Alaska's Northern Lights scenery.
If you venture to Alaska, there's a multitude of Northern Lights tours you'll be able to experience.
Photo Credit: Getty

Where Will Winter Take You? Discover U.S. Vacation Hotspots

4 of the Best Winter Vacations in the U.S.

Winter travel brings to mind visions of picturesque snow-covered landscapes, adrenaline-pumping downhill skiing and festive celebrations. Winter travelers looking for the true winter experience will find what they are looking for in these best winter vacations in the U.S.

Experience Alaska’s Winter Wonderland

While tourists flock to Alaska in the summertime to enjoy the scenery with more favorable temperatures and the convenience of summer cruise schedules, the 49th state becomes a veritable winter wonderland in the colder months. Visiting Alaska during winter is similar to traveling in the Nordic countries of Europe. You’ll find Northern Lights tours, some of the country’s best skiing resorts, every sort of snow activity you could hope for, opportunities to meet Santa Claus and breathtaking snowy landscapes.

One of the best winter activities in Alaska is taking a ride on the Aurora Winter Train. The Alaska Railroad operates year-round and offers visitors a chance to see some of the most untouched winter scenery in Alaska from the warmth of your train car. We recommend taking a trip on the train up to Fairbanks to view the Aurora. Booking a local Aurora-viewing tour with an Alaskan company gives you the best chance to spot the Northern Lights and many offer a guarantee so you can return to try again if you don’t see the Aurora the first time.

One of Alaska’s most famous events is held in winter. The Iditarod kicks off the first Saturday in March in Anchorage. Even though you’ll have to battle the crowds, seeing the ceremonial start is quite the memorable experience!

If you are traveling with kids, Alaska is an attractive winter destination because you can visit Santa Claus in the North Pole! North Pole, Alaska is decked out in Christmas decorations year-round, and you can even have your picture made with Santa no matter what month you visit, although it’s more magical during the holidays.

An in-motion snap shot of Leavenworth, Washington while someone is riding in a chariot.In Leavenworth, you get the Europe vibe without having to cross the ocean. Photo Credit: Getty

Have a European Vacation in Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, Washington is a Bavarian-styled village in Washington State’s Cascade mountains. Be transported to Europe as you enjoy German beer and pretzels and admire the Alpine-style buildings which line the streets. There’s also a nutcracker museum featuring thousands of nutcrackers, some hundreds of years old.

Many people visit Leavenworth in winter because of the nearby Stevens Pass mountain resort. The resort skiing is world-class, with 52 major runs spanning all levels from beginners to experts. There’s also plenty of opportunities to enjoy backcountry alpine skiing or snowshoeing on miles and miles of snowy trails around Leavenworth. Of course, if you’ve got kids in tow, you’ll have to check out the sledding hills around town. The most popular is at Front Street Park while Waterfront Park boasts a bigger hill and fewer people.

Each year, Leavenworth is decked out in more than half a million Christmas lights. Each winter, on Saturdays and Sundays during the Christmas season, the town hosts a ceremonial Christmas Lighting Festival where you can enjoy seeing the town transformed into the ultimate winter wonderland. The Christmas Lighting Festival is not the only winter festival happening in Leavenworth. The town’s German-style Christmas market called the Christkindlmarkt is held in November and is a great place to pick up some souvenir ornaments or gifts for family and friends. Later in the season, the Bavarian Ice Festival is usually held during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

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A ski resort in Showshoe, West Virginia.This area is known for one of the best ski resorts, Snowshoe Resort, that spans 250 acres. Photo Credit: Getty

Enjoy the Ultimate Winter Sports Destination in Snowshoe, West Virginia

If a trip to the big mountains out west isn’t in the stars this year, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a fantastic winter vacation with skiing, snow and everything else you imagined.

Snowshoe Resort sits in the Allegheny Mountains, just under five hours away from Washington DC and within easy reach of much of the east coast. Snowshoe claims to have the best snow in the region. The resort covers 250 acres and has 15 lifts servicing 60 trails and four terrain parks. There is also a tubing facility on site.

The Village at Snowshoe offers retail shopping, dining, equipment rentals, a Ski school and a free shuttle bus to access area resorts and attractions. The ski school offers instruction for all ages and ability levels and is a great way to get off to a good start if you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding.

Other winter activities available at Snowshoe include a 15,000 square foot playground for children, heated indoor and outdoor swimming, an on-site spa, Polaris RZR Tours and much more. There’s plenty of activities for all types of visitors, making Snowshoe the perfect family getaway that everyone will enjoy.

Finger Lakes scenery in New York as the sun is setting.Finger Lakes is the ideal place for ice fishing.

Experience a Different Side of the Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes region is known for its wine country and is a popular summertime destination. However, during winter, a different side shines through. Visitors during winter will find the Finger Lakes region to be equally fun and doubly enchanting when compared to visiting during the summer.

Winter is a fabulous time to try ice fishing, and the Finger Lakes are a hot spot for catching trout and salmon during the icy months. Keuka Lake is one of the best places to try ice fishing in the area.

The Finger Lakes area has two fabulous ski resorts: Greek Peak Mountain Resort and Bristol Ski Resort. They both offer downhill skiing, rentals and Nordic skiing centers. You can also try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at nearby state parks including Letchworth State Park and Hammond Hill State Forest.

When you’ve had enough of the chilly weather, you’ll be glad to know that the Finger Lakes area has a number of fabulous cultural attractions. Notably, area museums include the Rockwell Museum which features the works of a range of American artists. The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York offers visitors the chance to see how glass is made, and even try out glass-blowing for yourself.

During the holiday season, there are several fabulous winter festivals and celebrations. One of the most iconic is the Watkins Glen Village Christmas Festival. The It’s a Wonderful Life Celebration in Seneca is also well worth checking out.

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