The 9 Cutest East Coast Towns for a Winter Getaway
These magical destinations have stellar eats, rich history, and fun outdoor activities.
The West Coast may be known for its nearly flawless weather, but the varied climate of the East Coast definitely has its unique advantages—namely, smaller states that mean you can experience a wide range of history and culture even while taking a quick weekend trip. And the wintertime proves to be a particularly magical time of year in this part of the U.S.
"There's something special about the East Coast in winter," says Pradeep Guragain, co-founder of the travel site Magical Nepal. "Maybe it's the way the snow falls gently on the trees or the way the brisk air nips at your nose. From quaint villages to bustling cities, there's something for everyone."
Whether you're dreaming of an adventure-packed mountain getaway, looking to escape the cold and soak up the sun on a beach, or seeking to spark some romance beneath the city lights, here are the cutest East Coast towns that travel experts recommend for a winter getaway.
The Cutest East Coast Towns for a Winter Getaway
1. Nantucket, Massachusetts
While most travelers flock to this tiny island off Cape Cod during the summer, it's well worth considering a trip during the off-peak season. Not only can you dodge the crowds, but hotel rooms are also much less expensive.
Lace up your skates and do a few laps at the Nantucket Ice Rink, delve into the island's fascinating history at the Nantucket Whaling Museum, catch a film or play at the Dreamland Theater, and sip locally crafted beers and spirits at the renowned Cisco Brewers and Triple Eight Distillery.
While some businesses do close for the offseason, you'll find that lots of charming bookshops, bakeries, and more remain open (and you may just find some fantastic bargains at many boutiques during this time, as they seek to make room for new spring merchandise).
Those looking to get active have plenty of trail options for hiking and snowshoeing. And if you can brave the cold ocean breezes, you might even spot some harp and hooded seals while strolling along the beach.
As for where to stay, there are many cozy-chic accommodations, but the elegant Greydon House stands out for several reasons. This boutique hotel is a historic 1850s home and is conveniently located a short walk from the Nantucket ferry terminal, the Whaling Museum, and the Brant Point Lighthouse. Additionally, Greydon House offers an all-season wellness retreat complete with a fruit and veggie cleanse, forest meditation, and private yoga sessions.
2. Stowe, Vermont
With 116 trails, Stowe, Vermont is largely considered the ski capital of the east.
"This ski town is known for its world-class resorts and beautiful mountain scenery," says Larry Snider, VP of Operations at Casago Vacation Rentals. "In the winter, visitors can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and ice skating."
Other attractions worth visiting include the Ben & Jerry's Factory, the historic Austrian-inspired Trapp Family Lodge, and the shops at The Village at Spruce Peak. Another bonus is that many of the resorts here feature world-class spas.
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3. Savannah, Georgia
Looking to trade those sweaters and scarves for shorts and sandals? Then head to the "Hostess City of the South," where, as this nickname suggests, you can expect some good old-fashioned Southern hospitality.
"Savannah has a very mild winter climate, making it one of the perfect places to escape colder winters and explore the city on foot," says Lindsay Harvey, co-founder of Called to Wander.
While strolling along the oak-lined, cobblestone streets downtown, Harvey highly recommends grabbing an ice cream at the legendary Leopold's, doing some shopping at City Market, and snapping an Instagram-worthy photo at the iconic Chippewa Square bench from the movie Forrest Gump.
Perisone suggests checking out the beautiful old mansions, and for art lovers, she says, "the Telfair Museums, the Southeast's oldest public museum, is a must-see."
If you happen to visit during the holidays, Perisone also recommends stopping by the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens for a magnificent display featuring 750,000 LED lights.
"Plus there are lots of easy day trips you can take from Savannah during winter," adds Harvey. "Tybee Island, Fort McAllister State Park, and the Wormhole Historic Site are just a few popular options."
4. Key West, Florida
If your ideal winter getaway involves sun, sand, and surf, then this island city certainly fits the bill. With temperatures in the low to upper 70s between January and March, it offers the perfect climate for any kind of vacation.
According to Steve Morrow, travel blogger and founder of Paddle About, what makes Key West such an ideal destination—aside from the gorgeous weather, of course—is that it's equally well suited to romantic couples and families. Activities range from kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, and surfing to shopping, dining, and sunset sailing with champagne.
Nature lovers might want to take a dolphin-watching excursion or go snorkeling or scuba diving at Key West Bank Reef, while bibliophiles will delight in a visit to The Hemingway Home and Museum for a glimpse into the life and work of one of America's most celebrated authors. And as long as you can handle some spooky tales, a ghost tour is a fun way to learn about Key West's haunted history.
After a full day of sightseeing or beach lounging, feast on seafood specialties like conch fritters and chowder at one of the many local lobster shacks and oceanside eateries.
Whatever you do, though, don't leave without having a slice of the city's famous key lime pie, says Morrow. After all, Key West is where this popular dessert originated, since the key limes that offer its signature tart flavor grow abundantly here.
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5. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
With its ample historic landmarks and museums, diverse dining scene, and charming cobblestone streets, this classic New England port town has so much to offer in the winter months. Did we mention the waterfront views and tax-free shopping?
"From the historic Strawbery Banke Museum to the scenic harbor and boardwalk and the award-winning restaurants, Portsmouth is a feast for the senses," says Amanda Perkins, the travel blogger behind Life Has Its Perks.
Nestled inside the Strawbery Banke museum, which features dozens of historic buildings on their original foundations, is the Puddle Dock Pond ice rink, where you can rent a pair of skates or warm up by the nearby firepit.
Perkins highly recommends visiting the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, the former home of the first royal governor of New Hampshire, which dates back to the mid-1700s. "You can do a guided tour or you can just show up and wander around. My favorite part about this mansion is the trails that surround it. You can explore through the woods and adventure down to the water. There are always lots of hermit crabs to catch in the shallow tidal waters and you can watch as the boats glide by."
Speaking of boats, down on the banks of the Piscataqua River you can find several companies that offer educational tours of the river and/or harbor. According to Perkins, a few can even take you to the Isles of Shoals, which are a group of islands right off of the coast, some in New Hamshire and some in Maine.
But it's safe to say that one of the real highlights here is the food. From innovative shareable plates at Moxy to Mediterranean cuisine at Cava to seafood at Martingale Wharf, there is certainly no shortage of renowned restaurants. Oyster lovers can sample a wide variety of fresh, local bivalves at Row 34 and The Franklin. After a hearty meal, consider snagging an igloo at The Envio's rooftop bar, where you can sip on a seasonal cocktail with a sweeping view of the city.
6. Newport, Rhode Island
Between the cozy pubs, trendy restaurants, unique shops, and historic mansions, this coastal Rhode Island town has so much to offer at any time of year.
"In addition to major attractions like the iconic mansions lining the waterfront, you can also enjoy an array of outdoor activities like snowshoeing and ice-skating," says Fred Hoffman, founder of The True Wilderness.
End your journey with brunch at the stunning Castle Hill Inn, and then make your way to Thames Street to shop for local artwork, fudge, and other artisan wares. After perusing the unique Audrain Auto Museum or the International Tennis Hall of Fame, grab a fresh seafood dinner at one of the many sensational restaurants along America's Cup Avenue. Then, finish the night with a boozy hot chocolate at the Chanler Hotel.
If you can time your visit right, it's well worth booking a stay during the annual Newport Winter Festival, which features bonfires, snow bowling, sledding, a chili cookoff, and so much more.
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7. St. Michaels, Maryland
"Located on the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels offers a quaint, small-town feel with a variety of unique shops and restaurants," says Matt James, a travel blogger at Visitingly. "In the winter, visitors can enjoy ice skating on the town pond, horse-drawn carriage rides, and cozy fireside dining."
One of the best ways to explore St. Michael's is on two wheels. So, throw on a hat and gloves, rent a bike, and ride into town to check out the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, where you'll learn all about the region's history. Then, browse the colorful boutiques for jewelry, home décor, and clothing, before sampling some rum at Lyon Distilling or wine at St. Michaels Winery. When hunger pangs strike, enjoy classic comfort food at Purser's Pub or Limoncello Restaurant & Wine Bar.
St. Michael's is just a 90-minute drive from Baltimore and Washington D.C. and easily accessible via AMTRAK from New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.
8. Bar Harbor, Maine
While this resort town is a lively hotspot for tourists in the summertime, experts say it's still well worth exploring in the colder months. "In winter, it's especially beautiful, with its snow-covered streets and views of the Atlantic Ocean," says Guragain.
In fact, you just might have Acadia National Park all to yourself. Here, you can partake in a wide variety of outdoor activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can also take a guided ice-climbing tour, go camping in Blackwoods Campground, or take a scenic air tour for a breathtaking view of the lighthouses and snow-capped trees from above.
When it's just too frigid outside, visit the Abbe Museum to marvel at the more than 50,000 archaeological, historic, and contemporary objects, catch a concert at the Criterion Theatre, or tour the 180-acre historic Woodlawn Museum, Gardens & Park. And of course, no visit to Bar Harbor would be complete without a bowl of piping hot chowder at a local tavern.
9. Cape May, New Jersey
This seaside town has a bevy of cozy bed and breakfasts and superb shopping. And although the ocean breezes may feel especially biting during the colder months, they're nothing that one of the local establishments' hot toddies and hearty meals can't make up for.
"With its stunning ocean views and quaint Victorian cottages, it is easy to understand why Cape May has become a top destination for honeymooners and couples in general looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life," says Hoffman.
There's hardly a better way to experience Cape May in the winter than with a themed trolley tour, which will take you past dozens of historic homes, estates, and churches. Another fun seasonal event is the Crafts & Collectibles shows, where you can purchase high-quality wares from talented local crafters.
Nature lovers should check out the Conservancy at South Cape May Meadows, where you can spot finches, swans, egrets, geese, and more around the lake. Looking for a truly unique experience? Enjoy a disco-themed skate at the Convention Hall roller rink, and then grab a casual yet eclectic lunch inside a funky retro-inspired trailer at Exit Zero Filling Station.
When you need to warm up, stop by one of the many independent coffee shops for an inventive caffeinated concoction and then head over to tour the Harriet Tubman Museum. Follow up your sightseeing with an indulgent treatment at one of the many luxurious spas in the area, and then finish the day watching the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean at the end of Beach Avenue before sampling the town's incredible breweries, wineries, and distilleries.