United States of America is one of the most geographically and culturally diverse countries in the world. A country of 50 states, USA offers great variety of winter getaways. There is snow, there are sunny and warm beaches, city lights and music, shopping, history and more. We have compiled the best places to visit in winter in USA in this post. There is something for every traveler. You can escape the winter blues and head to beaches (in Miami or Key west), or if you love activities like skiing and snow-boarding there opt for a winter wonderland getaway (like Colorado, New York or Vermont). Also don’t forget the glamorous big cities and their Christmas lights (in Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle). Whatever your travel style is in winter – we got you covered. So, here’s the best of the best 20 winter destinations in USA.
Winter Destinations in USA – Best places to visit in winter in USA
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New York – Winter Activities in NYC
But even after the winter holidays have come and gone, New York is still fantastic in the winter because there is so much excellent culture to find indoors. The city offers countless incredible museums that it would truly take an entire year to visit them all – and one of my best NYC tips is that these museums often have free admission on some days as well! New York is also famous for its shopping, from designer shops on 5th Avenue to funky thrift shops in Brooklyn. And on a snowy day, you can’t beat spending some time strolling around in one of New York’s gorgeous parks – my three favorites are Central Park, Prospect Park, and Gantry Plaza State Park.
By Allison Green from Eternal Arrival
Activities: Snow and metro city vacation, ice-skating, culture and museums, New Year and Christmas celebrations
Washington DC in the Winter
The capital city of United States should not be missed in winter. Washington is all lit up for the holiday season. There are tons of free activities to choose from in Washington. Definitely don’t miss the Christmas tree and the lights at the Capitol. Free movie screening is scheduled at the Library of Congress.
If you like to skate, head to the rink at the Washington Harbour, Georgetown. (Views here are for free, skating $10 USD).
The city also has a ton of Christmas lights events like the ZooLights at the national zoo, GeorgeTown Glow, the Union Station Lights or winter decorations at the City Centre. There are Holiday markets and Christmas bazars are set up in the month of December. The holiday boat parade of lights (from Alexandria to Wharf) is another stunning lights events, and also free.
Once you have explored all the winter and Christmas activities in town, don’t forget to visit a museum or two, to acquaint yourself with Washington history. Or take a city tour of Washington.
Activities: Snow and metro city vacation, Christmas markets and light events, culture and museum, capital city of USA. Take a road trip – East Coast trip planner
Bryce National Park Winter
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the five national parks located in Utah. It has become popular due to social media, and for good reason. The orange-brown spires protruding out of the ground make for beautiful photos. The park is also relatively small compared to other national parks. Visiting this park on the weekend is an easy going time.
Because of its popularity, the national park is typically crowded in the summertime. To avoid the crowds, Bryce Canyon in the winter is the perfect time to visit. Bryce becomes a winter wonderland. The bright orange formations look magnificent blanketed with snow. Most activities the park offers cease during winter, but many new services like snowshoeing are available. The Bryce Canyon Snowshoe Program is designed for all levels of experience, from beginner to expert. The snowshoes and the poles are free of charge if you join the park ranger on an expedition. Hiking inside the amphitheaters is another fun activity. Since the crowds are gone, you might have all the popular hikes to yourself. It is recommended to bring hiking or snow boots and yak tracks to hike.
Visiting this national park during the winter is underrated. The park becomes more impressive and stunning, and with minimal crowds. Being able to experience Bryce National Park in the wintertime is a must and should be added to everyone’s bucket list.
Activities: Snow covered national park, off-season travel, hiking, snowshoeing
Seattle – Things to do in Seattle in Winter
Seattle, in the continental Northwestern US, is one of those cities you’ll fall in love with, instantly. In spite of its rainy reputation, Seattle has a winter charm that few other places have. Maybe it is the friendliness of the locals or its diversity, Seattle is like that stranger that makes you feel as if you had known them your whole life.
Full of history, you can stop by the Klondike Gold Rush Museum and learn about Seattle’s role in the life-changing event. What about taking a ride on one of the 1910s manually operated elevator of the first “skyscraper” in the West Coast? Maybe taking in the peace amongst the bustle of the city at Waterfall Garden park or maybe exploring the Pinball museum for a trip down memory lane. There truly is something for everyone. And if that wasn’t enough, during the ski season, you have plenty of chances of squeezing in a day on the slopes, with many resorts in the area. Find things to do in Seattle in a day
But Seattle is so much more than stunning views, history and nature. Another perk of visiting the Northwestern city is their undying love and support for local products, which aren’t few. Some of the local foodie highlights include warming yourself up with some of the delicious local organic apple cider while wandering around the city. Trying some of the famous Mac ‘n’ Cheese from Beecher’s handmade cheese with views over the Olympic Peninsula. And, of course, the public’s favourite, the somewhat odd-looking yet surprisingly delicious Seattle hot dog from Taxi Dogs.
Whether you want a city escapade, a foodie adventure or a relaxing ski retreat, Seattle has you covered.
Activities: Snow and city, skiing and related snow activities, culture and museum, foodie paradise
Stowe Vermont Winter – Best Winter Vacations in the US
If you are looking for epic snow covered mountain views and outdoor winter activities like skiing, snowboarding dog sledging, then head to Stowe in Vermont. Stowe is a picturesque town all year round, but winters here are special. Stowe Mountain Resort welcomes visitors during winters for ice skating, snowboarding, skiing and pretty much enjoying all the lights and glitter (and snowfall) of the holiday season. In Stowe, you can also check out Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. Wiessner Woods in Stowe are perfect for short winter hikes. Trails are properly marked and has varying sections, so you can pick your trail duration and difficulty level.
Another attraction called the Smugglers North Park, which was originally used as a smuggling route to Canada. Now a state park where you can bike, hike or picnic. During winters, the day area access is closed. And the state park is only open for recreational winter activities like hiking and cross country skiing. Moss Glen Falls is another spot where you can enjoy a winter hike. But be careful, as hiking is quite challenging on snowy days (good idea to stick to flat land),
Not a skier, well, opt for a great stay-cation at Stowe Mountain Lodge or at Edson Hill Country Hill, relax by a fireplace, book a spa day and just get rejuvenated. Or Enjoy sleigh rides in style in Stowe Vermont.
Activities: Snow getaway, resort stay-cation, hiking, cross country skiing, sleigh rides, romantic getaway
New Orleans Winter Getaway
New Orleans has a great vibe and winter is perhaps the best time to experience this. Mardi Gras is HUGE in New Orleans and incredibly popular. This takes place in February and it’s a great time to visit (but book far ahead). There are other parades as well in the lead up to the main event. Even outside of Mardi Gras, New Orleans still has a great vibe and it’s fun to visit Bourbon Street at any time of year. A jazz show is compulsory.
The French Quarter in New Orleans, founded in 1718, is a great place to walk around and enjoy. It’s lively in parts but it’s also not hard to get sections to yourself. It’s home to many shops, restaurants, bars and a few museums and the architecture is gorgeous. Of course a trip to New Orleans isn’t complete without trying some of the great food – make sure you have a po’boy followed by a beignet.
Activities: Warm and sunny winter getaway, explore culture, visit museums, relish the food. Find more things to do in New Orleans
Chicago Winter Activities – Best Winter Vacations in the US
Chicago is a great place for a winter vacation in the US especially for those that do not mind cold weather. The beginning of winter is a fun time to visit as Chicago is one of the best US cities for Christmas and holiday festivities, events and shopping. Highlights include Christkindlmarket, a large free traditional Christmas market, and Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier for family friendly fun. After the holiday season is over, the rest of the winter is off season with fewer tourists so you will likely be able to find cheaper than usual prices for accommodation. Another reason to visit Chicago in the winter is that the popular tourist attractions are significantly less crowded than they are the rest of the year which means less time waiting in lines or people getting in your photos. If you are not a fan of cold weather or snow, you can still enjoy Chicago in the winter and stay warm by focusing on the city’s many indoor attractions including its many museums and cultural institutions. Other things to do in Chicago indoors include going to the theatre or a comedy club, listening to live music, enjoying the view from two of the tallest buildings in the world or eating at one of Chicago’s many restaurants. While foodies will love Chicago year round, they might want to visit during Chicago Restaurant Week which takes place every winter.
By Patti from Savy Globetrotter.
Things to do in Chicago in the Winter
- Visit a world renowned museum – Be sure to check out one of our world famous museums while you’re visiting Chicago. The city has everything from the Field Museum which showcases a journey throughout time in human history to the Adler Planetarium which showcases the findings and depth of our solar system and astrophysics. Chicago has everything from Greek-town to Little Mexico, Little Italy, and more. Other than a dose of culture, you’ll also be able to explore more in depth the history of different immigrants in Chicago when you visit the museums in these different museums; definitely very cool and not to be missed!
- Skate around at Maggie Daley Park – The Maggie Daley Park always has something going on related to sports, cultural and youth and adult programs, no matter the season or the occasion. In the winter, make sure that you come and partake in the winter celebrations such as the Ugly Sweater Skate and Skating with Santa. Admission into the rink is free, all you have to pay for are the actual skate rentals.
- Get your laugh on at one of Chicago’s popular Comedy Shows – Chicago is known for many things, and one of those things on an national and international level would have to be comedy! Some of the biggest comedy stars you see dazzling your TV and movie theater screens had their start here in the Second City (one of our many nicknames) such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert! You cannot leave Chicago before checking out an amazing comedy show (this and deep dish pizza kind are a few things).
- Layer up and check out winter festivals and other city events – Chicago doesn’t like to stay indoors all winter long, so when you come visit, be sure to pack in your warmest layers and jacket to attend the many winter festivals. Some of the most popular winter festivals are the Christkindle Market, Lincoln Park Zoo Lights, Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier and the West Town Winterfest (these are most popular to attend before the holidays as they display beautiful light shows and are all holiday themed). Don’t forget that in January, you can also check out events such as Chicago Restaurant Week, a week which highlights some of Chicago’s best dining at special rates; Winter Beer Festival, a beer festival that offers and showcases the best of locally brewed Chicago beer and much more!
- Eat your way through Chicago – Speaking of food, Chicago arguably has some of the best food to offer, at every budget, for everyone’s craving, as well as local and traditional favorites. Now, I couldn’t just end the list without mentioning the coveted deep dish pizza and Chicago dog. These are two food items that you cannot just leave Chicago without trying.
So if you’re visiting Chicago, just know that this is just a small list of all the things you can do while visiting! What I will recommend again however is that if you do plan on visiting during the winter months, prepare a warm wardrobe with the works; a warm puffer jacket, thermals, hats, gloves, scarves and warm shoes (with traction for snowy days!). Enjoy the Windy City!
Asheville Winter Guide
Activities: Snow getaway, Christmas celebrations, relax and unwind at resorts, skiing, ice tubing
San Diego Winter Activities
With winter temperatures historically in the upper 60s, tons of beaches, and lots of sun, San Diego is the perfect city for a winter vacation- if you want an escape away from snow and cold.
To be fair, San Diego is a great city to visit any time of the year for a laid-back, friendly pace of life, great food, and many different outdoor activities- whether you like the ocean, the mountains, or deserts. So why visit in the winter?
One reason is practical- winter is technically off-season since the temperatures are slightly cooler and there are more rainy days compared to the summer. This means that there are less crowds, and places to stay are cheaper than usual. If you’re on a budget, this is probably when you’ll want to go.
San Diego is also a great winter choice if you need to pretend it’s summer again. If you’re sick of shoveling snow and wearing heavy coats, head to San Diego to spend time in warm weather again. You can bike down the beach boardwalk, go on a hike without needing a ton of gear, day drink at an outdoor bar, and even surf if you bring a wetsuit. If it is one of the few rainy day on your winter escape, you can explore indoors- San Diego has tons of museums, craft brewery tours, and random activities- like axe throwing!
By Angelica from Things to do and Eat
Christmas in Las Vegas and Winter Activities
As you walk along the street, you’ll see great performers from dancers, human statues, painters, to singers. There’s plenty of performances on the strip that can entertain you for hours. You can also visit the famous Las Vegas sign. Make sure though to get their early in the morning as it can get crowded there during the day. You can also go there at night so you can experience the lights all over that sign.
By Allan from The Practical Saver
Activities: No snow vacation, party, shows, explore the city, enjoy the night life, casino haven, New Year and Christmas celebrations (Read our 3 day itinerary to Las Vegas)
Visiting Grand Canyon in Winter
Grand Canyon is stunning at any time of the year. But winters are special, especially from end of November to February. And the Grand Canyon deserves a visit if you are holidaying in Las Vegas (on a day tour) or staying in Arizona.
The temperature in Grand Canyon is very moderate and not very cold. But when the snow falls, it makes the canyons look very stunning. Make sure to visit the Grand Canyon during sunrise and you will be mesmerized by the multitude of colors on the craters.
During winters, the south rim of Grand Canyon is the most accessible. And that’s where we went in winter. You can also spot a few wildlife here and there during winters.
Winter in Grand Canyon is considered off-season, so it is less crowded and very easy to find accommodation as well. Depending on how much snowfall the national park is expecting, on some days the roads could be inaccessible. But they are always open to tour buses. So here is another reason to take a tour bus to the Canyons from Las Vegas. They are quite affordable (less then $100 for a full day tour, with light breakfast and a decent lunch). Tours are not intrusive and once you enter the park you are on your own to explore the canyons.
Activities: Off season travel, moderate snow fall, winter hike.
Sandpoint Idaho Winter
Sandpoint, Idaho, is a little-known secret in Northern Idaho. Sandpoint is located on Lake Pend Oreille, which is the 5th deepest lake in the United States. The lake makes Sandpoint a tourist destination in the summer, but ski bums and snow-aficionados also love to spend time there in the winter. Schweitzer Mountain ski resort, with a top elevation of 6,400 feet, overlooks Lake Pend Oreille and the city of Sandpoint. Skiers and snowboarders can enjoy 2900 skiable acres and 92 runs. Schweitzer mountain can also be explored through snow shoeing and hosts two different snow tubing operations.
When visitors to Sandpoint are not spending time on the mountain, they can enjoy great food at the various restaurants in town. Whether you are looking for fine dining (Forty One South) steakhouses (Hydra Steakhouse), pizza joints (Second Avenue Pizza, Pound Hound Pizza) or casual pubs (Eichardts), there is something for everyone!
There are also fantastic craft breweries (McDuffs & Laughing Dog) and a delicious local winery, Pend d’Orielle, whose tasting room is a must-visit for wine-lovers. Coffee-lovers can also find several local roasters in Sandpoint, the best being Evans Brothers.
Those wanting to visit Sandpoint, to enjoy what it and Schweitzer Mountain have to offer in the winter, should plan to fly into Spokane, Washington, and rent a car to drive the 1.5 hours to Sandpoint. There are several hotels and Airbnb’s available for visitors to the area in both the city of Sandpoint and on Schweitzer Mountain.
Activities: Snow haven – skiing, snowboarding, resort stay-cation, mountain views
Buffalo Winter Guide
One of my favorite winter destinations in the US is Buffalo, New York. I’ve taken many trips during the holiday season and winter months and have even lived through a Buffalo Winter Blizzard. Don’t let the misconceptions of Buffalo’s harsh winters deter you, this city has quietly evolved with its waterfront and downtown development projects, and there is so much to do and see during the winter months.
Start at the waterfront, where you can partake in winter activities like broomball, curling, riding ice bikes and skating on the ice at Canalside, Buffalo’s newest re-imagined neighborhood. From Canalside take the free streetcar into downtown where you can enjoy a gourmet meal at one of Buffalo’s many new up-and-coming restaurants. After dinner, be sure to catch a Broadway show at the beautifully restored Shea’s Theater.
Stay at the Hotel Henry a high-end boutique hotel built in Buffalo’s historic Asylum buildings. Browse the hotel’s hallways and explore the vast open spaces which are decorated with different art exhibits. Extend your love for arts and culture by visiting the Albert Knox Gallery and Burchfield Penney Art Center which are both located down the street. Be sure to stop at the nearby iconic Elmwood Village neighborhood, which is filled with boutique shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
By Sharon from Daily Dream 360.
Activities: Ice skating by canal side, ice bikes, culture and art love
Key West Winter Guide
Activities: Sunny beaches, laid-back resort life, relax and unwind, visit museums, enjoy night life
Aspen Winter Activities – Best Winter Vacations in the US
Located in Colorado, Aspen is a skier’s paradise. Snow is guaranteed every winter. You can view and access any of the four mountain ranges – Aspen mountain, Aspen highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk for cross country skiing or snowboarding activities.
Don’t ski? Visit the Aspen mountains anyway. Take the chair lift and access the mountain views and relax with a warm cocoa at the Ajax Tavern.
Aspen is popular for shopping and music shows including G games and other local events. Oh and don’t get me started on the night life – it is extra vagrant and wild. If you are a history lover like us, take a guided tour of this historic town.
You can easily fly to Aspen or take a connecting flight from Denver. Or if you prefer driving, hit the road with your skiing gear and carry warm clothes. Always pay heed to local weather warnings, before starting on your trip. Accommodation prices shoot up in winter, book ahead of time to reserve your room and save on room rates.
Activities: Cross country skiing and other winter outdoor activities, shopping, events, night life
Los Angeles Winter Activities
Los Angeles is one of the best places in the United States to visit during the winter. The colder months are typically on the warmer side and sunny. It’s a great destination if you’re trying to avoid the snow and the cold.
For a beach-oriented vacation, be sure to check out Santa Monica, there you can enjoy the rides at Santa Monica pier or hang out at Santa Monica State Beach. Venice Beach is also a great spot because it’s got a great boardwalk area you can walk around with tons of shops as well as the Canals of Venice neighborhood. It’s like a little bit of Amsterdam in sunny Southern California!
Art buffs will love the world-class museums in the city. From the free entry at The Broad and the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles, to the insanely large Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). You can also visit architecture sites such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, the Eames’ Case Study House, and the Gamble House.
Depending on the season, catch a game at Dodgers Stadium or watch the Los Angeles Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers play at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Both sports are a huge deal in Los Angeles and many locals are die-hard fans.
And last but not least, there’s always Hollywood. You can visit the Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and Grauman’s Egyptian Theater. Or see the Hollywood sign up close and personal by hiking to the back of the sign. There are so many things to do in Los Angeles, it’s got amazing flavor even in the winter.
Activities: Moderate winter temperatures, city and culture exploration
Yosemite National Park in Winter
Yosemite National Park, located in the state of California, is one of the most iconic and well-known national parks in the entire United States. In the summer months, people flock from all over the world to visit Yosemite and see the tall granite walls in Yosemite Valley and hike some of Yosemite’s best hiking trails. And while Yosemite is certainly stunning in the summer months, it transforms into a snowy-wonderland in the Winter. Iconic features, like Half Dome and El Capitan, are dusted in snow and display another beautiful side to Yosemite, and unlike the summertime, winter in Yosemite has a more relaxed and slow-paced vibe. There are less crowds and more moments to enjoy the park to yourself.
During the wintertime in Yosemite National Park you can go snowshoeing, ice skating and even skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area. During Christmas time, the Majestic Yosemite Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge and Big Trees Lodge all hold Christmas festivities and big holiday dinners in celebration of the holiday season. There’s all kinds of activities, including gingerbread house decorating, ornament making gatherings, and much more. When you come to Yosemite in the winter you will be pleasantly surprised by its charms and will leave wishing you had more time to explore this beautiful winter wonderland.
Activities: Snowy winter getaway, national park, winter hikes, snowboarding, relax and unwind at resorts
Kohler Wisconsin Winter Getaways
If you’re looking for a cozy winter getaway that is under the radar yet easy to visit then Kohler, Wisconsin is the place. Home to the Kohler empire, their former dormitory for international workers has been transformed into a cozy historic hotel called The American Club with its own award-winning spa decked out with custom Kohler fixtures. Spend the day snowshoeing in their nature preserve before one of their signature hydrotherapy treatments and a cup of hot tea by their rooftop fireplace. Finish off the night with an Old Fashioned in The Library Bar or a delicious burger and pint of Wisconsin craft beer. You can even spend an afternoon in the Kohler Design Facility and create your own custom kitchen and bathroom. Winter is an ideal time to visit The American Club because they extend special winter hotel room rates and spa treatment discounts. Not to mention it is truly a winter wonderland thanks to plenty of snow.
Activities: Snowy (indoors) getaway, cozy and romantic resort stays, relax and unwind
Miami Winter Break – Best Winter Vacations in the US
If you’re looking for something more active you can consider doing a bike or walking tour of Wynwood. Wynwood is a hip district in Miami, where you will find graffiti covering pretty much every inch of all the walls in sight. For the science and art lovers make sure to visit Museum Park, besides the science and art museums there it is also a great location to walk around along the sea and enjoy the nice weather.
Activities: Warm getaway, enjoy cuisine and city culture – art and museum lovers, walking
San Francisco Winters
Holiday season in San Francisco is one of the best times of the year. You can explore Christmas markets and lights at the City Hall, Union Square, Pier 39 or Ghirardelli Square. So you get the best sightseeing advantage. Don’t miss out the NYE lights, if you are visiting on December 31st.
San Francisco is also home to film festivals, music concerts and live theater. Other activities worth considering in winter in San Francisco include whale watching tour and wine tasting at the Fisherman’s wharf. You can also head to the nearby Napa Valley or Sonoma County too for wine experience.
San Francisco doesn’t experience low temperatures in winter, so you can access all the sightseeing attractions all year round. Take a city tour and explore more of San Francisco- and head to Golden Gate Bridge or China Town.
Activities: Warm temperatures, perfect for city exploration, wine tours, New Year and Christmas celebrations, film festivals
So these were our top picks for the best winter destinations in USA. The list is not in any order. Now, its your turn to choose your winter getaway in the US for that unforgettable vacation. Happy Travels!
Last Update – January 02 2019
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission (for which I am very grateful for) at no extra cost to you.