11 Best Winter Vacation Destinations According To Travel Experts (2023)

Garrett Gardner
11 Best Winter Vacation Destinations According To Travel Experts (2023)

Whether you’d rather escape the cold and hit the beach or embrace it and hit the slopes, we’ve got just the winter destination for you! Below, TravelAwaits has compiled a list of our expert travel writers’ favorite winter getaways. Some are snowbirds who like it hot, while others want winter wonderland vibes. From sun and sand to snow, here is some destination inspiration for this year’s winter getaway.

Coastal Mississippi sign

Coastal Mississippi sign

Photo credit: Roxie Yonkey

1. Coastal Mississippi

“If you prefer white sand over white snow, then Coastal Mississippi, home of the nation’s longest man-made beach, is a dream destination. “The Secret Coast” celebrates seafood all year but white shrimp and oysters are in their prime during the winter. Enjoy an early round of golf or explore the Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail. Enjoy art museums and casinos, but don’t miss sunset at the beach. I visited in February 2022.

“Spend a six-hour tour aboard a fishing boat. During the winter, the reefs near to the shore are the main target. Redfish, black drum, and sheepshead are the main attractions, with speckled trout and flounder as understudies. Some restaurants will cook your catch.

Pro Tip: “Buy a Coastal Mississippi Attractions Pass, which provides admission for one to 10 area attractions. The pass comes straight to your phone, ready to use. Attractions include the Biloxi Lighthouse, the fascinating Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, and the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.” — Roxie Yonkey

white house that is a restaurant with a red sign

No matter when you visit Frankenmuth, dinner at Zhender’s is a must. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Photo credit: Jill Robbins

2. Frankenmuth, Michigan

“Although a visit to Frankenmuth (an easy 90-minute drive north from Detroit) is enjoyable year-round, the city known as ‘Michigan’s Little Bavaria’ really shines at Christmas time. The streets are lined with confectionaries that will draw you in with the tantalizing aroma of fresh fudge and boutiques selling goods that will make quick work of your holiday gift list.

“Make sure to stay in the know about special events in advance of your trip by keeping tabs on what the visitor’s center has planned, from scavenger hunts to ice skating to horse-drawn carriage rides.

“Frankenmuth is also home to the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s
CHRISTmas Wonderland
, which is open all year round, but is especially fun to check out during the holidays. Also filed under don’t-miss experiences are the world-famous chicken dinner at Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth and checking out the glockenspiel at the Bavarian Inn daily at noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m.

Pro Tips: “Layer up to stay warm outdoors without getting too sweaty indoors. Plan to eat early and make dining reservations. Frankenmuth rolls up the sidewalks early and trying to find dinner after 7 p.m. might leave you hungry if you haven’t planned ahead.” — Jill Robbins

Yacht Basin, Hilton Head Island

Yacht Basin, Hilton Head Island

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

3. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

“One of my favorite winter vacation destinations is Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We’re still exploring snowbird destinations, but this is one we keep coming back to. It’s a welcome reprieve from the cold and snow of Minnesota, and we love the 12 miles of sandy beaches, the more than 60 miles of paved bike paths (since we are big fans of biking), and the abundant seafood and flavors of the Lowcountry. It’s also popular for golf and boutique shopping.

“We like to stay in or near Harbour Town and enjoy the lighthouse and pier (great place to spot dolphins) and see the deluxe yachts in the Yacht Basin. The sunsets over the harbor on Calibogue Sound are the exclamation point on this great destination. Hilton Head has been a favorite of ours for several years and I’m happy to say we have plans to visit again in 2023.” — Joan Sherman

tunnel of ice

Ice Palace, Top of Europe

Photo credit: Sandi Barrett

4. Interlaken, Switzerland

“I’m a little biased when it comes to Switzerland. I love how the Swiss live their best life. From floating down the Rhine River at lunchtime to hitting the slopes in the Jungfrau region, Switzerland is an outdoor playground.

“On a recent ski trip to Interlaken, I explored the Jungfraujoch Top of Europe, a mountain-top observation destination 3,454 meters (11,332 feet) above sea level. With observation decks, snack bars, and gift shops, Top of Europe is a fun way to spend an afternoon viewing brilliant snow-covered Bernese Alps.

“The Ice Palace, carved with picks and saws from the frozen ice mass in the 1930s, is a frosty and slippery adventure through the mountain. Everything is ice — walls, ceilings, and floors. Ice artists carve stunning works of art in the wall’s nooks along the frozen pathway. Even with hats and mittens, you need a steaming cup of Swiss hot cocoa to round out this frosty adventure.” — Sandi Barrett

person in snow gear on snowmobile

Melody Pittman snowmobiling in Lake George

Photo credit: Melody Pittman

5. Lake George, New York

“Lake George, New York, is one of the few places that lured this Southerner to visit during the winter. I visited four years ago but would love to go back. Expect a lovely place in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains for snowmobiling, dining, special events like ice carving, and outdoor ice bars.

“The Lake George Winter Carnival takes place every weekend in February, with lots of wintery fun. Highlights include chowder and chili cook-offs, fireworks, ATV races, and the highly anticipated outhouse race. Besides the Winter Carnival, enjoy a delicious meal (including creamy Liver pâté) from Caldwell House and drink great beer and trivia Thursday nights at Adirondack Brewery.

“There are two awesome places to stay in Lake George. Holiday Inn Resort Lake George has a welcoming lobby, fireplace, spacious rooms, and an outdoor fire pit. It is also close to ski trails. Or, in nearby Bolton Landing is The Sagamore Resort. Built in 1883, the historic luxury property features award-winning dining and activities.” — Melody Pittman

two people kayaking in the blue ocean with a puffy white cloud overhead in the blue sky

Four Seasons Nevis offers free watersport rentals including kayaks, snorkels, and standup paddleboards.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Nevis

6. Nevis

“Nevis is the perfect antidote to the winter blues. There’s plenty of Caribbean sunshine to thaw cold bones, but not a lot of tourists, which is one of the things I like most. Here, you’ll have quiet peace of mind. The beauty of Nevis is the inactive volcano, mountains that are often shrouded in mist, and yes, that Caribbean Sea.

“A walk through The Botanical Gardens of Nevis, with tropical plants from around the world and stunning artwork, is serene. One of my favorite places is The Rocks restaurant at the Golden Rock Inn, with its sea views, cascading ponds, and lush gardens. My sanctuary on Nevis was the Four Seasons Resort on Pinney’s Beach. As I sat seaside, nestled by rocks, watching the sunset at the resort’s Mango restaurant, it confirmed I was indeed in paradise.” Sheryl Nance-Nash

Jackson Square in New Orleans

Jackson Square in New Orleans

Photo credit: Marty Snell

7. New Orleans, Louisiana

“The winter months are the perfect time to visit the fabulous city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and my favorite time is the week after Christmas. The mild temperatures during the winter months mean the weather is usually ideal for exploring the streets of the French Quarter and Garden District. Enjoy eating beignets on the patio of Cafe Du Monde before walking through the famous Jackson Square. Don’t miss wandering down Royal Street, admiring the gorgeous antique shops, and popping into the fun and unique art galleries that line the street.

“The winter season in New Orleans also means fewer crowds, which also equates to lower prices for lodging. Winter also brings about numerous concerts, festivals, and the opening season of Carnival. Of course, if you are visiting around the holidays, the city is also aglow with holiday lights and festive celebrations, making winter in New Orleans even more spectacular.” — Michelle Snell

new smyrna beach sunrise

Sunrise in New Smyrna Beach, Florida in the winter

Photo credit: Jesse Kunerth / Shutterstock.com

8. New Smyrna Beach, Florida

“When winter comes, I’m for staying warm. That’s why I just visited New Smyrna Beach. There’s a variety of things to do. Old Fort Park is a mystery-laden coquina ruins. The most accepted theory is that it was remains of a home built for one of Dr. Andrew Turnbull’s partners on their huge indigo plantation that was the first settlement here. Newer Sugar Mill Ruins once stood on the Cruger and DePeyster Plantation. New Smyrna Museum of History tells the history of New Smyrna Beach. Housed in a restored 19th-century church, the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum offers a glimpse of African American history in New Smyrna.

Marine Discovery Center showcases local marine life. In Canaveral National Seashore, take a Viking Eco-Tours kayak tour, visit Turtle Mound, a shell midden dated to 1000 BCE, and visit Eldora, the remnants of a community from 1877. There are lots of dining choices. For lodging, check out Victoria 1883 bed and breakfast.” — Kathleen Walls

Bird’s eye view of North Ogden and Pleasant View, Utah

Photo credit: Guy In Utah / Shutterstock.com

9. Ogden, Utah

“I visited Ogden, Utah, last December, and the minute we arrived, I fell in love. It’s the gateway to challenging ski resorts like Powder Mountain and Snowbasin, and plenty of places to cross-country ski or snowshoe nearby. One stroll down Historic 25th Street and you’re transported to a ‘Wild West’ town with tons of history. It’s the place where the Transcontinental Railroad combined the Union and Pacific Railroads. The storefronts from the late 1800s are intact, but house eclectic boutiques and incredible dining venues. The history, art scene, and culture here are combined with wintry activities. It’s the best of both worlds for ski enthusiasts and foodies.” — Jeanine Consoli

10. San Antonio, Texas

“Winters in San Antonio are very mild and rarely get under 60 degrees Fahrenheit. So to escape the winter chill in North Texas, I like to travel south in my car. There are several things to do in San Antonio in the winter — one being the San Antonio River Walk. It’s always lovely for a nice stroll and guided boat tours operate year-round. Restaurants are booming this time of year as well, so if you decide to go, you still may have a wait time.

“Also, the Natural Bridge Caverns are nice to visit in the winter because it’s not so humid in the cave. If you’ve never been to the San Antonio Missions, including the Alamo, winter is a great time to visit for a great Texas History lesson. It’s not as crowded during this time. 

Pro Tip: “Bring a heavy jacket if planning to take part in a guided riverboat tour. It does get a little chilly riding on the water.” — Kim Croisant

An early morning ocean view on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands

An early morning ocean view on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands

Photo credit: Ann Bush

11. Tenerife, Canary Islands

“The largest of the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, Tenerife seemed like paradise when I reviewed photos online, booking my flight soon afterward. It was 2004 when in Mosul, Iraq, in a war zone working an 84-hour workweek when not hiding in a bomb shelter, I needed a pinch of peace and paradise. My condo at the Peria Gris (Pearly Grey) in Callao Salvaje along the southern coast of Tenerife was perfect with its small kitchen, balcony looking out over the ocean, and location in a thriving downtown business area for shopping, dining, and just hanging out.

“The scenery of dramatic cliffs falling straight into the raging turquoise ocean was truly spectacular. Renting a car in three precious days, I drove every winding road along the mountains, hiked trails near the snow-covered Mount Teide volcano, devoured amazing Spanish cuisine and wine, and found peace in paradise. A lot has changed since then, but Tenerife is still paradise no matter what time of year.” — Ann Bush

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