Beautiful Places to Visit on a Winter Road Trip

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The United States is home to some of the most beautiful winter destinations in the world. Pack your snow gear and bundle up to experience these winter wonderlands—from Alaska to Colorado to Vermont. 
When the weather turns colder and snow blankets much of the United States, many travelers pack up their swimsuits and head to warmer pastures. However, there are so many destinations in the country that are just as lovely—though not as warm—for winter trips. Follow this guide to visit some of the most beautiful places to visit in the USA.
If you plan on heading out in the snow, remember that winter driving poses all sorts of challenges and can be hazardous if you’re not prepared. Make sure your car is equipped for the journey, and be prepared for any eventuality with a quality roadside assistance program
While you might know about Jerry’s top-notch insurance services, the industry-leading app now offers roadside assistance! Jerry’s membership provides you with benefits like towing, lockout service, and a mechanics hotline.

Fairbanks, AK 

With its proximity to the arctic circle, Fairbanks is the perfect place to experience the unparalleled beauty of winter in Alaska. Temperatures may drop well below freezing, but it’s worth the visit the epic mountain ranges, vast tundra, and endless sky—the ideal backdrop for the intrepid adventurer to contemplate life in the pristine solitude. 

What to do in Fairbanks:

The green Northern Lights on a starry sky over a road cutting through mountains.
The Northern Lights, Fairbanks, AK
  • See the Northern Lights: Fairbanks is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis in the world because of its proximity to the Arctic Circle. The season for the Northern Lights runs from August to April, so the winter months are the prime time to catch a glimpse—in part because of the extended night that washes over the region. To properly see the lights, drive to a viewing spot or take a Northern Lights Tour
  • Visit the Ice Cave at Castner Glacier: One of the most unique spots in Alaska is this awe-inspiring cave in a glacier. Castner Glacier is about two and a half hours outside of Fairbanks alongside Alaska’s majestic, snow-covered mountain ranges. The hike to the glacier is 2.6 miles round trip. It will be cold, but it will be worth it when you experience the phenomenon of standing in a circular cave, completely covered in white and blue ice.
  • Go dogsledding ($$$): Since it’s the home of the Iditarod, you can’t travel to Alaska without going dog mushing. Many companies offer guided tours of varying lengths—and some even teach classes, allowing you to learn about the huskies, sled set up, and driving! 
Pro Tip Alaska regularly sees temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Be sure to properly prepare with the right clothing and make sure your car is equipped to handle the freezing temps and snow. 

Leavenworth, WA

If you’ve ever wanted to spend winter in a Bavarian town but not have to take a long flight to do so, you’re in luck. The town of Leavenworth in Central Washington recreates the beauty and magic of Bavarian mountain towns, complete with Christmas markets and activities. 
While the town is beautiful all year, it really comes alive in December with lights and decorations fit for any fairytale. 

What to do in Leavenworth

Mountains stand in the background of a Christmas lights-covered town center of Leavenworth.
Leavenworth, WA
  • Festhalle Christmas (free): While you can get into the Christmas spirit by wandering the streets in Leavenworth, Festhalle Christmas offers a break from the cold and fun for the whole family. Featuring a gingerbread house exhibit, an international Santa display, and plenty of kids’ activities, the festival is a great way to kick off the season. 
  • Shop at the Christkindlmarkt: Modeled after the Bavarian Christmas markets, the Leavenworth Christkindlmarkt showcases local vendors and artisans who specialize in Bavarian crafts, food, and gifts. The market is open from Thanksgiving Weekend until Christmas and is a great place to do your holiday shopping!  
  • Leavenworth Reindeer Farm ($$): For a truly unique holiday experience, head just outside downtown Leavenworth to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. The farm is open year-round, and visitors are treated to educational tours. With an opportunity to take pictures with the reindeer against the snowy forest backdrop, you won’t have to scrounge for your holiday cards this year! 
Pro Tip The local Amtrak turns into a Christmas train in December. Take a ride from Seattle to Leavenworth—and maybe catch a glimpse of Santa! 

Lake Tahoe, CA

Despite recent fires, Lake Tahoe is an area of unparalleled beauty. The park is divided between North and South Lake Tahoe and runs across both California and Nevada. With the unique combination of blankets of snow and over 300 days of sun a year, Lake Tahoe is the perfect backdrop for those who love outdoor winter adventures. 

What to do in Lake Tahoe

A ski resort at Lake Tahoe on a sunny day.
Lake Tahoe skiing
  • Ski/snowboard ($$$): Skiers and snowboarders know—Lake Tahoe gets some of the best powder in the country, making it a prime place to experience downhill sports. Between North and South Lake Tahoe there are 13 ski resorts, each featuring runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Some popular spots include the Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe and Northstar California in North Lake Tahoe, which both take the Epic Pass. 
  • Fat biking ($$): Good news for avid cyclists who hang up their bikes in the winter, Lake Tahoe has many fat biking trails. Fat bikes have squishy, wide tires designed to accommodate unstable terrain throughout the year, so they’re great for snow riding. Consider renting a bike at Southshore Bike Shop for an epic adventure. 
  • Take a gondola ride ($$$): The pristine, untouched vistas of snowy Lake Tahoe are best viewed from the top of a mountain. Take the gondola ride from Heavenly Mountain Resort for panoramic views that are, well, heavenly. 

Sun Valley, ID

Known as “America’s Winter Playground,” Sun Valley, Idaho is a dream destination for anyone looking to find the best winter has to offer. 
It’s a well-kept secret, too! Though it’s regularly voted as a top ski area, Sun Valley doesn’t see the same crowds as other popular ski resorts in the winter months. Because of that, it’s a great place to try your hand at backcountry skiing under the crystal clear blue sky. 

What to do in Sun Valley

A pink sunset descends over the mountains in this scene taken from a snowy peak.
Sun Valley, ID
  • Ski Bald Mountain ($$$): Bald Mountain–affectionately known as Mt. Baldy—is routinely ranked as the top ski destination in the U.S. by Ski Magazine. It features some of the best backcountry skiing for true winter adventurers. 
  • Spa day at Zenergy ($$$): After spending a day on the slopes, you’re going to want to unwind. What better way to relax than booking a spa appointment? Indulge in saunas and massages while taking in the snowy mountain views. 
  • Try winter fly fishing: You might think of fly fishing as a summer sport, but fly fishers in Sun Valley encourage you to think otherwise. Though the waters are cold, the winter season is a perfect time to catch some steelhead trout. Keep in mind, however, you’ll need a fishing license to go, and it’s a good idea to book a tour with a trained pro.  
Pro Tip Though the ski resorts may say “Sun Valley,” the area is actually composed of four different towns: Hailey, Ketchum, Bellevue, and Sun Valley. Ketchum is the most centrally located and the most walkable of the area, so it may be good to look for lodging there. 

Whitefish, MO

National Park enthusiasts know Glacier National Park to be one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the country. While the name may suggest otherwise, winter in neighboring Whitefish, Montana is famously “not as cold as you think”—thanks to the protection of the Rocky Mountains. 
With the 1,500 lakes creating a localized snowbelt, Whitefish and Glacier see abundant snowfall—often averaging over 300 inches a year. The relative warmth plus the ample snow make Whitefish an ideal destination for any winter thrill seeker and for those who prefer to admire the snow by a fire. 

What to do in Whitefish

A snowy town center with cars parked along both sides of the street on a gray day.
Whitefish, MO
  • Take a horse-drawn carriage at Bar W Guest Ranch ($$$): There’s nothing quite as magical as dashing through the snow in a horse-drawn carriage ride. The Bar W Guest Ranch rides go through the snow-dusted forests and around Spencer Lake for a truly magnificent winter experience. 
  • Snowshoe through Glacier National Park ($): In the summer, Glacier National Park is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the northwest. In the winter months, those trails are covered with a blanket of snow to become even more picturesque snowshoe trails. Be sure to fuel up—snowshoeing can be quite the workout! 
  • Snowmobile ($$$): To cover even more of the area’s exquisite landscape, consider renting a snowmobile. You can take a guided tour or hit the slopes on your own to fly through the snowy expanses. 

Vail, CO

If you want more quaint European-style mountain towns, you’re in luck. A favorite getaway for those who like to travel in style, Vail, Colorado has great winter activities for the whole family. Plus, its location in the Rocky Mountains puts it in the heart of one of the prettiest winter settings in the United States. 
While many think that Vail is synonymous with steep mountains and deep powder, there is so much more to do in this winter paradise.  

What to do in Vail 

Skiiers walk down a street with colorful buildings, Christmas decor, and a snowy mountain in the background.
Vail Village, CO
  • Tubing ($$): For a trip down the slopes that requires a little less effort than standing on a board (or two), sign up for tubing at Vail’s Eagle Nest Tubing Hill. The hill’s 900-foot long run has several lanes—providing hours of fun for riders over the age of 6.
  • Shopping in Vail Village: If you’re looking for a special gift for a friend or family member, Vail Village is the place to shop. With shops ranging from outdoor apparel to fine art and from affordable to spendy, you’re sure to find a gift for everyone on your list at any budget. 
Pro Tip Vail is close to many other ski resort towns in Colorado. If you’re there for a few days, consider checking out Breckinridge, Keystone, and Copper for some mountain variety. 

Pictured Rocks, MI

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sits at the southern shore of Lake Superior, at the very top of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While the area is known for its majestic lakeside summers, it turns into a stunning icy expanse—like something out of Frozen—in the winter. 
The sandstone cliffs become covered in hanging ice, forming icy blue columns, and the park’s waterfalls become frozen spectacles. For the intrepid adventurer, these ice formations are an absolute must-see. 

What to do in Pictured Rocks

A cliff topped with trees stands over the water in Pictured Rocks.
Pictured Rocks, MI
  • Ice climbing ($$): The combination of freezing temperatures, lake-effect snow, and frozen waterfalls create the ideal conditions for ice climbing in Pictured Rocks. If you’re new to the sport, sign up for a trip with an experienced guide to help you safely navigate the frozen landscapes. 
  • Tour the ice curtains: In recent years, touring the ice caves and ice curtains has become a popular activity, especially for those who aren’t quite ready to attack the ice with an ice ax and some clamps. The ice curtains between Munising Falls and Sand Point are impressive and fairly easy to get to. Keep in mind, trails can be very slippery and it’s a good idea to get some ice cleats to help you stay upright on your trek. 

Bethlehem, PA 

With a name like Bethlehem, you know that this town in Pennsylvania takes Christmas seriously. In fact, the city is better known as “Christmas City, USA” because of its history. In 1741, a group of Moravian immigrants started to sing hymns on Christmas Eve and christened the city Bethlehem, putting Christmas celebrations at the center of the city’s identity. 
As such, Bethlehem transforms into an idyllic Christmas village in December, complete with Christmas huts, Christmas markets, and historic Moravian shops. If you want to be transported to a magical Christmas land, Bethlehem is the place to go on your road trip. 

What to do in Bethlehem

  • Christkindlmarkt: With hundreds of vendors from all over the northeast, Bethlehem’s Christkindlmarkt is legendary. Travel from stall to stall to see unique goods including handmade wooden puzzles, glass-blown ornaments, and premium distilled spirits. 

Washington, DC

The nation’s capital is no stranger to large events and the city goes all out during the holidays. Historic landmarks transform into beacons of light as decorations blanket the Mid-Atlantic city. When holiday lights and music fill the halls of the Capitol and White House, even the most jaded of Washington insiders can’t help but get into the holiday spirit. 

What to do in DC

Skaters make loops around an outdoor ice rink in Washington DC.
Washington, DC
  • See the National Tree Lighting: No DC spot is more iconic in the winter than the National Christmas Tree. The stately evergreen stands in President’s Park and is the star of its own televised event—The National Tree Lighting Ceremony, taking place on December 3 this year. Visitors can travel to the tree all December, which is lit daily from 4:30 to 10:00 PM. 
  • Light the National Menorah: The national capital also hosts a celebration for the lighting of the menorah for Hanukkah. The first night has the most spectacle as guests are treated to latkes, jelly donuts, and a performance by the United States Navy Band. Another candle is lit on each subsequent night as is traditional for the holiday. 
Pro Tip Washington D.C. has some of the most unique holiday markets in the country. With everything from the Sugarplum Shoppe to a vintage holiday market, you can find something for everyone on your list.

New York City, NY

New York City is almost synonymous with holiday grandeur. Though it may be lacking some of the natural beauty of other northeastern cities, there is nothing like New York City lit by holiday lights. 
To experience winter in the city at its height, take a stroll through the streets in the evening when the skyscrapers are lit up with festive colors for the season. 

What to do in NYC

People ice skating at Rockefeller Center on a holiday evening with Christmas lights lit up
Rockefeller Center, New York City, New York
  • Ice skate in Rockefeller Plaza ($$): The tree at Rockefeller Center may be as famous—if not more famous—than its sister in Washington DC. For a winter experience right out of a romantic comedy (and it has been featured in many romantic comedies), go ice skating in front of the tree at night. Bonus points if it snows!  
  • See the Radio City Rockettes ($$): In New York, the holiday season starts with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and a highlight of the parade is always the Radio City Rockettes. To see the Rockettes and their famous kickline in person, book a ticket to their Christmas Spectacular at the legendary Radio City Music Hall. 
  • Gawk at the department store window displays (free): The window dressers of the New York City department stores are artists in their own right, and the holiday season features some of the finest window displays of the year. Stroll down 5th Avenue or to Herald Square to see the spectacular showcases. Some of the best windows can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf Goodman.
Pro Tip For an icy treat, head to Serendipity 3. Their famous frozen hot chocolate is one of the best treats in the city.

Stowe, VT

Anyone who has seen the classic movie White Christmas knows the magic of winter in Vermont. Though the movie wasn’t actually filmed in the state, Stowe could be featured in any Hollywood film. Its idyllic charm and pristine, snow-covered landscapes harken back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s the perfect place to sit by a fire and dream of a white Christmas. 

What to do in Stowe

A view looking at the Stowe Mountain Resort surrounded by fall Vermont trees.
Stowe, VT
  • Alpine ski ($$$): The remote mountains in Stowe see an annual snowfall of over 300 feet, and the ski runs feature some of the largest mountain drops in the area. For those who crave outdoor adventure, skiing in Stowe cannot be beaten.   
  • Enjoy après ski: After a long day on the slopes, nothing is better than a warm meal and a good beverage. Stowe hosts a thriving après ski scene—including the Matterhorn Bar, which was named the #1 Après Ski Bar in America! 
Pro Tip If you’re planning to stay in Stowe, book a night at the Trapp Family Lodge, owned by the von Trapp family. Yes, that von Trapp family. The lodge brings Austria to the U.S. with Austrian-inspired architecture and an award-winning Bierhall and onsite brewery. 

Why you need roadside assistance

Winter roads can be dangerous and you never know when it might dump four feet of snow overnight. That’s why it’s a good idea to be prepared with emergency roadside assistance from Jerry.
This membership program gives you access to fuel delivery, tire services, up to 10 miles of towing, and more—all at the touch of a button and for just $6.99 a month.
If you’re embarking on a road trip, you’ll also need a good car insurance policy. Finding car insurance with Jerry is easy! Jerry will do the hard work of comparing rates for you, so you have more time to enjoy your holidays. 
Jerry blew my mind, honestly. It took me 10 minutes and I ended up with $100 of savings a month. Best of all, customer service answered all my questions about rental car reimbursement and roadside assistance.” ––Savanna R.

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