When winter winds howl and snow blankets New England, travelers who love winter activities are in their glory. They can't wait to hit the slopes, to lace on skates, to feel the cold blow through them as they whip along on a snowmobile. For others, though, being chilly and damp is a far cry from their preferred pastime.
Does that mean winter getaways in New England are out of the question for the cold-blooded among us? Heck, no. Here's a guide to places in New England where, even on the coldest days, you may just forget that it's winter at all.
Butterflies like it warm. So warm, in fact, that Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, located near Yankee Candle Village in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, has a convenient coat closet where you'll want to leave your winter wear before venturing inside. The steamy, 8,000-square-foot glass conservatory is home to about 4,000 butterflies from all over the world. "Flight attendants" are on hand to identify the various species for you and to help you check for hitchhikers when you leave. Not only is winter weather harmful to butterflies, but USDA regulations could also be potentially harmful to Magic Wings if some of these exotic species from afar were allowed to get "loose." Did you know that butterflies only live for about two weeks? A visit to Magic Wings may just help you survive winter's icy grip. After all, it doesn't last forever. Magic Wings is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the winter (hours are extended until 6 p.m. in the summer).
Never been to Fitchburg, Massachusetts? Since summer 2014, there's been a reason to visit this out-of-the-way city north of Worcester... especially in the winter. The first Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park resort in New England is an ideal getaway option for families who want to escape winter for a while. The resort's 68,000-square-foot water amusement park is always a tropical 84 degrees. Other on-site amusements include the MagiQuest live-action adventure game, Howlin' Timbers Play Park, the Howlers Peak Ropes Course, miniature golf, a bowling alley, an arcade, and even a Build-A-Bear Workshop. Once you check in, everything you need to pretend you're far away from New England is under one roof.
You may rub your eyes and blink in disbelief when you emerge from the greenhouses at Elizabeth Park and see mounds of white stuff all around. The 100-year-old greenhouses at America's oldest municipal rose garden in Hartford, Connecticut, bring spring to life as winter lingers. Inside the warm confines of these hothouses, you'll be treated to the sweet scents and sights of flowers in bloom. The greenhouses are open to the public during a few weeks in March.
The 8,200-square-foot indoor water complex at this family resort on Cape Cod may just fool you into believing it's the middle of summer. While the kids play in the waterfalls and whoosh down the two winding slides, you can close your eyes and ride the waves, picturing yourself at the shore on a sunny day. Or really warm up in the giant, tension-easing whirlpool. Then, when you're really ready for a taste of summer in the middle of winter, head outdoors to the Cape Codder's year-round outdoor heated pool. Another plus: Right on the premises, you'll find a Hearth-n-Kettle Restaurant that's perfect for family dining and the Grand Cru Wine Bar & Grill if you're looking for something more upscale. Either way, the key is you won't have to wander far in the winter weather to find delicious grub.
There is a Winter Casino at Mohegan Sun, but the good news is, the gaming complex in southeastern Connecticut is now so enormous, you could easily occupy hours roaming through shops, stepping up to Craps and Roulette tables, flirting with one-armed bandits, or feasting at one of the several outstanding restaurants without ever knowing it's winter, inside or outside. The decor of the original Mohegan Sun Casino reflects the four seasons: As you wander the circular layout of the Casino of the Earth, the carpet pattern changes from bright spring flowers to summer hues to orange and gold fall leaves. Stop there, and head for the Casino of the Sky with its planetarium dome and giant, cascading waterfall or the even newer Casino of the Wind with more slots, table games, and a 33-table Poker Room. After all, you know what comes after fall. Mohegan Sun is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Plenty of intrepid surfers ride New England's waves in the winter, but why would you surf in the icy cold ocean when you can surf indoors? At SkyVenture New Hampshire, New England's only place to skydive indoors year-round, you can also catch waves at North America's largest indoor surfing facility. Surf's Up New Hampshire is an 11,000-square-foot, all-season paradise that features a programmable SurfStream from American Wave Machines churning up gnarly, 32-foot waves.
Thought you couldn't golf in New England when there's a foot or more of snow on the ground? Au contraire. At the Okemo Valley Golf Club's Indoor Golf Training Center in Vermont, your clubs won't get rusty, and neither will your golf skills. In fact, you may just be able to knock a few strokes off your handicap with the instructional programs offered at Okemo. Affordable daily rates are available for the Academy's Swing Stations and 9-hole practice putting green, and the Full Swing Golf Simulator is available for an hourly fee.