If you prefer to embrace the cold rather than escape it, chances are you’re already plotting your next getaway to make the most out of the winter this season.
Skiing, charming towns blanketed in snow, cozy restaurants, and snow-capped peaks are all part of what makes visiting a winter destination the dreamy experience that it is.
If you’re wondering where to visit this winter, here are some of the best winter wonderland destinations to visit in the United States!
Breathtaking Winter Wonderland Destinations in the USA
1. Vail, Colorado
As one of the most popular winter destinations in the United States, Vail truly knows how to do the season right.
Tucked away up in the mountains, this cozy alpine town in Colorado is gorgeous to visit year-round, but once temperatures begin to drop, it becomes a true winter wonderland where high-end dining, cross-country skiing, and various other winter sports become the stars of the show.
2. Leavenworth, Washington
If a place that feels like Europe is what you’re after but you don’t necessarily want to cross the Atlantic, Leavenworth in Washington is a great alternative.
Perfect for those keen to experience Christmas elsewhere, Leavenworth is a place that still very much sticks to its German heritage. Here, you’ll get to walk amid streets and alleys dotted by half-timbered houses, all while being surrounded by the alluring Cascade Mountains and feeling as though you’re in a town somewhere in the Alps.
December is the best time to visit Leavenworth, as its locals really make sure to make the most out of the date. Throughout the season, you’ll find an annual Christmas market made to look like those in Bavaria as well as plenty of fun events like gingerbread house competitions, live street performances, and more!
3. Park City, Utah
Famed for its wonderful ski resorts, Park City is a dream come true for those who want to feel as though they ended up inside a real-life snow globe.
Park City homes plenty of luxury hotels perfect for a staycation cozying up by the fireplace, but if you’d rather head outdoors, this resort in Utah offers all sorts of adventures for snow aficionados. Ice skating, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and skiing are just a few of the items on the activity menu of this winter wonderland.
As if that weren’t enough, January in Park City is as exciting as it gets. The resort hosts the Sundance Film Festival every year, so you may very well come across some of your favorite celebs during your visit!
Who said Utah was all about the desert?
4. North Pole, Alaska
Believe it or not, there’s a town that is actually called North Pole in Alaska!
Located close to Fairbanks, the small Alaskan town of North Pole is known as the place where Christmas is alive for the entirety of the year. If what you’re after is a winter wonderland in the USA to spend the holiday season in, you’ll find yourself in heaven here, but even if you visit during January or February, you’ll still be able to get that Christmassy feeling even past the official date.
At North Pole, you’ll find streets lined by giant candy canes, spot twinkling lights all over, and even get to meet real reindeer. As if that weren’t reason enough to visit, this area of Alaska is located close to the Arctic Circle, which means catching a Northern Lights show is a very easy thing to do here.
5. Telluride, Colorado
Snowy mountains, gorgeous nature, and charming historic buildings are the staples of this mountain locale in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
Once a thriving mining hub during the Victorian era, Telluride is host to a plethora of historical goodness, especially around its downtown, where you’ll find tons of picturesque buildings, an opera house, and a thriving performing arts venue that first opened in the early 1900s.
Winter hiking is a favorite activity in Telluride, but if you want to do something that gets your heart pumping, other things to do include sledding down mountains, cross-country skiing, and even ice climbing!
Moreover, Telluride’s outskirts are famous for their gorgeous hot springs, where you can take a dip and relax your muscles after a day spent adventuring in the snow surrounded by beautiful views of the San Juan Mountains.
6. Gatlinburg & The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
As the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg in Tennessee is a glorious mountain town that truly knows how to put on a show during the winter months.
Aside from getting to explore one of the most visited national parks in the United States sans the crowds, you’ll also get the chance to enjoy winter sports inside the park.
The best way to enjoy both destinations is by booking yourself a cabin or chalet inside the park for a few days and staying at Gatlinburg’s downtown for the rest of the trip.
Although small, this charming alpine destination offers a thriving foodie scene and quintessential alpine vibes, not to mention it hosts tons of exciting winter events such as the Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter of Lights festival.
7. Camden, Maine
It’s not exactly a secret that Maine is a quintessential winter wonderland, and the town of Camden is a dream come true for those looking for a pretty-as-it-gets-snowy destination.
Home to a strikingly gorgeous harbor and featuring views of the ocean, Camden may very well make you feel like you were transported into a village in coastal England. Skiing with views of the Atlantic is a thing here, or you can simply opt to stroll through the town for some serious winter eye candy.
- Check out these incredible scenic drives in Maine if you want to continue the winter magic!
8. Ouray, Colorado
Tucked away in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, Ouray in Colorado is often dubbed the “Switzerland of America” due to its European-style architecture and striking mountain vistas.
Aside from offering every single outdoor adventure in the snow you could think of (skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and more!), Ouray is also a great place to visit if you enjoy attending events and festivals.
Once winter officially starts, this town in Colorado becomes host to several festivals, including the Ouray Ice Festival and the San Juan Skijoring, both of which celebrate Ouray’s love for all things winter.
- Check out even more stunning scenic mountain drives in Colorado, many still open in the winter months
9. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park is gorgeous any time of the year, and while most people prefer to visit during the summer when temperatures are warmer, there’s something absolutely magical about seeing its iconic landscape draped in snow.
Frozen lakes, snow-dusted mountains, and steaming geysers make visiting Yellowstone during the colder months an absolute treat.
The Beartooth Scenic Byway may be closed in winter; however, Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway through Wapiti Valley makes an excellent winter alternative with fascinating geological formations.
What’s more, the park rarely sees crowds during the winter, which means you’ll get some of its most visited landmarks all to yourself. Winter is also a wonderful time to view wildlife in Yellowstone, with elk, wolves, bison, and other animals being incredibly easy to spot against the white landscape.
As an added bonus, Jackson Whole, a dreamy ski resort, is located just a stone’s throw away from Yellowstone so that you can have a winter vacation with the best of all worlds!
- Check out our detailed itinerary for getting to Yellowstone from Seattle, or coming from the south, you’ll want to grab our SLC to Yellowstone road trip itinerary
10. Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth in Minnesota is another wonderful destination to visit during December if what you’re looking for is snow, Christmas vibes, and all things jolly.
Even though it stays pretty low-key during the rest of the year, Duluth shines bright during the holiday season, when it becomes host to one of the biggest displays of Christmas lights in the entire world.
Aside from getting to stroll inside a place that feels like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss novel, there are many more activities to enjoy during your time in Duluth. These include taking a scenic train journey along Lake Superior to see the largest lake in the USA completely frozen or checking out the Historic Glensheen Mansion.
11. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Even though Lake Tahoe is more popular during the summer months for beachside goodness and water fun, it also happens to be a glorious winter destination for those who love the outdoors and stunning views.
Once winter creeps in, the mountains that surround Lake Tahoe become a mecca for fun winter sports, with cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, and sleigh rides being just a few of the activities on offer.
As if that weren’t enough, hiking in the snow is a thing here, with plenty of trails available to take you to secluded beaches that look just as striking when dusted in white.
A can’t-miss hiking destination is the Vikingsholm Castle On Emerald Bay, which is a castle on an island in the middle of the lake that looks as though it belongs on a fairytale in winter.
Once you’re done enjoying the snow outside, you can take advantage of the many après ski happy hours at the resorts, spend a few hours enjoying a spa, or hit up a casino to try your luck. Lake Tahoe is one of our favorite US Winter Wonderlands!
- Check out this fun driving guide between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite for even more snow covered beauty in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
We hope this list of some of the best winter wonderland destinations in the USA helped you choose your next winter escape. If you know of any other places that are even better in winter, please feel free to drop your recommendations in the comment section below!
Don’t forget you may be driving in snow! Winter road trips often mean alpine conditions and more treacherous roads than your average city driver is used to. If you’ll be heading to some more extreme places this winter, don’t miss our winter driving tips.
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