The winter season may be wrapping up, but there’s still plenty of time to squeeze in a last-minute winter retreat. While you could escape the cold with a tropical excursion, let’s be honest: We’ve been there, done that. This year, bundle up and embrace what winter has to offer with these magical destinations for an end-of-winter getaway.
1. See the Northern Lights Along the Alaska Railroad
Enjoy a scenic ride through Alaska’s wilderness aboard the Aurora Winter Train, which runs from Anchorage through Fairbanks. Take in remarkable views of the Denali Mountain peaks and experience the occasional moose sighting, all against the backdrop of powdery white snow. The main attraction here is the Aurora Borealis — or Northern Lights — which are at their highest intensity in March. To witness the majestic violet and emerald glows fill up the night skies is an experience like none other.
2. Sleep in an Ice Castle at Hôtel de Glace, Québec
Each year, the Hôtel de Glace is reconstructed into an architectural masterpiece made entirely of snow and ice. During an overnight stay, you’ll sleep inside arctic sleeping bags atop a bed with a solid ice base. Complete with a bar, café, and wedding chapel, this frozen palace is like stepping into a real-life fairytale. Hurry — the hotel is only open from January 4 to March 28!
3. Play in the Snow in Park City, Utah
Fun is never in short supply at this popular winter sports destination, offering activities such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, dogsledding, and tubing. For the vertically disinclined, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing along snow-packed trails. After a day on the slopes, wind down with an afternoon of shopping and dining in Park City’s charming downtown area. Park City is also home to the Sundance Film Festival, which takes place annually in January. Book your 2019 tickets now to ensure a spot for next year!
4. Gaze at Steaming Geysers in Yellowstone National Park
Even if you’ve visited Yellowstone in the summer, don’t be too quick to brush this one aside. This massive national park transforms into a completely different world from early November to late April as snowy landscapes and wildlife take center stage. Take an Old Faithful Area Snowshoe Tour, where you can explore the trails and watch as Old Faithful erupts against the snow. When its almost-boiling water hits the icy-cold air, the droplets turn into tiny ice crystals. Wildlife is also easy to spot thanks to the white, snowy backdrop. Expect to catch a glimpse of bison, moose, wolves, coyotes, and bighorn sheep, to name a few. Most roads are closed until mid-March, making snowmobile or snowcoach the only viable modes of transportation (but well worth the adventure).
5. Sip on Fine Wine in the Twin Cities
Take a break from the great outdoors and resign to the big city — or cities, that is. Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota (the Twin Cities for short), are packed with winter activities, including traditional winter sports like skiing, ice skating, and even snow fishing. Visit March 2-4 for the 24th annual Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience, where you can sip on fine wines or craft beers while filling up on gourmet cuisine. Fun fact: Minneapolis was named No. 23 on The New York Times’ 52 Places to Go list in 2017.
6. Stargaze in Sedona, Arizona
This desert town is filled with breathtaking scenery and geological wonders — not to mention more mild temperatures for those who don’t want to brave the frigid cold. Explore the red rocks on foot or by hot air balloon, where you may be lucky enough to witness a rare snow dusting on top of the rusty-hued canyons. With fewer crowds, more affordable lodging, and temps that aren’t too hot or too cold, late winter is the ideal time to visit.