As the days get shorter, who isn’t daydreaming about a warm, sunny day? In this guide to the best warm places to visit in December in the USA, you’ll get the inspiration you need to fend of Jack Frost.
From desert getaways to beautifully warm beaches, this list of the best warm places to visit in the US this winter has you covered. So let’s get outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun with these suggestions of the best winter escapes in the USA from fellow bloggers.
About this Guide to Warm Places to Visit in December in the USA
Okay so when it comes to escaping winter the rules are simple, flock to the places with warmer weather. In this guide to warm places to visit in the USA this winter you’ll get:
- How to find warm winter vacations in the US
- When else you can visit this delightfully warm locales
- The best warm places to visit in December in the US
- Outdoor-focused activities in each of these toasty warm locations
How to Find Warm Winter Vacations in the US
The US spreads across a vast swath of the globe, from the palm-lined beaches of Hawaii to the rocky coast of Maine. Even though much of the US does get colder in the winter, there are several warm places to visit in December in the USA.
The key to finding the right spots is to first decide what you want to do. If you’re looking for outdoor adventure (duh if you’re on this blog), then you’ll want to find spots with a temperate winter climate.
Think the southern half of the country (no – not just the south) and the outlying islands. The American Southwest, Florida, Hawaii, and California all boast mild winter weather.
Next, choose a sunny place. When the sun shines, even temperatures in the 50s can feel toasty and delightful, so choose a place with plenty of sunshine.
Can I Visit these Warm Weather Vacation Spots in the US Throughout Winter?
In short, absolutely! Each of these warm weather destinations in the US are suitable to visit throughout winter.
I don’t know about you, but when December rolls around, I’m itching to escape the cold! This guide may specifically refer to warm places to visit in December in the USA, but these spots stay warm from November through March.
In fact, many of them may even be better in the winter months since the oppressive summer heat is too much.
The Best Warm Places to Visit in December in the US
In order to give you the absolute best recommendations for warm places to visit in the US this winter, I asked expert bloggers. Their (sometimes) local wisdom and expert-level traveling means you’ll get the best recommendations for your winter escape.
Palm Springs, California
Looking for one of the best warm US destinations in winter where you can shop til you drop while enjoying sunny, 70 F weather?
If so then Palm Springs is the perfect place for you. Just head to the main shopping area of Palm Canyon Drive and enjoy countless restaurants and boutique shops.
After all, Palm Springs is a gorgeous city that quietly sits in the Sonoran Desert of southern California and is known for luxurious hotels, gorgeous hot springs, stunning architecture, amazing spas, and designer stores.
However, if you want to escape into the great outdoors then you can always hike, horseback ride, and bike your way through the area’s Coachella Valley. If you want, you can also take a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park which is less than an hour away.
Pro Tip: Try the Cactus to Clouds Trail for great views of the city, take a horseback ride through Indian Canyon, or check out one of the most challenging hikes in California.
Experience the Warmth of Oahu, Hawaii
By Nicole of Affordable Family Travel
The Island of Oahu, HI is one of the most excellent warm places to visit in December in the USA winter destination. The weather is comfortable and there is plenty to see and do outdoors.
Head to the North Shore and enjoy watching the Surfers in the massive waves of the Banzai Pipeline. You may even catch a surfing competition.
There are plenty of scenic stops along the way to the North Shore. If you are staying in Waikiki or Ko Olina Resort area such as Halona Blowhole and Chinaman’s Hat.
You can also stop for a nice 3.3-mile round trip hike up Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. Don’t be surprised that the views are much more impressive than the lighthouse.
Waikiki and Ko Olina both have wonderful beaches. If staying in Ko Olina the four seasons are nice with a fantastic brunch and Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa is great for families with a kid’s club included. Or for the adults who just love Disney.
In Waikiki, The Hilton Hawaii Village offers weekly fireworks and a luau. If you’re lucky you can book a room with views of both. What a bonus!
The Honolulu Zoo and Aquarium are both walkable from your Waikiki Hotel. While small they both offer a great family experience.
There are many great hiking trails around Oahu including Diamond Head Crater Hike and Manoa Falls.
The ATV tour at Kualoa Ranch is one of many great tours offered on their property where many famous movies, such as Jurassic Park, have been filmed.
The Polynesian Culture Center is great for families with many outdoor shows, games, and crafts. There is so much to do in Oahu while taking advantage of their year-round beautiful weather.
Relax by the Ocean in San Diego, California
With daily highs in the upper 60s, San Diego is an easy pick for one of the best warm US destinations in winter.
Plus, this city’s incredible location along the Pacific Coast means that it is known for world-class beaches like Coronado Beach.
You can also meander along “The Strand” between La Jolla and Mission Beach before visiting
astounding art galleries, exploring beautiful Balboa Park, and seeing the famous San Diego Zoo.
Also, because of the tremendous depth of the harbor, San Diego also has a significant naval presence that includes the USS Midway, which is an aircraft carrier turned museum.
See the Red Rocks of Scottsdale, Arizona
With daily winter highs of around 71 F, the desert city of Scottsdale, Arizona is a perfect destination for anyone in need of a warm winter destination in the USA.
So, stop by and visit the many spas and golf courses, like TPC Scottsdale, that the city is known for. You can also explore the Old Town which is brimming over with charming edifices from the 1920s.
Additionally, you can hike your way past the mesmerizing rock formations of McDowell Sonoran Preserve before marveling at Taliesin West, the historic studio and home of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Step Back in Time in Savannah, Georgia
With refreshingly warm winter weather and daily highs of around 65 F, Savannah is a great choice for a warm winter vacation in the USA.
Visitors will also love that winter is the low season. Therefore, prices for flights and accommodations will be a lot cheaper.
So, grab a seat in a horse-drawn carriage and experience the charming antebellum architecture. well-maintained parks, and cobblestone streets that the area is known for.
You can also explore Forsyth Park and marvel at gorgeous oak trees enshrouded in Spanish moss before stopping at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
Check Out the Views of Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
by Kate S. of Lone Star Travel Guide
Palo Duro Canyon is not only the second-largest canyon in the USA. This large canyon is home to beautiful desert views, fantastic hiking opportunities, and it makes a fantastic stop off of Route 66 (it’s about 30 minutes off the route).
As one of the must-see warm places to visit in the US, you’ll certainly want to check out this magnificent canyon system.
Located just south of Amarillo, Texas, Palo Duro Canyon’s desert environment never gets particularly cold during the day. Average temperatures in the coldest months, December and January, still reach highs of 56°F (13°C).
As long as you’re prepared to bundle up at night, this is one of the best USA winter destinations for hikers who want to avoid the cold!
Some of the best things to do in Palo Duro Canyon include going horseback riding, spotting Texas longhorns in the Longhorn Pasture, stargazing, spotting hoodoos throughout the park, and of course, hiking. Don’t forget to visit the famous Lighthouse, the most impressive rock formation in the park.
Visitors who prefer hotels can find plenty of options in the small town of Canyon. Located about 20 minutes outside the park, it’s within easy reach. Those who prefer to stay in the park can find campsites of all varieties and a number of cabins to rent inside it.
Soak Up the Sun in Key West, Florida
By Lori S. of Travlin’ Mad.
After winter tightens its grip, it’s time to consider a winter getaway to someplace warm, and there is no better place to escape to than Key West, Florida.
The subtropical climate is warm and so are the surrounding waters. Outdoor lovers will find just about anything that can be done on, in, or under the water.
Scuba dive in the clear water to reefs and sunken wrecks — many dive operators offer a resort-course PADI certification if you have the time.
For snorkelers, a champagne snorkeling cruise to the offshore reef aboard a sailing catamaran is the ticket.
Operators provide all the gear you need, and stop to toast the sunset with a glass of champagne on the way back — very Key West! Bubbly anyone?
Key West is also a fisherman’s paradise. Fishing excursions abound for both inshore and offshore fishing, or you can rent a boat to fish on your own or just to cruise the local waters.
For those needing something a bit more challenging there are jet-ski rentals, and parasailing is a favorite way to get a birds-eye view of the Conch Republic.
No matter what you choose, there’s no doubt that the winter blues are a lot more fun in Key West.
Taste Wine and Hike in Sonoma, California
by Allison G. of California Crossroads
In the winter months, nights get close to freezing in Sonoma County, making a cozy fireplace hang extremely inviting.
Fear not, this is a post about warm US destinations in December, and the daytime temperatures are usually fairly warm (around 60 Fahrenheit on average), leaving you plenty of time to do beach walks along the beautiful Sonoma Coast, hike amongst redwood trees, and sit outside doing wine tastings of Sonoma’s finest!
The best thing about winter in Sonoma is so much can be done outside! Head to Jenner, population 136: a cute town on the Pacific Coast Highway with a gorgeously rugged beach.
The Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean here, splitting it into two beaches: Jenner Beach and Goat Rock Beach, both of which are excellent places to stroll along the coast and its many sea stacks and rock formations.
You’ll often spot seals relaxing on the beach here, too! You can have an exquisite meal at the River’s End Restaurant overlooking the sea.
For a walk amongst redwoods, you have a few options. The best place for hiking with redwoods is in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville, which has several hiking trails ranging from very easy to rather steep and difficult.
Choose your own adventure depending on your fitness level and travel group, but either way, you’ll be amongst nature’s must humbling and beautiful giants!
You can also zipline through the redwoods in Occidental with Sonoma Canopy Tours, drive down the Bohemian Highway amongst gorgeous redwood forests.
Or mix the best of both worlds and do some redwood relaxing and champagne sipping at Korbel Champagne Cellars, also in Guerneville.
Escape the Snow in Tempe, Arizona
By Constance of Adventures of Panda Bear
Tempe, Arizona is the best weekend escape in the United States this December. The weather tends to be warm and mild making it perfect for some winter sun and outdoor activities. Spend time in Tempe hiking and exploring its picturesque Tempe Town Lake.
Exploring Tempe’s Papago Park on foot for a beautiful view into the Arizonian desert. Technically the park spans the cities of Phoenix and Tempe and is home to some of the best hikes in Arizona.
Papago Park is home to amazing sights such as the outdoor Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, Papago Ponds, and Hole in the Rock. Hole in the Rock is one of the most recognizable red rock formations in the area and is the perfect spot to catch the sunset.
Tempe Town Lake is another great spot to explore in the winter. Rent a pedal boat or kayak and set sail on the lake! During the summer, this activity is a bit rough in the heat, but it’s the perfect way to catch some rays while enjoying the water during the winter.
If you’re not a fan of the water, you can always take a stroll or run along the lake while enjoying the local art pieces along the Tempe Town Lake Path.
AC Hotel by Marriott Phoenix / Downtown Tempe is the perfect place to stay as it is located close to downtown Tempe and Tempe Town Lake. Papago Park is also a short distance away making its location very convenient for a quick winter weekend stay. What better warm place to visit in December in the USA than Tempe?
Head Out on an Adventure to Catalina Island
by David of Awesome Traveler
Santa Catalina Island is known for its buffalo milk, which is the official drink of the island. Of course, the island is fun during the summer but it stands out more for its mild winter, which allows outdoor activities to go uninterrupted. Outdoor activities on the island are numerous and unforgettable, they include:
- The Catalina Island glass-bottom boat tour
- The fantastic Catalina race
- Journey to the sky
- Ridgetop Eco Adventure
- Catalina Island Aerial Adventure
- Catalina Island Golf Course
Planning for your accommodation should be part of your priority. To get the most out of your visit to the island, you’ll need to stay for at least three days and two nights so you must find a place to spend the night.
Thankfully there are various options for accommodation. If you’d like a hotel, you can check out Hotel Catalina and Courtyard Garden suites or Hotel Metropole.
If you’d rather settle for an inn, you can look into The Old Turna Inn or Seaport Village Inn.
Vacation rentals are also available with Catalina Dream Vacations, Catalina island and vocational rentals, or Avalon Cove.
For nature enthusiasts who prefer camping, the equipment can be rented from establishments like Hermit Gulch Campground and a company can be paid to set up a tent. Come explore Catalina Island this winter for a mild-weather island getaway without the crowds
Make a Splash on Padre Island, Texas
By Bruna of Maps ‘N Bags
Anyone looking for a warm place to visit in December in the USA should consider Padre Island, a lovely beach town in Texas. It might be a bit too cold for a swim, though. After all, the average temperature in January rests in the 50s and 60s. Still, this weather is perfect for coastal walks, shelling, and biking around the island.
While sub-tropical South Padre Island is an ideal escape all year round, it might be particularly packed during winter with northern Texans looking for some sunshine, warmer temperatures, and of course, fresh Texas Gulf seafood.
That’s why you will want to book your accommodation ahead of time and avoid last-minute annoyances. For instance, the La Quinta Hotel by Wyndham is a lovely stay and right next to the Andy Bowie County Park and near the Laguna Madre Nature Trail: excellent hiking spots!
You can spend anywhere from a long weekend getaway to a full week in this laid-back place. Just set up a chair and umbrella on the beach and watch the waves roll in–that’s the perfect weekend getaway!
Take a Hike in Scenic Sedona, Arizona
By Roshni of Wanderlust Within
One of the best places to go in the US this December is a getaway is Sedona in Arizona. The time of year is perfect for admiring the snow capped Red Rocks, and hiking in the crisp but comfortable weather.
Whilst there are plenty of outdoor things to do in winter such as scenic hot air balloon rides, jeep excursions of the desert and helicopter tours of the canyons, the evenings do get cooler. Don’t forget the jaw-dropping, scenic Sedona hikes.
The best way to counteract this, is to book one of these cozy Airbnbs in Sedona, and enjoy a comfy evening in front of a outdoor fire pit, with homemade s’mores and hot chocolate.
On top of that, winter in Sedona has less crowds, peaceful trails, quieter restaurants, and cheaper prices compared to the peak season, so staying three to five nights is ideal to really experience everything the area has to offer at a relaxed pace.
Hit one of the Most Challenging Hiking Trails in California
Spanning such a large longtitude, California is home to many different climates. However, Los Angeles is one of the perfect warm weather places to visit in December in the USA.
Take a stroll along the beach (Zuma and Malibu are total local hot spots), roller blade along the Santa Monica Pier, try your luck at surfing, or tackle one of California’s toughest hikes.
The Mount Baldy Trail in Southern California is a tough, 11-mile out-and-back trail that’s a must do for anyone who loves nature and a good view. This trail is ideal in winter because the temperatures are cooler.
Be sure to wear cozy and appropriate hiking clothes, pack plenty of water and snacks, and take your time on this challenging hike.
Additional US Escapes
Looking to get out this winter? Check out these amazing outdoor travel guides:
- Bucket-List National Parks to Visit this Winter
- The Most Drool-Worthy Hikes Near Moab, Utah
- The Ultimate Colorado Winter Bucket List