As the leaves fall and temperatures drop, many travelers flock to New England’s ski resorts and mountain towns to hit the slopes. But what if you want to experience a classic winter wonderland without strapping on a pair of skis? Don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities in New England for a memorable getaway even without hitting the slopes. From historic towns to stunning vistas to world-class cuisine, New England offers charm and adventure for non-skiers and skiers alike. In this article, you’ll discover five of the best New England winter destinations that offer an array of activities for travelers looking to enjoy all the region has to offer in the winter, no skiing required. So leave the skis at home, pack your warmest coat, and get ready to explore some of the most scenic and culturally rich areas of New England this winter.
The Best New England Winter Getaways For Non Skiers
Escape the cold in style! Discover the Best New England Winter Getaways For Non Skiers. Start planning your cozy retreat now!
Discover Newport, Rhode Island
Discover Newport, Rhode Island
If you’re looking for an enjoyable winter escape without the slopes, consider Newport, Rhode Island. Newport offers a plethora of activities for non-skiers during the winter season.
Newport’s coastal location provides opportunities for seal watching and winter birding. Common winter residents include harlequin ducks, eiders, loons, and grebes. The best spots for viewing seals and seabirds are Brenton Point State Park, Castle Hill, and Cliff Walk.
For culture, visit the mansions of Bellevue Avenue. The Breakers, The Elms, and Rosecliff are open for tours year-round. The Newport Art Museum and International Tennis Hall of Fame also make great indoor excursions.
Downtown Newport offers shopping, dining, and entertainment. Peruse the galleries along Thames Street, then warm up with a hot drink at one of the cafes. For nightlife, catch live music at the Newport Blues Cafe or Pour Judgment.
Outdoor recreation abounds even in winter. Go for a hike at Norman Bird Sanctuary or Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. Take a winter stroll or jog along Cliff Walk. Rent kayaks or paddleboards and explore Newport Harbor.
With its combination of natural scenery, culture, food, and activities, Newport has something for everyone to enjoy during the winter season. Discover why Newport was once the premier winter resort for America’s wealthiest families. This charming coastal city awaits your visit.
Explore Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine offers an array of activities for visitors not interested in skiing or snowboarding. As one of America’s coolest small cities, Portland has a vibrant food scene, culture, nightlife, and natural scenery to enjoy year-round.
Explore the Portland Museum of Art
This well-curated museum houses a collection of American, European, and contemporary art in a building with a stunning modern wing. Some of the highlights include works by Picasso, Monet, and Wyeth. Admission to the museum’s permanent collection is always free.
Take a Food Tour
Portland has become a premier food destination, earning it several James Beard Awards. A guided food tour is a great way to sample the city’s culinary offerings. Several companies like Maine Foodie Tours and Culinary Sightseeing Portland offer walking tours that visit some of the best restaurants, breweries, and food producers in the city.
Go on a Brewery Tour
Speaking of breweries, Portland has one of the highest breweries per capita in the U.S. Take a brewery tour with The Maine Brew Bus to get an inside look at some of the most popular craft breweries like Allagash Brewing Company, Foundation Brewing Company and Austin Street Brewery. The tours include samples of several beers at each stop.
Explore the Outdoors
While Portland may be cold in the winter, there are still opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Bundle up and go for a stroll along the Eastern Prom Trail, which offers panoramic views of the harbor. Or check out the Portland Trails system, with over 70 miles of trails for walking, running, biking and snowshoeing. Whale watching tours also continue to operate year-round.
Relax at a Cozy Inn
After a day of exploring, cozy up by a fireplace at one of Portland’s historic inns like The Press Hotel, The Danforth or The Francis. Many boutique hotels and B&Bs in the city feature fireplaces, libraries, and serve delicious home-cooked breakfasts, ideal for a relaxing winter escape.
Visit the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts
The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts offer a perfect winter escape for those looking to avoid the ski slopes. Nestled in the rolling hills and valleys of the Berkshire Mountains, this region is filled with charming small towns, art galleries, farm-to-table restaurants, and cozy inns.
Visit MASS MoCA
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known as MASS MoCA, is one of the largest contemporary art museums in the United States. It hosts innovative exhibits, live music performances, and festivals year-round. The museum’s sprawling campus provides plenty of space for social distancing. After exploring the galleries, grab a bite at Bright Ideas Brewing Co. on site.
Stroll Through Stockbridge
The picture-perfect town of Stockbridge looks like it’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with its main street lined by colonial buildings, cafes, and boutiques. Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum to see the largest collection of Rockwell’s works on display. Then grab lunch at the historic Red Lion Inn, open since 1773. The Inn’s cozy tavern offers casual fare and hot toddies to warm you up.
Relax in Lenox
The charming town of Lenox, known as the “Gilded Age Berkshires,” is filled with Gilded Age mansions like The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home. After touring the grounds, unwind at one of Lenox’s luxury resorts like the historic Wheatleigh or the newly renovated Miraval Berkshires. Both offer farm-to-table dining, full-service spas, and activities like meditation, yoga, and culinary classes.
A winter escape to the Berkshires provides culture, natural scenery, historical attractions, and pampering amenities for a well-rounded getaway. The region’s small-town charm and slower pace make it easy to unwind and de-stress. A visit to the Berkshires in winter will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.
Take in the Scenery in Vermont
Vermont is a winter wonderland, with snow-covered mountains, icy lakes, and quaint villages. Even without skiing or snowboarding, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the scenery.
Take a Scenic Drive
Vermont’s winding roads offer breathtaking views. Two recommended routes are the Mad River Valley Byway, which passes farms, forests and the Mad River, and Route 100, which goes through mountain passes and small towns like Waitsfield and Warren. Pull over at scenic overlooks and walking trails along the way.
Go Snowshoeing or Cross-Country Skiing
For a peaceful winter activity, try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on groomed trails. Many ski resorts like Stowe, Killington and Sugarbush offer trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing with equipment rentals available. You’ll enjoy the quiet sounds of nature and may spot wildlife tracks in the snow.
Visit a Picturesque Town
Charming Vermont towns are perfect for a day of shopping, dining and sightseeing. In Woodstock, visit historic buildings like the Woodstock Inn and the Rockefeller Barn. Stowe, known for its mountain vistas, offers an idyllic main street with cafes, bakeries and craft stores. For a taste of old New England, see the quintessential white steeple church in the center of Manchester Village.
Go Sledding or Tubing
For some outdoor winter fun, go sledding or tubing down a snowy hill. Many ski resorts offer tubing parks with lifts to take you and your tube back to the top. Or find a local sledding hill—popular spots include the hill at the Montpelier High School and the hill behind the library in Brattleboro. A few thrilling rides down the hill will get your heart pumping!
Vermont’s snowcapped peaks, winding roads and picture-perfect villages make for an ideal winter getaway without the crowds of the ski slopes. Bundle up for scenic drives, snowshoe treks, shopping in quaint towns or sledding adventures. The natural beauty and slower pace will leave you feeling refreshed. Experience the wonder of a Vermont winter at your own speed.
Experience the Charm of Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Experience the Charm of Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a delightful winter destination for those not interested in skiing or snowboarding. This historic seacoast town offers a charming escape from the cold with its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, independent shops, and dining options.
Stroll through the quaint downtown, with its brick sidewalks and Federal-style buildings. Some highlights include Prescott Park, a winterized garden, and Strawbery Banke Museum, a 10-acre outdoor history museum depicting life in Portsmouth from the 17th to 19th centuries. The museum grounds remain open in winter for self-guided exploration.
For indoor activities, visit the Museum of New Art for contemporary art, the Portsmouth Athenaeum for a glimpse into history, or catch a show at The Music Hall, a historic performing arts center.
Food options abound in Portsmouth. Enjoy upscale dining at the Rock Rest Lodge or the Library Restaurant, casual fare at the Friendly Toast or Colby’s Breakfast and Lunch, or grab coffee and pastries at Ceres Bakery or Popovers.
Accommodations in Portsmouth provide a cozy base for your winter escape. Consider the centrally located Residence Inn Portsmouth, the boutique Hotel Portsmouth, or the historic Sise Inn. Rates are lower in winter, and some properties offer special seasonal packages.
A quick drive from Boston and Portland, Portsmouth is a quintessential New England town with abundant opportunities for shopping, dining, culture, and history, no skis required. Experience colonial charm and 21st-century comforts in this walkable seaport, and enjoy a peaceful winter getaway in a place where “America’s Story Begins.”
Enjoy the Arts in Northampton, Massachusetts
Northampton is a haven for arts lovers, especially in the winter. Its walkable downtown features numerous museums, galleries, theaters, and music venues in a compact area, perfect for a cold day.
Smith College Museum of Art
The Smith College Museum of Art houses over 25,000 works of art spanning ancient to contemporary. Their collection includes European paintings like Monet’s “The Water Lily Pond” as well as Asian, African, Native American, and Oceanic art. Admission to the museum is always free. In the winter, they host special exhibitions on topics like Mexican modernism or contemporary fiber arts.
Academy of Music Theater
The historic Academy of Music Theater presents musical performances, comedies, dance, and more. Their winter season includes holiday shows like “The Nutcracker” ballet as well as intimate acoustic concerts. Check their schedule for events like comedy shows, indie rock concerts, or classic movies on the big screen.
Northampton has a range of other theaters like the Calvin Theater which hosts nationally touring musical acts and comedians. The Iron Horse Music Hall and the Parlor Room are popular music venues that feature live shows almost every night, from local singer-songwriters to indie rock bands. A number of art galleries like Oxbow Gallery and Paradise City Arts Festival Gallery feature rotating exhibitions of contemporary art.
In between shows, stroll through Northampton’s picturesque downtown, lined with independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. Stop for a coffee at a cafe like The Roost or enjoy an upscale dinner at one of many farm-to-table restaurants. The abundance of culture combined with a charming small-town vibe makes Northampton an ideal winter escape for art enthusiasts. Bundle up, enjoy a show, dine at an amazing restaurant, and soak in the creative spirit of this New England town.
Shop and Dine in Manchester, Vermont
Manchester, Vermont offers plenty of activities for visitors not interested in skiing. As a quintessential New England town, Manchester exudes charm with its historic architecture, independent shops, and farm-to-table dining.
Shop Local Boutiques
Manchester has a charming downtown filled with local boutiques selling Vermont-made goods. Some highlights include Kitchen, Bath & Linen which offers high-quality kitchenware and linens, and Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts, a homemade donut and coffee shop. For book lovers, stop by the Northshire Bookstore, an independent bookstore open since 1976.
Visit Museums and Historic Sites
Gain insight into the area’s history at the American Museum of Fly Fishing or the Southern Vermont Arts Center which houses art galleries, sculpture trails and historic homes. Just south of Manchester, visit Hildene, the former home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln. The estate includes gardens, nature trails and a vintage Pullman car.
Dine at Farm-to-Table Restaurants
Manchester has a fantastic food scene with many farm-to-table restaurants. Harvest Market offers upscale yet casual farm-to-table fare made from locally-sourced ingredients. For rustic Italian, try Trattoria Delia or visit the cozy Upstairs Cafe for American bistro fare.
Take a Gallery Tour
With over 20 art galleries, Manchester has become a cultural destination for art lovers. Take a self-guided walking tour to discover paintings, pottery, jewelry, and more from local artists. Some highlights include the Mill Gallery which features fine art and crafts, and the Southern Vermont Arts Center.
Manchester provides a perfect winter escape for those looking to avoid the slopes. With a charming historic downtown, farm-to-table dining, shopping, museums, and art galleries, there are plenty of ways to experience the quintessential Vermont town. Enjoy your trip and be sure to sample some maple syrup, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and craft beer along the way!
Relax in Lenox, Massachusetts
Lenox, Massachusetts is an idyllic New England town to escape to in the winter, even without skiing. Nestled in the Berkshire Mountains, Lenox offers a quintessential small-town feel with historic architecture, boutique shopping, and dining along its quaint main street. You’ll find plenty of ways to unwind and de-stress amid the peaceful surroundings.
Relax at a Luxury Spa
After a day of exploring the town, pamper yourself at the renowned Canyon Ranch or Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Both offer luxury spa services like massages, facials, acupuncture, as well as yoga and fitness classes. You can even stay on-site at Canyon Ranch’s hotel for a wellness getaway.
Stroll Through Picturesque Gardens
The Berkshire Botanical Garden has beautiful themed gardens open year-round for strolling. The winter garden and rose garden provide pops of color even in the snow. The Pleasure Garden has scenic walking paths, a pond, and a charming cottage-style garden house. Entry to the gardens is free in the winter, perfect for a budget-friendly escape.
Browse Art Galleries and Museums
Art enthusiasts will love the array of galleries and museums in Lenox like the Norman Rockwell Museum, showcasing the largest collection of Rockwell’s works. Shakespeare & Company, a theater company founded in 1978, offers tours and performances. Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum provides a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the era.
Cozy Up By a Fireplace
After being out in the crisp air, warm up by a fireplace in one of Lenox’s cozy inns, B&Bs, or restaurants. Enjoy a hot toddy or cocoa while reading a book or chatting with friends or loved ones. Some places like Wheatleigh, Blantyre, and Gateways Inn offer complimentary afternoon tea or sherry by the fire.
A winter escape to Lenox provides the perfect opportunity to slow down, de-stress and reconnect without the usual bustle of crowds. The combination of outdoor recreation, culture, dining, and relaxation in an idyllic small-town setting makes it an ideal getaway for non-skiers seeking solace in the snow.
New England Winter Getaways for Non Skiers FAQs
If you’re planning a winter getaway to New England but not interested in skiing or snowboarding, there are still plenty of options to enjoy a fun vacation. Here are some of the top FAQs about winter destinations for non-skiers in New England:
What are some of the best winter destinations for non-skiers in New England?
Some of the best New England winter getaways for non-skiers include:
- Newport, Rhode Island: This coastal town offers beautiful beaches, Gilded Age mansions, shopping, dining, and a vibrant nightlife in the winter. You can go sightseeing, visit museums, or just cozy up in a B&B.
- Portland, Maine: Maine’s largest city has a charming downtown, lighthouses, museums, shopping, craft breweries, and amazing seafood. It’s a perfect winter escape for foodies, culture vultures and those who want to experience the rustic beauty of the Maine coast.
- Stowe, Vermont: While Stowe is a popular ski town, it also appeals to non-skiers with activities like snowshoeing, ice skating, sleigh rides, snow tubing, shopping, dining and craft beverages. The village has a very New England vibe with covered bridges and steepled churches.
- Provincetown, Massachusetts: At the tip of Cape Cod, P-town is lively even in winter with its vibrant art scene, nightlife, shopping, whale watching, and dune tours. The beaches are stunning when blanketed in snow and the crowds have dwindled, so it’s a peaceful time to visit.
What types of activities are there for non-skiers?
There are many activities for non-skiers to enjoy in New England during winter, such as:
- Sightseeing at attractions like historical villages, lighthouses, museums and shopping districts
- Outdoor adventures like snowshoeing, ice skating, sleigh rides, snow tubing
- Whale watching and seal cruises
- Visiting local breweries, distilleries, wineries and farm-to-table restaurants
- Relaxing at a cozy bed and breakfast, inn or hotel
- Exploring small towns and villages with covered bridges, steepled churches and antique shops
- Strolling the beaches for a peaceful winter walk along the coast
What is the weather like for non-skiers?
Winter weather in New England can vary, but average high temperatures are in the 30s Fahrenheit. Be prepared for very cold weather, especially in more mountainous areas, so pack warm coats, hats, gloves and insulated shoes or boots. The coastal towns may be slightly warmer, but winds can add an extra chill, so dressing in layers is recommended.
As you can see, New England offers a wealth of enjoyable winter getaway options for those who prefer not to ski or snowboard. Whether you want to soak in the stunning natural scenery, experience the region’s rich history and culture, indulge in delicious food and drink, or simply cozy up fireside with a good book, there are many inviting places to escape the cold. The stunning coastal vistas of Maine, the historic small towns of Vermont, the culinary delights of Massachusetts, the natural wonders of New Hampshire – all are within easy reach for a quick winter break that won’t require thermal undergarments. So don’t hibernate this winter – instead, get out and discover the charm of New England. Its snow-covered landscapes, peaceful solitude, and slower pace of life in the off season will warm your spirit. You’ll return home relaxed, recharged, and eager to plan your next wintertime New England getaway.