Warm up to winter and fend off cabin fever at fun and festive winter carnivals in Philadelphia; St. Paul; Nashville; Saranac Lake, New York; and Florence, Oregon, as these destinations morph into winter wonderlands every year and make great low-cost getaways for cold-weather lovers.
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest in Philadelphia (Nov. 25, 2022–March 5, 2023)
Photo courtesy of Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (Matt Stanley)
If your winter dream conjures up cozy fireside settings, you’re in luck. Philadelphia’s colorfully lit Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest sets up camp around an NHL-sized ice-skating rink on the Delaware River waterfront. Warm up and sip hot chocolate in mini-chalets, gather around outdoor firepits and toast s’mores, or grab a rocking chair and feast on hearty winter fare on a wraparound cabin porch, warmed by blankets and heat lamps. If you’d like to hone your ice-skating skills, lessons are offered daily. A kids lounge has arcade games to keep the brood busy. Live music and movie nights ramp up the holiday fun. And, on Dec. 2, 2022, the massive Christmas tree will be lit up in the annual Holiday Tree Lighting. (Ice-skating admission: $5; skate rental: $10)
NEA member travel benefits: Fly into Philadelphia International Airport (PHL); check NEA Travel: Airfare for great prices on airline tickets. Then on the hotels page you can find prices like an average of $161/night at the stylish Le Meridien Philadelphia, which is right by City Hall, or for an average of $122/night at the Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown Center City. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, an IHG Hotel, averages $137/ night on the website and has a fun design, a 24-hour fitness center, and complimentary bicycles.
Saranac Lake Winter Carnival in Saranac, New York (Feb. 2–Feb. 12, 2023)
Photo courtesy of David Lippitt/Mark Kurtz Photography
Does winter cabin fever ever give you the urge to throw heavy things? (Or, watch someone else do so?) You can channel that urge competitively and safely at New York’s Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. What began in 1897 in the Adirondacks as a one-day winter carnival is now a 10-day festival, with highlights including a ladies’ frying pan toss. Marvel at the festival’s showpiece, a dazzling ice palace, or watch hardy athletes engage in sports, such as curling, snow volleyball and snowshoe softball. Take a deep dive into the carnival’s two parades, plays and concerts, and enjoy the fireworks and keep the sugar coming at the chocolate festival. (Some events have fees, which vary. There is no charge to visit the ice palace.)
NEA member travel benefits: Just 10 minutes away from Saranac Lake is the Adirondack Regional Airport (SLK), but for more flight options you may need to book tickets to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), which is about 2 hours and 15 minutes’ drive away (don’t forget your passport!). Either way, book through NEA Travel: Airfare for member prices. For your accommodations, you’ll want to visit the NEA Travel: Hotels page for savings on rooms at area hotels such as the boutique Hotel Saranac Curio Collection By Hilton, which has an average price of $149 a night on the website, or Best Western Mountain Lake Inn, which averages $153 a night and has an indoor pool.
Plan your itinerary: Saranac Lake Area-Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism | New York State Tourism
St. Paul Winter Carnival in St. Paul, Minnesota (Jan. 26–Feb. 5, 2023)
Photo courtesy of Christine Wischt/Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Do you like ice palaces, snow sculptures and feline fun? Then make Minnesota’s St. Paul Winter Carnival your winter destination! For 10 days, enjoy the carnival’s winter wonderland of ice and snow sculptures, a giant snow slide, and a 70-foot-tall ice palace. Choose from three parades, cheer or run the half-marathon, an ice fishing tournament, beard growing competition, and join robot-lovers at the autonomous snowplow competition. Or, prowl around indoors at the Saintly City Cat Show, held over a weekend during the carnival. This year’s Kids’ and Family Day is on Feb. 4, 2023, with plenty of family-friendly activities. (Most winter carnival events are free. Saintly City Cat Show admission: $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and children.)
NEA member travel benefits: For a great deal, book a flight through NEA Travel: Airfare to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). The hotels booking page features deals like an average of $109 a night at the DoubleTree by Hilton St. Paul Downtown, or $110 a night for the luxurious InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront, an IHG Hotel.
Winter Music Festival in Florence, Oregon (January 27–29, 2023)
If you’re looking for a West Coast winter wonderland, the charming coastal town of Florence, Oregon, hosts its annual three-day Winter Music Festival in January. Complete with bands and jam sessions, local and international artists perform music ranging from folk rock, Americana and country to bluegrass and gospel. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, bring it to workshops hosted by musicians Janet Wellington, Kirk Mlinek, Jake Blount and Tom Nechville, all of whom are also performing or exhibiting this year. Afterward, fuel up at some local food trucks and then scout the artisan fair for unique, locally made finds such as wood art, hand-woven and tie-dye clothing, organic herbal products, art and handmade jewelry. (Tickets for performances start at $35 and two-day passes start at $119. Workshops cost $10; free for main stage show ticketholders and free to all on Thursday.)
NEA member travel benefits: Buy airfare tickets for Eugene Airport (EUG) through NEA Travel: Airfare for great prices. It’s about 60 miles away from Florence. Next, look for hotels on the NEA Travel: Hotels page. There, you can find deals like an average of $132 per night at Driftwood Shores, which is right on Heceta Beach. Every room has an ocean view, plus there is an indoor aquatic center with a hot tub and kids pool. It’s $131 per night at the Best Western Pier Point Inn, which also has an indoor pool.
Snow Carnival Holiday Forest, Las Vegas (Nov. 23, 2022–Jan. 8, 2023)
If you thought warm-weather locales couldn’t have winter carnivals—complete with snow—this new festival will make you think again. After all, it’s Vegas! The Snow Carnival Holiday Forest is located at M Resort Spa Casino, and visitors can expect to be greeted with a gentle flurry of real snowflakes as they enter a world with more than 350 tons of real snow, both falling from above and coating the ground. Build snowmen, have a snowball fight, coast down the snowy inclines of the “Mini Matterhorn” snow slide and visit the Candy Cane Forest. Wintery eats, treats and drinks will be available for purchase. (Tickets are $37 for adults, $30 for children age 3-11.)
NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight through NEA Travel to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas. Visit NEA Travel: Hotels to find amazing deals at hotels such as Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, which has Las Vegas’ only pool with an artificial wave machine, for an average of $51/night, and the very modern Park MGM Las Vegas, which is right on the heart of the strip and has about a dozen restaurants on property, for an average of $102/night. Or, pretend you’re in Paris for an average of $120/night at Paris Las Vegas Resort & Casino.