The Top Winter Wonderland Destinations in the United States


October 24, 2023
Group of women enjoying hot drinks around a coffee table during wintertime. Snowy scenery in the background.

With its mesmerizing snowscapes, frosty mornings, and crackling fireplaces, winter can be enchanting. The United States’ three major mountain ranges and several smaller peaks enable cold-weather enthusiasts to partake in outdoor winter activities galore. But where is the best winter wonderland in the country?

To find the answer, we harnessed data from Yelp, Airbnb, and other platforms to rank 95 destinations across six wintry categories. The result is a meticulously crafted guide that weighs the charm of the weather, the comfort of lodgings, and the thrill of snowy activities to unveil the best winter destinations. Cozy up and join us as we explore America’s most magical winter wonderlands to live in or visit.

Key Findings

America’s Ultimate Winter Wonderlands

To pinpoint the top U.S. winter wonderland destinations, we used data from Airbnb, Yelp, Skiresort Service International, and Instagram to assess four key factors:

Use our interactive table below to discover how each wintry destination scored.

Scoring high across all categories, five destinations rose above the rest as the best winter wonderlands—and most are in Colorado.

Vail, Colorado

Overall ranking: 1

Luxury short-term lodging rank: 2

Winter activities rank: 8

Apres-ski scene rank: 8

Scenic rank: 8

Vail secured the title of best winter wonderland destination with an impressive overall score of 95.01 out of 100 points. The Colorado town ranked second overall for luxury short-term lodging and eighth for winter activities, apres-ski scene, and scenery, making it the perfect place for winter lovers to call home.

Aspen, Colorado

Overall ranking: 2

Luxury short-term lodging rank: 8

Winter activities rank: 19

Apres-ski scene rank: 1

Scenic rank: 2

Aspen took second, with a score of 86.04 out of 100 points. While Aspen boasted plenty of beautiful scenery and luxury short-term lodging, it stood out the most for its apres-ski scene. With a plethora of highly-rated luxury bars and restaurants, Aspen is a food lover’s dream.

Beaver Creek, Colorado

Overall ranking: 3

Luxury short-term lodging rank: 3

Winter activities rank: 15

Apres-ski scene rank: 7

Scenic rank: 34

Coming in third place overall, Beaver Creek scored 81.83 points. Despite being smaller than Vail and Aspen, the town was third for luxury short-term lodging and seventh for apres-ski offerings. Beaver Creek also boasts excellent winter activities, making it a fantastic choice for those seeking an exciting but less-crowded wonderland.

Keystone, Colorado

Overall ranking: 4

Luxury short-term lodging rank: 5

Winter activities rank: 4

Apres-ski scene rank: 48

Scenic rank: 18

Keystone scored 75.99 out of 100 points, earning its spot as the fourth-best winter wonderland. Ranking fourth for winter activities and fifth for luxury short-term lodging, Keystone balanced high-class accommodations with outdoor fun.

Lake Tahoe, California

Overall ranking: 5

Luxury short-term lodging rank: 14

Winter activities rank: 14

Apres-ski scene rank: 60

Scenic rank: 1

Rounding out the top five, Lake Tahoe scored 75.73 out of 100 points. Ranking 14th in both winter activities and luxury short-term lodging, the region merges upscale comfort with outdoor excitement. Lake Tahoe also secured the number-one rank for scenic beauty with its unparalleled vistas of crystal clear waters, pine trees, and snow-capped mountains.

From Summit to Base: Top and Bottom Picks Across Categories

The top five destinations scored well overall, but others stood out in individual categories. We looked closer at the scores and subcategories to identify the best locations for each winter wonderland variable.

Infographic describing the top winter destinations by variable

If you’re looking for a winter getaway rather than a relocation, consider Exeter, Rhode Island—the top destination for luxury short-term lodging. With 865 options, visitors have their pick of opulent accommodations. Coming in second and third, Colorado’s Vail and Beaver Creek also specialized in high-class living, with 799 and 791 luxury listings, respectively.

If skiing and other winter activities are high on your cold-weather to-do list, there are several superb destinations to consider. For avid skiers and snowboarders, Taos, New Mexico; Beaver Creek, Colorado; and Teton Village, Wyoming, offer ski slopes less than one mile from town.

For ice skaters, sledders, tubers, deal hunters, and hot spring soakers, Alta, Utah, boasts 100 winter activity options, the most of any city. Close behind, Princeton, Massachusetts, has 95 activities, and Ogden, Utah, has 91. Several of these locations also offer year-round outdoor activities, making them exciting places to live, especially for adventurous spirits.

Whether you like to hit the slopes or curl up by the fire, you will eventually need some sustenance. If you prefer foodie-approved dining, head to Jay, Vermont; Davis, West Virginia; or Red Lodge, Montana. All three destinations are gastronomic havens, with 50% of their bars and restaurants rated 4.5 stars or higher on Yelp.

If luxury dining is more your thing, then Aspen, Colorado; Woodstock, Vermont; and Vail, Colorado, might be better suited to your tastes. These classic winter towns offer the highest percentage of high-end dining establishments, with around one-quarter of their bars and restaurants serving up exclusive meals.

One of the most alluring aspects of winter destinations is their picturesque beauty, and some wonderlands are true visual masterpieces that beg to be captured on film. The most scenic winter destination, Lake Tahoe, was featured in more than 3 million hashtagged posts on Instagram. Aspen, Colorado, followed with more than 1.9 million snapshots, and Moab, Utah, was third with just under 1.5 million. Whether you crave a winter view for a few weeks or the rest of your life, these destinations show off the most stunning beauty winter has to offer.

In Conclusion

Winter offers a long list of outdoor adventures and cozy experiences, and our ranking of the best U.S. winter wonderland destinations can help you take advantage of them all. While Colorado has proven itself a winter lover’s haven, Vermont also offers incredible eats, and Lake Tahoe is the ultimate destination for scenic beauty. When it comes to selecting your winter home, consider your favorite cold-season diversions: luxury lodgings, outdoor activities, fine dining, or picturesque views. Whatever your preference, there is a winter wonderland waiting for you; all you have to do is make the move.

How We Chose

We collected data from Airbnb, Yelp, Skiresort Service International, and Instagram for 95 winter towns. The four main variables were the following:

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