Once December arrives in New England, the leaf peepers have left and most of the trees are bare as the frigid cold of winter sets in. Most tourists come for the foliage and leave, but—if you can withstand the low temperatures—winter in New England offers its own magic that rivals the more popular autumn.
From alpine sports like skiing and snowshoeing to visiting a life-sized ice castle, there are plenty of adventures to experience the best of New England in the winter.
New England's ski slopes are the perfect destination for a winter getaway with friends or family, and you don't have to spend a ton to have fun. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced skier or snowboarder looking for new challenges, you'll find exhilarating terrain at dozens of ski resorts in the region. Options range from the upscale Stowe Resort in Vermont to the cozy slopes of Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. Tiny Rhode Island even has a ski area at Yawgoo Valley.
You don't need lessons, there's no expensive equipment to buy, and your shins won't ache at the end of the day. It's no wonder that in New England, snow tubing has become a popular alternative to skiing. With more than a dozen New England tubing parks offering fast-paced fun, families visiting the region this winter will find ample opportunities to give tubing a try.
The Seacoast Adventure Park in Maine ensures tubing opportunities all winter long, thanks to their snowmaking machines. The 11 lanes of tubing at Ski Butternut in Massachusetts are some of the most popular in New England, attracting visitors from neighboring states as well.
After a day of playing in the snow or strolling arm-in-arm through this winter wonderland, nothing is quite as romantic as retiring to your room at a charming and cozy inn and lighting a crackling, comforting fire in your own fireplace. After the region's famous fall foliage, curling up by the fire while snow falls outside is perhaps New England's best seasonal activity.
You can find cozy New England inns with in-room fireplaces in all six New England states. The Inn at Stonington in Connecticut is one of the most accessible, especially for visitors coming from New York City. For coastal views, book one of the seven rooms at the charming bed and breakfast Victorian by the Sea in Maine.
Is a New England winter getaway out of the question for those who hate bundling up? Not at all. It may be cold outside, but there are indoor activities available where you can shed your heavy parka and completely forget about the East Coast winter. Pretend you're on a beach in California instead by testing the waves at America's largest indoor surfing facility, Surf's Up in New Hampshire. If you're already aching for spring weather, check out the greenhouses at Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut. Here, you'll step out of the snow and into the heated greenhouses with tulips, roses, and other flowers in full bloom.
Each winter, frozen water becomes a building material in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Step inside the Northeast's coolest ice castle, and you'll be dazzled by what can be achieved when humans collaborate with Mother Nature. These elaborate ice palaces only exist in a few cities across the entire U.S., and the Lincoln, New Hampshire, castle is the only one on the East Coast. Go and visit for the unbeatable photo ops, the romantic glamour, or to live out your "Frozen" fantasy.
Cross-Country Ski or Snowshoe
There are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing destinations throughout New England, but you won't find a better place to try this winter sport than Vermont. You can try it for free in the backcountry of Central Vermont at Blueberry Hill (you just have to pay for rental equipment, if you need it). At the beautiful Woodstock Inn, there are nearly 30 miles of groomed trails to be enjoyed.
Vermont may have some of the best trails, but don't discount a cross-country ski or snowshoe trip to nearby New Hampshire. In fact, one of the most expansive trail systems in the region is located at Bretton Woods at the Mount Washington Resort. Regardless of where you go, it's great exercise without the risk of injuring yourself on the downhill slopes
Glide on the Ice
Ice skating can be romantic, fun, and great exercise. Plus, it is perhaps the quintessential wintertime activity, and you can be sure there are plenty of rink options around New England. On your visit to Boston, spend the afternoon ice skating on the Frog Pond at America's oldest park, Boston Common. Not far away in Providence, Rhode Island, you can ice skate and more at The Providence Rink. This quirky outdoor ice center also offers on-the-ice bumper cars, which may become your new favorite winter tradition.
You may find this hard to believe, but you can swim outdoors in New England even in the dead of winter. Taking a dip with snow around you may sound insane, but many hotels and resorts keep their pools extra heated just for that very reason, such as the Hawk Resort in Vermont. After a day of skiing at Sunday River Resort in Maine, you can also take a dip in one of the heated swimming pools at the various hotels on the premises.
If you don't really care for the swimming part, you can also skip the pool entirely and just head straight to the jacuzzi.
If you've never tried snowmobiling, you'll find miles of trails to explore in northern New England and outfitters that will show you the ropes and lead you on guided adventures. It may not have the same rustic charm as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but you can explore miles more of the alpine backcountry on a snowmobile (and it's not nearly as exhausting). New Hampshire especially shines in snowmobile opportunities—even considered one of the best places in the U.S.—and Northern Extremes in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains is always a hit.
See Winter Scenes From a Dog Sled
If you're ready for a unique winter adventure, book a dog sled tour. New England is home to several dog sled tour operators, who will gladly take you for a ride and maybe even teach you how to drive. Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in New Hampshire offers dog sled tours not only in winter but spring through fall. The more than 100 rescue dogs trained to pull dog sleds delight in the work that earns them a forever home, and dog sledding is a winter adventure that's memorable and fun for visitors of all ages.
Other options around New England include Peacepups Dog Sledding in Lake Elmore, Vermont, and Northern Exposure Outfitters Sled Dog Tours in Brookfield, Massachusetts. Whether you're looking for a unique winter activity or practicing for the Iditarod, dog sledding is sure to be a highlight of your vacation.