While other parts of the country may grudgingly tolerate frosty weather, in New England the cold temperatures and outdoor fun go together like milk and cookies. Many hearty New Englanders actually celebrate their snowy wonderland, and that’s great news if your family is looking for New England winter getaways this year. There’s no shortage of fun things to do in the colder months across the six New England states, even if you’re not a family of skiers.
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From tried-and-true winter favorites like ice skating and sledding to more unusual activities like curling and snow biking, here are my picks for the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors during New England winter getaways.
1. Guided Snowshoeing Tours with Wander the Whites
White Mountains, New Hampshire
Snowshoeing is a fine cold weather pastime. With no steep learning curve and not much in the way of cumbersome equipment, it’s an excellent choice for those without previous winter sport experience. And it’s easy to socially distance as you follow a winding trail through woods and meadows on racquet-like shoes surrounded by snow-draped pines.
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In New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Wander the Whites will teach you snowshoe basics and beyond. Owner Lisa Holcomb has a master’s degree in education and shares her profound respect and stewardship of the land with guests. You’ll feel like you’re inside a snow globe as you traverse a blanket of alabaster powder past frozen waterfalls, ponds, and riverbanks. Guided trips start at $35 per person.
2. Snow Biking at the Woodstock Inn’s Nordic Center
If you can ride a bike, you can ride a bike in the snow. Fat bikes are fitted with extra-wide oversized tires and modified frames to give added stability and traction to grip deep snowpack, no training wheels necessary. Pedaling uphill can be exhausting; coasting downhill is exhilarating.
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The Nordic Center at the Woodstock Inn and Resort has miles of groomed and ungroomed terrain for riding. Trail fees for a full day start at $30 per adult ($25 for a half day), $20 for kids under 18 ($15 half day). And 2023-2024 season passes for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and fatbiking are $300 pr adult ($525 for a couple) and $115 for children. A special deal allows families of four (two adults, two children) everyday access for $585 this winter season.
3. Ice Bumper Cars at Bank Newport City Center’s Outdoor Skating Rink
Providence, Rhode Island
New England winter getaways don’t get any more fun for non-skiers than steering a colorful bumper car forwards, backwards, and sideways over an outdoor ice surface. The Ice Bumper Cars at Bank Newport City Center’s outdoor skating rink provide Arctic fun in urban Providence. Slide, twirl and bump your fellow drivers during this 15-minute ride.
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The cost is $12 when a portion of the ice is reserved for bumper cars (the rest of the ice will be for skaters) in February and March 2024, and $15 per person per ride in December 2023 or January 2024. It’s $18 for the full ice rink experience on weekends. You can reserve the entire rink for a private 30-minute session for $250.
4. Tobogganing at the Camden Snow Bowl
The Camden Snow Bowl is a small ski area with a view of Maine’s stunning coastline from one of New England’s most charming seaside towns. Camden is home to the Jack Williams Toboggan Chute, a venerable handmade wood chute flooded with ice.
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Coast down on a long narrow sled at a daredevil speed of up to 40 miles per hour all the way onto frozen Hosmer Pond. The chute is open during the winter months (typically January through March) on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, weather permitting. The toboggan chute can only open when the pond is frozen. It costs $10 per person per hour.
5. Snow Tubing at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort
Snow tubing is the epitome of carefree fun. Your only job is to sit in a giant inflatable inner tube and enjoy the descent as gravity pulls and spins you to the bottom of the slope. At Connecticut’s Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort, there’s a large tubing park with day and night tubing. Sessions last 45 minutes and cost $31 for adults and $16 for kids. The resort supplies the tube and helmet. Reservations are recommended.
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If you need ideas for vacations with teens, consider Interstellar Nights at Powder Ridge, when the high-speed, eight-lane tubing track is illuminated with colorful neon lights and pop music plays in the background.
6. Winter Ziplining with Alpine Adventures
Lincoln, New Hampshire
It’s hard to imagine a more thrilling New England winter getaway for non-skiers than zipping across a series of cables suspended between snow-dusted treetops. Situated at the base of Barron Mountain, Alpine Adventure’s winter zipline tour is a real vertigo-inducing zinger. After an all-terrain vehicle whisks you to the summit, you’ll swing across six cables that vary in length and height, with bird’s-eye views of the pristine forest.
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The cost for winter 2023-2024 is $109 for this two- to three-hour aerial adventure. Seasoned guides lend a hand, spicing things up with tidbits of information on flora and fauna. Participants must weigh between 60 and 240 lbs., with a maximum height of 6’5″.
7. Guided Snowmobiling Tours with Northern Outdoors
The Forks, Maine
Northern Outdoors is a rustic resort in a remote corner of Western Maine. With miles of trails traversing frozen rivers, snowy peaks, and forests of pine, spruce, and birch, it’s an ideal hub to try a snowmobiling getaway.
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Northern Outdoors will help you rent a snowmobile and suggest trails that will have you coasting across snow-covered landscapes and spotting wildlife in its winter habitat. For the winter 2023-24 season, guided snowmobile tours cost $200 for a half day with a group of up to five riders; full day tours are $300. The resort rents cozy cabins and has an onsite brewery where you can unwind with a draught beer at the end of an adventurous day.
8. Skating at the Frog Pond on the Boston Common
The charming Frog Pond at the historic Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, is a picturesque spot to twirl and glide for an afternoon or evening. Its central location makes it easy to squeeze in a few laps around the sparkling ice as you take a break from Boston’s many charms.
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Daily public sessions, rentals, and lessons are available, plus creamy hot chocolate to warm you up when the cold wind blows. Admission is based on the skater’s height and might just be the best winter getaway bargain in New England—free for anyone under 58 inches, $8 for everyone else. If you need to rent skates, those cost $15 for adults and $10 for kids.
9. Learning to Ski at Cranmore Mountain Resort
North Conway, New Hampshire
New England is home to dozens of family ski resorts, but North Conway’s Cranmore Mountain is special. This is the New England winter getaway where non-skiers can easily learn to become skiers thanks to its top-notch ski school and some of the gentlest of alpine terrain in the Granite State.
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Cranmore is known for its abundant natural snow, sunny south-facing slopes, and varied terrain. There are 54 trails—enough to keep any skiers in the family entertained—yet the mountain manages to feel intimate and friendly for those just starting out. And if you’re just not convinced to give skiing a try, Cranmore has a large snow tubing hill and alpine coaster to keep you occupied as well. Single day lift tickets for the 2024 winter season start at $89 for kids and seniors and $119 for adults. Discounts on multi-day tickets are available, as well as four-hour (half-day) and night skiing tickets.