Whether you dream of flip-flops and shorts or packing up your skis and snowboards and heading for the slopes, there are many great destinations in the U.S. where you can escape from or enjoy winter. Here are six to consider—three in warm climates and three in cold.?
- Like migrating birds, many people who live in northern latitudes seek the warm of the south during the cold winter months.
- Others, those who enjoy the snow, often seek out locations in the mountains near the ski slopes.
- Here, we highlight six places to consider for a winter home, whether you're a snow bunny or a beach bum.
1. Anna Maria Island, FL
This barrier island in South Florida is just seven miles long and a few blocks wide in some places. Ron Smedley, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and bought a vacation house there in 2007, says, “Anna Maria Island is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and rest our toes in the sand. The island is what ‘Old Florida’ used to be."
Thanks local height restrictions, you won't find huge high-rise condos dotting the beach, just great views of the crystal-clear water. Numerous restaurants offer seafood right off fishermen’s boats.?
When Smedley and his family visit, they spend most of their time at the beach, where, he says, “It’s not surprising to see manatees, dolphins, stingrays, and plenty of other wildlife while we’re looking out at the water.”?
According to Zillow, the median home value for Anna Maria Island was about $2.15 million as of July 2023, down roughly 7% over the past year.?
2. Beaufort, SC?
Beaufort (pronounced Bew-furd, and not to be confused with Beaufort, NC, pronounced Bow-firt) is a great destination for anyone looking for a temperate climate during the winter. Located in South Carolina Lowcountry, the "winters are very mild and allow for plenty of outdoor recreation—inshore fishing is popular as are trips to the nearby beaches, golf, biking, and tennis,” says Edward Dukes, a lifelong resident and owner of Lowcountry Real Estate.
Beaufort was chartered in 1711 and is the second-oldest town in South Carolina. It sits on the Intracoastal Waterway between Charleston and Savannah, which are 60- to 90-minute drives away. Hunting Island, 15 miles from town, offers an “amazing beach, bike paths, and a canal for kayaking, paddle-boarding, and fishing,” says Dukes.
He recommends buying a vacation house right in the town, which is rich with history and Lowcountry architecture and culture and an easy walk to dinner, shopping, and the USCB Center for the Arts. You can also buy properties in nearby gated golf and beach communities and, if you like boating, you can buy in a neighborhood with a community dock.?
Homes in Beaufort had a median value of $365,900 as of July 2023, according to Zillow, up 6.3% over the past year.?
3. Phoenix, AZ
The greater Phoenix area makes outdoor living in the middle of winter easy and fun with plenty of sunshine, little rain, and mild temperatures. Combine golfing, hiking, tennis, biking, and swimming with visits to the Phoenix Art Museum or the Heard Museum dedicated to Native American art and history, or to a performance by the Phoenix Symphony, Ballet Arizona, or the Arizona Opera.?
Phoenix was hit hard during the 2008 housing crisis, and the housing market has been on a tear ever since. According to Troy Reeves, associate broker at RE/MAX, "While housing prices have had growth at a slightly faster than average pace over the last few years, it is mainly fueled by the fact that prices previously were too low and we have been catching up to where we need to be all along."
The median home value in Phoenix was $412,000 as of July 2023, and values have dropped 6.9% over the past year, according to Zillow.
4. Jackson Hole, WY
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a world-renowned ski destination, thanks to 2,500 acres of ski runs and a 4,139 foot vertical drop. In the summer, Jackson Hole hosts dozens of central bankers from around the world at the annual Jackson Hole Economic Symposium.
But downhill skiing is only one choice for getting outside: You can ski cross-country on groomed tracks or into the national parks and forests, snowmobile around nearby Yellowstone National Park, take a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge, dogsled, helicopter ski, snowshoe, and ice skate.
Because 97% of Jackson Hole’s land is currently permanently protected from development, properties on the remaining 3% are pretty scarce. As a result, dollar volume and transactions are extremely high.?
Kelli Ward, a broker at Keller Williams Jackson Hole, says that “Wyoming is one of the friendliest states in the U.S. for people relocating for the purposes of…trusts and overall asset protection.” But “that is just a bonus to some who want to be in Jackson Hole for the beauty of the land.”
That is apparent as soon as you fly into the area airport: It is the only airport in the U.S. located in a national park. Passengers get a look at “huge views of the Tetons, which are absolutely breathtaking” even before their plane has landed, says Ward.
As of July 2023, the median home value listed in Jackson Hole was $3 million, down 14.4% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com.
5. South Lake Tahoe, CA
Lake Tahoe is huge—72 miles around—with ski areas on its north end (in Nevada) and its south end (in California). The South Shore is the livelier of the two, according to Dan Spano, who went there to ski 30 years ago and never left. According to Spano, a broker with Paradise Real Estate, the south end is also somewhat more affordable.
“People are attracted to Lake Tahoe because it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth and the winters are mild compared to resorts in the eastern part of the U.S.,” says Spano. At the Heavenly Mountain Resort area, you can ski two states in one day and enjoy what Spano says is the best snow-making equipment in the area.?
The real estate market in Tahoe is “very strong,” says Spano. “San Francisco Bay Area residents doing well financially are buying second or even third homes before prices go out of sight.”?
The median home value in South Lake Tahoe was $667,800 as of July 2023, down 8.8% over the past year, according to Zillow.
6. Okemo Mountain Resort, Ludlow, VT
Okemo is routinely included in OnTheSnow.com's Best Family Resort in America rankings—so if you’re looking for a family vacation destination, this might be it.
According to Bonnie MacPherson,?communications manager at the resort, Okemo gets this top rating because the family who owns the operation understands that “families are looking for activities they can enjoy together on and off the slopes.”?
The resort boasts options for skiers of every level, available from the top of each chair with 46 miles of trails, 667 skiable acres, and thanks to snowmaking equipment that covers 98% of the mountain, a “weatherproof” ski vacation. Okemo is a three-hour drive from Boston and just under five hours from New York City.?
According to Zillow, the median listing price in Ludlow, Vermont, was $602,600 as of July 2023, up 2.4% over the past year.
The Bottom Line
Whether you like to escape the snow or have fun in it, there are many great destinations to find the perfect winter home. In addition to price, climate, and activities, decide if you will rent out your home when you’re not there. If so, it's a good idea to consider destinations that have plenty to offer year-round.