Virginia has plenty of things to do during winter break and all winter long that are fun for the whole family, like snow tubing, first day hikes, whale watching, and winter festivals. Here are the 15 fun bucket list ideas you’ll want to check off before the end of winter.
1. Soak in Mineral Hot Springs
At The Omni Homestead, go for a soak in the Warm Springs Pools (formerly the Jefferson Pools) at the resort’s iconic 19th-century bathhouses. Fed by four warm springs, the natural healing pools re-opened in December 2022 after a multi-million dollar renovation. Pair a relaxing 50-minute soak in the natural springs with a massage, facial, or manicure at the resort’s on-site spa.
2. Go Snowshoeing
At Bryce Resort in Basye, guide-led snowshoe tours set off on select evenings in December, January, and February. Snowshoes and trekking poles are included, making this a perfect beginner-friendly outdoor adventure for snow lovers in the winter months. Even better, a warm and toasty cup of hot cocoa is included as a post-adventure reward.
3. Take a Winter Hike
Hiking in winter is magical--It’s quiet and serene, you can see for miles on a blue sky day, and it’s a great way to get out of the house. If you’re lucky, you may encounter a frozen waterfall, like Cascades Falls in Pembroke or Apple Orchard Falls in Bedford. Summit hikes are also a delight in winter when the trails and peaks are less crowded. Shenandoah National Park has more than a dozen peak hikes with spectacular views, including Mary’s Rock and Bearfence Mountain.
4. Go Snow Tubing
There are more than a few places across the state ready to cater to your desire to hurtle along a snow tubing run in winter. Wintergreen Resort is home to The Plunge, Virginia’s largest snow tubing park, which spans the length of three football fields. You can also grab a tube at Massanutten Resort, Bryce Resort and The Omni Homestead. The runs can be busy on weekends, so it’s best to book ahead of time.
5. Sit Down for a Formal Afternoon Tea
It may be chilly outside, but you’ll be warm and cozy inside as you enjoy formal tea service, complete with a seasonal pot of tea, finger sandwiches, and sweet treats at Draper Blooms Tea Garden in Draper. Alternatively, book an afternoon tea service with classic scones, local fruit preserves, and elegant tea sandwiches at The Tea Cart, a formal tea room with locations in Berryville and Winchester.
6. Go Skiing or Snowboarding
Virginia has four ski areas with ski runs for all levels, private and group-style lessons, and all the rental equipment you need, including skis, helmets, boots, and poles. At Massanutten Resort, look for a brand-new lift, Peak Express, and a new double black diamond ski run called No Hessitation. Wintergreen Resort welcomes snow bunnies with a terrain park and 26 ski runs, many of which are open for night skiing. You’ll also find plenty of great skiing at Bryce Resort and The Omni Homestead.
7. Cozy Up in a Cabin
Winter is the perfect time to rent a cabin or cottage in the woods for a cozy weekend in front of a roaring fire. Known as the “Cabin Capital of Virginia,” Luray has plenty of options. In fact, Page County boasts more than 400 rental cabins, many with mountain views and easy access to wooded hiking trails. Many of Virginia’s state parks also have cabins, as do some resorts across the state, including Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan, which has three treehouse-style cabins.
8. Go Ice Skating
Of course, you can go ice skating year-round at an indoor ice arena, but there’s something magical about skating a few laps at an outdoor ice rink, like the rink at Pentagon Row in Arlington. It’s the largest outdoor ice arena in Northern Virginia. You may also want to check out outdoor rinks at Liberty Ice Pavilion in Williamsburg and Elmwood on Ice in Roanoke. Where available, it’s a good idea to make a reservation ahead of time.
9. Splash at an Indoor Water Park
On a cold wintry day, it’s hard to beat an indoor water park with slides, a lazy river, a zero-entry pool, and a water playground. Certainly, it’s perfect when the kids need to unplug from their devices and burn off some energy. For indoor water park fun, look to Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg or Massanutten Resort in McGaheysville. Hours of splishing, splashing, sliding, and swimming fun are practically guaranteed in the winter months.
10. Go Whale Watching
Winter is high season for whale watching in Virginia Beach. From December through early-March, you may see humpback whales swimming in the ocean waters off the coastline, slapping their tails and breaching out of the water. Book a two-hour whale watching cruise with Rudee Tours or set out on a winter boat tour at the Virginia Aquarium.
11. Get Wet at a Polar Plunge
Take an icy dip on one of the coldest days of the year as part of a Polar Plunge. There are six Polar Plunge events in Virginia, including Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Fairfax, which raise money for Special Olympics Virginia. All you have to do as a “plunger” is commit to raising $100. As your reward, you get to run or jump into an ice-cold ocean, river, lake, or swimming pool.
12. Complete a First Day Hike or 5K
Kick off the new year right with a first-day hike or New Year’s Day 5K on January 1st. Many of Virginia’s state parks host ranger-led hikes, including Sky Meadows in Delaplane, First Landing in Virginia Beach, and Mason Neck in Lorton. They’re a great way to get outside in nature as a family on the first day of the year. There are also New Year’s Day 5Ks across the state, including races and fun runs in Reston, Newport News, Ashburn, and Richmond.
13. Try a New Restaurant During Restaurant Week
Winter is a great time to get out of the house to try new restaurants and cuisines. It’s a bonus that Restaurant Week takes place in January and February across Virginia, including Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg, and Roanoke. At participating restaurants, look for multi-course and fixed price menus, like $10 for lunch or $35 for dinner. As you can imagine, reservations are encouraged.
14. Watch an Ice Hockey Game
Bundle up for an ice hockey game and cheer on your local high school, college, or minor league hockey teams, like the Norfolk Admirals and the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. More than two dozen colleges and universities across Virginia also have ice hockey teams, including Virginia Tech, George Mason University, and James Madison University. It’s a fun way to support winter sports!
15. Attend a Winter Festival
Winter is a great time to go to a festival, like the Winter Wildlife Festival in Virginia Beach or the Winter Blues Jazz Fest in Williamsburg. Bundle up and get out to a family-friendly festival, many of which offer live music, arts and crafts, food and drink, and kid-focused activities. Many have warm drinks too, like hot chocolate.
16. Sample Delicious Vintages at a Virginia Winery Tasting Room
A trip to a few wineries is often considered for spring, summer, and fall, but many wineries have extra-cozy tasting rooms with fireplaces, comfy couches, and delicious wines to warm you up. Book a trip with a wine tour company for an easy, pre-planned expedition, like Spirited Tours out of Washington D.C. or Monticello Wine Tour in the Charlottesville area.