As we are heading into the winter season it’s tempting to cozy up with a book and some warm tea in hand. However, exploring doesn’t have to stop just because the weather is not perfect. In fact, we’ve selected some of the best winter getaways in the US.
Whether you want to escape or embrace the cold we’ve got some nice places for you. From the winter wonderland that is Alaska to the beautiful rock formations in Arizona, we have something for every type of traveler.
There is you must keep in mind when reading this list: we’ve kind of skipped over ski resort towns. Ski towns are a completely different breed and we think they should have their own category.
Instead of skiing, we’ve focused on exploration, cities, and nature. We’ve also tried to include some hidden gems among the well-known winter destinations.
So, without further ado, let’s see what are the best places to visit during winter in the US.
10. Anchorage, Alaska
A winter lover’s paradise!
Anchorage, Alaska is definitely not the first town someone thinks about when we mention a nice winter getaway. It’s north, it’s cold, and it’s dark. But those who don’t mind the weather are rewarded with lifelong experiences that are hard to come by in any other US state.
Anchorage is an excellent place to practice all kinds of winter sports. From skiing, through fat-tire biking, to snowmobiling, there’s everything. One of our favorite things to do in Anchorage during winter is a snowmobile or dogsled tour after sunset.
The quiet winter wonderland around the city is perfect for exploring. It’s a kind of peaceful atmosphere that’s really hard to come by in our busy world today.
Of course, this time of the year there is also an increased chance to see the Northern Lights. One of the few places on earth where you can view this magical phenomenon.
The tourism season in Anchorage is usually summer. Cold nights and harsh weather keep many tourists away during winter so you can usually find great rates at the local hotels.
What to pack and where to stay in Anchorage:
If you want to explore this winter getaway then you’ll need to pack warm clothes. The average daytime temperatures in winter range from 5 to 30 °F. That’s cold! Here’s a tip for you: pick up some ski clothing even if you don’t plan on actually skiing. Skiing outfits are produced for people who spend all day outside in the cold. They are usually great for staying warm.
When it comes to lodging in Anchorage, our choice is Susitna Place. It’s a simple B&B with superb views over the Alaskan coastline. For us, this place strikes the perfect balance when it comes to value for money.
9. Crystal River, Florida
Are you ready for the Manatees?
Crystal River is one of the best places in the US if you want to go on Manatee sightseeing. But why are Manatees so happy to appear in the wintertime?
It’s simple! The water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico drops during winter. Manatees prefer something warmer so they swim up the shallow streams and rivers in Crystal River and Homosassa. The water in these places stays around 70 Fahrenheit all year round.
That temperature is perfect for even humans. And here comes the best part. Not only you can see Manatees in the crystal river but you have the opportunity to swim with Manatees. Take on the Manatee tours around town and get up close and personal with these wonderful creatures. It’s an experience to remember for a long time.
If you’ve had your fun in the water there are also other activities to explore. Check out the beautiful marshlands near Crystal River, take an airboat tour, and try your luck with some winter fishing.
Crystal River will allow you to slow down and enjoy a quiet winter getaway vacation in the US. The temperatures are usually nice and above freezing.
What to pack and where to stay in Crystal River:
As we’ve said the temperatures are usually pretty nice but they do get on the low side during nighttime. Definitely pack one or two warm coats and multiple warm sweaters for walking around town. You also want to pack some swimming gear and snorkeling gear for seeing the Manatees. Though, some tours will offer free-to-use snorkeling equipment. If you book a tour like that then you may leave yours at home.
Our pick for hotels is Crystal Blue Lagoon Bed & Breakfast. It’s a welcoming B&B that’s right next to the river. This means that you can step out of your room and have the chance to see Manatees within minutes. Now that’s what we call a nice experience!
8. Park City, Utah
Winter sports lovers rejoice!
The old mining town of Park City is a great place to spend a beautiful week during winter. It’s regarded as a ski paradise and many people come here for skiing. However, if you are a general lover of winter sports then you can practice almost any of them in Park City.
Here snowmobiling and fat-tire biking are some of our favorite activities. Conquer the mountain slopes and get some adrenaline pumping in your veins. The scenery is always beautiful and the trails are quite exciting.
Park City also has a great selection of luxury resorts where you can enjoy a warm pool on a cold winter day. It’s a nice mix of being active and relaxing.
Those who want to indulge themselves in the local culture and history will enjoy Park City as well. It was established as a mining operation and some of the original buildings are preserved and possible to visit. In 2002 Park City was also the home of the Winter Olympic games so you can visit the Olympic park as well.
What to pack and where to stay in Park City:
Definitely pack warm clothing! You are looking to spend most of your days outside doing winter sports. Skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and even fat-tire snow biking are fast sports. This means that the cold weather will feel even colder due to air moving around your body. So, bring warm clothes. Also, if you follow our recommendation, you will book a nice hotel with a pool. This means you should pack your swimsuits as well.
We would say that if you want to go to Park City this winter then you should go all out. Our pick is Goldener Hirsch, Auberge Resorts Collection. A beautiful luxury hotel that looks like it’s taken straight from the Alps of Europe. The hotel has a nice collection of wellness options to choose from but our favorite is definitely the heated pool that overlooks the nearby mountainscape.
7. Portland, Maine
Culture, Nature, and the Maine Coastline
Maine is another northern state that gets fairly cold during the winter. This makes travel less attractive for a lot of people and this makes Portland, Maine, a hidden gem during these times.
The cultural diversity that is downtown Portland is still there and is still as amazing as it is during the summer. Hop into the local coffeehouses for a hot chocolate or visit the breweries for their latest batch of Christmasy beer.
Museums are also open and awaiting visitors. Enjoy a quiet stroll through history as you are one of the few tourists who visit Portland, ME, during these days.
Visiting Maine in winter also means you can do tons of outdoor activities. One of the most popular is cross-country skiing. The trails around Portland are beautiful and if you’ve not tried cross-country skiing yet, then this might be your chance.
You can also take on the terrain with a snowmobile. This way you can cover more ground and see more of the wonderful scenery.
And of course, you have the Maine coastline, beautiful as ever. Swimmers and beachgoers are exchanged for the relaxing sound of waves slowly washing away on the shore. It’s almost a meditative experience.
We recommend Portland, Maine for those who are looking to go off-the-beaten path. It’s quite an unusual winter getaway spot but it’s a great one nonetheless. Just make sure you have no problems with the cold.
What to pack and where to stay in Portland, ME:
Pack warm clothing and lots of it. You will need to put on some layers to keep yourself warm with all the outdoor activities you will be doing. Also, pack some cozy sweaters and some that are good for going out.
When it comes to staying in Portland, ME, our pick is The Chadwick Bed & Breakfast. It’s a cute B&B with an extremely homely feel. The rooms are very nice and it has an authentic local atmosphere. We loved staying here and we highly recommend this one.
There is one more hotel that you might want to consider and it’s the Hilton Garden Inn Portland Downtown Waterfront. Yes, it’s a pretty standard run-of-the-mill hotel with simple rooms. However, it does have an indoor pool where you can go swimming. The price is reasonable and the pool is a great addition.
6. Duluth, Minnesota
The Great Lakes — but FROZEN!
One more cold winter getaway in the US before we move on to some warmer places. Minnesota is another secret tip for visiting during the winter.
Duluth is on the shores of Lake Superior. It’s one of the best places for exploring the area around Lake Superior and the lake itself during winter.
What we absolutely love about Duluth is the fact that Lake Superior is usually frozen around the shores. The frozen water creates some amazing ice formations. Whenever you are walking around the shore you’ll discover all shapes and sizes of these beautiful ice formations.
One popular activity around the beginning of winter is the Christmas City Express. It starts in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum with a small show for the kids. Then you all get to ride the train up the shore of Lake Superior for around 30 minutes. Complementary hot chocolate and cookies are also available. It’s a nice family activity.
Of course, you can also pursue your usual winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling around Duluth.
What to pack and where to stay in Duluth:
The winter temperatures in Duluth are usually below freezing. Adding to the temperature is the wind that comes off of Lake Superior. This means that Duluth can actually feel colder than it really is. You need warm clothing and clothing that shelters you from the wind. Scarves and hoodies are always good for these kinds of conditions.
Beacon Pointe on Lake Superior is our tip for staying in Duluth. It is reasonably priced, the rooms are great, and they have great views of Lake Superior. There is even a nice indoor pool that you can take advantage of.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Now we are moving onto some warmer locations. In fact, most of what we have in the top 5 are winter getaways to get some winter sun.
Charleston is a popular tourist hot spot, especially during the summer season. People love to visit the town and learn about local history. However, we think that Charleston is a much better destination during winter.
In summer it’s not uncommon to see temperatures around 100 Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, it’s around 50-60 during winter which is perfect for exploring the area. Even Forbes.com agree that Charleston is great during winter.
The lack of other tourists means that you will be able to see everything you want without long queues or crowds of people. Even though the weather will not be good for swimming you should still visit the beach. Stroll along the beautiful coastline and enjoy some quiet time without all the beachgoers of summer.
Charleston is also well known for its excellent culinary culture it has. In summer many of the top restaurants are fully booked but in winter you get a better chance to visit them. Still, if I wanted a table, I would call in advance.
What to pack and where to stay in Charleston, SC:
Pack some moderately warm clothes. The expected temperatures are between 40 and 60 so bring whatever makes you feel good in this kind of weather. Remember to pack something for the nights as the temperature drops quickly once the sun goes down.
For Charleston, 20 South Battery is one of the best places to stay. It’s a hotel inside a historical building and it’s a locally owned boutique hotel. Whatever you spend goes directly to the local community. It was originally built as a private mansion and it shows. The hotel has beautiful rooms, beautiful hallways, and an impressive exterior. We can wholeheartedly recommend it for your winter visit to Charleston.
4. New Orleans, Lousiana
Festivals, architecture, and one of the best US cities
All right, we know that including New Orleans as one of the best cities to visit in winter is no surprise but still, we wanted to write a few thoughts about this beautiful city.
Winter months are some of the best when for visiting New Orleans. The temperatures these months are perfect for exploring the unique architecture and aesthetics of the city.
Of course, if you like festivals, then New Orleans presents an incredible opportunity. Mardi Gras is starting on February 21st in 2023. It’s one of the best festivals in the US and it’s definitely a spectacle to experience in person.
If you are someone who doesn’t want the hustle and bustle of a famous event then we recommend a visit in November and December. These months are pretty relaxed but even these months tourists love to visit New Orleans.
What to pack and where to stay in New Orleans:
New Orleans weather is pretty forgiving during winter. It hardly goes below 45°F even during winter nights. The usual daytime temperatures are above 60°F. This means that you need some moderately warm clothing only. Pack one warm coat just in case, but you most likely won’t need it.
When it comes to hotels we recommend that you pick one of the local ones. New Orleans is full of interesting buildings and it’s best to stay inside one of them instead of the big hotel chains. Our favorite pick is La Belle Esplanade. It’s a vibrant, local, and truly authentic B&B. We loved the colorful rooms and the welcoming owners.
3. Mariposa, California
Yosemite National Park in Winter
Yosemite National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the whole nation. It is known for its beautiful vistas, waterfalls, exciting trails, and breathtaking scenery. Many people visit Yosemite during summer, however, a visit during winter will let you see a face of Yosemite that only a portion of tourists gets to see.
Mariposa is one of the best towns when visiting Yosemite and it’s true for winter as well. Stay in Mariposa and you can explore the park without any problems during winter. Once you’ve seen the park don’t forget to visit the local winery at Casto Oaks Fine Wine & Art.
What we love about Mariposa is the atmosphere of the town. It’s like stepping through a time portal right into the western frontier. In case you are tempted to learn more about history you also have access to the Mariposa Museum & History Center or the California State Mining & Mineral Museum.
What to pack and where to stay in Mariposa, CA:
Exploring Yosemite during winter means you’ll most likely see some snow. Bring warm clothing but clothing that allows free movement. You’ll do a lot of hiking on the trails of the national park and you will spend a lot of time outside. Bring clothes that are suitable for these kinds of conditions. Don’t forget to bring durable hiking shoes. You’ll need something that can provide good traction even in snowy and wet conditions.
As far as lodging goes we recommend Best Western Plus Yosemite Way Station Motel. It’s nothing fancy but it’s just perfect for exploring the national park. It has plenty of parking, the rooms are nice, and you will be able to relax after long hikes in Yosemite.
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Snowfall in Santa Fe? Yes, it’s possible!
New Mexico’s capital is a beautiful place all year round. The unique architecture is well known not just around the nation but around the world as well. Now imagine there’s actually snowfall in Santa Fe during winter.
The snowfall transforms the city into a magical place. As Santa Fe is getting ready for Christmas, colorful lights fill the town as decorations. Of course, snow can happen, but it’s not a guarantee. If you manage to catch it then you’ll be treated to some wonderful sights. Don’t worry if you miss snow though, there’s still plenty to explore in and around Santa Fe.
Winter is considered off-season here. Without the tourist crowds, it’s easy to see all the attractions, museums, and natural wonders in the area.
If you really want to enjoy winter activities then you can hike or ski in the nearby mountains. It’s a beautiful place during winter.
What to pack and where to stay in Santa Fe:
The weather is usually around or above Freezing in Santa Fe. Pack some nice winter coats and sweaters and you should be fine. Nothing unexpected here. If you want to ski in the nearby mountains then don’t forget your ski gear.
Do you want to enjoy the classic local architecture of Santa Fe? Then stay at The Bobcat Inn when visiting. Although it’s outside of Santa Fe it’s still easy to access downtown from this hotel. The hotel itself is incredible. Inside, the rooms are spacious and comfortable. Outside, the buildings are in a historical style and they bring an amazing atmosphere to the place.
1. Sedona, Arizona
The Wild West in Winter
Sedona is one of our favorite places to visit during winter. We all know that the nature around Sedona is extremely beautiful. This fact does attract tons of visitors each year but you can dodge the crowds by choosing winter as your time of visit.
The weather is still pleasant this time of the year. It’s usually around 60 degrees during the day, so it’s good for hiking. The countless trails around Sedona are ever so inviting and without tourists this time. We love exploring the rock formations and the incredible views. You’ll definitely get some good opportunities for the perfect travel photo.
Apart from the trails right near Sedona, the Grand Canyon is also within reach. It’s around 2 hours of driving so it’s definitely not close, however seeing the Grand Canyon in winter is another unique experience, especially when it has snow.
When it comes to Sedona itself, the whole town seems to slow down during these days. Needless to say, it’s a relaxing experience. You will visit during the off-season so this also means great rates on hotel rooms.
If you and your significant other likes hiking then Sedona can be the perfect romantic getaway during winter. You can enjoy a quiet town and breathtaking scenery right here in Arizona.
What to pack and where to stay in Sedona:
Sedona weather is pretty nice even during winter. You need some sweaters and maybe one winter coat just for peace of mind. Bring clothes that will keep you comfortable outside for longer hikes.
A Sunset Chateau is our favorite romantic hotel in Sedona. It’s a boutique hotel with incredible views. You can expect luxury treatment, comfortable rooms, and a romantic atmosphere from this hotel.