6 Cozy Northeast Towns for Winter Hygge & Adventure

Get cozy this winter in these idyllic Northeastern towns! Explore, adventure, shop, eat, and enjoy the season.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Hygge (noun): a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

Wintertime brings a gentle stillness (hygge!) and the excitement of holiday cheer! For many, the season means crackling fireplaces, plush blankets, snow-covered lawns, and time off with family. 

Dodge crowds and packed hotels and check out these cozy, less well-known New England towns. Whether you are looking for fun outdoor winter activities or a place to stroll through seasonally decorated streets, this list has you covered.

Essex, Connecticut

Photo: newenglandinnsandresorts.com

If you’re searchinging for small town New England charm, look no further than Essex, CT. The idyllic town of Stars Hollow featured in the feel-good tv show Gilmore Girls was partly based on this Essex! If you’ve seen the wholesome show, you can already get a sense of the towns quaintness and lovability. 

Essex knows how to fill the cold winter months with cheer. Walk down main street and grab one of the locally created, international award-winning chocolate truffle shots from Chocolate Geeks. Stop by Griswold Inn, one of the oldest continuously run inns in the country and eat top-quality American cuisine in their historic dining room!

Outdoor Adventures: Check out Powder Ridge Mountain in Middlefield, CT or the Mount Southington Ski Area in Plantsville, CT, for skiing and snowboarding in the nearby mountains.

Cold Spring, New York

Photo: coldspringny.gov

Cold Spring, NY, is outdoorsy and artsy! It’s the perfect winter getaway for those living in New York City, as it’s just about 50 miles north of Manhattan. 

On top of the Hudson River views, you’ll enjoy the backdrop of rolling hills and mountainous terrain that makes the area a hot spot for hikers in the warmer months. Though small and low-key, Cold Spring is brimming with charm. Walk along the river and sip a cup of hot cocoa from Rincon Argentino in the gazebo at the river’s edge. 

Head to main street and pop into the many boutiques before grabbing a bite at one of the local eateries like Riverview Restaurant for brick-oven-fired pizza or fresh seafood. With the historic buildings lining the streets, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into an old Christmas movie. 

Outdoor Adventures: The area is well-known for its vast number of hiking trails in Hudson Highlands State ParkStorm King, Sugarloaf Mountain and Breakneck Ridge, and Bull Hill. In the snowier months, wear layers and bring plenty of water and snacks when embarking on difficult trails. For relaxed outdoor activities, opt for casual strolls along the river or through town. There’s plenty of natural beauty to see even without being on top of a mountain.

Meredith, New Hampshire

Photo: lakewinnipesaukee.net

Meredith is a town in Belknap County, New Hampshire that is also home to the Stonedam Island Conservation Area and the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. Head into town to check out the locally owned shops, art galleries, antiques, and gourmet food stores. The Inns and Spas at Mills Falls is a great place to stay for toasty weekend bonfires and offers horse-drawn carriage rides to get in the winter spirit. 

Outdoor Adventures: This town is not only an ideal cozy winter spot, it is also great for those who love adventure! Partake in winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding alongside frozen Lake Winnipesaukee.

Gunstock Mountain Resort is home to 51 ski trails on roughly 220 acres. Check out their Thrill Hill Tubing Park, New Hampshire’s longest inner-tube snow hill. You might feel like a child again as you laugh your way down the slopes from a snow tube!

The town of Meredith also hosts one of the Lakes Region’s biggest winter events- The Great Rotary Fishing Derby. This is the place to be if you’re an avid ice fisher or want to give ice fishing a try! Meredith also hosts the New England Pond Hockey Classic on Lake Winnipesaukee. Hundreds of teams bring their best game faces (and trick shots) to this exciting event!

York, Maine

Photo: Mick Haupt

Though Maine is a popular summer destination known for its pristine beaches and lobster, visiting in the winter is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty without all the people! York, Maine is situated beside the Atlantic Ocean on the Gulf of Maine and is just as charming in the winter as it is in the summer! 

It's near the famous LL Bean Headquarters in Freeport. Head there to check out stunning taxidermied local wildlife (like moose!) and take a picture with the giant duck boot! Strolling along York Beach in the winter is peaceful and magical. There are fewer tourists and the air is crisp! Dress warmly - the wind off the ocean can be pretty chilly.

Outdoor Adventures:
The town of York is a short distance from Gunstock Mountain Resort, Abenaki Ski Area, and Harris Farm, all good spots for cross-country skiing. Bring your own gear or rent from a local outfitter to avoid having to travel with skis, boots, and poles. 

Middlebury, Vermont

Photo: Middlebury College

The town of Middlebury is home to Middlebury College. There’s something about the atmosphere of a college town in the winter. It feels nostalgic, academic, cozy, and stately. Stroll around campus to take in the beautiful stone buildings with a hot cup of coffee or tea in hand. 

The surrounding terrain is breathtaking with rolling hills that transform into a snowy winter wonderland. Aside from the impressive campus, the white-steepled church and inviting local stores and boutiques will make you feel right at home. The town has a thriving arts scene with plenty of museums and galleries to enjoy. Visit Edgewater Gallery to peruse many unique styles of paintings, photography, sculptures, and jewelry.

When you get hungry from a day of exploration, stop by one of the members of the Middlebury Tasting Trail. This group of seven local producers make wine, beer, cider, and spirits. Nothing says cozy like sipping an apple brew from Woodchuck Cider House! You may even take a tour to see where the magic happens.

Outdoor Adventures: Middlebury, Vermont is an ideal spot for outdoor enthusiasts. The Green and Adirondack Mountains are a backdrop for the town, which is less than 15 minutes from the western slopes of Green Mountain National Forest and is close to Sugarbush

Blueberry Hill is a great spot for cross-country skiing. The town is also right by Otter Creek, which flows into Lake Champlain. Consider ice fishing for brook trout, pike, and bass. Follow local rules and regulations to protect the natural ecosystems while trying to catch your limit!

Wickford, RI

Photo: Erin Hall

The waterfront town of Wickford is located in North Kingston, Rhode Island. The churches and homes in the historic area date back to the mid-1600s. Take a walk to notice the East Coast architecture like Colonial and Federal period houses.

There are over 50 shops offering gifts, jewelry, art, books, and all kinds of home goods. Visit Beauty and the Bath to pick up a bath bomb and scented soaps to enjoy at your hotel (or take home!). Check out Different Drummer for locally made cards, pottery, and jewelry that make great gifts for you or a loved one.

The town is 20 minutes away from the popular town of Newport, Rhode Island if you wish to check it out for more shopping or a meal! 

Wickford is particularly quiet and welcoming in the winter, especially when all the storefronts are decked out in holiday decor. Come during early December to see the Festival of Lights! You’ll be delighted by carolers and horse-drawn hayrides. 

Outdoor Adventures: Don some winter boots and take a self-guided walking tour of 20 noteworthy buildings in the area. Bring a thermos filled with something hot to sip while you stroll! Check out the nearby Newport Cliff Walk and the Castle Hill Lighthouse for some moody beach scenes. Look for shorebirds and cozy up for photos with loved ones as you enjoy the natural beauty of the coast.


Cover Photo: Ibrahim Rifath

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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