Last updated on November 21st, 2019
You might not think of winter as the best time to travel, but with so many beautiful places to visit in winter in USA, you might need to reconsider that notion!
I absolutely LOVE winter travel. Whether you’re just there for fewer crowds or want to indulge in your favorite snow sports, these winter travel destinations in the United States will have you planning your next trip in no time!
BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN WINTER IN USA – Northeast
New York City, New York
By Karen from WanderlustingK
New York City is one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in USA due to its many winter-centric attractions, Christmas markets, and how well-organized public transportation is.
In winter, the best time to visit is during December and late November when the Christmas season has already kicked in and decorations are up all over the city! One of the unmissable winter activities in New York has to be browsing the Christmas windows in New York City, which are in place between mid-November and early January. Many retailers will go all-out with animated holiday window displays, especially Macy’s. You can also see the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which turns on its lights each night in December. You’ll also find many beautiful decorated houses for Christmas within some of New York’s neighborhoods!
Beyond Christmas in New York you’ll be able to enjoy the ice skating rinks open during the winter within picturesque places throughout the city. Even if you’re not much one for ice skating, you can at least enjoy a hot chocolate while watching the skaters go by within the various parks. Bryant Park is my favorite! Of course, you’ll not want to miss walking through Central Park on a snowy day when you have the chance to make a snowman!
By Amy & Nathan from Two Drifters
Vermont is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in USA. With its location touching Canada, Vermont receives plenty of snow to cover its beautiful mountainous landscape. For winter sports, Vermont is a great destination. There are dozens of well-known ski resorts throughout the state, and people come from near and far for skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and more.
But those who don’t love winter outdoor activities will also love Vermont, because it is the perfect place to be cozy indoors. Curling up by the fire with some local Vermont specialties (Cabot cheese, anyone?) and a mug of cocoa or glass of wine is absolutely divine. You can watch the snow falling outside while you are warm indoors.
If you do want to head out for some winter fun, the activities are boundless. Sledding, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and more. As spring nears, you can enjoy when the maple syrup starts to run and “sugar on snow” becomes the popular sweet treat.
BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN WINTER IN USA – South
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Like other cities along the Gulf Coast, Mobile, Alabama can be unbearably hot and humid in summer. For this reason alone, it’s worth planning a winter visit to this underrated beautiful place to visit in winter in USA. You’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful antebellum architecture much more if you’re not sweating buckets. Winters are pretty mild, and temperatures will only very occasionally dip below freezing. In fact, sometimes it’s warm enough to wear shorts even in December!
A number of retirees from northern states spend their winters here to escape the bitter cold where they’re from. Locals affectionately refer to these seasonal residents as “snowbirds”. You’ll often see them strolling along nearby beaches such as Dauphin Island or Gulf Shores. While the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are too cold for swimming in winter, the beach is still a very pleasant place to be. When I was growing up in Mobile, our family rented a beach condo in Gulf Shores every Christmas.
Towards the end of winter, Mobile springs to life during the two weeks of Mardi Gras celebrations, which take place in late February or early March, depending on when Easter falls. Mobilians are very proud of their Mardi Gras traditions and will be sure to tell you that theirs is the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States!
Both Mobile and New Orleans were established by the French, but Mobile was founded first, in 1702, and Mardi Gras was celebrated here for the first time in 1703. For visitors, the highlight is usually the many parades of decorated floats. Locals dress up in costume and throw bead necklaces and moon pies to people in the crowd. It’s a more low-key, family-friendly affair than New Orleans and is lots of fun!
By Lori from Travelinmad
You’d love to put on a pair of shorts and flip flops but it’s just too cold and wintery? The answer may be closer than you think. With the average winter temps hovering in the high 70’s, Naples, Florida is one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in USA.
You can spend your days outdoors in the warm south Florida sun at one of the best beaches in Naples that are consistently rated as some of the best in the country. Swim in the Gulf of Mexico, rent stand-up paddle boards or kayaks, book a fishing trip or one of several sunset cruises. It’s all about fun in the sun here.
Day trips are easy from Naples, too — head to Sanibel Island for incredible shelling or down to Everglades National Park for a hike or airboat ride.
If you need a day off the water, we recommend browsing the upscale boutique shops on 5th Avenue or Third Street South and then stay for dinner. You can’t miss the shops, restaurants, cafes, and homemade ice cream in downtown Naples.
At the end of the day, the Naples Pier is the place to be for sunset and it’s an easy walk from downtown. Some of the best sunset panoramas you’ll ever see happen over the Gulf, and if you get lucky, you might see the resident dolphins feeding or the ‘Green Flash’. So when you get the winter blues, leave it where it belongs. Book a flight to Naples and put your toes in the sand!
By Christine from Live Love Run Travel
When looking for beautiful places to visit in winter in USA, Orlando is the perfect way to escape the cold and enjoy the theme parks when they are not so crowded. In the winter, Orlando may not have snow, but it does have sunny days and weather warm enough to still wear shorts and sandals.
If you plan to visit theme parks, January and February are the best months to beat the crowds and find the shortest lines. Coming to Orlando in November and December means you can experience the magic of Christmas in Orlando. The theme parks especially go all out for the holidays with special events and decorations just for the holidays. For example, Disney has Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, SeaWorld has a Chrismas celebration with special shows, and Universal has Grinchmas plus a Christmas takeover at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The best part of winter in Orlando is the weather. In the summer, the weather is hot and humid, making outdoor activities not so fun unless you are in the water. The winter makes for a perfect time to be outside in Orlando. Take a stroll down Park Avenue in Winter Park and enjoy outdoor eating. Go on an airboat ride on the St. John’s River to look for alligators. Go ice skating at one of the outdoor skating rinks that pop up for the holidays.
As an Orlando native, winter is the best time to visit Orlando. Enjoy the shorter lines at the park, the perfect weather, and Christmas in shorts.
BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN WINTER IN USA – Midwest
By Emma from Emma Jane Explores
Chicago is one of the best US cities to visit at any time of year, but it definitely has a special place in my heart in the winter. Though it is freezing cold during the winter months, this city has plenty of great activities to keep you warm on a visit here, making it one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in USA.
Firstly, a visit to Chicago in winter means you get to avoid the crowds that flock here in the summer months. It’s an incredibly popular city to visit, so to have space to stroll quietly, wandering in and out of art deco buildings and taking the ultimate photo in front of the iconic Cloudgate sculpture without as many bodies to navigate is priceless.
But avoiding the crowds is just the beginning. A visit to Chicago in winter also usually means a bit of snow – which for an Aussie girl like me is totally novel. A walk out to the shores of Lake Michigan will also amaze you as the entire lake freezes over and what serves as a beach in summer becomes huge chunks of frozen sand and water in winter. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Chicago is also full of indoor activities to keep you warm as you explore and the food scene here is hard to beat. Try a famous deep-dish pizza or a Chicago-style hotdog to tantalize your taste buds. After dinner, the best way to keep warm on a cold night is to pay a visit to the blues club, Blue Chicago, and enjoy amazing blues and soul singers belting out tunes until very late.
By Paulina from Paulina on the Road
One of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in USA is without any doubt Wisconsin. However, you need to be aware, that temperatures will be low thus be ready and pack your warmest clothes.
Wisconsin is particularly a great winter destination for those who enjoy nature and being outdoors. Whether it comes to ice-skating at Lake Geneva or curling in Green Bay, there are plenty of things to do for active travelers.
If you prefer to stay inside and be warm, Wisconsin has something to offer for your too! There are plenty of artsy museums in Madison and Milwaukee that are awaiting you. My favorite one is probably the Milwaukee Art Museum which is famous for its stunning architecture designed by the Spanish star-architect Santiago Calatrava.
In case you are going to stay longer, make sure to decide where to stay in Milwaukee in order to make the most of your stay.
Beautiful Places to Visit in Winter in USA – NorthWest
By Mike from Live Travel Teach
Alaska is quickly becoming my favorite place all year round and the winter is when things really get exciting. The snow piles up allowing me to ski right out of my front door as northern lights come out in full force. There are plenty of mountains and glaciers to find but one of my favorite adventures so far happens after the lakes freeze over. Crossing Portage Lake in the winter is an adventurer’s dream that you’ll want to check in Alaska’s winter wonderland.
Portage Lake freezes over every year and is home to Portage Glacier. Its a short 3 mile round trip hike from the Begich Boggs visitor center to the glacier itself but don’t get too close because glaciers can be dangerous and unpredictable. Then again you’re crossing a frozen lake so perhaps you’d be interested in checking out some of Alaska’s other winter adventures like climbing up a frozen waterfall or exploring an ice cave. Did I mention the northern lights and the fact that bears hibernate in the winter so you can keep all your focus on the glaciers and not have to worry about your bear spray.
By Dale from Wander Her Way
Seattle, Washington is a great destination for the colder months. Thanks to its location between mountains and the Puget Sound, this Pacific Northwest city rarely gets much snow and enjoys a relatively mild winter.
Around Christmas, there are plenty of things to do in and around Seattle. Pike Place Market is a must for any first-time visitors to Seattle, and every winter it’s decorated with a big Christmas tree and lights. Between the market itself and the special holiday crafts market, it’s the perfect place to get your Christmas shopping done. Snowflake Lane in nearby Bellevue is also a must-visit around the holidays. There’s a spectacular parade and performances almost every night during the Christmas season, along with “snow” every night.
If you’re looking for nature, hop in the car and drive a little further afield. Snoqualmie Falls is a stunning waterfall that makes a great winter hike. When the falls are surrounded by ice and snow, it truly looks like a winter wonderland. There is also great skiing not too far from Seattle, with slopes at Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain open all winter.
Another great winter destination about two and a half hours from Seattle is Leavenworth, a Bavarian-style village in the Cascade Mountains. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into a German Christmas market when you visit this charming town.
BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN WINTER IN USA – southWEST
By Vivien & Aaron from The Dharma Trails
Aspen, Colorado is home to some of the most extravagant winter experiences in the world and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in USA. With its world class slopes, picture perfect mountains and array of high-end, boutique shops & hotels, it might seem like Aspen is reserved for the rich and famous.
But this beautiful mountain town tucked up into the ultra-liberal peaks of Colorado is a point of interest for all those in search of a snow-capped oasis. Yes, the rich and famous do make frequent appearances in town, but the town itself (and people in it) are very down to earth and happy to make your stay on the slopes as memorable as possible.
Whether you are a keen skier/snowboarder or just like to soak in the winter atmosphere, Aspen has a wide range of activities on offer (at various price ranges). This can include trails through some of North America’s most pristine mountains (Between Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk Mountain and Snowmass, there are over 300 trails ranging from beginner to expert) to high end spa treatment alongside celebrities.
For those on a budget or eco travel minded, check out the selection of thrifty stores selling barely used, high fashion snow gear at very reasonable prices. And for the best all-round family-oriented week, December offers the famous “12 days of Aspen”, where there is live music, comedy, winter craft activities and more all around the town. It’s tough to beat the atmosphere in an Aspen winter. The town really has something for everyone.
By Sierra from Free to Travel Mama
One of the most beautiful places to visit in winter in USA when you are craving sunny beaches and outdoor adventure is the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii offers year-round beautiful weather that makes beach basking, snorkeling, and surfing possible even when the rest of the country is bundled up inside.
Hawaii is made up of 8 main islands, with the Big Island of Hawaii, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai being the most popular. If you have more than one week to spend, consider island hopping and enjoy more than what one island has to offer.
In the winter, the north shores of each island are rough with very large waves. This means that you can do some amazing people watching at surf competitions! But for swimmable beaches and sunnier skies, you will want to stay on the south side of the island. Rain is also more prevalent than in summer months, however, more rain means greener landscapes and gushing waterfalls! So pack a light rain jacket (and a bag for muddy shoes) and don’t let it stop you from hiking to Manoa Falls on Oahu or driving up to the view of Opaekaa Falls on Kauai.
Whale watching is a must do activity when visiting Hawaii in the winter and there is no better place to do this than on the Big Island of Hawaii along the Kohala Coast. A whale watching boat trip on Maui would also be a great choice! Visiting Pearl Harbor is a popular bucket list item on an Oahu itinerary and is possible as just a day trip if you are based elsewhere. If you are headed to Kauai, don’t miss your opportunity for a helicopter ride over the Na Pali coastline with its flowing waterfalls and majestic mountain peaks.
No matter which island piques your interest, Hawaii will be paradise on your winter vacation. Soak up all the flower leis, tropical drinks, botanical gardens, and beautiful beaches, all while planning your next trip before you even leave the islands!
By Christina from Travel2Next
California’s picturesque winter escape attracts movie stars and jet setters, but Lake Tahoe is also a down-to-earth winter destination everyone can enjoy. It’s an outdoor winter wonderland and a top place to visit in the USA in winter.
Some of the favourite things to do in Lake Tahoe are skiing and snowboarding but even if you aren’t keen on going down mountains on skis, there are lots of other attractions to keep you busy. Dogsledding, snowshoeing and tubing are popular for families, an there’s a fantastic après ski scene at Lake Tahoe’s vibrant resorts.
Lake Tahoe was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics and has grown from strength to strength since that event. These days, Lake Tahoe has 12 winter resorts with world-class facilities for skiing and snowboarding. There’s terrain suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to black diamond skiers. If you’re a black diamond skier, you might like to try Heavenly, which has the highest vertical drop in California. Heavenly is also where you can ski in two states – California and Nevada.
Other popular ski resorts to stay in Lake Tahoe are Sugarbowl, Squaw Valley and North Star, which has a charming ice skating rink. Sipping a hot chocolate at one of the fire pits beside the rink is a memorable Lake Tahoe winter experience. While in Squaw Valley, make sure you visit the Olympic Museum.
Napa Valley, California
By Theresa from Fueled By Wanderlust
Napa Valley is an excellent choice for a winter getaway. Although this is Napa’s low season, the best wineries are still open, making this the perfect time to visit. As opposed to high season, winter in Napa slows down with visitors considerably. This means it’s easier to book appointments at wineries and get undivided attention during tastings.
Many people get the idea that it is too cold in Napa for a winter visit. Fortunately, this is generally not true. Temperatures do drop compared to summer, but tend to hover between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if there are chilly, rainy days, the wineries are prepared to make your experience perfect. Many places have a covered, heated patio with blankets, so you can still enjoy a glass of cabernet with a view of the vineyards.
Napa is also known for its overwhelming choices of world class restaurants that can be enjoyed at all times of year. The French Laundry’s ultra-high-end tasting menu is the most famous option, but there is a dizzying array of so many other fabulous restaurants to check out as well. Options such as Bottega or Torc would be the perfect places for a romantic meal, such as over Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. That being said, friend groups and bachelorette parties would undoubtedly enjoy these establishments too.
With all the best wine and restaurants right at your fingertips, along with mild weather and thin crowds, a winter trip to Napa is a no-brainer!
San Diego, California
By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
San Diego in southern California makes for a fabulous winter holiday destination, with its temperate climate. Daytime temperatures are in the balmy 60s Fahrenheit, perfect for exploring outdoors. Although the ocean is not warm enough for swimming, there are plenty of things to do in San Diego in the winter, from hiking and biking to shopping and discovering the city’s gastronomy options.
Balboa Park in downtown San Diego is a cultural district, with tons of museums and gardens. Wander the park to admire the architecture, visit the stunning Japanese Friendship Garden or the Desert Garden, and pick from over a dozen museums, ranging from art to natural history to model railroads. If you visit in December, you’ll be able to enjoy holiday live musical performances.
Visit the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma peninsula. Winter brings negative tides, perfect for tidepooling, and you may be lucky enough to spot whales migrating south from the viewing area at the top of the hill. This is also a great spot to learn a little bit about California’s history!
If you visit in December, make sure you catch some of the holiday celebrations! The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights features boat floats on the water, lit up and decorated with holiday themes. It’s a memorable, unique sight, for sure! At the San Diego Botanic Garden, you can see the entire garden lit up.
Go ice skating at one of the many rinks in the city. Visit La Jolla, San Diego’s swanky neighbor to the north, to enjoy shopping or browsing at the Village, or to see the seals at La Jolla Cove. Enjoy hiking one of the ocean view trails at Torrey Pines, or go paragliding. Or you can head south and dip your toes into Mexico, just a few miles south of the city!
With no shortage of fun things to do, pleasant daytime temperatures, and reasonable prices on accommodations (other than during the holiday break at the end of the year) you can have a fabulous winter getaway in San Diego!
By Heather from Trimm Travels
One of the best winter destinations in the entire United States is Vail, Colorado. For both snow-lovers or those who never get to see snow (or those such as myself who fall into both categories), Vail doesn’t disappoint. It has a healthy annual amount of that perfect powder. Because of this, it is a huge attraction for snow skiers of all different levels.
While Vail is known for its world-class skiing, there are also epic things to do for non-skiers too! One of my favorites is dog-sledding in nearby Leadville, Colorado. The dogs are precious and you can even try your hand at mushing!
My other top favorite is snowmobiling around Camp Hale, an old 6,000 square mile WW2 training camp. There’s nothing like spending half a day snowmobiling up to 12,000 feet to see the beautiful Rocky Mountains!
For a luxury ski-in/ski-out resort, stay at the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch. There’s even a sleigh you can take through the snow from the hotel up to one of the restaurants!
Zion National Park, Utah
By Cat from Walk My World
Zion is spectacular and that’s no secret, it grows in popularity year after year. That’s what makes visiting Zion National Park in winter so incredible. By December, the crowds have thinned out to the point that you will have many of the hiking trails to yourself and – if you’re lucky – a dusting of snow on the red cliffs making the whole scene even more magical. Hiking to the Canyon Overlook at sunset to see this huge canyon covered in snow (with hints of red still visible) is a view unlike you’ll find anywhere else. There is nothing like staring at the vast red walls and then looking around to find you have the moment all to yourself (and maybe a deer or two).
You can take on Angels Landing in winter and probably have very few others on the trail, however we don’t recommend hiking the spine if it is wet, windy or snowy. The hike can be dangerous in anything but perfect conditions. The adventurous can take on the Narrows – a 10 mile hike through a water filled canyon. Make sure you have hired the right gear as the water and air temperatures are cold, but you will escape the crowds of the summer month and hardly see anyone on the trail!
As well as having less people around in winter you are also permitted to drive through Zion Canyon (although not on the weekends from February 16th), so no lengthy waits for shuttle buses and the chance to see a lot more in one day under your own steam. Much lower prices mean you will be able to stay right beside the park in Springdale for a fraction of the cost that rooms go for in high season making it the most affordable time to visit Zion.