We’re starting to hear the (distant, but undeniable) footsteps of Old Man Winter coming down the pike. Whether you absolutely live for heapfuls of the white stuff, or you treat the winter months as an excuse to get the heck out of Dodge and flee to tropical climes, this time of year is a great one for getaways!
From snowy winter wonderlands to warm, sunny refuges with a healthy supply of palm trees, here are 20 of the best places to visit in North America during the winter!
The following dozen winter getaways—from the Colorado Plateau and Manhattan Island up to the Alaskan interior—are places where you can revel in icy beauty and play in the snow.
The Sierra Nevada high country of Yosemite may slumber under voluminous snowfall in winter, but the world-famous dreamscape of Yosemite Valley—with snow-streaked granite walls and icy waterfalls—as well as the tourist hub of Wawona stay open year-round. Furthermore, Glacier Point Road is plowed as far as the Badger Pass Ski Area, a snowsports paradise.
Lively hub of northwestern Montana, Missoula is tailor-made for winter vacations. Go snowshoeing, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, or cross-country skiing amid ample public lands, or hit the downhill runs or terrain parks of regional ski areas (Montana Snowbowl is mere minutes from downtown). Or you can pursue a more relaxing itinerary by sampling local craft breweries, eateries, live music, and hot springs.
Easily one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in America overlooks the Snake River basin of Jackson Hole, and the Tetons never look grander than when they’re swaddled in their winter coats. Hit the artsy cowboy town of Jackson, take a guided snowshoe hike with a park ranger or ski the park road in Grand Teton National Park, or enjoy a sleigh ride amid wintering wapiti at the National Elk Refuge. (The winter wilderness of Yellowstone National Park isn’t far away, either…)
Another of North America’s truly iconic winter destinations, Sun Valley puts Rocky Mountain grandeur—and a smorgasbord of outdoor activities—at your mittened-up fingertips. Skiing and snowboarding is world-class here, from the gnarly 3,400 feet of vertical at Bald Mountain and the family-friendly slopes of Dollar Mountain to limitless backcountry powder. Fat biking and snowmobiling beckon as well, as does a town day of spagoing, bar-hopping, and postcard-perfect ice skating on the Christina Potters Ice Rink.
The biggest—and, arguably, most popular—of North American ski resorts, Whistler Blackcomb up in British Columbia’s snow-clobbered Pacific Ranges is a paradise for winter sports. The downhill trails take center stage, but needless to say cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and off-piste aficionados are in equally kid-in-a-candy-shop territory at Whistler.
Steamboat Springs—which churns out Winter Olympians like nobody’s business—offers top-draw skiing and snowboarding, not least at Steamboat Ski Resort. You can also marinate in local hot springs, or put the town’s celebrated Winter Carnival—the signature activities of which include horses pulling kids on skis down Main Street—on your bucket list.
The famous hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park—among many scenic highlights of Utah’s expansive share of the Colorado Plateau—are, of course, year-round spectacular, but seeing them dusted by winter snow is next-level glorious.
The eye-popping blue of Lake Tahoe, nestled in the northern Sierra Nevada, provides a heck of a backdrop for winter activities. Those range from quality time on the slopes of Palisades Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain, Sugar Bowl, and other area ski resorts to ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and (naturally) cozying up in lake-view cabins.
Montreal’s well known for its wintry side, defined by some epically cold weather and plenty of snowfall. For some of us, that’s just what the doctor ordered! Outstanding restaurants, cafes, breweries, clubs, and theaters give you plenty of places to warm up while admiring the grand architecture. Meanwhile, in-town opportunities for cross-country skiing, ice skating, and sledding abound. This city really knows how to embrace the season, throwing numerous winter festivals such as Montreal en Lumiere and Igloofest.
Dive into the teeth of winter on a getaway to the friendly little city of Fairbanks, set deep in the interior of Alaska. This is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights—reason enough to make the trip—but there are many other delightful winter activities to indulge in: dog sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and more. Take a tour up to the Arctic Circle, hobnob with Santa in North Pole, Alaska, and goggle at the talents of ice sculptors at the World Ice Art Championships or the International Ice Art Classic.
Some of the classic winter sights in America aren’t snowy mountains or desertscapes, but Big Apple landmarks. Numerous silver-screen cameos, after all, make Central Park’s Wollman Rink one of the world’s most iconic skating rinks. And speaking of iconic, don’t forget about that giant Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree!
A hop, skip, and a jump from Montreal, Mont-Tremblant in the snow-heaped Laurentians is another of the top places to visit in North America during winter. That’s largely due to the delightful Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort, coveted by skiers and snowboarders and also offering tubing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, shopping, and more.
If snow, ice, and frigid temperatures aren’t your bag—or you just need a break from ‘em—consider the following list of standouttoasty-warm places to visit in America during winter.
Spectacular white-sand beaches and ravishing volcanic scenery—not to mention some of the globe’s best whale watching, thanks to wintering humpbacks—make Hawaii’s Valley Isle a top-draw winter escape.
Miami in winter means sunbathing, club-hopping, checking out art galleries and markets, attending food and music festivals, and—for nature lovers—sightseeing and kayaking in Biscayne and Everglades national parks within shouting distance of the city skyline.
More than a few consider America’s Finest City to boast the best climate in the country—maybe the world. Daily winter temperatures here often hit the mid-60s to mid-70s, with ample sunshine inviting you to Balboa Park (host to outstanding museums, gardens, and the San Diego Zoo), the bayfront Embarcadero, Old Town, the Gaslamp, and other must-see districts.
None other than Bob Dylan sang its praises on his most recent album, while Ernest Hemingway famously called it one of his off-and-on homes over the years. The Caribbean-esque tropical climate and scenery, the colorful history, the quirky local “conch” culture, and first-rate sportfishing await you on a winter getaway to fabulously farflung road’s end in the Florida Keys.
From the casinos and theaters to desert playgrounds such as the Red Rock National Conservation Area, Sin City gives you plenty to do on a wintertime road trip.
From sun-kissed Pacific surf to canyon hiking trails, from Hollywood tours to an absolutely knockout (and globe-spanning) culinary scene, winter is the perfect time to get to know the second-biggest city in the USA.
With average highs getting into the 60s, San Antonio’s winter weather is definitely on the pleasantly balmy side of things. Check out the Christmas lights along the Riverwalk, gorge on tamales, dig the year-round warmth inside Natural Bridge Caverns, and sightsee at landmarks such as the Alamo.
The Big Easy’s sultry Gulf Coast climate makes it another no-brainer destination for anyone fleeing the cold weather that prevails across much of North America this time of year. It goes without saying that you’ll find few better places in the world to eat, hear live music, and let your hair down.
As you cruise your way between the best places to visit in North America during winter, attend to that appetite of yours with our nutritious and delicious freeze-dried Mountain House meals, as convenient as can be for wintertime road trips!