Winter is a special time of year... even if you dread the cold temperatures and snowfall, there's no denying that there's a certain magic to the season, and no matter how you feel about winter, there's a fun, seasonal activity for you out there. Whether you'd rather have a relaxing winter trip, sipping on soul-warming "drinking chocolate" and soaking in a bubbly hot spring or you love the adventures that come with winter, like hiking through ice caves and hitting the slopes, there's all kinds of awesome winter fun to be had across the country.
For that authentically cozy and modern rustic lodge atmosphere, you can't beat Provo's 5,000-acre Sundance Resort. If you can bring yourself to leave your picture-perfect room, you can hit the mountain for skiing and snowboarding, or, if you're looking to try something a little different, a winter zipline tour. It's an amazing way to get a sweeping view of the stunning Utah mountain landscape covered in a soft, white blanket of snow.
Atlanta might not see much snow during an average winter, if they even see any at all, but just because this Southern city doesn't freeze over doesn't mean you can't have winter fun! Stone Mountain Park turns into snowy wonderland, with a snow zone for snowman-building and snowball fights and snow tubing down the park's Memorial Lawn (with massive tubes that can fit the whole family). The snow, which they freshen up regularly, generally lasts from November until the end of February, along with a great Christmas display that runs until January, adding to the fun.
For a classic winter experience, head to West Virginia's Timberline Four Seasons Resort. It's got tons to keep even the most avid powder fan entertained, with 41 trails (including the 2-mile long Salamander Run and the highest average vertical drop of any resort south of New England), two terrain parks, ski-in/ski-out chalets, plenty of competitions and classes, and tons more. They even have a farm-to-table restaurant onsite and live entertainment in the pub on weekends!
For the most unforgettable sledding experience of your life, head to the former Winter Olympics town of Lake Placid to take a spin on their toboggan chute. It's 30 feet tall, and sends riders speeding down the icy track and out onto the frozen Mirror Lake for up to 1,000 feet. The rest of Lake Placid is a haven for winter-lovers in general as well: skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are all popular activities once the snowy season sets in.
For a short period of time each winter, ice caves form on the rocky coast along Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. You'll have to bundle up for a bit of a hike across the frozen lake to reach the ice caves, but the majestic sight is really something to behold. The National Park Service rangers decide when it's safe to visit the caves, so keep an eye out for a time when conditions are just right for a visit.
Mt. Hood is known for its awesome summer skiing scene (it's one of the best spots in the world for year-round snow), but it's absolutely incredible to visit in the winter. The Mt. Hood Skibowl has 65 awesome runs in the Mt. Hood National Forest, 34 of which are fully lit, making it America's largest night-skiing area. They also have cosmic snow tubing, where the slopes are lit up in bright colors at night, which is a totally crazy experience!
If you've ever been in a hot tub during the winter, then you have an idea of how magical it is to soak in a natural hot spring when it's cold out. Miracle Hot Springs is a great spot for a winter dip: they have general admission pools, one of which is kept at a toasty 105 degrees Fahrenheit, in addition to a few private pools with adjustable temperatures. They even have VIP pools that can fit larger groups!
Right outside the Colorado town of Ouray is a gorge that gets turned into a frosty wonderland each year. The Ouray Ice Park is totally man-made, and the process of building up enough ice to climb is actually fascinating. The view into the canyon is pretty breathtaking, and if you're an ice climber yourself, you'll definitely want to bring your gear. They also have an Ice Festival here in January of each year, which is a total blast. Even if you don't ice climb, it's still fun to watch the professionals at work!
If you're a person who would rather hang out in the lodge, cuddled up by the fire, then spend some time this winter looking for an incredible cup of hot chocolate. Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe is notable for their "drinking chocolates" drawn from old recipes. They have one style that's based on the version of hot chocolate that was consumed by pre-Columbian Native Americans, another that's inspired by Old World 17th-century European recipes (think French Lavender hot chocolate, or something Marie Antoinette might have enjoyed) and even one based on the drinking chocolate recipe that Thomas Jefferson used! They can be quite different than your average cup of cocoa, with earthy, herbal, and even spicy notes, but they're delicious.
If you're looking for some winter fun in California, try Mount Baldy. It offers lift tickets for skiing and snowboarding, as well as tubing, all of which are a blast. The Lifts also allow you to purchase a scenic ride lift ticket, in case you aren't a skier but you still want to check out the views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest. A lot of places don't like it when non-skiers take up room on the lifts, so this is actually pretty cool! If you decide you want to try your hand at hitting the slopes, they have equipment rentals and lessons as well.
Whether you're excited for the snow so you can hit the slopes, or you'd rather appreciate the snow from indoors, there's a winter adventure out there for you. Lace up your boots, bundle on your hats and scarves, and get ready for a winter season you won't soon forget.
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