Acadia National ParkPhoto Credit : Visit Maine
Have your best New England winter ever with our editor-approved list of 35 activities and events.
In addition to chocolate truffles and caramels, the Massachusetts outpost of New Mexico–based Kakawa ChocolateHouse has an intoxicating menu of hot chocolate “elixirs.” Inspired by Mayan, Aztec, and historic European and Colonial American recipes, to name a few, the options include Mexican Rose Almond, 1666 Italian Citrus, and a Thomas Jefferson blend flavored with nutmeg and vanilla. Among the modern picks are Chocolate Chai and Havana Rum. Salem, MA;kakawachocolates.com
The Providence Rink is the only place in New England where on-ice collisions are encouraged. Reserve your ice bumper car, a cool reinvention of the classic carnival ride, and spend 15 action-packed minutes spinning, slamming, ricocheting … and appreciating the architectural diversity of one of America’s oldest cities. Drivers must be at least 6, but kids as young as 3 can ride with adults. Providence, RI; theprovidencerink.com
Need a little artistic inspiration for your next snowman-building session? Check out the talent on display at The Flurry, a snow sculpture festival and competition at Vermont’s Saskadena Six, whose past winners have gone on to compete at the national level. 1/13–1/15. Woodstock, VT;saskadenasix.com
“Taking the waters” may be an ancient wellness practice, but a hydrotherapy experience at Bodhi Spa feels like a remedy for 21st-century winter blahs. Luxuriate in 98- and 104-degree mineral pools, dry and infrared saunas, and a eucalyptus steam room; in between, brave a 55-degree cold plunge pool. A two-and-a-half-hour session ($85) allows you to cycle through the Water Journey until you’re basically blissed-out mush. Newport & Providence, RI; thebodhispa.com
Secure the hood on your parka, then head down the steps to Cape Cod’s Lighthouse Beach. This picturesque cove is a treasure, and in winter you may have it all to yourself. Walk the ever-changing tideline to see what the ocean has delivered; look across the waters, and you may spot a seal. Here is a beach you can even enjoy from the comfort of your heated vehicle: Arrive just before sunset, park in the overlook lot, and stay until the pink streaks turn to indigo. Chatham, MA; chathaminfo.com/beaches
With eight separate peaks served by 18 lifts, the slopes are hopping all day long at this sprawling Maine resort. But after the sun goes down, catch a different kind of rush by walking through a winter forest sparkling with more than 100,000 lights, as the Après Aglow display returns bigger and brighter in this, its second year. Newry, ME; sundayriver.com
Going snow tubing is accessible, easy, affordable —and one ride is all it takes to bring out your inner kid. Spend a full day on the 18 lanes ofNashoba Valley Tubing Park,New England’s largest, in Littleton, MA, or go old-school at Great Glen Trailsin Gorham, NH, which mixes uphill hiking with downhill zooming. But no matter where in New England you go, remember: If you aren’t grinning by the end, you’re doing it wrong. skinashoba.com; greatglentrails.com
With over four miles of cleared ice, Vermont’sLake Morey Skate Trail is the longest in the country, providing a runway for skaters to take flight into a stunning winterscape. Fairlee, VT; lakemoreyresort.com
When winter feels relentless, grab that steamy beach read you never actually opened last summer and point your getaway vehicle toward one of New England’s pockets of tropical warmth.
It’s 70 degrees at all times inside New England’s largest glass-house garden: the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence, RI. Fountains burble, camellias blossom, 40-foot palm trees stretch toward the sun. And you’ll feel the warmth tingling from the top of your head to the tips of your toes as you inhale the heavenly scent of Calamondin oranges.
Tropical sensations are likewise guaranteed inside the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College in Northampton, MA. One of the nation’s oldest plant havens, this 12-greenhouse complex’s jungle-like Palm Houseis always kept humid and at least 70 degrees for the comfort of its specimens, some of which are a century-plus old. You’ll feel better able to endure winter’s worst after spending time with these survivors and stopping to smell the flowering orchids and rhododendrons. providenceri.gov/botanical; garden.smith.edu/plants
Or even better, let John Gorka, Patty Larkin, Lucy Kaplansky, and Cliff Eberhardt handle the vocals. That’s the Feb. 14 lineup at Maine’s Stone Mountain Arts Center. This unique performance space is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Carol Noonan, who one day realized the timber barn built by her husband, Jeff Flagg, had astounding acoustics. It took planning and a quick lift of the barn (the neighbors all pitched in to handle the ropes to guide it to a new foundation), but now Carol and Jeff host headliners all year long. Brownfield, ME; stonemountainartscenter.com
In celebration of the Chinese New Year, lion dancers and clowns lead the colorful annual parade in Boston’s Chinatown, and the sounds of drums, gongs, and firecrackers will lead you to multiple processions across the neighborhood. Post-parade, feast at Yankee food editor Amy Traverso’s modern favorite, Shojo, or enjoy classic fare at Peach Farm, the Chinatown restaurant beloved by none other than Julia Child. 2023 parade date TBA; bostonusa.com/events
Staying hip is a tall order for any centenarian, but the 112-year-old Dartmouth Winter Carnival has proven itself adaptable. Gone are the ski jumps and beauty pageants, replaced by polar bear plunges, human dogsled mushes, downhill canoeing, costumed ski racing, and more. Classic touches remain, though, including sleigh rides and ice skating, plus a showing of Winter Carnival, Hollywood’s 1939 take on this February icon. 2/9–2/12. Dartmouth, NH; home.dartmouth.edu
Located in a wildlife preserve, the Frosty Drew Observatory is the real deal, with working astronomers, giant telescopes, and some of the darkest skies in the region. On celestial tap this winter: the annual Quadrantid Meteor Showers, two micromoons (full moons occurring close to apogee, the farthest point in the lunar orbit), and Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF. It’s open to the public for Friday stargazing nights year-round, and for special events if that comet gets bright enough!Charlestown, RI; frostydrew.org
The pancakes come stacked high or low, in varieties ranging from plain to blueberry to gingerbread to gluten-free. Old-timers can order baked beans on the side; whippersnappers get nitro cold brew. In other words, there’s no one that the crew at Polly’s can’t please. Whether you’ll be skiing Cannon Mountain or just sitting by the fire, there’s no sweeter way to start your day. Sugar Hill, NH; pollyspancakeparlor.com
In February and early March, when you board the 64-foot RiverQuesttour boat at the Connecticut River Museum for a two-hour naturalist-led cruise, your purpose is clear: to see the fierce beauty of bald eagles in flight or guarding their nests, evidence of the rebound of a once-endangered species. These are prime feeding grounds for eagles and other raptors, and while nature offers no guarantees, passengers often see dozens of majestic birds. Essex, CT; ctrivermuseum.org/eagle-cruises
Begin your evening at the Salem Cross Inn with a horse-drawn sleigh or wagon ride over rolling fields, then head inside to warm up with mulled wine or cider, made in a tankard with a hot poker. Watch as staff prepare a 1700s-inspired meal over a massive open hearth; chowder bubbles in a cauldron while prime rib spins on a roasting jack. Soon, you’re invited upstairs to feast on the aforementioned delights, along with homemade apple pie. Book ahead and pray for snow. West Brookfield, MA; salemcrossinn.com
Grab a moment of warmth and serenity at Ceremony, a small, independent Rhode Island café where owner Michelle Cheng serves hot drinks like ume plum tea and honey lavender lattes, as well as cocktails, natural wine, and pastries and snacks. Reserve ahead with friends to experience a traditional Chinese tea ceremony or Japanese matcha ceremony, with all teas individually sourced and imported from small farms across Asia. Providence, RI;ceremonypvd.com
A fat bike, built with tires of four to five inches in diameter, is the quieter, greener way to power through the winter woods, no motor required. As many of the roughly 10,000 members of the New England Mountain Bike Association already know, there’s a special quality to pedaling through snow-glazed forests and parks. Find their list of prime fat-biking spots and events at nemba.org/news/winter-fat-tracks.
At many New England ski mountains, when the sun goes down, the lights come on—and a new part of the ski day begins. Take New Hampshire’s Gunstock Mountain, where half the slopes stay open till 9 p.m., including the terrain and tubing parks. So does the pub and café (and on chilly nights, those beers and hot chocolates will taste especially divine). Gilford, NH; gunstock.com
Without the wintry forces of nature, the artists who build New Hampshire’s most enchantingly ephemeral attraction would have themselves a giant puddle. But as the cold snaps and water flows over icicle building blocks, Ice Castles becomes a massive walk-through wonder, glowing with LED lights. Dress warmly, because you’ll want to experience all that awaits inside, including an ice sculpture garden and frozen slides. New this season: an ice bar serving frosty cocktails. Opens in January; see website for details. North Woodstock, NH; icecastles.com
For the truly adventurous Nordic skier, the Wildcat Valley Trail in Jackson, NH, is a bucket-list route. The 17km descent off the backside of its namesake mountain is known for deep powder, high-speed cruising, and views that extend into Maine, and culminates in a photo-worthy finish in Jackson Village. But wait, there’s more: as in, another 130km of routes for XC newbies and experienced skaters alike.
While New England has lots of serious Nordic spots to choose from—such as Craftsbury, VT, and Bethel, ME—few can compare to this small community (pop. 800) and its star attraction, the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. On a prime winter day, as many as 1,200 skiers take to its trails, drawn by the deep woods, the sight of all those peaks, and state-of-the-art grooming. Along the way are inviting rest stops, like the Cocoa Café warming hut and local pubs and restaurants, that have the power to keep you exploring and maybe even have you dreaming about making your own epic Wildcat run someday. Jackson, NH; jacksonxc.org
The howls before the start of Maine’s Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race will give you shivers—as will the sight of sled teams sprinting to the finish at the end of 30-, 100-, or 250-mile wilderness races. 3/3; Fort Kent, ME; can-am-crown.net
Carved into a former Boston-area storage facility, Bow Market is a collection of 30-plus small businesses—florists, chocolatiers, a brewery—arrayed around a courtyard. In the winter, the space is filled with cozy firepits that serve as heaters and tables. Savor your choice of pork lumpia from Tanám or lobster mac and cheese from Bluefin, and—sheltered from the wind and warmed by the fire—discover how comfortable an outdoor midwinter meal can be. Somerville, MA; bowmarketsomerville.com
Put yourself in this picture: A soft snow falls, and a brick walkway that stretches for four pedestrian-only blocks becomes sprinkled with white. More than 100 shops and restaurants beckon you inside—bakeries and cafés and bookstores for lingering. When the sun pops out, there will likely be a musician or two setting up. Some 1.5 million visitors stroll Church Street Marketplace blocks each year, but on this day, you can imagine you’ve stepped inside a snow globe of the perfect winter cityscape. Burlington, VT; churchstmarketplace.com
Of the 4 million visits people made to Acadia National Park in 2021, nearly all were by car. The scene looks vastly different when the snow flies, however, and most of the famed Park Loop Road is closed to auto traffic—offering a prime opportunity for winter enthusiasts to explore this stunning 47,000-acre park at their own pace and under their own steam. Mount Desert Island, ME; nps.gov/acad
Kids love to play in the snow, but at the February igloo-building event at Vermont’s Montshire Museum of Science, playing and learning intersect. Eager builders are guided and encouraged by Dr. Bert Yankielun, author of How to Build an Igloo and Other Snow Shelters, and you hear wonder in their voices when construction ends and exploring begins. 2023 date TBA.Norwich, VT; montshire.org
Connecticut’s famed maritime history hub, Mystic Seaport Museum, invites all ages to have an “ice” day as its 19-acre campus fills up with winter activities—ice sculpting demonstrations, marshmallow roasts, games, crafts, and more—for its annual Ice Festival celebration. 2/18–2/20. Mystic, CT; mysticseaport.org
A cozy afternoon spent in an art museum is a terrific way to gain a new perspective after a busy summer and fall—and New England, with its long history of nurturing art and artists, has some world-class options to choose from. In the winter months, you’ll find these places peaceful, uncrowded, and uplifting.
ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM
Big picture: One of the great private art collections in America, housed in a 19th-century Venetian-inspired palace.
Winter warm-up: Daydreaming among lush tropical and subtropical plants in the four-story glass-topped courtyard.
Don’t miss: “Metal of Honor,” a gleaming exhibit of gold-inspired artwork (ends mid-January). Boston, MA; gardnermuseum.org
PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART
Big picture: Three centuries of European masters and American greats, from Wyeth to Warhol, in the heart of downtown.
Winter warm-up: The vibrant colors and creativity of “American Perspectives,” an exhibit of 70-plus works from the American Folk Art Museum (opens Feb. 3).
Don’t miss: The excellent gift shop, packed with Maine’s largest selection of art books as well as treasures by Maine artisans. Portland, ME; portland-museum.org
Big picture: One of the nation’s three largest university art museums, powered by an aggressively diverse collection of 100,000-plus works of art and design.
Winter warm-up: Laid-back Café Pearl, run by Little Rhody’s own Bolt Coffee.
Don’t miss: “Being and Believing in the Natural World,” named one of the season’s 10 “must-see” museum shows by The Boston Globe (though May 7). Providence, RI; risdmuseum.org
YALE CENTER FOR BRITISH ART
Big picture: The biggest and best such collection outside the U.K., spanning medieval to contemporary eras.
Winter warm-up: Bask in the glow of abundant skylights throughout, as Louis I. Kahn designed this space to let in as much natural light as possible.
Don’t miss: “Britain in the World: A Display of the Collections,” featuring a number of rarely seen gems (through Feb. 26). New Haven, CT; britishart.yale.edu
CURRIER MUSEUM OF ART
Big picture: Picasso, O’Keeffe, Matisse, Monet—they’re all here, along with stunning glass, early-American furniture, and more.
Winter warm-up: The joyous, rainbow-bright murals by Connecticut’s Sol LeWitt in the sunny Winter Garden Café.
Don’t miss: “State of the Art 2020: Locate,” an eclectic, often colorful showing of American contemporary artwork (though Feb. 12). Manchester, NH; currier.org
SOUTHERN VERMONT ARTS CENTER
Big picture: A state-of-the-art museum complex made for exploring indoors and out, thanks to a lovely 103-acre campus and Vermont’s largest sculpture garden.
Winter warm-up: Regionally inspired, upscale fare at the airy, window-filled curATE café (reservation only).
Don’t miss: The fall/winter member exhibition, featuring recent work from SVAC artist members. Manchester, VT; svac.org
A few miles north of Kingfield, ME, Route 27 curves to the right and the trees suddenly part, revealing the spectacular visage of Sugarloaf, its sparkling snowfields rising more than 4,200 feet above the Carrabassett Valley.
From a distance, you spy white ribbons of trails that descend from the lower snowfields, then wind down the mountainside through the trees. Up close, you see wind-stunted trees draped with snow. These are the “snow ghosts” that skiers weave through while dropping down some of the steepest chutes in this part of the country.
The snowfields are a short walk from the top of Timberline Quad, the only lift service to above-treeline skiing in the East. No matter where you ski on the mountain, the snowfields seem to beckon. Some ski the front side of the fields, in sight of buildings and people, and where groomers keep one trail, White Nitro, in shape. Others head toward the back side, where the mountain grows quiet, with nothing in sight except snow and rock and more mountains and distant valleys, as if you’ve entered another world altogether.Carrabassett Valley, ME; sugarloaf.com
Snow, your sweetheart, and a one-horse open sleigh—does winter in New England get any more romantic? At Nestlenook Farm, you can book a private sleigh ride for two (or up to 12, if you’d like company). Public rides for up to 15 passengers are also available. Bring your blanket, and maybe ice skates to take a spin on lovely Emerald Lake. Prefer to self-power? Nestlenook boasts extensive snowshoe trails, too.Jackson, NH; nestlenookfarmsleighrides.com
Snow-dusted sculptures await you on the 30 rolling acres of the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA, where 60 works by notable 20th- and 21st-century artists are on display year-round. Or go west to explore The Clark’s 140-acre campus in Williamstown, MA. Tuesdays through Sundays, you can borrow snowshoes for an outdoor adventure, then step indoors to warm your toes and feast your eyes with a slow stroll through the galleries. thetrustees.org;clarkart.edu
When the weather outside is frightful, the 60,000-square-foot Jay Peak Pumphouse water park in Vermont offers up H₂0 at a steady 86 degrees, prime lounging opportunities, and an array of waterslide adventures that seem to test the laws of physics. Mix in a lazy river and a poolside bar, and voilà: Inside, it’s so delightful. Jay, VT; jaypeakresort.com
Magnificent views of Rhode Island’s Pell Bridge make the outdoor rink at Newport Harbor Island Resort a can’t-miss for skaters. Even better: timing your visit with February’s epic 10-day Newport Winter Festival. Newport, RI; newportharborisland.com; newportwinterfestival.com
The western White Mountains are the backdrop for the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour, a multihour, through-the-woods experience that escorts visitors down New Hampshire’s largest ski mountain in a completely novel way. Sky bridges, rappel lines, and zipline speeds of up to 30 mph all highlight a winter experience that will warm the hearts of even the most committed skiers and boarders. Carroll, NH; brettonwoods.com
The alfresco options that sprouted up all over New England during the pandemic era may be less numerous these days, but some are so inspired that they remain permanent fixtures—and even top tables. Most glamorously, the Gondola Village at Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI, serves haute après-ski fare in restored vintage ski gondolas that seat up to four. Millwright’s in Simsbury, CT, has a row of elegant greenhouses that function as private dining rooms for two to five patrons, with a view of the restaurant’s signature waterfall. And at Batson River Brewing in Kennebunk, ME, the wildly popular “fishing shacks” offer a cozy retreat for up to six, complete with party lights, plaid throws, and a menu of poutine, burgers, and house-made beers and spirits. oceanhouseri.com; millwrightsrestaurant.com; batsonriver.com