Best winter vacations, USA with snow
It’s that time of year again. Where dreams of snow and winter wonderlands dance through our heads. Whether it’s looking for a magical experience over the holidays, or a family ski vacation, there are a plenty of fabulous places to vacation in winter, in the USA.
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Best Places To Visit In Winter In The USA
If you are looking for a winter wonderland, remiscent of a Hallmark Christmas movie, Leavenworth, WA is our number one choice. They even have a real life Reindeer Farm!
Experience the magical feeling of thousands of lights, in this Bavarian inspired village. Holiday events and lights are a big deal here, and something you won’t want to miss.
They usally have weekend lighting ceremonies in December. Unfortunately this year, the Christmas lighting festivals in Leavenworth are cancelled. Luckily the lights are still on!
Leavenworth will still be hanging over 500,00 lights, which will come on everyday at dusk, from Thanksgiving weekend through Valentines weekend.
Wander the downtown in twinkling lights, Christmas tree smell wafting in the air, while sipping a hot chocolate. Browse in one of the many iconic stores including handmade chocolates, a year round Christmas store, art and gift stores.
Kids and kids at heart will enjoy a sledding trip on the hill next to the gazebo. For snow sports, take a Nordic Ski on one of their three trail systems or try Stevens Pass a half hour west of Leavenworth, a popular place to ski. The local Ski hill, only 10 minutes away from town, is perfect for families and beginners.
Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
To get in the holiday spirit, a visit to Leavenworth Reindeer Farm is a must. I mean, petting a real life reindeer, that is the stuff dreams are made of.
While open year round, the reindeer farm is a fantastic place to visit at Christmas. Pet a cute reindeer, take a selfie and learn some cool reindeer facts.
It’s a very popular attraction, so buy your tickets in advance. Learn more here.
Activities: Skiing & snowboarding, sleigh rides, dog sledding, nordic skiing, sledding & tubing, ice skating, birding, snowmobiling, Christmas activities, Reindeer Farm.
Where to Stay in Leavenworth, WA
The unique Blue Elk Inn or the Icicle Village Resort, surrounded by breathtaking views of the Cascades, within walking distance of downtown Leavenworth are highly rated family friendly places to stay.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is one of the snowiest places in the United States, averaging 43 feet (13 meters) of snow per year. From sledding to back country skiing/snowboarding this is a winter lovers delight.
Try out their popular one- to two-mile ranger guided snowshoe walk. It happens every weekend December through April. The walks usually begin at Rim Village and continue through the sub-alpine forests and meadows along the edge of the lake.
While there are no official sledding hills, head down to the meadow south of Crater Lake Lodge, a popular place to enjoy a ride down, down, down.
Make sure to grab a park map and check out any warnings or weather updates before you go, as the visitors centres are currently closed, and cell phone reception is spotty.
As there are no lodges, campgrounds, or gas stations open in the park from
mid-October to late May, you will need to stay in the surrounding communities or backcountry camping (permit needed)
Activities: Snowshoeing, Ranger Guided Snowshoe walks, Nordic Skiing, sledding, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling.
Yosemite National Park, CA
Yosemite National Park in California is one of most well known parks in the USA. Winter is the least busy season, so when the crowds go home, wildlife comes out.
Imagine taking a photo of Half Dome and El Capitan, dusted in snow.
Hike one of the year round trails at Yosemite. Here are a couple to consider:
- Easy: Bridalveil Falls Trail – 0.5 mi (0.8 km) round trip
- Easy: Lower Yosemite Falls Trail – 1 mile (1.6 km) loop
- Easy: Cook’s Meadow Loop – 1 mile (1.6 km) loop
- Easy to Moderate: Mirror Lake Trail – 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip to lake and back; 5 miles (8 km) loop around lake
- Moderate: Yosemite Falls Trail – 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip to Columbia Rock (spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock)
Badger Pass Ski Area has all your favourite snow activities; a terrain park for snowboarders, beginner and intermediate slopes, and my favourite, tubing. Note: Unfortunately the Ski Area will not open for the 2020-21 season.
If you are travelling over the Christmas season, many of the hotels and lodges in the area offer a variety of seasonal & Christmas activities, big suppers and the like.
Try out ice skating on the outdoor rink at Curry Village from mid-November through March. The views of Half Dome and Glacier Point will take your breath away.
Winter Events in Yosemite
- Yosemite Conservancy offers winter programs, such as full moon hikes and star gazing tours.
- Bracebridge Dinner & Pageant a tradition since 1927. A four hour pageant of performances and seven course Christmas feast, which equals one unforgettable experience. (Celebrate again in 2021)
- Winter Firefall – In mid February when the conditions are right, and the sun hits the water at a certain angle at sunset, the Horsetail Falls glows like it is on fire.
Lodging is available at the park, with some changes for safety and cleaning enhancements.
Activities: skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, tubing, cross country skiing, skating, star gazing, winter hikes.
Where to Stay in Yosemite
Open year round, the Yosemite Valley Lodge in the park, is considered one of the best choices for families and groups of travelers and a great place to stay for exploring the area. Views of Yosemite Falls beckon.
If you are looking to stay in Yosemite West, the Yosemite Cabin is a one of a kind elevated experience. This an amazing choice, with gorgeous views, loft ceilings, combining modern style and rustic charm. Not to mention it was featured by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the best AirBnB’s in the area.
Star Valley, Wyoming
For a low key winter vacation, check out Star Valley, Wyoming.
Star Valley is a community made up of a number of small towns, including Afton, Thayne, Star Valley Ranch and Alpine. They are located along the Wyoming-Idaho border, along the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
It’s a quieter place to get-away from the crowds. Star Valley area is also only about a 1 hour drive to Jackson Hole and a 3 hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, so you can get the best of all worlds.
The main winter attractions in the area snow sports. The nearby Pine Creek Ski Resort has affordable skiing and minimal crowds.
Try out cross country skiing or snowmobile on one of the hundreds of groomed forest service trails in the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest including access to the Continental Divide snowmobile trail system.
Alpine has some of the best snowmobiling in the west including access to Greys River into the Wyoming range and McCoy Creek into the Caribou National forest from this trail system.
For a unique attraction, check out the world’s largest Elkhorn Antler Arch, in Afton, WY. Just outside Afton is the Wyoming Elk Winter Refuge where around 1000 elk spend the winter.
Drive the Star Valley Scenic Byway as it winds north to Alpine, over the summit of Salt River Pass, and passing through several Star Valley towns. Continue 40 miles north of Alpine to Grand Teton National Park.
Activities: Snowshoeiing, skiing, ice skating, playing in the snow, day trips to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park
Where to Stay in Star Valley, WY
Stays in Star Valley range from cozy cabins to ranches, and stand alone homes.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
For another unforgettable place to visit in winter in the US, check out Jackson Hole, Wyoming. With an average of 500 inches of snowfall each year, the Jackson Hole area is a popular place to visit in winter for a little skiing and snowboarding.
Jackson Hole is a 48-mile long valley that includes the towns of Jackson, Kelly, Moose, Moran, Wilson, and Teton Village.
There are plenty of options to hit the slopes in and around Jackson Hole.
- Snow King, the “Town Hill” in Jackson, WY is popular with locals and has night skiing under lights.
- Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, in Teton Village, WY has over 2500 acres of the best skiing and riding in North America, with plenty of options for beginners, intermediate and advanced.
- Grand Targhee Resort on the western slope of the Tetons near Alta, Wyoming is known for the most powder days of any ski area in the country. They offer Wyoming’s only cat skiing.
Not to worry there are also plenty of activities for the non-skiiers in your family too.
Top winter activities in Jackson Hole, WY for Non-Skiiers:
- Winter tours to Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton National Park from the comfort of a heated coach.
- Snow Shoeing or Cross Country Skiing one of Jackson Hole’s many trails or take a guided trip through Grand Teton National Park.
- Dog sledding with a guide and a team of Alaskan sled dogs
- Snowmobiling or Snow Tubing
- Horse Drawn Sleigh rides through the National Elk Reserve
- View wildlife history through art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art
- Explore Jackson’s historic downtown centre and take some time browsing the shops and restaurants
Jackson Hole, WY makes for an exciting family adventure.
Activities: Snowshoeiing, skiing, snowmobiling, tubing, dog sledding, sleigh rides, art, shopping, dining, museums, tours
Where to Stay in Jackson Hole, WY
For a memorable trip to a luxurious, family friendly dude ranch, the Turpin Meadow Ranch is the place to visit. Their cabins and chalets offer full views of Grand Teton National Park. You can also book personalized Grand Teton and Yellowstone tours, or try out Nordic skiing, snowmobiling and fat biking.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
For Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a stay in a gorgeous spacious villa, with ski to door access in Teton Village will be a hit. Guests love the short walking distance to the gondola, tram, shopping, restaurants, mountain bike lift and it’s only a 5 minute drive to Grand Teton Park. Family friendly!
In Jackson, WY try out a stand-alone rustic, log cabin, with all the amenities and comforts of home, along with a free winter ski shuttle. Family and pet friendly.
In Alta, WY enjoy a charming cabin with hot tub with miles/kms of cross country skiing right out your back door. It’s only a 15 minute drive to the Targhee Resort, and the nearest towns of Driggs and Victor, Idaho, which also offer great places to stay.
Keystone, Colorado is a gorgeous place to stay, with fun winter activities. It is also great for families and non-skiiers who are looking for things to do beyond the slopes.
Keystone is cheaper than Breckenridge, while still offering many great shops, & restaurants, and family friendly fun. It is also close enough you can do a day trip if desired.
Keystone Resort is a popular destination, and they pride themselves as Colorado’s kid-friendliest resort. The hills offer runs from beginner to more advanced, and is one of only a few resorts that offers night skiing.
If you are not skiing, buy a “foot pass” at the base of Keystone Mountain and take the gondola ride up to the top of Dercum Mountain. Enjoy the Der Fondue Chessel restaurant at the top. They serve fondue and a four course meal. Expensive but worth it for the experience I hear.
Explore River Run Village or ice skate on their outdoor rink.
For non-resort activities, try the family friendly Keystone Sapphire Point Overlook hike. It’s a short hike with amazing mountain and lake views.
A scenic sleigh ride, or an old fashioned tube at the Nordic Centre with it’s walk up, slide down hill will bring smiles to everyone’s faces.
Activities: sleigh rides, tubing, shopping, dining, hiking, skating, gondola rides.
Where to Stay in Keystone, CO
If your focus is skiing / boarding, the two areas you’ll want to look into staying are River Run Village, or Mountain House base. River Run is within walking distance to the Keystone Gondola, resturants, shops, rentals. Mountain House is the original base, and is minutes walk to the lifts.
Keystone Lodge and Spa located in the Lakeside Village, is a great option for families looking to focus on non-ski and lake activities, while being close to a day on the slopes if desired.
Breckenridge, CO, at the base of the Rocky Muntains is well known for its ski resorts, and year round alpine activities.
With over 180 ski trails spanning 3,000 acres of terrain, there are a lot of opportunities to hit the slopes At Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Breckenridge also makes a fun winter destination for non-skiiers as the town has so much to do. From festivals, galleries, and craft beer to the main street with over 200 shops and restaurants, there is something here for everyone.
Visit the Arts District, a one-acre campus of studios, galleries, and art / performance spaces.
Try one of these winter vacation activities:
- Dog sledding – mush through the beautiful backcountry
- Walking along the Blue River Recreation path
- Snowmobiling tours through the Rockies
- Snowshoeing & Cross Country Skiing: Free city trails or try a day pass / tour out of the Breckenridge Nordic Centre or the Gold Run Nordic Centre
- Fat Tire Biking
- Sledding and tubing – Get your adrenaline pumping at the Frisco Tubing Hill
- Summit Ski Museum
Hot Tip: For a unique activity, try a walking tour through the historic district of Breckenridge. Hear interesting stories of those who came for the gold 100 years ago.
Where to Stay in Breckenridge, CO
One Ski Hill Place is a newer resort and perfect for a more luxurious experience.
The Village right in the heart of Breckenridge offers on site ski services, concierge and activities desk, and a ski school, 5 minutes from the Ski Resort. All apartments feature full kitchens.
Or try a well appointed condo or cabin in town or the area surrounding Breckenridge.
Park City, Utah
Park City, Utah boasts the largest ski resort in the United States, and has over 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. If you are dreaming of a White Christmas, or a snowy vacation, this is a beautiful place to be.
Check out one (or all) of their three Resorts. Deer Valley is a luxury, skiers only resort, with diverse runs for all skill levels. It also offers 5 star dining, and extras like ski-valets.
Canyon is the largest resort, accessible by multiple gondola rides up the mountain. Snowboarding is allowed, with some great runs for beginners and those with more advanced skills.
Park City Mountain Resort offers a more laid back skiing / snowboarding experience. Though smaller, Park City still provides diverse, easily accessible ski runs and snowboard parks, in a quaint subalpine setting. They also tend to open earlier in the season, depending on snow fall.
When you want to spend a day off the slopes (or have non-skiers in your family / group) there a many options:
- Sleigh Rides
- Dog Sledding
- Fat Tire Biking (aka snow biking)
- Tubing at Woodward Park City – 12 lanes of tubing fun
- Stroll Historic Main Street, do a little shopping, then grab lunch at one of the amazing restaurants.
- Learn the skiing and mining history of the area, at the Park City Museum
The more adventurous will want to try the Winter Bobsled Experience at the Utah Olympic Park. You can bobsled down the 2002 Olympic Winter Games Track.
Where to Stay in Park City, UT
Waldorf Astoria Park City, while not technically ski in/out is a gorgeous family friendly place to stay. Located at the base of Canyons Village, it is just steps away from a dedicated gondola. They have lots of childrens programs, an amazing pool which is a must with kids, and are pet friendly.
Sundial Lodge is a beautiful hotel, with the convenience of ski-in/ski-out accommodations, with many amenities, but without the luxury premium.
St. Regis, Deer Valley, offers many family friendly amenities including a split level infinity pool, a children’s calendar, ski in/out access, a snow beach and more.
Or try out a well appointed condo or townhouse in Deer Valley.
Park City Mountain Resort / Downtown Park City
Park City Peaks is a wonderful and affordable, family friendly hotel. They are located close to downtown, a 5 minute drive to the Park City mountain, a 15 minute drive to Deer Valley, and there a pool!
An AirBnSKI is the place to be, with enough room for the whole family.
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Midway, Utah is a quaint small town, in the Heber Valley offering many family friendly activities. It’s also only 20 min from Park City and 45 min from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Soldier’s Hollow is a popular tubing destination in Midway. Built for the Winter Olympics in 2002, Soldier’s Hollow is also a great place for cross country skiing.
For skiing both Deer Valley and Sundance are close by.
For a unique winter experience, don’t miss the Midway Ice Castle. Ice artists form ice slides, fountains, crawl spaces, caves, and tunnels that are perfect for exploring during the day, and magical when lit up at night. They generally open late December.
Combine two fun winter activities, and arrive in style to the ice castle with a sleigh ride.
Try one of these other family friendly winter vacation activities:
- Outdoor Ice skating at Midway Ice Rink
- Take the North Pole Express or the Tube ‘n Train (snow tubing and train ride) with the historic Heber Valley Railroad
- Swim in a geothermal pool in the Homestead Crater.
Where to Stay in Midway, UT
Stay at Zermat or Homestead Resorts. At Zermat Resort you will feel like you are in the Swiss Alps, due to the alpine architecture admist the Rocky Mountains. The Homestead Resort offers accommodations consisting of separate cottages located throughout the grounds, and access to the Homestead Crater.
Beautiful Sandpoint, Idaho, sits along Lake Pend Oreille, the 5th deepest lake in the United States.
For a family oriented ski resort, try the highly rated Schweitzer Mountain Resort. It has 2900 acres of skiiable terrain, 92 runs, three terrain parks, as well as 32km of cross crountry trails.
At an elevation of 6,400 feet, it provides gorgeous views overlooking the lake and town of Sandpoint, as well as Montana and Canada on a clear day.
Other winter activities in Sandpoint, ID include:
- Sledding & Tubing
- Ice Fishing
- Cross Country Skiing at Farragut or Round Lake State Parks
- Visiting the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center
- Enjoying a play, concert, or fine art film at the Panida Theatre
Each year, typically in February, Sandpoint holds their Winter Carnival, a sure way to get you and your family into the snowy season. This event includes fireworks, live music & parties, a food festival, a Parade of Lights and the city fav, the K9 Keg Pull.
Sandpoint is also known as a place to enjoy a craft brew (family friendly Matchwood or Mac Duff’s Brewing Companies), a glass of wine at the Pend d’Orielle Winery or a visit to a local roaster / coffee shop, Evans Brothers.
Where to Stay in Sandpoint, ID
Talus Rock Retreat is family and pet friendly lodging at it’s finest. Nestled on an 18 acre wilderness playground, while also being close to dowtown, the Schweitzer Mountain, and Lake Pend Oreille, you’ll get the best of all worlds.
Or stay in a cozy, bright apartment right in the historic heart of Sandpoint, ID. Only a 4 block walk to downtown, and close to trails, the beach and the mountain slopes.
Chicago, Illinois is known as one of the best US cities for Christmas and holiday festivities, events, and shopping.
If you are looking for Holiday or Winter themed events, there are many.
Their annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival happens in November, where one million lights line this shopping area and usually includes events like a parade, fireworks and concerts.
Celebrate the season at the Lincoln Park ZooLights Festival, which offers two million lights, ice carving, and a music and light show.
Take in the Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry. A forest of over 50 trees represent traditions from cultures around the globe.
Chicago’s family friendly Winter Wonderfest at Navy Piers is an annual tradition. Ice skating, rides, and entertainment are a few of the events offered. Note: The Navy Pier is closed until Spring 2021.
Finish your gift shopping at their famous, Christkindlmarket, a large traditional German – style Christmas market. Roasted nuts, fresh pretzels & bratwurst, oh my. Note: This year the Christkindlmarket will be virtual.
Popular tourist attractions tend to be less crowded in winter. Family friendly Chicago winter activities include:
- The Field Museum – Learn about Human History and Dinosaurs
- Skate through picturesque Millenium Park or at Maggie Daley Park
- Take a photo of the famous “Bean” statue at Millenium Park
- Get close to sharks at the Wild Reef Exhibit, Shedd Aquarium
- See a Broadway play at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
- Eat an iconic Chicago Dog and deep dish pizza.
- Wander the Chicago Lakefront Path
Hot Tip: If you are planning on taking in multiple museums and attractions look into buying a CityPass. Spend Less and Experience More.
Where to Stay in Chicago, IL
Our top picks for family friendly accommodations in Chicago include the Embassy Suites Downtown by Hilton and the Radisson Blu Aqua.
We like that the Embassy Suites has the feel of a home away from home, with a living/dining area and separate bedroom. Access to a heated pool, delicious breakfast, and close to many of Chicago’s family attractions, it hits all of our requirments for a fun family stay. The also have a location at the Magnificent Mile.
The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel is another great option, that has it all. The Radisson has pools, jacuzzis, an indoor basketball court, a fitness areas, and free WIFI (great for the teens). Plus it’s within a 15 minute walk to many attractions including Millenium Park, and Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile shopping, theatre district and more.
Bonus: Stowe, VT
Stowe, Vermont is a fantastic and irresistible place to visit in winter. If you are looking for top notch skiing and boarding in the East, try out Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield.
Besides hitting the slopes, the Stowe Mountain Resort offers scenic gondola rides, ice skating, snowshoeiing, and a Spa, perfect for a holiday getaway.
Stowe, VT is home to Weissner Woods, perfect for short winter hikes or a little snowshoeiing.
The Stoweflake Resort offers the full experience. From their own skating pond, to sleigh rides, dogsledding and a Spa, there is something for everyone. Their moonlight guided snowshoe to a hidden sugarhouse in the woods is on my winter bucketlist.
If you are looking for other fun things to do in Stowe, Vermont, check out our 20 recommendations.
With so many options for a fun winter vacation in the USA, which one will go on your bucket list? What’s your favourite place to visit for snow? Let us know in the comments below, or connect with us on social media. We’d love to hear from you!
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11 Best Places To Visit In Winter In USA
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