According to vacation rental company Vacasa, 75% of travelers intend to spend their winter within the United States. This is due to the abundance of enchanting domestic destinations available. Enter: the best winter towns.
Winter transforms towns across the country, creating a magical atmosphere with fresh snow, comfortable inns, hot cocoa by the fire, traditional winter activities such as ice skating, and twinkling lights. It’s easy to see why so many are opting to stay closer to home this winter season.
1. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is the ultimate destination for winter sports enthusiasts, après-ski socialites, and those seeking a luxurious winter vacation without leaving the country.
This sought-after resort town in Colorado boasts world-class ski slopes, fashionable boutiques, contemporary art galleries, renowned dining options, and sumptuous accommodations such as the Hotel Jerome, a part of the Auberge Resorts Collection. Throughout the season, guests can be seen in chic attire while enjoying all that Aspen has to offer.
2. Leavenworth, Washington
The classic song lyric “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh” becomes a reality in Leavenworth. This quaint Bavarian village in the Cascade Mountains fully embraces the holiday spirit with its elaborate decorations and carolers. But even without the festivities, Leavenworth remains an idyllic winter destination, featuring charming alpine architecture accentuated by snow, delicious German cuisine, and close proximity to nearby ski resorts.
3. Woodstock, Vermont
Vermont offers many exceptional winter getaways, but Woodstock stands out from the rest, according to those who have experienced the Green Mountain State in the colder months. With its picturesque rolling hills, charming covered bridges, and historic architecture, Woodstock is a must-visit. After exploring the town, warm up with a cozy fire-side cocktail or a taste of local craft beer at Richardson’s Tavern.
4. Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish, Montana, located in the Rocky Mountains, is a winter enthusiast’s paradise. Adventure-seekers have ample opportunities to embrace winter’s chill with the nearby Whitefish Mountain Resort offering 3,000 acres of skiable terrain. For a change of pace, try snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. The winter season also offers a peaceful atmosphere to visit Glacier National Park.
5. Telluride, Colorado
Colorado boasts many breathtaking winter resorts, however, Telluride stands out among the rest. Situated in a breathtaking box canyon surrounded by snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks on three sides, this former mining town boasts a thriving historic district and is home to a popular ski resort. This offers visitors a range of options, whether it’s taking it easy on beginner slopes, challenging themselves on advanced runs, or simply taking in the scenic views on the gondola.
6. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson, Wyoming is a popular vacation destination year-round, offering numerous attractions for travelers. During the winter, it boasts three ski resorts, opportunities to observe elk and other wildlife in the snow at Grand Teton National Park, souvenir shopping, a photo-worthy arch made of shed antlers in the downtown area, and relaxing hot tub dips at luxury resorts like Amangani after a massage.
7. Lenox, Massachusetts
Lenox, a historic summer retreat for New Englanders, is now gaining recognition as a winter destination. With its snow-covered landscapes and a wealth of cultural events at museums, theaters, and music halls, this town in the Berkshires is a charming option during the winter months. Additionally, with multiple ski areas within easy reach, Lenox is a great choice for winter sports enthusiasts.
8. Galena, Illinois
Galena, a charming 19th-century mining town on the road trip route from Chicago, captivates visitors with its beautifully preserved buildings, antique shops, and museums. In the winter, the town shines even brighter with a high likelihood of snow and the warm invitation from Galena Cellars Winery to step inside their Main Street tasting room for a mug of mulled wine.
9. Kennebunkport, Maine
In the winter, when temperatures drop and crowds diminish, visitors to Kennebunkport, Maine can enjoy the area’s seafood, shopping, and scenic coastline without peak season distractions. This offers an opportunity to indulge in waterfront accommodations, such as Cape Arundel Inn & Resort and the Yachtsman Hotel & Marina Club, at more favorable rates.
10. Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic, a charming coastal town in Connecticut known for its maritime heritage and the movie “Mystic Pizza,” is a hidden gem in the winter. During the colder months, visitors can admire the beautifully lit historic sea captains’ homes, marvel at the icicle-covered bascule drawbridge, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Sipping hot cocoa and indulging in Mystic cream doughnuts are must-do winter treats.
11. Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Jim Thorpe, known as the “Switzerland of America,” is a winter wonderland located in the Pocono Mountains. This charming alpine town boasts ski slopes, peaceful woodland trails, and rich heritage attractions. Experience the annual Winterfest celebration in mid-February, featuring ice carvings, entertainment, the Mug Walk, and scenic train rides.
12. Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, a popular winter sports destination in upstate New York, is a hub for outdoor activities. The town receives an average of 103 inches of snow annually, making it a prime location for cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Winter also offers a unique opportunity to see the Olympic venues in action, adding to the charm of this idyllic location.
13. Stowe, Vermont
Stowe, a picturesque small town, is even more stunning during the winter when it’s blanketed in snow. With a wide range of outdoor activities such as skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and fat biking, visitors are sure to find something to enjoy. This Vermont town is also a perfect location for capturing breathtaking photos of frozen Bingham Falls, charming covered bridges, and classic New England architecture. After a day of winter fun, visitors can relax and unwind at the Trapp Family Lodge, an Austrian-inspired resort.
14. Fairbanks, Alaska
In the realm of northern lights viewing, Fairbanks is often overlooked, but it offers the chance to witness the aurora borealis without traveling overseas. The city’s diverse range of activities, both energetic and relaxing, allows for a well-rounded experience. From dog mushing adventures to soaking in hot springs, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
15. Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth Lakes, a mountain town in California’s Sierra Nevada range, glows with an average annual snowfall of 295 inches. It’s home to one of the largest ski resorts in the country and offers a variety of outdoor activities, including skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling on its miles of trails. The town’s stunning landscape, combined with its ski resort, make it a prime destination for winter sports enthusiasts.
16. Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth is a winter wonderland that truly embraces the holiday season. Dubbed “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” this charming town features snow-covered storybook buildings, an outdoor ice rink in Zehnder Park, and horse-drawn carriage rides. Experience the magic of Christmas at Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store. Get ready to be swept away by Frankenmuth’s festive spirit.
17. Lanesboro, Minnesota
Lanesboro, a hidden gem in the Root River Valley, just two hours southeast of the Twin Cities, transforms into a picturesque winter wonderland. With an average snowfall of 60 miles, the Root River State Trail is perfect for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. For a break from the cold weather, catch a play at the Commonweal Theatre Company.
18. North Conway, New Hampshire
19. Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, Idaho is where destination skiing originated. With both Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, it’s a well-known winter resort for its range of slopes suitable for both beginners and experts. If skiing isn’t your thing, try snowshoeing, indoor bowling, or take a scenic sleigh ride.
20. Custer, South Dakota
Winter is a magical time to visit Custer, a charming small town located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The historic downtown transforms into a shimmering wonderland with a blanket of snow and exudes a Hallmark-movie feel. Custer State Park, encompassing 71,000 acres of stunning peaks, pine forests, and rolling plains where buffalo roam, offers a thrilling experience for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.