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Winter Travel

35 ways to love a New England winter

Where to sled, skate, snowshoe, ride a sleigh, hop on the Polar Express, camp, build an igloo, nosh on pie, and much, much more.

Getty Images/Blend Images RM

This article is featured in the Nov. 9 issue of the Magazine.

1 — Grab Your Sleds

Did you get that 6 a.m. robocall announcing school was canceled? Every family has a favorite local hill it heads to on snow days, but the Sugar Bowl near Jamaica Pond offers unique geography to delight sledders. Try to get up enough momentum sliding down one side to slide up  the other.

> Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Boston, 617-522-2700, emeraldnecklace.org/park-overview/jamaica-pond

2 — Take a Sleigh Ride

Dash through the snow at the Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont, during Sleigh Ride Weekend (January 17 to 19) or Sleigh Ride Week (February 14 to 22). Kedron Valley Stables offers private sleigh rides on the 65-acre grounds of the Green Mountain Horse Association; they cost about $150 for four people and require a reservation.


> Billings Farm & Museum, Woodstock, Vermont, 802-457-2355, billingsfarm.org; Kedron Valley Stables, South Woodstock, Vermont, 802-457-1480, kedron.com

3 — Conquer the Slopes

Whether you’re looking for expert terrain (Sugarloaf, Carrabassett Valley, Maine, 207-237-2000, sugarloaf.com), a family-friendly environment (Smugglers’ Notch, Jefferson, Vermont, 802-644-8851, smuggs.com), a place for beginners (Pat’s Peak, Henniker, New Hampshire, 603-428-3245, patspeak.com), or happening apres-ski night life (Killington, Vermont, 802-422-6201, killington.com), you’re sure to find it in New England. But if you’re mad about Alpine skiing, the place to be is Mad River Glen (Fayston, Vermont, 802-496-3551, madriverglen.com), one of only three ski areas in the country that does not allow snowboarding.


4— Enchant Your Tots

Jordan’s Furniture in Avon will again host Enchanted Village, a holiday tradition that once drew thousands of Bostonians to Jordan Marsh in Downtown Crossing. In 2009, Jordan’s bought the custom display and restored it, allowing another generation to gape in wonder at the animatronic holiday scenes (and the “snow” flurries descending from the ceiling). There’s also a 4,000-square-foot indoor faux-ice rink for skating, a laser light show set to holiday music, The Polar Express Motion Odyssey Movie 4-D experience, and, of course, photos with Santa. Don’t miss the blueberry muffins.


> Jordan’s Furniture, Avon, 508-580-4900, jordans.com

5 — Drink Some Hot Cocoa

You can get a passable cup at any Dunkin’ Donuts and a world-class cup at L.A. Burdick in the Back Bay or Harvard Square (burdickchocolate.com). Farther afield, try the aptly named Hot Chocolate Sparrow, a coffee and chocolate bar in Orleans. The Vanilla Bean Cafe is a local institution in Pomfret, Connecticut, in an area chock-full of antiques stores.

> Hot Chocolate Sparrow, Orleans, 508-240-2230, hotchocolatesparrow.com; The Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret, Connecticut, 860-928-1562, thevanillabeancafe.com


6 — Indulge in a Midwinter Splurge

Refresh your mind and tone your body at the Canyon Ranch resort in Lenox, which offers fitness activities and health-and-wellness services all year, including pole hiking, cooking demos, and tai chi. Rates start at $1,630 for two nights, double occupancy, but the cost includes food, spa services, and all activities — and first-time visitors save 20 percent.

> Canyon Ranch Health Resort & Luxury Spa, Lenox, 413-637-4100, canyonranch.com/lenox

Canyon Ranch

7 — Ride the Rails

All aboard! Several railroads within a reasonable drive of Boston offer Polar Express train rides, complete with a reading of the 1985 book, hot chocolate, and a meet-and-greet with the big man in red. Edaville Railroad in Carver will be running two lines this holiday season: one in Carver on the Edaville USA line and one in Hopedale on the Grafton & Upton Railroad.

> Buy tickets at edaville.com — and hurry! The trains fill up fast. (Find other nearby Polar Express trains at raileventsinc.com/polar-express.) Edaville USA, Carver, 508-866-8190, edaville.com


8 — Lace Your Skates

The Boston Common Frog Pond offers daily ice skating for $5 (free for kids) in the winter. The Providence Rink, open seven days a week (usually starting in mid-November), is another popular destination in the heart of a city. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for kids. Up north, try Nestlenook Farm in Jackson, New Hampshire, a 3-acre Victorian-themed skate park festooned with garland, wreaths, and lights.

> Boston Common Frog Pond, Boston, 617-635-2120, bostonfrogpond.com; The Providence Rink, Providence, 401-331-5544, providencerink.com; Nestlenook Farm, Jackson, New Hampshire, 603-383-7101, nestlenookfarm.com

John Tlumacki/Globe staff/file

9 — Catch a Fish

If you’ve ever dreamed of pulling fish out of the ice like a cartoon penguin, then this is for you. Even experienced warm-weather anglers might want to take a guided ice-fishing trip like the ones offered by Northwoods Outfitters. You’ll appreciate the know-how — and the wood-heated fishing house.

> Northwoods Outfitters, Greenville, Maine, 866-223-1380, maineoutfitter.com

10 — Make Like an Inuit

Are your igloo building skills rusty? The Montshire Science Museum in Norwich, Vermont, is holding its annual Igloo Build on February 15 (free with museum admission), complete with instruction from Bert Yankielun, an engineer and author of How to Build an Igloo and Other Snow Structures. For diehard DIYers, you can find a step-by-step how-to on instructables.com/id/how-to-build-an-igloo and become the envy of your neighborhood. Until the first thaw, at least.

> Montshire Science Museum, Norwich, Vermont, 802-649-2200, montshire.org


Montshire Museum

11 — Shred It

Snowboarders will love Jay Peak in Vermont, just south of the Canadian border. Locals talk about the “Jay Cloud,” a mythical meteorological phenomenon that many claim is the reason the peak gets the most snow in eastern North America. The backcountry riding and access to powder is another reason riders flock to this mountain. If everyone in your party isn’t into “shredding the gnar,” Jay Peak also has a massive indoor water park, ice rink, and a spa.

> Jay Peak Resort, Jay, Vermont, 802-988-2611, jaypeakresort.com


12 — Try Snow Tubing

For those who prefer to take their downhill thrills sitting down, many ski resorts offer snow tubing. Check out Nashoba Valley Ski Area (978-692-3033; skinashoba.com) in Massachusetts, Okemo Mountain Resort (800-786-5366; okemo.com) in Vermont, and Yawgoo Valley Ski Area and Waterpark (402-294-3802; yawgoo.com) in Rhode Island. Seacoast Adventure in Windham, Maine, an aerial adventure park (think zip lines and ropes courses), also offers affordable ($18 for single riders; $27 for an adult and child) family snow tubing in generous three-hour blocks. This winter, Seacoast Adventure will open a new restaurant and snack bar.

> Seacoast Adventure, Windham, Maine, 207-892-5952, seacoastadventure.com

13 — See the Lights

Finding light displays can be like a treasure hunt. Christmaslightfinder.com lets you enter your ZIP code to locate spectacles near you (and you can add your own display to the website for others to cruise). In Hartford, the annual Holiday Light Fantasia at Goodwin Park (November 27 to January 1) is a 2-mile-long driving tour ($15 per car) through a multi-denominational extravaganza.


> Holiday Light Fantasia, Goodwin Park, Hartford, holidaylightfantasia.org

14 — Slip Away

The first indoor water park in the United States opened decades ago in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (now known as the water park capital of the world), but the idea has definitely caught on around here. Families can visit with CoCo the parrot at CoCo Key in Danvers, a 65,000-square-foot water park with a Florida theme. Great Wolf Lodge (owned by a resort company based in — you guessed it — Wisconsin) operates a 68,000-square-foot water park in what was formerly a second Massachusetts CoCo Key location in Fitchburg. Child-friendly indulgences at Great Wolf include an arcade, a spa for kids, and indoor mini golf. Prices at winter water parks and their affiliated hotels can be as steep as the slides, so watch Groupon or Amazon Local for deals.

> CoCo Key Boston, Danvers, 978-777-2500, cocokeyboston.com; Great Wolf Lodge New England, Fitchburg, 978-343-9653, greatwolf.com/newengland/waterpark

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/file

15 — Rough It

Show off your Survivor skills with “primitive” tent camping at Acadia National Park in Maine. Be sure to get a camping permit at park headquarters (it’s free). Oh, and bundle up. Temperatures can reach an average low of 14 degrees in January, historically the coldest month. Closer to home, retailer REI (rei.com/outdoorschool) offers a winter survival class at Rocky Woods in Medfield, one of the properties maintained by The Trustees of Reservations (thetrustees.org).

> Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, 207-288-3338, nps.gov/acad/index.htm

National Park Service

16 — Take a Hike — With Santa

On December 13, Santa makes an appearance at Bartholomew’s Cobble, a nature reserve in Sheffield maintained by the Trustees of Reservations, to lead families on a half-mile hike — and to collect Christmas lists. The event is free for adults and $20 per child, which includes a gift from old St. Nick himself. Reserve at 413-229-8600 or rwendell@ttor.org. Find details at thetrustees.org/santahike.

17 — Step Into Snowshoeing

The family-owned Trapp Family Lodge — that’s the von Trapps of “the hills are alive” fame — is an Old World-style resort in Vermont with architecture reminiscent of the Austrian Alps. In the winter, it’s one of New England’s premier snowshoeing destinations, with spectacular views and plenty of well-maintained trails. Tramp out on your own, take a class, or join a tour. Reward yourself at day’s end with a slice of Maria von Trapp’s tasty Linzer torte.

> Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont, 802-760-6325, trappfamily.com


18 — Stop and Smell the Flowers

Get a taste of summer at the Botanical Center in Providence’s Roger Williams Park, where two balmy greenhouses host more than 150 species of plants at the largest public display gardens in New England. Admission is a bargain: $3 for adults, $1 for kids 6 to 12, and free for littler ones.

> Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park, Providence, 401-785-9450, providenceri.com/botanical-center

19 — Attend a Screening

The Salem Film Fest, one of New England’s oldest documentary festivals, runs while March is coming in like a lion (March 5 to 12). Last year’s selections included films about New York street photography and “Calvin and Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson. The Green Mountain Film Festival runs while March is going out like a lamb (March 20 to 29) and includes feature films, documentaries, animation, and shorts.

> Salem Film Fest, Salem, salemfilmfest.com; Green Mountain Film Festival, Montpelier, 802-262-3423, gmffestival.org

20 — Visit Santa at Home

Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire, opens on certain weekends throughout November and December to celebrate Christmas (of course) and New Year’s Eve. During the former, families can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, drink wassail, and even enjoy a select list of rides (weather permitting). Dress warmly; at this time of year, Santa’s Village more than lives up to its North Pole namesake.

> Santa’s Village, Jefferson, New Hampshire, 603-586-4445, santasvillage.com

21 — Find a Room With a Hearth

Winter weather makes a great excuse to stay in and snuggle. All but one of the rooms at Connecticut’s Inn at Stonington feature a fireplace (request one when making a reservation). The inn is located in Stonington Borough, one of the most beautiful seaside villages in New England. Tip: Try entering “fireplace” as a search keyword on innsofnewengland.com to find additional accommodations with in-room fireplaces.

> Inn at Stonington, Stonington Borough, Connecticut, 860-535-2000, theinnatstonington.com

22 — Start Your Engines

Pittsburg, New Hampshire, is the undisputed snowmobile capital of New England, thanks to its 200 miles of trails (some of which connect to Maine, Vermont, and the province of Quebec). Most shops, restaurants, and lodging can be accessed via snowmobile. The Tall Timber Lodge offers packages that include rentals and meals. It also has on-site spa services for anyone who wants to take a break from the trails.

> Tall Timber Lodge, Pittsburg, New Hampshire, 800-835-6343, talltimber.com

23 — Fire Up the Christmas Tree — Literally

The town of Newbury will host a colossal Christmas tree bonfire — safely managed by the local fire department — at Tendercrop Farm, at press time tentatively scheduled for January 10. Nearby on that same day, the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm will be celebrating an open house and selling hot cider and doughnuts.

> Tendercrop Farm, Newbury, 978-462-6972, tendercropfarm.com; Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury, 978-462-2634, historicnewengland.org

24 — Mush the Dogs

Since you can’t exactly rent a team of dogs the way you can rent skis or snowmobiles, many adventure tour companies in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire offer guided mushes. Song in the Woods specializes in customized tours on trails in Abbott and Greenville, Maine. Choose from half-day, full-day or even multi-day trips (lunches and lodging cost extra). Visit the website to see pricing and options.

> Song in the Woods, Abbott, Maine, 207-876-4726, songinthewoods.com

25 — Try Cross-Country Skiing

Each winter, the Leo J. Martin Golf Course in Weston becomes the Weston Ski Track, a cross-country ski (and snowshoe) center just 15 minutes west of Boston. Its 2-kilometer lighted loop allows visitors to ski under the stars. Farther afield, Winding Trails Cross Country Ski Center in Farmington, Connecticut, is a wonderland for anyone skipping the downhill slopes. Its 20 kilometers of trails wind (natch!) through 380 acres of woodland, and they are groomed daily. Both sites include rental facilities, snack bars, and lessons for beginners and experts.

> Weston Ski Track, Weston, 781-891-6575, skiboston.com/skitrack; Winding Trails, Farmington, Connecticut, 860-677-8458, windingtrails.org

Joanne Rathe/Globe staff/file

26 — Tour the Connecticut Wine Trail

Here’s one way to warm up. Most of the 25 vineyards along the Connecticut Wine Trail keep their tasting rooms open all year. Try award-winning wines with names like Pyrrha’s Passion at Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen. Visit ctwine.com for a complete list of vineyards and tastings.

> Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen, Connecticut, 860-201-4654, sunsetmeadowvineyards.com

27 — Celebrate the New Year

Founded in 1976, First Night Boston is the largest and longest-running New Year’s arts festival in the world. In addition to the Grand Procession, 1,000-plus artists participate in more than two dozen events across the city. Details will be posted on firstnightboston.org as the year draws to a close. At Stratton Mountain Resort (800-787-2886; stratton.com) in Vermont, ski in the New Year with kids’ crafts and a family dinner in addition to fireworks, a torchlight parade, and more than 20 other events. Assisted by the founders of First Night Boston, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has been holding first night celebrations since 1986, including a popular battle of the bands (603-433-4398; proportsmouth.org/firstnight.cfm).

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe file

28 — Enjoy a Bumpy Ride

Thrill seekers can take an off-road safari tour in a Pinzgauer, a Swiss Army vehicle that looks like a cross between a jeep and a school bus. The ride gets pretty bumpy, especially in winter, but offers spectacular views, and the seats (even the ceiling!) are padded for safety. The tour, which lasts up to 1½ hours, is offered by New Hampshire’s Alpine Adventures and costs $39 ($18 for kids 3 to 6).

> Alpine Adventures, Lincoln, New Hampshire, 603-745-9911, alpinezipline.com

29 — Take Advantage of Off-Season Pricing

Is summering on the Cape not in the budget? Try booking a popular place in the off-season, when most resorts have special wintertime pricing or packages. Many have indoor pools and on-site dining options, making them great choices for a getaway when the weather is wearisome. On Cape Cod, a stay at the luxurious Chatham Bars Inn costs about half of what it goes for during the high season — and there are usually no multi-night requirements.

> Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham, 508-945-0096, chathambarsinn.com

30 — Eat Some Pie

Rockland (“Pie Town USA”), Maine, will hold its annual Pies on Parade Pie Tour on January 25 with some 45 different varieties (including savory options like shepherd’s pie) at more than 20 venues. Proceeds benefit the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry. Visit historicinnsofrockland.com/pies-on-parade to view the official parade map. Call 207-596-6611 after November 29 for tickets.

31 — Saddle Up

Natchaug State Forest in Eastford, Connecticut, is famous for its horse trails, which are open in the snow (though access can be difficult) for riders equipped with their own steeds. For those not so fortunate, the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm offers trail rides year-round on its stunning eponymous mounts.

> Natchaug State Forest, Eastford, Connecticut, 860-974-1562, www.ct.gov/deep/natchaug; Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm, Fayston, Vermont, 802-496-7141, icelandichorses.com

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Boston Globe


32 — Stowe, Vermont

Perched along the eastern face of Mount Mansfield, Stowe may be the classic New England winter destination: white church spire, covered bridge, inns, top-notch ski resorts, and vistas that will take your breath away. The Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa offers 60 acres of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, a full-service spa with a hydrotherapy waterfall, and an award-winning wine list at the family-friendly Charlie B’s Pub & Restaurant. Off-property, don’t miss the traditional pannenkoeken at the Grey Fox Inn’s Dutch Pancake Cafe. These puffy, eggy delicacies come in sweet or savory varieties, and they’re worth a stop (or two).

> Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, Stowe, Vermont, 802-253-7355, stoweflake.com; Dutch Pancake Cafe, Stowe, Vermont, 802-253-8921, greyfoxinn.com/dining

33 — Newport, Rhode Island

Celebrate like a Vanderbilt this year at the 44th annual Christmas in Newport, a monthlong citywide festival. Many area businesses and organizations host events or activities, including a doorway decorating contest, holiday high tea, and a winter walking tour. Three of the Newport mansions, The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House, are also decorated for the season with Gatsby-level displays of trees, ornaments, and poinsettias.

> Christmas in Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, 401-849-6454, christmasinnewport.org; The Preservation Society of Newport County, Newport, Rhode Island, 401-847-1000, newportmansions.org

The Preservation Society of Newport County/The Preservation Society of Newp

34 — Cornwall, Connecticut

Located in the Litchfield Hills (and along the Connecticut Wine Trail), scenic Cornwall is home to one of the few covered bridges in Connecticut, and it’s a beauty. Crossing the barn-red span over the Housatonic River feels like driving into a postcard. Cornwall also has the state’s oldest ski area, Mohawk Mountain, a small, uncrowded peak that’s great for learners. After skiing and visiting the bridge (and maybe a glass of wine), stay at the circa 1821 Cornwall Inn, where last-minute guests can name their price via e-mail to get a day-of deal.

> Mohawk Mountain, Cornwall, Connecticut, 860-672-6100, mohawkmtn.com; Cornwall Inn, Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut, 860-672-6884, cornwallinn.com

35 — Woodstock, New Hampshire

Woodstock makes a great home base for many Granite State adventures. The Woodstock Inn on Main Street offers lodging options for everything from romantic getaways to family vacations. Try the Rockhead Wellington at the inn’s Woodstock Station Restaurant: juicy meatloaf wrapped in flaky puff pastry. It’s sure to warm you up after a day of skiing on nearby Loon Mountain.

> Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery, Woodstock, New Hampshire, 603-743-3951, woodstockinnnh.com

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Stephanie Tyburski is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.