11 Cold Weather Destinations That Are Basically Winter Wonderlands, So Explore Them While You Still Can

Instead of trying to escape winter this year, I say embrace it. There's something exhilarating about spending a rosy-cheek day outside in the brisk air and snow. So instead of waiting around for spring break to arrive, I suggest going on a winter weekend getaway to appreciate the beauty of a snow-covered landscape. I know it sounds crazy, but winter won't be around for much longer, and you might as well enjoy it while you can — and the best way to do that is to escape to the stillness of a small town, and make the most of your ski trip.

Small towns know how to embrace winter best, so pack up your snow boots and explore the hidden treasures of the off-beaten paths. Here are 11 small American cities to visit for an authentic winter experience.

Image: DQmountaingirl/Flickr

Charlottesville, Virginia

Home to the University of Virginia, this artsy college town brings quite an impressive snowfall. Try snowshoeing on the trails of Blue Ridge Parkway, or enjoy a night of dining and entertainment downtown.

Image: Bob Mical/Flickr

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson is one of the country’s most authentic western destinations. The town is sprinkled with mom-and-pop shops, and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is still the place to go to ask a lady to dance. And if you’re looking for a ski lift, the nearby Jackson Hole slopes are full of steep, powdery runs.

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Anchorage, Alaska

With its snowy landscape, Anchorage is the perfect winter wonderland. Don’t miss the breathtaking northern lights that light up the night sky in a sea of color.

Image: Frank Kovalchek/Flickr

Providence, Rhode Island

This cozy winter spot is the cultural hub of galleries and is home to some of the best dining in America. If you don’t mind a little chill, check out the city’s outdoor skate rink at the Bank of America Center.

Image: Sean Benham/Flickr

Bozeman, Montana

If you’ve ever been to Yellowstone, chances are you’ve passed Bozeman along the way. This delightful little town full of artists, outdoorsmen, and college students is worth exploring. Main Street is lined with coffeehouses, sports bars, art galleries, and vintage shops.

Image: Scott Kublin/Flickr

Park City, Utah

Park City has some of the country’s best skiing, but the best way to experience the scenery is on a snowcat — a truck that can handle the area’s diverse terrain and travels along the countryside to give skiers a shot at untouched snow.

Image: Keith Kendrick/Flickr

Ouray, Colorado

The Colorado Rockies might have the flashy resorts, but the mining town of Ouray is full of gorgeous Victorian buildings and enormous ice formations. It also has tons of outdoor activities for those seeking adventure, like ice climbing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and skiing. And when you need a little warmth and relaxation, head to the therapeutic vapor caves discovered during the gold mine.

Image: Alan Stark/Flickr

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat is a winter playground for those who don’t mind the cold. Aside from the slopes, you can take a ride on a snowmobile or go on a winter horseback ride. And for those looking to just relax and take in the snow, the town also has steaming hot springs and plenty of cozy diners.

Image: DQmountaingirl/Flickr

Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla has vibrant vineyards during the warmer months, but you can find fine wines here all year round, so be sure to stop by one of the city's legendary wineries. This friendly college town will lift your spirits with wonderful coffee shops, boutiques, and bistros tucked away in beautiful Victorian buildings.

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Red River, New Mexico

I’m sure New Mexico is not your first idea of a winter wonderland getaway, but Red River is great for first time skiers. This mountaintop town is outlined with alpine-style restaurants, bars, and Texas barbecue joints. You can take a run down the slopes, or take a snowmobile tour though town.

Image: jayRaz/Flickr

Bethel, Maine

Stay in a cozy 19th century inn off Main Street, and enjoy the serenity of Bethel. Want to see some sights? Stroll through town on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. If you’re learning how to ski or snowboard, Mount Abram (just five miles from town) is the perfect mountain for beginners.

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