With the winter holidays just weeks away, now is the time to lock in your December travel plans. Instead of taking the same ski vacation or dashing off to a festive Christmas market to shop for seasonal goods, why not carve out some time to travel to underrated holiday attractions? For an atypical getaway, travel to these towns across America with superlative winter attractions to keep your holidays merry and bright.
Minneapolis - St. Paul
If you love winter weather, travel to the Twin Cities. In Loring Park, just steps from downtown Minneapolis, you'll find food booths and festive drinks in heated tents at Holidazzle, a special tradition that draws people from all over the region. During Holidazzle, held from Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 23, you can find treasures from local artisans, see a holiday movie under the stars, go ice skating and enjoy fireworks. In St. Paul, stroll through the European Christmas Market in Union Depot to find one-of-a-kind gifts, holiday decorations and European-inspired dishes on the first two weekend of December. As for accommodations, luxury hotels abound in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but The Saint Paul Hotel overlooks a beautifully lit Rice Park in downtown and is within walking distance of the Union Depot as well as other holiday happenings throughout St. Paul. The hotel also offers holiday tea on Sundays through December.
The National Harbor, Maryland
Known as the one of the largest resort destinations near the nation's capital, the Christmas on the Potomac event is shining a little brighter this year at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. The resort is showcasing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer carved in colorful ice sculptures at its popular ICE! attraction. Larger-than-life vignettes bring to life the beloved 1964 TV classic, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." The walk-through attraction features 13 scenes of more than 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures including favorite characters such as Rudolph, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and more. If ice sculptures aren't enough, the resort has transformed itself into a Christmas wonderland. Visitors will find more than 2 million lights, a suspended 55-foot-tall Christmas tree, a 20-foot gingerbread display, a Christmas Village, a new live entertainment show and even a mixology class all within the resort.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Colonial Williamsburg offers an immersive holiday experience, weaving traditions of past and present. From fireworks to holiday parties in historic taverns to streets illuminated by candles, the true spirit of the season fills almost every block. You'll feel like you've stepped back in time as you warm up with a hot cider amid the flickering light of crackling fires, with caroling and other sounds of the season spilling out from the taverns and shops, each adorned with handmade wreaths and garlands. Arrive in time for the afternoon candle- and cresset-lighting on Duke of Gloucester Street, a tradition since 1934 that will take place on Dec. 3. During the holidays, join Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Trades and world-famous Fifes and Drums to admire torch-lit illuminations of candles and street-side cressets, each with a patriotic musical accompaniment.
Then, embrace the spirit of the season at the Raleigh Tavern. Celebrate seasonal festivities like music to dancing at the tavern where Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and others met. During the day, guests are invited to take in preparation for the coming night's celebration; at night, guests can join the party. The event is open to guests with Colonial Williamsburg admission, while a special evening program ticket is required for Christmas party. Also carve out some time to join the Christmas Decorations Walking Tour and learn about the evolution of holiday decorating from the 18th-century to present- day and enjoy caroling at the Courthouse, when nightly performances usher in holiday cheer.
The Brandywine Valley, Delaware
This Mid-Atlantic region, straddling the Delaware and Pennsylvania border, is steeped in holiday spirit. Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, the former home of Henry Francis du Pont, is the site of Yuletide at Winterthur, which takes place through Jan. 7, 2018. The site explores holiday traditions from the 1800s and 1900s, paying homage to early Christmas lights, the evolution of Christmas trees through the decades and even a full-room recreation of a scene from Clement Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicolas." In honor of Winterthur's current special exhibit, "Royal Splendor: The Coronation Gown from The Crown," this year's Yuletide Tour features recreations of the types of trees that would have decorated Windsor Castle during Queen Victoria's reign. The holiday festivities also include a one-man performance of a Victorian favorite, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," performed by the author's great-great-grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens.
Strolling Christmas carolers were also a part of many a Victorian holiday scene, and it's practically guaranteed that guests will run into some at Longwood Gardens. The nation's celebrated gardens are even more enchanting during "A Longwood Christmas," which lasts through Jan. 7, 2018. The gardens pay tribute to the du Ponts' native France, as the site's conservatory transforms into a miniature Versailles with a collection of topiaries, wreaths, ornate mirrors and more than 50 trimmed trees. The entire site is illuminated with half a million twinkling lights.
If you're more intent on learning about the region's early culture, on Dec. 10, the Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, Delaware, pays tribute to the region's Swedish heritage with a visit from Sankta Lucia in a celebration. As another way to step back in time, visitors to the village of Historic Odessa can stroll brick-lined streets and also take in this year's Storybook Trees exhibit, which runs through Dec.31.
Light shows and exhibitions are an integral part of any major metropolis, and Seattle does not disappoint. Take a walk through the bright Olympic Sculpture Park downtown to admire the dazzling lights and check out the art on display, listen to music, sip a hot drink and grab a sweet bite. The Argosy Christmas Ship Festival has been a holiday tradition and fan favorite in Seattle for decades. Board the Christmas-themed ship or a similar parade boat for a two-hour cruise around Puget Sound while listening to carols, playing games and meeting Santa. Also, the German-inspired nearby village of Leavenworth becomes a Christmas wonderland come December, fully decorated with lights and brimming with holiday events and winter fun. There are carolers singing in the streets, visits from Santa, sledding and more holiday delights, including a lighting ceremony to kick off the excitement. As for lodging, there are many options in the downtown area including the Inn at the Market, the Loews Hotel 1000 and the Thompson Hotel.
Asheville, North Carolina
This city just off of Blue Ridge Parkway should be on your radar for its Christmastime traditions. Asheville's busy downtown sidewalks are dressed in holiday style, thanks to Winter Lights Downtown display in Pack Square, with double the number of lights this year, and a 10-foot gilded purple snowflake serving as the piece de resistance. Then, as the sun sets, the North Carolina Arboretum's 434 acres transform into a glowing winter wonderland, strewn with nearly 500,000 lights. In its fourth year, the Winter Lights exhibit will bring back favorite features such as a 50-foot animated tree, model trains and a Quilt Garden, while introducing new additions, including interactive motion sensor games and even more lights and music. If you're looking to trim costs, take advantage of friends and family pricing on Tuesdays. If you're willing to splurge, go all-out with the Winter Lights Holiday Tour and arrive in a vintage-style trolley.
What's more, Asheville's 25th annual National Gingerbread House Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn is worth attending. Celebrate with a warm cup of hot chocolate and house-made marshmallows (or a ginger-apple-cider hot toddy) by one of the towering fireplaces flanking the Great Hall of this historic resort. For little ones in tow, Santa Claus is coming to the Blue Ridge Mountains by train as the Craggy Mountain Line Railroad gets in the holiday spirit. The Jingle Bell Trolley Train Run, operated by the Craggy Mountain Line Railroad, takes off on Saturdays through Dec. 17, and on Friday, Dec. 23. A $10 admission price includes hot cocoa, cookies and a meet-and-greet with Santa.
The Best Winter Getaway in Every State
Spend the most wonderful time of the year in an enchanting locale.
As you plot your holiday vacation, perhaps you're dreaming of a classic winter wonderland with snow-capped peaks, ice-skating rinks, twinkling lights and hot chocolate around a roaring fire. It's hard to deny the appeal of taking a "White Christmas"-inspired trip with yuletide cheer and cold-weather pastimes – from snowboarding to skiing to sleigh riding. Or, maybe the season's shorter days and declining temperatures have you yearning to escape frosty temperatures and slip away to a warm, coastal town. Whether you're clamoring to strap on skis or a swimsuit, read on to explore wanderlust-inducing winter vacation ideas in all corners of the country.Alabama: Birmingham
If you're looking for a mix of big-city attractions and small-town charm this winter, head to Birmingham, where you can check out must-see cultural sights like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, before indulging in classic Southern barbecue at OvenBird. Once you're feeling refueled, catch live jazz with a cocktail in hand at Iron City or Saturn (and its neighboring bar Satellite). Itching for quality time outdoors? Red Mountain Park, a 1,500-acre green space near downtown, offers an ideal place for serene reflection. At the end of the day, head to Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook, a charming boutique hotel with a spa, gallery, cooking school and wine blending classes.Alaska: The Alaska Railroad
Alaska: The Alaska Railroad
Cold-weather enthusiasts seeking a wintry getaway filled with dog sledding, cross-country skiing and picturesque landscapes punctuated by snow-blanketed trees, majestic peaks and pristine lakes, should visit the Alaska Railroad. Board the Aurora Winter Train, which makes the pilgrimage from Fairbanks to Anchorage, and traces through Alaska's wild backcountry. Aside from soaking in the spellbinding scenery and wildlife, you can get your heart racing with cross-country skiing on lesser-known trails in Talkeetna, before warming up over pie at Talkeetna Roadhouse. For more activity, catch the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which starts in Anchorage. As for accommodations, stay at the Winterlake Lodge along the Iditarod National Historic Trail, a 15-acre retreat that offers snowshoeing, heli-skiing and other adrenaline-pumping adventures.Arizona: Sedona
Sedona's dramatic desert scenery, enchanting vortexes and iconic copper-red rock formations tempt outdoor enthusiasts craving a dose of relaxation and adventure. And the area's magnificent formations – Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Rock included – are even more alluring when blanketed in fresh powder. After hitting the trails, check out eclectic art galleries, shred powder in nearby Flagstaff or get pampered with an indulgent spa treatment. As for lodging, the Canyon Villa Bed & Breakfast Inn, a charming boutique property, boasts captivating views of Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock. If you're looking to splurge, visit Enchantment Resort's sister property, Mii amo, which boasts a 24,000-square-foot spa, with specialty treatments like prickly pear wraps and nature-inspired meditations.Arkansas: Little Rock
Arkansas: Little Rock
With storied neighborhoods, deep-rooted Southern charm and sprawling green spaces, Little Rock delivers all the trappings for a well-needed break. Foodies will flock to the buzzing Southside Main Street District to delight in a porterhouse steak at Doe's Eat Place, followed by creative small-batch sweet scoops (think: buttermilk and salted caramel) from Loblolly Creamery. Meanwhile, U.S. history buffs can check out notable landmarks like the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Central High School National Historic Site, which honors the heroic African-American students, known as The Little Rock Nine. For more active pursuits, the 88-mile Arkansas River Trail offers areas for biking and hiking. As for accommodations, check into the historic Capital Hotel for genuine Southern hospitality.California: Sonoma
For a quintessential California wine country experience, visit Sonoma, says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. When the weather gets colder, the area is "alive and well, thanks to world-class resorts, restaurants and vineyard estates," he explains, highlighting that Sonoma has had a swift recovery after the wildfires tore through much of the region. "Fortunately, many classic travel spots were unscathed," he says, highlighting that visiting in the slower season not only yields a high value for travelers but also the chance to aid in the recovery process and benefit the local community and economy. Retreat to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn to enjoy intimate surroundings and enticing off-season rates.Colorado: Aspen
If you want to walk in a real-life winter wonderland, plan the ultimate retreat – complete with alpine scenery, well-groomed slopes and a vibrant aprés-ski scene – in Aspen. After racing down powdery runs at Aspen Mountain or Buttermilk, mingle with fellow powder hounds over a post-ski cocktail and truffle fries at Ajax Tavern. Then, take advantage of off-slope offerings, from yoga classes to pampering spa treatments to cross-country skiing. Looking for a wallet-friendly alternative in Colorado? Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of BudgetTravel.com, highlights Keystone Resort as an ideal pick. "The resort offers a range of reasonable lodgings, and lovely River Run Village is like a charming small town tucked into the foot of the mountain," he says.Connecticut: Litchfield Hills
Connecticut: Litchfield Hills
With small-town charm, classic covered bridges and picturesque rivers, Litchfield County and nearby Washington ooze New England charm. An easy escape for city-dwellers in New York City and Boston, the area beckons to those seeking a romantic country escape. Explore the area's storied homes, galleries and antique shops. Then, hit the slopes at Mohawk Mountain or cross-country ski at the Woodbury Ski Area, before unwinding at the Grace Mayflower Inn & Spa, where you can steal away to a well-appointed room with a roaring fireplace and deep-soaking tub and get pampered at the luxurious spa, which offers treatments such as mud wraps and stone therapy massages.Delaware: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Delaware: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
This pristine wildlife sanctuary is especially appealing to serenity-seekers in winter, when the area's 16,000-acre space is layered in snow. At this time of year, wildlife-watchers can spot migrating waterfowl heading south and keep their eyes peeled for red-tailed hawks, bald eagles and pintail ducks in February. And with few crowds, hikers can explore the area's five tranquil walking trails, meander along the 12-mile wildlife drive and capture wildlife on camera. In December, visitors can join birdwatchers to count the refuge's number of migratory birds. After communing with nature, drive about an hour north to Wilmington's Hotel du Pont for a ritzy stay near downtown attractions and Brandywine Valley landmarks.Florida: Miami
Miami knows how to lure visitors with its warm climate, buzzy nightlife and dining scenes and innovative pop-up Art Basel Miami Beach spectacle each December. If you're a culture vulture, you won't want to skip venturing to the Design District or exploring the art installations at Wynwood. After getting your fix, make your way to South Beach to admire art deco architecture, lounge along the beach or check into one of the area's fashionable hotels (1 Hotel South Beach and The Betsy – South Beach are crowd favorites). For more outdoor adventure, make your way to Everglades National Park.Georgia: Tybee Island
Georgia: Tybee Island
Savannah entices visitors year-round with its requisite Southern hospitality, horse-drawn carriage rides and antebellum charm. But if you've already checked out can't-miss sights, like Bonaventure Cemetery, head to Tybee Island for some peace and solitude. "The lighthouse on Tybee Island stands sentinel over 5 miles of perfect beach, an old-timey boardwalk and affordable low-key lodgings," Firpo-Cappiello says. With mild weather hovering around the 50s from December to February, the area offers an enticing escape from icier conditions up north. Best of all, Tybee Island is approximately 20 miles east of Savannah and is not only known for its colonial-style lighthouse, but also its superlative shrimp. As for accommodations, check out DeSoto Beach Terraces for budget-friendly nightly rates.Hawaii: Maui
Maui offers a mix of tourist-heavy attractions and remote, off-the-beaten-track areas catering to nature lovers, culturists and adventurers, Saglie says. While Kaanapali Beach is a popular stretch along the island's northwest coast, Saglie suggests venturing to Wailea Beach for more R & R along khaki-colored sands. "Nestled in the southwestern portion of the island, this area tends to see dependably sunnier weather year-round," he says. Plus, there are plenty of top-notch beachfront properties, from the Four Seasons Resort Maui to the Grand Wailea Resort. When you're not lounging the beach, get your adrenaline pumping on the legendary Road to Hana or skim the waves at Ho'okipa Beach, before visiting Paia, a laid-back surfer town with a bohemian edge.Idaho: McCall
For a snow-filled ski retreat, head to McCall, an underrated kid-friendly mountain town with prime powder. Hit the slopes at the nearby Bundage Mountain Resort or the nearby Salmon River Mountains. After carving fresh powder on well-groomed terrain – Brundage is known for more than 320 inches of snow each winter – or enjoying snowshoeing or snowmobiling tours, enjoy a craft beer at Salmon River Brewery. Then, warm up at a cozy cottage at Tamarack Resort; two-bedroom cottages offer gas fireplaces, washer-dryer units and even hot tubs in select units. What's more, if you're visiting at the tail-end of February, you can catch the McCall Winter Carnival – complete with elaborate ice sculptures, live music and snow bike competitions.Illinois: Chicago
The Windy City may not sound like an alluring winter escape, with frosty wind chills preventing you from exploring world-renowned sights like Millennium Park or taking a memorable architecture tour. But if you're willing to brave the cold, you can still enjoy browsing the upscale shops lining the Magnificent Mile, digging into an authentic deep-dish slice or a sit-down meal at boundary-pushing restaurants such as Hanbun, Elske, Fat Rice and Alinea and take advantage of discounted hotel room rates. Even better, you can skate at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park and get into the holiday spirit at the traditional Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza or the Winter WonderFest event at Navy Pier.Indiana: Indianapolis
You may associate Indianapolis with race cars – it is the host of the Indianapolis 500, after all – but this Midwestern city has much more to offer. For starters, you can take advantage of the vibrant dining scene, with James Beard-nominated establishments like Public Greens and designated favorites like Thunderbird and Bluebird. Plus, the city boasts world-class museums (check out The Children's Museum of Indianapolis if you're traveling with youngsters), and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. What's more, in winter there are plenty of ways to embrace a little holiday magic. On Monument Circle, you can watch twinkling lights cast a wintry glow for an annual Circle of Lights display or enjoy a choreographed light displays at Winterlights at Newfields.Iowa: Des Moines
Iowa: Des Moines
Diverse cultural attractions, a vibrant food scene and a lively nightlife scene are a few year-round draws of Iowa's capital. In winter, days can be spent checking out festive displays, from Christkindlmarket Des Moines to Jingle in the Junction, when more than 150,000 lights and ice sculptures, trolley and horse rides and carolers get into the holiday spirit. When you're not ice skating at the Brenton Skating Plaza or grabbing a pastry at La Mie Bakery, check out the Des Moines Art Center to admire world-class art from the likes of Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon. After dark, sit down for a memorable Italian meal at Lucca, before heading to Up–Down for drinks in an underground arcade-inspired bar.Kansas: Kansas City
Kansas: Kansas City
Crowds of merry-makers flock to Kansas City each winter to partake in the season's annual holiday happenings, from tree-lighting ceremonies to bright displays at the Strawberry Hill Ethnic Museum and Cultural Center. From mid-November to early January, the cultural center gets into the spirit with an Olde World Christmas event – decked with colorful Victorian-era decorations and ethnic exhibition spaces showcasing traditional holiday décor from across the globe, including displays from Italy, Belgium, Ireland and Mexico. Another must is the Santa at the Winery in nearby Peck, where grown-ups can enjoy free tastings while youngsters delight in face painting and hot cocoa.Kentucky: Louisville
(Bob Stefko/Getty Images)
This underrated north-central Kentucky getaway isn't just the place for mint juleps and Derby Days at the racetrack. Louisville wins over culture vultures with the promise of world-class attractions like the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and the Muhammad Ali Center. But there's more to do than tap into the city's museum scene: Get a taste of the city's bourbon culture by exploring the Urban Bourbon Trail. Or, catch a show at Stevie Ray's Blues Bar or Backseat Sandbar if you're a bluegrass lover. Cap off your trip with a memorable meal at Feast BBQ. And throughout December you can catch Lights Under Louisville, when more than 1,000 displays illuminate the Mega Cavern.Louisiana: New Orleans
Louisiana: New Orleans
The alluring epicenter of over-the-top shindigs, jazz and year-round debauchery, the Big Easy's appeal is magnified around the party of the year: Mardi Gras. If you can't make it to the multiday spectacle in February, you can still join the revelry with plenty of holiday happenings in December and January. Around Christmastime, there's the annual Krewe of Jingle, complete with marching bands and bead-tossing. And if you're planning to ring in the New Year in the Crescent City, you can catch elaborate floats and entertainment for the annual Allstate Sugar Bowl New Year's Eve Parade. Other must-dos include meandering through the Garden District, grabbing a drink at the iconic Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge and delighting in a powdery beignet at Café Du Monde.Maine: Kennebunkport
It's no wonder why serenity-seekers slip away to this idyllic New England retreat. Kennebunkport knows how to get into the holiday spirit with seasonal festivities, from sleigh rides to a tree-lighting ceremony at the Dock Square. During the Christmas Prelude celebration, revelers can take part in ornament making, hat decorating and caroling with hot chocolate around a bonfire. Aside from merry-making, you can enjoy solitude on tranquil walks or enjoy active pastimes like Nordic skiing at Harris and Laudholm farms. At the end of the day, cozy up with some wine and pampering at the Breakwater Inn & Spa, where you can indulge in river stone massages.Maryland: Annapolis
Beyond superb crab cakes, brick-flanked streets and idyllic views overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis also delivers on festive holiday activities. Beginning in mid-November, you can catch the Lights on the Bay in Sandy Point State Park, a drive-through show with 60-plus gleaming displays along the Chesapeake. And that's not all. Head downtown to pick up locally crafted jewelry, candles and pottery. If you arrive in December, attend the annual Annapolis Chocolate Binge Festival – complete with hot chocolate and s'more-making around a fire pit. What's more, to enhance the merriment, in December the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade includes picturesque sailboats glowing with a dizzying array of decked-out lights.Massachusetts: The Berkshires
Massachusetts: The Berkshires
To shake away any lingering holiday stress, enjoy a change of scenery in the Berkshires, where you'll find romantic retreats, world-class spas and charming small towns. If you're looking to splurge, check into the Blantyre Hotel in Lenox, where you can ice skate and cross-country ski along the property's sprawling 110 acres, before warming up with a cup of hot cocoa or curling up with a book at the property's "Warming Hut." After embracing the great outdoors, soothe sore muscle with a massage at the spa. Then discover more of the Berkshires underrated gems, with a memorable meal at Nudel, antique shopping along U.S. Route 7 or a tour of the famous Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.Michigan: Traverse City
Michigan: Traverse City
With idyllic lakeside backdrops and an abundance of snow-filled activities, from snowboarding to snowshoeing, Traverse City appeals to outdoorsy types. But there's much more to experience here beyond cold-weather pursuits and small-town charm. After hitting the trails, check out the Northern Natural Cider House and Winery, browse the shops along Front Street or, on weekends throughout December, check out Holiday in the Village in nearby Suttons Bay, which includes movie screenings, sweet treatments and meet-and-greets with Santa. When you're ready to turn in, check into the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, where you can indulge in coconut- and apricot-infused body scrubs and book a festive kid-friendly breakfast with Santa during select days in December.Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul
Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul
With crisp air, snow-covered parks – Buck Hill, Hyland and Afton Alps are favorites for powder hounds – and vibrant arts and music scenes, the Twin Cities offer an underrated winter wonderland. Holiday revelers will get a kick out of the annual Holidazzle event with fireworks shows, holiday film screenings and ice skating. Plus, you can enjoy sleigh rides and snowboarding in Theodore Wirth Park. Breaks from embracing the great outdoors can be spent dining at top-notch restaurants like Spoon and Stable and Heydey, picking up gifts at the Mall of America, catching a show at Guthrie Theater or admiring contemporary collections at the Walker Art Center.Mississippi: Biloxi
Mild weather in the mid-40s to mid-60s, sparse crowds and discounted off-season hotel rates are a few enticements for slipping away to Biloxi. "The entire Mississippi Gulf Coast – including Biloxi, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis and Ocean Springs – is home to affordable lodgings, warm beaches, the beautiful Gulf Islands National Seashore and amazing Gulf-fresh shrimp, oysters and fish," Firpo-Cappiello says. He recommends kayaking along the shores and sampling the region's tasty craft beers. Art aficionados will also appreciate strolling the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, which boasts lesser-known sculptures and ceramics and is housed in a building designed by Frank Gehry. High rollers will also want to check out the casinos fringing Beach Boulevard.Missouri: Kansas City
Missouri: Kansas City
When temperatures drop, competitive sports matches heat up in this Midwestern town. If you're not cheering on beloved local football players and digging into the city's legendary barbecue, admire the bright holiday lights illuminating Country Club Plaza, catch a live show in the 18th and Vine Jazz District or check out the impressive collections at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. If you're visiting in December, be sure to stop by the Mayor's Christmas Tree, a 100-foot-tall spruce decked with 7,200 white lights. You can also get into the holiday spirit at WinterFest, a winter village with ice skating and kid-friendly programming, and the Kansas City Zoo's Holiday Wild event, with meet-and-greets with Santa and a penguin march.Montana: Glacier National Park
Montana: Glacier National Park
It's easy to see why nature lovers and outdoorsy types swoon over this prized national park. With snow-blanketed mountains, glacier-filled landscapes, clear skies and picturesque overlooks, Glacier National Park is nothing if not enchanting. Cold-weather enthusiasts can tag along ranger-guided snowshoe treks and powder hounds can embrace prime cross-country skiing conditions (with weather permitting). Get your heart racing with a snowshoe hike along near Lake McDonald, before making your way to the Sacred Dancing Cascade to catch a glimpse of inspiring waterfalls. Keep in mind, the legendary 50-mile, two-lane Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed during inclement conditions in winter. Best of all, it's easy to land affordable lodging in neighboring towns like Whitefish.Nebraska: Omaha
When visiting Omaha, you can't miss checking out top attractions like the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which boasts seasonal festivities like dressed-up holiday characters and entertainment throughout December, plus a Penguins and Pancakes event, where you can delight in crafts, delicious pancakes and visit African penguins. Other can't-miss sights include the Durham Museum and the Omaha Children's Museum. After painting the town, check into the Magnolia Hotel, which offers well-appointed digs and is located in the Old Market district. When hunger sets in, make your way to The Boiler Room, where tempting dishes like the house charcuterie, beignets of brandade and a Wagyu sirloin steak are on the menu.Nevada: Lake Tahoe
Nevada: Lake Tahoe
World-class skiing and snowboarding, a lively apres-ski scene, top-notch ski resorts – what's not to love about Lake Tahoe? Adventure junkies can embrace their snow-filled surroundings with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance with skiing and snowboarding at Mount Rose Ski Tahoe or at the nearby Heavenly Ski Resort & Gondola. At the end of December, the area hosts a Heavenly Holidays event at Heavenly Village, which includes ice-sculpting, interactive shows, ice skating and fireworks. After an invigorating day on powdery slopes or enjoying other cold-weather delights, warm up at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino, which boasts a heated lagoon-style pool, s'mores over a fire pit and pampering spa treatments, like mud wraps.New Hampshire: Portsmouth
New Hampshire: Portsmouth
If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, complete with sleigh rides, brightly lit streets and glistening trees, embrace the warmth of the season in Portsmouth. In this vibrant seaport, you can enjoy the town's annual Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth event. Aside from Victorian homes and twinkling light displays, visitors can enjoy an annual gingerbread contest, shopping and strolling in town and a holiday parade in Market Square. Plus, there's a Candlelight Stroll, which takes place at Strawbery Banke Museum, and includes costumed actors and musical acts. Afterward, check out the Music Hall to catch "Irving Berlin's White Christmas The Musical," before cozying up with a craft beer at top brew spots Smuttynose or Portsmouth Brewery.New Jersey: Cape May
New Jersey: Cape May
A perennial favorite beach town, Cape May draws summer visitors in droves with its charming bed-and-breakfasts, Victorian architecture and beautiful sands. And in winter, after the crowds and temperatures have dropped, you can enjoy serene seaside strolls, catch the annual Cape May Christmas Parade or check out the Winter Wonderland at Congress Hall, which includes sweet treats, a Santa's workshop and shopping in the property's snow globe-like village. During the season, you can also catch jazz performances in the property's Ebbitt Room, a holiday soiree in the Grand Ballroom and even gingerbread decorating with Mrs. Claus. Even better, lit lovers can get into the holiday spirit with a "Dickens Christmas Extravaganza" at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts.New Mexico: Santa Fe
New Mexico: Santa Fe
With the famed Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the backdrop, Santa Fe offers a picturesque and offbeat retreat for powder chasers. For high-altitude scenery, venture to Angel Fire, Taos or Ski Santa Fe, a prime ski destination near town with pristine runs and enticing packages. When you're ready for a break, soak in geothermal mineral springs at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa, or visit the area's prized attractions like Taos Pueblo, an adobe structure that's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make the luxurious Eldorado Hotel & Spa or the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe your home base to enjoy Southwestern-inspired spa treatments, a cracking indoor fireplace and well-appointed accommodations.New York: New York City
New York: New York City
The city that never sleeps offers an intoxicating mix of world-class restaurants, lively neighborhoods decked with twinkling lights and boundary-pushing performances vying for visitors' attention during the most magical time of the year. For a classic holiday in Manhattan, check out the brightly lit tree at Rockefeller Center and admire the dazzling window displays along Fifth Avenue. Another must-do: Strapping on ice skates in Central Park or Winter Village in Bryant Park and catching "The Nutcracker" at Lincoln Center. And it's hard to deny the appeal of savoring doughnuts and cider at the Union Square Holiday Market. Craving more merry-making? Take a Christmas lights tour in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights or catch a holiday performance at the Apollo Theater.North Carolina: Blowing Rock
North Carolina: Blowing Rock
A laid-back mountain town along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock offers easy access to superlative ski destinations, including Sugar Mountain and Appalachian Ski Mountain. Hit the slopes, peruse the antique and craft shops lining Main Street and venture to Kilwins or Sugar Shack for a sweet treat. If you would rather check out seasonal events, there's the annual Christmas Parade on Main Street and WinterFest in late January, which includes a dog show, ice carving demonstrations, hayrides for kids and jazz performances, among other festivities. Make Westglow Resort & Spa or Chetola Resort your home base for easy access to Blowing Rock, the legendary rock structure that offers mesmerizing views of Grandfather Mountain.North Dakota: Lake Metigoshe State Park
North Dakota: Lake Metigoshe State Park
If you love winter sports, North Dakota offers plenty of cold-weather pursuits to charm you, from cross-country skiing to sledding to ice fishing to ice skating. For serene surroundings, visit Lake Metigoshe State Park in the Turtle Mountains, which boasts snow-blanketed aspens and 1,500 acres for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. You can also check out powdery snowmobile trails or tackle the Old Oak Trail for a tranquil and beautiful landscape. After snowy escapades outdoors, venture to a secluded cabin equipped with a gas fireplace and kitchen in the park. The Look and White Pelican lodges are open year-round and offer an ideal location if you're itching to hit the trails.Ohio: Cincinnati
Cincinnati – with its lively festivals and dazzling light spectacles – knows how to celebrate the holidays in style. Embrace your inner Candy Land lover at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for the PNC Festival of Lights, when more than two million LED lights illuminate the area's Candy Cane Forest from late November to Jan. 1. Then, check out Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, where more than a million lights deck sculptures and gardens. Round out your visit with a relaxing stay at 21C Museum Hotel, a rising newcomer set in a storied 100-year-old building, with contemporary accents, a modern art collection and a spa.Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Prairie dogs, elk, bison, mountain lions and other wildlife call this sprawling sanctuary home. For optimal animal-viewing, explore of the designated refuge nature trails. You may even come across a snake or two as you check out the Charon's Garden Wilderness Area. Another highlight is the Kite Trail. Around mid-December to January, visitors can also join fellow nature enthusiasts for an annual Christmas Bird Count to help the National Audubon Society update its early-winter bird census. You can also join a naturalist-led hiking tour to admire the area's millennia-old granite rock formations. As for lodging, you'll find a variety of budget-friendly options in Old Town and the Historic Delano District.Oregon: Ecola State Park
Oregon: Ecola State Park
As you cruise along Oregon's spellbinding coastline – from Astoria to Brookings – you'll pass by cascading waves, rolling hills and lush landscapes. Ecola State Park's 9-mile stretch yields magnificent cliff-side scenery, along with tucked-away coves, sandy beaches and enticing trails. Serenity-seekers can tackle an 8-mile section of the Oregon Coast Trail or visit Indian Beach for a beautiful picnic and excellent wildlife-viewing – migrating gray whales, eagles and elk can be seen in winter. After taking in the rocky coastline and capturing dreamy photos of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, sandwiched between Cannon Beach and Seaside, book a room at The Waves Cannon Beach, which boasts upscale accommodations outfitted with gas-burning fireplaces and kitchens and flat-screen TVs.Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
With world-class museums and storied landmarks, a dynamic culinary scene and lively seasonal events, the City of Brotherly Love wins over culture vultures, foodies, urbanites and history buffs alike. Revelers can catch the Mummers Parade on New Year's Day, when scores or visitors flank JFK Boulevard to catch sight of the bright floats and ornate costumes of dancers and performers. And as temperatures drop, visitors flock to the city's renowned art and architecture institutions – the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must not only for its iconic Rocky Steps but also its top-notch collections – and of course destinations that commemorate America's birthplace, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center.Rhode Island: Newport
Rhode Island: Newport
Winter landscapes in Newport are postcard-perfect, with frosty air, snow-covered mansions and colonial-era cottages. To embrace the great outdoors, visit the Norman Bird Sanctuary, a 325-acre space with picturesque trails. Or check out Ballard Park, which features a glowing illuminated garden. Arrive in February, and you can catch a brilliant light display at the park. When you're ready to warm up, venture to The Chanler at Cliff Walk, a stately mansion-turned-hotel with dramatic seaside views and a crackling fireplace at its lobby bar. Then, head to Thames Street to pop into antique shops selling everything from furniture to jewelry at Armory Antique Marketplace, before delighting in seafood-centric staples like fried oysters and fish and chips at The Wharf or Brick Alley Pub.South Carolina: Charleston
South Carolina: Charleston
Antebellum charm, centuries-old historical attractions, leisurely horse-drawn carriage rides and charming cobbled streets add to Charleston's allure year-round. And in winter, you can still embrace this coastal retreat with shopping along King Street, indulgent meals at The Bar at Husk and seasonal happenings like the Holiday Festival of Lights (from November to January), which includes a Victorian carousel, an orchestrated light show and marshmallow roasting. You'll also want to explore can't-miss attractions, such as the Nathaniel Russell House and the Battery. At the end of the day, cozy up in a historic hotel (we're looking at you Wentworth Mansion), where you embrace Southern hospitality at its finest with afternoon wine and hors d'oeuvres.South Dakota: Badlands National Park
South Dakota: Badlands National Park
Striking red rock formations, dramatic canyons and big-horned sheep: South Dakota's Badlands National Park attracts nature lovers in search of enchanting, snow-dusted landscapes. Soak in the scenery by car on an unforgettable drive along Badlands Loop Road – on South Dakota Highway 240 – and cruise past mesmerizing overlooks. A top highlight is Badlands Wall, a layer of sedimentary rock that features layers of otherworldly formations in crimson, purple and orange shades. During the colder months, you can also take advantage of prime wildlife-viewing opportunities and keep your eyes peeled for prairie dogs, bison and antelope. When you need a break, stop at Cedar Pass Lodge Restaurant or pack a picnic.Tennessee: Nashville
With honky-tonk bars, bluegrass and a deep-rooted Southern culture, Music City charms visitors year-round. But here's a secret: In winter, you can get into the holiday groove with a variety of music-driven events, from jingles to choirs to concerts. Case in point: the Dancing Lights of Christmas, a drive-in lights display with thousands or glowing bulbs at the James E. Ward Agricultural and Community Center. And at the Country Music Hall of Fame, there's an annual Deck the Hall program with cookie decorating and musical acts. If you're really itching to deck the halls, venture to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which goes all out with an annual ICE! Celebration with lights, ice sculptures and seasonal programming.Texas: San Antonio
Texas: San Antonio
While San Antonio's River Walk is a star city attraction in any season, arrive at the end of November and you can catch 120,000 gleaming lights decking the cypress-lined waterway. Beyond the annual display, other spirited events include the Holiday Artisan Show and the Ford Holiday Boat Caroling spectacle along San Antonio's banks. Also check out the city's other can't-miss attractions, such as the San Antonio Museum of Art and Brackenridge Park. When you need a break, browse the shops and relax at charming cafes along the River Walk. Cap off your visit with an authentic Tex-Mex meal at top culinary institutions such as La Fonda on Main.Utah: Park City
Utah: Park City
Winter scenes in Park City are like a real-life snow globe, with horse-drawn sleigh rides, dog sledding and Olympic-caliber terrain at Utah Olympic Park. When you're not racing down glistening peaks at Park City Mountain and Deer Valley Ski Resort or taking a Comet Bobsled ride at Utah Olympic Park – the host of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games – explore galleries, boutiques and dining spots along Main Street in the Historic District. After an exhilarating day outdoors, unwind with some shuffleboard at the popular No Name Saloon and Grill or cozy up at Montage Deer Valley, which offers all the trappings of a world-class ski retreat, from its rooms appointed with gas fireplaces to its 35,000-square-foot spa with alpine-inspired massages.Vermont: Stratton
Vermont is full of picture-perfect winter backdrops, with its classic New England villages filled with snow-blanketed bridges, brilliant light displays and enchanting white church steeples (Stowe and Woodstock, we're looking at you). But according to Firpo-Cappiello, a standout destination for budget-minded skiers in the Green Mountain State is Stratton in southern Vermont. "Stratton is not only one of the Northeast's most beautiful ski resorts, but it also boasts amazing terrain," he explains, adding that ski lift ticket prices are reasonably priced. At Stratton Mountain Resort, you can snowboard and cross-country ski. When hunger sets in, Grizzly's Bar and Restaurant beckons for an après-ski feast, complete with draft beer and wood-fired pizza.Virginia: Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park
Virginia: Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park
Nature lovers looking to take in spectacular landscapes are attracted to Virginia's 105-mile Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. While many travelers arrive in spring or fall to catch sight of dazzling blooms and fall colors, in winter, you can take in the rolling landscapes and wildlife-viewing areas in solitude and cold-weather splendor – without combating thick tourist crowds. As you meander along Front Royal, along U.S. 340, you'll weave past snow-blanketed oaks and hickories dotting Dickey Ridge and pass the dramatic Shenandoah Valley Overlook. From the road, you can also navigate to more than 500 miles of trails along with the Appalachian Trail to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing and other cold-weather pastimes.Washington: Seattle
You may not think of this Pacific Northwest city as a winter wonderland, but think again. The Emerald City offers easy access to snow-blanketed peaks like Alpental at the Summit at Snoqualmie or Crystal Mountain, making it a prime ski destination for powder chasers. And after tackling well-groomed slopes, you can embrace urban allures, from world-renowned attractions such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market to savoring leisurely meals at with award-winning institutions like Staple & Fancy or The Whale Wins. Best of all, after painting the town, you can warm up by a gas fireplace as you overlook Elliott Bay at The Edgewater Hotel.West Virginia: Thomas
West Virginia: Thomas
If you're not making a break to the Greenbrier for the winter holidays to admire thousands of lights on display and holiday programming, check out Thomas, West Virginia's rising small town tucked in the Allegheny Mountains. When you're not stopping by charming cafés, antique shops and galleries along Front Street, explore the great outdoors at Blackwater Falls State Park or Dolly Sods Wilderness, before savoring a craft beer at Mountain State Brewing Company. If you're clamoring to hit the slopes, check out the nearby Canaan Valley State Resort. And when hunger sets in, indulge in a memorable brunch at Flying Pigs Breakfast and Lunchery. Another must-see: the Purple Fiddle, a café and bluegrass hot spot.Wisconsin: Door County
Wisconsin: Door County
This northern Wisconsin peninsula near Sturgeon Bay wins over snow enthusiasts with its promise of icy splendor, from its snowshoeing and sledding areas to its pristine lakes and state parks where you can enjoy snowmobile rides, zip lining and fat tire biking. But there's more to do than embrace cold-weather escapades: Wander through the charming galleries and shops of Fish Creek and admire twinkling lights and bright window displays. Or savor a leisurely progressive-themed meal, with horse-drawn wagons included, at the area's three historic inns – Thorp House Inn and Cottages, White Gull Inn and Whistling Swan – during weekends in December and January. As for lodging, check into the Thorp House, for an enviable location near Main Street.Wyoming: Jackson Hole
Wyoming: Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole has long lured ski bums with its Western charm, snow-covered peaks and ample opportunities for cold-weather pursuits, from snowboarding to cross-country skiing to sleigh rides in National Elk Refuge. After shredding powder at Rendezvous Mountain (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers an ideal base camp), take part in a variety of off-the-slope offerings, from a snowmobile tour of Yellowstone National Park to cross-country skiing at Taggart Lake Trail. Next, wander through the scenic Town Square or cozy up by a crackling fireplace at a top retreat like The Rusty Parrot Lodge. When you need to refuel, pick up a sweet pastry at Persephone Bakery or sit down for a heartier post-ski meal at Snake River Grill.Read More
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