While you’re dreaming about your next vacation, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many factors that go into choosing the best destination for you. Do you want to see the world? Do you want a relaxing getaway? Are you looking for somewhere with good food and wine? You’ll want to consider all of these things as well as your budget, because one of the biggest factors in deciding where to go is how much money you have available.
Winter is the perfect time to get away from the cold and into some warm sunshine. Here are some of the most popular winter vacation destinations:
Yosemite National Park, California
This national treasure is famous for its all-year-round breathtaking scenery of soaring granite monoliths, spectacular waterfalls, lakes, and deep valleys with towering ancient sequoias decorating this stunning landscape.
With the first snowfall, the Yosemite National Park is transformed into a fairy-tale winter land, making it one of the best places to visit in the winter season.
No matter where you are, spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range are in every direction.
Among the must-see sights are the El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Tenaya Lake, Tunnel View, and Glacier Point. Catching the Firefall at sunset on Horsetail Falls could easily be the highlight for photographers.
The February setting sun ignites the frozen falls in a blaze of red-orange cascading fire that is a sight to behold.
Accommodation is available to suit everyone – from luxury resorts to camping. Kayaking, hiking on snowshoe trails among the giant redwoods, skiing, snow playing, ice skating, and just taking in the spectacular scenery make Yosemite one of the best winter vacations in the US for any family.
Key West, Florida
If you’re scratching for a winter getaway in the USA that does not involve cold, snow, or rain, there is no better place than the country’s southernmost point – Key West, Florida!
This tiny island can even be reached by car from the mainland via the Overseas Highway that runs through the Florida Keys. (Top it off with a stop in Miami Beach!)
Kings Canyon National Park, California
If you’re scratching your head for winter vacation ideas, look no further than the other national treasure that is Kings Canyon National Park.
This park easily rivals Yosemite for natural splendor, but one entrance fee also gets you into the adjacent and equally majestic Sequoia National Park.
It’s spectacular scenery in the form of gigantic granite cliffs, deep glacier-carved valleys, the roaring Kings River, and dense forests of colossal sequoias to take your breath away.
Hike or ride on horseback through Grant Grove and view the General Grant, also known as the Nation’s Christmas Tree, the world’s second-largest tree!
More dramatic scenery can be viewed at Cedar Grove at the canyon’s bottom.
At the same time, Zumwalt Meadow, the massive stalagmites and stalactites of the marble cave at Boyden Cavern, and the 2000 ft high marble walls of Kings Gate and Windy Cliffs will leave you in awe.
If skiing is your game, then Vail just has to be a top contender for your next winter getaway.
As a perfect day trip from Denver, this dainty little town boasts of being one of the most favorite skiing destinations in the world!
Surrounded by 350,000 acres of pristine forests and over 5,000 acres of skiable slopes with breathtaking mountain scenery, Vail has everything to offer for that memorable family winter vacation.
Nestled in the foothills of the Vail Mountain range, this charming chocolate box picture town offers so much.
Apart from incredible skiing, snowboarding, skating, and all the usual snow activities for all skill levels, there are also unlimited shopping, dining, and lodging options to suit all tastes and pockets.
For the not so energetic, strolling through the heated cobblestone streets of Vail Village, Lionshead, and Golden Park, you will be awed by the stunning scenery around every corner. Photographers will not know when to stop clicking.
Spending a few days in Vail could be one of the wisest winter vacation ideas you may ever have!
Mount Hood, Oregon
Ascending to a height of 11,240 ft, Mt Hood stands in the center of the million-acre Mt. Hood National forest.
This dormant volcano, barely 90 minutes drive from Portland, is a major tourist attraction all year round. Still, it is the snow that turns this magnificent mountainous landscape into a magical winter playground.
Numerous family-friendly ski resorts, forest cabins, and basic camping facilities, all within proximity, offer an array of accommodation styles, winter activities, and breathtaking scenery.
Skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, hiking, snow playing, or taking leisurely sightseeing drives through this magical landscape during winter is something one would not forget for a while.
Trillium Lake, Burnt Lake, Tamanawas Falls, and Ramona Falls are just a few must-see places, all offering magnificent views of Mount Hood as a backdrop. It is places like this that make winter such a special time of the year.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park is located on the Southwest Border of Mexico and Texas, adjacent to the Rio Grande River, and it is an excellent winter escape.
Since the highs in the national park reach well above 100℉, which results in some sections of the park being closed, Big Bend is one of the best places to visit in winter in the USA. (Arguably, one of the best national parks in Texas during wintertime too.)
The winter weather is mild, making hiking the trails much more comfortable. Plus, the park has hot springs where you can enjoy where you can get chilly!
The best activity in Big Bend is to simply hike. Some of the most popular hikes include the Lost Mine Trail, The Window View Trail, The Grapevine trail, The Boquillas Canyon Trail, and the Santa Elena Trail.
One of my favorite trails is the Santa Elena Trail, as it takes you through the famous Santa Elena Canyon and the Rio Grande.
Another one of my favorite activities is enjoying the Hot Springs located on the Rio Grande. The trail to this hot spring is an easy 0.5 miles.
The area can get crowded, so I recommend going around sunrise to enjoy this place all to yourselves. If you ever get too hot, take a refreshing dip on the Rio Grande River.
Big Bend National Park is not one of the more famous National Parks, but it is indeed a hidden gem and a great spot to visit during the winter months.
Every January 1, Pasadena’s Rose Parade heralds the new year with marching bands, teams of clip-clopping horses, and elaborate floats festooned with several botanical gardens’ worth of flowers. A beloved tradition in Southern California, the parade is surrounded by related events such as Deco Week, during which you and your family can volunteer to help adorn floats with blooms; Bandfest, showcasing the parade’s participating marching bands from across the country; and, of course, the Rose Bowl college football game. Be warned: If you want to attend any of the above, start planning early—buy your tickets, like, yesterday.
Magic Mountain Ski Area
Magic Mountain Ski Area, Vermont
Opened in 1960, this New England classic in Londonderry, Vermont, is a throwback to the small-scale ski resorts of the era before wide, treeless trails became the norm. Consequently, the terrain can be difficult for those unaccustomed to steep, winding slopes through wooded areas. But intermediate-and-above skiers are likely to welcome the challenge—as well as the smaller crowds and lower prices for lift tickets compared to mountain resorts elsewhere in New England and in the Rockies. Perfect for purists, the place has a learning center for kids and beginners as well. Post-slope drinks in the tavern come with live music, views overlooking the mountain, and a chance to confab with the resort’s devoted fans.
The indisputable highlight of a New Orleans winter arrives in February with the city’s annual Mardi Gras celebration—the mother of all street parties held the day before Ash Wednesday. There’s more to the festivities than beads and booze (though if that’s what you’re after, get thee to Bourbon Street). A rich and colorful tradition of parades, pageantry, krewes, and king cakes surrounds the event, not just on Fat Tuesday but in the weeks leading up to it as well. Hotels are booked solid during the long weekend before Mardi Gras, so start planning well in advance; there’s no such thing as too early. Slightly less hectic weeks in January and February are also good times to visit the French Quarter and jazz-rich historic neighborhoods like the Marigny and Treme. Temperatures are far more pleasant than in the scorching summer, and the good times roll year round.
Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska
Yes, it’s cold and the nights are long. But for fans of winter sports and snowy scenery, Alaska is a must-visit. There are a slew of ways to explore your frosty surroundings in Anchorage, from glacier hikes to dogsledding tours (the famous Iditarod race kicks off here every March). Take a ride further inland aboard the Aurora Winter Train, chugging through a Christmas-card landscape characterized by heavy snow and the occasional moose, to reach Fairbanks. Here you can learn all about Alaska’s human and natural history at the Museum of the North, and feast your eyes on the Northern Lights, which are often visible between September and March.
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
The smallest of the Caribbean’s three U.S. Virgin Islands is also the most untouched. There’s no airport and no pier for cruise ships (most visitors arrive by ferry from St. Thomas), and a lush national park occupies more land than resorts do. Day trippers as well as overnighters are treated to turquoise waters great for snorkeling, pristine beaches such as Trunk Bay, emerald peaks, verdant groves with hiking trails, and close-up views of tropical flowers, pelicans, turtles, and other denizens of paradise. One thing to keep in mind about traveling to the Caribbean in winter: That’s right after hurricane season, so some locales might still be recovering. Before traveling to an area affected by storms, check in advance to make sure hotels, restaurants, and other businesses have reopened.
Craig Sterken / Shutterstock
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Named for a set of imposing, multicolored sandstone cliffs along Lake Superior in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is transformed by snow and ice into an otherworldly landscape recalling Elsa’s arctic castle in Frozen. Caves covered in icicles feel like crystal ballrooms, while enormous frozen waterfalls and towers of ice prove irresistible to climbers equipped with picks and cleats. As a matter of fact, this is where the annual Michigan Ice Fest is held for ice climbers each February. Fans can watch from the scenic sidelines or get in on the action with free classes for visitors of all skill levels.
You can expect the casinos, clubs, and hotels of Las Vegas to be packed on New Year’s Eve—after all, it’s the most hard-partying night of the year in one of the country’s most hard-partying towns. But after that comes a period in January and February when demand for Vegas vacations is typically lower and room rates as well as airfares drop to their most affordable levels, especially for travel during the week instead of weekends (a glaring exception: the week in January when gadget seekers and sellers throng the city for the annual Consumer Electronics Show). While lightweights elsewhere nurse holiday hangovers, Sin City’s shows, gaming floors, offbeat museums, and thrill rides keep going all year round. Fight cabin fever with a hike at Red Rock Canyon or snowboarding on Mount Charleston. You won’t be taking a dip in any outdoor pools, however: As some travelers are surprised to learn, average high temperatures in January and February are only in the 50s.