Sure, you could try to escape winter’s cold by jetting off to Hawaii or Florida or even San Diego. But with so many picture-book-pretty winter wonderlands to explore, we say why not embrace the snowiest months of the year with a trip to one of these nine picturesque cities? Don’t forget to pack your favorite pom-pom hat, puffy parka and a pair of cozy snow boots. Let’s go.
The 9 U.S. Cities That Made Our Winter Travel Short List
Park City, Utah
Located just outside Salt Lake City, this sports-centric town is perhaps best known for its top-notch ski resorts and its unmatched snowfall. But even if your idea of winter fun doesn’t include outdoor adventures, Park City still has a lot to offer. You can also explore the historic district, dine at Riverhorse on Main (ranked one of the best restaurants in America) or pay a visit to the Utah Olympic Park to get an up close and personal look at the courses athletes competed on in 2002.
Known for its historic architecture and small-town charm, Galena is a fantastic getaway for families with lots of low-level trails at Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort. (Don’t worry, it has tougher options for more avid outdoorsmen as well.) Another reason to love Galena: The selection of fabulous local wineries surrounding town. Pop in for a tasting and be sure to leave room in your suitcase for a bottle (or two) of red to bring home.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you assumed winter in this Southwestern city would be hot, dry and free of snow, then we hate to burst your bubble, but that’s not the case. Instead, it looks, smells and feels like a Christmas card come to life. Paper bag lanterns line the streets while the scent of piñon logs burning fills the air. And of course, the blanket of fresh snow doesn’t exactly dampen the festive feeling. Tour one (or three or four) of the city’s spectacular art museums, or drive up to Ghost Ranch to get a closer look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio (aka: a great time to stock up on flower stationery gift sets).
It’s not called Michigan’s Little Bavaria for nothing. This Germanic town will make you feel like you’re on an international getaway. That, or you’re stuck inside a picturesque snow globe. (We’re on board with both.) Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, one of the largest Christmas stores in the world, is open year-round but feels so much more festive after a fresh snow fall.
You’ll have your pick of the lot in terms of ski slopes while you’re staying in this quaint western city, but don’t forget to set aside time to explore Breckenridge itself. Stroll around Colorado’s largest historic district with a cup of hot cocoa in hand to see gorgeous snow-topped homes and stunning views of undeveloped, open space. If you’re lucky, your trip might just coincide with one of the many winter festivals Breckenridge hosts, like the International Snow Sculpture Championships or the Norse-themed Ullr Fest.
As one of the most popular American national parks, Yellowstone can feel overcrowded in the summer. So visiting during the colder months makes for a truly unique experience you won’t have to share with every fanny-pack-wearing Old Faithful pilgrim. Rent a snowmobile or book a snow coach tour to see bison, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep traipsing through the snow before heading back to your hotel for mulled cider and some of the best stargazing you’ll find anywhere in the country.
Savannah is one of the most romantic cities in the country, but it can be tough to feel the love when you’re sweating like crazy in the relentless summer heat. The solution: plan your trip for the colder months. Going in the off-season means you’ll have better luck making reservations at the city’s world-renowned restaurants (Vic’s on the River, anyone?). Plus, booking a stay at the cutest bed-and-breakfasts for a reduced fare doesn’t sound too shabby.
Lake Tahoe, California
Skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, sleigh riding—basically, if you want to get your fill of outdoor winter fun, you can’t pick a better place to visit than Lake Tahoe. Once you’ve exhausted all the adventure you can handle (unlikely, but you never know), warm up with a dip at Grover Hot Springs State Park. Or you can simply retire to your room with a bottle of locally-made red and enjoy the epic vistas from your cozy hotel room.
Lake Placid, New York
Winter on the East Coast can be pretty brutal (freezing winds are not our friends), but lucky residents of this Essex County town live in a temperate sweet spot—they still get those picturesque snow falls without experiencing the frigid tundra. There are a number of ski resorts nearby, but the coolest outdoor activities can be found at the Olympic Sports Complex (Lake Placid hosted the Winter Games in both 1932 and 1980). There, you can try your hand at bobsledding, speed skating and snowboarding or even participate in a running of the torch.