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Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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The best winter vacations in the U.S.

Live it up this season—skiing, spa-ing or cozying up to warm drink on a fabulous winter vacation in the U.S.

Written by
Shoshi Parks
Lauren Rothman
Clara Hogan

Summer vacations may get more fanfare, but can we talk about the greatness of a winter vacation for a moment? After all, it is in the thick of the cold and often dreary months when we so desperately need an escape from our hum-drum routines. So, if you're looking for some inspiration for your winter travel agenda, we have you covered with the best winter vacation in the U.S.

Everyone’s ideal winter destination looks different. Avid skier looking to head to the mountains? Head to family-friendly Vail, CO, beautiful Lake Tahoe or underrated Sun Valley, ID. Snow-lover who wants to get cozy in a cabin for a romantic getaway? Give Jackson Hole or Nantucket a try. Eager to flee the cold for the beach? California and Florida are calling. 

No matter your ideal setting or who you plan to travel with, get ready to embrace the chill (or not!) at these perfect picks for your next winter trip. 

Best winter vacations in the U.S.

Best snowboarding resort

Mammoth Mountain is truly the snowy playground that snowboarders dream of—it gets 300 days of sunshine and 400in of snowfall per year. Situated at 11,053ft above sea level, the winter wonderland has 3,500 acres of snowboarding terrain and its season stretches into July (yes, July). Off the snowboard, there’s also plenty more to do like snowmobile rides, gondola rides offering awe-inspiring views, snowcat tours, bowling and indoor golf. The Westin Monache Resort is the best spot to stay, with close proximity to the mountain and the Village.

Vail, CO
Photograph: Courtesy Vail/Chris McLennan

2. Vail, CO

Best family ski trip

This winter wonderland—widely regarded as one of the country’s top ski destinations—is the place to go for excellently groomed, powdery trails. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Vail makes its village extra special for families, think an ice skating rink, brightly lit decorations, a kid's snowmobile track, ski bikes, tubing lanes, and more.


Best ski trip for intermediates

Open in 1936 and often credited as the first destination ski resort in the United States, Sun Valley attracted major celebrities of the time, including Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood. It remains an idyllic destination, especially for intermediate skiers who can explore the diverse terrain, from groomed cruisers to enticing glades. The well-maintained trails provide ample opportunities for progression. With fewer crowds than some major resorts, Sun Valley is an underrated choice for a winter vacation. We suggest staying on-site at Sun Valley Resort, or booking a room at the more modern Limelight Ketchum, which offers ample ski storage and complimentary shuttles to the mountains.

Best small ski resort

Don't hesitate: This little-known locale is only getting more popular. Hunter Mountain is not huge, it's certainly not as challenging as an Alpine black run, or even as ridiculously wide as the runs at somewhere like Mammoth, but it's cozy, fun and if you stay at the Hunter Mountain Sanctuary, you can kick your boots off, enjoy a roaring open fire and gently sup a whisky or mulled wine, looking back at the mountain and the very runs you've just raced down. 


Salt Lake City, UT
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Salt Lake City, UT

Best to try out curling

We mention a number of underrated winter sports on this list— from ice fishing to skiing via helicopter or even dog—but curling may be your most achievable new skill. You'll be a pro on the ice in no time with an intro course at the Utah Olympic Oval, just outside of Salt Lake City. Learn the basics of proper delivery, sweeping, and strategy. And, if you’re keen for more, follow it up with a night of Cosmic Curling (much like its bowling counterpart, it takes place in the glow of neon and black light).

Jackson, WY
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Jackson, WY

Best romantic getaway

Jackson, located at the base of the spectacular Teton mountains in Wyoming, offers an outdoorsy winter escape that’s perfect for nature lovers. Check the itineraries of local resorts and ranches to see what’s up for grabs this season: think dog sledding, snow tubing, trips to local hot springs and even horse-drawn carriage rides throughout their properties.

Nantucket, MA
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Nantucket, MA

Best secluded destination

While the peaceful coastal town of Nantucket is typically considered a summertime destination, it has a special sparkle in the wintertime when its chilly beaches take on a preternatural calm. It’s a good choice for a quiet, cold-weather getaway where tucking into a good book next to a kindling fireplace and sharing an excellent meal with good company rank high on the agenda. Ice skating is also an option this time of year.

Monterey, CA
Photograph: Courtesy See Monterey

8. Monterey, CA

Best for wildlife watching

If you’re looking to escape the cold, head to the charming coastal town of Monterey, California for perfect temps and a unique blend of natural beauty, wildlife spotting and farm-to-table cuisine. While summer brings the crowds, winter unveils a quieter, more intimate side of Monterey. The Monterey Bay remains the star of the show year-round, and the waters are teeming with marine life in the colder months, so don't miss witnessing the awe-inspiring migrations of gray whales as they pass through. Hop aboard Monterey Bay Eco Tours' family-owned all-electric cataramin that will take you through the Elkhorn Slough to see otters, sea lions, and harbor seals. The best hotel in the area is the recently renovated Portola Hotel & Spa, just steps away from the water.

Dunton, CO
Photograph: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs/Jack Richmond

9. Dunton, CO

Best for basking in hot springs

Taking a hot bath in winter is a simple pleasure, but Colorado takes it to the next level—bathe outside with views of snowcapped mountains in hot springs that bubble up all over the state. We like the convenience of Dunton Hot Springs, a glamping destination close to Telluride that turned a once-abandoned mining town into a rustic, luxe resort (complete with an Old West saloon and dance hall). In the winter, the resort offers a host of activities from heli-skiing to dog-sledding and ice climbing. But of course, you're here for the outdoor calcium bicarbonate hot spring pools—the perfect place to watch the snowfall.

Naples, FL
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Naples, FL

Best spot to sport a bikini

If you want to skip out on ice skating, snowmen, and parkas this year, head down to Naples, Florida. Here, beaches beckon with average winter temperatures that hover around 76 degrees. It's the perfect time of year to go for sunset beach walks and explore the area's botanical gardens without breaking a sweat. Outdoor restaurants teem with patios and courtyards for afternoon cocktails and dining under the stars. 

New York City, NY
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. New York City, NY

Best for staying indoors

Sometimes going away in the wintertime means finding somewhere else you'd rather be stuck inside, and there's no better place for indoor pursuits than New York. You'll have your pick of heated museums, where you'll while away the hours admiring masterpieces spanning centuries and disciplines. In the evening, tuck into a world-class meal at one of New York City's best restaurants or—better yet—experience the pleasure of dinner and a Broadway show. Did we mention the subways are warm, too?

Lake Tahoe, CA
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Lake Tahoe, CA

Best hills for tubing

If you’re looking to hit some serious hills, there's no place like Northstar after a snowfall. You’ll find slopes for tubing around the resort’s mid-mountain mark (near the express lift). Here, a 200-yard-long, J-shaped tube slide features three whole whoops. But if one hill isn't enough to satiate you, try Heavenly's epic tubing area—it's 500ft long and has a 65ft vertical drop.

Cleveland, OH
Photograph: Shutterstock/f11photo

13. Cleveland, OH

Best place to embrace winter water sports

We'll just come out and say it: Cleveland is very cold in the winter. There's no sugarcoating it, but once you get past the temps, you can really embrace the winter weather in this bustling Ohio city. Lake Eerie welcomes the brave to surf its frigid waters or go fishing for walleye. There's plenty to do on dry land, too, including snow biking and snowshoeing. 

Yosemite, CA
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Yosemite, CA

Best national park destination

Sure, you can ice skate in the center of almost every city in the USA, or you can skate in the middle of one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world—seems like an easy choice, don’t you think? Head to Curry Village in Yosemite National Park for scenic ice skating with views of Half Dome and Glacier Cliff. For more-than-comfortable lodging, stay just outside the park entrance at Rush Creek Lodge, which offers various modern accommodations, a heated pool year-round and an award-winning spa.

Silverton Mountain, CO
Photograph: Courtesy Telluride/Brett Schreckengost

15. Silverton Mountain, CO

Best for heli-skiing

If you have the money, this is probably one of the most badass stunts you can pull off this winter. Heli-skiing involves dropping from a chopper onto pristine, untouched powder—obviously, this isn’t for beginners. Head to Colorado where you can choose a single drop, a day pass, or a custom booking at Silverton Mountain Ski Area, or you can book a trip with Telluride Helitrax for helicopter-assisted backcountry tours of the San Juan Mountains.

Deer Valley, UT
Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Deer Valley, UT

Best après-ski

If you've ever skied in Europe, you'll know what an essential element après-ski is to the day's affairs. A pint of French lager, pasta, fondue and finally a few shots of limoncello. They are all equally as important as the snow itself. While U.S. lager has a long way to go before it can compete with the French, if you're a cheese lover, Deer Valley in Utah, offers handcrafted cheese produced in the kitchens of Silver Lake Lodge by cheesemaker Corinne Cornet-Coniglio.

Lake of the Woods, MN
Photograph: Shutterstock

17. Lake of the Woods, MN

Best to try ice fishing

Don't turn up your nose at ice fishing—believe it or not, it can actually be quite thrilling. Try it at Lake of the Woods in Minnesota, one of the best ice fishing spots in the USA. Stake your spot with other die-hards on the frozen lake, cut a hole, and keep your eyes peeled for northern pike, saugers, walleyes, crappies, and more. In terms of gear, all you really need is an auger, a sled, an ice scoop, some ice rods, and a handful of jigs. Plenty of places in town are ready and willing to sell you some, so get ready to break some ice!

Fairbanks, AK
Photograph: Shutterstock

18. Fairbanks, AK

Best for the aurora borealis

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, are caused when energized particles emitted from the sun crash into the Earth's magnetic field, to put it simply. The rotation of the Earth, together with the movement of the molten metal core of the planet creates a magnetic field...and that's what protects us from deadly—yes, deadly—solar radiation. And that's what we see when the aurora borealis dances in the night sky. Without this magnetic field, very little life would survive.


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