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5 top winter destinations for families

Loon Mountain has 73 ski trails and also caters to cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and tubers. Photo courtesy Loon Mountain

Is Jack Frost nipping at your toes? There’s no need to hibernate. Hardy New England families know that winter is a great time for a getaway (and the perfect antidote for cabin fever).

The season brings fewer crowds, lower prices, and fun activities. Think skiing, sledding, ice-skating, snowshoeing, and sleigh rides. Here are 5 action-packed winter destinations your whole family will love.

Jump to: Maine | New Hampshire | Vermont


1. Camden

Winter is a fine time to visit this pretty coastal town. The pace slows, crowds disappear, and prices drop. Most shops and restaurants remain open, arrayed in twinkling lights and winter evergreens. And where else can you ski down a mountain with in-your-face ocean views?

Winter activities in Camden

The small, family-friendly Snow Bowl ski area has 15 skiing and snowboarding trails (5 are open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights) along with sweeping views of Penobscot Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Four people in matching pink outfits carrying a toboggan.

Camden hosts the U.S. National Toboggan Championships each February, but visitors may also try their hand on the 400-foot chute. Photo by Visit Maine

Good luck getting the kids to leave the legendary—and thrilling—Toboggan Chute, owned and operated by the Snow Bowl. Riders slide down this 400-foot-long wooden chute onto frozen Hosmer Pond.

For more views and outdoor fun, head to Camden Hills State Park and its network of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails. The Nature Trail is an easy 1.2-mile meandering tromp through the woods to an ocean lookout. The Mount Battie Trail is a short but steep half-mile trek to the summit for spectacular bay views.

Where to stay in Camden

Living room space inside the Camden Harbour Inn villa.

The villa at the Camden Harbour Inn is perfect for families or groups of friends. Photo by Irvin Serrano

Book the splurge-worthy private villa at the Camden Harbour Inn. The 3-bedroom home on a quiet residential road is an easy walk to downtown shops and restaurants. It’s decked out with original artwork and contemporary furnishings, an ultramodern kitchen, and a gas fireplace in the living room. Villa rates start at $1,250; minimum stay may be required. AAA discount available.

You may also like: Waterfront New England spots for a romantic winter weekend

2. Bethel

People riding through the snow in a horse-pulled carriage.

A network of trails around Bethel, Maine, beckons to skiers, snowboarders, and equestrians. Photo by Visit Maine

Surrounded by Maine’s western mountains and lakes and sliced by the rippling Androscoggin River, this classic New England village is paradise for outdoor-loving families.

It’s at the doorstep of the vast White Mountain National Forest, and home to one of New England’s largest ski resorts. Pack your boots, parkas, snowshoes, and skis, because the great, snowy outdoors beckons!

Winter activities in Bethel

Sunday River spreads across 884 skiable acres with 139 trails and glades, a top-notch ski school, and a slew of on-mountain activities. Skinny-board skiers can head to Carter’s XC Ski Center, which has about 55 kilometers of groomed trails, some along the Androscoggin’s banks.

For a special outing, dogsled with Mahoosuc Guide Service in nearby Newry, which offers day trips on Umbagog Lake or in the Mahoosuc Mountains.

Exhibit inside the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum.

Come in out of the cold to learn a bit about geology at the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum. Photo by Erin Little Photography

When you’re done playing outdoors, visit the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum. The collection of 40,000 dazzling gems and minerals and 6,000 meteorites includes the world’s largest collection of lunar meteorites.

Where to stay in Bethel

The historic Bethel Resort & Suites has a variety of upscale accommodations including single rooms with fireplaces, 2-room fireplace suites, and 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom townhouses. The resort also offers 40 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails, 8 miles of snowshoeing trails, an outdoor heated pool, and winter horse-drawn sleigh rides. Rates start at $199, plus an 18% resort fee. AAA discount during some winter months.

You may also like: New England wildlife refuges with gorgeous water views

New Hampshire

3. Lincoln

Adventure awaits in this lively White Mountains resort town surrounded by protected forest. Restaurants, outdoor-gear stores, shopping plazas, attractions, and lodgings line downtown’s main street, serving winter vacationers who come for the thrills—and chills—in this big outdoor playground.

Winter activities in Lincoln

Couple gazing upward at the frozen scenery at Ice Castles.

Walk through frozen scenery at Ice Castles, which is lit with LEDs at night. Photo by AJ Mellor

You’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale as you walk through the giant Ice Castles site with dangling icicles, slides, arches, caverns, and tunnels. Go at night when the artisan-created castle is lit up with LED lights.

Loon Mountain resort is a hub of activity, with 73 ski trails spread across 3 mountain peaks, 20 kilometers of cross-country and snowshoe trails, and a tubing hill. Want to really delight the kids? Take an off-road safari tour to the summit of Barron Mountain with Alpine Adventures.

Where to stay in Lincoln

Visitors skating at the RiverWalk ice rink.

When not skiing at Loon Mountain, RiverWalk has 2 heated outdoor pools, an ice-skating rink, and a full-service spa. Photo courtesy RiverWalk

RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain hits all the right notes for both adults and kids. The full-service, contemporary property has spacious 1- and 2-bedroom suites and presidential suites and penthouses with full kitchens. Guests can also enjoy 2 heated outdoor pools, an ice-skating rink, and an arcade room.

Daily activities include movies and firepit gatherings, and there’s a complimentary shuttle to the ski resort. For adults, there’s an on-site full-service spa, winery, and upscale Italian restaurant. Rates start at $279.

You may also like: Cross-country skiing spots in Northern New England


4. Ludlow

Give some love to Ludlow. After a devastating July 2023 flood, the mountain town in southern Vermont’s Okemo Valley Region is bouncing back and ready to welcome winter vacationers. The snow-covered surrounding mountains and picturesque valleys are perfect places for winter fun.

Winter activities in Ludlow

Downhill skiers and snowboarders will find 121 trails across some 632 acres at Okemo Mountain Resort. Not into skiing or boarding? No problem. Head to the Adventure Zone to ride the thrilling Timber Ripper Coaster, which plunges and twists some 3,100 feet as it reaches speeds of up to 25 mph. Or try ice-skating at the Ice House.

Trails abound, including the 6-mile out-and-back Healdville Trail in Okemo State Forest, with sweeping mountain views from the Mount Holly summit.

Where to stay in Ludlow

You’ll have room for the whole family when you book a 1-, 2- or 3-bedroom condo at the Castle Hill Resort and Spa in nearby Proctorsville. Set on the grounds of a historic estate, the spacious units have a full kitchen, dining area, and living room with a gas fireplace. Winter rates start at $199. AAA discount available.

You may also like: Stellar scenic byways in Northern New England

5. Burlington

On the shores of Lake Champlain, this bustling northern Vermont college town is home to the award-winning Church Street Marketplace. Shops and restaurants fill the 4-block, brick-paved pedestrian mall, which is designated as a National Register Historic District. Some 100,000 lights and seasonal decorations make it especially beguiling in winter.

Winter activities in Burlington

ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, located on the waterfront, is a family-friendly science and nature museum with interactive exhibits and live-animal displays. Art-loving families will enjoy visiting the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum of Art and its collection of some 24,000 objects from cultures around the world.

Overhead view of the Island Line Trail.

The Island Line Trail on Colchester Causeway welcomes hikers and cross-country skiers in the winter and cyclists in the summer. Photo by Caleb Kenna/Courtesy Hello Burlington

The small, kid-friendly Cochran’s Ski Area has 8 downhill ski trails. Nearby Bolton Valley Resort has 71 trails. The Island Line Trail extends 14 miles along Lake Champlain and is popular for winter hiking and cross-country skiing.

Where to stay in Burlington

Guest room at the Hotel Vermont.

The upscale Hotel Vermont is centrally located in downtown Burlington. Photo by Jim Westphalen

Hotel Vermont, an upscale boutique property in downtown Burlington, has modern rooms and suites. Friendly, knowledgeable staff members are eager to share insider recommendations on area attractions. Rates start at $339.

New England–based writers Diane Bair and Pamela Wright cover food and travel for several publications and are frequent Boston Globe contributors.

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