23 Most Gorgeous Places in America to Experience a White Christmas
Your winter wonderland awaits.
Nothing makes the holidays more magical than waking up on Christmas morning to a fresh snowfall. But if you live anywhere south of the Midwest, chances are the white Christmas of your dreams remains just that—a dream.
That’s why, if you’re determined to experience December 25th in the way Bing Crosby had intended, we’ve rounded up the most stunning and picturesque places in the United States—from the glorious skiing havens of the West to the sleepy escapes in the Midwest to the most bustling East Coast metropolises—where you can experience a true white Christmas. So read on, pack your warmest duds, and keep your fingers crossed that the weather gods deliver! And for more amazing destinations that don’t require a passport, don’t miss the 15 Best Under-the-Radar American Escapes.
Yellowstone National Park; Montana and Wyoming
Where to fly: Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport
With only two hotels typically open during the winter season, Yellowstone National Park, spanning across Montana and Wyoming, can be an incredibly intimate Christmas vacation. And, because of the lack of tourists, animals will also feel more comfortable exploring the land right in front of you—especially the bison, with their majestic winter coats. Admire the natural scenery set against the blanket of fresh snow on a winter photo safari, led by a guide who will better acquaint you with the ancient land and shell out photography tips along the way.
Pro tip: Remain immersed in the spectacular scenery with a stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge—only accessible by snowcoaches, meaning that you’ll be secluded enough to fully unwind and enjoy the surrounding winter wonderland.
Where to fly: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
Visitors to Girdwood, Alaska, during the winter months must be ready to brave the cold and endless snowy terrain, as a trip to this town outside of Anchorage is centered around the exploration of the great outdoors. From Nordic skiing to backcountry snowmobile adventures, you’ll have numerous ways to take in breathtaking mountain peaks and sleepy town of Girdwood. If you’re willing to put on a pair of skis, a trek through the Iditarod National Historic Trail (the only one of its kind in the state) will bear witness to the Alaskan Native villages and Gold Rush supply routes.
Pro tip: Hotel Alyeska is a luxury resort in Girdwood, surrounded by the natural beauty of the land—including seven monumental glaciers, bald eagles, and spruce trees. Needless to say, a stay at this hotel goes well beyond a “white Christmas.”
Mammoth Lakes, California
Where to fly: Mammoth Yosemite Airport
Similar to other destinations on the list, a trek to Mammoth Lakes is truly for those who would rather indulge in recreational activities that involve snow. This “snow-covered adventureland” allows tourists from all over the world to go snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. For a truly unique take of this snowy paradise, embark on a Full Moon Snowshoe Tour, an excursion casts an eerie and beautiful (moon) light on the surrounding mountains and forests.
Pro tip: Celebrate your white Christmas in the vintage and charmingly rustic Edelweiss Lodge, nestled in the mountains of your seasonal escape.
Where to fly: Denver International Airport
While it’s no secret that Colorado is a favorite among other winter destinations, the town of Breckenridge has plenty to offer besides the typical skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling that takes place in other Colorado towns. For those of you who may not be as athletically inclined but still wish to experience the magic of the snowy mountains, Breckenridge plays home to countless festivals, galleries, distilleries, and art exhibits that will pique your interest off the slopes. After an artistic escapade, celebrate the town’s rich history with a stroll down Main Street, where over 200 shops, restaurants, and historical buildings are waiting just to impress you.
Pro tip: Get a taste of Colorado’s wild game at the innovative and fashionable Relish, where guests can expect to come out of the experience with a heightened appreciation of the plentiful resources of this land.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Where to fly: Boise Airport
There’s a reason why daredevils flock to Sun Valley, Idaho, every winter. With an impressive array of winter sports, like heli-skiing (using a helicopter to reach mountain peaks unaccessible to normal skiers) and fat biking (riding a bicycle with thick tires through the snow) throughout the backcountry of the town, visitors never miss a chance to test their limits. After you’re done indulging in the snow-based athletics offered, kick back and relax at Zenergy, the town’s local spa that only has one requirement—total relaxation from its participants.
Pro tip: As the tourist population grows, Sun Valley does its best to keep up—which might explain why there are so many amazing restaurants and shops dominating the main streets of the town. If you only have time to enjoy one Sun Valley establishment, make it the Limelight Hotel lounge, providing equal parts luxury and Western mystique to your trip.
Where to fly: O’Hare International Airport
Unlike other cities, Chicago seems to only increase in charm with every inch of snow that falls on its streets. From the famous Bean sculpture (depicted above) to the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago’s snow-drenched wintertime oasis can be a magical (or romantic) escape for those in need of something other than warm temperatures this holiday season. In fact, you can even snowshoe through the city’s downtown peninsula or ice skate through its picturesque Millennium Park that almost possesses a cinematic quality.
Pro Tip: Enjoy spectacular views of frozen Lake Michigan from your own private bubble—seriously. City Winery now hosts heated, see-through domes along the river, with plenty of wine and impeccable views of the city to go around.
Where to fly: Portland International Jetport
If you’re not as willing to subject your body to the elements of the snow, but still desire a picturesque white Christmas, Portland, Maine, may be the perfect place for your next holiday vacation. Whether you’re stepping back in time with a stroll through Portland’s Old Port neighborhood or indulging in a sweet wintertime treat from the year-round farmer’s market, the sleepy city evokes a warm and cheerful feel among the snow. While you’re in the area, head down to Cape Elizabeth to visit Fort Williams Park and the famous Portland Head Light (pictured) to revel in the rugged beauty of the coastline.
Pro tip: To truly understand the unique cuisine that dominates the city of Portland, one only has to pay a visit to Duckfat, a small restaurant offering cult-like favorites, like Belgian fries caked in duck fat. A trip to Portland would be incomplete without a taste of the cuisine that makes the city such a popular year-round destination.
Glacier National Park; Montana
Where to fly: Glacier Park International Airport
Part of what makes Glacier National Park so special during the holiday season is the wild nature of the surrounding towns and villages, which rarely remained plowed during the off-season. In fact, a trip to the park during this time can feel a bit like you have the entire place to yourself as you snowshoe and hike your way through some of the most beautiful terrain in the entire world.
Pro tip: Situated in a scenic mountain valley, the Historic Tamarack Lodge is the perfect combination of rustic ambiance and cozy sophistication that every traveler desires after a long day out in the cold.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Where to fly: Reno-Tahoe International Airport
Calling all sledding enthusiasts: as it happens, Lake Tahoe actually has some of the best sledding in the entire country. After you’re done flying down the surrounding slopes of Lake Tahoe, warm your hands by the fire at a local cafe or brewery, like the Blue Angel Cafe, where holiday cheer feels more organic and less manufactured. If you’re up for it, head outside once again to go dashing through the snow in an old-fashioned sleigh ride, which will inevitably wind you through the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the West.
Pro tip: For panoramic views of the lake from every angle of your hotel room, book your stay at The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe—resting neatly in between the mountains and lake.
New York, New York
Where to fly: John F. Kennedy International Airport
If any city truly shines in the snow, it’s New York City with its dazzling shop displays and Central Park ambiance that truly sets it apart from every other destination on this list. In fact, it seems as though the city was made for the holiday season, with the gleaming lights of Rockefeller Center and tourists and locals alike reveling in the gifts that they’ve just found for their loved ones. So, to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t matter what activity you choose to do in New York City—it just matters that you’re there to experience the holiday cheer enveloping the city.
Pro tip: For dramatic views of a snow-covered Empire State Building and a Rockefeller Center done up in holiday décor, all from the comfort of a cozy setting, head to Refinery Rooftop in midtown, where strong drinks and hearty cuisine are a-plenty.
Park City, Utah
Where to fly: Salt Lake City International Airport
After you’re done attending the Canyons Village Tree Lighting Ceremony or spent Christmas Eve hanging out with Santa Claus at the Deer Valley Resort, head to the surrounding mountains in Park City for a chance to enjoy the snow. From dog sledding to snow biking, there are so many ways to enjoy your white Christmas this year. Though, aside from any winter season-related escapades, taking a tour of the historic downtown area is always a great idea no matter the temperature outside, as the shops, art galleries, restaurants, and museums provide a testament to the special quality of this Utah city.
Pro tip: If you’re a fan of the Olympics, then a trip to Park City’s Utah Olympic Park (complete with a ride on the Comet Bobsled) can give you a true feel of the distinct personality of this town—and its history.
Door County, Wisconsin
Where to fly: Austin Straubel International Airport
If you’re looking to celebrate the holidays in Door County, then you’re in luck—the surrounding towns host a number of tree lighting and caroling events to last you through your seasonal vacation. Aside from the Christmas revelry, though, you’ll discover your main purpose for visiting this cold tundra during the winter months—to play on the ice. In Door County, one simply must go ice fishing to truly ring in the holiday season—and you’ll have spectacular views of Lake Michigan in the meanwhile.
Pro tip: Escape from the harsh temperatures and into your chic quarters at the High Point Inn, an elegant building in the middle of the quaint Door Peninsula—complete with an indoor pool, wrap-around porch, and abundance of charm.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Where to fly: Sawyer International Airport
In all honesty, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan is truly meant to be seen during the winter season, as the jagged coliseums of ice make for some of the most breathtaking landscapes in all of the United States. Not only that, but the solitude that this season offers can make a trek to this lakeside attraction feel all the more intimate and special. You can’t pay a visit to this national treasure without venturing to the shoreline where the most beautiful ice formations and ice caves exist. Aside from outdoor activities, visitors can head to neighboring town Munising for small-town charm and enchanting scenery.
Pro tip: End each day with a dash of decadence by booking your room at the Landmark Inn in nearby Marquette, where each room is adorned in antique décor and spectacular views.
Where to fly: Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport
The holiday season is an incredibly exciting time for residents and tourists alike in the college town of Bozeman, Montana. If you happen to be in town on December 1st, then you’re in luck—the Christmas Stroll, featuring horse-drawn carriage rides and a number of other holiday-related events, is the biggest celebration the town puts on during the winter season. While Bozeman is predominantly known for their range of outdoor activities during the snowy season, there are also plenty of other ways to enjoy this winter wonderland without putting on protective gear. In fact, for added warmth, check out the Bozeman Hot Springs to relax in the mineral waters and under the stars, if you’re brave enough. Further, this city boasts some of the best breweries and distilleries around, like Outlaw Brewing that has become a palpable part of the community.
Pro tip: Located in a particularly scenic neighborhood in Bozeman, The Lindley House Bed and Breakfast has been standing since the late 19th century, and still remains to be one of the most idyllic places for tourists to rest after a long day of sight-seeing.
Where to fly: Burlington International Airport
Upon making the trek to Sugarbush, Vermont, visitors will be transported to another time, courtesy of the town’s 18th-century landmark buildings and surrounding scenery that makes for a very picturesque countdown to the holiday season. More than that, tourists will thoroughly enjoy the 21st-century amenities afforded to them, like spas, delectable cuisine, and live music. Another reason why this resort is so special is easy to see upon arriving, as there are no large chains—only local artisans, restaurants, and shops that provide a unique voice for Vermont’s culture.
Pro tip: Especially during the holiday season, the Sugarbush Inn possesses a cheer and spirit unlike any other establishment in Vermont. From the wood-paneled library to the crackling fires and cozy indoor sauna, this mountain retreat is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Where to fly: Duluth International Airport
While the magical Christmas City of the North Parade has already passed, there are many other holiday spectacles to see throughout the season. When you’re not busy admiring the blanket of snow covering Duluth’s downtown area, head to Bentleyville to sip hot chocolate and view an impressive display of lights covering miles of ground. Especially if there are kids in tow, a trip aboard the North Shore Scenic Railroad’s Christmas City Express can be a great way to fulfill their dreams of riding on the Polar Express. For a more adult venture, visitors can tour the former home of Chester and Clara Congdon, now called the Glensheen Historic Estate. Known for opening up iron mining in the Duluth area, this family’s early 20th-century home remains a testament to the history of the city—now decorated in lights and ornate holiday decorations for the season.
Pro tip: Located at the foot of Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge on Park Point, the South Pier Inn is a great place to take in the breathtaking views of the harbor. Not only is the inn close to a number of trendy shops and restaurants, but it also contains 400 feet of private coastline for its guests to enjoy.
Where to fly: Denver International Airport
To ensure a truly dazzling white Christmas this year, a visit to Aspen, Colorado, with its endless acres of world-class skiing and holiday season entertainment, is a must. While there are numerous things to do over the holiday season in Aspen, you can start with a visit to the Snowmass ski resort, where a weekly party with live music, fire dancers, ice skating, and a snow slide help to celebrate the Norse god of snow, Ullr, every Friday night during the winter season. For those of you who prefer to have your days already planned out for you, the city of Aspen has you covered with its “12 Days of Aspen,” starting December 20th, that features live jazz, Victorian caroling, and many other holiday-related activities.
Pro tip: Since its opening in 1889, the Hotel Jerome has maintained its presence as the gathering place for locals and tourists alike in Aspen. Each room brings forth a sense of this history, with Western-inspired decor and a friendly staff that provide a unique ambiance that only exists in this town.
Where to fly: Fairbanks International Airport
In Fairbanks, Alaska, you can indulge in all of the delights of the holiday season with the Winter Solstice Celebration, taking place during the week of December 21st. During this week-long celebration, stroll the streets for a chance to purchase handmade Alaskan items and revel in the fireworks and lit-up houses along the main drag of Fairbanks. After the holiday celebrations have quieted, you can truly fall in love with the Alaskan wilderness on a guided photography tour 25 miles outside of Fairbanks, where the Northern Lights are on full display during the season.
Pro tip: Sleep under the Northern Lights by booking your room at the Fairbanks Moose Manor Bed and Breakfast, where each room is adorned in cozy digs and each window provides a spectacular view of the lights.
Lake Placid, New York
Where to fly: Plattsburgh International Airport
Celebrate your white Christmas in Lake Placid for a more serene and small-town ambiance that you can’t find in other ski towns during this snow-filled season. If you happen to be in the area during the weekend of Friday, December 7th, then you’re in luck, as the Holiday Village Stroll takes over the town, allowing visitors and locals both to explore the shops, restaurants, and businesses that make Lake Placid a truly memorable place. After a trek through town, put on your warmest coat and explore a big part of what makes this region of the Adirondacks so special—whether it’s ice climbing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, or taking a scenic hike through the mountains.
Pro tip: Get cozy at the luxurious Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, situated right on the lake, provides some of the best amenities and activities around—including a chance to ski with two-time Olympic Medalist Andrew Weibrecht.
Hood River, Oregon
Where to fly: Portland International Airport
If you’re going to pay a visit to Hood River, Oregon, during the holiday season, be sure not to miss the Hood River Holiday Parade taking place on December 7th, where visitors will have the chance to witness the tree lighting, caroling, and general cheeriness that takes place in the epicenter of this small town. The Train To Christmas Town Train Ride is reminiscent of the Polar Express, but perhaps even better, with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside of Oregon. After the holiday tidings have commenced, take a turn on the snow by choosing from a number of local ski resorts to slip on a pair of skis and experience what winter is all about in the area.
Pro tip: Experience something completely different with a trip to Broder Øst, a Scandinavian restaurant serving up some of the most diverse cuisines in the area—with a stunning view of the mountains to boot.
Where to fly: Salt Lake City International Airport
From the moment this picturesque town, tucked away in Utah’s Heber Valley, comes into sight, you’ll be transfixed by the large ice structures and snowy adventures that await your stay. Perhaps the most iconic feature in this town is the Ice Castles (pictured above), which are open to the public beginning in late December. While visiting the Ice Castles, you’ll have a chance to see other incredible sights like fire performances, the Enchanted Frozen Sisters, and a number of holiday-related delights like the Rocky Mountain Outfitters Sleigh Rides. v
Pro tip: For a chance to witness the European roots of this city, book your stay at The Blue Boar Inn, an old-style European chateau with rooms inspired by different literary legends and on-site upscale restaurant offering excellent wine and distinctly European cuisine.
Where to fly: Portland International Airport
Located in central Oregon amid a scenic combination of evergreens and mountains is Bend, Oregon, where a white Christmas is always guaranteed to be magical. To witness Bend’s most unique holiday tradition, be sure to stop by on December 14th for the annual Holiday Lights Paddle Parade, where close to a thousand participants dress up their canoes and kayaks in holiday lights and decorations and paddle around the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District. While you’re in Bend, sign up for a guided snowshoe tour of the surrounding wilderness, where a naturalist can tell you all about the history and preservation of this beautiful land.
Pro tip: Experience all that downtown Bend has to offer by staying at the centrally-located Oxford Hotel, equipped with amenities like a sauna, on-site dining, and bike and guitar rentals.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Where to fly: Piedmont Triad International Airport
Located just off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachians, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, still remains a hidden gem with its abundance of top-notch restaurants, ski resorts, and winter activities. Your first stop should be Appalachian Ski Mountain, where you’ll get to ski or snowboard down some of the most stunning (though, blissfully, not intimidating in pitch) slopes in the area. After that jaunt, head to the downtown area, where you’ll get to browse a collection of interesting local shops and art galleries that showcase Blowing Rock’s more artistic and culturally sophisticated side.
Pro tip: If you’re a fan of seafood, then The Speckled Trout, often considered a gathering place of music, friends, and great food, will provide the perfect escape from the cold and snowy conditions outside.
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