Special Report

Best Winter Destination in Every State

DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

Winter is coming — and that means winter sports are coming, too. But it’s a big country and winter means a whole lot more than skating and skiing. Festivals of all kinds, incredible displays of decorative lights, uncrowded access to sites that are mob scenes in the summer — and of course, in some destinations, plenty of warm weather to chase away the winter cold. (If snow’s your thing, though, these are the places with the biggest snowfall in history in every state.)

To identify the best winter destination in every state, 24/7 Tempo consulted lists compiled by a wide variety of websites, including Reader’s Digest, Lonely Planet, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Frommer’s, Cheapism, U.S. News & World Report, Washingtonian, USA Today, Midwest Living, Yankee, and Planet Ware, as well as numerous regional, state, and city tourism sites.

The results are understandably varied. In winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, for instance, you can take in dog sledding and hot springs, and it’s a great time and place to see the Northern Lights — the Aurora Borealis. The Aurora season runs from August 21 to April 21, and the lights are visible on an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear and dark enough.  

Almost 5,000 miles away, Key West, Florida, is quite a contrast. Winter temperatures can reach the 80s and recreational opportunities include jet skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, parasailing, and sunset cruises. The city is also known for its laid-back atmosphere and its bars and restaurants.  

On the eastern seaboard, there are places like Boston and Newport, both offering numerous cultural attractions. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there’s Poipu on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, with beaches and temperatures in the 70s. In between there are places like Lake Metigoshe State Park in North Dakota, which offers more characteristically wintery pursuits such as cross-country skiing, skating, sledding, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. (When winter is over, you can start thinking about the best summer destination for outdoor fun in every state.)

Click here to see the best winter destination in every state

Source: 130478877@N02 / Flickr

Alabama: Orange Beach
> Why: Temperatures in the 60s; white quartz beaches; dolphin-watching

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Source: DMartinez-Photo / Getty Images

Alaska: Fairbanks
> Why: Aurora Borealis views; dog sledding; hot springs

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

Arizona: Scottsdale
> Why: Good weather; beautiful landscapes; many resorts, restaurants, golf courses

Arkansas: Eureka Springs
> Why: Hiking and mountain biking; only entire downtown on the National Register of Historic Places; Mardi Gras celebrations

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Source: TraceRouda / Getty Images

California: Laguna Beach
> Why: Temperatures in the 60s, holiday events, whale watching

Source: SWKrullImaging / Getty Images

Colorado: Breckenridge
> Why: Historic mountain town, International Snow Sculpture Championships, good skiing

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Source: KenWiedemann / Getty Images

Connecticut: Stonington Borough
> Why: The state’s oldest village; quaint; good shops and restaurants

Delaware: Odessa
> Why: Well-preserved colonial town; candlelight tours and other winter activities

Source: Maisna / Getty Images

Florida: Key West
> Why: Temperatures as high as the 80s; water sports; laid-back atmosphere; good bars and restaurants

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Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Georgia: Savannah
> Why: Temperatures into the 70s; Paris Market holiday windows; Holiday Tour of Homes

Hawaii: Poipu (Kauai)
> Why: Temperatures in the 70s; surfing; beautiful beaches

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Source: Silvrshootr / Getty Images

Idaho: Sandpoint
> Why: Skiing and hiking; stunning scenery; Winter Carnival

Illinois: Galena
> Why: Old-fashioned shops and restaurants; elaborate Main Street holiday decorations

Indiana: French Lick
> Why: Hiking; cave exploration; wildlife park; elaborate holiday lights

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Source: cnicbc / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Iowa: Winterset
> Why: Covered bridges (of Madison County!); John Wayne Museum; historic downtown; winery tours

Kansas: Lindsborg
> Why: St. Lucia Festival and other winter celebrations and activities honoring the town’s Swedish roots.

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Source: Britt Selvitelle (w:Flickr user Another Britt) / Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky: Lexington
> Why: Animated light displays and Christmas-light home tours; Kentucky Horse Park Southern Lights Holiday Festival

Source: Sami99tr / Wikimedia Commons

Louisiana: New Orleans
> Why: Moderate temperatures; world-class food and music; elaborate holiday decorations

Maine: Camden
> Why: Beautiful coastal town; Camden Snow Bowl skiing

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Source: Kbbwills / Wikimedia Commons

Maryland: Snow Hill
> Why: Birding; hunting and fishing; historic homes; animated Christmas light display

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Massachusetts: Boston
> Why: Skating and sledding; walking the historic Freedom Trail; world-class museums, shopping, and restaurants

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Michigan: Traverse City
> Why: Downhill and cross-country skiing; snowboarding and snowshoeing; winery tours and tastings

Minnesota: Lanesboro
> Why: Small town charm; vibrant art scene; cross-country skiing

Mississippi: Natchez
> Why: Illuminated historic homes; holiday concerts

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

Missouri: Branson
> Why: Live music; light displays; Polar Express train ride

Source: DianeBentleyRaymond / Getty Images

Montana: Bozeman
> Why: Skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and ice climbing; winter access to Yellowstone National Park

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Source: JonClee86 / Wikimedia Commons

Nebraska: Omaha
> Why: Skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding; indoor playgrounds and mini-golf; Season of Lights display

Nevada: Mesquite
> Why: Temperatures in the 50s and 60s; golf; near state and national parks and Las Vegas

New Hampshire: Jackson
> Why: Hiking; downhill and cross-country skiing; quaint downtown

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New Jersey: Lambertville
> Why: Quaint village; galleries, antique shops, and restaurants; Lambertville-New Hope Winter Festival

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

New Mexico: Santa Fe
> Why: Moderate temperatures; skiing; good restaurants; downtown lit with luminarias

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New York: Seneca Falls
> Why: Holiday lights; It’s a Wonderful Life Museum (Seneca Falls inspired Bedford Falls in the movie)

North Carolina: Highlands
> Why: Pretty town; winter sports; antiquing nearby

North Dakota: Lake Metigoshe State Park
> Why: Cross-country skiing, skating, sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing.

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Source: Nelsonville Star, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Ohio: Nelsonville
> Why: Historic old town; Hocking Valley Scenic Railway; Hocking Hills State Park; North Pole Nelsonville displays and activities

Source: Attribution is required:© Caleb Long, CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma: Tahlequah
> Why: Cherokee historic sites; Snowflake Winter Festival ice skating; J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve

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Source: standret / Getty Images

Oregon: Bend
> Why: Hiking, biking, skiing; bonfires on the snow

Source: andykazie / Getty Images

Pennsylvania: Jim Thorpe
> Why: The “Switzerland of America;” charming town; mountain scenery; February WinterFest

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Rhode Island: Newport
> Why: Off-season Gilded Age mansion tours; Wellness Week (January); Winter Festival (February)

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Source: MargaretW / iStock via Getty Images

South Carolina: Hilton Head
> Why: Temperatures in the 60s; more than 20 championship golf courses; prime seafood season

Source: JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

South Dakota: Spearfish
> Why: Beautiful setting; cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice climbing

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Tennessee: Gatlinburg
> Why: Skiing and other winter sports; numerous winter festivals

Source: Dave Stone / Flickr

Texas: San Antonio
> Why: Temperatures in the 60s; the Alamo and other historic attractions; good restaurants; famous Riverwalk

Utah: Midway
> Why: Skiing and other winter sports; Ice Castles (illuminated sculptures)

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Vermont: Montpelier
> Why: Storybook New England town, especially in the snow

Virginia: Williamsburg
> Why: Colonial Williamsburg living-history museum; Busch Gardens Christmas Town; ice skating

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Source: jmoor17 / Getty Images

Washington: Leavenworth
> Why: Picture-postcard setting with a Bavarian flavor; reindeer farm

West Virginia: Davis
> Why: Skiing; hiking; Blackwater Falls State Park (longest sledding run on the East Coast)

Wisconsin: Sturgeon Bay
> Why: Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling; Merry-Time Festival of Trees; Fire & Ice Festival

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Wyoming: Jackson Hole
> Why: Stunning scenery; skiing; restaurants and shopping

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