Leave the City Behind for These Winter Wonderlands

By The Family Vacation Guide / BT Editor
December 22, 2022
Winter in Grand Teton National Park - courtesy of jacksonholewy.com
Snowshoeing in the Tetons - courtesy of jacksonholewy.com

Looking to escape the crowds this holiday season? While big cities tend to boast the most holiday fun with Christmas markets, New Year's Eve parties, and shopping opportunities galore, these states ranked by The Family Vacation Guide are true winter wonderlands and offer great opportunities to unwind away from the hustle and bustle. By looking at average snowfall, number of ice skating rinks, number of festive events, and festive hashtags used on social media, The Family Vacation Guide ranked the most "Christmassy" states to visit.


Camden by the Sea, Maine - courtesy of wdayradionow.com

Maine ranked first overall in the rankings, with an impressive 1.68 festive events available per 100,000 people—the second most of any state—and 23 festive events in total. Visitors can go and admire the lights at Boothbay Harbor, experience Christmas by the Sea in Camden, or watch the Christmas parade in Wells. The state also gets 61.8 inches of snow per year, with abundant wildlife including moose and black bear—a truly magical outdoor winter experience. Maine also has a high number of skating rinks, with 0.73 ice skating rinks per 100,000 people. The holidays are on everyone's mind, too, as Maine has 25,490 Google searches for the term “Christmas trees” and 8,335 festive hashtags on Instagram.


Snow in Vermont - courtesy of newenglandwithlove.com

Vermont is also a great option for those hoping to experience a white Christmas. The state receives an average of 81.2 inches of snow per year spanning over a total of 54.4 days out of the year, the third highest in the US. It also has 0.77 ice skating rinks and 0.93 festive events (4th most) available per 100,000 people. Vermont also has 10,930 Google searches for the term “Christmas trees” and 5,072 festive hashtags on Instagram. It ranked just behind Maine for overall most "Christmassy."


Aurora over Alaska - courtesy of Alyeska Resort

Alaska is probably the closest you're going to get to the North Pole in the US, and its no surprise the state receives 74.5 inches of snow throughout the year. Despite its vast wilderness and many remote outposts, Alaska has the third most holiday season events per capita with 1.49 per 100,000 people. Colony Christmas is a great place to take the whole family. There is also the Gingerbread House Contest, Cornhole Tournament, and Arctic Olympics. The state has the second highest number of ice rinks per capita, with 1.9 skating rinks available per 100,000 people and 14 rinks in total. Anchorage, the state’s largest city, has six ice skating rinks alone. Alaska also received 9,240 searches for the term “Christmas trees” on Google and features in 2,049 festive hashtags on Instagram.


Jackson Hole in the snow - courtesy of jacksonholewy.com

The Cowboy state ranked first for number of festive events per capita—1.73 festive events available per 100,000 people, with 10 events in total. Visitors can attend the Holiday Craft Fair in Lander on December 10 or for those who are big Western fans, you can visit the Cowboy Christmas Market. Wyoming is also a great place to visit for snow lovers during the holiday season, with the second highest average snowfall. The state gets an average of 91.4 inches of snowfall within 36.7 days during the year. It also has the fourth most ice skating rinks per capita.

North Dakota

Downtown outdoor ice rink in Fargo - courtesy of wdayradionow.com

The best state to visit with your family if you’re a fan of ice skating is North Dakota. The state has 2.62 skating rinks per 100,000 people—the most of any state—with 21 rinks in total. One of the best rinks, which is perfect for families, is the seasonal ice skating rinks located in Fargo. This chilly midwestern region is also home to several festive events, ranking 7th in holiday events per capita, and has the 10th highest average snowfall at 51.2 inches.

— To see more rankings from The Family Vacation Guide, click here.

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Book a Winter Adventure at these Rocky Mountain Dude Ranches

There is no better place to spend time with your family than on a winter dude ranch vacation – away from the hustle and bustle of the overcrowded shopping malls and busy holiday season. If you are looking for a snowy adventure in the stunning Rocky Mountains look no further than these ranches listed below. Snowshoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, relaxing by a crackling fire, enjoying wonderful food and cozy accommodations, and making memories to last forever is what you will find at these DRA member dude ranches. Keep reading to learn more and start planning your winter dude ranch vacation today! Western Pleasure Ranch – Sandpoint, Idaho Western Pleasure Ranch - courtesy of duderanch.org As a blanket of white transforms, the Western Pleasure Ranch into a winter wonderland, you and your family can enjoy scenic horse-drawn sleigh rides powered by one of their many draft teams. You will feel like a child again as they jingle through a 2-mile loop trail of dense forests in the foothills of the Cabinet Mountains with amazing views of the Selkirk Mountain Ranch. With a wide variety of horse-drawn sleighs, including a five-passenger, three twelve passengers, and a two-passenger, they have the right size sleigh to accommodate your family, friends, and even that special someone for the romantic two-passenger sleigh. Triangle X Ranch – Moose, Wyoming Triangle X trail ride and the Tetons - courtesy of duderanch.org Head to the iconic Jackson Hole, Wyoming for some incredible skiing and winter fun! Bask in the beauty of the snow-covered Teton Mountain Range and enjoy the comforts of Triangle X Ranch. The cabins are cozy, the food is divine, and the hot tub will make you never want to leave! Triangle X Ranch is located in the heart of Grand Teton National Park and is the only concession open to operate in the wintertime! They offer unsurpassed cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, photography, and wildlife viewing right out your front door. After a full day, return to the comfortable lodge and relax western style with a warm fire and a large outdoor jacuzzi. Triangle X Ranch opens the day after Christmas for their winter season, so be sure to book soon! Bar W Guest Ranch – Whitefish, Montana Carriage ride on Bar W - courtesy of duderanch.org Are you dreaming of Montana? Many people are right now! Escape to the Big Sky State to enjoy all of the winter activities that Montana has to offer. At Bar W Guest Ranch you will find snow activities like sleigh rides, ski & stay packages, cross-country & nordic skiing, winter fat biking, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, ice skating, snowshoe tours and much more! Schedule the trip that makes you feel like you are in a holiday Hallmark movie at the Bar W Guest Ranch! Latigo Ranch – Kremmling, Colorado Sunset on Latigo Ranch - courtesy of duderanch.org Skiing and snowshoeing in the mountains of Colorado during winter vacations is probably one of the dreamiest vacations you can think of if you are an outdoor enthusiast. Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado has just what you are looking for. Cozy cabins, miles of trails for adventures, gourmet meals, stunning scenery, and good company are what you will find at Latigo. You will also find yaks! They are a fun addition to the ranch and a rarity at dude ranches. Find your perfect winter ski vacation away from the crowds at resorts and at a dude ranch. Sundance Trail Guest Ranch – Red Feather Lakes, Colorado Winter horseback riding, stargazing from the jacuzzi, storytelling in front of the crackling fire, hearty homecooked meals, and welcoming accommodations, what more could you ask for? Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Northern Colorado offers all of these great things listed before and more! When you are planning your holiday vacation, do not count out Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. They are easy to get to from Denver International Airport, offer a quiet, peaceful, and wonderful winter vacation for your group, and you can bring your pets! It really isn’t a true family vacation if the furry friends can’t come along, right? C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, Colorado C Lazy U Ranch - courtesy of duderanch.org Take a trip to Grand County this winter and enjoy all that C Lazy U Ranch has to offer for winter fun! Snowmobiling, snow tubing, ice hockey, ice skating, sleigh rides, skiing and so much more are offered at C Lazy U to keep everyone busy, enjoying the outdoors, and making memories together. Delicious hearty meals will keep you fueled throughout the day and comfortable cabins will leave you well-rested and ready for more action. Enjoy the holidays at C Lazy U Ranch or spend other time throughout the winter when things are a little slower. No matter when you visit, a great vacation is what you will receive at C Lazy U Ranch. Vista Verde Ranch – Steamboat Springs, Colorado Luxury, adventure, beauty, peacefulness, and a whole lot of fun and memory making is what you will find at Vista Verde Ranch in the wintertime. Activities like snowmobiling, snowshoeing, snow tubing, sleigh rides, skiing, and much more is offered at Vista Verde Ranch along with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, and scenery that will leave you breathless. Whether you are booking a holiday vacation or just a winter getaway, do not overlook Vista Verde Ranch outside of beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado.


Best Cities to Celebrate the New Year

Local businesses are notorious for hiking up their prices when big crowds are in town for a major event. That’s especially true for hotels, which can experience price increases of several hundred percent over the rest of the year. The last thing you want to do in the final hours of 2022 is ruin your finances over one night of entertainment when inflation will be pushing prices through the roof. Fortunately, you have plenty of fun yet affordable options for celebrating #NYE2023. To help you decide where to count down to the new year, WalletHub compared the 100 biggest cities based on 29 key indicators of an epic New Year’s Eve celebration. The data set ranges from legality of fireworks to average price of a New Year’s Eve party ticket to forecasted precipitation for Dec. 31. Most affordable - El Paso, Texas Fireworks over El Paso, Texas - courtesy of restaurantclicks.com El Paso ranked in the top spot for the most affordable city to ring in 2023. Factors that contributed to this were the city's low prices for New Year's Eve event and party tickets, affordable dining options, cheaper taxi fares, and low-cost hotel options. The city also ranked high at #12 in safety and accessibility. Budget-conscious partiers won't miss out on any fun, though. For those looking to dance the night away, The San Jose Ballroom, The Madrid Ballroom, and the Plaza Hotel all have festive celebrations planned, or head to the Hotel Paso del Norte for a masquerade party. All-you-can-bowl specials run through the night at Desert Strike Lanes and the Fort Bliss Centennial Club hosts a fun night of bingo and celebrations. Other cities that ranked high in affordability: Durham, North Carolina; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Plano, Texas; Stockton, California; Glendale, Arizona Best for safety and fun - Honolulu, Hawaii Waikiki beach fireworks - courtesy of hawaiiblt.com WalletHub used several metrics to calculate the safety and accessibility of each city including their walkability, traffic congestion, flight delays, neighborhood security, DUI-related fatalities per capita, and car theft rate. Laredo, Texas came out on top in this category, but unfortunately got the bottom spot in entertainment. However, Honolulu just narrowly came in second for safety while earning a modest 29th place for entertainment—and who can complain about ringing in the new year in a tropical paradise? Tourists can enjoy a renowned fireworks display over Waikiki Beach, or hop on a boat cruise to dance and party the night away. Bourbon Street also hosts the Trap Gala NYE Ball that features live entertainment and a variety of music. Other cities that ranked high in safety: Laredo, Texas; Jersey, New Jersey; Hialeah, Florida; Raleigh, North Carolina Top entertainment without breaking the bank - Denver, Colorado Resolution Denver - courtesy of revolutiondenver.com Most cities that ranked high in entertainment and overall experience came at a steep cost when it came to average hotel, ticket, and restaurant prices, ranking in the 80s and 90s for overall cost. Denver, however, keeps things fairly reasonable and falls just in the middle (#54) of WalletHub's rankings for affordability. Ranking 6th overall and 12th for best entertainment, visitors and locals alike won't miss out a great experience. Join a massive dance party at Resolution Denver, make your way through a bar crawl, take a spin around the ice at Skyline Park's downtown rink, or enjoy a musical performance at The Fillmore. Families with children will also appreciate a special celebration earlier during the day on New Year's Eve at the Children's Museum on the Denver Marsico Campus, featuring a ball drop ever hour from 9am until 4pm. Other cities for great entertainment: Las, Vegas, Nevada; Atlanta, Georgia; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco, California Best overall experience - New York, New York Times Square - courtesy of usatoday.com Not surprisingly, New York City took the top spot in entertainment which gave it the edge to lead in the best overall rankings, too. Nothing beats Times Square for New Year's Eve, and despite the huge number of attendees, the Big Apple also ranked an impressive sixth when it came to safety. However, the most popular New Year's Eve party in America comes at a cost. New York City ranked 98th (out of 100) for affordability. Times Square might be the most hashtag-worthy spot for ringing in the new year, but it's certainly not the best if you're a frugal partier seeking an equally grand experience. Still, if you can avoid the high cost of a hotel by visiting with friends or family, or if you live within a reasonable commuting distance to and from Manhattan, you can still take advantage of the festivities without breaking the bank. — For a complete list of rankings, visit WalletHub.


From Home Alone to Hobbits: Unique Stays Across the World

Live the Home Alone experience at this Illinois hotel The Kevin McAllister Experience - courtesy of the Graduate Hotel It’s December, and depending on who holds power in the relationship, the TV is left perpetually on the Hallmark channel or rotates between a selection of actually enjoyable holiday movies that involve gratuitous violence – like Die Hard and Home Alone (come at me). If you’re a fan of the latter (and who isn’t?), it might be worth taking a trip to the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, where the Graduate Hotel has created a Home Alone-themed room decorated just like the McCallisters’ master bedroom. For those that don’t know, Evanston was a filming location for two of the films. What’s in the package? The aptly named King McCallister Experience sees the room decked out to replicate the master suite in Kevin McCallister’s house, featuring: A large cheese pizza delivered in a Little Nero’s BoxA four-poster bedA minibar and fridge stocked with Kev’s favorite snacks from the filmA classic TV running Angels with Dirty SoulsVHS of the Home Alone movies and the GrinchAn entire room filled with trinkets and details from the film, down to Paris flight tickets on the table and Brut Classic in the sink Step inside a work of art at this geometric New York forest home Geometric home in New York - courtesy of airbnb.com This mesmerizing geometric art piece just happens to have space inside to live. Hidden in the woods of the Hudson Valley on 30 preserved acres, its curious appearance opens into a playful wooden masterpiece that offers something different from every angle. The reading window is a standout feature, as highlighted in Architectural Digest, letting the inhabitant feel as close to the surrounding forest as possible. Serene, brilliant, and thought-provoking. About the space: It has zero bedrooms, it can sleep 3! There is a futon queen bed, 1 sleeper futon sofa, one single futon bed.At the entry porch, an orb of wood carved out of the house will welcome you into a play of geometry. Situated around one main volume and open to the second level, the kitchen is placed in the center.Instead of fossil fuel, the house is heated geothermally. Instead of grid power, the house has electricity from the sun. We are sensitive to the environment and respect its ecological balance. The wood stove is highly efficient and keeps the space warm in the Hudson Valley winter. Guest have access to a large supply of wood stacked outside the house. The design allows the air to flow when all the doors and windows are open, in addition the floor heat is connected to be cooling in the summer. Learn more or book your stay on Airbnb today. Book a stay at the real Hobbiton for $10 Hobbiton home - courtesy of airbnb.com Hobbits of the world, rejoice. For the first time ever, the real Hobbiton set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies is listed on Airbnb. While hundreds, if not thousands, of imitation stays have appeared over the years, the original set has remained open purely for day visits. But in celebration of the tenth anniversary of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the owners are allowing three individual two-night stays for up to four people. All for $10 a night. Those lucky enough to grab one of the three stays will enjoy: Overnight accommodation in your very own hobbit house (not the hole itself)Personal daytime access to a private hobbit hole for afternoon tea and relaxationAn evening banquet at the Green Dragon featuring beef and ale stew and whole roast chickensSecond breakfasts and elevenses, of courseA private, behind-the-scenes tour of the movie set How to book: As with other Airbnb listings, this isn’t a competition per se. The three dates (March 2-4, March 9-11, and March 16-18, 2023) will go live on the 14th of December. It’s down to you to be the first to grab them. Experience the future of sustainability at this Canadian lakeside shipping container home Lakeside shipping container home - courtesy of airbnb.com Shipping container homes are all the rage these days, but it’s a challenge making such bland objects look attractive from the outside. Designer David Penner succeeded where others failed and made recycling sexy with this Airbnb stay. It’s a striking addition to the Canadian lakeside landscape, yet somehow manages not to feel out of place. The towering balcony gazing out over the water is particularly wonderful, perfect for quiet Sunday morning coffee. Kick back and enjoy the views through the floor to ceiling windows, or cozy up on the EQ3 sectional in front of the woodstove and live your best life. Whether that's a glass of wine, a board game, or a favorite movie—this place is made for relaxing and reconnecting. Relive childhood slumber parties with the double over double bunkbeds or create new memories with your own kids. The yard slopes gently down to the lake where you can ice fish, snow shoe or hike.


Most Festive US Cities to Visit for the Holidays

Sleigh bells are ringing, snow is glistening, while Mariah Carey serenades shoppers at department stores — it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Which of the 200 biggest U.S. cities most resemble a scene out of a Hallmark movie? LawnStarter made a list of 2022’s Most Festive Cities and checked it twice. They looked for cities with bags of fun, like holiday festivals and European-style Christmas markets serving delicious goodies. Of course, no winter wonderland is complete without snow, so LawnStarter also measured the average snowfall in each city to find the most Instagram-worthy backdrops. Buffalo, New York Rotary Rink in Buffalo - courtesy of onlyinyourstate.com To rub icy elbows with your pal Jack Frost, head to Upstate New York. Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester are true winter wonderlands, boasting excellent walk scores and the highest average snowfalls among all 200 cities. There’s plenty of merrymaking to be had in these frigid cities, but you’ll need the warmest pair of winter boots — or even snowshoes — and a well-insulated coat. The region already hit an icy milestone, a historic 4 feet of snow in a single day, back in November. Buffalo, NY is especially festive, as the city also boasts a second place ranking for most ice skating rinks. While it may not have as many festivals or shopping options as some of the other top-ranked cities, Buffalo is the perfect place for those looking to enjoy the wintery outdoors. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Philadelphia's Christmas Village - courtesy of phillyfunguide.com Philadelphia took a respectable sixth place in the list's "merrymaking" and "entertaining" categories, and has the fourth most skating rinks on the list. The city of brotherly love is home to one of the most exciting holiday markets. Inspired by the Germans, Philadelphia’s Christmas Village takes center stage at LOVE Park every winter. Treat yourself to waffles, gingerbread, and bratwurst, then wash it all down with some warm mulled wine. Let your kids take a spin on a vintage carousel, while you browse through trinkets and other crafts from international artisans. Chicago, Illinois Christkindlmarket - courtesy of blockclubchicago.org Chicago ranked as the fourth overall most festive city, taking second place in the "eating and drinking" category. In addition to great food, Chicago has the fifth most shopping centers and department stores making it a great place to find gifts for everyone on your list. Visitors will want to be sure to stop at the city's annual Christkindlmarket, modeled after the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany—and try some authentic Glühwein, or mulled wine, imported all the way from Germany. The market starts in mid-November and ends Christmas Eve. Denver, Colorado Mile High Tree - courtesy of denverpost.com Denver ranked high for "frolicking" and "eating and drinking" categories, and tied with a handful of other cities for second most holiday markets. Visitors will find the Mile High Tree lit up at Civic Center Park and several festive light displays at the Denver Botanic Gardens. While not directly located in the city, Denver is also a gateway to the Rocky Mountains and several wonderful ski resorts and pristine snowy mountain scenery. For an extra festive experience, consider making a short trip to the Victorian-inspired town, Georgetown. Now in its 62nd year, the Georgetown Christmas Market describes itself as “the quintessential winter town event, right out of a Christmas movie.” Don’t miss St. Nicholas touring the town or the Georgetown Community School carolers singing a traditional Swedish Christmas tune. Las Vegas, Nevada The Venetian Christmas Tree - courtesy of capturetheatlas.com For some people, cold weather might not sound as enticing. Despite the lack of snowfall, Las Vegas took the #2 overall spot for most festive city thanks to its plentiful holiday shopping options. Those that love the holidays but prefer warmer climates will find this city to be the best option for a festive way to celebrate. In addition to the typical gambling and nightlife fun of sin city, Las Vegas has the second-most holiday festivals, second-most shopping centers and department stores, and fourth most holiday decoration shops. New York, New York Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree - courtesy of loving-newyork.com Kids from 1 to 92 will find it hard to sleep in The City That Never Sleeps. New York is the #1 overall most festive city for the second year in a row. Earning over 32 points more than Las Vegas, our silver-bell medalist, the Big Apple dominated four out of five categories in our holiday ranking. It has the most holiday festivals, most holiday markets, most holiday decoration ships, and the fifth most ice skating rinks. No other city holds a fir-scented candle to America’s most popular tourist destination. It would take a miracle on 34th Street to beat the city with the most holiday festivals, attractions, music venues, gift shops. Only in New York will you find time-honored traditions like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting, and the Times Square Ball Drop. So, if you want a unique holiday experience, add New York to your bucket list. — Click here to read about all the other festive cities that topped LawnStarter's list.