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
Alaska in the Winter?!
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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!