While summer vacation usually means shorts, sneakers, and fighting off throngs of other vacationers, winter getaways include everything from skiing to curling up by the fire with a good book, or soaking up some sun down south. Whether your favorite winter break involves ski boots or sandals, America boasts many of the world’s best winter vacation destinations.
Park City, Utah
Main Street Park City has a variety of unique shops and galleries, excellent restaurants and a free trolley that runs the strip’s length. A lift that leaves right from the center of town makes Park City a favorite with skiers and snowboarders. If you don’t ski but love the snow, area tour companies rent snowmobiles by the hour or day. For a little romance, take an evening sleigh-ride with the Rocky Mountain Sleigh Company.
The Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Few places say “Winter Getaway” like the Smoky Mountains. Rustic Gatlinburg cabins in the Smokies bring visitors year-round, but wintertime adds a touch of enchantment to the mix. Located at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the town of Gatlinburg holds a seasonal celebration every year known as “Winter Magic.” Festivities include a variety of free concerts, the Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, and an appearance by Santa Claus himself. Decorated with tens of millions of sparkling lights from mid-November through early March, the entire area takes on a magical feel. The Ober Gatlinburg resort offers Skiing, Snowboarding, Tubing, and has one of the nation’s largest aerial tramways that leaves right from downtown Gatlinburg.
Jackson Hole, WY
Tucked away between the Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges, Jackson Hole’s world-class slopes make it one of our country’s most popular ski towns. Nearby Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the National Elk Refuge bring visitors to Jackson Hole year-round. For the kids, Teton Village’s Grand Adventure Park features rock climbing, bungee jumping, and an aerial adventure rope course. Jackson Hole’s tram offers spectacular 360-degree views of the valley and the Teton mountain range.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Anytime can be a good time to visit Las Vegas. Even if you don’t gamble, its world-class entertainment, unique luxury hotels and 24-hour festive atmosphere make the desert town a worthy destination. Airfare and hotel prices drop considerably in winter, with some five-star lodging available at off-peak half prices. Moderate temperatures make nearby hiking attractions like Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire, or just walking around town, much more enjoyable than most of the year. And not to worry if you can’t find a sitter, Las Vegas even hosts a number of kid-friendly attractions, like the Adventuredome amusement park located right inside the Circus Circus hotel. Las Vegas also makes the perfect base for day trips to Zion National Park (about two-and-a-half-hours to the north), Lake Meade, and the Hoover Dam. And several tour companies run all-day bus trips to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
New York City, New York
New York City draws crowds of tourists during the holiday season. Thanks to Radio City’s annual Christmas Spectacular, one of the country’s largest Christmas tree displays in Rockefeller Center, and its New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, few destinations rival the “Big Apple” when it comes to holiday cheer. (As with every place you visit where people congregate, in the age of social distancing it’s a smart move to get a rapid test for infection right before you leave so you can be assured your family’s health is sound.) In late winter, after things die down a bit, hotel room prices drop significantly. During NYC Restaurant Week – which usually runs for almost three weeks from late January to mid-February – many of the city’s finest eateries offer considerable discounts on price-fixed meals. Broadway theaters also slow down a bit in winter. Half-priced tickets can easily be found if your schedule and tastes are flexible.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina, can be brutally hot during the summer months, but winter cools it down to average daytime high temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, for a perfect winter getaway. Cobblestone streets, nineteenth-century architecture and horse-drawn carriages make historic Charleston seem like a city suspended in time. Charleston’s Battery Promenade and Waterfront Park offer views of the harbor on one side and stately, historic homes on the other. Popular area attractions include Fort Sumter, the USS Yorktown, and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. When the kids get cranky, check out the South Carolina Aquarium located on the east side of town. The aquarium features over 10,000 plants and animals, including alligators, loggerhead sea turtles and great blue herons. You can also catch the ferry to Fort Sumter from right next to the aquarium.
St Augustine, Florida
Saint Augustine, Florida, holds the title of America’s oldest city. It was founded by the Spanish during the 16th century, and many historic buildings and ample Spanish culture still remain. A mix of shops, restaurants, and museums occupy historic structures along Aviles Street – America’s oldest public street. Old Town Saint Augustine’s most popular attractions include the Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine, Plaza de la Constitución, and the Old City Gate. St Augustine’s “Night of Lights” festival runs every year from mid-November to the end of January. During the festival, the city’s Old Town section takes on an enchanted feel thanks to millions of tiny white lights that decorate the entire area. Saint Augustine enjoys its driest weather from the beginning of December to the end of February. Daytime highs in the upper 60s and low 70s make it perfect for a winter getaway.