For many, the last weeks of winter are a time of promise that warmer weather is on the way. But, some of us wish that winter could linger just a little bit longer so we can have just one more snowfall, some breathtakingly pink sunrises, or maybe even another chilly night snuggled up next to a log fire.
For winter’s most ardent admirers, we’ve created this list of some of the best winter vacations in the US to visit before spring and summer arrive, and enjoy a longer farewell to cold weather and wintry pursuits.
Officially the coldest state in the United States, Alaska is an ideal destination for travels with a pioneer spirit and a love of wide-open spaces and pristine wildlife. A smart base for your adventures in the Great White North is in Fairbanks. With a population of around 31,000, it’s the biggest city in interior Alaska with plenty to do for locals and visitors all-year-round, but especially during the winter and early spring.
The city serves as a gateway to Denali National Park, which is about 120 miles to the south. But, closer to Fairbanks are numerous other places to experience Alaska’s rugged landscape and natural beauty. Popular activities for winter and spring visitors include dog mushing, fishing, skiing, kayaking, wildlife viewing, and visiting natural hot springs. The city’s a hub for ice sculptors, traditional and Native American artists, and craftspeople as well. If you want to chill out in a perennially cool destination, the Arctic Circle is just under 200 miles from town.
Fairbanks’ average annual temperature is 37.9°F. Frost is regular throughout the year, and snowfall can be expected throughout May. And, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see the Aurora Borealis well into April.
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Yellowstone National Park
At 3,500 square miles, Yellowstone National Park spans most of Wyoming and some of Montana and Idaho. The national park is a fantastically frosty wonderland from early autumn until the end of spring. The mild weather during the middle of the school year means fewer visitors and smaller crowds. So, you’ll have more time and more elbow room to admire the Old Faithful. You might be able to spot some bears coming out of hibernation, as well as wolves, bison, elk, and all sorts of other critters.
The average annual temperature in the park is 46.3°F. Snowcapped mountains inside and around the park often stay frosty all year. Yellowstone Lake freezes most winters and sometimes remains frozen until the middle of the summer. Snowpack lasts well into the final days of spring; sometimes, snow can even occur as late as June!
Many think of this coastal, resort town as a hot spot for travelers during the summer, but Kennebunkport is a cool place to be during any time of the year. For those who love the crisp air and snowy scenery, you’ll love Maine during the last weeks of winter. Hit the famous Clam Shack and other popular eateries without having to wait in line. Better yet, room rates are reduced and lots of local shops have big sales during this time of the year.
Sledding, Nordic skiing, fishing, hiking, and canoeing are just a few of the fun, outdoorsy activities you can join. During the late winter and early spring, there’s a range of indoor events as well, from book readings to wine tastings. February is a particularly noteworthy month to visit Kennebunkport when locals attend Paint the Town Red, a monthlong celebration of love and romance. Couples seeking a quaint and cozy getaway will find a small town decked out in ruby lights and decorations with museums, boutiques, restaurants, and more. There’s also plenty of special offers, one-off events, and two-for-one discounts. Similar events run all-month-long, but around Valentine’s Day is when festivities are at their heartfelt peak.
Kennebunkport sees an average annual temperature of 44.85°F. Highs keep to the mid-30s in February, rising to the low 40s in March, and then move on up to the low 50s in April, while still dipping below freezing throughout most of the spring. The average snowfall in February and March is around 10 inches, and sometimes, it even snows in April.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Central California’s Mammoth Lakes is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts, no matter what season it is. Snowy peaks and untouched forests form a gorgeous backdrop with the Devils Postpone National Monument, the 101-foot Rainbow Falls, and Yosemite National Park all close at hand.
If you’re into winter sports, you’ll find Mammoth Lakes the perfect place to be, right up until — and sometimes even into — summer. With a high altitude and high percentage of north-facing exposure, the slopes at Mammoth Mountain stay open as late as early July sometimes. So, expect to snowboard, ski, and trek in tons of snow during April, May, and June.
The annual average temperature for Mammoth Lakes is 42.5°F with an annual average high of only 56.2°, and monthly lows below freezing through April, May, and sometimes June.
For a big city vibe in a cool clime, you’ll definitely want to find flights to Minneapolis during the late winter or early spring. This so-called off-season part of the year is sure to bring you a warm-hearted welcome. Famed for a local music scene that produced the unparalleled Prince, as well as legendary rock bands like The Replacements, The Jayhawks, and Husker Du, Minneapolis has a smoking hot music scene with a wealth of venues big and small for live performances. A great night out is guaranteed is with the town’s dynamic dining scene and one of the coolest assortments of bars and clubs in the Midwest.
Shopaholics will love the city’s abundance of independent boutiques, craft art galleries, bookshops, vintage clothing stores, and farmers’ markets. For a big dose of retail therapy, visit the Mall of America (MOA) in nearby Bloomington, Minneapolis. With over 500 stores, 60 restaurants, a seven-acre, indoor amusement park, an aquarium, a comedy club, and a lot more, MOA is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in the United States. Best of all, there are no taxes on clothing! Located next to the airport and less than a 15-minute drive from Downtown Minneapolis, you’re bound to find what you’re shopping for with convenience and ease.
In Minneapolis, you’re never more than six blocks away from a park. You’re also usually within a short walk or drive from a lake, river, or another body of water. In fact, the state of Minnesota has more shoreline than California! So, the city is a great base if you’re into ice skating, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and a variety of other cold-weather endeavors.
The annual average temperature for Minneapolis is 46.15°F. Annual snowfall is usually between 50 and 60 inches, with heavier snow in March.
Where else do you go to get that winter escape? Tell us all about it in the comments below!