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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

November 2011 - Great Winter Destinations

In this issue:

Welcome to the November issue of USATourist News Magazine. Winter is upon us in the United States! This means ski resorts are open and other snow activities are or will soon be in full-swing. This month we're going to feature some of our favorite winter destinations and things to do. Of course, not everyone likes the cold which means the southern states do see their share of annual winter visitors. So we'll point out some great destinations in those warmer areas, too.

Skiing Copper Mountain

Copper Mountain in the Colorado Rockies is one of the many outdoor playgrounds for ski enthusiasts.
© Matt Inden / Weaver Multimedia Group and Colorado Tourism Office

Skiing coast to coast

As one of the prettiest areas in the country, the New England region consists of six states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Like many other snow-laden states, this region has its share of down-hill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snow tubing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, dog sledding, and snowmobiling. There are plenty of towns to choose from but Maine's Sugarloaf Mountain Resort is the largest ski resort west of the Rocky Mountains.

Speaking of the Rockies, we've highlighted cities and towns along this major mountain range numerous times over the years. The range spans 3,000 miles (4,830 km) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, Canada, down to New Mexico. In the United States, Rockies' ski resorts can be found in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The snow in these resorts is fantastic with many ski towns boasting they have the best "powder" which refers to deep, fluffy, dry snow. Gunnison-Crested Butte has some of the best ski resorts in Colorado.

Further west, there's even more skiing found in California, Oregon and Washington. In California head to the Pacific Ranges which include the Sierra Nevada, California Cascade, and San Bernardino Mountains. In Washington winter activities are found in the Olympic, Cascade, Blue and Selkirk mountains. The state of Oregon has 12 ski areas with over 400 runs and claims to have the longest ski season in North America.

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center is a popular activity for tourists and residents alike.
© Mike Leco / USATourist.com

Dancing on ice

Ice skating is another classic winter activity. Of course, some locations make it possible to do this year-round such as at the Galleria in Dallas or Ice at the Galleria in Houston.

Indoor rinks are also popular year-round in Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, Illinois, and North Dakota but if you visit during the cold months, ice skating rinks seem to appear on every corner in these states. Frozen ponds in neighborhood parks are transformed into skating and hockey rinks and manmade rinks are formed in urban areas including in many cities' downtown areas.

One of the most famous outdoor ice rinks is New York's Rockefeller Center Ice Rink where over a quarter-million people skate every year. Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink, both in Central Park and The Pond in Bryant Park are other outdoor rinks in the Big Apple.

You'll also find skating opportunities in the mountains; one of the most scenic rinks is located at the top of the Lionshead Gondola in Vail, Colorado.

Avoiding the cold

It's true that cold weather is not for everyone. However, you can still visit the United States during the winter and, unless it's an unusual year, you can avoid the bone-chilling temperatures. Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California welcome visitors year after year during the winter months due to their comfortable temperatures. You may hear the term "snowbirds" while visiting; this refers to the US residents who move to the south during the winter and return to the north when the snow starts to melt. Cities such as Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix are especially favored by retirees for their mild climate and abundance of golf courses.

The Sunshine State

Flights to Florida are almost always full November through April. The northerners love to escape to the south so they can shed their layers of clothes and feel the sun on their faces. The furthest point south is Key West where the average winter temperatures are in the 60-70s (15-21c). The Keys are ideal for typical beach and water activities like swimming, jet skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving and excursions such as Dry Tortugas National Park the most inaccessible park in the USA.

Snowshoeing in the Cascade Mountains

Just a short drive outside of Seattle is a winter paradise. The Cascade Mountain Range is popular for all types of activities, including showshoeing.
© Michelle Leco / USATourist.com

Follow those birds!

McAllen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley sits on the Mexican-American border and is popular with campers and recreational vehicle (RV) travelers - there are over 40 RV parks. There are many hiking and biking opportunities but the highlight of the region is bird watching, especially during the hummingbird and other species migrations. The World Birding Center is a network of nine birding sites situated along a 120-mile historic river road.

Theme Parks

Some theme parks in the northern states have to close during the winter months due to the cold, wet weather. However, in the southern regions the theme parks can stay open year-round. All you have to do is dress a little warmer and watch the weather forecast for rain. You will find that crowds are lighter during these months and overall costs are lower.

Disneyland (California) and Disney World (Florida) both stay open daily during the winter. In other regions, such as Texas, the parks are open only on weekends. Sea World is one example where the Florida and California locations are open daily but limited hours at the Texas location. Always check the website or call to verify a theme park's open days and hours.

Arizona has a little of everything

If you'd like to experience some snow play and some nice days on the golf course, Arizona is the place to go. Phoenix really is at its best during the winter months. Parks and walking paths are busy and running and bike races are frequently held on the weekends. Only a couple of hours from Phoenix is the eclectic and beautiful town of Sedona, with its red rocks and artsy shops. Winter is considered off-season for this town, but the temperatures are still mild and the occasional light snow adds a nice touch to the already pretty scenery.

Further north is the college town of Flagstaff. This little mountain town is home to the Arizona Snowbowl, the best skiing in the state. A fun place to stay in the area is the Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins which are only seven miles northwest of Flagstaff on Hwy 180, at the base of Snowbowl Road.

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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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