Donnie Sexton

Our picks for where to go and what to do when the world looks like the set of Frozen.

Amy Tara Koch
November 20, 2015

There’s no denying it: winter is coming. And even if you’re a warm-weather person, we’ve got plenty of reasons to head outside and celebrate the season. From the Adirondack Mountains to the lakes of Wisconsin and across the country to the slopes of Utah, these wintertime destinations invite awesome—and icy—family adventures. All you need is a daredevil spirit and strategically layered clothing.

Door County, Wisconsin

An ideal winter escape can be found in Northern Wisconsin—Door County, to be specific. This Norman Rockwell-looking peninsula by Sturgeon Bay transforms into an icy playground during the winter: golf courses become sledding and snowshoeing terrain, the county’s lakes and state parks are used for dog sledding, zip lining, snow mobiles, and fat tire biking—the newest winter activity for those who are passionate about the outdoors. Another option is Sunburst Winter Sports Park, just north of Milwaukee, which is home to the largest snow-tubing park, at 42 lanes, in America. “Magic carpets” pull you up the mountain and shoot you 100 feet down a quarter-mile run.

Lake Placid, New York

For a low-key, budget-friendly snow adventure high on energy, Lake Placid is an excellent choice. Its location in the Adirondacks is scenic, but the real draw is the ability to frolic on Olympic-branded terrain. A converted ski jump trestle has been fashioned into a toboggan chute, an icy roller coaster that shuttles riders 1,000 feet out onto frozen Mirror Lake. Kids over 12 can test drive the bobsled Olympic run at the Olympic Sports Complex. The Olympic Oval is open to the public for ice-skating, and family dog sledding across Mirror Lake is a slam-dunk for any family.

Park City, Utah

This is one-stop winter vacation shopping for families. Park City Mountain Resort, now the largest single ski and snowboard resort in the United States, has something for every mood and every age bracket. For little kids, there are horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowshoe treks, and dog sledding through the jaw-dropping Wasatch Mountain Range. The Alpine Coaster (reachable by chair lift) can ferry the family through more than a mile of wow-factor loops and curves at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. For teens, it’s all about Utah Olympic Park, site of the 2002 winter Olympics. Here you can ride the Comet Bobsled (must be 16) and partake in the “Xtreme ZipRider®” which, with a 500 foot drop, is the steepest zip line in North America.

Yellowstone National Park, Montana

During the winter, Yellowstone National Park transforms into a snowy wonderland. Not only can you see an incredible amount of wildlife during this time (without the annoying selfie stick-obsessed crowds of summer), but snow geysers spontaneously erupt as you explore the park. Other activities abound: Ranger services offers guided snowshoe hikes, and there is dogsledding, sleigh rides, snowmobile sessions, and adventure zip lining, too. At night, the adventure continues. Guests take a snowcat to a rustic yurt at Big Sky Resort for a prime rib dinner at the top of the mountain. As you wait for the meal to begin, nighttime sledding is encouraged.

Amy Tara Koch covers the family and Chicago beats for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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