Editor’s Note: As the pandemic evolves, travel rules can shift at a moment's notice. Be sure to read the health and safety protocols and requirements for visitors to any destination, as well as those of airlines, car rentals and hotels before you book, and again before you travel.
It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to hunker down and stay indoors until spring! A host of inns and resorts across the United States celebrate the season with great panache. You’ll find go-to pastimes, such as skiing and ice skating, but you’ll also experience unique outings, including dog sledding and sleigh rides.
Read on to learn where to have an unforgettable winter adventure.
1. Placid Bay Hotel, Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid has been known as a winter capital ever since it first hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932—and it’s one of the few places to have hosted them twice, welcoming back athletes in 1980.
Enjoy the best the region has to offer, from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and bobsledding, by booking a stay at this Scandinavian-chic hotel in the heart of Lake Placid. Located right on the lake with stunning Whiteface Mountain views, the 22-room inn has a Great Room with coffee and tea, seating areas, work stations, board games and books, plus outdoor fire pits to keep you cozy after your day of winter sports. All rooms are equipped with Alexa devices, and some rooms have fireplaces or kitchenettes. There are also two cottages that sleep up to six—perfect for families.
NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight through the NEA Travel Program to Plattsburgh International Airport (PBG), which is about an hour’s drive away. Albany International Airport (ALB) and Burlington International Airport (BTV) are each about a two-hour drive. Check out the NEA Discount Tickets Program for discounted lift tickets to the area’s ski resorts.
2. Omni Homestead Resort, Hot Springs, Virginia
This resort in the Allegheny Mountains dates back to the 1700s, when the first hotel was built on the site. Since then, 22 U.S. presidents have visited, including Thomas Jefferson, who came to enjoy the healing properties of the hot springs.
Visitors enjoy all types of winter activities from November to March, including skiing and snowboarding trails. You can also ice skate to the music of the season, surrounded by holiday lights. Or, be brave and take a dip in the outdoor heated pool. If you reserve a room far enough in advance, you can snag rates as low as $180 per night.
NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight through the NEA Travel Program to Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA). Or for more flight options, head to Richmond International Airport (RIC), which is about 3 hours away.
3. Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, Ely, Minnesota
If you’re looking for a doggone unusual winter retreat, head to Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge from early December to late March. Here’s your chance to try your hand at dogsledding—no experience required. Stay at the cozy lodge, or even do camping trips with your sled dog team.
It’s an expensive experience, but there are discounts for kids. Or you can save by booking a half-day tour ($200 adults; $100–$150 per child, depending on age) or full-day tour ($350 for adults; $200–$275 for children) and book discounted accommodations elsewhere, such as at the nearby Grand Ely Lodge, which offers a discount to Wintergreen day trip guests.
If dogsledding is too costly, visit the nearby International Wolf Center instead. The organization works to support the survival of the wolf population. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 60+, $8 for kids 4–12, and children 3 and under are free.
The Giants Ridge ski resort is also nearby, for the full winter experience, and don’t forget to purchase your lift tickets from the NEA Discount Tickets Program.
NEA member travel benefits: To get to Ely you’ll want to book your flight into Duluth International Airport (DLH), which is about 2 hours away, or into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), but you’ll need to drive 4 hours from there.
4. The Inn at Christmas Place, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Are you longing to keep the Christmas spirit going all winter long? Then a stay at this Christmas-themed inn at the foot of the Smoky Mountains is just the ticket.
The lobby is fully decked out with holiday decorations all year long. Rooms feature red and green décor, and mini-suites have a full-sized, fully decorated tree, plus a whirlpool tub and fireplace. Guests can indulge in the heated indoor pool, ogle the elaborate glockenspiel clock that plays Christmas carols every hour on the hour, and have a hot breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus every morning.
Bonus: The hotel is just across the street from the Incredible Christmas Place, the largest Christmas shopping village in the South. It’s also right at the edge of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a perfect place for some winter hiking.
NEA member travel benefits: Visit NEA Travel: Airfare to book a flight into Knoxville McGhee Tyson (TYS). From there, it’s about a 45-minute drive to Pigeon Forge.
5. La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is an underrated winter destination. Not many people know it has a world-class ski resort (with very few lift lines!) and gets an average of 32 inches of snow per year in town and much more in the surrounding mountains.
If you decide to visit, book a stay at the historic La Fonda on the Plaza, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is having an all-out gala on January 22, 2022, complete with food and drinks and live performances by hoop dancers, rooftop mariachis and folk singer Bill Hearne.
The hotel’s lobby has cozy fireplaces and traditional Southwestern décor and is the only hotel directly on the city’s historic plaza, which sports light-strewn, snow-dusted trees and iconic hanging ristras (dried chile pepper strands). The plaza is surrounded by dozens of shops, restaurants and museums to explore.
NEA member travel benefits: Check the NEA Travel Program for member-only pricing on flights into Santa Fe Regional Airport (SAF), or fly to Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), which is about an hour away.
6. The Enzian Inn, Leavenworth, Washington
This Alpine-style inn fits right into the town of Leavenworth, a Bavarian-style village nestled in Washington’s stunning Cascade Mountains. If you love Europe in winter (or are curious about it!) but can’t make it there, a visit to Leavenworth this season is the next best thing.
Snow-capped mountain views, sleigh rides and cozy fireplace-warmed rooms are the norm in Leavenworth, and the Enzian Inn offers them all, plus unique traditions like a daily alphorn performance at the included hot breakfast by the lederhosen-clad father and son owners.
The charming inn is filled with classic wood-carved furniture, has a 70-foot indoor pool, and will help organize winter activities around town, including cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, tubing and sledding, snowmobiling and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
NEA member travel benefits: Pangborn Memorial Airport (EAT) has daily flights to East Wenatchee to and from Seattle, and it’s about 30 miles from Leavenworth. For more options, Sea-Tac International Airport (SEA) is your best bet, and it’s 130 miles away. Book your flights through NEA Travel: Airfare for the best member deals.