Bucket List December 09, 2022
by Sarah McCosham These Incredible Outdoor Destinations Are Worth Bundling Up To Explore This Winter
Winter is a beautiful time of year that gets a bad rap. While we’re all for flying south and enjoying a
mid-winter getaway at one of America’s sublime tropical oases, we’re equally enthusiastic about bundling up and braving the cold and ice. We know that our country’s most extraordinary destinations transform into real-life wonderlands come winter, offering unrivaled opportunities and experiences for those willing to take the plunge… sometimes quite literally. Below you’ll find 13 outdoor destinations in the US that are worth bundling up to explore this winter, and we challenge you to carpe diem and seize the season.
Lake Tahoe - California
There's never a bad time to visit
, one of the country's most beautiful bodies of water. Easily one of the prettiest and most popular alpine lake in the country, Tahoe sits on the state line between California and Nevada, surrounded by the majestic, snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Located at 6,225 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is the highest alpine lake in the country, and the second deepest. But superlatives aside, it's absolutely ravishing -- especially the winter. Our advice? Check in to Heavenly Ski Resort or Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino; both offer amazing wintertime recreation and luxurious accommodations in one of the most scenic settings in the country.
Lake Tahoe, United States
Timberline Lodge - Oregon
In Oregon, the
is known for its incredible views, intriguing history, and winsome charm. A legendary lodge in the Pacific Northwest, film buffs likely know Timberline Lodge from "The Shining." In the film, Jack Nicholson’s character met his demise here, and Director Stanley Kubrick chose the hotel’s exteriors as the face of Overlook Hotel in the horror film. There's indeed a gothic quality to the Timberline, especially when enrobed in snow. In fact, with its picture-perfect perch on Mt. Hood, Timberline Lodge offers one of the most thrilling and unique alpine mountain experiences in the country, and attracts skiers from all over. What's more, Timberline's unique location -- 6,000 feet in the mountains -- allows for stunning winter stargazing come nightfall.
Timberline Lodge, 27500 E Timberline Road, Government Camp, OR 97028, USA
Big Sky, Montana
A place that truly lives up to its name,
is, without a doubt, the most beautiful winter town in Montana. The town, which is surrounded by majestic mountains, is considered a gateway to Yellowstone National Park; and, as such, is known for its world-class outdoor recreation. From the first real snowfall of the season to the final dusting in spring, you'll find tourists and locals enjoying the slopes at Big Sky Resort. With 38 lifts and 5,850 skiable acres, Big Sky Resort is bucket-list destination for avid skiers. But whether you come to Big Sky to ski or snowboard, hike or dog sled, or simply soak up the views from the warmth of your own cozy cabin, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more ideal winter getaway in the US.
Big Sky Resort Road, Big Sky Resort Rd, Big Sky, MT, USA
While we certainly adore Jackson Hole for wintertime recreation in Wyoming, there's something undeniably enchanting about
, too. This mountain town has a story book-like downtown that, when framed by snow-covered peaks and scenery, is irresistibly charming. Within this postcard-perfect town, David Street Station, with its own outdoor skating rink complete with a tall, colorfully lit pine tree in the center, is one of the city’s top spots to visit during winter. Of course, visitors have a world of amazing winter recreation at their fingertips in Casper, too, from skiing and snowshoeing to snowmobiling and fat-tire biking.
Ice Castles: Utah, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Wisconsin
For those wishing to enter a "Frozen" fantasy world, visit one of our country's five
. A winter wonderland comprised of ice castles and sculptures totaling 25 million pounds, this experience is truly extraordinary. While this event now happens annually at five locations in the US, the Ice Castles originated in Alpine, Utah, in the backyard of ice artist Brent Christensen, who created a frozen playland for his kids during one particularly long winter. Christensen's ice caves and castles proved irresistible for the neighborhood kids, and he began to imagine bigger and better winter wonderlands -- which brings us to today's epic Ice Castle events. Opening dates always depend on the weather, but the attraction is typically up from early January through early March. Ice Castles is an awe-inspiring, must-see winter phenomenon that brings fairy tales to life, complete with dazzling LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, and fountains.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Touted as one of the top vacation destination in the world, New Mexico's state capital is a place of immense beauty and history.
Winter in Santa Fe
especially sublime, when snow often dusts the town's adobo buildings and stone statues. This town is breathtakingly beautiful in the quieter months, when visitors can explore the Santa Fe Plaza sans summer and holiday crowds. Of course, winter visitors can ski or snowshoe the imposing Sangre de Cristo Mountains or visit one of the area's acclaimed hot springs, while those who prefer the
scene can get pampered at one of the town's numerous spas and resorts.
Minnesota knows a thing or two about harsh winters, and its residents don't shy away from a little cold and snow. Nowhere is this truer than Minneapolis, where, during the annual
, the town and its prized lake shine to the tune of 1,200 glowing luminaries. The highlight of the event is the magical Luminary Loppet, when cross-country skiers traverse a frozen Lake of the Isles illuminated by torches, lanterns, and candles encased in blocks of ice, with the occasional fire dancer thrown in for good measure. In a city that sees over 50 inches of snowfall each year, Minnesotans embrace the season with an exuberance and joy that's truly heartwarming.
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
Scattered like jewels in the icy blue waters of Lake Superior are a collection of wild islands. Wisconsin’s
are a fairy tale fantasy filled with sea caves, emerald-green pools, deserted beaches, and lighthouses that still signal across waters littered with the wrecks of old schooners. For visitors, reaching this pure, remote beauty takes a bit of effort; but when you arrive at the islands, your hard work will be handsomely rewarded. In the summer, these undisturbed beaches and pools will feel like your very own private island escape; in the winter, however, you'll feel as though you've landed on the frozen Planet Hoth. Water suspended mid-air, massive icicles, cold blue waters, and glittering cavern walls make Apostle Islands a place of otherworldly beauty in the winter.
Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, USA
There's ice sculptures and there's snow sculptures, and if you've never experienced the latter, you're truly missing out. Since 1987, the best place to see snow sculptures in the country has been Sinnissippi Park in northern Illinois where, each winter, mounds of snow are piled up for contestants to create something incredible. The
Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition
happens over a long weekend in January and results in the creation of dozens of massive snow sculptures created by professional carvers and amateurs. More than 40,000 visitors come to watch teams from around the state compete to win the championship at this epic snow sculpture festival, which has very specific parameters. Finished sculptures cannot be larger than 12 feet in diameter, but can be as tall as the sculptors desire -- and these snow artists think
with their creations.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
If January has you mourning the conspicuous absence of twinkle lights, bundle up and head to Grand Rapids, Michigan. While many wouldn't dare set foot in Michigan in the throes of winter, there's an annual festival here that might just change your mind. The largest winter festival in the Midwest,
World of Winter
is a two-month celebration of all things snowy and cold, with outdoor art installations, ice skating and games, giant luminaries, and fanciful displays sure to brighten even the darkest, coldest nights. Whether you’re enjoying pop-up musical events, admiring an outdoor dance performance, or gazing at gorgeous ice luminaries, you're sure to fall in love with this seasonal celebration.
Lake Placid, New York
Upstate New York is a dream, full of charming accommodations in the midst of lovely natural landscapes -- but it’s hard to top
. Full of top-tier amenities and surrounded by spectacular views, it’s one of the best places in the Empire State to visit if you’re looking for a fun family vacation or a romantic weekend in the mountains. No matter when you visit, you'll be positively enchanted; but we're partial to wintertime in Lake Placid, as the whole area becomes a sublime snowy wonderland. For a bucket-list experience this winter, check into Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa. The epitome of luxurious mountain getaways, this resort features a private beach, complimentary boats, world-class spas, top-rated restaurants, and Insta-worthy accommodations, all in one of the most resplendent regions of the country. And with the snow falling softly outside your window? Pure magic.
Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA
Carnaval ME - Portland, Maine
Proving that Maine is a year-round destination,
is a winter festival in Portland that's a delightful reason to get out and embrace the cold-weather season. While relatively new to the scene, the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival is already an event that has people marking their calendars in eager anticipation. This festival is an extraordinary all-ages event with a robust schedule of events, from ice sculpture competitions and ski races to live music and an ice igloo full of food and drink vendors. Carnaval Maine is a delightful way to embrace winter with excitement and exuberance, and while it's the (ahem)
of a certain New Orleans carnival, it's no less magical.
Iditarod Trail: Alaska
America's very own winter wonderland, Alaska is positively sublime in the winter. Whether it's experiencing the Northern Lights or hiking Mendenhall Glacier, there's no winter destination in America more magical than Alaska. If you need another reason to bundle up and head to the Last Frontier, the
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
is it. Known as The Last Great Race, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual race in Alaska that celebrates the state's longtime legacy of dog mushing (Alaska’s official state sport even before the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race). Held the first Saturday in March each year, the Iditarod is a highly anticipated event that many Alaskans look forward to, and it's a tradition well worth a spot on your winter bucket list, too.
Iditarod Trail, Seward, AK 99664, USA
Experience the splendor of winter in the US by bundling up and immersing yourself in a real-life snow globe. These winter destinations across the country are worth it.
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