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Oct
13

Winter Wonderland Travel Destinations: 7 Places to Travel this Winter

Here’s my take on “Winter Wonderland travel destinations”:

Winter travel has ALWAYS been part of my life. When I was younger, my dad worked in construction, so the only time we could really travel as a family was in the winter when he wasn’t working.

More recently, Winter just happens to be the best time to travel for Austin and I as well. I get quite a few days off work around Christmas and Austin has a few weeks off of school during that time.

Here’s the difference:

When I used to travel with my parents, we would go to Florida or on a cruise every year. It was always somewhere warm, so we could escape the frigid USA Midwest Winter.

But now, Austin and I really love to travel to places that I can only describe as Winter Wonderland travel destinations. Places that get even more beautiful covered in snow. This is the kind of travel I’ll be talking about in this post.

Oftentimes, traveling in Winter can ensure your destination:

  • is less crowded
  • is incredibly beautiful covered in snow
  • offers different activities that you wouldn’t get to do during the rest of the year.

And this is what we love about Winter travel!

Let’s get into it – here are my top recommendations for your next snowy winter vacation:

Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Dog sledding in Fairbanks, Alaska

Alaska in the Winter?!

Yes.

We traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska in December of 2018 and it was an absolute dream. It’s a small town, but its filled with pine trees, which means in the colder months, it’s filled with pine trees covered in snow. This is one of our all time favorite scenes.

Everywhere you drive in this part of Alaska will be beautiful and not crowded at all.

This is also the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Alaska!

If you decide to visit this fairy tale, winter wonderland town, I recommend staying at the Taste of Alaska Lodge. It’s about a 20 minute ride from the airport, the scenery around it is just incredible, and the hospitality was unmatched.

While you’re there, try your hand at any number of snow sports such as dog sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and more.

Read more about why you should visit Alaska in the Winter here!

Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Snowmobiling in Anchorage, Alaska

After (or before) Fairbanks, I recommend also making your way down to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Anchorage is much further South than Fairbanks, which means you’re not as likely to see the Northern Lights here, but there are plenty of other fun things to do in this part of the state.

Anchorage will seem like a bustling city after spending time in Fairbanks – there are a bunch of shops and good restaurants in town.

Once you get a little outside of town, however, the real fun begins.

Head in to the smaller town of Girdwood for snowmobiling and skiing! If either of these interest you, I’d recommend booking a snowmobile tour with Glacier City Snowmobile Tours. They have a tour that takes you through icebergs and glaciers (weather permitting). If the weather is not permitting (like it was when we went), they’ll take you on the scenic mountain tour which was not disappointing in the slightest.

Girdwood is also home to Alyeska Resort which is a skier’s paradise. This is where I’d recommend staying if you’re going to be skiing a lot. The resort is beautiful inside and has some pretty epic ski hills (we had to stay on the bunny hills, ourselves!).

Read more about why you should visit Alaska in the Winter here!

Krakow, Poland

Old Town Square in Krakow, Poland

I know my fellow Americans might not be able to travel to Europe this year, but this one is for those of you in other parts of the world who can. If you are American, you might want to save this for next year (or whenever we can travel freely again).

Krakow, Zakopane, and Prague were our Winter Wonderland travel destinations last year (2019).

Based on a lot of conversations I’ve had, Poland seems to be one of those countries that would be nice to travel to one day just to say you saw it, but it’s not on most people’s “travel here soon” list.

And that’s gotta change.

We made it a point to travel to Poland because Austin’s Grandma (Babcia) grew up near Krakow and came to the US before she had his dad.

I was one of those people that I was talking about who didn’t really care about visiting this country – but now? Now, Krakow is near the top of my list of cities we may want to live in when we temporarily move to Europe.

Krakow looks fun in Summer, but it was just incredible in Winter (as you can imagine any European-esque town to be). They even have their own Christmas market in the Old Town Square.

Not to mention that Polish food is very good, but very hearty! I’m not sure I would have enjoyed all the soups, pierogi, sausage, and sauerkraut as much if it wasn’t cold outside.

For more information on Krakow, visit my Ultimate Krakow Travel Guide and my Krakow Itinerary for 3, 4, or 5 days!

Zakopane, Poland

Mountain views in Zakopane, Poland

If you have some extra time when you’re finished in Krakow, I suggest renting a car and driving down to Zakopane for New Years.

Zakopane seems to be a popular ski resort getaway for the surrounding European countries. We simply wanted to see another part of Poland and we expected this area to be a sleepy, small town, but we couldn’t have been more wrong!

People across the continent had flocked to Zakopane for it’s New Year celebration and it ended up being more fun than we could have imagined!

There is plenty of opportunity for skiing here as well as shopping, eating, and riding up to the top of the surrounding mountains for epic views.

The New Years celebration was iconic! The news station broadcasting the event said there were 10,000 people in attendance and they had a famous Polish POP singer performing. Everyone was sharing champagne and it was such a unique, unforgettable experience.

Visit my blog post on Zakopane for more details about what to do in this area in the Winter!

Prague, Czech Republic

Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it becomes even prettier in the Winter.

You’ll find a Christmas market in the middle of town along with a ton of shops and restaurants decorated for the holidays.

The Prague Christmas market was actually pretty impressive! They have several different street food vendors, holiday gifts, souvenirs to take home, and even metalworkers forging different things on the spot. I stood there watching them for quite a while and bought my dad a knife that they had forged.

Obviously, Prague is quite a bustling city, so walking the streets can be fun, itself, but here are a few of the sites that I’d recommend including on your walking tour:

  • Prague Castle
  • St. Vitus Cathedral
  • Charles Bridge
  • Astronomical Clock

Don’t forget to also stop into a bar or two to try some infamous Czech beer.

USA National Parks

Yellowstone National Park in Winter

This might also be a surprising addition to this list, but National Parks don’t have to be solely a Summer destination! In fact, the Grand Canyon might just be our Winter Wonderland travel destination this year!

This is true for most of the places mentioned here, but Winter is the off season, so there will be significantly less people here than in the warmer months.

It’s also SUCH a different experience in the Winter. More activities like snowmobiling and snowshoeing are an option depending on which park you visit.

Not to mention the landscapes. Most national parks have beautiful landscapes, but when they’re covered in snow, it becomes incredibly scerine.

For more information about what to do in Winter at specific USA National Parks, check out this blog post.

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Sipping wine by a Christmas tree in Chicago, Illinois

There’s something about a big city around Christmas time. The lights everywhere, people coming together, snowfall – all of it makes for an unforgettable experience.

I was fortunate enough to live in Chicago for 8 Christmases and every year was just as fun as the last.

All the stores down Michigan Ave have their storefronts decorated and Santas outside collecting money for the Salvation Army. Millenium Park has an ice skating rink out front as well as the infamous Chicago Christmas Tree to marvel at.

There are also plenty of non-Christmas activities to do in Chicago while you’re there. Click here to read all about them, where to eat, where to stay, and more!

Before I let you go…

I know that to some people, travel means getting on a plane and flying to a warm destination to relax on the beach and sip frozen drinks. While that can definitely be fun, I also think switching up your travel styles can be just as exciting!

Choosing to travel to one of these Winter Wonderland destinations, to me, means choosing more adventure, more exploration, and more time at the places you want to visit since it won’t be nearly as crowded as it is in the summer.

Austin and I have somewhat of a tradition of traveling somewhere every Winter, and I certainly don’t think that’s going to change any time soon!

Are you traveling this Winter? If so, let me know where you’re going in the comments!

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18 Comments

  • I’d love to go to many of the places on this list. I agree with you about traveling in winter to avoid the crowds. I actually like the quietness of cities in the off season. Europe is great for the Christmas market too. I’ve been to Prague before and it’s amazing. Would love to visit Alaska though

    Reply
  • Krakow is an amazing city to visit and totally underrated. We went in March so some of the snow was still lurking around. Great list of locations in this post!

    Reply
  • Alaska is a huge one on my list! We were supposed to go to Poland recently too (although it would’ve been an autumn rather than winter trip) but it got cancelled last minute. I definitely want to go somewhere this winter – I love travelling in the winter as it’s usually less crowded too. I might have to try Prague as I’ve never been there before.

    Reply
  • I love going to as many Christmas markets as I can! The festive cheer, the warm decorations, and the amazing food just makes it such a magical experience. Traveling during winter is one of my favorites, and going to Yosemite in the winter is one of my favorite places to go.

    Reply
  • I absolutely love traveling during the winter season, it brings so many chances to bask in the Christmas joy and festivities. Traveling in winter with calming snow brings you the chance to enjoy busy places all by yourself!

    Reply
    • 100% agree! Seeing how different places celebrate Christmas I really fun!

      Reply
  • I LOVE the idea of visiting Prague in the winter! I had a trip planned there before the pandemic hit, but now I think it would such a magical time to travel there whenever this is all over!

    Reply
  • I think I’d freeze in Alaska in the winter, haha! I love Chicago at Christmas though. I guess it’s just as freezing, but so much fun!

    Reply
    • Lol Alaska was probably the coldest place I’ve ever been, but if you have the right gear, it’s not so bad!

      Reply
  • Good ideas for places to visit in the winter. I agree, snow is beautiful and can make your vacation better. Poland and Chicago are definitely on my bucket list to visit someday (can’t wait for the pandemic to be over).

    Reply
  • Winter is a great time to travel to avoid crowds. We don’t mind the cold! We were in Krakow and Zakopane in February (last trip before Covid) – and loved it.

    Reply
  • Loved the post and pictures are gorgeous. My husband really wants to go to Alaska. Maybe we’ll go there for new year when the borders open back up.
    We went to Iceland during winter and it was Amazing.

    Reply
  • So many beautiful winter destinations on this list, I would love to be travelling this winter but we are on local lockdown here sadly. I’ll pin this for some future travel inspiration.

    Reply

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