The Best Winter Weekend Road Trips

Find your next wintertime weekend escape on the open road with any of these five short, yet spectacular season-friendly road trips

Whether you’re looking for a warm coastal escape or a snow-covered wonderland, these awesome road trip itineraries from each of the five major U.S. regions offer the perfect excuse to get out of the house and cure those seasonal blues. So, pack up the car, check your tires, put those work email notifications on mute, and hit the road for an unforgettable long winter weekend filled with adventure.

Red Rocks of Southern Utah Road Trip – 547 miles

  Zion Canyon from atop Angels Landing is an unforgettable sight any time of the year—but there's something truly special about seeing this magnificent landscape under a dusting of snow.

DAY 1 - 180 miles. Our first winter weekend road trip takes you on a journey through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the western United States—made even more beautiful (if it were possible) when under a dusting of powdery snow. Start your adventure on the road from Las Vegas at sunrise and take in some of Nevada’s most gorgeous scenery on the next 120 miles northeast to the southern Utah town of St. George. Stop and stretch your legs on a morning hike with sprawling views atop the red rocks in rustic Pioneer Park. Then, head into Hurricane—just 25 minutes away—and fuel up on a tasty wraps, burgers and sammies at the Main Street Café.

Next, get your camera at the ready and take the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive straight through Zion National Park. Or, catch the shuttle from the Visitor Center (just be sure to purchase tickets in advance). From here you can witness some of the most iconic landscapes in the country via dozens of hiking trails and magnificent scenic outlooks scattered across Utah’s very first national park. After your epic day in Zion is done, dine on some of the best Mexican food in the area at the Whiptail Grill in Springdale. At dusk, make a quick stop at the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Grafton Ghost Town between Springdale and Hurricane for some spooky photo-ops before checking into your hotel for the night.

  Bryce Canyon isn't really a canyon at all, but rather a collection of giant "amphitheaters" packed with otherworldly red and orange stone structures called hoodoos.

DAY 2 - 130 miles. Your second day in Southern Utah starts just an hour-and-a-half northeast in gorgeous Bryce Canyon National Park. This wonderland of sandstone cliffs, pointy hoodoos and sweeping vistas is about 5,000 feet higher in elevation than Zion, so there’s a greater possibility of winter snowfall. From the Visitors Center, you can catch any of the trails up leading to popular sites like Sunrise Point, Peekaboo Canyon, the South Hall and more. Keep an eye on the road conditions and—if you have the all-clear—take the UT-63 S four about 18 miles until you reach Rainbow Point. Hike the Bristlecone Loop Trail to see the red and pink rock formations at over 9,000 feet up.

On your way out, grab a slice at Valhalla Pizza in Bryce Canyon City (you’re sure to be hungry after all that hiking) and then head up to Red Canyon to see one of the most-photographed places in the state. Here the rusty-red and orange sandstone forms hoodoos, tunnels, and striped cliffsides all accessible via the popular and well-maintained Birdseye Trail. Once you’ve had your fill of the Great Outdoors, drive about 10 miles up to the tiny town of Panguitch and stop for finger-licking BBQ at Cowboy’s Smokehouse Café on Main Street.

DAY 3 - 237 miles. On your final day, and—depending on the winter road conditions—you’ll either take Highway 89 north to Interstate 15 via UT-20 W, or south to UT-143 & UT-14 W (the longer, more scenic route). Whichever you choose, you’ll end up in Cedar City where you can fill up on heaping plates of tasty all-day breakfast favorites at the All-American Diner. Work off that big breakfast with a hike through the Kolob Canyons at the northwestern corner of Zion National Park, accessible via the scenic, five-mile Kolob Canyons Road just 20 minutes south of Cedar City. And for more outdoor adventure along the way back into Las Vegas, take a 16-mile detour on the Valley of Fire Highway out of Crystal to visit Valley of Fire State Park.

Texas Hill Country Road Trip – 371 miles

  Catch the sunrise as it warms the impressive pink granite megalith centerpiece of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area during Texas Hill Country’s pleasantly mild winters.

DAY 1 - 194 miles. Explore the best attractions in Texas Hill Country with stops along the Holiday Trail of Lights on your southwest winter road trip. Start in San Antonio and take TX-16 northwest to the bustling cowtown of Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Pay a visit to the Frontier Times Museum and explore a collection of curiosities, cowboy art galleries and historical exhibits. Next, drive about 15 minutes west to Medina and make a quick pit stop for a tasty apple-based treat at the Love Creek Orchards Apple Store before continuing west on Ranch Road to Vanderpool. Take a short scenic drive (or hike) through the beautiful limestone canyons along the Sabinal River valley at Lost Maples State Natural Area nearby.

Then, wind your way through Hill Country along TX-39 E until you reach Kerrville. Lunch on the best chicken fried steak in the region at the ever-popular Billy Gene’s Restaurant. From here it’s just a 30-minute drive past some of Texas Hill Country’s best wineries into the town of Fredericksburg. Take a tour of the Pioneer Museum or the National Museum of the Pacific War before filling up on authentic German cuisine at Otto’s German Bistro. And if you’re up for it, take a 30-minute after dinner drive from Fredericksburg into Johnson City to witness the Johnson City Lights Spectacular (running late-November through December). This holiday light installation is so bright it can be seen from space!

  The holiday season sets the San Antonio River Walk ablaze with tens-of-thousands of sparkling Christmas lights and makes for a truly magical evening walk.

DAY 2 - 177 miles. Start your second day in Texas Hill Country with a 2-hour morning hike through Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, just 15 minutes north of Fredericksburg. Take the Summit Trail to the top of the massive pink granite dome monolith at sunrise for dramatic views. Hop back on the road toward Kingsland and stop for an unforgettable 90-minute ranger-led tour of the caves at Longhorn Cavern State Park. Afterward, enjoy your midday meal with beautiful views of the Colorado River at River City Grill just 15 miles south in Marble Falls.

Next, head south down Highway 281 into Johnson City for a quick visit to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park—featuring the farm and childhood home of our 36th president. From here, it’s about an hour to another one of the state’s top underground wonders at the Natural Bridge Caverns on the outskirts of San Antonio, where you’ll end your journey. While in the city, stop by Moses Rose’s Hideout for dinner—it’s just a 2-minute walk from the Alamo and the city’s famous River Walk. And if you’re in town from late-November through December, you’ll get to see all the sparkling colors of the Holiday Lights on the River Walk during your visit!


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Great Lakes & Mighty Rivers Road Trip – 463 miles

  Winters in this part of the country can be harsh—but these sprawling snow-covered fields offer a distinctive stark beauty punctuated by cute farmhouses, red barns and plenty of silos.

DAY 1 - 204 miles. Take a drive through a winter wonderland that stretches from Lake Michigan to the mighty Mississippi River. You’ll begin this wintery Midwest road trip from the chilly Windy City of Chicago on Interstate 88 through western Illinois until you reach the Big Muddy. Cross into Iowa and take a short tour of the Sawmill Museum (a Great River Road interactive center) before stopping for lunch at Bubba’s & Mama’s Family Restaurant. After lunch, make a quick pitstop at Bellevue State Park for pretty views of the Mississippi River, followed by a sweet treat at Grandpa’s Parlor (only open Friday-Sunday).

Follow the Great River Road (Highway 52) north until you reach Dubuque. If the weather allows for it, stroll through the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens—or, stick to the indoor attractions and explore the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. By now you’ve likely worked up an appetite, so head over to Brazen Open Kitchen and dine on some of the freshest cuisine made completely from scratch with local ingredients. End your evening with a drive through Louis Murphy Park for the annual Reflections in the Park Christmas Lights Spectacular (during the month of December) before turning in for the night at your Dubuque hotel.

  Witness the curious vapors known as “sea smoke” rising from the ice-crusted Chicago River—a winter phenomenon that occurs when the freezing air moves over the warmer water.

DAY 2 - 264 miles. On your second day, you’ll say “goodbye” to Iowa and “good morning” to Wisconsin. Take the highway north through Mineral Point and Dodgeville for about an hour until you reach Blue Mounds. Take the short but memorable, one-hour guided tour of the Cave of the Mounds to snap some photos of amazing stalactite and stalagmite structures inside. Next, swing into to the Wisconsin capital city of Madison just 35 minutes away. Drive past the Wisconsin State Capitol building, grab a sandwich for an early lunch at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner (they also serve plenty of vegan options), and then take a tour of the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Too cold for an outdoor tour? Head into the temperature controlled Bolz Conservatory. And, if you happen to be in town during December, you can catch the Olbrich’s Holiday Express model train installation.

Next, drive into Milwaukee and plan a visit to any of the city’s top attractions, like the Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum, or the kid-friendly Discovery World. Or skip the usual sights, rent some skates, and go ice skating at the Slice of Ice rink in Red Arrow Park. For dinner, stop by the Harbor House for upscale cuisine with views of Lake Michigan or Urban Harvest Brewing Company for simple food and a wide selection of small-batch brews. From here, you’re just an hour’s drive from Chicago, which marks the end of your Midwest road trip.


Pro Tip: Your second day is so packed with things to do that you might benefit from trimming some driving out of your itinerary. Consider ending the day with a Milwaukee hotel stay—particularly the Cambria Hotel Milwaukee Downtown—instead of heading down into Chicago.


Historic Delaware Bay Road Trip – 312 miles

  While in Ocean City, take a tour of the Life-Saving Station Museum—located at the very south end of the boardwalk in the red and white, circa-1891 Ocean City Station building.

DAY 1 - 157 miles. Enjoy the off-season in historic towns and coastal communities of the historic Delaware Bay area. Your northeastern U.S. road trip begins in the City of Brotherly Love. Take the I-95 out of Philadelphia, cross into Delaware and head to the river town of Wilmington to visit Rockwood Park. A tour of this historic Gothic manor and its beautiful gardens while decked out in holiday décor during the winter is truly an unforgettable experience. Afterward, follow the Delaware River via Route 9, or take historic Route 1 into Dover for lunch at the Grey Fox Grille & Public House—housed inside a restored early-colonies era Victorian home.

Next, take Highway 113 via Selbyville, cross into Maryland, and cut east toward Ocean City via Highway 50. Take a stroll down the Ocean City boardwalk (practically crowd-free) and visit any of the top indoor attractions—many of which are still open during the off-season. Enjoy your evening meal with a view of the inlet at Harrison's Harbor Watch, or check out the dockside Sunset Grille for elevated seafood. Finally, take the Coastal Highway north for about 20 minutes to discover the Winterfest of Lights in Northside Park (running from mid-November through the New Year’s holiday).


Pro Tip: Find yourself within easy access of all the best Ocean City sights and attractions by booking your stay at the new Cambria Hotel Ocean City – Bayfront. You’ll find the property at the south end of the island, adjacent to the Ocean City Gateway Highway and Drawbridge and just a five-minute stroll from the Boardwalk.


  There’s nothing quite like the experience of nighttime ice skating at Rothman Ice Rink across from the illuminated historic City Hall building in downtown Philly.

DAY 2 - 161 miles. Start your second day on historic Route 1 and head north. Take with a morning stroll through gorgeous Delaware Seashore State Park before heading into the bayside town of Lewes. Make a reservation for the Ferry to Cape May—an unconventional, yet exciting next step on your road trip. It’ll be about two hours before your departure, so head over to On the Rocks Dockside Grill for an early lunch while you wait. Be sure to snap of photo of the Cape May Lighthouse as you cross the mouth of the Delaware Bay into New Jersey. Once on the other side, you’ll hop back on the road and head north to Atlantic City via the Garden State Highway (or via the slower route on Highway 9 if you want to avoid some tolls). Visit the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and then take a tour of the Atlantic City Aquarium on the north side of town.

Next, take the Atlantic City Expressway for about an hour into Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love offers more American history, world-class museums, and memorable attractions than could ever be visited in a single short stay. Consider extending your vacation by two days or more to get the full Philly experience. Or, at the very least, make a quick stop for photos at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Finish out your day with dinner at Talula’s Garden for seasonal eats in a farmhouse setting near Independence Hall. Or, get the genuine Philly experience and head to Jim’s South Street—the original location for authentic cheesesteaks.

Carolina Coasts & Capitals Road Trip – 470 miles

  This 1.5-mile stretch of boardwalk along the infamous Cape Fear River offers access to dozens of top attractions, boutique shops and trendy restaurants.

DAY 1 - 213 miles. Experience mild winter weather—from the capital cities to the coasts—on drive through the Carolinas. Your first day begins in the South Carolina capital city of Columbia where you’ll make a quick stop to snap a pic of the beautiful, Greek-revival architecture of the capitol building before hitting the road. (Or extend your vacation by a day to experience the city’s best attractions.) Take I-20 toward Florence and then catch Highway 504 into Myrtle Beach, the jewel of South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Stop for lunch at Art Burger Sushi Bar, a swanky spot offering the best of both worlds (burgers AND sushi, anyone?) with a menu of specialty cocktails in an arty setting. After lunch, take a quick walk on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk before hitting the road again.

Drive about an hour-and-a-half east on Highway 17 into Wilmington. Check out the weird collection of oddities at the Museum of the Bizarre. Then, take an evening stroll down the Wilmington Riverwalk and stop for your end-of-day meal at the Rooster & The Crow for easy Southern eats and drinks, the popular Front Street Brewery for microbrews and elevated pub grub, or the cozy The Fork ‘N’ Cork for burgers and a vast selection of wine. After dinner, drive 30 minutes south along the coast to see the holiday light display at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach (from the first weekend in December through New Year’s).

  Be sure to save some time for a walk through Historic Yates Mill County Park to tour the fully restored, circa-1756 gristmill just a short drive from downtown Raleigh.

DAY 2 - 257 miles. Your second day in the Carolinas begins with a scenic drive along coast via US-17 N into Jacksonville and down NC-24 E toward Bogue Sound to the barrier island town of Pine Knoll Shores. Take a tour of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores—one of the state’s premier aquariums. Afterward, head up to Beaufort (just a short drive away) for lunch at the historic Clawson’s 1905 Restaurant & Pub. Next, swing north on Highway 70 and make a quick stop in the town of New Bern for a short visit of The Birthplace of Pepsi Cola—which offers a unique collection of pop memorabilia and a gift shop.

Continue on US-70 W through Goldsboro until you reach the North Carolina capital city of Raleigh. Take a photo-op in front of the North Carolina State Capitol building, and then visit any of the city’s top attractions—including the kid-friendly Marbles Kids Museum or the world-class North Carolina Museum of History and North Carolina Museum of Art. (You might even consider extending your vacation by a day or two to get the full experience.) Feeling famished? Head over to the Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern for upscale American eats in a historic house, or dive into a heaping plate of pit-smoked BBQ favorites at The Pit Authentic Barbecue. Finally, end your day with a drive through either the Piper Lights or Lake Myra Christmas Lights displays (both admission free and running Thanksgiving through Christmas).

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