The East Coast of the United States is magical during the colder months, offering families the perfect opportunity to create lasting winter memories. From charming coastal villages to bustling urban centers, there’s no shortage of winter getaways on the East Coast catering to all interests.
This guide to the best East Coast winter vacations gives you 13 great ideas for winter weekend getaways in the eastern United States.
Whether you’re dreaming of a snowy stroll through Central Park in New York City or prefer a cozy mountain house in a quiet New England town, we’ve laid out the best places to visit this winter on the East Coast.
Best East Coast Winter Vacations
If you’re looking for the perfect East Coast winter vacation, here are 13 destinations for the whole family to enjoy during the snowy season.
1. Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is a quintessential New England town nestled on picturesque Mount Desert Island that captivates visitors with its scenic beauty and cozy atmosphere. It takes on a serene charm in winter, providing an ideal setting for families seeking a peaceful retreat in Maine with kids.
Acadia National Park, with its snow-draped landscapes, offers excellent opportunities for winter sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Families can join guided tours to spot wildlife or enjoy the tranquility of snow-covered trails.
The town boasts a delightful downtown area with locally owned shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Be sure to try the famous lobster bisque at one of the waterfront eateries.
Bar Harbor’s winter charm extends to its annual Christmas celebrations, including festive parades and holiday markets. It is an enchanting destination for families seeking a winter escape filled with outdoor adventures and cozy moments.
Where to stay in Bar Harbor in winter: Atlantic Oceanside Hotel
2. St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg, known as the “Sunshine City”, offers a warm and welcoming winter escape on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Families can trade snow for sandy beaches and enjoy outdoor activities in the milder winter climate. Stroll along the scenic St. Pete Pier, where waterfront parks, stores and restaurants provide a relaxing setting.
Families can also visit the Great Explorations Children’s Museum, which has interactive exhibits and educational fun for younger travelers. The vibrant art scene and beautiful parks mean there’s plenty to do here, so make sure you plan your activities so there’s enough time to unwind and explore the award-winning beaches and exciting museums.
St. Petersburg is a sun-kissed winter getaway for those looking to escape the cold and enjoy a blend of leisure and cultural exploration.
Where to stay in St. Petersburg for a sunny winter vacation: The Birchwood
3. Stowe, Vermont
Stowe, Vermont, is the perfect destination for families searching for a classic winter experience. It’s renowned for its world-class skiing and idyllic setting and offers a range of family-friendly activities beyond the slopes. The Stowe Recreation Path, a scenic 5.5-mile trail, transforms into a winter wonderland, ideal for leisurely snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with stunning views of Mount Mansfield.
Families can also enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered countryside or explore the quaint Stowe Village, adorned with twinkling lights during the holiday season.
With numerous family-friendly accommodations, Stowe provides a cozy retreat after a day of winter adventures, complete with roaring fireplaces and hot cocoa.
Where to stay in Stowe for a winter vacation on the East Coast: Green Mountain Inn
4. Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay is a charming destination combining colonial charm with harbor views. The city offers a unique winter experience with a historical and even ghostly twist. While there are a lot of fun summer and fall activities in Maryland for families, don’t write off a visit to the charming city of Annapolis in winter.
The city’s historic district, adorned with 18th-century architecture, exudes a timeless beauty that’s particularly enchanting in the colder months. Families can explore the Maryland State House, the oldest capital still in continuous legislative use, or stroll along the waterfront, where boats are decked out in festive lights.
Annapolis embraces the holiday spirit with events like the Midnight Madness shopping extravaganza, offering an array of unique gifts from local shops. The city’s welcoming atmosphere extends to inviting bed-and-breakfasts, providing families with a warm home base for their stay.
Where to stay in Annapolis for a winter weekend getaway: Historic Inns of Annapolis
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5. Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Tucked away in the Pocono Mountains, Jim Thorpe is a wonderful and historic town that captivates visitors with its quaint atmosphere and picturesque surroundings. It’s often referred to as the “Switzerland of America” and is known for its Victorian architecture, winding streets and unique boutiques.
During the winter, Jim Thorpe transforms into a snow-covered haven, creating a postcard-perfect setting for families seeking a cozy getaway in Pennsylvania during winter.
Outdoor enthusiasts can explore nearby state parks, such as Lehigh Gorge State Park, offering opportunities for winter hiking and skiing. The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway provides a winter train ride through the snowy surroundings. The train operates every day, with a choice between 40- or 75-minute rides, the ideal amount of time to take in the beautiful landscapes.
Families can also experience the thrill of snow tubing at the nearby Blue Mountain Resort.
Where to stay near Jim Thorpe during winter: The Inn at Jim Thorpe
6. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is one of the best places to visit in Massachusetts with kids. Known for its rich history and diverse cultural offerings, Boston has become a go-to destination year-round. As one of the most historical places in the United States, the city’s monumental sites, like the Freedom Trail and Boston Common, take on a serene appeal when blanketed in snow.
Parents and little ones can enjoy ice skating on the Boston Common Frog Pond or walk through the Boston Public Garden.
The Children’s Museum and the Museum of Science offer engaging activities for kids, while the New England Aquarium provides an opportunity to explore sea life indoors. The city’s vibrant neighborhoods, like Beacon Hill and the North End, offer well-known cafes and restaurants.
Where to stay in Boston for an East Coast winter vacation: Hyatt Centric
7. Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island, known for its Gilded Age mansions and maritime history, takes on a unique charm during the wintertime. The iconic Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile path along the coastline, provides breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean amid a snowy landscape.
Families can explore the grandeur of the Newport mansions, such as The Breakers, which are covered with festive decorations during the holiday period. The Newport Winter Festival, held in February each year, adds to the town’s appeal with various events, including live music, food tastings and family-friendly activities.
From enjoying winter walks along the old streets to participating in seasonal festivities, Newport offers a blend of elegance and warmth that makes it an inviting destination for families looking for a winter retreat.
Where to stay in Newport in winter: Newport Bay Club and Hotel
8. Lake Placid, New York
Situated in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is a winter paradise that beckons families with its snowy slopes and outdoor adventures. The town, famous for hosting two Winter Olympics, embraces its sports legacy. Families can ice skate on the frozen Mirror Lake surrounded by the majestic mountains.
The charming Main Street, decked out with twinkling lights, invites visitors to explore local shops and homey cafes.
For a more adventurous experience, Whiteface Mountain, a short drive away, offers world-class skiing and snowboarding coupled with stunning views from the summit. Visit the Lake Placid Olympic Center for year round indoor ice skating and the Olympic Museum.
Lake Placid’s winter wonderland, combined with its Olympic heritage, makes it an ideal destination for families seeking relaxation and thrilling outdoor activities during the holiday season.
Where to stay in Lake Placid for an East Coast winter vacation: Whiteface Lodge
9. Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic, Connecticut, located along the banks of the Mystic River, exudes a delightful atmosphere that’s equally captivating when the weather is cooler. The Mystic Seaport Museum, a living history museum, comes alive during the colder months, showcasing historic ships and buildings adorned with decorations. Families can step back in time and explore the area’s maritime heritage.
The Mystic Aquarium offers a unique indoor experience, allowing visitors to marvel at marine life, including playful penguins and majestic beluga whales.
Mystic’s downtown area features quaint shops and eateries, providing the perfect landscape for winter strolls. The town’s holiday festivities, including tree-lighting ceremonies and seasonal events, add a touch of magic to the ambiance.
Where to stay in Mystic, Connecticut in winter: Hilton Mystic
10. Asheville, North Carolina
While not traditionally considered a winter destination, Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers a special and enchanting escape. Situated amid the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville is known for its buzzing art scene and the stunning Biltmore Estate.
In winter, the annual Christmas at Biltmore celebration is magical enough to earn Asheville a spot on the list of best Christmas destinations in the United States. It features elaborately decorated rooms and events at the family-friendly winery and on the estate grounds.
Families can explore the exciting downtown area, filled with eclectic stores, galleries and coffee shops. The nearby Blue Ridge Parkway provides breathtaking vistas, and families can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or even giving local ski slopes a go.
Where to stay in Asheville during a winter getaway: The Omni Grove Park Inn
11. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
New Hampshire is home to some of the best hidden gems in New England, but if you’re looking for a cozy winter vacation on the East Coast, head to Portsmouth.
Located on the scenic seacoast of New Hampshire, Portsmouth is a wonderful retreat for the whole family. The town’s Market Square invites visitors to explore boutiques and galleries covered with festive lights. Visitors can walk along the old waterfront, enjoying views of the Piscataqua River.
The Strawbery Banke Museum offers a glimpse into the region’s colonial past, and during winter, it hosts festive events like candlelit strolls and historic house tours.
Families can embark on a harbor cruise for a scenic winter adventure to appreciate the coastal beauty. However, it does get chilly, so it’s best to bundle little ones up and enjoy some hot cocoa. For those looking for adventure, head further into New Hampshire toward the White Mountains where you’ll find outdoor activities like skiing and Ice Castles.
Where to stay in Portsmouth for a cozy winter vacation on the East Coast: Hilton Garden Inn
12. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, well known for its antebellum architecture, cobblestone streets and Southern hospitality, is one of the more mild winter vacations on the East Coast.
While winters are typically warmer in Charleston, the holiday season transforms the city into a festive wonderland, regardless of the temperatures. Families can discover the old town and take carriage tours to learn about the city’s rich history.
The annual Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park is a must-see, featuring millions of twinkling lights, holiday-themed displays and a Santa’s village for younger kids.
Visitors can savor classic dishes at local restaurants for a taste of Lowcountry cuisine. Waterfront Park, with views of the harbor, is the ideal space to unwind. The bearable weather allows for outdoor activities, such as walking along the Battery promenade or taking a boat tour to appreciate the coastal beauty.
If you love the architecture and historical significance of Charleston, take a day trip to Savannah, Georgia – just a 2 hour drive away.
Where to stay in Charleston during winter: The Spectator Hotel
13. New York City, New York
While it may seem cliche, New York City is one of the top winter wonderlands in the world. From the world’s most famous ice skating rink in Rockefeller Centre to the snowy walking paths through Central Park, and wind-chilled views from atop the Empire State Building, New York City is one of the best cities for a winter vacation on the East Coast.
There is always something going on in the city that never sleeps. First time visitors to the Big Apple will want to see the bright lights of Time Square reflecting off the snow.
Get dressed up and hail a cab to Broadway to take in a show, or simply bundle up and walk through the iconic streets surrounded by skyscrapers, yellow cabs, and the clambering of people going about their day.
Where to stay in New York City on a winter getaway: Crowne Plaza Midtown
Explore the East Coast in Winter
These East Coast winter vacations offer diverse experiences for families dreaming of a winter getaway. Whether you choose the warmer coastlines, chilly historic towns, or bustling urban centers, each destination promises an unforgettable blend of outdoor expeditions, cultural exploration and cozy moments for memorable family fun.
Do you have a question or comment about any of these East Coast winter vacations? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
About the author of this guide to the best East Coast winter vacations: Cora Gold is the Editor in Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She loves to write about travel tips, family and adventure. Follow Cora on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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