With so much anticipation leading up to the holidays, the weeks and months that follow can feel nothing short of anticlimactic. The winter blues set in, and the long wait until spring begins. Why not break up the monotony with a winter getaway? Whether you want to escape the cold for a sun-soaked beach or embrace winter’s charm in a snowy paradise, here are five of the best travel spots to visit during the winter season.
Before planning your trip, be sure to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Aptly dubbed “The last of the Old West,” Jackson Hole embodies the great outdoors in its purest form. Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, outdoor enthusiasts flock here for some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the country. If you’re not ready to hit the slopes, you can still explore this winter wonderland through numerous outdoor activities. Take a snowmobile tour through Yellowstone National Park to capture magnificent views of wildlife, such as bison, moose, and black bears. Drift across the majestic landscape on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Try your hand (or foot?) at snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing. When you’re done playing in the snow, warm up with a relaxing soak over at Granite Hot Springs. Finally, round out your adventure in the town of Jackson, where you can spend a day or two shopping, visiting the area’s plentiful museums and art galleries, and exploring the vibrant food scene.
Key West, Florida
Do you prefer sunshine and sand to snow-peaked mountains? Then head to Key West: the southernmost city in the continental United States. From its rich history and culture to its endless water activities, Key West has something for everyone. Explore spectacular coral reefs and marine life beneath the deep blue waters on a diving or snorkeling excursion. Earn your sea legs on a deep-sea fishing outing. Or charter a boat to Dry Tortugas National Park, home to a 19th-century military fort, where you can swim, snorkel, camp, kayak, and take in even more views of incredible wildlife. Back on the mainland, tour the homes of Ernest Hemingway and former President Harry S. Truman, soak up scenic views at the Key West Lighthouse, or relax at one of the area’s idyllic beaches before venturing out to experience the bustling nightlife.
Asheville, North Carolina
If your idea of a winter vacation is somewhere not too hot, but not too cold, then Asheville, N.C. is just right. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has mild winters and rarely experiences a heavy snowfall (though it does happen, so check the weather before packing!). Breathe in the fresh Appalachian air on a picturesque hike, or hit the trails on your mountain bike. For a more laid-back experience, take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway (weather permitting), or bask in the rolling landscape from the warmth of a cozy mountain cabin. Downtown, there are plenty of places to dine, shop, and sip. In fact, Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city. And its edgy arts scene is something to be celebrated, featuring a variety of live theater and music venues, along with fine arts galleries and studios. Of course, no trip to Asheville would be complete without a visit to the Biltmore Estate, a 250-room castle that is also America's largest home.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Home to America’s first ski lodge, it should come as no surprise that Sun Valley offers a world-class skiing experience. While downhill skiing abounds, the area has been dubbed “Nordic Town USA,” as it hosts some of the country’s best Nordic ski terrain. Aside from skiing, winter enthusiasts can enjoy the fresh powder via snowmobile, snow-shoes, fat bike, or even from above on a paraglider. For something slower-paced, try winter fly fishing, then warm up in town at a local coffee shop. Exhausted from all those outdoor activities? Book a spa day for a relaxing retreat.
Hawaii is the ultimate tropical paradise, and in the winter, it’s home to some incredible natural wonders, including humpback whales. From December through May, these whales migrate from Alaska to the Hawaiian Islands to breed, making it one of the best times and places to whale watch. You can see humpback whales from all of the Hawaiian Islands, but the Auau Channel between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai is the prime location. Winter is also when the big waves hit, bringing huge swells and drawing pro surfers from across the globe to Oahu’s North Shore. In addition to these natural phenomena, you’ll fall in love with Hawaii’s copious sunshine, sandy beaches, breathtaking scenery, and rich island culture. Aloha!