CBesides the holidays, winter is generally considered an off-season for travel. But if you can handle the cold, the crowds are generally lighter and prices cheaper, meaning there are many deals to be had. Beyond that, there are plenty of snowy activities you can only do in the winter months. So before you bunker down and hibernate for the season, think again.

See the Northern Lights

One of the most incredible natural phenomenon, the Northern Lights are a dazzling spectacle when the night sky is bathed in a blanket of pink, yellow, and purple hues. They’re largely weather dependent and highly unpredictable, which makes catching a glimpse that much more magical. Your best bets for a sighting are in Northern Canada, Alaska, or Scandinavia in Iceland, Norway, Finland, or Sweden. If you really want to make it a trip to remember though, catch them from a glass igloo under the stars (Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is the most famous).

Ski the Alps

The highest and most expansive mountain range in Europe, the Alps are a bucket list trip for winter sports enthusiasts. Spread across eight countries; a cold-weathered trip to France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, or Slovenia will be one for the books. Some of the most popular destinations to visit are Chamonix, the highest mountain in the region, Davos, which boasts five resorts in one, Grindelwald, an idyllic fairytale village, Zermatt, home of Matterhorn, and St. Moritz.

Photo Credit: Asaf Kliger

Spend the Night in an Ice Hotel

The Icehotel in Sweden feels like a fairytale castle brought to life. Sculpted year after year by a team of artists, it’s a living, evolving installation made of a mixture of snow and ice and adorned with crystal chandeliers. The property features 300 beds, an ice church, ice bar, sculpting studio, multiple restaurants, and a wilderness camp with winter bucket list activities like reindeer meet and greets, dogsledding, and snowmobile safaris.

Visit a European Christmas Market

Nowhere is more charming than Europe during the holidays. A tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, these open-air town markets are a way for the community to celebrate the season. Some of the best to visit are in Strasbourg, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, and Birmingham. Post up with a mug of glühwein (warm mulled wine), sample the local delicacies, and peruse the vendors for ornaments and cheer.

Pay Homage to the Greats at a Winter Sports Host City

Walk the path of legends and relive those moments of glory for the U.S. You can tour the facilities in Lake Placid or Salt Lake City and learn all about the harrowing seconds it takes to capture the gold, silver, or bronze. Want to get in on the action? Try new-to-you adrenaline sports like bobsledding and curling in Utah or skeleton at White Face. Or make a trip north of the border to visit our Canadian neighbors in Whistler or Calgary for some skiing, hockey, and luge.

See a National Park in the “Off-Season”

Dubbed America’s best idea, the national parks are American treasures. Recently many have been threatened by over-tourism. Not only are they much less crowded in the colder months, but many they have special winter-only activities and accessibility. Many offer snowshoeing trails, but for more unique winter attractions, Yosemite, Glacier, Crater Lake, Denali, and Mount Rainier have skiing, Denali has dogsledding, Acadia has ice fishing, and Yellowstone has snowmobile tours. Plus, they all look pretty great covered in a dusting of snow. As an added bonus, popular parks like Yellowstone, Zion, and Rocky Mountain National Park have shuttle service that runs during the busy summer months, but in winter, you can drive right through. Here are some other ideas to add to your USA bucket list.

Escape the Cold

If you’re in search of the ultimate winter getaway, that might be as straightforward as going somewhere to escape the cold. The southern hemisphere has opposite seasons so there are plenty of places south of the border to chase the sun. Plan an epic sojourn to the Maldives or Bali and live it up on an overwater bungalow. Or, swim with the sharks in Cape Town. Looking to do a big bucket list hike? Head to Machu Picchu or Patagonia. Or, simply spend a lazy day on the beach in the Caribbean.

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