Explore the perfect winter getaways with the best places to visit in the USA in December. Say goodbye to the winter blues and discover warm destinations 🌴
December kicks off the holiday season across the United States. From elaborate light displays to festive markets and parades, many destinations celebrate this joyful time of year. Of course, December also ushers in winter with snowy landscapes, hot cocoa, and icy adventures.
With holiday cheer, cooler weather, and travelers with time off from school or work, December stands out as an exceptional time to take a domestic trip. If you’re looking to travel within the USA this December, countless places make planning easy and fun during this seasonal month.
Where are the Warm Places in December in USA?
While wintry weather spreads across much of the country after Thanksgiving, you can still find warm places to visit in USA in December without needing a passport. These domestic destinations boast pleasant temperatures, sunny skies, and plenty of things to enjoy during the final month of the year.
Key West, Florida
Of all the warm places in America, Key West remains idyllic in December with average temperatures ranging from 73°F to 78°F. This subtropical island paradise at the southern tip of Florida feels far removed from the USA mainland (just 90 miles from Cuba!). December falls in the dry season, so odds are high you’ll be basking in abundant sunshine during a Key West vacation.
With almost guaranteed warm weather, Key West offers endless opportunities for relaxation and outdoor fun. Spend days beach-hopping or snorkeling vibrant coral reefs and explore Mallory Square as the sunset celebration unfolds each evening. To tap into holiday hijinks, don’t miss sailing aboard tall ships decorated with lights during the Annual Key West Lighted Boat Parade.
Death Valley National Park, California
As one of the hottest places on Earth, Death Valley is obviously best visited outside summer. While December ushers in winter for most of America, seasons don’t change much in this epic national park spanning California and Nevada’s desert. Along with Zion and Joshua Tree, Death Valley makes for one of the best national parks to visit for gorgeous winter weather.
Daytime December highs hover around 70°F, perfect temperatures for taking in Death Valley’s unique landscapes like the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and salt flats down at Badwater Basin (the lowest elevation in North America!). With clear night skies, visitors may even witness magical yet rare snowfall on the sizzling furnace creek sand dunes when frosty winds sweep the desert.
Of course, Hawaii stays balmy year-round thanks to its tropical location in the Pacific Ocean. While tropical showers can occur anytime, winter months tend to be drier in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Like Florida, December falls in Hawaii’s high season, so you’ll find festive decorations adorning hotels and venues across Waikiki Beach.
The weather averages a perfect 78 degrees in December, so come early in the month and you can catch one of Honolulu’s most iconic holiday events. Every December 7th, the city honors those lost during the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941 with a parade and ceremony.
What is the Best State to go to in December?
With so many places to consider, determining the single best state to visit in December poses a challenge! As previously mentioned, warm weather seekers flock to tropical getaways in Hawaii, Florida, southern California and America’s spectacular desert landscapes. Beyond weather, the best places to visit in December depends on your interests.
Urban adventurers adore New York City’s festive transformation centered around the enormous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and brightly lit department store displays. Meanwhile, outdoor enthusiasts make a beeline for winter resort towns across Colorado, Utah, and the Sierra Nevadas for skiing and snowboarding.
No matter your travel style or bucket list, December delights across the USA if you plan accordingly. For holiday ambience, embrace the season in beloved Christmas towns like Leavenworth, Washington or Santa Claus, Indiana. If you plan on hitting the slopes at ski resorts out West, keep an eye on snowfall reports in advance. Or simply indulge in some southern comfort with genteel Charleston’s cobblestone charm or steamy Cajun cuisine in lively New Orleans.
Where is the Best Place to Spend Christmas in USA?
Since many Americans stay home for Christmas week, visiting leading up to the big day (or even between Christmas and New Years) avoids crowds and high airfares. While you’ll encounter festive cheer throughout December, some of the best places to visit dish out extra holiday magic over Christmas itself.
New York City, New York
From the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to the beloved Radio City Rockettes holiday show, New York City shines brighter than ever come Christmas. Holiday markets like Columbus Circle or Bryant Park bustle with shoppers, while department store window displays mesmerize passerbys with intricate animations synced to the season’s top tunes.
Catch a Broadway show like A Christmas Story for in-the-spirit entertainment or simply wander Midtown marveling at lavish light displays draped across skyscrapers. And don’t miss one (or several) slices of delectable pizza before you leave!
Park City, Utah
Let it snow, let it snow in scenic Park City come Christmas! This ski town built for the 2002 Olympics dazzles even non-skiers with twinkling lights draped across Main Street’s charming Victorian buildings. Nighttime sleigh rides with hot cocoa, outdoor ice skating under the stars, and mountainside meals prove magical amid snow-covered evergreens.
Days fill with Alpine adventures like skiing or snowshoe treks across pristine backdrops that seem lifted out of Frozen. The iconic Homestead Crater an hour north even lets visitors soak year-round in its geothermal spring within an underground limestone cavern while snow accumulates overhead.
Are there any Warm Beaches in the US in December?
We may associate December with freezing temps as winter unfolds across most of America. However favorable weather allows beach bums to soak up sunshine along select shorelines in southernmost coastal regions.
These warm(er) beaches in December reach the USA thanks currents like the Gulf Stream, which keeps the Eastern Seaboard south of Virginia Beach fairly moderate all year. Out west, the Pacific Ocean prevents the immediate coastline from feeling truly wintry even as December chill sets inland.
Miami Beach, Florida
Expect temps averaging 77 degrees for fashionable Miami Beach, where hotel rates dip after snowbirds flock further south. Pack the swimsuit to enjoy white sands flanking vibrant Ocean Drive and trendy South Beach neighborhoods. After dark, the party heats up at clubs boasting outdoor dance floors and poolside lounges.
Nearby Key West seduces shore seekers with its laid back tropical ambience in December. Average ocean temps measure around 75 degrees with balmy sea breezes keeping things comfortable poolside or while snorkeling spectacular coral reefs.
Santa Monica, California
You’ll find temperatures hovering in the mid 60s during December days along Santa Monica Beach near Los Angeles. Pacific Ocean swimming stays brisk but comfortable wetsuits allow diehard surfers and swimmers to hang ten with stand up paddleboarders through winter.
Of course, the scenic Santa Monica Pier complete with amusement park rides and street performers make this one of the best winter beaches for simply strolling out to watch sunsets. And with LA just minutes away, enjoy farm-to-table cuisine focused on seasonal ingredients or cultural attractions from museums to concerts galore.
Where is the Most Magical Place to Spend Christmas?
The most magical places to spend Christmas in America capture the nostalgia, joy, and wonder encapsulating the holidays. From glittering light displays synchronized to seasonal songs to costumed characters spreading cheer, these destinations immerse visitors into their own holiday films come to life!
Bursting with Old World Bavarian charm, Leavenworth screams “Best time to visit me is Christmas!” because it looks straight out of a storybook December scene. This quaint village a couple hours from Seattle decks out in traditional German style so elaborately for Christmas, you’d swear you awoke in some romantic European Christmas market.
In addition to the millions of twinkling lights draped across reliably snow-covered Alpine chalets, Leavenworth hosts Christkindlmarkt on weekends with folk dancers, choirs, hearty food stalls and, of course, glühwein mulled wine. Don’t miss petting the reindeer and real sled dog teams that stop by!
Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah
Utah’s capital dazzles as one of America’s best Christmas towns thanks to Temple Square. The focal point for the Mormon church and its followers, this central plaza glows from over 100,000 lights outlining Temple grounds and visitor centers.
Inside marvel at dozens of elaborately decorated Christmas trees representing global cultures and religious traditions. Outdoors, carriage rides give new views of twinkling lights and historic architecture. And concerts fill the Christmas-card pretty plaza nightly with carolers and performers. Don’t leave without trying one of the hot chocolates sold from festive booths — it may convince you that Temple Square truly qualifies as the most magical place in the US for Christmas!
McAdenville, North Carolina
Dubbed “Christmas Town USA,” little McAdenville village puts on quite a show for turning a tree-lighting ceremony into a 6-week holiday spectacle dating back almost 70 years. From the bridge, you can take in the red, white, and green glow from 300+ decorated trees lining main street. Stroll through town to see lights choreographed to holiday music plus a cute Christmas train model.
Located an hour outside Charlotte, McAdenville doesn’t offer much in the way of hotels or dining. But families or couples seeking serious holiday hallmark movie vibes relish loading up the car for a festive evening driving through this jolly hamlet.
Best Places to Visit in December in USA for Couples
December spells romance, when twinkling lights, mistletoe kisses, and cozying up by fireplaces set the mood. These atmospheric places to visit in December heat things up for couples even as temperatures drop across America.
Charleston, South Carolina
Wrought-iron balconies, winding cobblestone lanes, and elegant antebellum architecture cast a spell of southern charm across Historic Charleston. In December the city shines even more atmospheric draped in holiday finery. Stroll hand-in-hand past impressive holiday light displays and your sweetheart is sure to swoon.
Indulge in Lowcountry cuisine at any of Charleston’s outstanding restaurants focused on the region’s cuisine. Oyster roasts make tasty and casual date nights while upscale restaurants in restored buildings heighten southern romance certain to satisfy couples. Don’t miss sunset views strolling along The Battery overlooking Charleston Harbor for a beautiful ending to any day exploring here together.
Napa Valley, California
While summer high season has grape harvest fueling the festive mood, December brings smaller crowds and discounted hotel rates to savor California’s renowned wine region. Crisp weather invites holding hands while exploring vineyards turned amber and crimson come late fall. Schedule a few wine tastings at vineyards doubling as settings straight from romance novels.
Most tasting rooms get decked out for the holidays, setting the mood with roaring fireplaces and festive flourishes amid barrels and bottling equipment. Treat your sweetheart to sumptuous farm-to-table cuisine at restaurants focused on seasonal ingredients that pair perfectly with the fruits of Napa Valley’s vines this time of year.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
From the turquoise blue skies backdroping adobe architecture to vibrant art galleries and upscale spas, Santa Fe sets a seriously romantic ambience. December brings cooler weather ideal for meandering historic streets ablaze with holiday luminarias or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride to dinner downtown.
The plaza comes alive for Christmas at the Palace of the Governors with carolers, musicians and native dancers spreading holiday spirit. And Christmas Eve bonfires lighting up the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains as part of annual Las Posadas celebrations add plenty of romanticism perfect for couples visiting in December.
Best Places to Visit in December in USA East Coast
For holiday magic, historic sightseeing opportunities, and wintertime charm, many travelers prioritize America’s East Coast when seeking domestic December destinations. Iconic Christmas events like the Rockefeller Center tree lighting or Boston’s downtown holiday market funnel holiday spirit into cities small and large from Maine down to Florida.
New York City
Quintessential sights like enormous department store window displays, the Radio City Rockettes iconic holiday show, and sprawling holiday markets hold huge appeal. But winter puts New York City’s world-class museums, dining and entertainment scenes within closer reach thanks to thinner crowds and more affordable hotels. Don’t miss the spectacle of holiday lights synchronized nightly to beloved Christmas tunes across Midtown buildings.
St. Augustine, Florida
Few American cities exude as much historical ambience as St. Augustine, the USA’s oldest continually occupied European settlement dating back over 450 years. In December, the city truly sparkles thanks to Nights of Lights. From November through late January, over three million white lights illuminate St. Augustine’s narrow cobblestone streets, Spanish-era forts, and the Old City District’s historic buildings. Don’t miss sailing the Matanzas River to take in the illuminated Bridge of Lions and Castillo de San Marcos fort.
Best Places to Visit in December in USA West Coast
Mild weather compared to most of America makes the Pacific West Coast shine for December getaways. Families flock to California and the desert for theme park holiday magic while snow bunnies hit the slopes in style out in Colorado or Utah. The obvious wintertime charms of the Rockies meet the oceanfront appeal of surf towns staying sunny through the winter months.
Disneyland at Christmas, California
No place does holiday magic quite like Disneyland when decking out for the season from mid-November through early January. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle transforms into a true winter wonderland shimmering icicle lights at night when snow falls on Main Street and critters get fully festive. Both parks unleash Christmas parades and shows while seasonal treats like gingerbread men and hot cocoa fuel the festivities. Staying on resort immerses your family into the enchantment.
Palm Springs, California
One of the best places with good old days vibes. This retro desert oasis stays hot year-round but the 9 golf courses ringing Palm Springs remain far more comfortable to play in December compared to scorching 110-degree summer heat. By day check out the huge holiday snowflake display downtown or take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway into pristine snowy wilderness. After dark don your gay apparel for massive holiday light displays— make sure to bundle up when cruising through on evening tram rides!
So what place will you visit in the USA this December? Iconic New York City offers endless magical moments amid elaborate window displays, glittering trees and Rockettes high kicks. For quintessential Americana celebrating Christmas, see the world’s first electrically lit holiday light show sparkling across McAdenville, North Carolina’s main street. Or embrace winter wonderlands out West skiing, sleigh riding or even soaking in The Homestead Crater’s year-round springs!