Discover the Best US Destinations in December: From Hawaii's Paradise to Winter Wonders in Florida
Looking to escape the winter blues? Well, you've come to the right place! In search of the best US destinations in December, we've traversed the country, from the stunning landscapes of Hawaii and Nevada to the vibrant cities of Texas and New York. But that's not all – we've also uncovered hidden gems in Alaska, Vermont, and even the Virgin Islands. So, if you're ready to leave your worries behind and embark on a magical December adventure, keep reading because we've got the ultimate guide for you!
Aerial view of the Na Pali coast in Kauai is one of the best warm places to visit in the USA in December. Hawaii offers tropical breezes, ample sunshine, warm ocean waves, captivating scenery, and beautiful beaches. It's the ideal place to relax and enjoy island time.
Hawaii has several islands to choose from, allowing you to either vacation on one or visit multiple islands in the same trip. The more time you have, the better your Hawaiian holiday will be.
Oahu is a great starting point, especially if you stay in the capital of Honolulu. Relax on Waikiki Beach, visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and enjoy the urban scene.
Maui offers a nice combination of activity and solitude. Enjoy the golf courses, Wailea Beach, and the breathtaking sunrise at Mount Haleakala.
The Big Island is home to many natural attractions and outdoor activities. Explore Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, relax on Kaunaoa Beach, and visit Akaka Falls State Park.
The small island of Kauai is known for its quiet and romantic vacations. It is the oldest island and offers tropical waterfalls, scenic hikes, and breathtaking views.
Lanai is another small island with remote natural spots that are not as touristy as the other islands.
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hawaii
Kauai is known as the Garden Isle and is perfect for outdoor adventure. It is also a great place to spot humpback whales on their migratory path. You may recognize some of Kauai's stunning locations from Hollywood movies like King Kong and Jurassic Park. Hiking fans will love the Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, and nature enthusiasts will enjoy exploring Hanakoa Valley.
Things to do in Kauai
- Go kayaking the 20-mile-long Wailua River
- Cool down at Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls
- Enjoy a guided tour of Fern Grotto
- Spot the Sleeping Giant at Nounou Mountain range
- Snorkel on Poipu Beach
- Hike Kokee State Park
- Daredevils! You can go ziplining above Kauai
- Trek the 45 miles of Kokee State Park
Where to Stay in Kauai
- For couples: Hanalei Colony Resort (Expedia/Booking) with its private lanai for relaxation
- For groups: Hale Kailea TVNC #4241 (Booking) has 3 bedrooms, patio, AC and cable TV for maximum comfort
Note: historically, Kauai and the North Shore of Oahu typically see a lot of rain during December and flash flood warnings.
While Honolulu is the biggest city on the island of Oahu, there are other areas and attractions to consider. Oahu is a unique December US destination because of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7th. The Honolulu City Lights festival kicks off at the start of December with traditional tree lighting, parades, and family-friendly fun.
Oahu is ideal for surfers and hosts the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing annually in December.
Things to do in Oahu
- Hire a kayak at Kailua Beach
- Dive into the North Shore snorkeling tour
- Take an ATV tour at Kualoa Ranch
- Hike the uphill, and often muddy, trails of Hauʻula Loop Trail
- Watch the surfers at Banzai Pipeline
- Spot the turtles at Mokulē’ia Beach Park
Where to Stay in Oahu
Oahu is also featured in our guide to the best islands to visit in December.
Honolulu (Oahu) is ideal for enjoying Hawaii's foodie scene while immersing yourself in the holiday festivities, including the Honolulu City Lights festival.
December is a perfect time to visit Honolulu for those looking to catch some rays and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Things to do in Honolulu
- Of course, check out Honolulu City Lights
- Stroll the Chinatown Winter Walk all December
- Run it all off before the holiday feasts at the Honolulu Marathon
- Support local artists and artisans at the Ko’olina Artfest
- Enjoy the Very Merry Holiday Pops from the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra
- Get out to Waimea Beach to watch the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational
- Marvel at the Victoria Ward Garden Lights
- Visit the Bishop Museum
- See pieces at the Museum of Art
- Check out the former residence of the Hawaiian monarchs at Iolani Palace
- Chill out at Waikiki on the south shore
- Take a helicopter ride for a once-in-a-lifetime experience
- Hit the shops at Kalakaua Avenue
- Pay homage to the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, the father of surfing
- Learn some history at the Waikiki Historical Trail
- Dine in the Kapahulu neighborhood
- Be in awe of the panoramic view of Honolulu from Leahi (Diamond Head)
- Hike to the beginner hiker and pet-friendly Makapuu Lighthouse
- Grab a pocket of sand at Makapuʻu Beach
- Avoid the crowds and head to Kaiona Beach Park
Things to Eat in Hawaii
- Hawaiian plate lunch – affordable meat, fish, and rice
- Shaved ice – made from fresh fruit
- Poke – super popular in cities around the world, fresh fish in Hawaii
- Spam – yes, you read that right! Give spam musubi a try
Where to Stay in Honolulu
- For couples: The Kahala Hotel and Resort (Expedia/Booking) with its private beach and no resort fees
- For large groups: Aston Waikiki Beach Tower (Expedia/Booking) condo with suites and views
Volcano National Park is featured in our best National Parks to visit in March guide.
Visit Maui for its famous beaches and the chance to see whales! Maui's December temperatures range from a pleasant 56F to 72F, making it ideal for outdoor activities and enjoying the warm weather. While December is one of the wettest seasons, visitors still love it, especially for whale watching.
Things to do in Maui
- Take a ride along the Hana coast to see black sand beaches and waterfalls
- Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the 3.5-mile Wailea Beach Path and look out for whales in the ocean
- Visit Hamoa Beach, a small sandy area with stunning views
- Enjoy whale watching on a double-deck power catamaran
- Head inland to hike active volcanoes at Haleakala National Park
AWhere to Stay in Maui
- For couples: the stunning Napili Shores Maui by Outrigger (Expedia/Booking)
- For groups: an amazing 2-bed lodge (Booking) in Haiku on Maui's north shore
For more beach destinations to visit in December, check out this guide.
Zion National Park
If you've visited Zion National Park during the peak months (April through October), you know that the crowds can be overwhelming. After all, this is one of the most popular national parks in the United States!
But visit Zion in December, and you'll be rewarded with near-empty hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and iconic attractions. Brave the chilly temperatures, and you'll quickly see why Zion National Park is one of the best places to visit in the US in December.
Plus, winter is the only time of year that you can cruise along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in your own car. The road is closed to private vehicles from March to November, so visiting in winter allows you to travel at your own pace and explore the park more freely.
Another perk of visiting Zion in December is the higher chances of obtaining a permit to hike Angels Landing or The Subway compared to peak season months. Just be cautious if the trails are icy.
Of course, December is the coldest month to visit Zion, with average lows of 30°F and highs of 50°F. However, with proper layers, you can have an unforgettable trip. If you have extra time, consider visiting nearby Bryce Canyon National Park for a white Christmas experience.
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Joshua Tree National Park
If you've ever been to Joshua Tree National Park during the summer, you know how intense the heat can be, reaching temperatures beyond 100°F. However, if you visit in December, you'll enjoy milder weather for hiking and fewer crowds compared to the spring and fall. Keep in mind that the holiday season can get busy, so it's best to plan your visit at the beginning of December.
This is the desert of California, which means you can expect daytime temperatures around 60°F and nighttime temperatures around 40°F in December. There is a slight chance of rain and snow, so be prepared with appropriate clothing.
One of the highlights of visiting Joshua Tree in winter is the shorter days, providing ample opportunities for stargazing in this Dark Sky Park. Along with marveling at the starry sky, you can enjoy hiking to the famous rock formations, exploring the Cholla Cactus Garden, watching stunning sunsets from Keys View, and much more!
Death Valley National Park, California Nevada
Experience the more manageable side of one of the hottest locations on Earth by visiting Death Valley National Park in December. With average highs of 65°F, it's the perfect time to explore this notorious region without the scorching heat. The park spans across California and Nevada.
After your adventurous hikes and outdoor activities, you can unwind and celebrate the end of December with a memorable New Year's Eve party at The Inn at Death Valley, known for its beautiful grounds and stargazing opportunities.
Note: Death Valley received federal protection in 1994, following years of being a national monument since 1933. However, the Timbisha Shoshone People inhabited the area long before it became a national monument.
Grand Canyon National Park
If you're looking to avoid crowds and embrace the chilly temperatures and unpredictable weather, December is a great time to visit the Grand Canyon. During this month, the park receives only 15% of the usual number of tourists, resulting in peaceful trails and less crowded viewpoints along the South Rim!
While the rims of the Grand Canyon can be very cold, the inside of the canyon offers some protection from harsh winds, allowing for relatively mild hiking temperatures in the 50s. Another advantage of visiting in December is the easier availability of permits for various activities within the park.
Please note that the North Rim is closed from early November to mid-May, and road closures are common. It's advisable to check with the visitors center for the latest information on road and trail access.
Winter storms are a possibility, so it's best to allow yourself extra time to ensure you don't miss out on any sights or activities.
If you're seeking a snowy winter wonderland in December, Lake Tahoe is an excellent choice. Whether you're planning a family vacation or a ski trip with friends, Lake Tahoe offers something for everyone.
During the winter, this popular destination becomes a haven for skiers and snowboarders, with numerous ski resorts around the lake including Heavenly, Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe, and Sugar Bowl, providing an abundance of options.
If you prefer to embrace the stunning natural setting, you can explore the hiking trails and try snowshoeing around the lake. For a more relaxed experience, Heavenly Village offers shopping opportunities and scenic views from the Heavenly Gondola. On the Nevada side of the lake, you can try your luck at one of the upscale casinos.
No matter how you spend your day, make sure to end it by visiting one of Tahoe's après-ski spots to relax and socialize over drinks!
That concludes our list of the 13 best places to visit in the USA in December. What's your favorite destination to explore during this month?
If you're looking for more travel inspiration, check out our favorite travel books!
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Austin is undoubtedly a favorite destination for the Two Scots Abroad. Whether it's an Austin elopement or the famous SXSW event, there's no shortage of reasons to love this city.
In December, Austin offers numerous cultural events and festivities during the holiday season. From ice-skating and light trails to parades and live music, Austin, known as the music capital of the world, has something for everyone.
Temperatures in Austin range from around 43°F to 63°F in December.
Things to do in Austin
- Finish your holiday shopping at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar
- Kickstart the season with the Austin Holiday Stroll
- Follow the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park
- Watch Minor Mishap’s Winter Solstice Lantern Parade
- Or Chuy’s Holiday Parade.
- And, of course, eat allll the BBQ and tacos!
Big Bend National Park, Texas
If you're yearning to escape the city or simply need a break from your usual routine, a road trip to Big Bend National Park might be just what you need. This vast park, ranking as the 15th largest in the nation, offers solitude and natural beauty.
The park is well-organized, and navigating around is made easy with a map included with your pass. Additionally, there are five visitor centers—Panther Junction, Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, Persimmon Gap, and Castolon—that can provide further assistance.
December temperatures in Big Bend range from a mild 63°F during the day to freezing 39°F at night. Nighttime temperatures can get very cold, so if you plan on camping or staying in an RV, make sure to have a high-quality sleeping bag.
Things to do at Big Bend National Park
- Explore the 201 miles of hiking trails, such as the Dog Canyon
- Enjoy a relaxing soak at the Boquillas hot spring near the flowing Rio Grande River
- Take a boat trip to Boquillas, Mexico (don't forget your passport!)
- Marvel at the starry skies while enjoying s'mores by the campfire
Marfa, Texas holds a special place in the hearts of the Two Scots Abroad. If you're a fan of art installations in the desert and exhibitions in unique venues, you'll likely fall in love with this small community in West Texas too.
You may recognize Marfa from cultural references like The Simpsons episode "Mad About the Toy" or scenes from Gossip Girl featuring the Prada Marfa sign. This town has also attracted attention from celebrities like the Knowles sisters.
If you plan to visit Marfa, keep in mind that weekends offer more activities and attractions compared to weekdays, as the town tends to be quieter during the week. In terms of weather, temperatures in December can range from a pleasant 76°F to freezing 21°F, so pack accordingly.
Things to do in Marfa
- Support local businesses by shopping at Marfa's independent stores
- Explore exhibitions at Ballroom Marfa
- Stroll around Donald Judd's Chinati Foundation and admire the 15 Untitled Works in Concrete
- Take a drive to Prada Marfa, a faux Prada shop with real items in the window
- Try spotting the Marfa Lights phenomenon along Route 67
Marfa Hotels with Parking
For accommodation options in Marfa, check out our comprehensive guide here.
Fredericksburg is a wonderful travel destination in December for those who miss the charm of Europe!
As soon as you arrive in this Texas Hill Country town, you might wonder if you've somehow ended up in Germany. The menus at local restaurants showcase delicious German cuisine, and the bars serve authentic German beer.
But Fredericksburg has even more to offer than just a taste of Germany. It is also home to vineyards and craft wine cellar shops, providing plenty of opportunities for merriment during your December visit.
The temperature in Fredericksburg during December ranges from 59F to 64F, so be sure to pack accordingly.
Things to do in Fredericksburg
- Explore the award-winning shopping scene on Main Street and pick up some unique Christmas gifts.
- Listen to nightly carol singing, which runs from the end of November and will surely put you in the spirit of Weihnachtszeit.
- Witness the nightly lighting of the Community Christmas Tree and the German Christmas Pyramid.
- Say "prost" and indulge in the local wine, which pairs perfectly with a delicious dinner starting at just per glass.
- Take a wine tour where someone else will handle the driving, allowing you to fully enjoy the experience.
- Join the Fredericksburg German Club for a British-style Boxing Day party at one of the vineyards.
- Ring in the new year at the Albert, Texas Ice House & Dancehall NYE party.
- Or participate in the new year countdown at the Marktplatz.
For more New Year's Eve ideas in the US, check out this guide.
Where to Stay in Fredericksburg
If you prefer BBQ meat over turkey for Christmas dinner, Lockhart is the place to be. Located just 35 miles from Austin, Lockhart is known as the BBQ capital of Texas.
During December, the temperatures in Lockhart range from 30F to 86F, with plenty of sun and a few clouds.
Things to do in Lockhart, Texas
- Indulge in mouthwatering smoked meat at the family-run Blacks BBQ.
- Check out Kreuz Market for even more delicious BBQ options.
- Or head to Smitty's for an abundance of savory meat dishes - it's safe to say that BBQ is a big deal in Lockhart.
- Quench your thirst at Old Pal Texas Tavern.
- Support local businesses and find unique holiday gifts at places like Lone Start Workshop.
What to Eat in Texas
- Try the famous Frito pie - a scrumptious combination of chips and meat.
- Start your day with delicious breakfast tacos.
- Indulge in a Tex-Mex breakfast for a true taste of Texas.
- Experience the unique flavors of food truck meals.
- Savor the best BBQ dishes Texas has to offer.
- Don't forget to enjoy some craft beer.
Austin also made it to the list of best cities to visit in December!
Where to Stay in Austin
South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island is a dreamy paradise to escape from the bitter cold up north during December. With average high temperatures of 71F/22C, it offers a perfect getaway.
Come and stroll along the sandy beaches, bask in the warm sunshine, and forget all about the icy temperatures back home. While the nightlife might not be as vibrant, you'll certainly feel relaxed in the company of fellow snowbirds.
Things to do in South Padre Island
- Swim in the beautiful Laguna Madre Bay.
- Enjoy the thrilling waterslides at Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
- Satisfy your taste buds with tacos, nachos, and ceviche.
- Indulge in all-you-can-eat ribs and seafood at Louie's Backyard.
- Relax at Laguna BOB, a waterfront deck offering delicious seafood, burgers, and a full bar in a laid-back atmosphere.
Where to Stay in South Padre
- For couples: Courtyard South Padre (Expedia/Booking): Enjoy spacious rooms, a fitness suite, and a swimming pool.
- For families: Beachside condo that sleeps 6 and offers a swimming pool.
Read next | Discover the best beach towns in Texas
Terlingua, also known as the Texas "Ghost Town," gets its name from its mining history in the 1800s.
In the past, this community was home to thousands of people, but today, there are fewer than 100 residents.
Things to do in Terlingua
- Visit the mining ruins and explore the history of the area.
- Dine at the iconic Starlight Theatre and indulge in delicious food.
- People watch and enjoy a beer on the porch of the Starlight Theatre.
- Experience a unique stay in a wigwam.
Where to Stay in Terlingua
Galveston Island, Texas
Galveston Island is an underrated destination for December, offering miles of beautiful beaches with comfortable temperatures.
What makes it even more special is that Galveston is known as the "Winter Wonder Island" of Texas, with over 50 days of holiday events and activities to enjoy.
If you're a beach lover, make sure to check out the best beaches in Texas.
Things to do
- Explore the beaches and hop between East Beach and Galveston Island State Park.
- Take a leisurely walk or jog along the world's longest continuous sidewalk.
- Enjoy the rides and entertainment at Pleasure Pier.
- Capture a selfie with the welcome mural.
- Experience a live show at The Grand 1894 Opera House.
- Relax and float along the Lazy River at Palm Beach.
Where to Stay at Galveston Island
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas, is another fantastic US city to visit in December. With mild temperatures hovering around the high 60s and low 70s, you can leave your winter coat behind. Explore the city's iconic sights, including the Alamo, the UNESCO World Heritage sites along Mission Trail, and the bustling 2.5-mile River Walk, without having to endure scorching summer temperatures.
During the entire month of December, the River Walk is adorned with 100,000 lights and visited by over 150 caroling groups. To fully experience the magical atmosphere, consider taking a river cruise during your December visit.
Don't miss out on local attractions like the Natural Bridge Caverns, which also embrace the festive spirit with Christmas decorations and even an ice skating rink. And if you're looking for thrills, head to popular Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld, where you'll find exciting rides, attractions, and festive holiday-themed events throughout the month.
December is also a prime time to savor the incredible Mexican cuisine that San Antonio has to offer. Be sure to try some traditional tamales, a holiday specialty in the region, at places like Delia's, Teka Molino, and Lala's Gorditas.
St John, US Virgin Islands
St John, the smallest of the three US Virgin Islands (USVI), is a hidden gem you won't want to miss.
To reach St John, you'll need to pass through St Thomas, but the journey is absolutely worth it. Once you arrive, you'll be greeted by stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical jungle trails.
Enjoy snorkeling, sunbathing, and leisurely walks along the white-sand beaches. St John is the perfect destination for a relaxing and warm December getaway in the sunny Caribbean.
In the US Virgin Islands, the average high temperature in December is a pleasant 86F, ensuring a truly tropical island experience.
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
St Thomas is the most popular of the US Virgin Islands and attracts many cruise ships. However, if you can escape the busy spots and overwhelming crowds, you'll discover a destination that offers both modern amenities and breathtaking natural beauty.
St Croix, US Virgin Islands
As the largest of the US Virgin Islands (USVI), St Croix boasts a unique blend of cultures and a rich history. Enjoy the beautiful beaches, go scuba diving, and return home with a tan to keep that summer feeling alive.
St Croix is also featured in our guide to the best islands to visit in December.
Puerto Rico is an ideal December destination in the US for those seeking warmth, sunshine, beaches, history, culture, and more.
The holiday season is especially magical in the charming Old San Juan. Don't miss out on the parrandas, which transform the streets into lively parties.
Extra bonus: Puerto Rico is still recovering from the devastating hurricanes, so by visiting, you're helping contribute to the recovery efforts.
With average temperatures rarely falling below 80F, Puerto Rico offers one of the warmest December experiences in the US.
AnchorageWhile most people seek warmer destinations in December, Alaska offers a unique and magical experience. December is the peak season for viewing the Northern Lights, making it the perfect time to embark on a tour to witness this breathtaking phenomenon. Additionally, you can take a scenic ride on the Alaska Railroad Aurora Winter Train from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
Another way to enjoy Anchorage in December is by going dogsledding, hitting the slopes, observing wildlife, or embarking on a glacier trek. The city also boasts several museums for those seeking indoor attractions. So bundle up and embrace the enchantment of Anchorage during this special time of year.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Alaska
Moss-draped oak trees in Savannah, GeorgiaWhen visiting Savannah in December, be prepared to have a sweater on hand. With temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to mid-70s, you may need to ward off the chilly evenings or cooler days. However, this won't hinder your enjoyment of this Georgian wonderland.
Savannah is famous for its historic mansions, beautiful parks, and picturesque moss-draped trees. In December, these already enchanting features become even more magical when adorned with holiday decorations. Visit the popular River Street during the first weekend of December to enjoy music, treats, and shopping. You'll find unique handmade gifts from local vendors that are perfect for stuffing stockings and delighting loved ones.
Another must-see event in December is Savannah's Lighted Christmas Parade, which takes place during the first weekend of the month. This festive celebration includes a tree lighting ceremony, caroling, dancing, and more on Tybee Island.
When you're not immersing yourself in the holiday spirit, take the time to explore the area's historic homes, museums, and the expansive Forsyth Park.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Savannah, GA
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Savannah
View over Stowe, VermontFor some December travelers, especially those seeking a romantic vacation in one of the best small towns in Vermont, cozying up in a bed-and-breakfast or cottage with snow-covered landscapes outside is a delightful idea. If that appeals to you, then Stowe, Vermont is the perfect holiday destination. December ushers in cold temperatures, but that only adds to the cozy ambience with crackling fireplaces and steaming cups of hot chocolate.
You can still enjoy outdoor activities by bundling up and hitting the ski slopes, going snowshoeing, or experiencing the thrill of a dog-sledding adventure. Afterward, return to your warm and inviting accommodations. Stowe also embraces the holiday spirit with traditional parades, celebrations, and tree lightings in its charming town center.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Vermont
Read More: Best Things to Do in Vermont in Winter
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Experience the charm of traditional architecture in Santa Fe. This southwestern city offers a peaceful and artistic getaway in December. Immerse yourself in the rich Native American culture while exploring historic buildings and small shops. Don't miss the opportunity to support local artists by purchasing their beautiful artwork, ranging from paintings to jewelry.
Santa Fe is the perfect destination to escape the cold and snow. Its numerous health retreats and relaxing spa resorts are well-known for rejuvenation. However, if you still crave some winter activities, you can head into the mountains for a thrilling day of skiing.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of the French Quarter in New Orleans. This vibrant city is an ideal December getaway with its mild weather and lively streets. Enjoy the warmth without the summer heat and explore the city's rich culture and history while avoiding the crowds of Mardi Gras.
In December, New Orleans is adorned with holiday decorations and features numerous festivals and dazzling light displays. Don't miss the magical illuminated art pieces at Lafayette Square or the enchanting Christmas trees and holiday lights at the historic Roosevelt Hotel.
Looking for the perfect accommodation? Check out the Top-Rated Resorts in New Orleans, LA.
December is the perfect time to experience the thrilling ski season in Breckenridge, Colorado. This picturesque destination is one of the best places to indulge in downhill adventures. While other warm-weather destinations may be crowded, Breckenridge offers quality winter skiing experiences.
Although hotel and resort rates may be higher during this peak season, you can usually find packages that include lift tickets for your entire stay. When you're not hitting the slopes, explore the festive scene in town. The charming small shops along Main Street are beautifully decorated for the holidays. Breckenridge truly captures the holiday spirit, making it one of the best Christmas towns in Colorado.
Despite the popularity of Breckenridge in December, its vast ski areas, spanning nearly 3,000 acres, can accommodate the influx of winter travelers.
Find the best resorts in Breckenridge at Best Resorts in Breckenridge.
Key West, Florida
Average high temperatures of 76°F make Key West one of the warmest places to visit in December in the USA. Experience the ultimate paradise with palm trees, bicycle rides, and a touch of literary history in Key West.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Key West's bars and restaurants, which attract a lovely crowd. If you're a social butterfly, this may be the perfect winter destination for you. Explore the heart of downtown on Duval Street and discover the best Key West attractions, including live music, museums, and the historic Audubon House.
Don't miss a visit to President Harry Truman's Little Whitehouse in Old Town. He loved Key West so much that he spent over 100 days there during his 11 trips.
Things to do in Key West
- Visit the Southernmost Point in the Continental USA
- Join a 2-stop snorkel tour
- Dine and drink on the iconic party street, Duval Street
- Explore the beautiful gardens of the Audubon House
- Witness the famous nightly 'Sunset Celebrations' at Mallory Square
- Experience a romantic sunset champagne and appetizers cruise
- Savor a delicious Key Lime Pie
- Watch the Conch Drop or Red Show Drop on New Year's Eve
Where to Stay in Key West
- For couples: Havana Cabana at Key West (Expedia/Booking) offers spacious rooms and a popular swimming pool
- For groups: Sweet Pea Cottage (Expedia/Booking) is a stylish 3-bedroom cottage with a porch
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, located in the southern part of the state, is a historic port city renowned for its antebellum architecture. Explore the charming French Quarter and Battery districts, where you can admire the beautiful architecture that defines the city.
In December, Charleston experiences low temperatures of 46°F and highs of 61°F, providing pleasant weather for exploring the city.
Things to do in Charleston
- Experience the magical Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park.
- Enjoy the music of the Charleston Caroling Company
- Be amazed by the Christmas decorations at the Charleston Place and Belmond Hotel
- Marvel at the festive displays in the Historic District
- Take in the breathtaking view of the Ravenel Bridge
- Embark on a ferry ride to Fort Sumter
- Visit the iconic Angel Oak Tree at Angel Oak Park
- Discover the culture of the Gullah people in Lowcountry at McLeod Plantation or a Geechee Experience Tour
Where to Stay in Charleston
Enjoy the outdoors in Phoenix, Arizona, during December. This city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Engage in activities like hiking, golfing, biking, rock climbing, and camping. Phoenix also offers a great shopping scene and a wide range of museums to explore.
Expect pleasant weather with little rain and temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to low 70s Fahrenheit. You won't need heavy winter clothing, allowing more space in your suitcase to bring home unique finds from the holiday markets.
While in Phoenix, make sure to visit the magnificent Desert Botanical Garden, enjoy ice skating at CityScape, and explore the captivating exhibits at the Heard Museum. Don't miss the delightful Glendale Glitters event in nearby Glendale, featuring thousands of holiday lights, music, food, and other festive activities throughout December.
Tucson fully embraces the holiday spirit in December. Don't miss the Oro Valley Marketplace, where you can explore the offerings of local artisans and enjoy an annual tree lighting ceremony. This marketplace hosts one of the biggest community arts festivals in southern Arizona.
If you choose Tucson for your winter vacation, prepare for delightful desert scenery and a chance of snow. The temperatures in Tucson are similar to Scottsdale, making it a comfortable destination.
Things to do in Tucson
- Savor delicious Mexican cuisine
- Embark on an exhilarating half-day ATV tour through Box Canyon and Pinal
- Discover fascinating space crafts at the Pima Air & Space Museum
- Admire the iconic saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert
- Enjoy a scenic hike at Douglas Spring Trailhead
- Experience skiing at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley
- Indulge in a delightful meal at Monetary Court cafe
Where to Stay in Tucson
Scottsdale is conveniently located less than 30 minutes away from Phoenix, making it a perfect day trip destination or a winter retreat in its own right.
Experience the desert temperatures of Scottsdale, ranging from 37°F to 68°F in December.
Things to do in Scottsdale
- Shop at the beautifully decorated Kierland Commons for upscale holiday gifts
- Join the Scottsdale SantaCon Crawl and make new friends
- Attend Botanical Nights - Noches del Botánico, featuring live music, lights, and plants
- Enjoy open-air drinks among fairy lights at the Coach House dive bar
- Witness the famous Bellagio Fountains Light show to Christmas tunes
- Visit the Magical Forest with your family
- Embark on a nighttime helicopter tour for a breathtaking birds-eye view
- Discover the beauty of the Sphere from the outside, where admission is free
- Indulge in an all-day buffet on Christmas day
- Join the Great Santa Run and spread holiday cheer
- Experience a festive live show
- Try your luck at the slot machines
- Take a memorable photo with the iconic Las Vegas sign
Where to Stay
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Salt Lake City, Utah
For avid skiers, December is the perfect time to visit Salt Lake City, Utah. The city is surrounded by nearly a dozen ski resorts in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, providing excellent opportunities for both beginners and advanced skiers.
Even if you prefer to admire the snow-covered mountains from a distance, Salt Lake City offers a range of festive holiday events. Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides through the stunning Temple Square, illuminated by holiday lights. Explore small boutiques to find unique gifts and experience a vintage Salt Lake City holiday at This Is The Place Heritage Park, showcasing life and traditions from the 1800s in Utah.
Nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, Leavenworth is renowned for its charming Bavarian village adorned with alpine-style buildings and German restaurants. You can visit Leavenworth at any time of the year, but if you're seeking a magical Christmas destination, this hamlet is one of the top choices in the United States for December travel!
Leavenworth is widely recognized as one of the best Christmas towns in the US, offering a month-long celebration called the Village of Lights Christmastown event. This festive extravaganza illuminates the village with half a million twinkling lights, creating a joyful and enchanting atmosphere.
While visiting during this event, you can participate in various fun activities. Marvel at the stunning light displays, snap photos with Santa, listen to carolers, and indulge in delicious German holiday treats. Additionally, you can explore the fascinating Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, savor mulled wine and spiced nuts at downtown restaurants, go sledding through the heart of town, or visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. And don't forget to admire the picturesque town covered in a blanket of snow, enhancing its magical ambiance in December!
If you're searching for the best US cities to visit in December, look no further than Williamsburg, Virginia. This city offers a multitude of unique attractions that set it apart from other destinations. Williamsburg was once the capital of the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780 and holds significant historical importance, particularly in relation to the American Revolution. History enthusiasts will be captivated by this place!
A visit to Williamsburg allows you to explore the impressive 301-acre Colonial Williamsburg living museum. Immerse yourself in the daily life of the 18th- and 19th-century through interactive experiences with costumed characters. Dine at George Washington's favorite tavern, browse the 18th-century-style Merchant Square for unique gifts, and discover a wealth of enjoyable activities throughout Williamsburg.
During December, Williamsburg comes alive with seasonal events. Shop to your heart's content at Yorktown's Christmas Market on Main, the Bizarre Bazaar at Richmond Raceway Complex, or the Williamsburg Premium Outlets, which offer fantastic deals. Engage in ice skating at the Liberty Ice Pavilion, savor festive treats at the Yorktown Mistletoe Market and Toyland Parade, attend the grand "Grand Illumination" events in Colonial Williamsburg, and much more!
Santa Monica, California
Visit Santa Monica during the holiday season for a delightful event called WinterLit. This festive celebration offers a variety of activities for all ages.
Capture timeless memories by taking photos with Santa (even your pets can join in!), enjoy ice skating on the beachside rink, witness the lighting of the menorah, and explore the holiday market for unique gifts. With average daytime temperatures of around 65F, Santa Monica provides a comfortable environment for leisurely strolls as you complete your last-minute shopping.
For a relaxing stay, consider booking a room at the Sant Monia Hilton and take advantage of lazy pool days spent lounging in a cabana.
Los Angeles, California
Visit Los Angeles in December to experience a fusion of Disney magic, stunning views, delicious food, and endless summer vibes. While the city exudes glitz and glam throughout the year, its charm is amplified during the holiday season. The bonus? The lovely weather, with average highs of 66F, allowing for comfortable outdoor exploration without the need for heavy winter attire.
Los Angeles offers an array of exciting activities in December. Take in the mesmerizing holiday store window displays in downtown, catch a performance by the world-famous Rockettes, and make sure to visit Rockefeller Square with its iconic Christmas tree. The city's lively atmosphere ensures that there is never a dull moment.
If you're planning to do some holiday shopping, don't miss the opportunity to visit the renowned department stores and Christmas markets. For a delightful experience, go ice skating in Central Park, overlooking the spectacular New York City skyline.
While unpredictable snowstorms may affect travel plans in the northeast during December, you can make the most of your visit by allocating additional time and being flexible. Save the colder days for exploring the city's numerous museums, where you can stay warm indoors and venture outside for short periods.
Newport, Rhode Island
When it comes to exceptional December vacation destinations in the US, Newport, Rhode Island, stands out. While primarily known as a sun-soaked summer getaway for East Coasters, Newport transforms into a winter wonderland during December. If you're fortunate, you might witness the town's buildings and beaches covered in snow!
Newport offers a plethora of attractions guaranteed to keep you entertained. From historical lighthouses and opulent Gilded Age mansions to scenic walks along the Cliff Walk and bustling Newport Harbor, there's never a shortage of things to do in this charming coastal city, regardless of the time of year.
In December, Newport becomes an enchanting holiday haven thanks to the annual "Christmas in Newport" celebration. Throughout the month, you can enjoy Christmas concerts, witness tree-lighting ceremonies, browse arts and crafts fairs and festive pop-up shops, partake in candlelit tours of historic homes, and immerse yourself in a variety of other delightful activities.
A highlight of visiting Newport in December is the "Holidays at the Newport Mansions" event. This allows you to admire The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms adorned with stunning Christmas decorations!
New York City, New York
New York City is synonymous with festive cheer in December and is often considered the best time to visit this bustling metropolis. Bundle up and explore the downtown streets adorned with holiday store window displays or catch a mesmerizing performance by the famous Rockettes. A must-see attraction is the iconic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Square, which adds to the city's enchanting atmosphere.
New York City never falls short of excitement, even during the winter season. Many visitors flock here in December to partake in holiday shopping at renowned department stores and Christmas markets, as well as attend various seasonal festivals. Ice skating in Central Park against the backdrop of the breathtaking New York City skyline is an experience not to be missed.
Even if you've spent a significant portion of your budget on gifts, you can still enjoy a Broadway show at a reduced price. Keep an eye out for last-minute bargain tickets available at the ticket office shortly before the performance.
As December snowstorms in the northeast are unpredictable, it's advisable to allocate extra time and maintain flexibility in your itinerary to account for potential travel delays. Take advantage of the colder days by visiting the numerous museums, where you can stay warm indoors and venture outside for short intervals.
Lake Placid, New York
For an unforgettable winter getaway at the end of the year, Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains of New York is an excellent choice. This charming town is a haven for adventure enthusiasts, especially during the winter months.
Lake Placid has been a sought-after winter destination since the early 1900s and served as the host for the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. Today, you can still relish Lake Placid's Olympic legacy by visiting attractions such as the Olympic Center, Olympic Jumping Complex, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, and Whiteface Mountain.
Make the most of the fresh powder snow by hitting the slopes at Whiteface Mountain, one of the top ski resorts in the country. If you prefer a more serene winter experience, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities abound at Mount Van Hoevenberg and other nearby locations.
For a relaxing retreat, Lake Placid offers a wealth of cozy lodges and indulgent spas, perfect for a carefree winter weekend!
Cocoa and Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach is a fantastic destination for a warm vacation in December in the US. It is located close to Cape Canaveral, which means if there is a rocket launch, you might be able to catch a glimpse of it!
Even if there is no activity at NASA, the city of Cocoa itself has plenty to offer and will keep you entertained. The temperatures in Cocoa and Cocoa Beach range from 60 to 73F.
It's worth noting that it only takes around 20 minutes to drive between Cocoa and Cocoa Beach, and there are multiple beaches to choose from in Cocoa Beach. Depending on your preference, you can stay in either Cocoa or Cocoa Beach, with the beach or the city just a stone's throw away!
Things to do at Cocoa and Cocoa Beach
- Relax and soak up the sun on Cocoa Beach, or bring your own chairs to Cherie Down Park
- Explore the local breweries like Bugnutty and Dirty Oar, or try out the wine bar in town
- Indulge in some holiday shopping at Parrots Cove vintage store
- Catch a winter show at The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse
- Experience the mesmerizing bioluminescence during this kayak tour – it's definitely a bucket list item for me!
Flagler Beach, Florida
Flagler Beach is a charming city beach with a long stretch of public access sand, a pier, and shops located across the road from the ocean.
The temperatures in Flagler Beach range from 51 to 69F.
Things to do at Flagler Beach
- Enjoy a relaxing sunbathing session on the beautiful golden sand
- Watch the surfers as they try to catch the perfect wave
- Take part in the festive events during First Friday
- Unwind and savor a seasonal beer at one of the bars with decks
- Learn more about the area's history and culture at the museum
Jupiter is a picturesque town located on Florida's east coast. It is home to the iconic Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, beautiful beaches, and a variety of local businesses. If you're looking for a peaceful vacation, Jupiter is the perfect choice.
The temperatures in Jupiter range from 62 to 77F.
Things to do in Jupiter
- Visit the historic Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and explore its grounds
- Enjoy a wonderful al fresco dining experience at PapiChulo in Tequesta
- Relax and soak up the slow-paced atmosphere of Dubois Park
- Spend a day at the neighboring Juno Beach and enjoy the beautiful beach
Absolutely loved this charming town!
Marco Island, Florida
If you're looking for a sandy beach getaway in the middle of winter, Marco Island is the perfect choice. Located on the west coast of Florida, right on the Gulf of Mexico, Marco Island offers four miles of stunning ocean-front beaches.
Marco Island is also a paradise for nature lovers, with numerous smaller islands nearby that provide plenty of opportunities for nature hikes and exploration.
The average winter temperatures in Marco Island range from 60 to 80F.
Things to do in Marco Island
- Take a tour of Historic Palm Cottage & The Norris Gardens, which are beautifully decorated
- Enjoy the tree lighting and snow show at Third St
- Embark on a kayaking adventure in the Ten Thousand Islands
- Go dolphin spotting and marvel at these magnificent creatures
- Keep an eye out for the adorable Burrowing Owls at Marco Island!
- Experience the best shelling adventure during this cruise
- Explore the stunning Everglades National Park
- Witness breathtaking fire dancers performing on the beach
- Attend the Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival
Where to Stay in Marco Island
- For Couples: Holiday Inn Club Vacations Sunset Cove Resort (Expedia/Booking)
- For Families: Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa (Expedia/Booking)
Marco Island is also featured in our guide to free things to do in Southwest Florida and the best islands to visit in December.
Continuing with our warm Gulf of Mexico destinations in Florida, Naples is a city in the southwest that goes all out for Christmas. From parades to outdoor movies, extravagant decorations to fake snow, Naples should definitely be on every festive fan's bucket list.
The temperatures in Naples range from lows of 59F to highs of 76F.
Things to do in Naples
- Take a stroll along Third Street to admire the beautiful architecture and Christmas decorations
- Look out for a fun surprise of artificial snow falling from the sky!
- Enjoy a delightful al fresco dining experience beside warm heaters in the evening
- Find the perfect holiday gifts for the kids at the famous Beth Moné Children's Shoppe
- Plan your visit to catch the Fifth Avenue Christmas parade
- Be amazed by the stunning holiday decorations displayed in hotels like the Ritz Carlton, including a magnificent gingerbread house
- Watch a festive movie on the lawn of the Mercato
- Visit Palm Cottage, the oldest house in Naples, to see its charming holiday decorations
- Drive through Victoria Park to witness incredible house decorations
- Explore the twinkling lights and exhibits at the Botanical Gardens
- Experience the Christmas Boat Parade
- Support local vendors at the Naples Farmers' Market
Naples is also featured in our guide to free things to do in Southwest Florida.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island (AMI) is situated on Florida's Gulf Coast, and you can reach it by driving over a bridge from Longboat Key.
The island includes the City of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, and Holmes Beach, each offering its own unique attractions.
While winter is the coolest month on the island, it is also the driest. The temperatures range from 55F to 74F.
AMI is an ideal destination if you're looking for a relaxed and less crowded area compared to popular destinations like Orlando.
Things to do in Anna Maria Island
- Indulge in a festive hot chocolate at Back Alley Treasures in Bradenton Beach
- Witness the annual Bradenton Beach Holiday Lighted Boat Parade from the water
- Marvel at the lights and hand-placed Christmas ornaments on Bridge Street
- Have a fun-filled beach day at Coquina Beach, Bean Point Beach, or Manatee Beach
- Explore the enchanting Lido Key Preserve and get lost among the trees
- Enjoy some holiday shopping along Pine Avenue in Anna Maria
- Visit the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum to see a historic 1920s cottage and jail
Where to Stay in Anna Maria Island
- For Couples: Cedar Cove is a charming cottage located in Holmes Beach
- For Families: Beach Bungalow is a 2-bedroom lodging in Bradenton Beach
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Our final destination in Florida's Tri-City is Clearwater Beach. This award-winning, family-friendly beach is a perfect choice for a warm winter vacation in the US.
The temperatures in Clearwater Beach drop to around 60-70F, so you might not see many locals on the sand!
Things to do in Clearwater Beach
- Pack your bags and head to the white sugar sand for a day of relaxation
- Witness the breathtaking sunset over the pier or breakwater
- Take a ride on the Jolly Trolley
- Keep an eye out for Santa on the Jolly Trolley during December!
- Experience the tree lighting at Pier 60
- Sip on a Christmas cocktail with a stunning view from Hyatt's rooftop
- Don't miss the opportunity to see dolphins in the Gulf on this cruise
You can rent special beach chairs with support for wheelchair users at Clearwater Beach.
Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach
- For Couples: Opal Sands is a wonderful beachfront resort just minutes away from the beach, with an on-site restaurant
- For Families: Beach Trail Lodgings offer 2-bedroom accommodations and amenities like free parking and a washing machine
Tampa is a vibrant city that offers stunning riverwalk views, lively bars, sports games, and delicious food.
In December, the daily temperatures in Tampa rarely fall below 60F, and it can reach highs of 76F. However, as the month progresses, the temperatures start to decline, so early December is ideal if you prefer a hotter trip.
Tampa is part of the Tampa Bay area, also including St. Petersburg and Clearwater, making it a perfect place to explore Florida's Tri-City.
Things to do in Tampa
- Check out the beautiful Christmas decorations at the H.B. Plant Museum
- Watch the annual Lighted Boat Parade along the Hillsborough River in Downtown Tampa
- Take a tour of the festive trees at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
- Experience ice skating under the sun at Tampa's Winter Village in Curtis Hixon Park
- Watch a holiday classic in the iconic Tampa Theater
- Visit the Tampa Museum of Art, which has been enchanting visitors since 1920
- Enjoy the Christmas and Hanukkah décor at Sparkman Wharf
- Dine and shop at the unique Ybor City, and don't forget to buy local cigars as gifts
- Join a food tour of Ybor and savor the delicious cuisine
- Explore the breweries in Tampa Heights
- Have fun playing games and enjoying great food at Armature Works
- Go holiday shopping at the upscale Hyde Park Village
- Take a day trip to the highly rated beaches in St. Pete
Crystal River, Florida
Crystal River, Florida, is known for its eponymous National Wildlife Refuge, which is dedicated to protecting manatees.
If you've ever dreamt of seeing these gentle creatures in person, Crystal River is the place to be in December. When the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico drop below 62.2 degrees Fahrenheit, the Three Sisters Springs (also known as Idiot's Delight) is closed to protect the manatees. Although swimming may not be allowed during this time, you can still witness these magnificent mammals!
The temperatures in Crystal River are cooler, with average highs of 70F, making it an ideal time to visit with fewer crowds.
Things to do in Crystal River
- Take an observation tour of manatees, where you can float next to these beautiful creatures
- Kayak or paddleboard near Three Sisters Springs
- Go swimming in the crystal clear waters, as Crystal River is part of the Outstanding Florida Waterway
- Explore the scenic Withlacoochee State Trail, a 46-mile-long trail perfect for cycling
- Learn about the area's native history at Crystal River Archaeological State Park
- Enjoy a drink at local establishments like KC Wine, St. John's Tavern, and Nortons
- Visit Crumps for waterfront drinks and festive decorations
- Grab fresh fruit and indulge in a milkshake from Ferris Groves
Where to Stay in Crystal River
As the festive season approaches, it's time to start planning your December getaway. Whether you're dreaming of sun-soaked beaches, winter wonderlands, or cultural hotspots, the United States has it all. From the picturesque islands of Hawaii and the breathtaking national parks of California and Texas, to the enchanting cities of New Orleans and New York, there is a destination to suit every taste. So pack your bags and get ready to experience the magic of December in some of the best US destinations.
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