18 Things to Do This Winter

'Tis the season for snow-filled outdoor adventures and holiday cheer.

A person holds a blue coffee mug on a snowy morning.
A cozy cup of coffee on a cold morning puts us in a winter mood. 
Jovana Rikalo / Stocksy

1. Review new EU travel requirements.

Beginning in 2025, U.S. travelers will need authorization to visit Europe. Due to efforts to increase security, travelers to 30 European countries will need to apply to get approval through the European Travel Information and Authorization System, in addition to having a valid U.S. passport. The pass is good for stays of up to 90 days, and is valid for three years. If you’re dreaming of a European vacation, apply early.

2. Check your car battery’s health.

When temperatures head toward single digits, you'll want to ensure your battery is in peak condition—a weak battery will have more trouble starting in the cold. AAA roadside experts offer battery testing and diagnosis. Learn more at

3. Get your Real ID.

As the Real ID deadline approaches, it’s time to make sure you have one. Starting May 7, 2025, you will need a Real ID or another acceptable form of identification, such as a passport, to board a commercial flight. Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles, or Motor Vehicle Division to apply.

4. Winterize your car.

Check your windshield wipers, tires, and fluids, or leave it to the pros at any of the AAA-Owned & Operated Repair Centers, where Members save 10 percent on labor and more.

5. Consider the gift of AAA.

Peace of mind is one of the most precious things you can share. Ensure your loved one has emergency roadside assistance from anywhere. AAA gift Memberships can be purchased online and sent immediately.

A father and child bring home their Christmas tree through the snow.
Save your tree from the landfill.
Cara Dolan / Stocksy

6. Repurpose your Christmas tree.

Curbside pickups for tired firs are common in most communities, but there are other options for giving your tree a second life. Contact your local department of public works to see if they will collect, then chip and shred your tree to make mulch for use in community yards. Or do so on your own, and add fresh covering to your spring garden.

7. Prevent frozen pipes.

Broken and frozen pipes, and the resulting damage, are the second leading cause of home insurance claims in the United States—following only hurricanes. Guard against these mishaps by insulating all exposed pipes and setting your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees when you’re away. Also, make sure you know how to turn off your main water line quickly if necessary.

8. Take a ride on a holiday train.

Put on your pajamas and head to Sunol, California, to hop aboard Niles Canyon Railway’s festive Train of Lights. Visit the snack bar to munch and marvel at the lights and music as you ride in the railway’s antique coaches and open cars for an hour-long chug.


9. Donate gifts to families.

Embrace the season of giving by helping families in your community make their children’s dreams come true. Toys for Tots has been leading national toy drives for 76 years, but check with your local crisis nurseries and shelters to see how you can directly impact families in your community.

10. Watch for whales.

Head to the coast to see one of nature’s great spectacles. Starting in November, you can spot whales migrating south from the arctic to warmer waters off Mexico’s Baja peninsula. Catch gray whales breaching along Marin County’s Point Reyes National Seashore, or join a whale-watching tour in Monterey Bay to spot humpbacks.

A family reads a picture book together on the couch.
Grab a seasonal read from your local library.
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

11. Check out a good book.

Gather around the fireplace and crack open a family-friendly read. It's a great opportunity to enjoy some quality bonding time and spark creativity in the minds of the little ones around you.

12. Have a peaceful season.

One in three adults feels anxiety around the holidays, according to the American Psychological Association. Fend off stress, get organized, and stay ahead of tasks with this handy prep list.

13. Get frosty.

Outdoor winter fun doesn't always require a lift ticket. From riding fat-tired bikes through the snow to viewing elk from a horse-drawn sleigh, the West's best cold-weather adventures await! Looking for ideas or inspiration? Here are 13 snow play ideas across the West.

A hiker stands on a log next to Teresa Lake in Great Basin National Park.
Teresa Lake in Great Basin National Park.
Andrew Peacock / Tandem Stock

14. Plan a national park trip.

If you’re already daydreaming about next summer’s vacation, you can’t go wrong with a national park. Many popular parks in the West require visitors to prebook entry, permits, or campsites. Now's the time to plan your next visit.

15. Check your chimney.

A crackling fire creates coziness. But before you start one, you'll want to make sure your fireplace and chimney are in good working order, so they won't leak smoke, gas, or carbon monoxide into your home. Now's the time to schedule a chimney inspection and cleaning.

16. Winterize your car's emergency kit.

Stash an ice scraper, snow shovel, and snow brush in the trunk near all the gear you usually carry: tools, flares, jumper cables, and a flashlight with batteries. A box of nonclumping kitty litter can come in handy, too, if your tires get stuck in snow. (Trust us, it works!)

17. Do your part.

More than 40 million people in the United States—one-third of them children—don't have reliable access to nutritious food. To help feed a child in need this holiday season, go to

18. Don't forget your flu shot.

Vaccination can cut your risk by 40 to 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Sniffles season starts in October, so if you haven't gotten a jab yet, visit your doctor or your local pharmacy.

This article was first published in Fall 2019 and last updated in November 2023.