Winter is coming — and that means winter sports are coming, too. But it’s a big country and winter means a whole lot more than skating and skiing. Festivals of all kinds, incredible displays of decorative lights, uncrowded access to sites that are mob scenes in the summer — and of course, in some destinations, plenty of warm weather to chase away the winter cold. (If snow’s your thing, though, these are the places with the biggest snowfall in history in every state.)
To identify the best winter destination in every state, 24/7 Tempo consulted lists compiled by a wide variety of websites, including Reader’s Digest, Lonely Planet, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Frommer’s, Cheapism, U.S. News & World Report, Washingtonian, USA Today, Midwest Living, Yankee, and Planet Ware, as well as numerous regional, state, and city tourism sites.
The results are understandably varied. In winter in Fairbanks, Alaska, for instance, you can take in dog sledding and hot springs, and it’s a great time and place to see the Northern Lights — the Aurora Borealis. The Aurora season runs from August 21 to April 21, and the lights are visible on an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear and dark enough.
Almost 5,000 miles away, Key West, Florida, is quite a contrast. Winter temperatures can reach the 80s and recreational opportunities include jet skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, parasailing, and sunset cruises. The city is also known for its laid-back atmosphere and its bars and restaurants.
On the eastern seaboard, there are places like Boston and Newport, both offering numerous cultural attractions. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there’s Poipu on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, with beaches and temperatures in the 70s. In between there are places like Lake Metigoshe State Park in North Dakota, which offers more characteristically wintery pursuits such as cross-country skiing, skating, sledding, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. (When winter is over, you can start thinking about the best summer destination for outdoor fun in every state.)