Sure, you could head down south for warmer winter weather, but it can be just as wonderful to embrace the season and explore northern vacation spots where there’s lots to do inside and out (just bundle up!). Here are six favorites in Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Just be sure to check with destinations for their latest COVID-19 protocols, and follow CDC guidance for safe travel.
Smoke curls from chimneys and icicles dangle from eaves in this quaint northern Vermont ski town. Wedged between the evergreen peaks of the state’s namesake Green Mountains, the village of Stowe embodies the genuine charm of an old-fashioned New England winter. Start with a stroll along Main Street where the steeple of the Stowe Community Church punctuates the snug downtown and places like Stowe Mercantile and Shaw’s General Store — each with their penny candy and cozy woolens — hark back to a bygone era. Pop into the circa-1818 Stowe Town Meetinghouse, where the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum tells the story of the state’s snow sports heritage, complete with vintage gear, antique lift chairs and other memorabilia ($5 suggested donation).
Head north on state Route 108, better known as the Mountain Road, to Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the most popular ski areas in the region, now in its 85th season. Tucked at the base of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, the resort offers downhill fans an abundance of classic terrain, including the Toll Road, a mellow, meandering run through the woods. Cross-country and snowshoe aficionados should make a beeline to the Trapp Family Lodge (yes, The Sound of Music von Trapp family), where more than 35 miles of pristinely groomed trails across the property's 2,500 acres lead through a postcard-perfect setting. End a day of schussing with a pint or two at the von Trapp Bierhall, where the family’s crisp lagers accompany a menu featuring delicious Austrian-inspired fare.
Where to Stay: Trapp Family Lodge has been welcoming guests to its charming European-style chalet since 1950 (rooms are $200 and up). Or try the Field Guide Lodge, a stylish base camp in the heart of town ($179 and up).
Lake Placid, New York
This picturesque Adirondack village has played host to the winter games not once, but twice — first in 1932 and again in 1980 — but you don’t have to be an Olympian to enjoy its many cold-weather adventures. Kick things off with a visit to the Olympic Center, home to the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum and the Herb Brooks Arena, where a group of scrappy U.S. hockey players ousted the undefeated Soviet team in the epic 1980 gold-medal game known as the Miracle on Ice. (Note: The center is currently under construction, but the arena is expected to reopen to the public by the end of December. The museum won't reopen until November 2022, but you can visit a temporary exhibit with a selection of museum items in the interim. It's also home to the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, open this season for public skating. Check the site for updates.)
Though the village’s namesake lake sits at its northern end, the downtown actually surrounds the smaller Mirror Lake, which becomes a hive of activity during the winter. Pond hockey players pass the puck, snowshoers explore the frozen expanse, and teams of fluffy huskies pull sleds across the snow-covered ice. Nordic skiers can glide along the 50-kilometer woodland trail network at Mount Van Hovenberg, Lake Placid’s Olympic cross-country ski and biathlon venue, which offers gear rentals.
For dining, try Smoke Signals, a cozy barbecue joint overlooking Mirror Lake that serves savory house-smoked meats — chicken, pulled pork, brisket and ribs — alongside salads and appetizers, including their award-winning wings.
Where to Stay: You’ll find vintage, cabin-style lodging right in town at Lake House at High Peaks Resort ($119 and up), while The Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa offers plush lakeside accommodations and a gorgeous spa ($199 and up).