The Best Winter Destination in Every State
Whether you’re looking for fun in the snow or an escape from the cold, find your perfect spot for a winter getaway.
Alabama: Gulf Shores
Snowbirds head south to Alabama’s sunny coast for the winter, but Gulf Shores and its neighbor Orange Beach offer plenty to do for a family vacation as well. It might be a bit chilly for swimming in the sea, but the miles of pristine coastline is perfect for strolls and picnics. Visitors can also enjoy off-season rates on hotels, many of which offer heated or indoor pools. Mild temperatures also create ideal conditions to enjoy the area’s golfing, fishing, hiking, and kayaking spots. Find the best free tourist attraction in every state.
The Alaskan wilderness seems even more beautiful in the winter. Take the Aurora Winter Train from Anchorage to Fairbanks for gorgeous views of the snow-covered country and the majestic Denali peak. Once in Fairbanks, get ready for the Northern Lights, which are more reliably seen here than in the more southern Alaskan cities. Check out the World Ice Art Championships beginning in February for amazing frozen sculptures, then visit nearby Chena Hot Springs for an outdoor winter soak in this natural thermal spa. Winter activities in Fairbanks, including ice fishing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, round out your winter excursion.
All of Arizona can be beautiful in winter, but the higher elevations and northern areas of the state (including the Grand Canyon) may be colder than you’d expect. Instead, take the opportunity to visit locales that are scorching in summer but comfortable in winter, such as Scottsdale. Outside of Phoenix, the town offers superb golfing and spa resorts for a relaxing mid-winter break. In addition to urban delights like art galleries, boutiques, wine-tasing rooms, and restaurants, venture outside the city for breathtaking desert and mountain landscapes, horseback trips, and hot air balloon rides. Book one of the best last-minute getaways in every state.
Arkansas: Little Rock
Martin Luther King Day (January 21) and Black History Month (February) are the perfect time to explore the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Little Rock. The city also features top-notch museums: The Arkansas Arts Center has a not-to-be-missed collection of drawings as well as paintings and photographs; the Museum of Discovery delves into science and natural history; and the historic Old State House Museum explores Arkansas’ role in the Civil War. Plus, Little Rock’s arts and culture scene thrives in the downtown River Market district, where visitors can grab some yummy eats, listen to music, or wander among the shops.
California: Death Valley
From ski resorts to the desert escape of Palm Springs and the sunny beaches of San Diego, California has something for everyone in winter—whatever temperature you prefer. But our pick is the stunning Death Valley, the hottest spot on earth, for the simple reason that it’s the least deadly this time of year. Hiking is actually not even recommended in the lower elevations in summer, and is restricted overall to early morning hours. But winter visitors will be rewarded with ample time to explore the canyons, dunes, and peaks of the park. Plus, beautiful low-angled winter light creates Insta-worthy, no filter photos. For family fun, ranger-led programs are offered throughout the winter months, and opportunities for nighttime stargazing reveal planets and meteor showers. Check out more of the best weekend getaways in every state.
Colorado: Keystone Resort
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Pretty much everywhere in Colorado is a snowy paradise—the state was practically made for the winter season. One of the best spots for families is Keystone Resort. It hosts an annual Kidtopia, billed as “ultimate playground for family fun and adventure.” Families can explore a life-size snow fort, indulge in afternoon cookies and hot chocolate, and chill at the Kidtopia headquarters with crafts and games. Kidtopia Festivals throughout the winter, including a culinary celebration in February and a music experience in March. For lodging, check out the newly renovated Ski Tip Lodge. The historic bed and breakfast dates back to the 1860s when it was an original stagecoach stop.
Connecticut: Litchfield County
Nestled among rolling hills, this quaint New England county makes for a romantic winter getaway. Historic downtowns boasts boutiques, antique shops, and restaurants, including the lauded Arethusa al tavolo in Bantam, which sources its dairy products from Arethusa Dairy Farm nearby, and Community Table in Washington, which also procures locally grown ingredients. Enjoy the Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail, and splurge at one of the area’s lovely inns, such as the Mayflower Inn in Washington or Rock Hall in Colebrook. For outdoor winter fun, visit the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield. Read about the best Christmas town in every state.
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Wilmington’s sparkling Riverfront walk looks lovely in the winter months, as visitors flock to its restaurants and shopping spots as well as to the Horizon Services Riverfront Rink for ice-skating. Wilmington also offers indoor arts and culture activities at the Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Children’s Museum, and the Delaware Contemporary. Visitors also shouldn’t miss the city’s historic DuPont family mansions, including the Hagley Museum and Library, Nemours Estate, and Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library.
Florida: Key West
Winter is peak travel time in Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States, for a reason. Warm weather, sun, and a swimmable ocean (for northerners anyway; Floridians might think the 70-degree water is too cold) make it a top destination to get away from frigid temps. In addition to water activities like sailing, snorkeling, and diving, on cooler days visitors can check out historic sites like the Harry S. Truman Little White House, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and the Audubon House. Winter visitors can also enjoy the culinary delights of the 10th annual Key West Food and Wine Festival in late January. Here are more of the best warm-weather destinations to escape the cold.
Georgia: Golden Isles
The four barrier “Golden Isles” of St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea Island offer mild weather, low hotel rates, and fewer crowds in the winter season. With temperatures in the mid-60s, a light jacket is all visitors need for long walks on the beach and marshland explorations. Winter is a great time for bird watching as feathered friends come south for the season; lucky visitors may spot the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale on its winter migration as well. Plus, visit Jekyll Island in January or February for its Island Treasures event, in which hand-worked glass globes are hidden all over the island for visitors to find—and keep as a one-of-a-kind souvenir.