze over or you can rent a snowmobile and explore the region’s trails.

Another popular destination in the Poconos is the Mohegan Sun casino where visitors can dine, have a cocktail, and of course, test their luck with any of the games of chance. It’s even a site for concerts and events.

Additionally, there are several indoor water parks to plan a trip to if skiing isn’t on your itinerary. Families love to visit Kalahari Water Park and Great Wolf Lodge for indoor water activities.

With so much to do in the area, a trip to the Poconos is truly one of the best winter destinations in the USA.

Where to Stay in the Poconos: Hampton Inn Lehighton – Jim Thorpe | Hampton Inn & Suites Stroudsburg Bartonsville Poconos | Mount Airy Casino Resort | Vrbo

Jack Frost Big Boulder Poconos
Jack Frost Big Boulder

Lake Tahoe

Recommend by Christina – Travel2next

Is Lake Tahoe a part of your USA winter destinations to visit? Located in the Sierra Nevadas, Lake Tahoe spans to both California and Nevada.

With around nine hours of daylight in winter, stunning winter resorts, and tons of winter activities make for a perfect winter vacation.

Some top winter resorts in Lake Tahoe, include Squaw Valley Resort, Heavenly Ski Resort (which has slopes in both Nevada and California), Sugar Bowl and Royal Gorge, and Northstar.

Because Lake Tahoe has so many resorts to choose from, it’s a great place to go skiing or snowboard at several winter resorts in one visit.

But even if you’re not keen on skiing or snowboarding, the best time to visit Lake Tahoe is in winter because there are lots of other things to do, such as ice skating and sitting around a fire pit roasting marshmallows.

Most of the winter resorts in Lake Tahoe also have spas, and there is nothing better than soaking in a hot tub, warming up with a hot stone massage, or one of the other pampering treatments.

Try Elements Spa, The Spa at Squaw Creek, or The Spa at The Landing. There are extensive cross-country trails and other fun activities like tubing, snowmobiling, and sleigh riding.

For a romantic place to stay, Deerfield Lodge at Heavenly is a boutique hotel where you can spend time drinking wine by the fire while Cottage Inn is a charming adults-only cottage straight out of a storybook.

Additionally, Lake Tahoe is very easy to reach and the region is not far from three international airports – San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento.

Find tours around Lake Tahoe here!

Where to Stay: Lake Tahoe VRBO | Marriott Grand Residence Club, Lake Tahoe | Fireside Lodge

Lake Tahoe at Squaw Valley
Lake Tahoe at Squaw Valley

Blowing Rock/ Boone & Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Recommended by Sam – Find Love & Travel

Another great small mountain town winter USA destinations to visit is the Blowing Rock/ Boone area in North Carolina. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Boone/Blowing Rock has been one of our favorite places to visit for a weekend getaway in the South.

Spend a weekend in Boone to enjoy all this little mountain town has to offer!

Located near Appalachian Ski Mountain, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort, and Beech Mountain, there are tons of winter activities to enjoy! From the best NC skiing, snowboarding, tubing, Ice skating, and even snowshoeing, you will surely find something to do!

On top of that, did you know Beech Mountain has the highest ski slopes in the Eastern part of the United States?

Additionally, if you visit in January, Blowing Rock has a WinterFest for 4 days full of winter tons of winter activities!

And of course, let’s not forget North Carolina’s oldest tourist attraction, Blowing Rock! Blowing Rock has beautiful views and even Cherokee legends.

Last but not least, you are right next to the Blue Ridge Parkway that has stunning views, especially driving by Grandfather Mountain that are a must-see as long as the parkway is open!

If you have time, take a drive down to Asheville to see the Biltmore Estate (largest estate in America) during the holidays that is all decked out with decorations.

Where to Stay: Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock (Lodge) | Courtyard by Marriott Boone

Blowing Rock is a great USA winter destinations
Sunset near Rough Ridge Parking Lot

Best USA Winter Destinations Wrap-up

This covers some of the best USA Winter Destinations to check out this winter! Have you been to any of these winter vacations spots? Do you have a favorite winter destination you’d like me to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this USA Winter Destinations, I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

USA Winter Destinations Vacations USA

11 thoughts on “Best USA Winter Wonderland Destinations”

  1. I love the diversity of this post! I must admit that I am partial to Moab and Mammoth over cities in the winter but every place has its own charm! Great pictures!

  2. Everything looks so amazing Sam! I wouldn’t know which destination to choose! Thanks for those fantastic winter recommendations!

  3. This post almost makes me want to break out of my winter cocoon to go exploring! I don’t mix well with the cold, but these gorgeous places might be the antidote to that.

  4. Love this post! I haven’t been to the US yet, but I definitely can’t wait to visit someday. And by the looks of it, winter is just as good of a time for it as summer ☺️ I’ll remember some of these places for when I’ll start planning a trip!

  5. What a wonderful list ..I have had the pleasure of visitng New York and lake Tahoe but during summers..hoping to explore rest of the wonderlands sometime soon

  6. I would love to go to Fairbanks Alaska one day. Seeing the northern lights would be a huge bonus! Also New York in winter is on my list, just because I’ve seen it in so many movies and tv shows, I’d love to make it there in real life one day. Thanks for sharing 🙂


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