Six places to visit that are actually more fun in the winter


If you’re willing to swap out your swimsuit for some snow boots, your next great vacation could include a visit to some dazzling wintry landscapes. From the mountains of California to Alabama’s only ski resort, the six destinations featured below span the United States. Doesn’t a temporary getaway exploring a lesser-known snowy destination sound fun? All you need to do is pack your hat, your gloves, and your sense of adventure.

Palm Springs, California

This west coast destination might not get much in the way of the white stuff, but when you’re seeking some chill, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will provide a brief journey to powder-covered mountains.

The tramway — which features rotating cars — stretches for a little more than two miles, and passes directly over the snow-covered peaks of Chino Canyon. If you decide to warm up at the peak’s welcome station — which also features a restaurant and cozy fireside atmosphere — you can don a pair of snowshoes for a hike through the countryside, and then make your way back down to all things sunshine. The temperature at the top of the mountain is generally about 30-40 degrees colder than it is down below at the base. How’s that for winter weather that only lasts a couple of hours?

The Great Smoky Mountains

More than 11 million visitors make their way to this picturesque mountain range each year. Located between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains offer beautiful winter scenery — worthy of sharing on the ’gram — historic sites to explore and a number of delicious eateries.

In order to make the most of your mountain visit, Julie Hall, AAA spokesperson suggests beginning your trip with a visit to Cades Cove. “This small community, preserved like a time capsule, harks back to hard-scrabble pioneer days,” she said. “Visitors can see historical log homes and churches along the 11-mile loop as well as wildlife like deer and wild turkey within the park.”

For more modern-day fun, you can enjoy a day of relaxation at Westgate Smoky Mountains Resort & Spa—which boasts a scenic location just minutes from the mountains—or step out of the snow and take a trip to the sea at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

If you’re planning on making a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in the coming weeks, you should be aware of possible impacts from the current government shutdown. Although the park remains open, some areas are currently not accessible and other sections have been temporarily closed off.

Beech Mountain, North Carolina

A winter-inspired trip wouldn’t be complete with a trip down the slopes, and if you’re in need of some fresh powder, you might head to Beech Mountain Resort. Located in Beech Mountain, North Carolina—a small town that’s 1 hour and 20 minutes from the nearest airport—the resort features 17 slopes and 9 lift.

As an added bonus, you can spend what’s left of your snow day keeping cozy at one of the many local restaurants or the resort’s brewery. Just make sure to leave some room in your schedule for a bit of night skiing to take in the slopes after dark.

Cloudmont Ski & Golf Resort, Alabama

If you’re headed south, you can skip the beach and head straight to the slopes—really. As Hall pointed out, the Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort Resort in Alabama is the only ski area in the state. And it’s a popular destination, too, with Hall suggesting early arrival time if you plan to rent equipment.

The self-described “small resort,” may have to make its own snow, but it provides slopes made for intermediate and beginner skiers; this is one destination that everyone can enjoy. Like Beech Mountain Resort, this snowy escape provides night skiing with illuminated slopes that light up beneath the stars.

For even more fun outside of the park, you can venture into the resort’s Mentone hometown. The small rural area features plenty of restaurants, an art gallery, and shops to explore.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

In the Santa Fe national forest, Ski Santa Fe offers a number of snowy activities just minutes from New Mexico’s capital city. Newbies can schedule a class in all things winter sports or you can head straight for the slopes, and make your way by ski, through beautiful terrain.

Need a break from the cold? This winter paradise is located near 200 restaurants, numerous art galleries, and hosts on-site events including live music, workshops, and snowboarding camps.

Although the Santa Fe national forest is currently affected by the government shutdown, the ski resort remains operational and open. Currently, recreation sites at all U.S. national forests are technically closed, but accessible by visitors, with the understanding that services including restrooms and rangers might not be available.

Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania

Whether you dream of skiing or taking in the architectural work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Laurel Highlands—a 3,000 mile area in Western Pennsylvania that spans multiple counties—has much to explore.

Along with towering mountains with plenty of hiking and snowshoeing trails, you can also spend some time at Seven Springs Mountain Resort or schedule a day of relaxation and pampering at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. In addition to daytime activities, you can spend your night at one of the area’s many cultural events and celebrations.

These cold weather destinations might send a chill down your spine, but if you get too cold, you can always head inside to the lodge and dream of sun and sand.