The winter season doesn’t have to mean hibernating in your house. From bucket list adventures, thrilling escapes, or regional events, there are so many things to do and memories to make with your family. From vacations to day trips to local activities, make the most of winter with these 25 adventures and trips for the whole family.
1. Try Heli-skiing
If you’re looking for an ultimate winter adventure, try heli-skiing. A mixture of a helicopter tour and extreme sports, you’ll be flown to the top of a mountain for off-trail skiing. Not for the faint of heart, but if you’re an expert skier or snowboarder, add this adventure to your winter wish list.
2. Go Skiing or Snowboarding
Whether you head out to a nearby ski resort or hop a plane to one, ski destinations offer a wide range of family fun. Choose a resort, like Steamboat in Colorado or Smugglers Notch in Vermont, that has terrain for all levels and a village with plenty of winter activities to do after skiing/snowboarding.
3. Catch Thrills Snowtubing
If you can’t travel to a large ski resort, many smaller local ski mountains also offer downhill snow tubing in the winter. Your heart will be pumping, flying down hills, and catching air going over jumps. Younger kids can often ride along with parents making it a thrilling winter activity for the whole family.
4. Explore by Snowshoeing
If you’re looking for a slower-paced winter adventure, snowshoeing is another option that even small kids can join in. You’ll explore the winter landscape while getting a good workout in at the same time. So strap on some snowshoes, and explore the outdoors in the Midwest, New England, and even northern New Mexico.
5. Ride a Sleigh Through the Woods
There’s something magical about sleigh riding, especially at night, where lanterns guide you through a winter wonderland. From the Pacific Northwest to Lake Tahoe, Minnesota, The Great Lakes, this adventure might be closer than you think. Make sure you bundle up, so your Anna and Elsa fans don’t get frozen during the ride.
6. Go Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is another bucket list-worthy winter adventure. There is no need to travel all the way to Alaska with tours in Colorado, Wyoming, New England, New York, The Poconos, and even Maryland. Not only do you get the rush of being whisked through the snow, but you will also have the opportunity to feed the dogs or horses afterward.
7. Take a Horseback Ride Through the Snow
Equestrians of all skill levels can take a horseback ride through the snow and enjoy nature’s winter wonderland. Take a road trip to Lancaster Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, where you can take in gorgeous country views while riding on horseback.
8. Go Backcountry Snowmobiling
If your teens are looking for extreme winter sports, look into snowmobiling in your area. You’ll get them outdoors and off their devices for another heart-racing activity. Whether you book a tour in the Adirondacks or utilize public lands like Maine’s 3,500 miles of interconnected trails, you’ll get the family adrenaline rushing.
9. Enter a Cross-country Skiing Festival
If you love cross-country skiing and are looking for a new adventure this winter, why not enter a cross-country skiing festival? Check out their groomed trails in the Rocky Mountains and join a regional festival like Yellowstone’s.
10. Try Ice Fishing
If your family loves to fish, you can keep reeling them in all year round. While Lake of the Woods in Minnesota is one of the top ice-fishing destinations, you can give this winter adventure a try across the country – from New England to Silver Lake, California.
11. Take the Polar Bear Plunge
Ring in the new year by taking the Polar Bear Plunge! Grab your whole family and sign up for a local event benefiting charity. Start the new year by building fun memories that you’ll never forget!
12. Attend an Outdoor Hockey Game
Like many events over the past year, even the National Hockey League is moving select games outside in destinations like Minnesota and Tennesse. Bundle up, grab some hot cocoa and take in a hockey game in your area.
13. Take a Spin on an Outdoor Skating Rink
Whether you’re a figure skater or not, winter day trips to rinks like Rockefeller Center in New York, Millennium Park in Chicago, Union Square Park in San Fransico, and even in Los Angeles are festive days out even when you can’t take a vacation. So grab your family and do your best Michelle Kwan or Scott Hamill impersonation.
14. Ride the Polar Express Train
Train lovers of all ages can ride The Polar Express across the country. The beloved award-winning children’s book, and the movie starring Tom Hanks, are brought to life in 40 locations across North America. More than a million people a year enjoy this festive train ride in scenic destinations like the Catskills, Grand Canyon, and Mt Rainer, so make sure to buy tickets early!
15. Attend a Theme Park Holiday Celebration
Many amusement parks across the country bring the holidays to life with winter decorations, broadway-style shows, and seasonal, family-friendly delights. From Branson, Missouri’s Silver Dollar City to The Smoky Mountain’s Dollywood and California’s Knotts Berry Farm, add some thrills to your winter adventures.
16. Check Out an Ice Sculpture Festival
The infamous International Ice Sculpture Festival in Fairbanks, Alaska, provides travelers the perfect winter destination to carve out some incredible memories. Check out similar ice sculpture festivals closer to home in Newport, Rhode Island, Saranac Lake, New York, and Lewisburg in central Pennsylvania.
17. Ice Climbing
If you and your family love rock climbing, you can continue the adventure even during the winter. You’ll be scaling sheer cliffs of ice with weather-appropriate gear to give you better traction as you climb up these mountains. It takes physical strength, mental determination, and courage, but make sure to bring an experienced professional with you.
18. Fat Tire Bike in the Snow
Hop off your Peloton and on to a fat tire bike for an outdoor winter adventure. You’ll feel like you’re riding this specifically equipped bike through a winter wonderland as it floats along on top of all that powdery snow.
19. Have an Epic Dinner in a Yurt
With restaurants around the country adding all types of outdoor seating, you don’t need to be in Big Sky Mountain to dine in a yurt this winter. So whether you’re on the rooftop of a building or in a unique backcountry setting, plan a memorable dinner experience this winter.
20. Take a Scenic Drive
If you’re looking for an intergenerational activity for grandparents with limited mobility as well as napping kids, take a scenic drive to someone new this winter. Whether you visit your town’s drive-thru holiday lights spectacular like Austin’s Trail of Lights or drive Shendahoh Valley’s stunning Skyline Drive, pile in the car for epic views and winter wildlife spotting in your region.
21. Rent a Mountain Cabin
If cold outdoor activities aren’t your thing but spending time with the family is what you’re all about, then rent a cozy cabin. Reserve a classic log cabin or A-frame house and watch movies play board games, and sip hot chocolate all weekend.
22. Stay in an Ice Hotel
If you’re looking for more adventurous accommodations, book a stay at an ice hotel in Canada, Alaska, Norway, or Sweden. While you may think it would be unbearably cold to stay in a place where everything is made it snow, these once-in-a-lifetime accommodations are actually comfortable.
23. Thaw Out in Hot Springs
Across America, you can find mother nature’s hot tubs. If you’re not up for long adventures in the cold weather, you can relax in Calistoga, California, Homestead, Virginia, North Carolina, and even New Mexico’s hot springs. Melt away all that holiday season stress as you soak the day away.
24. Visit a National Park
Enjoy all the splendor of our country’s protected lands without the crowds! From Arches in Utah to Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone, many of America’s National Parks are open in the winter. You can explore a winter wonderland like no other without fighting for a park reservation or nearby accommodations.
25. View the Northern Lights
Viewing the Northern Lights is a mainstay on many people’s bucket lists. While some of the best views are in Alaska, it’s possible to also see them in Idaho, Minnesota, Michigan, and even Pennsylvania with the right conditions. As these bright neon colors dance across the sky, you’ll pinch yourself and be in awe of mother nature.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.
You can follow her travel adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.