3. Minneapolis, MN
While Minneapolis, MN, has such recreational gems as the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, five pro sports teams and miles of cross-country skiing trails, the city's arts scene melts the competition among most other great winter vacation destinations.
Minneapolis has more theater seats per capita than any U.S. city outside of New York. More than 20 theaters stage shows ranging from children's plays and sketch comedy to Off Broadway performances and operas. Crowds at some of the city's top attractions thin out during the winter months, so visitors get more time and elbow room to explore places such as the Minnesota Zoo and the Science Museum of Minnesota. Other indoor hot spots include the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and a pair of indoor water parks. Meanwhile, the five-block Nicollet Mall downtown and the Mall of America both help make shopping in Minneapolis a must. An ample selection of restaurants and bars give Minneapolis visitors plenty of places to eat, drink and socialize with several earning national accolades, such as 112 eatery, Bar La Grassa and Brasa Premium Rotisserie.
If the Minnesota Vikings are not in the pro football playoffs, sports fans still have plenty to cheer for at the start of a new year. The Minnesota Timberwolves, a pro basketball team, and the Minnesota Wild, a pro hockey team, play games from November to April.
Minneapolis' twin city Saint Paul hosts the largest and oldest Winter Carnival in the nation, set for Jan. 23-Feb. 3, 2013.
The city's outdoor sports scene includes ponds for skating, trails for cross-country skiing and hills for sledding. Minneapolis hosts the largest pond hockey championships in January on frozen Lake Nokomis. Many golf courses in the area allow cross-country skiing and the Lebanon Hills Regional Park, in nearby Eagan, has more than 12 miles of ski trails and hosts events like candle-lit trails and nature scavenger hunts. Buck Hill, a ski area south of the Twin Cities, includes a half pipe for snowboarders and tubing hills.
Activities: cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding, tubing, snowboarding, ice fishing, hockey
Average Annual Snowfall: 49 inches
Winter Temps: 11 to 26
Must Try: Ice skating on a pond