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Amazing Winter Vacation Ideas in the USA

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Let’s talk about winter vacations. We’re past the thrill of the holidays, but it’s not quite spring yet. So, around late February/early March we like to get away for a little bit. It’s a good time because the kids are still in school so places aren’t usually as crowded. So, if you’re thinking of taking a vacation yet this winter, I’ve listed 5 different ideas for you.

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Being in the Midwest where we tend to get lots of snow and cold weather during the winter, I’m sure you’re thinking I’ll only suggest warm places, but that’s not the case! Sometimes you have to take advantage of the cold weather and all the beauty that it brings. However, sometimes you just need a beach, so, yes, I’ve got that too!

Now, with this unique time while the world is still battling Covid, taking trips becomes a little trickier. While we may not be able to travel to many other countries, we can still travel throughout the USA (for the most part).  I’ve tried to leave off too many things that could possibly require larger crowds indoors. Also, if you decide to go somewhere you’ve been before, or one of these locations, you should check to ensure what you’re looking for is open. Things are continuously opening and shutting down due to different restrictions. In addition, if you’re planning a trip for this year, make sure to check Travel Resources During Covid-19.

Solvang, California

I hadn’t heard about this town until this year (thank you Instagram), but I am so there! Granted, being part Danish I have a bit of an extra draw to visit. However, even if you don’t have that connection I believe this would be a great trip to make this winter. During the winter, the high temperature is around 65 degrees F and the low is about 38.5 degrees. I realize that still seems cold to some, but they rarely get any measurable snow so that is a bonus. 

Solvang, California will transport you to a different culture.

With the Danish-inspired buildings, Solvang Windmill, and even a Hans Christian Andersen Museum & Park, you’ll be transported to a different world. There are plenty of adorable places you can stay within the town, wineries to visit, and (my favorite) lots of bakeries to get some delicious treats at. There are also nearby parks you can hike, golf courses, horseback riding, and a variety of museums. One adorable way to see the town during your winter vacation and learn more about it is with a horse-drawn trolley ride that is pulled by Belgian draft horses.

I mentioned the bakeries, right? Because I’m excited about those! There are also some incredible restaurants throughout Solvang. And shopping. Lots of shopping! There are over 150 stores, so that should keep you busy for a bit. One place to shop is the Jule Hus Christmas store. I realize, Christmas is over, but they have lots of Danish-themed decorations, and it’s a beautiful building to admire as well.

While we’re not able to travel over seas much right now, you can experience a different culture right here in the USA.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

This is typically a summer vacation spot for many of us Midwesterners (in fact it’s where I learned to water ski MANY years ago). However, I am planning on making a trip up there this winter because they will have an Ice Castle!  These frozen attractions are made of thousands of icicles and include sculptures, frozen thrones, slides, tunnels, and more!

Woman standing on balcony overlooking Flat Iron Park during Lake Geneva Winterfest

February 3rd – 7th, 2021 they will have their 26th Annual Lake Geneva Winterfest. This is a national snow sculpting competition, along with other fun activities. You can have s’mores at bonfires on the beach, there’s a cocoa crawl, downtown ice sculpture tours, and more!

Visit an icy wonderland on your winter vacation!

Other things to do around town on your winter vacation include ice skating on one of the many rinks at some of the best resorts. Many of them even offer additional activities, like possibly hot cocoa or fire pits.  There are great areas to go sledding, and skiing, both downhill and cross country. Or you could try your foot at snowshoeing (see what I did there😊).  If you’re a very patient person, you might also enjoy some ice fishing. Or, if you like things a little more fast pass, you can go zip-lining!  

There are also plenty of indoor and outdoor fireplaces/pits that you could curl up in front of.  Or, if you’re anything like me, there are some great spas you can take advantage of. There are also a handful of places you can stay, and restaurants to enjoy.  If you like the larger cities, Lake Geneva is not too far from some if you want to add one of those to your itineraries for your winter vacation. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Lake Geneva, read about my stay at Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva.

Page, Arizona

Page is a small town, around 7,500 residents, at the north border of Arizona. While the town specifically isn’t much of a draw, the surrounding areas are! If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, this one’s for you! There are some gorgeous landscapes that, no doubt, you’ve seen in pictures.  Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is 280,000 acres with trails and views to take your breath away.  One of those views includes what is known as The Wave (Coyote Buttes North). However, not just anyone can go wandering around this amazing area. You need a permit, and that is done via a lottery. So don’t plan your whole trip around seeing this one attraction, unless you were able to secure a permit through the online lottery process, or you’ll have your heartbroken on your winter vacation.

Visit the beautiful landscapes around Page, Arizona for your winter vacation.

A few other parts of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument area include Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Paria Canyon, and Coyote Buttes South. Another location to check out is Horseshoe Bend. If you want to get great pictures here, try to get out there as early as possible! Then there’s Antelope Canyon. This is a slot canyon on Navajo land with is actually two different canyons. If you want a cool picture for Instagram though, here’s your place!

There are many other areas to explore around here. Even the Grand Canyon isn’t too far away! So if you are looking for a trip without snow and with outdoor hikes, I would highly recommend checking it out for your winter getaway.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Two things I love are reindeer and the Northern Lights, and you can get both of those in Fairbanks! Yes, it will be chilly, but visiting Fairbanks for your winter vacation will be worth it!  Fairbanks is actually voted as the Best Place in the US to see the Northern Lights, and there are plenty of places you can go and ways to see them. Three places you can visit to see them include the Chena River State Recreation Park, Cleary Summit, and North Pole.  There are also numerous tours you can find that will take you out at night to see them (if you’re lucky). There are many factors that go into seeing these amazing lights dance across the sky so unfortunately, you’re never guaranteed to see them.

See the northern lights.

Another place to visit is North Pole! This small town just outside of Fairbanks has Santa Claus House. Here you can shop for lots of Christmas décor, North Pole apparel, and even some special toys. There’s also a Sweet Shop there with lots of treats for a sugar rush. You can sit in Santa’s sleigh, or stand in the shadows of the 50 foot tall Santa statue, and don’t forget to see Santa himself (although he might be on his “After Christmas Vacation”).  They also have Santa’s reindeer here. Currently, you can only view them through the fence, but they’re hoping to open up again this summer.

However, there’s another option to see reindeer!  Running Reindeer Ranch offers visitors a guided walking tour through the boreal forest with the reindeer! If the 2.5-hour tour isn’t enough for you, you can actually spend the night at Reindeer Haus. As a bonus to the beautiful views you’ll get with your overnight stay, you might even be able to join in on some reindeer feedings!

You can enjoy some dog sledding on your winter vacation!

I love dog sled rides! With Just Short of Magic you have different tour options but they all include these awesome dogs! You can even ask about taking a ride on the sled runners and driving the sled. When you’re out on your run you might come across some other animals, including even possibly seeing moose (probably not polar bears like on our trip in Churchill🤣).

Dog sledding in Fairbanks, Alaska for your winter vacation.

There’s also snowmobiling, helicopter tours, other museums, the Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center, Pioneer Park, and ice fishing. Lastly, you could take a tour to actually visit the Arctic Circle. I mean, how many people do you know that can say they’ve actually been to the Arctic Circle?    

The last thing I say about this area is visiting the Chena Hot Springs.  This is a little ways away from Fairbanks, but worth the drive. It is not uncommon to catch a moose crossing the road on your way out to Chena. Once there you are able to soak in the hot spring lake and enjoy your surroundings. This isn’t in a town, it’s just basically the resort area, but there is a restaurant, café, a gift shop, and a hotel. There is also an Ice Museum with its own ice bar!  This is the world’s largest YEAR-ROUND ice environment! And get the appletini in the ice martini glass!

Destin, Florida

Let’s end with someplace warm, Florida! Destin is located in the panhandle of Florida and offers great views of the Gulf along with plenty of activities if you decide not to just sit on the beach all day. There are plenty of activities you can take advantage of on, in, and above the water! There is parasailing, wave runners, kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling, and plenty of boat rental options. You can also book a helicopter tour of the area.

Lay on the beach for your winter vacation.

Everyone loves dolphins, right? There are various dolphin viewing cruises you can take on your winter vacation, including sunset ones! Or if you are searching for some treasure, you could board the Buccaneer Pirate Cruise. On here you’ll be amused by the crew with pirate-themed activities, dancing, singing, and family fun. Water gun battles, sword fighting, a treasure hunt, and even an authentic cannon fire! Don’t worry, there’s an adult-only cruise too.

If it’s shopping you like, make sure to visit Destin Commons. It might seem weird to recommend a shopping mall, but since I’ve hardly been in one in nearly ten months (we have indoor malls here in Iowa), I will definitely be making a stop here on our trip down this year. Not only do they have plenty of stores, but 20 restaurants, and a children’s playground with a climbing structure, soft play area, and splash pad.

For more activity (and more people) there’s HarborWalk Village. This area along the Destin Harbor is full of lots of the water activities I’ve already mentioned, but they also have plenty of great restaurants.  There is also a 40-foot interactive LED rock climbing wall, a 100-foot free fall (NO THANK YOU), and ziplining.

Then again, if all you want to do is sit on the beach for your winter vacation, this is definitely the place for that as well!

Where Are You Going for a Winter Vacation?

So there you have it! 5 different ideas for a winter vacation this year. Again, if you’re planning on traveling make sure to check on any requirements for where you are going related to covid restrictions.

Have you been to any of these? Or where are you hoping to go yet this winter?

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11 Comments

  • Eric Gamble

    I love how you mixed this list of USA Winter Vacation ideas with both warm and cold type trips. We live in New Orleans so beach trips to Destin and nearby beaches is always a good idea to shake the cold. But I have to say checking out that Ice Castle near Lake Geneva in Wisconsin would be so cool! (Get it…an Ice Castle..cool!! haha) I think my wife would definitely love exploring Solvang too cause she is fascinated with Denmark since her heritage is Danish.

  • Debra Schroeder

    Nice list of spots. Solvang gets busy on the weekends so keep that in mind. OMG, the Lake Geneva Winterfest sounds right up my alley. That ice alley looks fun plus s’mores! Dog sledding would be fun.

    • liapontarelli

      If there’s one thing I’ve come to appreciate even more throughout this past year is traveling during the week and taking advantage of smaller crowds!

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    We are often not home in the winter. So this year we have had to think about winter activities that aren’t flying away to a beach! I love the idea of visiting something like the Ice Caste in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. And seeing the Northern Lights would certainly draw me to Alaska.

    • liapontarelli

      I’ve never been able to actually see the northern lights in person! Just via live stream cameras I watch. It’s been too cloudy when I was in places I could see it, but I’m hoping one of these days it will happen!

  • Melissa

    Great ideas for both cold and warm winter getaways, although a warm winter getaway sounds great right now!. A dolphin cruise in Destin sounds very appealing, I have been on a few whale watches and hoped to catch a glimpse of a dolphin, but have yet to. Some water sports and relaxing on a beach would be amazing to!

    • liapontarelli

      I’ve not been able to see a whale yet and would love to see that! Weather has never cooperated! Hopefully this year (if my trip doesn’t get canceled)!

  • Rajkumar Gaikwad

    Great places for vacation in USA. For food and sports lover California is the best suggestion according to mine and for doing Christmas shopping and at the same time want to enjoy the vacation then Alaska is the fab option

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