The U.S. east coast is a bounty of beauty—with hundreds of miles of pristine shoreline, picturesque mountain ranges, and vast spaces of greenery to explore. July crowds know all about these places. But in the chillier, quieter off-season months of winter, these summer-geared towns, parklands, and offshore islands offer a completely different vibe for visitors venturing onto their frost-dusted slopes and shores.
Seasoned travelers know that when many of these summer destinations appear to be hibernating over the colder months, it’s a golden opportunity to explore them at a different pace—and price. For a fresh, peaceful, underappreciated perspective, winter may be your new favorite time to revisit these eight spectacular spots.
1. Cape Cod, MA
This beach-strewn, New England landscape attracts hordes of sun-seekers during the spring and summer. Come winter, its cool, moody coastline offers a different sort of charm—one where you won’t be fighting traffic or facing peak hotel fares. You’ll have the beaches to yourself and with surprisingly temperate weather, you can still enjoy the outdoors—from strolls in the sand to quiet trails accented with lighthouses. Many businesses in the Cape do close-up shop for the winter, but each town has its regular dive and restaurant that will welcome you—like a local—with open arms.
Where to stay: In February 2023, Wequassett Resort will debut for its first off-season, officially opening year-round. Located in Harwich, around the “elbow” of the Cape, the stately resort ensures you’ll have prime access to waterfront views, first-class dining, hot tubs, and in-room fireplaces. For a more intimate option, Chatham Inn is a cozy Relais & Chateaux property with warm wooden interiors and a renowned onsite restaurant, Cuvée.
2. Great Smoky Mountains, TN
Summer hiking hogs much of the spotlight in the Smoky Mountains, but that southern heat can be less than idyllic. Why not plan an outdoorsy visit here in the off-season? Open year-round, there are a variety of trails here that cater to winter hikers, especially given the milder weather compared to those frigid mountains up in the northeast. Though frost and snow do fall, you’ll more likely only need a sweatshirt and beanie to keep you insulated on easy and intermediate hikes.
Where to stay: Tucked in the Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN, puts the ease in hiking, with trails within steps of your rooms’ doorstep. Though naturalists will appreciate the property’s tranquil setting, the Farm is also a culinary and spa-lovers’ dream, with its James Beard award-winning restaurant serving hearty Appalachian cuisine and treatments specifically designed for soothing winter skin for a well-rounded off-season retreat.
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