5 Cold-Weather Cities Worth a Summer Trip

These popular winter travel destinations may surprise you with their rich, diverse menu of warm-weather activities

Looking Glass Falls at Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina, less than an hour from Asheville, is one of many “winter cities” that offer fantastic options in the summer.


When the snow season hits, many travelers are quick to think of a place like Denver as a hub from which to experience fluffy, powdery snow for fantastic skiing or other icy activities. But winter travel destinations like this are great for cool weather summer vacations too. From mountain adventures in western North Carolina to art tours in Minneapolis, look past these cities’ snowy reputations and you’ll find plenty of fun-filled summer perks.

Have an outdoor adventure (Asheville, North Carolina)

Asheville is a winter travel wonderland with the already-impressive Biltmore Estate on a backdrop of snow and Appalachian skiing just around the corner. But six months later, the higher elevations allow for light mountain breezes, rafting and swimming—making it a wonderful option for cool weather summer vacations. For example, Sliding Rock is a 60-foot natural water slide, a secret among the towering trees and twisting trails of the Pisgah National Forest. It’s not just for kids—parents and grandparents alike line up to experience the rush of the rocky slide, which ends in an 8-foot-deep water pool. Observation decks make for fun people-watching if the slide isn’t the top choice for everyone on your trip. Just two miles away, Looking Glass Falls is one of the more impressive in that part of the Pisgah. When back in town, opt for Rhubarb or Cucina 24, both Food & Wine-approved choices in the too-tough world of deciding where to dine in Asheville.

Jump into a book (Hartford, Connecticut)

The Constitution State is a bit easier to explore in the summer, since it’s not buried beneath the snow that marks the winter travel months. Festival activities mark much of the season, as Hartford celebrates Summer in the City, a diverse art, music and culture fest that takes place June through August. For book lovers, a trip to the city warrants a drop-in to the Mark Twain House, the Victorian Gothic former home of the noted author. Afterward, pop over to the nearby Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, which preserves the legacy of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin author and continues her efforts toward social change.

Find your thrills (Denver, Colorado)

Get a chance to look into the eyes of a reticulated giraffe at the Denver Zoo, which has been open to the public since 1918. Photo Credit: Denver Zoo

Avoid the Colorado snow and ski winter travel crowds with a family trip to the Mile High City for cool weather summer vacations. Have an adventure on the exciting rides at Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park and see world-class art at the Denver Art Museum, which is free for children 5 and under. Spend a day with the animals at the Denver Zoo, where little ones will delight in seeing elephants, tigers and bears. Denver is also filled with festivals in summer, including the Cherry Blossom Festival each June.

Get a history lesson (Buffalo, New York)

Buffalo is no doubt frigid most of the year—ice biking is a thing here—but summer warms up and allows you to experience the outdoors of this winter travel destination in unique ways. If you’ve never visited the western New York area, put a trip to Niagara Falls State Park at the top of your list so you can experience the beauty of this natural wonder. If you want to check out a lesser-known draw, head to Silo City, a campus of historic grain elevators along the Buffalo River. Rent a kayak from Elevator Alley Kayak or Silo City Paddling and learn interesting stories behind the grain industry and how it helped launch Buffalo into one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. in the 19th century.

Enjoy visual and culinary arts (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Join the more than half million people who visit Mia—otherwise known as the Minneapolis Institute of Art—and its free general admission policy every year. Photo Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art

Known during winter travel months for activities like ice fishing, this Twin City is also home to culture-filled, cool weather summer vacations. Since its founding in 1940, the Walker Art Center has collected paintings, sculptures, films, performances, books and artist archives reflective of the time. Not typically an art fan? The Walker is still worth a look for its sculpture garden, which features the cheeky Spoonbridge and Cherry, a large spoon with a cherry balancing on its rim. Also make sure to pay a visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to gaze at its global collection. To combine art, food and culture, check out the American Swedish Institute, where you can see impressive exhibitions and also bite into a Nordic open-faced sandwich or Swedish meatballs.

Ready to travel? Find hotels in Asheville, Hartford, Denver, Buffalo, Minneapolis.




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