Planning for the best winter vacations in the US involves experiencing all sorts of snowy fun and watching famous locations turn into winter wonderlands. From skiing down slopes, following snowy trails, skating on frozen lakes, and making snow angels, these winter activities can rival any summer getaway. On the other hand, for those who want to escape the colder temperatures, don’t fret. Basking in the crystalline joy found in snow isn’t the only way to enjoy the winter holidays. We’ve also listed the top places for warm winter vacations USA has to offer.
Best Snowy Winter Vacations in the US
1. Breckenridge, Colorado
The small town of Breckenridge is easily one of the best places to vacation in the US on your next winter getaway. Much like Aspen and Vail, this Colorado town is famous for its luxury ski resorts and amazing views. It offers endless opportunities for winter travelers seeking thrills and even opportunities for relaxation.
Located in Summit County, Breckenridge is the ideal destination for people seeking to enjoy winter sports. Thanks to the 3,000 acres of terrain you won’t run out of activities to do from snowboarding and cross country skiing, to dog sledding and ice skating! While the town is famous for being a ski destination, you can enjoy countless other recreational activities—like riding the highest chairlift in North America, watching ice sculpting competitions, or simply walking around and admiring the stunning mountain scenery.
2. Yellowstone National Park
Did you know that winter is also one of the best times to visit Yellowstone National Park? Famous as a summer destination for its wild habitat, geothermal activities, and pristine natural scenery, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers loads of ways to enjoy winter, too.
For one, wintertime at Yellowstone National Park means fewer tourists. This means enjoying one of the best winter vacations in the US all by yourself! Sans the summertime crowd, you can freely explore the park’s majestic winter wonderland. Moreover, there are guided tours available to explore the mountains and observe wildlife.
And of course, we can’t talk about Yellowstone without mentioning geysers. While you’ve probably seen Yellowstone geysers from postcards or photos online, there’s nothing quite like experiencing their beauty up close and personal. The surrounding blankets of snow make the colors of these natural wonders stand out even more.
3. New York City
There’s no denying that the Big Apple is one of the best places to visit in the winter in USA. The city is a holiday staple among tourists with its festive illuminations, Christmas markets, and ice skating rinks. As you walk from one street to another, you’ll find window displays and mall decorations teeming with elaborate and lavish decorations.
Some of the best indoor and outdoor activities can be experienced in the city and nearby places. Kick off your winter vacation in NYC by watching the Rockettes perform during the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City. Go skating at the Rink of Rockefeller Center and marvel at the beauty of the surrounding skyscrapers. If you’re visiting in early December, don’t miss the lighting ceremony of the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree. Meanwhile, if you’d rather skip the cold Manhattan weather, take a trip to Manhattan’s Spa Castle where you can relax your body and mind.
4. Lake Tahoe
You certainly can’t go wrong going to Lake Tahoe for a winter getaway. With its gorgeous lakes and award-winning ski resorts, it is one of the best winter vacations in the US. Admittedly, there’s a fair share of tourists in Lake Tahoe, no matter the season. Nevertheless, it remains to be the ultimate holiday destination for winter sports enthusiasts wanting to experience its powdery white sand and thrilling slopes. From Heavenly Ski Resort, Kirkwood Ski Resort, and Squaw Valley, you’ll never run out of winter terrain to conquer.
The best Lake Tahoe ski resorts offer an array of relaxing indoor activities. Some accommodations even have amenities, like an outdoor fire pit, hot tub, and heated pool, all to keep you warm during the cold winter. But that’s not all that Lake Tahoe has to offer! You can go sightseeing in the lake by getting aboard one of the several boat tours. The lake’s gorgeous surroundings are a magnificent wonder to behold.
5. Fairbanks, Alaska
Besides being home to some of the best hot springs in the U.S, Alaska is one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights. The state’s cold weather, geographic location, and dark skies offer prime conditions for viewing the phenomenon of the aurora borealis. Fairbanks, located at the furthest north, has the clearest skies where the Northern Lights are visible almost anywhere. The city offers plenty of accommodations and lodging. There are even some hotels that offer services to wake you up when the aurora is out! Sleep in an igloo at the Borealis Basecamp for a much better viewing experience.
Other fun things you can do while in Fairbanks include visiting a reindeer ranch, walking through ice caves, and ice fishing on a frozen lake. Dog sledding, cross country skiing, and discovering more about the city’s rich cultural history at the Museum of the North are also popular activities among tourists.
6. Yosemite National Park
Just like Yellowstone, the Yosemite National Park is a great destination no matter the season, giving tourists a varied experience depending on when they visit. Located in the central Sierra Nevada of California, Yosemite National Park is certainly one of the most iconic national parks in the country.
Compared to summertime, winter in Yosemite is laid back and has a relatively relaxed atmosphere. While you might miss the sequoia forests and picturesque lakes in the summertime, a much different experience awaits you. Gaze at the wonders of the famous El Capitan and Half Dome covered in snow. Get your winter sports to fix at the Badger Pass Ski Area’s cross country ski trails and backcountry trails. As such, if you’re looking for the top places to visit in the US for your next winter holidays, you should definitely consider Yosemite National Park.
7. Asheville, North Carolina
Located on Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville city is famous for its bustling arts scene and historic architecture. From January, the mountains around the city transform into a winter wonderland brought by the volume of snowfall and snow flurries in the area. The city is home to several ski slopes and snow tubing parks. Hiking along the snowy mountain trails is also a popular outdoor activity for many.
After spending time outside, get cozy in one of the many eateries that the city offers. Marvel at the beauty of the artworks found in many Asheville museums. You can find one of the top destinations for art aficionados when they visit the city in the heart of downtown Asheville. For more relaxing things to do, visit the Asheville Salt Cave and relax in a zero gravity chair while listening to soothing music.
8. Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is among the top places to visit in the US for skiing or snowboarding. The city has numerous world-class ski resorts and lodges that also offer more relaxing winter sports. This includes the likes of ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.
If you’re looking for other fun outdoor activities in the city, don’t fret. There are still plenty of things to do in Salt Lake City! One of which includes visiting the Great Salt Lake. Here you can enjoy bison-spotting, bird watching, and taking Instagram-worthy photos. Sunsets over the lake are truly breathtaking, especially with the hues of oranges that bring warmth to the white blankets of snow.
If you’re visiting around late January, you can attend the Sundance Film Festival. Not only is this a great chance to watch the work of independent storytellers, but Sundance also provides the perfect chance to see upcoming names in the film industry. If you’re looking to warm up while in the area, Salt Lake City is also home to some of the top hot springs in the country. Visit one of the local beer breweries and taste some amazing craft beer to stay warm in the cold weather.
9. Grand Canyon
Hailed as one of the most beautiful natural wonders in North America, the majestic Grand Canyon has long been a favorite travel destination for many. Every year, activities such as wildlife spotting and scenic drives along the rims attract millions of tourists. Summer and spring allow visitors to admire their striking hues and jagged curves. However, did you know you can also enjoy one of the best winter vacations in the US in the Grand Canyon?
Aside from the milder temperatures, wintertime at the canyons means less crowded trails. This means you can enjoy the scenery all to yourself! There’s nothing like the site of the iconic canyons powdered with snow that brings a new perspective and deeper appreciation of this natural wonder.
10. Big Sky, Montana
As the largest ski resort in the country, the Big Sky boasts a massive 5,800 acre-wide land that receives over 30 feet of snowfall every year. This near-perfect winter condition at the Big Sky makes it the best winter destination for skiing or snowboarding activities. Have the time of your life skiing, and zipping past the snowy landscapes, riding the 40 ski lifts available in the resort, and of course, exploring the snowy trails.
Even if you’re not an avid skier, you can still enjoy the stunning slopes and mountain ranges. Sign up for snow coach tours, sleigh rides, and dog sledding tours to explore the backcountry. End your trip to Big Sky Montana with a meal at one of the restaurants or with a relaxing spa treatment in Mountain Village.
11. Washington, DC
Washington, DC comes alive with holiday cheer and twinkling light displays during the winter holidays. Thanks to its milder temperatures during winter, the nation’s capital offer amongst the best winter vacations in the US for those who want a snowy destination without the extreme cold weather. Go ice-skating in the Washington Harbor Ice Rink, one of the top things to do in Georgetown during the holiday season. Schedule your vacation around the beginning of December if you want to witness the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. If you’re looking for some retail therapy while in the city, there’s no better place than Downtown Holiday Market.
For history buffs with a sweet tooth, go visit the Tudor Place Historic House and Garden where you can build your own edible gingerbread house. There’s even hot chocolate and cider waiting for you after strolling the area! After a long day of ice-skating, sightseeing, and shopping, head over to the Watergate Hotel and sip cocktails in a heated igloo at the hotel’s bar.
12. Whitefish, Montana
Located in the Flathead Valley, Whitefish is one of the best winter destinations in Montana. This resort town is a winter getaway paradise that’s famous for its outdoor activities. Adventure seekers can hit the slopes of the Whitefish Mountain Resort for a thrilling session of skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, or fat-tire biking. You can also simply marvel at the beauty of Mother Nature in winter by snowshoeing in Glacier National Park. Ride through the snow on a horse-drawn sleigh at the Bar W Guest Ranch with your partner if you’re looking for more romantic things to do this holiday season. And after taking in the amazing views of this winter wonderland, shop downtown or cozy up with a warm cup of hot chocolate at one of the many restaurants.
13. Kings Canyon National Park
A list of the best places to visit in winter in USA isn’t complete without one of the most stunning national parks in the country. Home to the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world, the Kings Canyon National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Its landscape is filled with towering granite walls, lush meadows, and soaring waterfalls. While it’s a favorite travel destination for spring and summer, wintertime here brings forth a new set of adventures and activities.
Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are just some of the top activities in the area during the winter months. Take part in ranger-led snowshoe walks and immerse yourself in the winter wonderland. Marvel at the beauty of the land space covered in blankets of snow. There are also camping grounds available even during the cool winter months.
Best Warm Winter Vacations in the US
14. Puerto Rico
Thanks to its tropical climate, Puerto Rico is one of the top travel destinations for people looking to escape the winter weather. Tourists flock to the islands for warm winter vacations in the USA. Visiting Puerto Rico in the winter is also a great way to avoid the Atlantic hurricane season, which typically happens around the months of June to November.
Of the endless things to do in Puerto Rico, the most notable include soaking up some sun on the island’s white-sand beaches. Take advantage of the slightly cooler winter temperature of the island and enjoy nature hikes through the El Yunque. You can also take in historical and cultural landmarks if you’re looking for things to do in San Juan. Marvel at the beauty of the bioluminescent bays. Bio bay glows brighter on moonless nights and even brighter during the winter.
15. Sedona, Arizona
Wintertime is the least crowded season of the year in Sedona, Arizona (AZ). Not only do you get more affordable deals on hotels and lodging, but you also get to experience this geological wonder without the swarm of tourists. Enjoy a more intimate exploration of the Sedona hiking trails and spectacular red rock formations during this time. The holiday months also provide the best Sedona weather for hot-air balloon rides! You can enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views that will make your heart leap.
Adding to the endless fun things to do in Sedona, AZ during the winter holidays is watching the Red Rock Festival of Lights—an event brimming with lively musical entertainment, such as singing carolers and surprise visits from Santa Claus. There’s even free cider to sip on as you watch these performances! Truly, Sedona is among the best places to visit in the US for those on the hunt for vacation destinations for families and friends.
16. Anna Maria Island, Florida
Trade in blankets of white snow with white sand beaches! For those on the hunt for top warm winter vacations in the USA, consider this island as one of your top destinations. While the winter months bring frigid temperatures in other areas, the Anna Maria island typically sees dips into temperatures that average around mid-50s. This type of weather is ideal for enjoying outdoor activities like swimming in the waters of Bean Point beach to fishing on the Anna Maria Pier. The island is also one of the best places for snorkeling in Florida!
Asides from the funny and exciting outdoor activities, this popular vacation spot also offers plenty of relaxing things to do. One of which includes simply strolling down the streets and taking in the quaint Old Florida vibes. Visiting Anna Maria feels like stepping back in time with its abundance of old architecture, rich history, and tradition.
17. Las Vegas, Nevada
With a moniker such as Sin City, any trip planned here is guaranteed to be a good time! Las Vegas is home to a myriad of casinos, entertainment arenas, and bustling nightclubs. The flashing neon signs and marquees alone entice with the promise of enormous fun and excitement. December also adds a magical glow with gorgeous drive-thru Christmas lights displays all over the city.
Theatre enthusiasts will marvel at catching the world-renowned performances like Cirque du Soleil and the Fremont Street Experience, while sports fans can catch the Vegas Golden Knights ice-hockey team in action at the T-Mobile Arena. Lastly, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a popular attraction among locals and visitors every year.
Las Vegas isn’t just home to snazzy entertainment. Just a short road trip from the Strip, you’ll find Red Rock Canyon, State Park. This geological wonder is one of the best ways to simmer down from the bustle of Sin City, at least for a few hours. It offers miles of hiking trails with amazing views of rare flora and fauna. You can even enjoy bird watching, rock climbing, camping, and horseback riding.
18. Big Island, Hawaii
The Big Island in Hawaii is a dream destination year-round. For those looking for the best warm winter vacations USA has to offer, the island is certainly a no-brainer. Spending the winter holidays on the largest of all Hawaiian Islands means endless sunshine. It’s the ideal destination to kick back, relax, and soak up some sun.
While Hawaii is famous for its white-sand beaches, other popular tourist attractions on the island include the colored sand beaches. The jet black sand of Punaluʻu beach is a sight you won’t want to miss when visiting the island. Meanwhile, seeing the green sand of Papakōlea beach should certainly be on your bucket list!
Aside from visiting the number of beaches, there are a plethora of exciting things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii! Take a boat tour to discover the island’s expansive coastline. Book a helicopter tour and marvel at the wonders of an active volcano. You can also head over to Mauna Kea to watch the changing hues of the sky during sunset. On top of being one of the best places to see the sunset on the island, it’s also a popular place for stargazing.
19. San Francisco, California
San Francisco is a great place to be for animal lovers. Watch how the animals adapt to the chilly weather at the San Francisco Zoo. Prefer to see them free in the wild? Then make sure to catch glimpses of gray and killer whales around the Bay Area as they migrate through the San Francisco waters.
If you’re looking for more festive activities, you can also catch the various tree lighting ceremonies and light displays in the city. Top favorites among locals and tourists are the ones in Union Square, Pier 39, and Ghirardelli Square.
20. Key West, Florida
Similar to Anna Maria Island, Key West is another Florida destination popular among those looking for the best places to vacation in the US, especially if you want a warm winter gateway. Key West is the state’s southernmost point and its beautiful sunsets draw tourists from all over the country and other parts of the world. Indeed, there’s no shortage of things to do in Key West, Florida, even during the winter holidays!
Head over to Mallory Square and board the Old Town Trolley for a list of festive activities. The Holiday Lights and Sights Tour is one of the best ways to experience the holidays in Key West. If you visit around early December, be sure to catch the annual Key West Holiday parade which showcases marching bands, colorful floats, and much more! You can also enjoy a live concert at Truman Little White House. Ignite your holiday spirit even further by watching the annual Lighting of the Key West “Harborwalk of Lights”.
21. St. Petersburg, Florida
Escape the cold weather of the winter months by traveling to St. Petersburg in Florida. Nestled in Florida’s Gulf Coast, St. Petersburg is known for its perpetual sunshine. The city is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the US. As such, it’s no surprise that visitors who want to spend the holiday season by the beach flock to St. Pete. You can even catch glimpses of dolphins in the area! If you want to get a closer look at these majestic creatures, there are a number of boat tours that cruise around the bay and inlets.
Aside from water activities, the city offers plenty of interesting sights. It has a thriving local art scene that you can explore by going on one of the mural tours. Beer lovers can even do a tour of their own by visiting the several craft breweries in the city. And no trip to St. Pete would be complete without a visit to the city’s oldest living museums, the Sunken Gardens—a botanical paradise with structures that are over a century old.
22. Los Angeles, California
Amongst the best winter vacations in the US is undoubtedly the City of Angels. Spend Christmas in California and enjoy Los Angeles’ balmy winter weather! Its mild and sunny climate is perfect for those wanting to escape the cold. The best part? You’ll never run out of things to do in LA!
You can relax on sandy beaches, visit the Santa Monica Pier, and enjoy the lively arcade games overlooking the water. For your dose of European charm, walk along the canals of Venice. Winter in Los Angeles brings out the colorful lights displays at L.A. Zoo, residential areas, and other locations. Truly, there are plenty of day trips from Los Angeles perfect for quick getaways or lengthy vacation ideas to help you unwind and relax this holiday season.
23. San Antonio, Texas
A trip to San Antonio is one of the best cheap weekend getaways this holiday season. The bustling city is one of the best places to visit in winter in the USA, especially for those craving warmer weather. The city’s theme and amusement parks such as SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta certainly take advantage of the holiday season. You can find rides and attractions adorned with twinkling lights and other festive decorations.
Moreover, San Antonio, Texas is also home to the Natural Bridge Caverns, the state’s largest underground cavern. Here you can hear your favorite holiday carols in a completely new experience in the majestic chambers of the caverns. Get a photo of the family with Santa and, afterward, round up Rodulf and his eight other reindeers in the 5000 square foot outdoor maze. Cozy up around the campfire, make s’mores, and enjoy live entertainment, while surrounded by colorful lights.
24. Orange Beach, Alabama
From amusement parks, shopping centers, and a plethora of eateries, there’s always something fun to do at Orange Beach. When the summer crowds are gone, countless winter holiday adventures await. This includes fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, playing golf at the Orange Beach Golf Center, and attending many holiday festivities. Other fun outdoor activities can also be found at the Gulf State Park. Just a short drive west of the white sand beaches of Alabama’s coast, you can enjoy bike and hiking trails, go on ziplines, and participate in birdwatching.
25. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is among the best national parks in California, USA thanks to its nearly 800,000 acres of land that boasts two unique ecosystems. Composed of two distinct desert habitats — the Mojave and Colorado, the park is one of the more extraordinary landscapes in North America. The area is perfect for outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping.
Visiting during the winter months means cooler temperatures than other seasons. But it’s still warm enough to sleep comfortably under the stars at the Cottonwood Campground, which is certainly the best campground in Joshua Tree National Park for admiring the night sky. The long, dark winter nights during winter solstice also mean clearer skies for stargazing. If you’re camping on the more secluded grounds, far from light pollution, you should have no problem seeing even the Milky Way.
26. San Diego, California
Wintertime is the wettest and coldest time of year in San Diego. In between rain showers, if you’re lucky, you might be able to experience just a little bit of the brilliant California sunshine. Still, the city offers picturesque beaches and a burgeoning downtown area. One of the top attractions that the city offers is whale watching. You can revel at the migration of the 20,000 gray whales moving from Alaska to Baja starting mid-December. Another one of the city’s best-loved winter activities is ice-skating by the beach! Adding to the endless list of things to do in San Diego is marveling at the city’s Parade of Lights.
27. New Orleans
Dubbed as the Big Easy, the laid-back yet lively New Orleans is teeming with fun activities, especially during the winter months. Aside from taking advantage of walking tours and river cruises without the heat and humidity, the city also offers a winter getaway experience like no other.
Start by hanging out with Kris Kringle at the NOLA Christmas Fest, then go caroling at Jackson Square. You can also head to the Roosevelt Hotel and marvel at its breathtaking hallways, adorned with over 60,000 lights. The city also hosts several holiday parades. Namely, the Krewe of Jingle Parade, which takes place downtown.
Want to ring in the New Year’s New Orleans style? Catch the fleur-de-lis drop at Jackson Square, followed by a firework display over the Mississippi River. On New Year’s Day, head over to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to watch the Allstate Sugar Bowl, one of the greatest college football traditions in the country.
28. Death Valley National Park
If there’s one thing that Death Valley is famous for, it is the blistering temperatures brought by its elevation. Since parts of the valley are below sea level, hot air accumulated above sea level is trapped within the basin. The mountainous Sierra Nevada also blocks moisture from reaching the valley. Both of these create steady droughts, dry desert air, and record summer heat. However, winter temperatures morph the basin into a desert paradise. While it’s far from a winter wonderland, the milder temperatures do allow for extended periods of outdoor activities!
Start at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to get a brief overview of the park’s history. From here, you can go on one of the many hiking trails, which are usually covered with snow in the winter. There are also biking trails available, such as the Harmony Borax Works, Salt Creek Road, and the Trail Canyon Road. The national park also has plenty of camping grounds available if you want to stay the night and go stargazing.
29. South Padre Island
Spend your next winter holiday on the only tropical island in Texas! South Padre Island is certainly among the best places to visit in the US famous for its white-sand beaches and clear emerald waters. The milder temperatures during winter are ideal for soaking up the warm sun.
Aside from water sports, collecting seashells, making sandcastles, and fishing, South Padre also offers other activities. Learn more about the rehabilitation and conservation of marine turtles at the Sea Turtle Inc. facility. Here you can get an up-close look at these fascinating creatures. If you want to learn about dolphins and other marine life, head on over to the Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center. Else, go bird watching along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. It offers the perfect spot for observing coastal and passing migratory birds. Also, don’t forget to drop by the South Padre Island Adventure Park for more exciting activities for the whole family.
Have the Best Winter Vacations in the US!
Blessed with a myriad of lively and breathtakingly beautiful places to visit, you’ll never run out of vacation spots in America. Whether you’re looking for a White Christmas or a place to escape the cold weather, you can have some of the best winter vacations in the US. We hope our guide has helped you pick your next destinations for your holiday season bucket list.