6 Winter Vacation Destinations That are Tons of Fun for Non-Skiers

6 Winter Vacation Destinations That are Tons of Fun for Non-Skiers

Instead of fleeing the cold weather, travel to a winter wonderland for a vacation that completely embraces the joys that come with colder weather. While winter vacations often involve skiing, you don’t have to hurtle yourself down a mountain to have a great time.

If hitting the slopes isn’t your thing, there are some fabulous winter vacation destinations where you can have a ton of winter fun sans skis. Here are six of our favorites, many of them very near ski resorts if you’re traveling with someone who does want to ski.

Philipsburg, Montana

Winter Vacation Destinations: The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana
Photo courtesy of The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Get the feel of the West in historic Philipsburg. Don’t miss The Sweet Palace candy shop and award-winning Philipsburg Brewing Company. Then, head to The Ranch at Rock Creek, the Forbes Travel Guide’s first five-star ranch, which delivers rustic atmosphere with a lot of luxury. You can go horseback riding, snowshoeing, or ice skating on a frozen pond with the Rockies rising up behind you and then warm up with a drink in front of the roaring fire before a multi-course homestead supper club dinner.

It’s all-inclusive, so not only are activities, food, and lodging included, but guides, gear, and equipment are, too. If you want to take in stunning views from high above but don’t want to ski, take a restored vintage Sno-Cat up to a hilltop lookout over the valley below.

Park City, Utah

Winter Vacation Destinations: Park City, Utah
Photo courtesy of Visit Park City.

Movie stars head here for the Sundance Film Festival and you can, too. Celebrity sightings aren’t the only potential thrill though. Utah Olympic Park is a U.S. Olympic Training Site where you can not only tour both the facility and a museum dedicated to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, but you can also hop in a bobsled and take a thrilling ride down the Olympic track. Don’t worry, there’s a professional pilot who gets you safely across the finish line.

For those who love calm, Park City is known as the Spa Capital of Utah and the Waldorf Astoria Park City was recently named “Best Spa in North America” at The World Spa Awards.

The Park City Main Street Historic District has great shopping and art galleries. The views of the Wasatch Mountains are stunning, and there are a few options for getting a bird’s eye perspective of the scenery, including taking a funicular to the St. Regis Deer Valley. You may be among the skiers, but the views are worth it.

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Winter Vacation Destinations: Winterlude in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Winterlude (Photo by Neil Robertson.)

Our neighbors to the North are known for handling winter with aplomb, and they even throw several festivals to celebrate the season. Winterlude transforms Canada’s capital region into a magical winter wonderland that draws nearly a million guests. Now in its 41st year, the celebration takes place on weekends beginning Feb. 1 and lasting through Feb. 18. This year they plan to add new elements to better reflect the cultural, artistic, and culinary diversity and dynamism of the region.

The International Ice Carving Competition draws lots of attention and is particularly breathtaking at night when the sculptures are illuminated. The scenic Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, when it freezes, it becomes the world’s largest skating rink. It also is home to exciting Ice Dragon Boat races. Kids of all ages will want to see the Snowflake Kingdom, located in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, which features a collection of huge snow slides. The Fairmont Château Laurier, The Westin Ottawa, and the Lord Elgin Hotel are official Winterlude headquarters.

Denver, Colorado

Winter Vacation: Gaylord Rockies Resort in Denver, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Gaylord Rockies Resort.

With an abundance of sunshine, Denver is a great option for simultaneously embracing winter but fighting off seasonal affective disorder. It’s also a great urban option. If you go in early February, don’t miss Icelantic’s Winter on the Rocks, a rare winter concert at the stunning Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

The new Gaylord Rockies Resort opened Dec. 18 and the new show LIGHT! will immerse attendees in color, patterns, and light as they stroll along a path through the resort’s grounds. It will take place nightly through January whatever the weather (although within reason, of course) and will have you oohing and ahhing at the high-altitude artistry. Those staying at the hotel can take advantage of the outdoor heated pool, which makes outside time pretty appealing.

Paris, France

Winter Vacation Destinations: Paris, France
Photo courtesy of Uniworld.

Audrey Hepburn was so very right when she said, “Paris is always a good idea.” That’s true even in the winter. The average high temperature in Paris during the winter months is in the mid-40s, and the average low is in the high 30s — cold enough to feel like winter and for wearing cute cold weather accessories, but still comfortably above freezing.

If you’re one for planning ahead, the City of Lights glows even more than usual at the holidays and all of Northern France has a special sparkle during the festive season. It’s never too early to decide where you want to ring in 2020. Consider the Parisian Royal Holiday sail on the Seine with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, available to book now.

Waterbury, Vermont

Winter Vacation Destinations: Waterbury, Vermont
Photo by Heather Glenn.

This quintessential and quirky New England small town is located near four famous ski resorts, and while those are great places to stay, not everyone hits the slopes full time. Some are hard at work crafting fabulous culinary creations and they’re happy to share their process with you. Vermont has a Cheese Trail with dozens of creameries and farms offering tours and tastings throughout the winter.

In Waterbury, tour the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory (because their ice cream is amazing all year long) and visit Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (you probably know them from the K-Cup pods that came with your Keurig), which has a visitor’s center in a train station that was originally built in 1875 and has been lovingly restored. There are several local breweries, too. Check out the IPAs, IPLs, and the delicious smoked local meats at The Prohibition Pig.


More from Make It Better: 

Shannan YoungerShannan Younger is a writer living in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband and teen daughter. Originally from Ohio, she received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Notre Dame. Her essays have been published in several anthologies and her work has been featured on a wide range of websites, from the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop to the BBC. She also blogs about parenting at Between Us Parents.

Shannan is the Illinois Champion Leader for Shot@Life, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that supports vaccination efforts in developing countries to ensure life-saving vaccines reach the hardest to reach children. “Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries and I’d love nothing more than to see diseases eradicated,” Shannan says. “We are so close to getting rid of polio for good!”  

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