Travel Tips 

16 Real Life Winter Wonderlands in the US

For some of us, spending time in places that are like real life winter wonderlands brings an almost indescribable joy. No doubt the Scandinavians have a word for it (think hygge or koselig) since they truly embrace winter. Being surrounded by snow-covered trees with snow gently falling makes the heart beat a little faster with giddy, child-like excitement!
Prepared By:

Danella Myers

Adventurer & Photographer

If you love winter weather, check out these winter wonderlands across the United States.

1. Ouray, Colorado

This quaint little town is nestled next to the San Juan Mountains. Because of its mountainous setting, Ouray is sometimes called the ‘Switzerland of America.’ With events like the Ouray Ice Festival and San Juan Skijoring, this town definitely knows how to celebrate winter. Ouray also has hot springs, making this great winter town even better.

2. Heber Valley, Utah

Heber Valley is located in northern Utah near the Wasatch Mountain Range. The area offers just about every winter activity imaginable. Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating, sleigh rides, tubing…and the list goes on. You can also enjoy the incredible winter views on a scenic train ride with Heber Valley Railroad. For another magical winter experience, explore the Ice Castles in Heber Valley (pictured).

3. Camden, Maine

There’s something so charming about New England towns in the winter and Camden is no exception. Located on Penobscot Bay, Camden Harbor is unbelievably picturesque. Take in the ocean views while skiing at at Camden Snow Bowl.

4. Incline Village, Nevada

Incline Village just sounds like an awesome winter destination. It’s a small town on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. With two ski areas (Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose) less than a half hour away, Incline Village is sure to appeal to winter adventurers. Or if you’d rather just spend a few days in a cozy cabin, there are plenty of those in the area too.

5. Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, Washington’s Bavarian village in the Cascade Mountains, was originally named Icicle Flats. Talk about the perfect name for a winter wonderland. Leavenworth’s “Village of Lights” creates an extra festive atmosphere in the already quaint village. Winter recreation is also abundant in the area with activities including dog sledding, backcountry skiing, ice climbing and much more.

6. Lake Placid, New York

Lake Placid, located in the Adirondacks, has hosted the Olympic Winter Games twice, so you know it’s a true winter destination. One of the really unique winter activities you can do in the area is ride down the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute, which is a 30-foot high converted ski jump. From skating and skiing to dog sled rides, there’s plenty of  fun to be had in the winter wonderlands near Lake Placid!

7. West Yellowstone, Montana

West Yellowstone, near the border of Montana and Wyoming, is a gateway to Yellowstone National Park. The area is a popular destination for snowmobiling because it’s surrounded by three national forests (Custer Gallatin, Beaverhead – Deerlodge and Caribou-Targhee) that have substantial groomed trail systems with access to backcountry areas. Another unique winter activity near West Yellowstone are the guided snowcoach tours in Yellowstone National Park. It’s the perfect place for winter family fun!

8. Stanley, Idaho

If you haven’t heard of Sawtooth National Forest, you should Google it ASAP. Then look up Salmon-Challis National Forest. There’s a town called Stanley, ID that is conveniently located right near both of those national forests. It’s a great basecamp for winter adventuring including backcountry and nordic skiing. The annual Stanley Winterfest embraces the season with festivities and events like the the Fat Bike Fondo and skijoring.

9. Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills has some fascinating landscapes including Ash Cave, Rock House and Cedar Falls. In the winter, some of these places are even more intriguing with a blanket of snow and ice formations. Go on a winter hike and enjoy the beautiful scenery and then cozy up in a cabin!

10. Canaan Valley, West Virginia

Located in Tucker County near the Allegheny Mountains, Canaan Valley is a destination that truly thrives in the winter. It’s home to White Grass Touring Center, a cross-country ski resort. Nearby is Blackwater Falls State Park, which is stunning in the winter and offers a variety of winter activities including a sled run and cross-country skiing.

11. Lutsen, Minnesota

Along the North Shore of Lake Superior are a few small towns in Cooke County, Minnesota that illustrate the ‘Up North’ culture – cabins, woods and plenty of plaid. One of those towns is Lutsen, MN. Because of its proximity to Lake Superior, the area gets a good amount of lake effect snow that makes for great winter outdoor recreation including skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

12. Whitefish, Montana

About 25 miles from Glacier National Park lies the charming town of Whitefish, MT. If you like destinations with mountains and lakes, you’ll fall fast and hard for this place. One of the area’s major winter attractions is Whitefish Mountain Resort. Other winter activities that can be done near Whitefish include dog sled tours, ice climbing, backcountry snowcat skiing and more. Also, visiting Glacier National Park in the winter is a great way to enjoy some solitude.

13. Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock, VT could definitely be a contender for the cutest town in America during any season. But in the winter, this place is like something straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Its pedestrian village is the perfect place to stroll around. Adventure seekers may be interested in outdoor activities like winter backpacking, ice climbing and dog sledding.

14. Bayfield, Wisconsin

Bayfield, WI is located on the shore of Lake Superior and is the gateway to the Apostle Islands, which are a sight to behold in the winter when the ice caves form. The Bayfield Peninsula’s abundant winter activities include snowmobiling, skiing, biking and snowshoeing. The area also hosts the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race, which is an exciting event for both participants and spectators!

15. Copper Valley, Alaska

Winter in Alaska isn’t for the faint of heart. But for those that love crisp cold air, solitude and adventure, it’s definitely one of the best winter wonderlands in the United States. For about seven months of the year, Copper Valley experiences wintery weather. Located near America’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the area boasts incredible views of the Wrangell Mountains.

16. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The small town of Gatlinburg, TN is a quintessential mountain town in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s a popular destination for visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the winter, the area is quieter and every bit as beautiful. The town celebrates winter in a big way with events like Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter. Skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing can be done at Ober Gatlinburg. The area’s hundreds of charming cabins and chalets are another way to enjoy the winter wonderlands in the Smoky Mountains!

What are your favorite winter wonderlands?

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