The 20 Coziest Winter Towns for a Holiday Getaway, New Data Shows
There's an option for everyone, whether you prefer staying indoors or venturing out in the snow.
Traveling during the holidays can be especially stressful, between visiting extended family and heading to busier-than-ever airports. However, if you have time to book a little getaway, there are several idyllic spots across the U.S. where you can let go of stress and enjoy a snowy afternoon and Christmas cheer. Not sure where to go? You're in luck: New York Travel Guides recently ranked the coziest winter towns in America where you can plan your escape.
While conducting the study, travel experts compared data from 575 towns, scoring them based on their popularity during winter with the general public and photographers (counting for 25 percent of their score), cozy weather (15 percent), and cozy activities and atmosphere (60 percent). From there, towns were then given a cumulative standard score and ranked. So, if you're looking for a cozy escape, read on to find out the top 20 spots New York Travel Guides recommends.
This spot in northwestern Illinois claims the number 20 spot. According to NY Travel Guides, Galena earned its spot thanks to its historic 19th-century buildings, which are extra cozy when snow-covered, as well as its annual Galena Holidaze Festival. As the home of former president Ulysses S. Grant, Galena is also great for history buffs.
Historic Bayfield, Wisconsin, ranks as the 19th coziest town. This spot offers holiday light spectacles, as well as an annual tree lighting ceremony that's not to be missed.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Similar to Galena, snow-covered older buildings give Deadwood, South Dakota a unique feel during the holidays—and as the town dates back to 1876, there's a mix of modern-day and historic architecture. You can take a ride on the Holiday Express 1880 Train, ice skate or ride bumper cars at Outlaw Square, or venture out on a snowmobile trail.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Another historic town out West, Crested Butte is a great option for those who want to hit the slopes this holiday season. Beyond skiing, NY Travel Guides also recommends shopping on Elk Avenue, ice skating at the Big Mine Ice Area, and taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Even better, if you go after the holidays have passed, Crested Butte hosts its annual Alley Loop Nordic Marathon—a ski race and "outrageous costume party"—in February.
Big Sky, Montana
You might recognize Big Sky as a skiing destination, but there's much more to do in this beautiful resort town. During the holidays, you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, ice skate, catch a fireworks display on Christmas Eve, or attend the Enchanted Forest event, where you walk through a trail guided by 10,000 holiday lights.
Coming in at number 15 is historic Lititz, Pennsylvania. This spot is magical when snow falls, and visitors can feel extra cozy when attending any of the town's annual events like Christmas in the Park (typically held in early December) and the 10-day Fire & Ice Festival (held in February), per NY Travel Guides.
Consider planning a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where you'll feel like you're immersed in a winter wonderland. The town offers its annual Gatlinburg Winter Magic Lights Tour, an indoor ice skating rink, and trips on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway throughout the colder season.
Frisco is another Colorado spot to make the list of the coziest towns for a holiday getaway. As NY Travel Guides suggests, take advantage of sleigh rides, skiing, and shopping on Main Street. The town is also known for its weeklong Wassail Days event—and while it's already passed in 2023, it's something to keep in mind for a holiday getaway next year.
The Bavarian-inspired town of Helen, Georgia, is often included on holiday travel lists, making visitors feel like they've traveled to Europe without leaving the States. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen is always immaculately decorated during the winter, making for a truly amazing getaway.
Ketchum, Idaho, is a great destination for those who want to be active, as well as those looking to relax. Founded in 1880, Ketchum offers great skiing, per NY Travel Guides, but if that's not your speed, there are also ample opportunities to take in the view of surrounding mountains from the comfort of a spa.
If you want to get away but also feel right at home, look no further than the birthplace of Minnesota: Stillwater. The town hosts its annual Hometown for the Holidays event through Christmas Day, giving visitors and locals alike the opportunity to enjoy wholesome events like gingerbread house-making, a Pets in the Park Parade, and a photo op with Santa's elves during the "Elf Takeover on Main Street."
Coming in at number nine is Petoskey, Michigan, where there are plenty of cozy activities to enjoy. NY Travel Guides specifically points to the Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner experience at The Highlands resort. You'll start with a sleigh ride, followed by a bonfire and a three-course meal "illuminated by candlelight in a cozy cabin setting."
The number eight spot was also claimed by a Minnesota town. According to NY Travel Guides, Frankenmuth is known as "Michigan's Little Bavaria," boasting an incredible ice skating experience at Frankenmuth Ice Rink and a self-guided driving tour through some of the best Christmas light displays.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Founded in the 17th century, Portsmouth, New Hampshire is the oldest town on this list, but it has modern holiday attractions like ice skating, local shopping, and the annual Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibition. If you happen to visit while snow is falling, you'll feel even more immersed in a cozy winter wonderland.
Lake Placid, New York
Per NY Travel Guides' data, Lake Placid, New York—the two-time host of the Winter Olympic games—is the sixth coziest spot in the U.S. If you really want to feel like you're part of the Olympic experience, you can ice skate at the James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval, where U.S. speed skater Eric Heiden won five Olympic gold medals in 1980.
However, if your idea of a cozy getaway is one spent by a warm fire, NY Travel Guides notes that there are several luxury resorts in the area, as well as spas that offer views of Lake Placid and the Adirondack mountains.
Aspen, Colorado, claims the top five slot in terms of the coziest U.S. towns. Beyond skiing, which this hub is known for, you can also enjoy a Snowmass Snowcat dinner experience, where you'll board a snowcat and be taken to dine at one of two mountaintop restaurants. A ride on the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster also shouldn't be missed, nor should the annual Wintersköl event (Jan. 11-14, 2024), an Aspen tradition since 1951.
The number four spot goes to yet another Colorado town: Vail. This mountain town offers scenic gondola rides, which feel extra special during the winter months, as well as the Vail Skating Festival. Beyond the holiday happiness in town, you can also relax and feel extra cozy at a spa of your choosing.
Spot number three takes us back to the East Coast. According to NY Travel Guides, Stowe, Vermont, is an ideal cozy destination thanks to its historical feel and winter activities. In addition to unbeatable skiing opportunities, Stowe offers ice skating, gondola rides, and an annual winter carnival in January.
We're back in Colorado for the second spot, which was awarded to Breckenridge, another well-known skiing destination. Like other Colorado ski towns, you can ride an alpine coaster or board a gondola for a scenic tour, but Breckenridge's weather and winter popularity pushed it ahead of other destinations in terms of overall coziness, per NY Travel Guides' findings.
Topping this list is Leavenworth, Washington, which is well-recognized as a top U.S. holiday destination. Similar to other Bavarian-inspired villages on this list, Leavenworth feels extra magical during the winter months. Visitors can enjoy Bavarian food, Christmas shopping, and a Christmastown festival that runs through Dec. 24.
If you're a bit delayed in your celebrations but still want to feel like you're in the Christmas spirit, Leavenworth is a safe bet—according to NY Travel Guides, holiday lights are on display through February every year.
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