10 Best Cold Weather Winter Vacations to Book Now

Here's where to go to revel in a winter wonderland and make the most of a snow-covered winter vacation.

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November 01, 2019
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It's Hot to Get Cold This Winter

Virtuoso, a leading travel advisor, found that cold weather vacations in winter are all the rage. So this year skip the sun-soaked getaway spent on a chaise lounge and the port-hopping cruise across the Caribbean. Instead, bundle up and look to ice caves, dog sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling across snow-covered trails this winter. Add northern lights-chasing to your must-do list too. To help you plan out your winter vacay, we've pulled together 10 amazingly frigid adventures you've got to book now to take full advantage of parka weather.

An Icy Wonderland Awaits in Wisconsin

When winter arrives in earnest and the snow begins to fall, many look to prime winter destinations, like Colorado and Utah. For cold-weather fun — only minus the crowds and high prices — consider Wisconsin. This magical winter wonderland wows with cozy cabins, miles of snowmobiling trails (as in, 25,000 miles) and snow tubing at The Rock Snowpark in Franklin, the world's largest snow-tubing park with 20 tubing lanes. Cross frozen Lake Superior for awe-inspiring ice caves ripe for exploration at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin. The breathtaking Ice Castles in Lake Geneva are a must-see, too.

Rev Up for Outdoor Fun in Wyoming

You'll find more than 600 miles of snow-packed trails just right for snowmobiling, snow biking and dog sled tours near Jackson Hole, Wyoming at Togwotee Mountain Lodge. During the summer, Togwotee is an ideal base camp for exploring nearby Bridger-Teton Forest and Grand Teton National Park, but when snow covers the hills, it's time for all flavors of adrenaline-fueled outdoor adventures. More than 600 inches of powdery white snow cover the area each year, making Togwotee ground zero for wintry fun that begins just outside your cabin door. Rent a snowmobile on-site and take a guided tour on groomed trails or go off-trail in deep powder.

Explore Northern Europe by Train

Whether in search of spectacular natural wonders, like the northern lights, or magical holiday festivities, like Christmas markets, the train is the way to go in Europe. Pick up a multi-day Eurail pass and ride the rails north to Kiruna in Swedish Lapland where the northern lights can be seen from September to April. Then, get cozy on the train ride south to celebrate the season at charming Christmas markets in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo. The magical Copenhagen Christmas Market, for one, is a mere four-minute walk from the train station. A Scandinavia Pass lets you freely ride across Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

BOOK NOW: Eurail, from $286 per person

Winter Adventures Abound on a Montana Dude Ranch

Dude ranches may be better known for scenic horseback trail rides in summer across meadows and mountain passes, but at The Resort at Paws Up, an uber-popular luxury ranch in Greenough, Montana, you'll find plenty to do in winter too. This sprawling 37,000-acre property offers snowshoeing, skijoring (being towed on a rope by a dog or horse while on skis), dog sledding, sleigh rides and snow tubing. If you're keen on equestrian activities, you can saddle up for guided horseback rides across snow-packed trails in search of native wildlife, like elk, bison and deer. Warm up with a hot chocolate or winter cocktail, like a Basil Martini with vodka and black lava salt.

Keep Your Eyes on the Skies in Minnesota

Much like Wisconsin, Minnesota has plenty to offer vacation-goers in search of cold-weather family fun and frolicking. The vast, natural darkness of northern Minnesota is sought after by sky watchers, particularly the Cook County area where visitors can often see the northern lights and Milky Way along the Gunflint Trail adjacent to Superior National Forest (yes, it is possible to see the aurora borealis from the lower 48). Visitors have also been treated to dramatic meteor showers and awe-inspiring celestial shows at Voyageurs National Park. In the land of 10,000 (frozen) lakes, you'll find the world's largest ice-fishing contests and festivals that are an absolute must-go in winter, even for non-fishing folk.

Go Dog Sledding in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

There's something so magical about riding on a sled, bundled up under a cozy blanket, as a team of sled dogs guide you across miles of fluffy white snow and through evergreen forest. At Nature's Kennel in McMillan, Michigan, guests can ride or drive their own team of dogs across 10 or 20 miles of snow-covered trails. Kick it up a notch with an overnight adventure that includes a stay in a yurt, a snowshoe hike and a dog sled trek. Michigan's Upper Peninsula is also known for dog sled races, like the UP200, a 230-mile race that takes place in mid-February and is a spectator favorite.

Savor Alaska's Wintry Landscape from a Glass-Enclosed Train Car

A train excursion on the state-owned Alaska Railroad is an alluring way to see the state during Alaska's warm-weather months, but it's decidedly more dreamy when snow covers the vast mountains and verdant green forests. Book a trip on the Aurora Winter Train for a bucket list-worthy adventure into Alaska’s snow-covered backcountry. Take in the striking winter landscapes from the glass-enclosed dome car as the train clickety-clacks from Anchorage to Fairbanks (a 12-hour journey). Or, hop off along the way in enchanting small towns like Talkeetna for cross-country skiing, holiday shopping and a pie-making class at Talkeetna Roadhouse.

BOOK NOW: TripAdvisor, from $206 per person

Explore Our Most Popular National Parks in New Ways

Our national parks may set visitation records in summer, but they should not be overlooked in the winter months. At Yellowstone National Park, the dramatic snow-covered landscape provides some of the best wildlife- and geyser-viewing opportunities of the year. Two in-park stays, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, remain open to showcase the best of the park in winter through curated Lodging & Learning programs. A five-night Old Faithful Winter Expedition package includes hiking, snowshoeing and snowcoach rides to reach the season's best wildlife vantage points and steaming thermal features, including Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring.

Revel in a Glittering Winter Wonderland in Alberta, Canada

Canada is well-known for its magical, wintry landscapes, particularly in the westerly province of Alberta. Take in this winter wonderland by train on a one-night sleep-aboard journey on the Rocky Mountaineer or spend more time getting to know the snow-blanketed region on a week-long rail adventure. Vacations By Rail offers a popular eight-night tour that takes guests across Banff & Jasper, including stop-offs for nature tours, spectacularly beautiful guided hikes and horse-drawn sleigh rides. One of the trip highlights is a walk across the frozen floor of Maligne Canyon, the deepest canyon at Jasper National Park, including an exploration of Angel Icefalls.

Soak in Mineral Hot Springs in Colorado

There's no need to let snow-covered ground and sub-zero temps keep you from donning a swimsuit. In Steamboat Springs, Colorado, winter may be the best time for a dip in the steaming mineral water at Old Town Hot Springs. Relax, rejuvenate and let your cares float away in the toasty spring-fed pools. For skiers, it's a delightful relief for achy muscles. Littles will love the gigantic 230-foot water slides (yes, even in winter, the outdoor water slides are operational). Nearby Strawberry Park Hot Springs also wows with 104-degree mineral pools that let your mind wander as you gaze out into the surrounding snow-clad forest.

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