Here we are again at the start of another year. And this year, perhaps more than ever before, we’re all hoping for a fresh start.
But with overseas travel restrictions still in place and the media’s scare tactics and confusion, all we want to do is get away and forget about it all.
But fear not, because there are plenty of things to look forward to as the new year gets underway. In fact, we’ve got the perfect way to experience the peaceful magic of the winter season in 2021.
I have a theory about human behavior – we’re either warm-weather people or cold-weather people. Sure, sitting on a beach somewhere tropical is always nice, but I fall into the latter group. I absolutely love the peace and stillness of winter.
It’s a time for reflection when things aren’t quite so busy. And I dearly love snow. To my husband and many others, “SNOW” is a four-letter word. To me, it creates a feeling of calm – and everyone has to admit that it’s beautiful to look at.
No matter which group you fall into, you’re stuck with whatever weather pattern comes your way this winter. And if you love winter as I do, you may be looking for a magical way to enjoy it.
Yes, we can still travel as much as time, money, and government regulations will allow. And there are ski resorts and cozy lodges beckoning with fireplaces and deep leather club chairs.
But if you’re not quite up to dealing with the ongoing delays and mandates that come with flying, cruises, or other forms of public transportation, then the Winter Road Trip is a perfect solution.
As American as apple pie…
There is little I can think of that is more American than taking a road trip.
The U.S. is covered with countless miles of highways and scenic backroads, calling travelers to take the road less traveled and dare to dream a little under the deep blue (or black, starry) sky.
While the ‘Great American Road Trip’ is usually associated with summertime – picnics and campgrounds and convertibles – winter brings the opportunity to avoid all the crowds and traffic.
Of course, our great National Parks are all perfect destinations for winter road-tripping – viewing snow-capped peaks and frozen waterfalls, as well as a great deal of wildlife that emerges once most people leave.
Whether it’s Yosemite National Park with its stunning mountain views and nearly 50 miles of winding road, or Yellowstone’s Old Faithful erupting into puffs like fairy dust in the cold air, or the many national parks that run through America’s majestic mountain ranges, these parks offer a true winter wonderland to view by car.
Of course, caution is urged when driving on these sometimes steep and winding roads, and many parks close off the more secluded roads from traffic in the winter.
But most have a list of accessible winter routes on their websites and also offer a guide to the best winter scenes in each park.
Some, like Yellowstone, close most of their roads in the winter months, but offer guided rides in heavy-duty vehicles that tackle the snow with no problem.
Shenandoah National Park is also one in which you can drive secluded winding roads into the mountains, stopping at any of the multiple scenic overlooks to take in the pristine valleys covered in farms and frost.
Its Skyline Drive is appropriately named, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail beckons winter hikers.
Add in some cross-country or downhill skiing, a little out-of-the-way lodge or majestic mountain resort, a roaring fire, and some hot chocolate, and these winter trips will warm anyone’s heart.
Small Town Magic
If you’ve ever watched the often-corny and predictable, but somewhat addicting Hallmark Christmas movies and wished you could step into one of their perfect “small towns” covered in snow, then you can stop dreaming.
These adorable little towns do exist, especially in New England. And Vermont has some of the best to offer for an escape back in time.
Along Vermont’s Route 100, the scenery is breathtaking and the small towns along the way adorable. Mom-and-Pop diners, bakeries, and coffee shops… stores full of timeless treasures… and especially old-fashioned country stores.
Among the most famous you’ll find on this route is the Vermont Country Store, for which you’ve probably seen their vintage-style catalog. My favorite items, of course, are the candies from my childhood (Walnettos, yum!), but there is more to explore, including locally-made goods.
And there are plenty of places to enjoy a glass of hard cider or a local craft beer should you plan to stay over in one of these picturesque little towns – an experience that a quick drive through cannot provide.
This drive will have you feasting your eyes on some of the most stunning winter landscapes in the U.S. – snow-covered fields and icy lakes – with plenty of opportunities for skiing and ice skating.
It’s basically a chance to live in a Norman Rockwell print for a day.
In keeping with the small-town theme, there is nothing more “old-timey” than a rural backroad full of farmhouses and covered bridges.
And when these covered bridges are covered with glistening snow, I can’t think of a better winter road trip.
Parke County, Indiana is the best bang-for-your-buck if you want to drive through these symbols of rural America. Known as the Covered Bridge Capital of the World, there are more than thirty of these timeless structures to enjoy in Parke County.
Many of the traditional redwood structures are original from the nineteenth century, traversing creeks, streams, and rivers, creating a winter landscape of ice sculptures with miniature frozen waterfalls and snow-dusted evergreens.
Can you think of anything more tranquil and serene?
And you’ll never find better photo opportunities for making your friends jealous on social media.
There’s nothing better in the “bleak midwinter” than a peaceful drive along windy roads (and these small towns are used to lots of snow, so they keep the roads as safe as possible), a cup of hot chocolate at a roadside café, and some soothing music, a podcast, or an e-book along the way.
Make a weekend of one of these winter wonderland road trips by finding a quaint little bed and breakfast, mountain lodge, or cabin rental.
Go escape the hectic modern world and sit by the fire for a few hours.
Sure sounds like heaven to me…