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A guide to winter travel in Northern Virginia and beyond

There are plenty of reasons to travel during the colder months, regardless of the potential weather mishaps. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family affair or a new adventure, here’s what you need to know.

three kids standing on snowy mountain in front of car with map and binoculars
© skumer / adobestock.com

From the Publishers of Northern Virginia Magazine // Written by Jess Feldman and Jennifer Zeleski

That post-holidays stretch of winter weather doesn’t have to be hibernation season. There are plenty of places in Northern Virginia and just beyond where you can enjoy the colder months. Whether you’re a risk-taker, a romantic or in search of fun for the whole family, there’s something for everyone to enjoy this winter. Here, we share tips for it all.

two people in red on a ski lift with a snow covered mountain in the background
© anatoliy_gleb / adobestock.com

For the Adventurer

If you love heights, sports and being physically active, then you probably have plans to hit the slopes this winter. Before visiting one of the region’s nearby ski resorts, check out these simple yet effective safety precautions to ensure a successful trip.

Always wear a helmet
Even the strongest adrenaline junkies will benefit from this small but mighty accessory.

Make sure your equipment is correct for your designated sport, as well as properly fitted
According to several studies, wrist and ankle injuries are more common among snowboarders, whereas skiers are more likely to experience knee injury during a fall.

Apply sunscreen
Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean the powerful rays of the sun won’t get to your skin. Plus, it may even help you avoid a goggle tan.

kid sledding down a snowy hill with blue hat and red tube
© nadezhda1906 / Adobestock.com

For the Whole Family

Finding an activity that the entire family will enjoy—especially in the winter—is hard to do. But there’s one thing that parents, teens and little ones alike can all have fun with: snow tubing. For those who have never done it, here’s what you need to know.

Wear skiing attire
While less complex and dangerous, tubing still requires the appropriate clothing to keep you warm and safe as you glide down the mixed conditions of a snow-covered hill. That means gloves, hat, boots and all.

Pick a meeting place
No matter where you and the kids decide to go for tubing this winter, there will most likely be crowds that have the same idea as you. In case you get separated at any point throughout the trip, pick a meeting place from the very start.

Bring a change of clothes
After a few hours of repeatedly sliding down a snowy peak on an inflatable tube, your kiddos are bound to get some snow on their underclothes. To ensure they stay warm all day long, bring a second outfit to change into following the fun.

couple looking at candles and lights
© Syda Productions / adobestock.com

For the Romantics

One of the best parts of spending a day outdoors in the snowy landscape of the region is when you can’t feel your hands anymore, and it’s time to make your way inside. Why? Because in most cases, there’s a wonderful log cabin to welcome you, paired with a fireplace, hot cocoa and an assortment of comfort food. Plus, there’s something quite romantic about the winter months. If you and your partner are trying to take advantage of the many quaint lodge cabins outside of Northern Virginia, keep these few things in mind.

Pack your bathing suit
Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you two can’t warm things up by stepping into a hot tub surrounded by the winter air. Lucky for you, it’s not hard to find cabins with adjacent hot tubs from nearby travel destinations.

Do your research in advance
Before hopping in the car for your next road trip, consider where you want to go and what each place has to offer, especially when it comes to the dining scene. Many small towns known as winter travel destinations are home to cozy restaurants with delicious food to boot, and it’s best to make your reservations in advance.

Plan a spa day
Few things are as romantic as a couples massage in the mountains and there are a surplus of treatments, deals and lounges for you to choose from in the surrounding region of NoVA.

snowy road with fuzzy socks and a book in the car
© Alena Ozerova / Adobestock.com

5 Reasons to Travel in the Winter

• Your wallet will thank you. For a multitude of reasons, fewer people tend to travel for leisure in the winter. It could be that they don’t prefer the cold weather (hello, freezing temperatures) or that they tend to travel over the holidays, but regardless, when you book your trip, you will see a noticeable difference in cost. Flight prices tend to be lower, hotel rates don’t see the summer surge and therefore, your overall cost will have you spending less and seeing more.

• Fewer tourists … everywhere. Sure, we’re all tourists in our own right, but what if there was a time and place where there were just less people? Surprise: It’s winter. Not having to look over shoulders to catch a glimpse of a landmark or wait in lengthy lines to attend local events and hot spots are two major reasons to be grateful that the crowds are thinner in the colder season, and you may just get some locations all to yourself.

• You’re more likely to get time off from work. There are several holiday opportunities in the summer that allow for the long-weekend vacation combination, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. But in the winter, there are few and far between. Avoid that potential quarrel with co-workers and take your vacation days when you’re bound to be the only one with an out-of-office email response.

• Beat the winter blues. With the rise of self-care and mental health awareness, there is much to be said about getting a breath of fresh air and exploring a new place when the winter blues roll around. Let yourself jet set out of the office and your state of mind will change for the better.

• Winter-exclusive events, activities and locations. Some things you just can’t see and do in the summer like you can in the winter. You can catch the views of snow-covered mountain tops, hike through icy trails or tube down a hill with the family. Whatever your chosen sights and hobbies are, there’s surely something a bit different about wintertime that’s worth a try.

woman in jeans and boots-and-winter coat with suticase walking through the snow
© encierro / Adobestock.com

Winter Packing Tips

Wear your winter coat.
Big coats can take up half of your carry-on or suitcase. The best way to avoid it filling up all that space? Wear it on the plane, train or automobile with you. You can slide it off as you head through security, and chances are, you might use it as a blanket, a place to sit if all of the airport lounge seats are taken or roll it up and use it as a pillow when trying to relax during your flight.

Don’t forget your hat!
It’s an age-old tip of advice that almost every parent or guardian will tell you, but there’s a reason it has stuck around. Think about all of the great reasons and ways one small hat can be of assistance. It will keep your head warm, especially on the coldest days. It can cover up a bad hair day during weird traveling hours and time changes. It can cover your ears and even partly cover the back of your neck to continue to stay warm, and it can be a great DIY way to wrap up a small or delicate souvenir you might be bringing home.

Pack weatherproof shoes.
The one item that’s worth weighing yourself down for is a great pair of shoes, especially ones that can withstand extra miles of walking, a surprise rainstorm or prevent you from slipping on potential ice and snow. Rather than be stranded with shoes that will have you sliding, skating or slipping through town, be prepared and bring the pair that you know you can’t live through the elements without.

This post originally appeared in our February 2020 print issue. For more travel stories sent straight to your inbox, subscribe to our Travel newsletter.

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