The 32 most affordable winter vacation spots in the US

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is beautiful in the wintertime.

caption
Grand Rapids, Michigan, is beautiful in the wintertime.
source
Boundless Images/Shutterstock
  • WalletHub compiled a list of the cheapest and most accessible winter vacation spots in the US.
  • They examined factors such as travel and local costs, cold weather activities, and weather.
  • Chicago, Illinois, was the top destination, followed by Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Some people like to escape to warm vacation spots during the winter months – but if you’d rather be ice skating, skiing, and sipping hot chocolate, here are 32 places to enjoy the cold and still have enough money to buy everybody holiday gifts.

WalletHub analyzed the most populated US metropolitan areas and then compiled a list of the cheapest and most accessible winter destinations based on 37 metrics falling under six main categories:

  1. Travel costs and hassles (cost and duration of cheapest flights, number of delayed flights, etc.)
  2. Local costs (cost of a three-star hotel room, average cost of a two-person meal, taxi fare, etc.)
  3. Attractions (number and diversity of attractions)
  4. Weather (based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking)
  5. Cold weather activities (ice skating rinks per capita, proximity of ski slopes, etc.)
  6. Safety (motor vehicle crash deaths, violent crime rate, etc.)

Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, 100 being the best. WalletHub then determined the weighted average across all metrics to calculate a total score for each city.

Here are 32 affordable places to travel to this winter, ranked.


32. Worcester, Massachusetts

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Barcroft Tower in Worcester.
source
Salvan/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank (compared to the most populated metropolitan areas in the US): 32nd

Local costs rank: 28th

Attractions rank: 30th

Weather rank: 21st

Cold weather activities rank: 29th

Safety rank: 4th

Total score: 36.33


31. Albany, New York

caption
The Albany skyline.
source
Carol Bell/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 30th

Local costs rank: 29th

Attractions rank: 29th

Weather rank: 24th

Cold weather activities rank: 28th

Safety rank: 11th

Total score: 37.24


30. Hartford, Connecticut

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The Rose Gardens and Gazebo in Elizabeth Park in Hartford during winter.
source
Laura Stone/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 26th

Local costs rank: 31st

Attractions rank: 31st

Weather rank: 4th

Cold weather activities rank: 31st

Safety rank: 15th

Total score: 43.65


29. Buffalo, New York

caption
Niagara Falls in the winter.
source
Svetlana Ageeva/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 23rd

Local costs rank: 19th

Attractions rank: 26th

Weather rank: 32nd

Cold weather activities rank: 19th

Safety rank: 13th

Total score: 44.77


28. Providence, Rhode Island

caption
Landmark homes in Providence, Rhode Island.
source
Joy Brown/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 29th

Local costs rank: 25th

Attractions rank: 27th

Weather rank: 13th

Cold weather activities rank: 25th

Safety rank: 5th

Total score: 44.83


27. Bridgeport, Connecticut

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A frozen beach at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
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LBSimms Photography/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 31st

Local costs rank: 12th

Attractions rank: 32nd

Weather rank: 8th

Cold weather activities rank: 30th

Safety rank: 7th

Total score: 44.83


26. Rochester, New York

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Highland Park in Rochester, New York.
source
George Raymond Gibbs/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 28th

Local costs rank: 8th

Attractions rank: 25th

Weather rank: 31st

Cold weather activities rank: 15th

Safety rank: 12th

Total score: 45.17


25. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

caption
The Milwaukee Art Museum.
source
James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 19th

Local costs rank: 22nd

Attractions rank: 14th

Weather rank: 25th

Cold weather activities rank: 24th

Safety rank: 31st

Total score: 46.47


24. Detroit, Michigan

caption
An aerial view of Detroit.
source
Agnieszka Gaul/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 2nd

Local costs rank: 9th

Attractions rank: 24th

Weather rank: 28th

Cold weather activities rank: 32nd

Safety rank: 26th

Total score: 47.90


23. Grand Rapids, Michigan

caption
The Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
source
Boundless Images/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 20th

Local costs rank: 3rd

Attractions rank: 28th

Weather rank: 30th

Cold weather activities rank: 26th

Safety rank: 8th

Total score: 48.23


22. Salt Lake City, Utah

caption
Salt Lake City surrounded by mountains.
source
Mitch Johanson/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 27th

Local costs rank: 18th

Attractions rank: 21st

Weather rank: 18th

Cold weather activities rank: 8th

Safety rank: 19th

Total score: 49.46


21. Cleveland, Ohio

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The Detroit-Superior Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio.
source
Jennifer Ickes/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 7th

Local costs rank: 10th

Attractions rank: 20th

Weather rank: 29th

Cold weather activities rank: 18th

Safety rank: 20th

Total score: 51.53


20. Louisville, Kentucky

caption
A rural area in Louisville.
source
Vicki L. Miller/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 12th

Local costs rank: 15th

Attractions rank: 15th

Weather rank: 26th

Cold weather activities rank: 16th

Safety rank: 24th

Total score: 51.94


19. Omaha, Nebraska

caption
Downtown Omaha.
source
Steve O’Donnell/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 18th

Local costs rank: 2nd

Attractions rank: 23rd

Weather rank: 20th

Cold weather activities rank: 23rd

Safety rank: 27th

Total score: 53.23


18. Baltimore, Maryland

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The Patterson Park Pagoda in the Baltimore snow.
source
Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 15th

Local costs rank: 23rd

Attractions rank: 10th

Weather rank: 11th

Cold weather activities rank: 22nd

Safety rank: 28th

Total score: 53.26


17. Indianapolis, Indiana

caption
A holiday light tunnel in Indianapolis, Indiana.
source
Ashley Keller/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 11th

Local costs rank: 6th

Attractions rank: 19th

Weather rank: 19th

Cold weather activities rank: 17th

Safety rank: 29th

Total score: 54.72


16. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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An outdoor skating rink in downtown Pittsburgh.
source
Byelikova Oksana/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 17th

Local costs rank: 17th

Attractions rank: 16th

Weather rank: 21st

Cold weather activities rank: 12th

Safety rank: 3rd

Total score: 55.50


15. Minneapolis, Minnesota

caption
Views from the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.
source
Sam Wagner/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 1st

Local costs rank: 21st

Attractions rank: 12th

Weather rank: 27th

Cold weather activities rank: 14th

Safety rank: 10th

Total score: 55.82


14. Columbus, Ohio

caption
Downtown Columbus.
source
Randall Vermillion/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 6th

Local costs rank: 5th

Attractions rank: 18th

Weather rank: 17th

Cold weather activities rank: 21st

Safety rank: 16th

Total score: 57.09


13. Kansas City, Missouri

caption
Christmas lights in Kansas City.
source
Scruggelgreen/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 9th

Local costs rank: 14th

Attractions rank: 22nd

Weather rank: 3rd

Cold weather activities rank: 27th

Safety rank: 30th

Total score: 57.23


12. Seattle, Washington

caption
The iconic Seattle skyline.
source
Checubus/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 24th

Local costs rank: 26th

Attractions rank: 1st

Weather rank: 15th

Cold weather activities rank: 6th

Safety rank: 21st

Total score: 57.62


11. Albuquerque, New Mexico

caption
A tram car in the mountains in Albuquerque.
source
makeitahabit/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 21st

Local costs rank: 1st

Attractions rank: 13th

Weather rank: 1st

Cold weather activities rank: 20th

Safety rank: 32nd

Total score: 59.64


10. Portland, Oregon

caption
Mt. Hood National Forest near Portland.
source
Patrick Tr/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 25th

Local costs rank: 16th

Attractions rank: 2nd

Weather rank: 16th

Cold weather activities rank: 5th

Safety rank: 17th

Total score: 59.87


9. New York, New York

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New York’s Central Park in the snow.
source
MISHELLA/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 22nd

Local costs rank: 32nd

Attractions rank: 5th

Weather rank: 10th

Cold weather activities rank: 2nd

Safety rank: 2nd

Total score: 61.85


8. Cincinnati, Ohio

caption
Findlay Market in Cincinnati.
source
Stephanie A Sellers/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 5th

Local costs rank: 4th

Attractions rank: 17th

Weather rank: 14th

Cold weather activities rank: 11th

Safety rank: 9th

Total score: 62.07


7. St. Louis, Missouri

caption
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
source
Bandersnatch/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 14th

Local costs rank: 7th

Attractions rank: 9th

Weather rank: 7th

Cold weather activities rank: 9th

Safety rank: 22nd

Total score: 63.07


6. Boston, Massachusetts

caption
Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
source
Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 10th

Local costs rank: 30th

Attractions rank: 3rd

Weather rank: 12th

Cold weather activities rank: 13th

Safety rank: 1st

Total score: 63.47


5. Denver, Colorado

caption
A view of snow-covered City Park and mountain ranges behind Denver’s skyline.
source
Bridget Calip/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 13th

Local costs rank: 13th

Attractions rank: 8th

Weather rank: 9th

Cold weather activities rank: 7th

Safety rank: 23rd

Total score: 64.28


4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

caption
A Christmas market in Philadelphia.
source
CEW/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 16th

Local costs rank: 24th

Attractions rank: 6th

Weather rank: 6th

Cold weather activities rank: 10th

Safety rank: 14th

Total score: 64.58


3. Atlanta, Georgia

caption
Atlanta in the snow.
source
Image Alleviation/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 3rd

Local costs rank: 20th

Attractions rank: 11th

Weather rank: 2nd

Cold weather activities rank: 3rd

Safety rank: 25th

Total score: 68.10


2. Washington, DC

caption
The Jefferson Memorial.
source
Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 8th

Local costs rank: 27th

Attractions rank: 7th

Weather rank: 5th

Cold weather activities rank: 4th

Safety rank: 6th

Total score: 68.19


1. Chicago, Illinois

caption
Ice skating in Chicago.
source
MarynaG/Shutterstock

Travel costs and hassles rank: 8th

Local costs rank: 27th

Attractions rank: 7th

Weather rank: 5th

Cold weather activities rank: 1st

Safety rank: 18th

Total score: 68.19