Whether you embrace the cold or prefer to abscond to warmer locales, TravelAwaits has rounded up some wonderful winter destinations for you. Where did we get these fabulous winter travel ideas? From our expert travel writers, of course! Find their favorite places to travel during the colder months — from winter wonderlands to sun-drenched escapes — below.
1. Bergen, Norway
“Bergen, on Norway’s southwest coast, is a cold and snowy wonderland in winter,” TravelAwaits’ own glamourous globetrotting granny, Inka Piegsa-Quischotte, tells us. She visitied Bergen, one of Northern Europe’s oldest port cities, a few Christmases ago. “Norway’s second-largest city does not feel like a city at all,” she says. “It’s much more like a small town, surrounded by mountains and seven fjords. Among them is Sognefjord, the longest and deepest fjord in Norway.”
Bryggen, the historic harbor district in Bergen, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which inspired the design of the city of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen. In Bergen, Piegsa-Quischotte suggests visiting the Hanseatic Wharf, the fish market, and Troldhaugen, the home of composer Edvard Grieg. “Enjoy the colorful wooden houses,” she says, “there is even a Viking village nearby to evoke the past.”
“Take the Fløibanen funicular up the mountain of the same name and hit the clearly indicated slopes,” Piegsa-Quischotte suggests. “Another winter adventure is a trip with the Flåmsbana, a train that runs through two tunnels, past the snow-covered mountainsides and frozen waterfalls.”
2. Clearfield County, Pennsylvania
“Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, is the perfect choice for a laidback winter vacation,” asserts our freelance writer Robin O’Neal Smith. The self-proclaimed “young Baby Boomer” recommends enjoying simple old-fashioned outdoor recreational activities such as snowshoeing and ice-skating at Parker Dam. “Or, try some cross-country skiing or sledding,” she suggests. “Remember how fun that was as a kid?” Smith asks. She also suggests renting “snowmobiles for some exciting outdoor fun at S.B. Elliott State Park in the heart of the Moshannon State Forest.
“Viewing the majestic elk in the snow is a beautiful sight. Northern Clearfield County has a herd of around 300 elk roaming the area,” says Smith. “Visit Clearfield County’s website to find the best places to view elk in the county.
“Soak in a warm hot tub after your outdoor fun at the Best Western Plus in Clearfield or the Comfort Suites in Dubois,” Smith suggests. “If you work up an appetite while outdoors, visit Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub. They have a huge menu with something to suit every taste, even a two-pound burger big enough to feed several people.
“While in the area, make sure you visit Doolittle Station,” advises Smith. “Tour a car from a circus train, and one used by President Teddy Roosevelt as he traveled across the country. Eat in an authentic dining car and more. Check out the animated creatures at Doolittles Dinosaurs. You can even ride one of the animated beasts and feel like you are part of a Jurassic Park movie.”
3. Marana, Arizona
Based in the Pacific Northwest, TravelAwaits writer Peggy Cleveland likes to hang out in Marana, Arizona, during the winter, specifically at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. “This oasis in the desert is just stunning, with beautiful natural scenery surrounding the resort and hiking trails accessed from the hotel. Exploring the area in the morning and then spending the afternoon by the pool sipping a handcrafted cocktail is a perfect day,” Cleveland tells us.
4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
“If you crave cold, snowy winter weather, but want to be able to leave it behind when you’re done, then Santa Fe, New Mexico, is your winter vacation destination!” exclaims expert contributor Sage Scott. “Ski Santa Fe offers skiing and snowboarding just a 30-minute drive up the mountain from the Santa Fe Plaza downtown. Whether you tear down double-black-diamond trails like an Olympic athlete or prefer to stick to the bunny slope, Santa Fe’s 283 days of sunshine per year and high-altitude location make most days on the slopes feel like spring skiing, even during the peak of winter. And when the ski lifts close for the day, leave cooler temps and snow behind by heading back down the mountain to the heart of New Mexico’s capital city.”
Scott says Sante Fe typically sees no more than two inches of snowfall a month during the winter and the days are nearly always above freezing. Planning on visiting Santa Fe over the holidays? Don’t miss these magical experiences.
5. Oahu, Hawaii
Award-winning writer Vanessa Chiasson’s favorite winter destination is Hawaii. “I know, not wildly original, right?” she quips. “But to understand why I love it so much (it’s not just the mai tais!), it helps to know the context of my first visit,” she explains. “Way back in 2010, I did a small favor for a friend, a favor she appreciated even more than I realized. She worked for an airline and she tucked a set of friends-and-family standby passes in a thank you card for me. By coincidence, my husband and I both had a week of vacation coming up. There is no greater excitement than the moment you realize your work-free week in February now comes with some plane tickets! We chose the furthest destination those tickets would take us and the winner was the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
“To say that I fell head over heels in love would be an understatement. The minute I stepped off the plane and into the open-air terminal, I knew I was a goner. In the days that followed, I explored the island’s coffee farms, art galleries, museums, trails, and — yes — the beaches and the mai tais. It was every bit as wonderful as I dreamed it would be,” she recalls. “I’ve since returned several times but nothing will compare to the soft sunny breeze I felt in those first few moments.”
6. Cozumel, Mexico
Travel blogger Carol Colborn tells us how she and her husband ended up spending their winters south of the border. “One December, our timeshare company wrote us that we had a balance of points we had to use before December 31,” says Colborn. “It was timely — the Phoenix area, where we had just chosen to settle, was getting too cold for us, with maximum temperatures of 65 degrees each day. Luckily, there was a one-bedroom unit available at La Ceiba in Cozumel, Mexico, where temperatures were 12 degrees warmer. We booked the mandatory three weeks.
“Winter in the Caribbean turned out to be the best of our travel ideas,” Colborn proclaims. “Those three weeks became hours at the beaches and pools, Jeep tours around the island, excursions to Chankanaab (Cozumel´s National Reef Marine Park) and tequila factories, day trips to San Miguel, the capital, and Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Puerto Morelos opposite the Yucatan Channel, and exquisite sunsets at the end of every day. We ended up signing for the same Mexican winter experience, all-inclusive, every year for the next 15 years!” Colborn exclaims.
7. Mazatlan, Mexico
“Would you believe that we, Phoenix residents, always go down to Mexico during winter?” Colborn quips. “Yes, the desert still gets too cold for us with average highs at under 70 degrees,” she says. “Aside from the Yucatan Peninsula, we love driving to Mazatlan (15 hours) and staying there for 3 months, from January to March, where it is 10 degrees warmer. We want to be able to still enjoy soaking in the water, whether at the resort infinity pools or the beaches.
“It’s also the time to stock up on household staples and they are all so much more inexpensive there, so we fill the car with the essentials we need. Finally, this is our annual break from cooking and cleaning,” she says. “We go all-inclusive (at an affordable price) of favorite Mexican and international dishes, especially seafood. After all, Mazatlan is the ‘Shrimp Capital of the World’! Fish is also abundant. We throw in lots of tropical fruits, too, like pineapples, avocados, and mangoes.”
8. Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), Sonora, Mexico
“A lovely Sea of Cortez location and a charming fishing-village atmosphere have combined to make Puerto Penasco (aka Rocky Point) in Sonora, Mexico a longtime favorite getaway for my family in the wintertime — and really, in every season,” remarks Arizona-based newspaper reporter and travel writer Cindy Barks. “The mid-sized beach town is located about an hour past the U.S./Sonora, Mexico border, making it a fairly quick drive for much of Arizona,” she tells us. “Over the years, my family has gathered in Puerto Penasco for fun spring breaks, laidback fall vacations, and perhaps my favorite — winter trips, when the beaches are uncrowded, the days are sunny and warm, and the nights are cool.
“For me, the perfect winter beach day includes a taco lunch of fresh-from-the-sea shrimp at one of Rocky Point’s street-side taco stands, an afternoon spent browsing the quirky shops in the Old Port area, and an evening stroll along Sandy Beach to take in an epic Sea of Cortez sunset,” Barks describes. “My visits have spanned about three decades, and even though Puerto Penasco has grown from a small village known mostly for its fleet of shrimp boats to a regional tourist draw, I believe it has retained its rustic charm. It has now been nearly 2 years since I’ve made it across the border, but the beach outpost of Rocky Point is never far from my mind.”