Whether you believe that the weather outside is frightful or those frosty temperatures are just right, you don’t have to be a skier, snowboarder, or mountain lover to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh powder. From snowshoeing and sledding to seasonal festivals, we’ve tracked down some of the best spots in the country to enjoy winter activities that have nothing to do with the slopes.
Explore Yellowstone from the back of a snowmobile, go tubing after dark, or watch world-class snow sculptors at work—all while keeping those resolutions to travel more, spend time with family, and be kind to your bank account this year.
That last part is where the affordable rentals on TripAdvisor can really make a difference. Book a snug chalet or cozy condo in one of these winter wonderlands, and you’ll enjoy a full kitchen, patio or backyard, and plenty of space for the whole gang. You won’t need ski boots on this trip, but our selection of destinations and activities below offers up some serious snow-filled fun.
Fresh powder and well-groomed trails are a recipe for big thrills—especially if you’re on a Two Top snowmobile tour of Yellowstone. According to one reviewer, the bucket-list experience is a “unique and wondrous way to see the park from a totally different perspective.” Keep an eye out for wildlife including bison, elk, wolves, and bald eagles.
Pittsburg is the spot for snowmobiling in the Northeast, and with good reason. New Hampshire’s northernmost town is primed for the possibility of 170 inches of annual snowfall. Don’t forget the massive network of trails connecting to Vermont, Maine, and Canada, and—more importantly—the area’s dedicated Ridge Runners, who groom and maintain 200+ miles of trails.
Forget the one-horse open sleigh; if you prefer to dash through the drifts on a snowmobile, then this backcountry tour was tailor-made for you. Luckily, you don’t have to be a pro (or even a thrill-seeker!) to explore Green Mountain National Forest by snowmobile. Snowmobile Vermont offers tours for all skill levels, whether you want to dominate the terrain or just enjoy the scenery.
For breathtaking views and top-notch machines, it’s hard to beat the snowmobiling experience at Daniels Summit. Whether you’re looking for a guided adventure or an unguided ride, the location (a short drive from Salt Lake City) and backdrop (Uinta Natural Forest) set the stage for an epic adventure. This season, snow has fallen at a record pace, leaving a foot on the trails.
Known as the “Snowmobile Capital of the World,” Eagle River is home to the World Snowmobile Headquarters and plays hosts to the World Championship Snowmobile Derby each year. In winter sports circles, this scenic little town is also famous for the “Eagle River 500”—500 miles of trails groomed by local volunteers.
The resort’s excellent slopes get most of the attention, but make no mistake: the snowshoeing at Sugarloaf is nothing to sneeze at. Maine’s largest Nordic Center, which boasts 55 miles of groomed trails, is a gem nestled minutes from the base area. Use the blazes to navigate through snow-laden pine forests and quiet, icy meadows.
“We rented snowshoes at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center and took the lift to McCoy Park,” one reviewer writes. “We had a fantastic experience. The trails are beautiful and the vistas are awesome.” One of the country’s top lift-accessed trail systems, McCoy Park boasts nearly 20 miles of groomed trails. Prefer to explore the scenery with a group? Choose the Nature Snowshoe Tour to learn about local flora, fauna, and folklore, or try the Fit Tour for a feel-the-burn workout.
Opportunities to snowshoe in the White Mountains, a range that traces through a quarter of New Hampshire, are nearly endless. Hiking trails become snowshoe trails as winter sets in and snow begins to fall; load up a pack and trek past old-growth forests and frozen waterfalls. Of course, if you’re not up for a backcountry experience, you can always set out on the groomed trails at the Nordic Center in Waterville Valley.
With a wide range of popular trails open in the winter, hiking in Waterbury is a year-round affair. Camel’s Hump, the third-highest mountain in Vermont, is a favorite spot for local snowshoers.
Sandia Park is home to the Annual Sandia Mountain Snowshoe Race, a scenic 5K route through the Cibola National Forest to raise money for maintaining local trails. Even if you won’t be in town for the January 28th event, you can enjoy the snowshoe trails nearby—from short hikes to marathon-length jaunts—all winter long.
The free sledding and designated tubing hill at this park west of downtown Minneapolis is nothing short of legendary, but it’s about to get even better. Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has teamed up with the Loppet Foundation to improve the park, which means better maintenance for the tubing hill and more support for the inner-city snowboard lessons program.
This charming ski spot offers dozens of slopes and four base areas, all located less than an hour from Seattle. It’s a perfect destination for families with little ones thanks to the daily ski lessons and popular tubing hill. Hurtle down one of the 550-foot-long lanes, then let the covered conveyor ferry you back to the top for another round.
Located in central Portland, this recreation area is known for its awesome sledding hill and terrain park (one of just a handful of free municipal snowboard parks in the US). The goal? Get more kids involved in snow sports. Count us in!
Touted as the largest tubing park in the country, Camelback Mountain offers 42 lanes, exciting drops, and two Magic Carpet lifts to carry you back up the mountain. This season, you can even try galactic tubing after dark (think adrenaline-pumping rides paired with a vibrant light show).
Looking for an epic sledding hill? You’ll find one near Grand Junction. Mesa Creek Ski Area, the region’s original ski resort, doesn’t have much to offer in the way of lifts and grooming (the attraction closed in the 1960s after Powderhorn opened). It is, however, a storied local sledding spot. For a tamer adventure, try the family-friendly tubing at Powderhorn Ski Resort.
January 24–February 5, 2017
This unique international event attracts some of the world’s top snow artists, from the Northwest to far-flung destinations like Mongolia and Ukraine. From January 24–28, teams of four people will have 65 hours to sculpt massive, 12-foot blocks of snow—sans power tools or internal structures. The festivities continue with a People’s Choice vote and a viewing week.
January 26–February 5, 2017
This frosty event (also known as the “Coolest Celebration on Earth”) has been a local tradition since 1886. This year, the carnival is expected to draw a quarter of a million visitors with events and activities including parades, a disc golf ice bowl, a snow sculpting competition, an art exhibit, and a winter fun run.
February 3–12, 2017
The focal point of this 120-year-old festival is a massive Ice Palace overlooking Pontiac Bay. The volunteer-built structure has become the symbol of a 10-day event packed with competitions, parades, performances, and fireworks.
February 24–March 5, 2017
Fur Rendezvous (“Rondy,” as the locals call it) began in 1935 as a small festival featuring sports tournaments, a bonfire, and a parade. Today, the longstanding Anchorage event attracts visitors from around the world with more than 100 activities from carnival games to snowshoe softball.
January 20–22, 2017
Five words: chocolate for a good cause. Portland’s cocoa-centric celebration—featuring tastings and samples from dozens of vendors—raises money for the World Forestry Center. Since this educational non-profit works tirelessly to teach people about sustainable forestry, you’ll basically be eating chocolate and saving the world at the same time.
February 4, 2017
With beer, wine, cider, food trucks, heated tents, and live music, the Atlanta Winter Beerfest has all the right ingredients for an unforgettable party. Tickets cover the cost of entry, a souvenir cup, and samples of more than 150 beers, many from local and in-state breweries.
February 26, 2017
If you’re not eating chocolate for charity, then Mount Washington Valley Chocolate Festival is the next best way to enjoy a guilt-free sugar rush. Strap on your snowshoes or skis and travel from stop to stop along the local trail network for treats like fondue, chocolate cookies, and brownie sundaes. (They don’t call it the “Sweetest Day on Trails” for nothing.)
February 21–25, 2017
Visit Saratoga Springs for a “perfectly crafted experience” that includes Cider Night (hard cider samples from more than 30 cideries, live music, and food) and the Saratoga Beer Summit (an indoor beer festival featuring samples of 200 craft brews).
January 25–29, 2017
There’s no better time to escape the cold weather, and no better excuse than this savory event. The island has developed quite a reputation for its vibrant culinary scene, and the Key West Food and Wine Festival showcases the island’s best talent and biggest flavors with a packed schedule of events from waterfront tastings to multi-course meals.