17 of the most beautiful winter wonderlands

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Spreading cheer in the most enchanting winter destinations

Winter travel often means heading home for the holidays or escaping to warmer climates, but for the true aficionado of all things frosty, winter vacation getaways mean seeking the snowiest spots to ski, skate, and sled. If you aren’t obsessed with summer and feel just fine about fall, you may be a winter worshipper, and we’re right there with you. After all, what’s better than schussing down a mountain at high speeds, then getting toasty by a fire with a warm beverage in hand? Sounds like heaven to us.

We have determined the top winter destinations for people with a penchant for crisp, clean air, storybook ski chalets, frozen ponds, and homey ways to warm up. We’ve awarded these winter wonderlands ratings based on the following:

The Snow Levels icon is based on average annual snowfall.

🏔The Scenery icon is given for the beauty of the town and its natural surroundings.

The Activities icon is determined by the number of things to do, from outdoor recreation to festivals and events.

So, button up and grab your mittens; we’re taking you on a tour of the best places to travel in winter. Fans of ice and snow may already know, but these frosty fairylands can win over the most diehard sun worshipper. On your mark, get set, let it snow!

 

Camden, Maine

Top left: Marina French; Top right: Robert M. Ring; Bottom right: Dominic Trapani


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


Maine in the winter, have we gone nuts? No…but you may over how beautiful this seaport town is year-round. Unlike some of its frozen-over counterparts, Camden stays active and (mostly) open throughout the winter, though it does get its fair share of weather. Snowfall averages at 58 inches, landing it in the middle of snowiest wonderlands on this list. Camden Snow Bowl is hopping with 105 acres of skiable terrain and a toboggan shoot complete with custom, locally made rides form Camden Toboggan Company. When it’s time to head indoors, The Drouthy Bear is a delightful place to warm up with a mac and cheese pie and a single malt scotch. It doesn’t get more quintessentially winter than Camden.

 

Alta, Utah


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷


Conflicting reports estimate the snowfall in this region and at the ski areas is anywhere between 80 and 514 inches! Either way, you’re gonna see some snow, and the fluffy, powdery variety at that. With a motto of, “ski, rest, repeat,” Alta Ski Area is the main attraction in town. Handle the “rest” part at Alta Peruvian Lodge, which has a classic ski chalet look and an on-site lounge for après-ski relaxation. Step up your “repeat” game the next day by heli-skiing with Powderbird as they take you on a helicopter into the backcountry for skiing of new proportions. In the midst of untouched snow and mountain views in all directions, you’ll wonder why you didn’t explore this land sooner.

 

Munising, Michigan

All photos: Cori-Ann Cearley


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


If you’re afraid you’ll miss snow this year, never fear: 153 inches fall here on average, and some usually sticks around Munising until March, so you’ve got some time to make a plan for Mr. Snowman. Flit and frolic in your own personal snow globe at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where the snowflakes fall in still and silent woods, coating the land in quiet beauty. Let the trees sit still—you’ve got exploring to do. Cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice climbing await! The region is rife with activities to do in the winter, especially in February during Ice Fest, when seasoned climbers explore their sport.

 

Stratton Mountain, Vermont

All photos: Hubert Schriebl


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


What goes better with winter than pine trees and mountain tops? At the tallest peak in southern Vermont, the skiing is grand, the town is quaint, and the snow is falling. One of the earliest destinations for snowboarding, it’s less than an hour drive from the birthplace of the modern snowboard, and boasts 97 trails that fan out from one summit. The tube park has a warming hut with crackling fire, Green Mountain Mushers will take you on a 90-minute dog sled adventure, and Scott Big Ed Fat Bike rentals provide fun for the family. Of course, you’ll want to spend time in the enchanting Village with its shops, spas and restaurants all in a row.

 

Spearfish Canyon area, South Dakota

All photos: Spearfish and SD Tourism


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


The beauty of the Black Hills National Forest cannot be overstated, and winter brings its own glitter and sheen to the enchanted land. Waterfalls freeze into impressive sculptural icicles that rival Chihuly sculptures in complexity. Snowmobiling is best for those with a need for speed, but a quieter, relaxed day of snowshoeing is a wonderful way to see and explore. Stomp snow off your boots and get cozy at Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Lead, with its giant lobby fireplace and picture windows that let you enjoy the snowy scenes in warmth. The best part? You can bring your best furry friend for a small pet fee.

 

Jackson, New Hampshire


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


With its red covered bridge, tall evergreens, and surrounding White Mountains, this alpine skiing destination casts a strong winter spell. Between pond skating and horse-drawn sleigh rides, Jackson has a way of making the cold months feel warm and wonderful. You can do both at the too-cute-to-be-real Nestlenook Farm, where even the name feels like a hug. Enjoy the crisp mountain air on Great Glen Trails, and newbies will especially love Learn to Ski Month at the outdoor center all through January. For a quintessentially quaint winter getaway, Jackson is your surest bet.

 

Fargo, North Dakota

Left and Top right: Flickr/Jonathan Kotta; Bottom right: Flickr/Brandon Kopp


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


North Dakota winters are not for the faint of heart, but if it’s snow you want, snow you shall get. Meet Jack Frost face-to-face while gliding across frozen depths at Downtown on Ice, the Park District’s outdoor rink, or on one of the many impressive cross-country skiing trails in the region. Nearby Buffalo River State Park holds regular candlelight ski events, where glowing lanterns light your way as you traverse the park. Afterward, you’re greeted with warm beverages around a cheerful fire. Horse-drawn carriages from Rusty K Ranch will drive you through downtown Fargo as you bundle up near your loved one and take in the sugar-crystal sights.

 

Erie, Pennsylvania

Top left, Top right, Bottom right: Visit Erie; Bottom left: M. Markilinski


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


Snow is in the air…and on the ground…and all around in this wintry dreamland. Annual fall is around 113 inches, and the people of Erie know how to take full advantage. From classic activities like ice fishing and ice skating to the lesser-known ice boating, outdoor fun abounds at places like Asbury Woods and beyond. Presque Isle State Park is home to must-sees like the picture-perfect Presque Isle Light, and Erie Bluffs State Park is a beautiful space for quiet winter strolls. Just make sure to pack your mittens, you never know when a snowball fight will ensue.

 

Haverhill, Massachusetts

Left: Hillary Rogers; Right: North of Boston CVB


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


A snow-capped castle, frozen lake, and jingle bell sleigh rides: no, this isn’t movie magic, this is Haverhill. Add a charming downtown with park benches, decorative lampposts, and classic brick buildings, and you’ve got the perfect backdrop for your next holiday card…or your next ten. Start at Winnekenni Castle, on the shores of Kenoza Lake, where 10 miles of hiking trails and pine forests surround the 1873 fairytale building. For structures of a more playful kind, head to Ski Bradford, where the terrain park’s rails and boxes are ready for some slick tricks. When your toes are numb and your nose is red, head inside to wet your whistle and warm your belly at the cozy Keon’s restaurant.

 

Big Bear Lake, California

All photos: Big Bear Visitors Bureau


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


Perhaps it’s not the biggest or most well-known ski destination, but what it lacks in acclaim, Big Bear makes up for in appeal. Wood cabins dot the mountainside, and there are hills for tubing, resorts for skiing, and plenty of fun to be had around town. The Village is the dining and shopping heart, where fire pits warm the hands of visitors browsing for local treasures, and storefronts draw the eye with twinkly lights and seasonal displays. Restaurants like Evergreen serve hearty fare to fill you up after a fast-paced day bob sledding on the Alpine Slide. Let the frosty day melt away when you tuck in at one of Embers Lodge and Cabins Swiss chalet-style rooms.

 

McCall, Idaho


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


Is there anything better than feeling warm and secure in the midst of a gorgeous snowscape? It’s our opinion that you haven’t lived until you’ve caught a snowflake on your tongue while soaking in inviting, steamy water. Gold Fork Hot Springs delivers near to McCall, where annual snowfall is 132 inches, and water temps range from 85-110 degrees F. You just may need a soak after a day cross-country skiing in the huge expanse of forest that surrounds the town. Bear Basin Nordic Center offers nearly 20 miles of maintained trails, and Little Ski Hill has night skiing and six ski runs. Come to town during the McCall Winter Carnival, where you can tour snow sculptures at a scale you’ve never seen—some are as large as buildings.

 

Leavenworth, Washington

Top right: Yelp_Heather B.; Bottom left: Flickr/Luis Antonio Rodríguez Ochoa; Bottom right: Flickr/Dan


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


This Bavarian-style village is straight out of a storybook, and no season suits it better than winter. It’s a place where you can meet reindeer at a family-run farm in the morning and spend an exhilarating afternoon ice climbing with Northwest Mountain School. Open sleighs await at Mountain Springs Lodge, where your horse-drawn journey over meadows and through woods begins. You’ll stop for cider in the barn and to warm by a fire. An unforgettable trek with Blue Sky Outfitters should be on your list, too. Their snowshoe and wine adventure takes you along the wonderfully named Icicle River Trail and culminates in light lunch and wine tasting at area favorites. To gorge on luscious winter scenery solo, visit the Waterfront Park Trail to snowshoe along the gorgeous Wenatchee River through riverbank forests.

 

Stowe, Vermont

Top right: Yelp/Michael S.; Bottom left: Yelp/Brendan S.


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


This town is everything you think of in a winter wonderland. Annual snowfall is more than 300 inches, and the mountain backdrop, covered bridge, ski and après-ski culture, and countless things to do will make you loathe to leave the magical sphere that is the “Stowe globe.” See your favorite warm weather activities in a new, glistening light by venturing on a winter zip line with nearby ArborTrek, or get back on your favorite summer trails on a snow-friendly fat bike. Traditional modes of snow transport set a pristine scene, like mushing with a team of Siberian huskies across wintry landscapes. The happy dogs at Peace Pups in nearby Lake Elmore will take you through eye-pleasing panoramas at heart-racing speeds. We could go on, but the bottom line? Get yourself to Stowe in winter.

 

Greenough, Montana


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷


’Tis the season for Greenough’s landscape to transform into silvers and whites, and this wild winter land is all about nature’s wonders. Game to try something new in Missoula County? If you’ve never heard of skijoring, head to The Resort at Paws Up to try being pulled by a speeding horse (or dogs!) while on skis. If that sounds a bit outside your comfort zone, you can visit the sleepy Garnet Ghost Town for a quiet snow-capped afternoon or take part in more traditional activities like ice skating or downhill skiing. Cover more of the abundant ground on a snowmobile then grab some chow at Trough Restaurant. Their nourishing Western-style food will warm you from the inside.

 

Ouray, Colorado

All photos: Katharina Papenbrock


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


Sometimes called the Switzerland of America, Ouray has classic winter wonderland written all over it. Snow-dusted mountains, twinkly fairy lights, and original Victorian structures add to the all-around splendor. It’s about a lot more than looks here, though. Warm and inviting sulfur-free hot springs will ease away any woes, while the backcountry beckons horseback riders or skiers seeking a diverting day on untracked slopes. Plan your trip around the seven-week WinterFest, which runs from Thanksgiving through January and includes a full calendar of events, from the Christmas parade to gingerbread workshops to the crowning Ouray Ice Festival. Speaking of ice, Ouray Ice Park has more than 200 ice climbs available throughout the season, so prepare for some serious exploring.

 

Essex, Connecticut


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


Though this pleasant Connecticut town is the least snowy of our destinations, when the flakes do start falling, there’s nothing more beautiful. With its Colonial buildings and pictorial Main Street, Essex exemplifies what a showstopper winter can be with or without snow. Plenty of park space is yours to explore along the calm Connecticut River. When winter winds have nipped at your nose, thaw out in the sauna and steam rooms at The Spa of Essex. You’ll feel extra relaxed as you peruse the seasonally inspired pieces at Spectrum Art Gallery’s Winter! Its Beauty & Secrets exhibit. If you’re in town around the holidays, the North Pole Express from Essex Steam Train is a magical nighttime journey during which a musical performance of The Night Before Christmas unfolds in each coach. No matter the time of year (but especially when you need a cheery place to cozy up in), no trip to Essex is complete without visiting the iconic 18th-century Griswold Inn for a bite and a pint.

 

La Crosse, Wisconsin

All photos: Explore La Crosse


Average annual snowfall: ❄ ❄ ❄
Beauty: 🏔 🏔 🏔 🏔
Activities: ⛷ ⛷ ⛷ ⛷


Christmas lovers want to pay special attention to La Crosse because come holiday season, Riverside Park is transformed into a sparkling extravaganza. More than 4 million lights reflect on crystalline snow, with animated structures, a 140-foot tree, and Santa on site taking wish lists until Christmas Eve. If you can’t make it for the holidays, there is still plenty of cheer(s) to be had at Pearl Street Brewery, especially at their Winter Ball in February. Ski the day away at Mount La Crosse then close the evening at the chalet’s bar, St. Bernard Room. Zoom out and see the whole town from the lookout at Grandad Bluff Park. It’s unrivaled in breathtaking panoramic views.

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Lily Rogers

Lily is a Southern California-based writer, editor, and traveler. She aspires to never be too far away from her next adventure, whether it be exploring the deserts of SoCal or the mossy forests of her native Pacific Northwest. She also loves international travel and always looks forward to crossing another destination off her bucket list.

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