There’s a quiet that descends upon the landscape after a fresh snowfall; it’s a palpable sense of peace that you can
feel. It’s this feeling, this moment, that artists try to capture on canvas and film, and that poets try to immortalize with language. It’s something best experienced, though; a fleeting point in time that will become a hazy memory during the warmer months of the year. While the cold and snow are often associated with the holiday season, the magic really happens all winter long, all across the country, when the conditions line up just so. The following are 20 places that transform into magical winter wonderlands in the U.S. under a fresh blanket of snow and are best seen in person. So bundle up and brave the cold, because these wondrous winter landscapes across the U.S. are absolutely worth visiting.
1. Leavenworth, Washington
Leavenworth, WA 98826, USA
It's no secret that Leavenworth is a dream of a destination; this Washington town is straight out of a Hallmark movie all year long, whether you're paddling down the dazzling Wenatchee River mid-summer, eating your weight in brats and sauerkraut during Oktoberfest, or delighting in holiday festivities come Christmastime. But it's
the holiday season when the magic truly happens in Leavenworth, during the coldest months of the year. It's this peaceful, post-holiday time when Leavenworth truly glows; the crowds have left, and what remains is a twinkling little locale in one of the most beautiful areas of the country (the
holiday lights in Leavenworth
typically stay lit through Valentine's Day, in fact!). Add a blanket of fresh (though probably fleeting, because we are in the PNW) snow, and Leavenworth is one of the most spectacular real-life winter wonderlands in the U.S. that will make you weak in the knees.
Take a look at this magical video by
2. Bend, Oregon
Of all the towns in the Pacific Northwest, Bend truly has it all. This beautiful town in central Oregon is known far and wide for its amazing outdoor recreation, which is on a whole other level during the wintertime.
Swap your hiking boots for skis
as you take on Mt. Bachelor, a dormant volcano that's now home to 4,300 acres of lift-accessible terrain and the highest skiable elevation in all of Oregon and Washington. Don snowshoes during a guided winter hike with Wanderlust Tours. Or simply sit back in a
charming Bend accommodation
that's known for its retro vibes and cozy campfires. We promise you'll feel all warm and welcome in this adorable Oregon town, even during the coldest months of the year. It's one of the friendliest places in the U.S. that snow in the winter. And who doesn't love visiting a friendly town?
3. Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, ID 83353, USA
We have humble Sun Valley, Idaho, to thank for the relatively new concept of a "ski vacation." Sun Valley Resort opened in 1936, and, in addition to being America's oldest ski resort, it was also home to the country's first chairlift. In the 80+ years since, Sun Valley has become a beloved and popular wintertime destination in the U.S.,
earning numerous accolades
from countless media outlets. In addition to offering an abundance of winter recreation, Sun Valley is also one of the most objectively beautiful places in the country -- especially during the cold months. Under fresh powder, Sun Valley's endless robin's egg blue skies seem even more brilliant, with the sun bouncing off the sparkly snow in the most dazzling of ways. Come and immerse yourself in the landscape of Sun Valley this winter, and prepare to be amazed at the beauty and recreation to experience here.
4. Whitefish, Montana
Big Sky Country was made for snow, with its epic expanse of land and sky positively dazzling after a fresh dusting. And in Montana, Whitefish is a wonderful wintertime destination for families. A kid-friendly ski town that's also a gateway to Glacier National Park, Whitefish offers visitors a quintessential winter getaway. There are numerous lodging options on Whitefish Lake, each offering a unique array of amenities perfect for whatever getaway you're seeking. Whether you come to Whitefish 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
enchanting winter getaway
. It's one of the best destinations for a winter wonderland in the U.S.
5. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming 83001, USA
While many people make plans to visit Jackson’s mountain resorts in the wintertime, this gorgeous valley offers more than just world-class skiing. This cozy little mountain village is about as charming as it gets, offering guests a slice of small-town life that's hard to come by these days. Ice skating in the town square feels like something out of a snow globe scene, with or without a fresh coating of snow. Outside of town, the National Elk Refuge offers an unrivaled experience of the Wyoming wilds, giving guests the unique opportunity to
take a sleigh ride through a real-life winter wonderland
. With elk and deer roaming wild this time of year, this is a beautiful, bucket-list experience you can only have in Wyoming. And wouldn't you just love to have a winter wonderland experience here?
6. Lake Tahoe - California and Nevada
Lake Tahoe, United States
There's never a bad time to visit Lake Tahoe, one of the country's most beautiful bodies of water. Easily one of the prettiest and most popular lakes in the country, Lake 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 in California
, a paradise of wintertime recreation that's also one of the coziest and most charming accommodations in the country. That sounds heavenly to me!
7. Ogden, Utah
Park City generally steals the snowy spotlight in Utah, and for good reason, but Ogden is a true treasure of a town that's well-worth exploring during the winter season. In addition to being a stone's throw from numerous incredible ski slopes and resorts (the town gets 450 inches of the white stuff each winter!), Ogden offers guests a rustic and rugged experience that's truly unrivaled. Its Historic 25th Street, a
notoriously dangerous neighborhood in the days of the Wild West
, is one of the most charming places in the country today. And in the winter, with the snow-capped mountains framing the twinkling town lights, you're sure to fall in love with this postcard-perfect place. It's one of the most wonderful of all the snowiest places in the U.S.!
8. Vail, Colorado
If there's a state that's synonymous with "winter recreation," it's Colorado. This place of epic wintertime recreation needs no introduction; neither do its top ski spots. That's why we love Vail, a village that offers visitors so much more than
a place to hang their skis (though make no mistake about it; Vail has some of the most sought-after slopes in the country). Each year, Vail Valley transforms into a winter wonderland with snow-capped peaks, festive concerts, and town festivals straight out of a Hallmark holiday movie. What's more,
Vail Village is home to an abundance of charming shops
, ice skating rinks, and swoon-worthy accommodations, all but guaranteeing the most magical winter getaway you'll ever experience.
Take a look at this incredible drone footage of Vail by
that will make you want to visit immediately:
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the Lake of the Isles truly stands above the rest. This
is beautiful all year round; but in the winter, it quite literally shines. During the annual Luminary Loppet, Minneapolis and its prized lake shine to the tune of 1,200 glowing luminaries. In a town that sees over 50 inches of snowfall each year, Minnesotans embrace the season (and the cold weather) with an exuberance and joy that's truly heartwarming.
Check out this drone footage of a past Luminary Loppet from SetfanPWinc on YouTube:
10. Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
looks like something straight out of a postcard. This town is one of the best vacation destinations any time of year, but during the winter is when the magic really happens. Whether you opt to snowshoe through the Wisconsin wilds, go cross-country skiing in Kettle Moraine State Forest, lace up your skates at June Vollrath Park’s skating rink, or try your hand at ice fishing, winter adventures abound at Elkhart Lake. And if you're more of the
type, you'll be positively delighted by the spas and cozy accommodations at this Wisconsin wintertime destination. Sounds like a relaxing winter getaway destination, doesn't it?
11. Pictured Rocks - Grand Marais, Michigan
Pictured Rocks, Munising Township, MI 49884, USA
Each winter, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is transformed by snow and ice into an otherworldly landscape that’s reminiscent of Planet Hoth from "The Empire Strikes Back." But this Michigan landscape is
a figment of George Lucas’s imagination; it’s a
real-life place that’s truly wondrous
. Come wintertime, the caves at Painted Rocks are covered in hundreds of sparkling icicles, with waterfalls that are quite literally frozen in time (so if you visit, you’ll most definitely need to bring ice picks and cleats). And in February, Painted Rocks National Lakeshore is the site of an epic winter celebration, with the annual Michigan Ice Fest attracting some of the best climbers in the country.
12. Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore Estate Drive, Biltmore Estate Dr, Asheville, NC, USA
In the wintertime, there’s nowhere in the country that’s grander than The Biltmore. Built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895, this 178,926-square-foot mansion is located on 8,000 acres of pristine property just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. As the largest privately-owned home in America, it's a place of stunning scenery, lush gardens, ornate architecture, and historic relevance. While the house itself is a major attraction (the Biltmore draws over a million visitors each year), the massive and meticulously kept gardens on the estate only enhance the home's stunning beauty – especially in the winter. During the holidays, more than 55 trees are installed and decorated with literally hundreds of twinkling lights and garland. A massive and ornately decorated,
is erected in the estate’s Banquet Hall; it's the tallest of the scores of Christmas trees inside this commanding castle. And with a dusting of snow falling softly on the Biltmore’s kingdom? It's absolutely magical.
13. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Enchanting villages dot the Pennsylvania landscape, but there's only one town that has earned the title of
. Bethlehem, perhaps the best winter town in Pennsylvania (and possibly the country), is positively overflowing with old-fashioned charm. Its rich history is everywhere: Historic Moravian Bethlehem, the town's newly designated National Historic Landmark District, is one of only eight in Pennsylvania and one of only about 200 in the country. Main Street is home to the Moravian Bookshop, the oldest bookstore in America, as well as countless shops, boutiques, restaurants, and galleries perfect for perusing on a snowy day in Pennsylvania.
14. New York City, New York
New York City is iconic, and our favorite season to visit this American destination is, hands down, the winter. Strolling through the busy city streets while flurries fall from the sky makes this massive city feel like its very own snow globe. And Central Park blanketed in a fresh coating of snow? That's absolutely magical. In addition to the usual NYC attractions like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and storefront windows, Bryant Park hosts an outdoor ice rink - complete with
ice bumper cars
-- that's sure to keep everyone warm and thoroughly entertained this winter.
15. Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, NY 12946, USA
Upstate New York is a vision, full of charming accommodations in the midst of lovely natural landscapes -- but it’s hard to top Lake Placid. 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? There are no words for that level of beauty.
16. Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is the epitome of Old New England, its streets and buildings harkening back to another, more romantic, era. In the wintertime, Cambridge's charms can't be beat, with the snow coating the cobblestone streets and towering old trees in the most magical of ways. Bundle up and wander through the city on foot; when you get cold, stop inside one of the town's
for a bite to eat and a pint to drink. With the flurries falling outside your window as you stay warm and cozy from your worn, wooden booth, you'll realize that there's nowhere else in the world you'd rather be, than this picture-perfect quintessential New England town in winter.
17. Burlington, Vermont
With easy access to pristine slopes and a vibrant downtown that's peak New England charm, it's no wonder travelers flock to Burlington, Vermont, each winter. More than just a ski town, Burlington is a family-friendly wintertime
. Attractions like the
ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center
, a 34,500-square-foot, STEAM-supercharged wonderland, are sure to keep your crew endlessly entertained. You'll find more family favorites along Church Street, the town's picture-perfect hub of restaurants, retailers, and breweries, which looks like a real-life snow globe when the flurries start falling.
18. Stowe, Vermont
Stowe, Vermont, is best known for its fall foliage, but we'd argue that this town puts on an even more magnificent show
in the winter
. Snow-capped peaks, Swiss-style chalets (like the Trapp Family Lodge), and old clapboard houses dot the landscape of this bucolic New England town village -- and these charming spots become all the more alluring after a fresh dusting of snow. And while you'd be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque setting for your very own American ski
, the town also offers plenty of off-the-slope attractions: incredible spas, delightful local shops, charming restaurants, and the coziest accommodations.
Take a look at this beautiful video by
19. Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport, ME 04046, USA
It simply doesn't get more quintessentially East Coast than
. This unassuming beach town is all weather-worn boats and craggy coastlines, whitewashed homes, and unpretentious sea shacks. While some might think twice about visiting Maine during the throes of winter, we'd counter that there's actually no better time to experience the Pine Tree State. During the coldest months of the year, there's a quiet that settles across the state that's truly beautiful -- especially with the soft fluttering of snow flurries falling across the landscape. The crowds have gone, the seasonal seafood shacks have closed, and what remains is pure, unadulterated Maine beauty. And there's no better place to experience this than
Kennebunkport, a town that has been lauded as one of the best places to live on the East Coast. And after visiting this winter wonderland, you might just want to drop everything and move to this charming small town, too. We wouldn't blame you if you did!
20. Fairbanks, Alaska
It can be difficult to stand out in a state that's quite literally covered in snow for much of the year (yes, it's perhaps one of the snowiest places in the U.S.), but Fairbanks, Alaska, most certainly does. Winter in Fairbanks is pure magic; this Alaska town is the most marvelous place to dance under the Midnight Sun or make snow angels under the Northern Lights. If you enjoy the Great Outdoors, you’ll fall head over heels in love with the town of Fairbanks. From fishing on the Chena River to world-class hunting and cross-country skiing – Fairbanks has something for everyone and truly is the
most magical winter town in the Last Frontier
There’s magic in a fresh winter’s snow: This cold-weather phenomenon exists simply as a quiet, beautiful, fleeting work of art. While winter may not be everyone’s favorite time of year, there’s something truly magical about this season – especially in places in the USA where it snows in December, ahead of the holidays. And if you think these real-life snow globes are wondrous, you’ll absolutely want to visit these
frozen ice castles this winter, too. You’ll forget all about the cold temperatures once you see these man-made frozen wonders. They are truly a sight to behold!
Before heading out to any cold-weather destination during winter in the USA, be sure you have all the
cold-weather essentials you need! From base layers, sweaters, leggings, coats, hats, boots, and gloves to a slew of gear like day packs, luggage, thermal blankets, and even tire chains, one must be extra prepared when traveling in the winter. Make this winter an enjoyable one by having the best winter gear possible. Remember, some of these items make great holiday gifts too as do the items in our list of 75 Best Gift Ideas For The Traveler in Your Life.
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More to Explore
Winte Wonderlands In The USA
What are some of the best winter wonderland places to visit in the U.S.?
There is something truly magical about snow. It can transform any destination into one of the most magical, enchanting, and breathtaking areas you have ever visited. Some of the best winter wonderlands in the USA include:
What are some charming mountain towns in the USA that I should visit during the winter?
The winter in America's mountain towns are truly spectacular. Often, these towns are where you can find some of the best outdoor recreation activities during this chilly time of year. It is also where many towns become some of the best winter wonderlands in the U.S. Some of our favorite mountains towns in America to visit during the winter include:
Where are some other must-visit destinations in the U.S.?
It is hard to narrow down all of the incredible destinations around the country, particularly those that deserve a spot on your bucket list. Fortunately, we have created several lists featuring some of the best of the best in the country. Use these lists to help you build your own bucket list. A few ideas include: