12 of America’s Prettiest Winter Towns
Have the winter blues? Maybe that’s because you’re not taking full advantage of the beauty the coldest season of the year offers. Celebrate the snowflakes in one of these cozy towns where winter reigns supreme.
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Step foot in Vail and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a fairy tale come to life. Tucked in the White River National Forest, Vail is a small town at the base of Vail Mountain, which opened in 1962. With world-renowned ski trails, innovative cuisine, and chic après-ski spots, the area attracts travelers from all corners of the globe. The town is dripping with old world Alpine charm with outdoor skating rinks, pedestrian-only shopping areas, and heated streets. The Lodge at Vail, A RockResort was the original hotel in the town. But don’t worry, thanks to a recent renovation of its International Wing, the hotel is better than ever. Dogs are also welcome at the hotel, so bring along your pooch for some snowy fun. Don’t miss the 9 small American towns you’d swear were from Europe.
A picture-perfect village in northern Vermont, Stowe, is overlooked by Mount Mansfield, known for its trails and ski slopes. Whether you want to snowshoe, ski, snowboard, or just get your cheeks rosy in the fresh winter air, this is a great place to do it! Rent a cabin in the woods, go to the Ben & Jerry’s factory, and sit by the fire at Idletyme Brewing for a comforting bowl of truffle mac & cheese and a refreshing craft beer. Stowe is also known for its awesome Oktoberfest, come fall.
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This quaint New England town may best be known for its stunning coastline in the summer, but that’s exactly what makes it shine in the winter as well. The seaside town is riddled with colorful buildings that peek through the white snow, making for a scenic contrast that’ll inspire a long, outdoor stroll. With fewer people in sight, somehow the quiet becomes a brilliant buzz that begs for you to enter the cozy restaurants and watering holes. Stay at the Kennebunkport Inn, which is just steps from Kennebunkport’s Dock Square. It’s homey and historical with modern conveniences. On your snowy stroll, be sure to stop into the specialty shops for unique finds. Fill your belly with innovative cuisine at Ocean Restaurant, paired with a full-bodied red wine. You’ll appreciate it after being on your feet all day.
Mammoth Lakes, California
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Located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain, Mammoth Lakes is best known as a top destination for whipping down the slopes on skis or a snowboard. To ensure the best access to the mountain resort’s amenities and activities, you’ll want to stay on the west side of town. The Westin Monache Resort is located in the heart of the village, where you’ll find quaint restaurants, bars, and places to shop. For the adventurous, check out the clothing-optional hot springs between the towns of Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport, like Buckeye. Can’t make it this winter? Mammoth also has a fun Labor Day scene.
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If the only thing that brings you to Midway is its looks, that’s one good reason. The mountain views will humble you, while the scenic open space is mesmerizing. The winter is exceptionally striking, thanks to the annual Ice Castles, massive handmade structures are works of art that are made with almost 20 million pounds of ice. Go to Soldier Hollow Resort for more than 20 miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Stay at Zermatt Resort of European-influenced luxury, and get a juicy steak after a long day in the snow at Z Chop Haus. Can’t travel? Here’s how to bring the spirit of winter into your own home.
Neighboring the resort city of Sun Valley, Ketchum, is home to Ernest Hemingway’s final residence. The city is situated in the Wood River Valley underneath Bald Mountain, and boasts spectacular views of the countryside. The winter lends itself well to the land, from the Sun Valley alpine skiing area to the majestic Bald Mountain Ski slopes, and the Sawtooth National Forest. Rent a unique tree house in downtown Ketchum, or opt for luxury at the Sun Valley Resort. Go to Big Wood Bar and Grill for seafood mountain style with noteworthy views of the Bald Mountain, the Boulders, and Galena Peak.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
This is a storybook mountain village that will steal your heart with its century-old charm. Nearby ski areas, including Appalachian Ski Mountain, Ski Beech, and Sugar Mountain, are sure to keep you busy if you’re the active type. Head downtown for unique shops and outlets, get a massage at The Spa at Chetola Resort, and stay at Blowing Rock Ale House and Inn, just one block from Main Street. The five-room inn features Blowing Rock’s first micro-brewery. If you’re a craft beer fan, you’ll definitely want to check out our list of the best craft brews by state.
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A town in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole valley, there are three ski areas for winter enthusiasts to choose from: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain Resort, and Grand Targhee Resort. This authentic wild west destination features various mom-and-pop motels, off-duty ranchers in boots, and cowboy bars. The Grand Tetons are an awe-inspiring sight to behold, and won’t leave your view as you frolic through the landscape. Go to Cafe Genevieve for dining in a quaint log cabin, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for bar stools fitted with saddles, plus line dancing, and stay at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole for breathtaking views of the Teton Mountain Range.
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Winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, and even dog sledding are popular in Bozeman. Rent a guest ranch, cabin, or stay at Chico Hot Springs and soak in the natural mineral pools. The turn-of-the-century buildings in downtown feature coffeehouses, galleries, sports bars, and eclectic boutiques. If you’re looking for an alternative to the sought-after ski mountain at Big Sky in Bozeman, look no further than the quaint town of Red Lodge. The lift lines and crowds are smaller at Red Lodge Nordic, and the town is historic and full of character.
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This quaint and historic town offers a range of outdoor adventures, breathtaking views, and rich artistic and cultural experiences along with river gorges and high limestone bluffs that create a sensational scene among the powdery snow. Stay at Cedar Valley Resort, a gorgeous 11-cabin resort tucked within 30 acres of secluded valley on the Root River Trail. While in town, grab and brew and listen to some live tunes at High Court Pub, and enjoy fine dining in a casual setting at Old Village Hall Restaurant & Pub.
Old Wethersfield, Connecticut
For that New England charm, check out Old Wethersfield, Connecticut’s largest historic district and first permanent settlement. You’ll find 150-plus buildings that date from before 1850, and another 50 from before the Revolutionary War. Stay at the Silas W. Robbins House Bed and Breakfast, offering five luxurious guest rooms decorated with period furniture. Other ideas: See a performance at the local opera house, take a wintry stroll along the historic streets, and enjoy a view of the Connecticut River from anywhere you sit at the aptly named River Restaurant.
Red River, New Mexico
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Northeast of Taos in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Red River is a tiny destination, so tiny it has only one road! But that one road has a lot of funk, including Alpine-style restaurants and bars, draft beer, Texas barbecue hole-in-the-walls, and a whole lot of twang. The terrain lends itself to snowmobiling tours, snowshoeing, and skiing. For downhill skiing, go to Red River Ski Area, and Enchanted Forest for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. Be sure to go to Bull O’ The Woods Saloon for cold drinks and easy grub in a casual and lively atmosphere, and stay in one of the cabins that line Main Street for that quintessential mountain feel.