In the northern US, the colder weather brings a unique charm, scenic beauty, and authenticity, perfect for a winter escape. Towns like Skaneateles, a lakeside oasis in New York, offer picturesque settings with their frozen lakes, cozy cabins, and nearby wine country.
The northern US towns we discuss below are ideal for enjoying winter, ensuring a joyful holiday season for everyone. Frankenmuth in Michigan, known for its outdoor activities, offers skiing and sightseeing in Little Bavaria, home to the world's largest Christmas store and abundant wildlife, while North Conway in New Hampshire boasts an authentic New England vibe with a fantastic food scene and 13 ski resorts within a 30-minute radius. These winter hotspots, and many more, promise to add flare and joi-de-vivre to your otherwise gloomy winter.
This small town, home to just 5,000 residents, attracts over three million visitors annually with its Germanic theme and heritage. During winter festivities, it's particularly enchanting. Frankenmuth is a highlight of the holidays in Michigan, where visitors can enjoy German architecture in Michigan's Little Bavaria. Attractions include sleigh rides and the World's Largest Christmas Store, Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, offering a magical experience year-round with ornaments, lights, stockings, and collectibles.
Frankenmuth has a welcoming atmosphere throughout the year, with events like the popular Zehnder's "Snowfest and Dog Bowl." The festive, decorated streets, lit up with Christmas lights, evoke a cheerful spirit. In summer, the town is an ideal destination near Saginaw Bay, boasting Splash Village, one of Michigan's top indoor water parks. Accommodation options include the reliable Holiday Inn Express & Suites Frankenmuth. The Bavarian Inn offers a cozy atmosphere with a fireplace, perfect for enjoying the world-famous chicken dinner.
Jackson Hole Valley, first discovered in 1807 by explorer John Colte who was struck by the sight of a large indentation in the landscape from the surrounding mountains, is now a hub for several ski resorts. Nestled between the Gros Ventre and Teton mountain ranges, Jackson, a part of Grand Teton National Park, is bustling with winter activities and attracts over half a million visitors annually. It's an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts and offers festive downtown strolls with stunning views of the East and West Gros Ventre Buttes. Minutes from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King Mountain, it caters to both first-time skiers and experienced snowboarders.
Jackson offers excitement in every season, with attractions like the Elk Refuge and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, home to the nation's largest collection of wildlife-themed art. In summer, the valley transforms into a beautiful landscape, ideal for a Wild Things of Wyoming safari tour featuring local wildlife. Accommodation options range from the five-star Amangani to the popular three-star Lexington at Jackson Hole Hotel & Suites, and the conveniently located Flat Creek Inn & Mart near the National Elk Refuge Observation Viewing Area.
North Conway, New Hampshire
Recognized as the "Best Ski Town” by USA Today’s Readers Choice Awards and among the top 10 “Best Small Towns for Adventure," North Conway in the White Mountains is a diverse destination. It's a winter haven for outdoor enthusiasts, antique collectors, and foodies, with popular eateries like Delaney's Hole in the Wall and the Lobster Trap. The town is also a shopping paradise with over 100 factory outlet stores at Settlers Green, along with charming local shops and bookstores. The town's historic character is showcased in its architecture, covered bridges, and the Victorian-style Conway Scenic Railroad. Accommodations like Eastern Slope Inn Resort and Crown Ridge Resort cater to various styles and budgets.
Home to 2,500 residents, North Conway lies amidst the Mount Washington Valley's low, rolling mountains, bordered by the White Mountain National Forest. With 13 ski resorts within a 30-minute drive, it's perfect for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing. Visitors can start their day at a local bakery, enjoy a stroll in Schouler Park, and visit the New England Ski Museum. Cranmore Mountain offers chair lift rides, a mountain coaster, and a Mountain Adventure Park. North Conway is a year-round vacation spot, offering snow-capped landscapes in winter and summer activities like swimming in the nearby Saco River.
Bend, Oregon, gracefully perched in the shadow of the majestic Cascade Mountains, offers a winter wonderland that captivates visitors with its unique blend of outdoor adventure and vibrant city life. Discovered in the late 19th century as a simple logging town, Bend has transformed into a renowned destination for winter sports enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The town is surrounded by an awe-inspiring natural landscape, making it a hotspot for skiing and snowboarding, particularly at the famous Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort. Just a short drive from the city center, Mt. Bachelor presents a paradise for both beginners and seasoned snow athletes, boasting a variety of trails and breathtaking panoramic views. Beyond the slopes, Bend's charming downtown area, with its eclectic mix of local shops, breweries, and restaurants, offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere, perfect for unwinding after a day in the crisp mountain air.
Winter in Bend extends beyond the traditional skiing experience, providing an array of activities for all ages and interests. The region is renowned for its scenic snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails that weave through the Deschutes National Forest, offering a peaceful escape into nature. For the more adventurous, dog sledding and snowmobiling present exhilarating ways to explore the snowy landscape. As the sun sets over the Cascades, Bend’s cultural scene comes alive, with local music venues, art galleries, and theaters offering a rich array of entertainment. Accommodations in Bend range from luxurious mountain lodges like the Tetherow Resort to the cozy and quaint Riverhouse on the Deschutes, ensuring a comfortable stay for every visitor.
Rochester, a charming and authentic Main Street town, draws visitors with its hip and historic downtown, especially during winter. The town's Christmas spirit is evident as 350 shops, salons, restaurants, and professional services — 85% independently owned — celebrate the season. The annual Big Bright Light Show, featuring a million colorful lights, creates a perfect backdrop for a winter stroll with a hot drink or a cozy stop at a local establishment.
Winter in Rochester offers skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating, with the landscape transforming to accommodate these activities. Its abundant green spaces include three parks and two trails, which become popular with cross-country skiers when covered in snow. The town provides rental shops and retailers for all winter gear needs and is close to some of the best resorts. Rochester is also a favored summertime destination due to its plentiful waterways. The all-season, four-star Royal Park Hotel, adjacent to Bloomer Park, is a top choice for visitors year-round.
Skaneateles, New York
Skaneateles, a picturesque lakeside town, offers a unique wintertime experience, especially for literary fans and families. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the town celebrates the spirit of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" with costumed characters and street performances, including non-stop caroling and “the world’s smallest Christmas parade.” Visitors can enjoy reenactments from the novel and try on period costumes. Additionally, the John D. Barrow Art Gallery showcases Barrow's late-nineteenth-century paintings of the Finger Lakes, a must-see for art enthusiasts.
Just an hour away, Greek Peak Mountain Resort offers skiing, and ice fishing is popular in the area. The vibrant downtown area caters to holiday shoppers and foodies with warm, atmospheric venues. The town is surrounded by wine country, known for cold-weather grapes like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, providing spectacular views and tasting experiences. For accommodation, Mirbeau Inn & Spa Skaneateles offers architecturally stunning stays, and Finger Lakes Lodging boasts impressive grounds.
In the heart of the Green Mountains, Stowe, Vermont, is a classic destination for those seeking a picturesque and active winter getaway. The town is renowned for its world-class Stowe Mountain Resort, which boasts a variety of ski slopes catering to all skill levels, from beginners to expert skiers. For those who prefer a slower pace, there are numerous cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails winding through the serene, snow-covered landscapes. The Trapp Family Lodge, inspired by the famous von Trapp family, offers a unique blend of Austrian hospitality and New England charm, providing an unforgettable experience with its cozy accommodations and breathtaking mountain views.
The quaint, historic Main Street is lined with local boutiques, art galleries, and eateries, offering a perfect blend of shopping and dining experiences. The town is also known for its vibrant après-ski culture, where visitors can unwind with local craft brews or hot chocolate by a roaring fire. Culinary enthusiasts will appreciate the variety of dining options, ranging from farm-to-table restaurants to cozy cafes. For those seeking relaxation, the Topnotch Resort and Spa offers luxurious treatments amidst tranquil settings. As the snowflakes gently fall, Stowe lights up with a magical ambiance, making it an enchanting destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.
From mountain gems to the lakeside, valleys, and NY's wine country, these towns will warm you up after all the action with warm hearts, family-friendly attractions, and one-of-a-kind cheer in each!
The Main Street town of Rochester attracts scores for the annual Big Bright Light Show, while the Arts Holiday Bazaar, a lively holiday shopping tradition for arts, fine crafts, and local artisan foods in Jackson, will give you a break from the slopes in this mecca town for skiing!