Fun Affordable U.S. Winter Vacation Options
Summer isn’t the only time to consider a personal, couple’s or family vacation. Many Americans relish their winter season and love to celebrate it with other locals or visitors. If you’d like to take some time off, clear your mind and recharge your spirits this winter, consider a cold-weather vacation that will leave you with warm memories for years to come.
Sure, you can find a bunch of great skiing and snowboarding options across the country each winter, but why not add another activity to your trip? Look for a ski destination where there’s a winter music, arts or food festival.
Head to Steamboat Springs in February for their five-day annual winter carnival. You can join or watch ski races, check out a parade, watch skiers jump through flaming hoops, let your kids soar over donkeys (seriously), try the best local food and drink, and enjoy evening light displays and fireworks. The carnival has been going on for more than 100 years now, so you know they must be doing something right. California skiing? You bet! Lake Tahoe’s SnowFest is another enticing ski-vacation option, giving you 10 days in early March to enjoy the parades, races, concerts, polar bear swim, kids events, and coronation of the festival’s Snow Queen. Enjoy the annual firefighter’s pancake breakfast, the Rib Fest, or a luau, clambake or ice cream eating contest. For an East Cost trip, consider the Stowe Vermont Winter Carnival in mid-January. The carnival has all the winter ice sculpting, parades, concerts and food and drink options you’d expect, as well as karaoke, trivia contests, wine tastings a variety of winter sporting events (including broomball and snow golf and volleyball).
Before you head out to hit the slopes, check out our article on getting in shape for ski and snowboarding season. (KRISTING, LINK TO THE SKI/SNOWBOARD ARTICLE HERE)
Midwest Festivals & Carnivals
If you’re not into hitting the slopes, look for regional winter events in areas that aren’t know for their mountains and log cabin lodges. Chicago hosts its Winter WonderFest each January at its world-famous Navy Pier. The festival features a 170,000 square foot winter playground with inner tube hill, toboggan rides, snow slide, ice-skating rink, train ride and carnival rides. Before or after you hit the festival, walk down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district, where you can spend hours marveling at some of the most famous and fascinating holiday store window displays anywhere in the world.
Just north of Milwaukee, WI, the Cedarburg Winter Festival offers hayrides, music, food, art shows, ice carving, a golf tournament, and barrel races and skating on the lake. And what trip to Wisconsin would be complete without a beer tasting? Another Midwestern option for a winter vacation is the St. Paul, MN Winter Carnival. The event is more than 125 years old and attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year from late January to early February. In addition to traditional winter carnival activities, the festival includes dogsled racing, a beer fest, a beautiful ice castle and the coronation of an annual “Royal Family,” who serve the community at charitable functions the rest of the year.
You don’t need to leave home to create your own special winter vacation. Schedule several activities during the course of a weekend to take advantage of the change of season. If you have an arboretum near you, check out their winter activities and special events. Many golf courses open for crosscountry skiing in winter, renting equipment to casual skiers. Find a weekend snow hike or group dog walk. Search for the best ice-skating experience to take a trip back to your youth. Look for a restaurant with a big fireplace that serves seasonal fare to complete your winter mini-vacation.
Go Island Hopping
If you live east of the Mississippi and don’t feel like flying to the Caribbean or driving all the way to Florida, head to the Carolina Lowcountry or Georgia Golden Isles and hit the beaches on an East Coast barrier Island. Hilton Head Island is the most famous, with sugar sand beaches and lots of golf. Other options include Daufuskie, Edisto, Fripp, Brunswick, St. Simons, Tybee, Hunting, Harbour, Jekyll or Sea Island. The winter weather can be unpredictable, but if you’ll be driving, you can make your plans on short notice when you know the weather will be warm.