The Today’s Homeowner team cast their votes on the best winter getaways in the US. Our list includes destinations for the outdoorsman, beach lover, and tourist alike.
At Today’s Homeowner, we typically focus on how to save homeowners time and money with things like reviews of the top home warranty companies or the cheapest home warranty plans. However, sometimes you just need to get away and relax — even if that’s in the winter months. For some, winter means embracing the cold, strapping on some skis, and donning a hat. Others look for relief from the low temperatures in the form of beaches or small southern hideaways. We at Today’s Homeowner believe that wherever you go, a beautiful and unique environment is key to the experience. This list of winter vacation spots is jam-packed with beautiful villages, stylish hotels, and stunning landscapes.
Cody is absolutely the winter getaway for the outdoorsman. Perhaps one of the most unique draws on our winter travel list is Cody’s Ice Festival, where novice and experienced climbers can take on some of the best ice climbing in the country. Sign up for a clinic during the day and have a drink with fellow climbers at night.
“The Cody Ice Fest promotes safety, stewardship, education, and camaraderie in a positive and professional environment,” says Ari Novak, director of the Cody Ice Festival. “This is one of those sports where you can find yourself receiving a climbing tip from a star like Conrad Anker during the day and sharing a joke with him and others in the evening when everyone is winding down.”
The ice climbs are frozen spring-fed waterfalls on mountains of volcanic soil. “Climbers are still discovering new waterfalls in the region, and some have made dozens of ‘first ascents’ over the past few years.”
Wilmington and its neighboring beaches are obvious destinations for the summer months, but there’s plenty up for grabs in this sleepy winter town.
If you’re the indoor type, you can take in a play at the beautiful and historic Thalian Hall or visit the galleries at the Cameron Art Museum (check out Jazz@CAM on Thursdays). Though Wilmington does see the occasional snow, winter temperatures don’t typically drop below 40 degrees, so Wilmington’s walkable downtown historic district is ideal for winter visitors.
Wilmington also supports a wealth of excellent restaurants. Enjoy simply yet impeccably dressed regional ingredients at Pinpoint. Stop in at Manna on Sunday evenings and put yourself at the mercy of Manna’s chef for their beggars can’t be choosers tasting menu. Dine at Rx for a plate of beautifully updated southern food.
The Port City’s historic downtown also has plenty in the way of great breweries within walking distance of each other. Check out Edward Teach Brewing, Flytrap Brewing, New Anthem, Iron Clad, and Wilmington Brewing Company.
Photo by Lee Cohen
Just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, this tiny town of fewer than 400 is known for its spectacular powder ski slopes. Snow bunnies can also try out heli-skiing (yes, helicopters are involved), snowcat skiing, off-piste skiing, and snowshoeing. Novices can sign up for a lesson at Alf Engen Ski School or skip the slopes altogether and book a spa appointment at the forthcoming Stillwell Spa.
There are five hotels in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but in January of 2019, Snowpine Lodge will open as the first luxury resort to offer ski-in/ski-out access. The resort will feature a full-service spa, a gastropub with ski slope views, and a gourmet dining experience.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head is the perfect winter destination for those who want to skip the summer tourist rush. Glorious 60-degree winter temperatures mean plenty of opportunity for enjoying the low country scenery. Put in a workout by paddling the 11-mile lagoon at Palmetto Dunes, hit the links for a round of golf or a lesson at one of the many world-class golf courses on the island, or try something a little different and visit Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge for a day of birdwatching.
Hilton Head is home to fewer than 40,000 permanent residents, so off-season visits are wonderfully peaceful, an opportunity to enjoy this quiet island for its marshy Atlantic beauty and take full advantage of killer hotel rates. Check into the Omni Hilton Head and book a full-day package at the Ocean Tides spa.
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Welcome to Kennett Square, the mushroom capital of the world, who’s so proud of this accolade (the mushrooms are amazing) that on New Year’s Eve at Midnight in the Square, the town drops an eight-foot, 700-pound, lighted stainless steel mushroom to mark the changing of the years. Exactly what we never knew we needed.
In February, check out the Kennett Winterfest, Kennett Square’s annual beer celebration, where you can taste more than 60 local and regional beers, hear live music, and grab bites at food trucks.
But if you visit Kennett Square this winter, do so for no reason other than to see Longwood Gardens, one of the great horticultural display gardens this side of the world. Wander forty gardens of breathtaking floral displays and see a chamber orchestra performance in one of the beautiful conservatories. And don’t miss Longwood Gardens’ Orchid Extravaganza, which begins in January. Longwood has a collection of 6,200 orchid plants in more than 2,200 types, and the Orchid Extravaganza is a months’ long theatrical display of this incredible orchid collection. See the orchids as they hang from above, shoot overhead in an arch, and spill out of the walls.
Fairbanks is one of the best places to see the aurora borealis. From Fairbanks, you can book a heated “aurorium” cabin, see the lights on an overnight sled dog exhibition, or catch a flight above the arctic circle to view the wild cosmic display. Perfect for the snow lover, Fairbanks usually accumulates at least a foot of snow by the end of November.
Get the total Fairbanks experience with a trip to Chena Hot Springs Resort, where you can take a dog sled ride (and meet the Husky puppies that are bred and trained for this ancient sport, get a deep-tissue massage in a mountain cabin, and take a dip in Hot Springs Lake. Chena Hot Springs draws visitors from around the world who bathe in the bubbling waters believed to have healing properties.
Skaneateles, New York
Lovers of the literary classic A Christmas Carol need look no further than Skaneateles, New York. Every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the town transforms into a living ode to Dickens’s most famous work. Meet characters from the story, enjoy street performances from the novel, watch “the world’s smallest Christmas parade,” try on period costumes, and join in the Christmas carolling.
Skaneateles is in New York’s famous Finger Lakes region. The Finger Lakes’ high elevation and cold weather make it one of the great wine-producing regions in the States, specifically for German varietals like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Go for a tasting and a tour at one of the region’s 130 wineries and enjoy the mountain views.
Art lovers should visit the 100-year-old John D. Barrow Art Gallery, which displays paintings by Barrow himself, who, through the use of light and shade, captured the beauty of the late-nineteenth-century Finger Lakes.
This small town just north of Santa Barbara is a destination for Christmas lovers. Solvang’s annual Julefest takes place every December. Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit with candlelight tours, tree lighting, a nativity pageant, and wine and beer walks.
Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Danish settlers inspired the Danish Provincial style of architecture in Solvang’s Danish village, which includes four windmills and a square of buildings half-timbered in the provincial style.
Newport is known for is stunning coastal views. Explore the historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, take a whale-watching excursion, catch a performance by the Newport Symphony Orchestra, visit a local brewery, and cash in on the total Pacific Northwest experience with a stay in a heated yurt.
Visit in February to enjoy the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival, which showcases more than 150 premier northwestern wines (plus competitions for amateurs), culinary professionals, and regional artisans.
Photo via Riverbend Hot Springs
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
The small town of Truth or Consequences is well worth the trip for the relaxation factor. Book your stay at Riverbend Hot Springs and enjoy the picturesque scenery of the southwestern landscape: relish views of Turtleback Mountain while soaking in bubbling mineral springs along the Rio Grande, magically lit in colorful light displays by night.
The story behind the town’s wild name is even weirder than you’d expect. Once called Hot Springs, the town changed its name to Truth or Consequences in 1950 when Ralph Edwards, host of the radio game show Truth or Consequences said he would host the show in the first town that made itself a namesake of the show. In 1967, T or C residents voted to make the name permanent.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston might not exactly be a small town, but if there ever were a great time to visit this city, it’s winter. Skip the tourist crowds that flock to this city from April to October and explore historic Charleston in leisurely style.
Winter is perfect for taking advantage of off-season rates at Charleston’s fabulous boutique hotels and B&Bs. Both Elliott House Inn and Zero George have made Today’s Homeowner’s list of great hotels for design lovers. Art lovers should also consider The Vendue, Charleston’s only art hotel.
Visitors shouldn’t miss the exquisite faire at The Rarebit, whose spot-on mid-century interior is a true delight for the lover of beautiful spaces. And bibliophiles will appreciate the Charleston Library Society, which predates our public library system. Its collection includes rare and collectible books and handwritten letters from OG president George Washington.
Late-winter visitors can enjoy the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, which takes place in early March and features a culinary village, chef demos, private signature dinners, beverage workshops, and more.
Photo courtesy Visit Estes Park
Estes Park, Colorado
The unspoiled alternative to Aspen, Breckenridge, and Vail, Estes Park is the greatest winter town you’ve never heard of. Ski the slopes, try backcountry skiing or splitboarding, take an ice climbing trip, go ice fishing, and snowshoe the Rocky Mountain trails all from this small mountain town. An interesting note about Estes Park: this town has no ski lifts at all. Here, winter sports are 100% human powered.
When you’ve had your fill of the slopes, take a wildlife-watching jaunt through the protected lands of Kawuneeche Valley and glimpse elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, bobcats, and lynx.
Book a room at The Stanley and wake up to views of sapphire-blue Lake Estes on one side and the dramatic cliffs of the Rocky Mountains on the other.
South Padre Island, Texas
When you’re done with snow, head south to South Padre Island. This Gulf Coast barrier island sees wintertime temps in the 60s and 70s and is perfect for the traveler looking to escape the cold and get into some water sports. Book a stay at the Pearl South Padre or go private and rent a beautiful beachfront home for serene ocean views.
Go deep-sea fishing to enjoy the waves or go parasailing to get a bird’s-eye view of the island. Try flyboarding, windsurfing, sailing, surfing, kiteboarding, and more.
Harrisonburg sits nestled deep in the Shenandoah Valley, a beautiful basin of land between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Downtown Harrisonburg is comfortable, cozy, and walkable, dappled with homegrown restaurants (get the prosciutto and arugula at Bella Luna), breweries (check out Pale Fire Brewing Co.), and coffee shops (try Black Sheep).
From the historic city center, amblers can enjoy 360-degree views of the ancient mountain ranges that border the town of Harrisonburg. If you’re lucky enough to catch Harrisonburg in the snow, that view will stick with you.
Nearby ski resorts at Massanutten and Wintergreen are just a quick and scenic drive from historic Harrisonburg. Harrisonburg is also home to James Madison University, so winter visitors can catch a basketball game at the JMU Convocation Center downtown.
North Conway, New Hampshire
This tiny New England town in the Mount Washington Valley is flanked on north and west by White Mountain National Forest—low, rolling mountains capped with snow in winter.
There are 13 ski resorts within a 30-minute drive of North Conway, where tourists can enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, fat biking, mountain biking, and hiking. For something a little more extreme, take a class at the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. Take a stroll around Schouler Park, North Conway’s classic town green, which sits adjacent to a Victorian railway station.
North Conway and its nearby towns are known for their covered bridges that you can see on a self-guided tour through splendid New England mountain country.
Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, Florida
For the traveler who just needs to beat the winter blues, Sanibel and Captiva Islands off the southern Gulf Coast of Florida fit the bill. Visitors will notice all the fantastic wildlife on these magical slivers of the island —rare birds, frogs, and island critters chirp and call throughout enchanting island nights.
Outdoor activities abound on these balmy Florida beaches. Go for a round of golf on one of the beachfront courses or book a court for a tennis match. Try snorkeling or scuba diving. Comb the beaches for delicate pastel coquinas and false angel wings (Sanibel has been named one of the best shelling spots in North America). Charter a private dolphin-watching or sunset cruise around Captiva, Sanibel, and their neighboring islands.
Midway is the epitome of a winter wonderland. Halfway between Salt Lake City and Provo, the small city of Midway attracts visitors from all over to see its wonderful and ethereal Ice Castles. These spectacular man-made structures are composed of icicles that are sprayed each day with water to create a labyrinth of glacial caves, slides (yes, slides!), and passageways. Wander the ice castles at night to experience the magical, multicolored light show.
While you’re enjoying chilly Midway, get into the holiday spirit with a sleigh ride through the Heber Valley or explore the landscape on horseback. And don’t miss the Homestead Crater, a 55-foot hunk beehive-shaped limestone that hides a geothermal spring—and yes, you can swim and even scuba in it.
Glen Ellen, California
This quiet village nestled in the heart of Sonoma County wine country is the winter destination for oenophiles. Full of wineries and tasting rooms and natural beauty, Glen Ellen is also home to breweries, cideries, distilleries, and fine dining. Between tastings, stroll the magnificent northern California forests, go for a hot-air balloon ride, or watch the sylvan wildlife.
Book your stay at Gaige House + Ryokan, a luxurious and secluded boutique hotel and spa experience whose rooms are dressed in Asian modernist style with giant soaking tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in swaths of West Coast sunset.
Stowe draws the crowds every winter to its famously good ski slopes. Outdoor winter activities abound: from alpine skiing to nordic skiing, fat biking, ice skating, dog sledding, and ice fishing, Stowe is the top choice for those looking to experience famous New England powder.
Stop by in January for the Stowe Winter Carnival and see ice carving competitions, snow golf, and snow volleyball tournaments. If you’re the cross-country skiing type, jump into the Stowe Derby, a 20-kilometer ski challenge throughout Stowe—experts and beginners welcome.
For a classic holiday experience, book a room at the Green Mountain Inn, an elegant mid-nineteenth-century inn on Main Street, or try the four-star-rated ski-in/ski-out Lodge at Spruce Peak, which also includes an indoor climbing wall, an ice skating rink, and shopping in Spruce Peak Village.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Choose Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for that nice and easy southern winter vacation. This beautiful harbor town on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is quaint, quiet, and clocks winter temperatures in the 60s.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, visit Bay St. Louis for Snowflakes in the Bay to see the 100-year-old live oaks donning twinkling snowflakes, or catch the Bay St. Louis Christmas Parade in early December.
Bay Saint Louis is part of a chain of charming little coastal communities, which includes Gulfport and Biloxi, so there is an endless number of day trips to be had from this lovely hideaway.