50 Charming Small Towns to Visit If You Love Winter

Spend the most wonderful time of the year in a storybook winter setting.

By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterDec. 12, 2017
By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterDec. 12, 2017, at 1:56 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

50 Charming Small Towns to Visit If You Love Winter

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Panoramic shot of young female freestyle skier in high mountains at early morning.
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Wander in a winter wonderland in these picture-perfect snowy getaways.

Whether you're clamoring for cold-weather fun in an inviting ski town – complete with arresting alpine scenery, frosty sleigh rides and aprés-ski activities – or a storybook idyll with historic streets, cozy bistros and spellbinding backdrops, these locales offer an unmistakable small-scale appeal. With dazzling light displays, time-honored local traditions and plenty of culture and character, these bewitching towns beckon for exploration. From the snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps to the high-altitude splendor of Rockies, read on to discover enchanting destinations that pack plenty of personality and cold-weather splendor.

Evening scene in Innsbruck, Austria.
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Innsbruck, Austria

Glistening peaks, picturesque snowy surroundings and old world charm beckon cold-weather enthusiasts to Innsbruck's winter wonderland. Aside from crossing the world-class slopes at Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck off your skiing bucket list (be sure to check out the Stubai Glacier area), enjoy the area's other gems, from its baroque architecture to its high-end restaurants and shops in Old Town. Fuel up with a sweet pastry like an apple strudel at Café Sacher or enjoy a leisurely meal at Sitzwohl. When you're ready to unwind, check into Grand Hotel Europa, where you can cap off your day with an indulgent Swedish massage at the spa or enjoy a nightcap at Bar Europa.

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Wander in a winter wonderland in these picture-perfect snowy getaways.

Whether you're clamoring for cold-weather fun in an inviting ski town – complete with arresting alpine scenery, frosty sleigh rides and aprés-ski activities – or a storybook idyll with historic streets, cozy bistros and spellbinding backdrops, these locales offer an unmistakable small-scale appeal. With dazzling light displays, time-honored local traditions and plenty of culture and character, these bewitching towns beckon for exploration. From the snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps to the high-altitude splendor of Rockies, read on to discover enchanting destinations that pack plenty of personality and cold-weather splendor.

Innsbruck, Austria

Glistening peaks, picturesque snowy surroundings and old world charm beckon cold-weather enthusiasts to Innsbruck's winter wonderland. Aside from crossing the world-class slopes at Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck off your skiing bucket list (be sure to check out the Stubai Glacier area), enjoy the area's other gems, from its baroque architecture to its high-end restaurants and shops in Old Town. Fuel up with a sweet pastry like an apple strudel at Café Sacher or enjoy a leisurely meal at Sitzwohl. When you're ready to unwind, check into Grand Hotel Europa, where you can cap off your day with an indulgent Swedish massage at the spa or enjoy a nightcap at Bar Europa.

Stowe, Vermont

With the Green Mountains in the backdrop and Swiss-style chalets and snow-covered peaks, Stowe beckons to powder-seekers of all ages and skill levels. Mount Mansfield lures intrepid skiers looking to tackle double-black diamond trails, while beginners head to Spruce Peak's base at Stowe Mountain Resort. Superlative skiing terrain aside, outdoorsy types will also appreciate festive seasonal events like the Stowe Winter Carnival in January and the Stowe Derby in February, along with vibrant après-ski scenes at cozy retreats like Topnotch Resort. For a quintessential Vermont ski retreat, it's hard to top Stowe with its alpine scenery, versatile trails and classic lodges, says Everett Potter, a columnist for Forbes and author of the website "Everett Potter's Travel Report."

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge abounds with scenes seemingly plucked out of a snow globe, with its pristine peaks, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating opportunities and captivating landscapes. "What I love about Breckenridge is that fact that snow conditions here rival those of its more posh neighbors like Vail and Aspen," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo, describing the vibe as laid-back and approachable. "Classic après-ski options abound in the charming downtown," he adds. Opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at the Breckenridge Nordic Center or snowboarding at Breckenridge Ski Resort aside, Breckenridge, or "Breck" to locals, also offers a lively beer scene, quaint galleries and boutiques, a flourishing arts district and charming Victorian-era buildings.

Seward, Alaska

While Girdwood, Alaska, beckons to ski bums with its fresh powder, crisp air and access to the Chugach Mountains, for an outside-the-box getaway, consider Seward, says Alex Howard, managing editor of the U.S. edition of Lonely Planet magazine. Whether you want to take an excursion to nearby Resurrection Bay or visit the snow-dusted Kenai Fjords National Park, which houses Exit Glacier, there are plenty of diversions. Exit Glacier is closed off to cars in winter, but it's still accessible for cross-country skiing, fat biking, snowmobiling and dog sledding. Howard suggests hiring a guide for glacier trekking to admire the area's captivating cliffs and alpine glaciers in their full glory. Also consider a park ranger-guided boat tour in Kenai Fjords with outfitter Major Marine Tours to observe fjords, whales and fascinating sea life up close.

North Conway, New Hampshire

If your idea of a perfect winter escape involves gliding down snow-dusted peaks and lacing up your boots for cross-country trails, Potter suggests heading to North Conway, a classic New England ski town on the eastern side of the White Mountains in Mount Washington Valley. Take your pick from a variety of nearby ski areas, including Cranmore, which is about 2 miles away from the town's main village and boasts a ski school along with off-slope activities such as snowshoeing and sleigh rides. Then check out the Conway Scenic Railroad or brush up on meteorology at Mount Washington Observatory's Weather Discovery Center before grabbing snacks at Zeb's General Store.

Jackson, Wyoming

If you're seeking fresh powder, luxurious accommodations and a vibrant après-ski scene, Jackson offers an ideal ski break. Plus, you can enjoy a prime location near Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, Howard says. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts a mix of runs for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. Away from the slopes, wildlife lovers can check out an elk herd numbering in the thousands at the National Elk Refuge. After embracing quality time in the great outdoors, retire to luxurious accommodations like the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole in Teton Village, where you can relieve any lingering tension with a classic Swedish alpine massage.

Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy

For a cinematic winter scene, forgo a Swiss Alps chateau in favor of an enchanting chalet in Cortina d'Ampezzo, framed by the majestic peaks of the Dolomites. With its massive rock outcroppings blanketed in powder under the Tofane Range, the area offers plenty of picturesque backdrops. The setting is known for old Hollywood glamour, attracting A-listers such as Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn, and garnered a reputation as a winter wonderland after hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics. Aside from its charming old world feel, "Cortina is very stylish," Potter adds, noting that the area appeals to a well-heeled crowd. When you're not tackling the slopes, check out Enoteca Cortina wine bar or delight in an apple strudel at Pasticceria Lovat.

Banff, Canada

Located at the foot of Banff National Park, this town offers striking surroundings, magnificent mountains and diverse ski areas catering to all skill levels, Howard says. Powder chasers can pick from three easily accessible major ski areas, including Sunshine Village, which boasts roughly 3,500 skiable acres (try the Bye Bye Bowl for beautiful views). Off the slopes, admire frosty landscapes on an ice walk with reputable outfitter Discover Banff Tours. Then, refuel at Castello Ristorante or savor a nightcap in Banff's charming town. For an enchanting home base, consider the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, which boasts sweeping views of Victoria Glacier.

Lake Arrowhead, California

This charming village is about a 90-minute drive east of LA, in the San Bernardino Mountains. And though this Southern California retreat is often overlooked in favor of Big Bear, it offers striking mountain scenery and charm, with rustic cabins and a variety of wintery adventures, from sledding to tubing to cross-country skiing, Saglie says. Hit the machine-groomed Nordic trails at Rim Nordic, enjoy snow tubing at Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park in nearby Running Springs, California, or check out the SkyPark at Santa's Village, an alpine-inspired park with seasonal attractions like Frozen Falls climbing tower and cookie-decorating. Then, retire to Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa, which boasts sweeping lake and mountain views.

Bethel, Maine

This quintessential New England village offers a cinematic winter scene with 19th-century Victorian buildings, the snow-capped White Mountains in the backdrop and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Plus, Mount Abram is just 5 miles from downtown and offers 20 trails well-suited for beginners, along with a ski school. Meanwhile, Sunday River ski resort offers terrain catering to experienced skiers. Outdoorsy types can also enjoy cross-country skiing at Bethel Village Trails, a Nordic ski and snowshoe center at The Bethel Inn Resort or partake in a dog sledding adventure or ice-fishing expedition with an experienced tour guide. After enjoying Bethel's snowy landscapes, shop for antiques, retire to The Bethel Inn Resort or warm up with an Italian-inspired meal at 22 Broad Street at Gideon Hastings House.

St. Moritz, Switzerland

This dreamy town in the Swiss Alps begs to be explored, especially in winter when it's dusted in fresh powder. The legendary alpine retreat offers a deep-rooted ski culture (it was the destination for the Winter Olympic Games in 1928 and 1948), and entices visitors with its glamorous surroundings. Savor a leisurely meal at El Paradiso paired with Engadin Valley views before checking into the the fairy tale-like Badrutt's Palace Hotel, where you can get pampered with indulgent oxygen facials and enjoy complimentary Rolls Royce transfers. For more activity, enjoy the high life with fun pastimes like snowboarding, bobsledding and ice skating.

Bend, Oregon

Backcountry black and double-black trails, a flourishing brew scene and a laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere draw ski enthusiasts to this mellow central Oregon town and nearby ski area. Mount Bachelor is dusted with more than 460 inches of snowfall each year and boasts nearly 100 runs. Challenging slopes aside, Bend also offers activities such as Nordic skiing, dog sledding and snowboard parks. After shredding powder or enjoying off-slope pursuits, warm up with a memorable meal at Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails or Jackson's Corner. Cap off your day with a lofty pint or nightcap at Deschutes Brewery or Crux Fermentation Project before slipping away to well-appointed accommodations nearby at Pronghorn Resort or Tetherow, which boasts ski packages.

Hallstätt, Austria

Hallstätt, with its majestic Dachstein Mountains, picturesque lakeside views and inspiring architecture, looks like a scene out of a holiday card. It's "probably one of the most beautiful towns in all of Europe," Potter says. When you're not strolling through the village – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and admiring its lively market square, fairy tale-like alpine scenery and unique salt mining heritage, savor a strudel at Café Derbl or a leisurely meal at Gasthof Zauner. Even better, you can easily tack on this enchanting alpine village to a trip Vienna, which is just a three-hour drive away.

Bennington, Vermont

A charming southern Vermont town known for its craft beer and vibrant arts scene, Bennington attracts winter travelers pining for an easy and picturesque outdoor escape. It's "a cool small town any time of year, with great museums, including one of the major collections of America folk artist Grandma Moses, great food and affordable lodging in the Green Mountains," says Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor in chief of Budget Travel. After checking out must-see landmarks like the Bennington Battle Monument, an iconic Revolutionary War structure, or strolling through the Vermont Arts Exchange in North Bennington, warm up with a pint at Madison Brewing Company Pub and Restaurant. Then, check into Four Chimneys Inn, a cozy B&B.

Chamonix, France

A world-class destination for heart-pounding ski adventures, Chamonix in the French Alps offers hair-raising slopes along the epic Mount Blanc massif, along with plunging vertical drops, glacier-capped mountains and a charming car-free village with cobblestone streets and opulent resorts. Breaks from shredding powder can include checking out the Alpine Museum, indulging in Tibetan-inspired spa treatments at Hotel Mont-Blanc or savoring an après-ski cocktail at the Scandinavian-inspired Chambre Neuf. And no trip to Chamonix is complete without tackling the legendary Vallée Blanche run – a 15-mile off-piste slope in the Chamonix Valley, tucked between glaciers. Best of all, Chamonix is just an hourlong drive from Geneva.

Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport may be best known for its quintessential lobster shacks, rocky beaches and star-studded clientele, including the Bush family, but this idyllic seaside escape is equally alluring in the off-season, when fresh powder blankets cozy bed-and-breakfasts and wintry pastimes draw sports enthusiasts. Arrive in December to catch the Christmas Prelude, which includes unique, time-honored traditions such as the Hat Parade on Dock Square, Santa parading in a horse-drawn lobster boat, a craft fair and a fireworks display. After soaking in the seasonal merriment, warm up around a roaring wood-burning fireplace or a spacious Jacuzzi tub at the Grace White Barn Inn & Spa. Craving more activity? Take your pick from snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating and cross-country skiing.

Estes Park, Colorado

As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park offers a convenient launching pad for exploring the great outdoors, Firpo-Cappiello says. In the small town, you'll find kitschy shops and casual eateries like Ed's Cantina & Grill along its main thoroughfare, Elkhorn Avenue. What's more, wildlife lovers will appreciate the area's prime viewing opportunities at Moraine Park (a popular spot for elk sightings) and at trailheads along Bear Lake Road, where elk and moose are sometimes spotted. As for lodging, take your pick from cozy bed-and-breakfasts, wood cabins or historic hotels.

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth's idyllic Bavaria-inspired village may be located in the Pacific Northwest, but it looks like it was taken straight out of Germany. Partake in seasonal pleasures such as sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony, Nordic skiing and holiday shopping. Want more adrenaline-pumping activity? Enjoy ice climbing, dog sledding or backcountry skiing. When you need a break, delight in Scandinavian specialties such as schnitzel, brats and beer at one of the dining spots in the Bavarian village or enjoy a replenishing spa treatment at the Icicle Village Resort or catch sight of reindeer at the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. Best of all, Leavenworth is just a 2.5-hour drive east of Seattle.

Taos, New Mexico

"Taos' cultural, spiritual and artsy reputation makes it an attraction destination year-round, but many people don't realize its appeal during winter," Saglie says. With four main ski resort areas – Taos Ski Valley, Angel Fire, Red River and Sipapu – there are plenty of places to enjoy classic winter pastimes, he adds. "Throw in a sweeping desert landscape and arid weather that creates awesome powder, and Taos becomes a super special place to spend winter," he says. Lovely high-desert landscapes aside – complete with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the backdrop – Taos boasts Swiss-inspired chalets alongside adobe-style homes, old world charm and plenty of lively post-ski haunts and activities, from Doc Martin's at the storied Taos Inn to the adobe dwellings at Taos Pueblo.

Ontonagon, Michigan

The gateway to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon, on Michigan's Keweenah Peninsula offers "some of the finest cross-country ski trails in America," Firpo-Cappiello says. Each year, the area is blanketed in fresh powder, drawing travelers seeking serene nature walks, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. For well-groomed trails, make your way to the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area, located near the entrance of the state park. Afterward, retreat to one of Ontonagon's charming inns, like the Northern Light Inn, or stay at Peterson's Cottages, which boasts cozy accommodations with wood-burning fireplaces, full kitchens and a variety of room options, from one-bedroom accommodations to spacious cottages.

Aspen, Colorado

This postcard-worthy, celebrity-studded ski retreat is one of the most charming around, Potter says. Snow lovers can take their pick from challenging, heart-racing descents and pitches at Aspen Highlands, beginner runs at Buttermilk or two other top-notch ski areas. Meanwhile, ski-averse visitors will find plenty of other fun winter pastimes, from gallery-hopping and boutique-strolling to delighting in decadent meals at Ajax Tavern or Cache Cache. For more pampering, splurge on a stay at The Little Nell, set at the base of Aspen Mountain, or Hotel Jerome, an Auberge Resort, where you can unwind with alpine-inspired treatments like deep-tissue massages and high-alpine oxygen lift facials.

Zermatt, Switzerland

For a classic Swiss ski retreat, Zermatt is hard to beat, Potter says. It's beautiful, with the dramatic Matterhorn rising nearly 15,000 feet, car-free and features all the requisite charm of the Swiss Alps with inviting hotels, restaurants and bars amid a fairy tale landscape. When you're not taking in inspiring views from the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car or carving powder on steep vertical drops, stroll through the charming village streets or check out the vibrant post-ski scene along Bahnhofstrasse. Warm up with a cocktail at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof's Stars Bar or enjoy a decadent meal by a roaring fire at The Omnia.

Whistler, British Columbia

For small-town charm and alpine scenery, consider Whistler. The area's snow-blanketed mountains and more than 200 trails across 8,100 acres of skiable terrain have long lured skiers and snowboarders. But that's not all Whistler has going for it. At the premier ski resort Whistler Blackcomb, outdoor lovers can enjoy a range of off-slope offerings, including fat biking, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and dog sledding, among other wintry pastimes. For less adrenaline-pumping pursuits, stroll through the European-inspired Whistler Village and savor an après-ski cocktail. Then, retire to one of Whistler's award-winning resorts like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler or the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler, where well-appointed mountain-facing rooms offer roaring fireplaces and deep soaking tubs.

Megève, France

If you want to race down fresh tracks and immerse yourself in spectacular alpine surroundings, pack your bags for Megève, an underrated ski destination in southeast France, close to the Swiss and Italian borders. While the destination is smaller than some other French ski retreats, it's quaint and cozy and has a certain je ne se quoi, Potter says. Splurge for a stay at Le Lodge Park for opulent scenery (think: antler chandeliers and wood-paneled furnishings). Whether you want to tackle fresh powder at Mont-Blanc and the Côte 2000 massif range or other wintry pleasures such as horse-drawn carriage rides and ice skating, there are plenty of ways to embrace this winter wonderland.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

With a rich Scandinavian heritage, Frankenmuth offers beautiful Bavaria-inspired surroundings and holiday-themed activities. Touting itself as "Michigan's Little Bavaria," Frankenmuth's crown jewel is Bronner's Christmas Wonderland – one of the largest Christmas shops, which sells 50,000 gifts and offers festive seasonal events like ornament-painting. After wrapping up your holiday shopping, hop into Frankenmuth Brewery for Bavarian specialties like bratwurst. Then, meander along Main Street to embrace the German village-like setting and pop into eclectic shops including Frankenmuth Clock Company and Frankenmuth Cheese Haus. For more winter fun, take a horse-drawn carriage ride across town or check out The Old Christmas Station Restaurant for Scandinavian staples like schnitzel and meat pie.

Malmö, Sweden

High design and 16th-century charm go hand in hand in this lively Swedish town perched across the Øresund strait from Copenhagen. Admire the city's world-class art and architecture from futuristic buildings like the Turning Torso to contemporary art at Moderna Museet Malmo. Then refuel with a memorable meal at a cutting-edge dining venue such as Vollmers and Bloom in the Park. In winter, you can't miss checking out the town's brightly lit small square for the holidays, which is jampacked with restaurants and vibrant cafés. Continue exploring the fairy tale-like setting at Malmöhus, a former castle, before retreating to the Elite Hotel Savoy, which dates back to the 14th century and boasts classic décor along with a British-inspired gastropub.

Ketchum, Idaho

The laid-back, art-driven town of Ketchum offers superlative skiing. The first stop on your itinerary should be Bald Mountain, which features 3,400 vertical feet of groomed terrain and an ideal destination for powder shredding. Avid skiers won't want to miss the 3,000-feet vertical drop at Warm Springs run. Away from the slopes, you can enjoy snowy pastimes like ice skating at the Sun Valley Resort, located less than 2 miles from Ketchum. After embracing the crisp mountain air and snow-capped scenery, grab a pint at Sawtooth Brewery. Then, kick back at a boutique retreat like the Limelight Hotel or splurge for a room at Sun Valley Lodge, where you'll have access to a spa, a yoga studio and cozy accommodations.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Celebrate Christmas cheer and yuletide splendor in Bethlehem, which touts itself as "Christmas City." Bethlehem is home to a renowned open-air European-inspired Christkindlmarkt – complete with ornaments, glassblowers, caramel apples and candied sweets. To take the charm and holiday cheer up a notch, the city even boasts a massive 81-foot-wide glowing star on its South Mountain. Time-honored, holiday-themed traditions also include breakfasts with St. Nick, carriage rides and themed walking tours. After getting your holiday fix, check out nearby museums and historic Moravian sites or grab tickets to a movie at the nearby Roxy – an old-fashioned, single-screen theater in Northampton.

Park City, Utah

With snow-capped vistas, well-groomed trails and a historic downtown brimming with upscale boutiques, art galleries, bars and dining venues, Park City, located just 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, offers a choice ski destination. Park City "is one of the few ski towns where you can literally hop off the lift right in the downtown area," Firpo-Cappiello says. Whether you want to tackle steeps at Deer Valley Resort or check out the powdery bowls and beginner runs at Park City Mountain Resort, Park City offers diverse ski areas well-suited to every skill level. After an exhilarating day on the slopes, warm up with a martini at No name Saloon & Grill on Main Street.

Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec, Canada

A tiny town located near Quebec City, Baie-Saint-Paul appeals to art lovers, history buffs and gourmands alike. Set in Charleveoix, Baie-Saint-Paul offers an impressive selection of art galleries, charming bistros and shops along its main street. "I can't think of a prettier place," Potter says, highlighting its cosmopolitan feel and French flair as especially enchanting. Plan a leisurely lunch at Le Café du Marché, a hip pastry shop, grocer, café and farmers market. Then, meander along Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste to hop into enchanting galleries featuring works from legendary Quebecois and Charlevoix artists. Afterward, check into the Hôtel & Spa Le Germain Charlevoix, which features a Nordic-inspired spa with a snow fountain and an ice skating loop.

Walla Walla, Washington

Located in Washington's southeastern corner, Walla Walla is known for its top-notch wine and lovely Victorian and Beaux-Arts architecture. But viticulture aside (the region boasts 2,800 acres of grapes and 120 wineries), Walla Walla has plenty more going for it. A convenient home base for snowshoeing, skiing and cross-country skiing at nearby Ski Bluewood in the Blue Mountains, Walla Walla is an outdoor lover's playground. After snowboarding or tackling challenging runs, you can head back into town to enjoy lit-up streets, pop into lively bistros and boutiques and savor the seasonal cheer and food with fun events like tacky holiday sweater sales and performance of "The Nutcracker" by the Royal Ballet at the Gesa Power House Theatre.

Bozeman, Montana

This former mining town doesn't just appeal to ski bums searching for powdery hills and classic runs like Bridger Ridge. Since it's a home base for exploring Yellowstone, Bozeman draws both hardcore powder hounds and wildlife lovers. For a heart-pounding adventure, step out of your comfort zone with a mushing expedition with a reputable outfitter like Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures. Afterward, stroll along Main Street to warm up at a coffeehouse, explore eclectic shops and galleries or check into The Lark, a modern boutique hotel offering a variety of winter packages. Craving more adventure? Enjoy snowshoeing and snowga (snowy yoga) at Big Sky Yoga Retreats or go on a horse-drawn sleigh ride with hot chocolate with outfitter Sunrise Pack Station.

Lanesboro, Minnesota

Lanesboro draws winter visitors with its rich Scandinavian history, lovely Victorian architecture and easy access to cross-country trails. Tucked in the Root River Valley, about 120 miles southeast of the Twin Cities, Lanesboro offers an easy launching pad for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing along 60 miles of terrain in the Root River State Trail system. After embracing the great outdoors, slip away to a cozy bed-and-breakfast (the Habberstad House Bed and Breakfast and the Berwood Hill Inn are especially picturesque), catch a show at the Commonweal Theatre or enjoy a meal at the Old Village Hall Restaurant & Pub or Another Time Ice Cream Parlor & Chocolates for sweet treats.

Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada

For a taste of France, skip the transatlantic flight and escape to Mont Tremblant. The hamlet's pedestrian village looks like it was taken from a postcard of the European Alps with its lively bistros, quaint cobbled streets and old world charm. Skiing and snowboarding are top snowy pastimes here, with 96 diverse trails well-suited for different experience levels and four glistening slopes peering over the Laurentians. Skiing aside, Mont Tremblant offers a variety of festive seasonal events, including visits from Santa Claus along the village's streets and a Torchlight Parade followed by a fireworks spectacle on New Year's Eve. Cap off your day with a nightcap at Le P'tit Caribou, a ski bar with inventive cocktails.

Niseko, Japan

For a far-flung winter escape, Japan offers an enticing destination, with its alluring onsens (hot springs), vibrant festivals (check out the Sapporo Snow Festival in February) and world-class winter sport destinations. Niseko, situated in Hokkaido, draws ski lovers with its light powder and picture-perfect off-piste terrain and extensive network of trails. After hitting the slopes, soothe sore muscles in one of the area's onsens, savor mouthwatering cuisine at A-Bu-Cha or check out the lively post-ski atmosphere at Bar Gyu. Consider making the Grand Hirafu Resort your home base for access to 60 courses, versatile restaurants and family-friendly amenities like kids' ski lessons.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria

Painted houses, alpine peaks, romantic carriage rides and a festive Christmas market with roasted almonds, sweet-smelling chestnuts and Swiss cheese fondue are just a few allures of this lovely Bavarian town. Just an hour south of Munich, the area also appeals to adventure junkies with its sky-high scenery from the AlpspiX Viewing platform (about 40 feet above the base of the Alpspitze peak), which offers sweeping vistas of the surrounding cliffs. For another storybook setting, embrace the fairy tale-like charm of the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, which was formerly built as a private hideaway for King Ludwig II. The enchanting palace is even more captivating when blanketed in snow.

Helen, Georgia

It’s all about bright light displays, holiday merriment and European village-style charm in this quaint Bavarian town in Georgia. Tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen delights visitors with its authentic Christkindlmarket and traditional seasonal events, from musical performances to an annual parade followed by s'mores. Pick up souvenirs like ornaments, snow globes and nutcrackers at the Christmas Shoppe or browse cabin decor, jewelry and clothing at The Village Peddler. The town also boasts a mix of wallet-friendly bed-and-breakfasts, vacation rentals and rustic cabins. Consider the nearby Mountain Laurel Farm for a romantic escape in a rustic country setting. When hunger strikes, grab a bite at Old Heidelberg for traditional German beer, cuisine and music.

Rockland, Maine

With arresting coastal scenery, classic inns and first-rate cuisine, Rockland offers a quintessential Maine retreat. While this midcoast Maine town offers appealing seaside scenery at any time of year, Howard describes it as even more enticing in winter. Rockland gets into the spirit with its Festival of Lights, which includes a decked-out lobster trap tree, an art walk, horse-drawn wagon rides and a raffle. After embracing local cheer, delight in excellent farm-to-table food at Primo, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Melissa Kelly (brown butter sunchoke soup with Brussels sprouts and campanelle pasta carbonara are on the menu). When you're ready to turn in, consider staying at the Lindsey Hotel, a boutique retreat.

Telluride, Colorado

Set inside a majestic box canyon, Telluride's picturesque surroundings give it a dramatic effect, Howard says. Wander through the former silver-mining town to marvel at Victorian homes and embrace its charming atmosphere before hopping on a free gondola ride to Mountain Village, where you'll find cobblestone streets and sweeping mountain vistas. Powder seekers can easily get their fill of fresh snow at Telluride Ski Resort, which boasts approximately 300 inches of snow each year and more than 130 ski trails. Best of all, around Christmastime, the downtown area is lit up with bright lights and decked with festive garlands, adding to its winter wonderland status.

Stow-on-the-Wold, Cotswolds, England

History lovers, foodies and serenity seekers will find Stow-on-the-Wold's tucked-away country village in the Cotswolds hard to resist. Days here can be spent popping into art galleries, shopping for antiques and taking scenic strolls in the countryside. The town offers a rich heritage with centuries-old stone houses that have been transformed into tea parlors and shops and a square flanked with narrow streets. Other noteworthy sights include the stately St. Edward's Church and the 400-year-old Chastleton House in Oxfordshire. Savor a leisurely pint at the Kings Arms, a historic part-hotel, part-pub that features cozy rooms and mix of hot drinks, beer and cocktails.

Blowing Rock, North Carolina

With a brightly lit Main Street filled with crafts and antiques, an annual Christmas parade and a decked-out Christmas tree, Blowing Rock prides itself on its seasonal delights. Arrive at the end of January, and you can continue the merriment with ice carvings and even a polar plunge (or freezing dip) in Chetola Lake. And thanks to Blowing Rock's convenient location along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can easily check out the pristine slopes at neighboring ski areas including Sugar Mountain Resort and Appalachian Ski Mtn. When you're ready to refuel, venture to Bistro Roca for low country fare or Best Cellar for a top-notch wine list. Then, check into Westglow Resort & Spa or Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock.

Truckee, California

Tucked between South Lake Tahoe and Reno, in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada, Truckee has long lured laid-back powder hounds craving Western kitsch and inviting slopes. Squaw Valley is the showstopper here, with its superpipe and arresting powdery peaks. Sugar Bowl is another ski mecca for experienced powder shredders, and Soda Springs offers an idea spot for beginning ski bums. Make the nearby Resort at Squaw Creek your home base for quintessential mountain charm, ski-in/ski-out access and off-slope offerings like ice skating, cross-country skiing and sleigh rides. For a relaxing detour, make your way to the Spa at Squaw Creek to get replenished with a hot-stone massage or invigorating body scrub.

Galena, Illinois

A former mining town, Galena entices visitors with its quaint inns, centuries-old buildings and charming gallery- and chocolate shop-lined Main Street. An easy escape from Chicago, Galena is just a 170-mile drive west of the Windy City. In winter, you can grab unique holiday gifts, warm up with a pint a Galena Brewing Company and enjoy other seasonal events like its annual Festival of Trees, when 50-plus spruces are brightly decked out for the season. For more activity, hit the slopes at nearby Chestnut Mountain, which boasts 18 trails and a 475-foot vertical drop or lace up your skates for ice skating or cross-country skiing at Eagle Ridge's Nordic Center.

Lake Placid, New York

While Lake Placid may be best known as a premier host of the Winter Olympic Games, there are plenty of cold-weather diversions here, from warming up around crackling fireplaces and indulging in alpine-themed mud wraps at the Whiteface Lodge to exploring John Brown Farm State Historic Site and other gems in the Adirondacks. Winter pastimes include everything from snowmobiling to ice skating to cross-country skiing to ice climbing. After soaking in the great outdoors, enjoy a lively après-ski scene at Lake Placid Pub & Brewery or Zig Zags Pub on Main Street. Craving more activity? Unleash your inner sports junkie with bobsledding, dog sledding and other winter thrills at the Olympic Sports Complex.

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder offers a winning mix of spectacular scenery, a dynamic culinary scene and plenty of outdoor activities, from hiking to downhill skiing at nearby world-class resorts (check out Loveland and Eldora). When you're not embracing the area's arresting scenery, savor a craft brew at one of Boulder's classic brewpubs like Mountain Sun or sit down for a memorable meal at Emmerson on Pearl Street, a "neo-bistro" that offers innovative dishes and a stylish atmosphere. When you're ready to wind down, slip away to a lavish California king bed peering out at the soaring Flatirons at the St. Julian Hotel & Spa or check into the Bradley Boulder Inn, which boasts in-suite fireplaces and complimentary afternoon wine and cheese.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

It's all about fairy tale surroundings, dazzling Christmas shops and picturesque medieval architecture in this storied Bavarian town, Potter explains. Surrounded by the rural countryside, the area is especially idyllic in winter when you can shop for elaborate Christmas ornaments and beer steins and even peruse the German Christmas Museum. The 500-year-old Reiterlesmarkt (or Christmas Market), is especially enchanting with the area's red roofs, cobbled streets, mulled wine and seasonal décor and pastries. Once you've picked up a few choice souvenirs and holiday gifts and delighted in festive strolls, check out the area's can't-miss museums and landmarks (St. Jakob's church is a must) or continue a journey along the Romantic Road.

Grafton, Vermont

If your dream winter getaway resembles a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, Grafton's inviting village at the base of the Green Mountains, with its white-steepled church and snow-covered hills, might just fill the bill. After meandering into galleries and taverns along Main Street or taking serene strolls on historic covered bridges, grab your skates or ski boots and enjoy well-groomed runs at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center. Then, make your way to the Grafton Inn to warm up by a crackling fire or cozy up with a book. When hunger sets in, check out MKT: Grafton, a renowned cheese shop, where you can sit down for a memorable meal and pick up local cheeses, craft beer and wine.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona's stunning crimson cliff formations are even more alluring dusted in fresh snow, Howard says. Immerse yourself in the surreal desert scenery as you enjoy wine tastings, gallery-hopping and holiday shopping. Take a picturesque hike or jeep tour, explore the area's vortexes and embrace the New Age charm and sublime red-rock vistas. Sedona also offers an ideal retreat for outdoor lovers looking for a fun escape to beat the seasonal blues and winter chill, thanks to its 4,500-foot elevation and mild weather. Relieve any lingering stress at a top-tier spa like the 24,000-square-foot Mii Amo Spa at Enchantment Resort, where you can indulge in replenishing massages and body treatments like high-desert clay wraps.

Wanaka, New Zealand

Located on Lake Wanaka with New Zealand's Southern Alps in the backdrop, Wanaka is a skier and snowboarder paradise. If the alpine scenery doesn't take your break away, the adrenaline-pounding advanced ridges, chutes and bowls at nearby Treble Cone surely will. Beginners can partake in the action at Cardrona Alpine Resort, which boasts a top-notch ski school and terrain that caters to novices. After adventure sports lovers get their fill of wintry pastimes – from June to October in the Southern Hemisphere – they can relax at Ruby's Cinema & Bar, a low-key, post-ski haunt or check out Lake Bar to take in your surroundings. As for accommodations, the Distinction Wanaka Alpine Resort offers a wallet-friendly lodging option.

Beaufort, North Carolina

While this idyllic southern village along North Carolina's Inner Banks draws visitors with its picturesque scenery, charming inns and bed-and-breakfasts and romantic atmosphere year-round, in the cooler months, Beaufort transforms into a festive winter wonderland. The main event is the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, when brightly lit boats bob in the harbor each December. Other festive events include a holiday stroll and food tour with wine tastings and festive decorations and a candlelit historic homes walking tour. After painting the town, retreat to the Ann Street Inn, which is within walking distance of top attractions like Front Street and offers gracious hospitality and spacious rooms outfitted with Jacuzzi tubs.

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Liz Weiss, Staff Writer

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of ...  Read more

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