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!
Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at NO cost to you. Disclosure
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Best Winter Destinations in the USA
- Fairbanks, Alaska
- Midway Utah
- Moab, Utah
- Denver, Colorado
- New York City, NY
- Mammoth Lakes, California
- Stowe, VT
- Jackson Wyoming
- Whitefish, Montana
- Anchorage, Alaska
- Mount Rainier National Park Washington State
- Poconos, Pennsylvania
- Lake Tahoe
- Blowing Rock/ Boone & Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Lincoln, NH
- Stanley, Idaho
- Leavenworth, Washington
- Twin Cities, MN
- Yellowstone National Park
- Winter Destinations Packing and Tips
- Best USA Winter Destinations Wrap-up
- If you enjoyed this USA Winter Destinations, I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!
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 the 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!
Recommened by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
Nestled in Utah’s picturesque Heber Valley, the snowy small town of Midway is often overshadowed by its neighboring resort towns of Park City and Deer Valley. But Midway is one of the most magical destinations in the USA during winter.
With temperatures around freezing during most of the winter, the town plays host to a world-class attraction built entirely from ice. Ice Castles is an acre-wide winter wonderland where you can explore ice caves, crawl through ice tunnels, and even zip down ice slides. You’ll be immersed in 25 million pounds of ice! And at night, this frozen fortress transforms from glacial blue to rainbow hues as the ice is illuminated with color-changing lights.
Adjacent to the winter attraction, the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center boasts the longest tubing hill in Utah. So, after you’ve had your fill of icy fun, you can hop on a tube and race down a 1,200 foot long tubing hill.
End your Midway visit with a dip in the Homestead Crater. The natural hot spring, located inside a man-made cave at Homestead Resort, is a great place to warm up after a day spent surrounded by ice and snow.
Book your stay at the Homestead, and you can spend the rest of your visit relaxing on the grounds on the property. With great restaurants, an indoor pool, and both hotel and cottage-style lodging options, the Homestead is the perfect place for a cozy winter escape.
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!
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!
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! New York also has some of the best Christmas trees to see. 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
Find the best hotels in NYC here!
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!
Recommended by Sam at New England Wanderlust
When it comes to having the coziest and most picturesque winter getaway in New England, Stowe in Vermont couldn’t be more perfect. Not only does it have one of the most charming villages in the entire region, but the covered bridges and winter community events will also have you wondering if you’ve stepped into a Hallmark movie set.
If you’re trying to decide when to plan your magical winter getaway to Stowe, you may want to consider visiting during their winter carnival event in January. During the carnival, you’ll get to watch the best carvers in the area create gorgeous ice sculptures along Main Street for the annual competition.
Looking to play in the snow? Stowe is the ultimate destination for any outdoor winter activity you can think of. Not only is it home to one of the top ski resorts in the Northeast, Stowe Mountain Resort, but it’s also one of the best places for any non-skier. With activities available like dog sledding, ice skating, sleigh rides, and snow tubing, there are so many ways to feel like a kid again.
After playing in the snow, head to Laughing Moon Chocolate on Main Street for one of the best cups of hot cocoa in Vermont!
A wonderful hotel in Stowe for a true winter wonderland escape is the Lodge at Spruce Peak. Not only is it an incredible ski-in, ski-out resort, but it also has everything you’d want for a cozy getaway, including a charming ice skating rink, its own little village for shopping, a spa, and on-site restaurants.
Vermont is the snowiest state in the entire country, so you’ll definitely want to prepare for snow during your winter visit. And be sure to bundle up! Since average highs only reach about 21°F in the winter, and dip as low as 2-5°F, a warm parka and insulated, waterproof boots are a must.
Recommended by Emily Mandagie from The Mandagies
Jackson, Wyoming is one of the best winter destinations in the USA for its stunning winter landscapes and a wide variety of outdoor activities. One of its main draws is visiting Grand Teton National Park during the winter season!
During the winter season, elk migrate down from the nearby mountains to gather in the valley below. Viewing the Jackson Elk Herd at the National Elk Wildlife Refuge is easy and right off the highway.
Like with wildlife viewing, Jackson, Wyoming, in the winter, is a mecca for landscape photographers. The sunset is early (~4 pm) and rises later (~8 am), which means photographers are able to capture the golden hour without sacrificing sleep!
Most of the backcountry trails in the park are closed, but nearby trails to Jackson transform into snowshoeing and cross-country skiing routes. Snowshoeing to Taggart Lake is one of the most popular trails around.
Finally, in town, you can walk the main streets and pop in, enjoy local music, participate in bingo and trivial, and eat delicious pub food in the evening.
The weather near Jackson, Wyoming in February is freezing cold, with temperatures barely rising above freezing and dipping into single-digit lows almost every night. It’s essential to bring adequate and warm layers!
Most experiences require a car, so it’s important to book one ahead of time so that you have reliable transportation. If possible, choose a vehicle with All-wheel/4-wheel drive, or ask if they will provide tire chains.
Stay at the Anvil Hotel, which is a local favorite. It has an American Western ambiance, with a focus on old-timey comforts that permeate through its relaxed, community-oriented lobby.
Recommended by Christina from Live A Wilder Life
Whitefish, Montana, located in northern Montana, is a cozy, charming small town with extraordinary winter amenities. While Whitefish is slammed with tourism in the summer months, Whitefish in winter is an unexpected delight that rivals the dreamy aesthetic of any classic hallmark movie.
With 73 inches of snow a year, skiers in the know flock to Whitefish Mountain Resort to enjoy crowd-free skiing at a ski hill touted as one of the best ski resorts in the west by Outside Magazine.
If skiing isn’t your thing, there are still plenty of fun winter activities. Dogsledding with Dog Sled Adventures is a memorable experience that requires zero physical stamina. Led by a pack of exuberant rescue dogs and an experienced musher, you’ll sit back and enjoy the serene ride as you glide on a cozy sled through the Stillwater State Forest.
Nature lovers will love taking the short drive to Glacier National Park to see this national wonder drenched in snow.
While the crowds reach their peak during the winter holidays, the city also sees a burst of activity when they hold its annual Whitefish Winter Festival in February. The town comes alive for this three-day festival with snow sculptures, parades, a polar plunge, live music, and more. Reserve your hotels in advance if you plan to visit during this time.
For visitors wanting a sleek modern experience, the Firebrand Hotel is an upscale hotel located in downtown Whitefish. It’s an excellent option for anyone who wants to walk around or go out at night.
While the city offers a free S.N.O.W bus that will transport you from downtown Whitefish to Whitefish Mountain Resort, a rental car is advised for anyone who wants to do excursions or visit Glacier National Park.
Recommended by Mike Still From Live Travel Teach
If you’re looking for a winter wonderland and haven’t thought about Alaska yet, are you really looking for a winter wonderland in the USA? Alaska has the best winters out of any state in the USA, and Anchorage, Alaska is the perfect spot for your winter getaway.
Anchorage is the only thing between the Chugach Mountains and the salty waters of the Cook Inlet, which feeds from the Pacific Ocean. The mountains can start seeing snow as early as August when “termination dust” arrives, signaling the end of summer to locals.
The end of summer means that the sun finally goes away again, and we start to have a true night time which is perfect for the northern lights. Seeing the aurora borealis is on many travelers’ bucket lists, and Anchorage has countless spots in town where you can view the lights.
Winter temperatures throughout Alaska vary greatly, with Anchorage seeing temps between -10 and 20F for the winter months. That means that snow accumulates perfectly for winter sports, snowball fights, and snowmen creation.
Additionally, there are over 100 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails in Anchorage that are free, and most are connected between Kincaid, Hillside, the Coastal Trail, and the Tour of Anchorage Trail. In fact, the Tour of Anchorage is a 50km ski or bike race that travels throughout the city.
Come to Anchorage in February for a chance to see the Fur Rondy festival with the ceremonial start to the Iditarod. You’ll find a running of the reindeer, ice sculptures, and much more. Ice skaters can enjoy multiple plowed ice rinks at Westchester Lagoon, Cheeney Lake, and other places throughout the city, while more adventurous skaters can look for wild ice along Rabbit Slough, Potter Marsh, and other lakes.
Mount Rainier National Park Washington State
Recommended by Chantelle from Flannels or FlipFlops
Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington State, and for good reason. The park is beautiful year-round, but in the winter, it is transformed into a winter wonderland!
If you’re thinking about visiting Mount Rainier National Park this winter, here are a few things you should know.
Second, be prepared for snow. A lot of it. In fact, Mount Rainier National Park averages over 53 feet of snow each year! Temperatures hover right around freezing and below through most of the winter.
Third, you need to be aware that during the winter, you will not have access to the entire park. Due to heavy snow, only the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park is accessible throughout the winter.
Finally, don’t let the cold weather deter you from enjoying all that Mount Rainier has to offer.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, even in the middle of winter. Some of the best winter activities to enjoy include enjoying a scenic hike on one of the many trails that surround the Paradise Area, going cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, participating in a ranger-led snowshoe hike, and sledding hills. The Paradise area becomes a snow park during the winter.
You can rent snowshoes, and purchase snacks and other essential items from stores in the town of Ashford near the Nisqually entrance to the park. It’s important to know that no services will be open in the park in the winter, so coming prepared is vital.
There will be no lodging inside the park available during the winter. You can find incredible places to stay outside the park, though! The town of Ashford is closest to Paradise, and you can find cozy cabins and small mountain lodges.
Plan ahead when making reservations, as they will fill up quickly!
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
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.
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!
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 (the largest estate in America) during the holidays, which is all decked out with decorations.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Recommened by Chantelle from Romantic Rambles
Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the USA and makes the perfect winter wonderland destination. It’s a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers, and it’s no wonder why. The park is full of stunning views and interesting wildlife.
However, it can also be quite crowded, especially in the summer months. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, the best time to visit Glacier National Park is in the winter.
In the winter, Glacier National Park is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland. The snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes are truly breathtaking, which also make a beautiful backdrop for a wedding in Glacier National Park. As a bonus, there are fewer visitors in the winter, so you will feel as if you have the park to yourself.
Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning a winter trip to Glacier National Park.
First, make sure you’re prepared for cold weather by packing layers. The average high in December is 33 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can get even colder at night.
It’s also important to be aware of avalanche conditions before you go hiking. You can check the latest conditions on the NPS website.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the park’s facilities may be closed during the winter months due to weather conditions. For example, Going-to-the-Sun Road—one of the park’s most popular attractions—is typically only open from late June to early October because it is not plowed for snow removal. Visitors Centers will also have reduced hours, and all but the Apgar Visitor Center will be closed.
Aside from hiking, other fun winter activities include snowshoing, cross-country skiing on the closed roads, and enjoying the area around Lake McDonald.
The lodges inside the park are closed for the winter, so you’ll want to find a place to stay either in West Glacier, Columbia Falls, or Whitefish.
In West Glacier, you’ll find more cabins and vacation homes, whereas in Columbia Falls and Whitefish, you can find more traditional hotels.
The most popular place to stay in Columbia Falls is Cedar Creek Lodge, it will be just under an hour to drive to the park.
Whether you’re looking to escape the crowds or simply want to experience Glacier National Park in a different way, visiting during the winter is a great option.
Recommended by Laura from Wine Travelista
For a small New Hampshire town, there’s no shortage of winter activities to do in Lincoln.
Located in the White Mountains, the town is home to New England’s only ice castle. Kids and adults alike will find joy and wonder in this magnificent fairy-tale-like structure.
Ride the ice slides, explore the caverns, and crawl through tunnels. For the most magical experience, visit at night, when colorful lights illuminate the icicles. Make sure to book in advance and wear winter boots.
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, Loon Mountain is right in town and also offers cross-country skiing, snow tubing, ice skating, and snowshoeing. And two other great mountains are within easy driving distance. Check out Cannon Mountain, 20 minutes north, home to the former Old Man of the Mountain rock formation. Or head 30 minutes south to Waterville Valley, rated the #1 ski resort in the east by Condé Nast Traveler.
Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at winter ziplining. Alpine Adventures’ winter course combines five of its favorite zips to create the ultimate tour for thrill-seekers.
When you’ve had your fill of the outdoors, head to one of Lincoln’s wineries or breweries. Wine lovers can taste hand-crafted wines made from grapes sourced throughout the world at Seven Birches Winery. Then pop next door to One Love Brewery for locally made pints and pub food.
For serious beer enthusiasts, don’t miss Woodstock Inn Brewery. This premium craft brewery offers tours and tastings. Plus, you can hang around for some delicious food and live music.
Wondering what to expect from the weather? Well, there’s no shortage of snow here. And temperatures peak at 25-35°F in the winter months. But with the right winter attire and some time cozying up to the fire, you’ll be toasty warm.
InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook is a great place to stay for both families and couples. Hop on their free shuttle for easy access to Loon Mountain. Then, take a soak in their new indoor pool and hot tub.
Recommened by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
Stanley, Idaho is considered to be the gateway of the rugged Sawtooth Mountains. Come winter, there’s plenty of outdoor adventures to get up to in this incredible wonderland.
Due to its elevation sitting at over 6,200 feet above sea level, Stanley has chilly temperatures, with snow blanketing its towering mountaintops and, frequently, even the rolling meadows around town.
This provides the perfect canvas for winter activities- for example, you can snowshoe around Stanley Lake or Redfish Lake, while surrounded by Ponderosa pine trees dusted with snow. If you’re lucky, you may just see some elk or even moose cautiously making their way across the alpine landscape.
Alternatively, for one of the most unique aspects of Stanley, there’s several backcountry yurts and huts tucked away within the jagged peaks of the Sawtooths, waiting to serve as the perfect basecamp for backcountry skiing or snowboarding down any of its thousands of couloirs.
After all those outdoor adventures, one of the best things to do is soak in the hot springs in Stanley, like the quirky Boatbox Hot Springs in a mining cauldron along the Salmon River or Kirkham Hot Springs, with its own warm waterfall. There’s nothing quite like relaxing in a steamy river while being surrounded by snow-covered hills, which makes this one of the best USA winter destinations!
Stanley is a fairly remote mountain town and the roads leading there are curvy and at the base of extremely steep mountains- so it’s not unheard of for roads to be closed due to avalanche risk. Plan to drive a four-wheel drive car here and drive carefully along the twisty roads.
Once you arrive safe and sound, make Mountain Valley Lodge your homebase during your stay. While the hotel could stand to be updated, it’s got something super special- its very own hot spring housed in a very Instagrammable barn, with epic views of the Sawtooths.
Recommened by by Kassidy from The Hiking Helper
Tucked deep in the Cascade Mountain range in northern Washington State, the small Bavarian village of Leavenworth is the perfect USA winter destination.
During the holiday season, Leavenworth turns into a Christmas village with lights strung on every building and holiday decor everywhere you look.
Make a stop at the Nutcracker Museum or stroll through the other small shops to finish up some Christmas shopping or just admire the goods in the windows.
Grab a bite to eat at one of the many German-themed restaurants that each has its own delicious food, including an abundance of pretzels with cheese and German sausages.
There are often horse-drawn sleigh rides in town, which is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season with a special someone.
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, consider heading to one of the many hiking trails near the town or head over to Steven’s Pass for some downhill skiing.
During winter, the temperatures are typically around 20-40°F and there’s often snow, which is beautiful on the mountains.
If you’re planning to visit during the holiday season, be sure to book your accommodations well in advance, as this is a popular winter destination!
When it’s time to call it a night, book a stay at the Bavarian Lodge, which is just a short walk from Main Street, where all of the fun activities are.
Twin Cities, MN
Recommened by Kassidy from Kassidy’s Journey
Minnesota is the ultimate winter wonderland with chilly temperatures, snowy days, and plenty to do outdoors, even when it’s cold outside.
The weather in the Twin Cities during winter is fairly cold, ranging from 10-30°F, and sometimes dropping below 0°F.
One of the best things to do during the winter season is visiting a few of the many ski resorts that surround the Twin Cities. Afton Alps, Trollhaugen, and Buck Hill are a few favorites of locals.
During the holiday season, Christmas Markets pop up all over, including the popular European Christmas Market at the Union Depot.
Visitors can also enjoy seeing all of the holiday light shows, including one at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, called the GLOW festival.
Other popular outdoor activities include ice fishing on the many frozen lakes, snowshoeing around the state parks, visiting the Mall of America, and ice skating at the Central Park Skating Loop.
If this is your first time visiting Minnesota, be sure to pack a few extra base layers, as the wind chill can cause some pretty wicked cold! It’s also recommended to bring some hand warmers.
When you’re ready to call it a night, stay at the Millennium Minneapolis, which features an indoor pool and is close to the downtown area.
Yellowstone National Park
If you love wildlife and snow activities, Yellowstone National Park is another one of the best USA destinations to visit during the winter. Not only will you beat the crowds, but you will see Yellowstone compeletely covered in snow.
Some of the best things include snow mobiling, snow shoeing, and looking for wildlife. The winter is one of the best times to photograph wolves.
Because Yellowstone recieves so much snow that doesn’t get plowed, not all roads are accessible. It is always best to check the conditions a head of time.
One of the best places to stay at in Yellowstone during the winter is the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. It is techniqually the only lodge open in the park during the winter, so booking far in advance is important. Staying outside of the park would be slighly annoying but doable.
You can find additional info on what is opened during the winter in Yellowstone here!
Winter Destinations Packing and Tips
Now that you know some of the best USA winter destinations to visit this year, here are some tips and packing items to help you plan your visit.
- Make sure to bring layers of clothing. The best way to plan your layering is with a base layer, mid layer, and outer layer. This can include merino wool under layers, an insulating jacket or fleece, and then an outer layer that is wind and water resistant.
- For snowy destinations, make sure you are comfortable driving. Having a flashlight, food, and a blanket in the car is a great idea, in a rare case the car breaks down.
- Always check if 4 wheel drive and or chains are needed for your car.
- If you travel with your own skii’s or snowboard, it needs to be checked in the oversized luggage area.
Addtionally, here are some great winter items to pack.
- Fleece Beanie
- Hand Warmers
- Snow Boots Women | Men
- Base Layer Women | Men
- Mid layer Women | Men
- Jacket Women | Men
- Crampons (for hiking in ice)
- Warm Socks (my favorite is Darn Tough)
- Insulated water bottle
- Hand Lotion for the cold
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!