13 Best Places To Go in the Winter, From Ski Resorts to Sunny Beaches

These are the top cold- and warm-weather destinations around the United States.

Biltmore Estate in winter
Photo:

Danny Wilson / 500px / Getty Images

A winter vacation is a great cure for the letdown that often comes after the holidays and the "winter blahs" that start as the season seems to drag on.

Everyone has a different goal when it comes to winter vacations. Some want to ski or at least savor all that goes with a snowy environment — think cozy fireplaces, hot cocoa, mulled wine, crisp air, and mountains draped in white. Others want to avoid the cold at all costs, lounge in the sun, and swim in warm tropical waters.

Here's a look at our top 13 winter vacation ideas for destinations around the United States. These are our favorite places to go in the winter, whether you're looking for the perfect winter wonderland or prefer sandy beaches to snowy mountains.

01 of 13

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Welcome sign for Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in winter

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With an average of 458 inches of snowfall each year, the ski slopes here — the two most popular being Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King Resort — attract lovers of the sport. You'll also find other winter-weather activities like snow tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and back country skiing. Snowcoach tours to nearby Yellowstone National Park make it possible to explore the area in a comfortable and warm vehicle, offering access to Old Faithful, bubbling mud pots, and wildlife. Snowmobile tours through Yellowstone are also available for an exciting winter adventure.

02 of 13

St. Louis, Missouri

The St. Louis Art Museum on Art Hill in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri
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Daytime temperatures are usually in the 40s during the winter months, but when it feels too cold to be outside, there's still plenty to do indoors. The palatial St. Louis Art Museum, founded in 1879 and moved to its current home during the 1904 World's Fair, is one of the country's premier museums. Visitors can ride a tram to the top of the Gateway Arch, the tallest manmade monument in the United States at 630 feet, for a spectacular view of the city.

03 of 13

St. George, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park near St George, Utah

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A four-and-a-half-hour scenic drive from Salt Lake City (or a two-hour drive from Las Vegas), St. George offers mild winters and a desert climate with daytime temperatures in the 50s and cooler nights. Its historic downtown features a number of interesting museums, galleries, restaurants, and cafes. About an hour away, spectacular Zion National Park is open all year, with hiking and mountain biking trails. Just 15 minutes from St. George, Snow Canyon State Park — with red rock mountains, horseback riding, and gorgeous scenery — seldom sees snow, despite its name.

04 of 13

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Slugger factory and museum in Louisville, Kentucky
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Known for the Kentucky Derby, the Bourbon Trail, the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, and great food, Louisville is cold in winter, but there's plenty to do indoors and lots of bourbon to warm you up. Set on the Ohio River along the Indiana border, the city offers many unique attractions based on its claims to fame. The Kentucky Derby Museum explores the history of the annual thoroughbred horse race, while the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory will appeal to baseball fans. Bourbon lovers will want to check out all the nearby distilleries.

05 of 13

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway arrives at Mountain Station

Emily Riddell / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

About a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles, this charming desert city enjoys comfortable daytime temperatures in winter and is home to golf courses, spas, casinos, and a nearby hot springs. Trendy restaurants, boutique hotels, resorts, and elegant shops offer something for everyone. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway provides a fun ride, spectacular views, snow, and cold temperatures for anyone seeking a wintry environment for a day. Joshua Tree National Park is about an hour away, with extraordinary rock formations, cacti, and starry night skies.

06 of 13

Key West, Florida

Colorful storefronts in Key West, Florida

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A three-and-a-half-hour drive from Miami, this popular road trip takes visitors across 42 bridges to Florida's southernmost point. Winter temperatures in the 70s, history, and water sports attract fun-loving tourists from around the world. Diving and snorkeling among its coral reefs are popular activities during the day, while in the evening, lively Duval Street's restaurants and bars feature a Caribbean-style ambiance. Historic architecture, the Key West City Cemetery, and the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum are among the most-visited attractions in this quirky city, one of our favorite places to go in the winter if you're craving some Florida sunshine.

07 of 13

Burlington, Vermont

Skiing at Smugglers Notch

Dennis Curran / Courtesy of Smugglers Notch

Located in northwestern Vermont on the shore of Lake Champlain and one of the best places to go in the winter if you like snow, Burlington is Vermont's largest city, conveniently located near Burlington International Airport. There are popular ski resorts within an hour of the city, including Stowe, Smugglers' Notch, and Bolton Valley, with slopes for skiers of all levels. Its appealing downtown boasts shops, restaurants, micro-breweries, live music venues, and the charming Church Street Marketplace, while a variety of available lodging options includes cozy B&Bs as well as hotels.

08 of 13

Sun Valley, Idaho

Chairlift in Sun Valley, Idaho

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If winter means snow and outdoor fun, Sun Valley should fit the bill. Nonstop flights from major western cities make the area accessible, and skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snow biking, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, and other winter activities await. Called the birthplace of destination skiing, Sun Valley offers 18 chairlifts and 121 varied runs as well as its popular SnowSports School. The town also boasts a range of dining spots, live music venues, and coffee shops.

09 of 13

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Stegosaurus skeleton in Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Set on three rivers with 445 bridges throughout the city, Pittsburgh in winter is best suited for indoor activities, and there are many to put on a visitor's itinerary. The Andy Warhol Museum, located in the artist's hometown, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1895, will entice art lovers, while the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's exhibits both entertain and educate. Pittsburgh's dining scene is growing, with dozens of restaurants, cafes, breweries, and new food halls to enjoy. Local favorites like pierogies, kielbasa, and a sandwich from Primanti Bros. should definitely be on your food agenda.

10 of 13

Sarasota, Florida

Lifeguard tower at Sarasota Beach, Florida

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While perfect weather in the 70s, white sand beaches, restaurants, and cultural events attract snowbirds from around the country, it's still possible to find a quiet spot along the beach to gather seashells or splash in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In town, restaurants, shops, and galleries call for hours of browsing. Sarasota is the home of the The Ringling, which is home to an impressive Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Ca'd'Zan, the circus entrepreneur's home.

11 of 13

South Padre Island, Texas

Green Island Sanctuary, South Padre Island, Texas

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With temperatures in the 60s, winter is pleasant for outdoor activities on this small barrier island off the southern coast of Texas. The area is a haven for nature lovers, with the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a major bird watching location, as well as the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary and its five-story viewing tower. The nearby South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Nature Center provides boat tours, while Sea Turtle Inc. rescues and rehabilitates sea turtles. Boating, fishing, and kiteboarding are popular activities, and you'll find plenty of fresh local seafood, including oysters, red snapper, and flounder.

12 of 13

Asheville, North Carolina

Biltmore Estate in winter

Danny Wilson / 500px / Getty Images

Winters are mild in this city, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Ski slopes are nearby for those seeking winter sports, and hiking trails are accessible throughout the season. It's an ideal time to explore the city's best downtown galleries and museums without crowds. Learn more about the area's history on the downtown Asheville Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile walk featuring bronze sculptures depicting historical figures and events. Explore the Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt's glorious 250-room chateau, on a guided tour.

13 of 13

Honolulu, Hawaii

Hanauma Bay, Honolulu, on the Island of O'ahu, Hawaii

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Sunshine, beautiful beaches, warm temperatures, brilliant sunsets, and graceful palm trees beckon travelers to Hawaii during the winter. Snorkeling among brightly colored fish, surfing the big winter waves (or watching the pros do their thing from the shore), or just relaxing on the beach or poolside make Hawaii one of the best places to go in the winter, especially with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. Learn all about Hawaiian history and culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center, located on Oahu's scenic North Shore, or back in Honolulu at Bishop Museum or 'Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the U.S.

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