Table of Contents
- Warm Places to Visit in December in USA
- Best Places to Visit in December in USA by State
- 1) Honolulu, Hawaii
- 2) Oahu, Hawaii
- 3) Kauai, Hawaii
- 4) Maui, Hawaii
- 5) Orlando, Florida
- 6) Miami, Florida
- 7) St Petersburg, Florida
- 8) Tampa Bay, Florida
- 9) Crystal River, Florida
- 10) Key West, Florida
- 11) Savannah, Georgia
- 12) Macon, Georgia
- 13) Charleston, South Carolina
- 14) Beaufort, South Carolina
- 15) New Orleans, Louisiana
- 16) Austin, Texas
- What to Eat in Texas
- 17) Lockhart, Texas
- 18) Fredericksburg, Texas
- 19) Marfa, Texas
- Big Bend National Park, Texas
- 20) Terilingua, Texas
- 21) South Padre Island, Texas
- 22) San Antonio, Texas
- 23) Galveston Island, Texas
- 24) Tempe, Arizona
- 25) Phoenix, Arizona
- 26) Tucson, Arizona
- 27) Yuma, Arizona
- 28) San Diego, California
- 29) Palm Spring, California
- 25) Santa Monica, California
- 26) Los Angeles, California
- 27) Death Valley National Park, California + Nevada
- 28) Las Vegas, Nevada
- Bonus Warm December Destinations in the US
- 29) Puerto Rico
- 30) St Croix, US Virgin Islands
- 31) St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
- 32) St John, US Virgin Islands
- Warm Vacation in US Packing List
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These warm places to visit in December in USA will help you beat the winter blues. Whether it’s a domestic or international trip for you, heading toward warm winter destinations can be just the escape we all need.
Warm Places to Visit in December in USA
The US is an enormous country, so there are, of course, wide variations in climate.
Generally speaking, the southern and western states offer warmer winters than the rest of the country.
Within those regions, however, no place is a scorcher.
That said, you can certainly enjoy t-shirt weather in some places and comfortable outdoor temperatures in plenty!
The trick here is to go beyond the continental US if you want a really warm December vacation.
Think: Island Life!
Best Places to Visit in December in USA by State
1) Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu (Oahu) is ideal for enjoying Hawaii’s foodie scene while enjoying the holiday festivities, including the Honolulu City Lights.
The Honolulu City Lights festival kicks off at the start of December for a month-long calendar of festivities including traditional tree lighting, parades and lots of family-friendly fun.
Honolulu is a perfect winter vacation for those looking to catch some rays but not miss out on the festive atmosphere!
Including the lights festival, there are weeks worth of attractions in Honolulu.
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
- 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 at 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, 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
When you make new friends in Honolulu, don’t forget to say Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)!
Where to Stay in Honolulu
- For couples: The Kahala Hotel and Resort with its private beach and no resort fees
- For large groups: Aston Waikiki Beach Tower condo with suites and views
Our guide to the best winter getaways in the US features a variety of locations in Hawaii so here is a map to help get your bearings.
2) Oahu, Hawaii
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 for a heavy reason: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7th.
There’s a parade and plenty to take in at the museum and memorial. If you plan to visit the USS Arizona Memorial Visit you must reserve a timed entry. If you require accommodation pick up check out this small group tour.
Beyond that day, Oahu is ideal for surfers! The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing happens annually in December.
Things to do in Oahu
- Hire a kayak at Kailua Beach
- Take a 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
- See Honolulu above
3) Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai is known as the Garden Isle, so it’s perfect for those seeking outdoor adventure.
It’s also the start of the season to spot humpback whales on their migratory path.
You may recognize some of Kauai’s stunning locations because they have featured in Hollywood greats such as King Kong (Kalalau Valley on the Napali Coast) and Jurassic Park (Napali Coast and Manawaiopuna Falls)!
Hiking fans will want to spend time in Napali Coast State Wilderness Park (image below) to hike through five valleys during the Kalalau Trail.
Visitors love Kauai’s plant life, Hanakoa Valley in particular has native plants and old agricultural terraces.
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 with its private lanai for relaxation
- For groups: Hale Kailea TVNC #4241 has 3 bedrooms, patio, AC and cable TV for max comfort
Kauai also features in our guide to the US in March.
4) Maui, Hawaii
Visit Maui for its famous beaches and the chance to see whales!
Maui’s December temperatures range from a pleasant 66*F to 76*F so you can still hike while enjoying the warm weather.
Things to do in Maui
- Take a ride along the Hana coast to see black sand beaches and waterfalls
- Enjoy a leisurely stroll along 3.5 mile Wailea Beach Path (image) and look out for whales in the ocean
- Visit Hamoa Beach, a small patch of sand with stunning views
- See what’s under the sea with this snorkel tour
- Head inland, to hike active volcanoes at Haleakala National Park
Where to Stay in Maui
- For couples: the stunning Napili Shores Maui by Outrigger
- For groups: amazing 2-bed lodge on Haiku on Maui’s north shore
If December prices are too steep consider another season. Maui features in our guide to the best places to visit in the US in September.
5) Orlando, Florida
Orlando is an obvious one, right? Visit Orlando in December for the most magical of experiences: Walt Disney World itself.
From November to the start of December crowds are smaller than summertime so if you’re looking to experience WDW with fewer people plan for then.
See Santa make his rounds at WDW four parks and Disney Springs from the second week in November.
Eat your way around the world at the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays.
Temperatures are around 63°F and can drop to 50°F in December so remember to pack layers.
Things to do in Orlando
- Walk the wintery streets of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios
- Check out Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure
- Visit Kennedy Space Center
- Dine at International Drive
- Hop on the i-Drive trollies to get from one end to the other
- Soar high at i-Fly, the indoor skydiving center
- Check out the Christmas tree exhibits at the Orlando Art Museum
- Enter the sunken house of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
What to Eat in Florida
- Fresh seafood
- Shrimp BBQ
- Key Lime Pie
- Butterbeer at Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Where to Stay in Orlando
- For couples: Avanti International Resort, large modern rooms with outdoor pool and themepark shuttle
- For families: Sheraton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Resort, affordable resort near Disney Springs
6) Miami, Florida
Miami is the hottest city in the USA in December, clocking average highs of 78* F/26* C.
With its endless summer vibes, Miami is perfect for your US winter escape.
Miami Beach hosts Art Basel, an annual art and design festival. If you’re hoping to rub elbows with the glitterati, you won’t want to miss this.
Popular stretches of sand include South Beach (below).
Things to do in Miami
- Explore NightGarden at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
- Check out Luminosa! the Chinese Lantern Festival at Jungle Island
- Head to Miami Beach for Art Basel
- Shop the Christmas markets for those last-minute gifts
- Stick around for the bizarre King Mango Strut Parade
- Visit the 1920s Deering Estate for historic holiday events
- Take the little ones to Santa’s Enchanted Forest
- See breathtaking views of Miami from above with this parasailing trip
- From Hobie to Homestead, a beach for every kind of visitor in Miami
- Visit the National Historic Landmark, Vizcaya Museum
- Experience an oasis at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
What to Eat
- Cuban sandwich
- Crack stone crab
- Alligator Bites
- Miami Vice cocktail
Where to Stay in Miami
- For couples: Marseilles Beachfront Hotel Art Deco boutique hotel with pool cabanas
- For families: The Betsy Hotel, South Beach, hotel on Ocean Drive, kids love the pool
7) St Petersburg, Florida
This is one of the few warm places to visit in December in USA where you might actually swim!
St Pete is on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where water temperatures average 69* F/20* C which is pretty sweet for the festive season.
St Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater all connect to create The Tampa Bay area, Florida’s tri-city.
Locals often prefer St Pete’s Beach over Clearwater for fewer crowds and more laid back vibes.
Things to do in St Petersburg, Florida
- Enjoy the decor at St Petersburg Pier
- See the Salvador Dali Museum
- Find the award-winning ‘best beach for families’ at Fort De Soto Park
- Craft Beer Trail, called The Gulp Coast
» You may also like | For your Florida bucket list
Where to Stay in St Petersberg
- For couples: Avalon Hotel Downtown retro decor, modern hotel
- For groups: modern vacation home, 3-bedroom housing up to six guests
8) Tampa Bay, Florida
We have a feeling that there may be in an increase in people choosing a Tampa vacation after the Netflix drop of Selling Tampa!
Daily temperatures rarely fall below 60*F in December and highs can reach 76*F.
Temperatures do decline as the month goes on so aim for early December if you prefer a hotter trip.
Things to do in Tampa
- Check out the Christmas decorations at the H.B. Plant Museum
- Watch the annual Lighted Boat Parade along the Hillsborough River in Downtown Tampa
- Tour the festive trees at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
- Ice skate in the sun at Tampa’s Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park
- Watch a holiday classic at the Tampa Theater
- Cycle along Tampa Riverwalk
- Visit Tampa Museum of Art which has been established since 1920
- Dine and shop at the unique Ybor City where the Selling Tampa office is
- Day trip to rated beaches such as St Pete’s
9) Crystal River, Florida
Crystal River, Florida, is known for its eponymous National Wildlife Refuge devoted to protecting manatees.
If you’ve ever dreamt of seeing these sea cows in real life, Crystal River is the place to visit in December.
The crowds are quieter and the days are cooler and visitors ca enjoy average high temperatures of 70* F/21* C.
Things to do in Crystal River
- Kayak or paddleboard at Three Sisters Springs
- Go swimming, the water is part of the Outstanding Florida Waterway
- Cycle the 46 miles of Withlacoochee State Trail
- Learn about native history at Crystal River Archaeological State Park
- Pick up fresh fruit and milkshake from Ferris Groves
Where to Stay at Crystal River
- For groups and families: Spacious vacation home with own dock, houses up to six adults
10) Key West, Florida
Average high temps of 76* F/24* C… it really doesn’t get much more perfect than that!
This is one of the warm places to visit in December in USA, if you ask me.
Add in the palm trees, bicycle rides, and literary history of Key West and you might actually think you’re in heaven.
Key West bars and restaurants attract a lovely crowd so if you’re social, this may be the US winter destination for you.
Duval Street is the heart of downtown and where you will find some of the best Key West attractions including live music, museums and Audubon House.
President Harry Truman enjoyed a vacation to Key West so much he ended up staying for over 100 days over 11 trips. You can see his Little Whitehouse in Old Town.
Things to do in Key West
- Beach hop
- Visit the Southernmost point in Continental USA
- 2-stop snorkel tour
- Dine and drink on Duval Street
- Visit Audubon House’s beautiful gardens
- Take part in water sports
- Join in the nightly ‘Sunset Celebrations’ at Mallory Square
Where to Stay in Key West
- For couples: Havana Cabana at Key West, spacious rooms and popular swimming pool
- For groups: Sweet Pea Cottage stylish 3-bedroom with porch
11) Savannah, Georgia
Georgia’s oldest city Savannah enjoys temperatures of 46-54*F in December making it one of it coolest months which is ideal if you plan to spend a lot of time on your feet.
A popular reason to visit Savannah is for the antebellum architecture.
Many of the mansions in Georgia have been associated with plantations and enslaved people so keep this in mind when learning more about the history and people of “Hostess City of the South”.
Things to do in Savannah
- Hit the shops under the Christmas lights at Broughton Street
- Watch the 40 lit up vessels sail by during the Boat Parade
- Take a 2-hour riverboat cruise on the Savannah River
- Visit the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
- Do the hop on/off trolley to Savannah’s top attractions
- Take a 2-hour tour of the US’s most haunted city
- Spent time in Forsyth Park and Fragrant Garden
- Visit the prettiest street in the city, Jones Street
- Learn about the Gullah-Geechee culture at Pin Point Museum
What to Eat in Savannah and Charleston (Below)
Popular Lowcountry food not to be missed includes:
- Fried green tomatoes – like the 90’s movie
- Shrimp and grits
If you are on a budget, consider Athens in Georgia which features in our guide to cheapest cities to visit in the US.
Where to Stay in Georgia
- For couples: Eliza Thompson House, Historic Inns of Savannah Collection romantic 4-poster bed
- For groups: Home at 1014, 5 bedrooms, balcony and pool table
12) Macon, Georgia
Macon is lesser-known than Georgia or Savannah but is put on the map come spring when arrives for its incredible pop of cherry blossoms.
If 50,000 Yoshino cherry trees blossoming sounds like your kind of vacation, you can read about it in our guide to the best places to visit in the US in March.
Macon is more mild than warm but this is often a welcomed contrast to the muggy summer temperatures.
Temperatures start around 64*F at the start of month, decreasing to 58°F by the end of the month.
Only an hour south of Atlanta, Macon holds everything from interesting museums and historic landmarks, to local markets and festive activities.
Things to do in Macon
- Go ice-skating at Macon Coliseum
- See the Main Street Christmas Light Extravaganza
- Watch a holiday show at Macon Theater or Arts Gallery
- Visit Hay House this holiday, an Italian Renaissance Revival Style historical landmark
- Shop small at Macon independent stores
- America’s largest museum dedicated to educating people about the art, history and culture of African Americans, the Tubman Museum is a must see.
- The Grand Opera House holds over a century of music related history; today you can see films, performances, entertainers, concerts, and more in this stunning building.
- Macon is home to several markets where you can get fresh, local produce and hand crafted items like Mulberry Street Market, and Wesleyan Market; or head to Smiley’s Flea Market where you can find hidden treasure.
- Georgia Sports Hall of Fame – One of the largest sports museums in the country, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is over 43,000 square feet large with over 3,000 artifacts for you to see.
13) Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is another one of those warm places to visit in December in USA. Alongside Savannah, it boasts plenty of charm and historical significance.
You can also enjoy the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park.
Things to do in Charleston
- Listen to music by the Charleston Caroling Company
- Be impressed by the Christmas decor at the Charleston Place, Belmond Hotel
- Enjoy the Historic District displays
- See the Ravenel Bridge
- Enjoy a ferry ride to Fort Sumter
- Visit Charleston’s Old City Jail
- Be wowed at the Angel Oak Tree at Angel Oak Park
- Learn more about the Gullah people in Lowcountry at McLeod Plantation or Geechee Experience Tour
Where to Stay in Charleston
- For couples: Sleigh Bell Suite at the French Quarter Inn
- For couples: Renaissance Charleston Historic District Hotel beautifully decorated hotel, swimming pool
- For groups: Six-bed apartment with fully equipped kitchen
14) Beaufort, South Carolina
Beaufort, South Carolina, is close to both Savannah and Charleston, so you could actually make this trio into quite the warm USA December vacation!
While it’s a small town, Beaufort has been the setting for many popular films. Explore local history and film history.
Famous movies filmed here include Forrest Gump and you can take a tour to see the locations.
Watersports fans enjoy Beaufort’s unique waterways for kayaking.
Hunting Island State Park the best spot for beaches, it was voted one of the best in the US by TripAdvisor.
Things to do in Beaufort
- Watch the Christmas parade
- 3-hour Old Beaufort heritage tour
- Consider the mansions and plantations in Beaufort for their antebellum architecture and complicated past
- Beach hop at Hunting Island State Park
- Visit the Kazoobie Kazoo Factory
Where to Stay in Beaufort
- For couples: The Beaufort Inn: Large rooms, patio and courtyards
- For groups: 2-bed holiday home which sleeps up to 6, home from home
15) New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans: An omnipresent destination. Whatever time of year, for whatever reason, New Orleans always seems to be the answer.
New Orleans is a perfect warm place to visit in December in the US because you avoid the crowds and prices of Mardi Gras, plus the heat and humidity of the summer.
The holidays are yet another reason for locals to decorate and dress the part, so enjoy the festivities as well as the warm temperatures.
The city averages 64* F/18* C in December.
Things to do in New Orleans in December
- Tour the festive hotel lobbies such as The Roosevelt and the Royal Sonesta
- See the Christmas tree at Hotel Mazarin in the French Quarter
- The Skeleton House on St Charles Av isn’t just for Hallowe’en! Check out its festive decor
- 10/10 for the crazy Kraken House at 6574 Memphis St
- Join locals at the holiday lights show, Celebration in the Oaks, which has been running since the 80’s.
- Listen to jazz on Frenchmen Street
- Enjoy cocktails on Bourbon Street
- Do a riverboat cruise like this 2-hour tour with entertainment
- Spend the morning in the Garden District
- Learn about the darker side of NOLA
- Take a tour of the Whitney Plantation which provides accounts from enslaved people
» You may also like | Things to do in New Orleans
What to Eat in NOLA
- Jambalaya – meat, vegetables and rice
- Po-boys sandwich
- Gumbo soup
What to Drink in NOLA
- Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane
- Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenades
- Sazerac cognac
Where to Stay in New Orleans
- For couples: Maison de la Luz, tasteful decor and some rooms have free standing bath
- For groups: Luxury townhouses which sleep up to 8 in each villa
16) Austin, Texas
But you should visit Austin Texas in December for its plentiful cultural events around the holiday season.
There’s no shortage of festive events from ice-skating, light trails, parades and live music, it is Austin the music capital of the world!
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!
» Find out more | Austin Christmas events
What to Eat in Texas
- Frito pie – chips and meat
- Tacos for breakfast
- Tex-Mex breakfast
- Food truck meals
- BBQ for days
- Craft beer
Austin also made it to the best cities to visit in December guide!
Where to Stay in Austin
- For couples: Fairmont Austin, great location and rooftop pool
- For groups: 3-bed South Austin trendy house with AC
17) Lockhart, Texas
Prefer BBQ meat to turkey Christmas dinners?
Head to Lockhart, just 35 miles from Austin for the BBQ capital of Texas.
Temperatures range from 86*F to 30*F with sun and some clouds.
Things to do in Lockhart, Texas
- Eat smoked meat the family-run Blacks BBQ
- Check out Kreuz Market for more BBQ
- Or Smitty’s for even more meat, you get the idea – there’s a lot of BBQ here
- Wash it all down at Old Pal Texas Tavern
- Buy holiday gifts from local stores such as Lone Start Workshop
18) Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg is one of the best places to travel to in December if you miss Europe!
When you first enter this Texas Hill Country location you’ll ask yourself, have I driven to Germany?
Expect German cuisine on the menu and German beer in the bars.
Fredericksburg is also home to vineyards and craft wine cellar shops so there is plenty to be merry about when you visit in December.
Temperatures range from 64*F to 59*F so pack accordingly.
Things to do in Fredericksburg
- Pick up Christmas gifts on Main Street, Fredericksburg is an award-winning shopping town
- Listen to nightly carol singing which runs from the end of November to get you in the spirit of Weihnachtszeit
- Observe the nightly lighting of the Community Christmas Tree and German Christmas Pyramid
- Cheers ‘prost’ while tasting the local wine which you can get with dinner starting at $8 a glass
- Take part in a British-style Boxing Day party at one of the vineyards hosted by the Fredericksburg German Club
- Ring in the new year at the Albert, Texas Ice House & Dancehall NYE party
- Or get involved in the new year countdown at the Marktplatz
Where to Stay in Fredericksburg
- Hotel Fredericksburg Inn and Suites: 5 mins from town, swimming pool, breakfast included
- Vineyard Trail Cottages: Adult only, cottages with patio
19) Marfa, Texas
Marfa, Texas is one of Two Scots Abroad’s favorite places in Texas.
If you like art installations in the desert and exhibitions in ballrooms then you might like this tiny community in West Texas too.
Wondering where you’ve heard about Marfa before?
Cast your mind back to The Simpson’s episode “Mad About the Toy” or every time a Vanderbilt took the elevator to your penthouse and passed the Prada Marfa sign in Gossip Girl!
That’s the same Marfa.
Oh and it didn’t hurt that both Knowles sisters have visited and posted about their trip on social media.
If you plan to visit, make sure you do so over a weekend and the town is dead during the week.
Marfa December temperatures range from a toasty 76*F to freezing 21*F so pack accordingly.
Things to do in Marfa
- Shop small, shop local for your holiday shopping this year at Marfa’s independent stores
- Check out an exhibition at Ballroom Marfa
- Walk around the 15 Untitled Works in Concrete at Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation
- Drive out to Prada Marfa, the faux Prada shop with real items in the window
- Try spot the Marfa Lights phenomena on route 67
Marfa Hotels with Parking
- Hotel Saint George: Modern hotel with big rooms and seasonal pool
- Riata Inn – Marfa: Friendly staff, affordable and clean motel
Read our full guide to accommodation in Marfa here.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
If you dream of getting away from the city, office, working from home or hey, even the family, a road trip out to Big Bend National Park could provide the solitude you need to prepare for a busy December or deflate after a manic month.
Big Bend is the 15th largest national park and it is very well organized.
The map that is allocated with your pass is easy to navigate but if you do require further assistance there are are five visitor centers: Panther Junction, Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, Persimmon Gap and Castolon.
Big Bend’s December temperatures range wildly from a mild 63*F to freezing 39*F and it gets very cold during the night so invest in a high quality sleeping bag if you are camping or staying in an RV.
Things to do at Big Bend National Park
- Explore the 201 miles of hiking trails such as the Dog Canyon
- Get steamy at the Boquillas hot spring by the flowing River Grande
- Hop on a boat to Boquillas in Mexico, remember your passport – no joke!
- Stargaze at the black skies while you enjoy s’mores by the camp fire
20) Terilingua, Texas
Terlingua is also known as the Texas ‘Ghost Town’ referring to its mining past in the 1800s.
Before WWII, thousands of people made up the Terlingua community. Today there are less than 100.
Things to do in Terilingua
- Visit the mining ruins
- Dine at the Starlight Theatre
- People watch with a beer on the Starlight Theatre porch
- Stay in a wigwam
Where to Stay in Terlingua
- Resort Lajitas Golf Resort: Spa and swimming pool
- Lodge Terlingua Ranch Lodge: Private cabins and campsite
21) South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island in December boasts an average high of 71* F/22* C, making it a dreamy escape from the bitter cold up north.
Come to stroll the sand, bask in the sunshine, and forget about those icy temps back home.
You’ll be in good company with all the other snowbirds (read: Not much in the way of nightlife, but you’ll certainly feel relaxed!).
Things to do in South Padre Island
- Swim at Laguna Madre Bay
- Enjoy the waterslides at Schlitterbahn Waterpark
- Eat tacos, nachos and ceviche
- Dine at Louie’s Backyard for all you can eat ribs and seafood
- Check out Laguna BOB for seafood, burgers and a full bar at a laid-back waterfront deck
Where to Stay in South Padre
- For couples: Courtyard South Padre, spacious rooms, fitness suite and swimming pool
- For families: Beachside condo which sleeps 6 with swimming pool
Read next | Best beach towns in Texas
22) San Antonio, Texas
The San Antonio Riverwalk is a popular destination year-round.
Around the holiday season, it’s a wonderful time of year with average high temperatures at 64* F/18* C.
Learn about the fight for independence in Texas at The Alamo and check out the city views from HemisFair Park’s 750-ft. Tower of the Americas.
What about warm winter vacations road trip featuring Austin and San Antonio?
Things to do in San Antionio
- Be wowed by Lightscape at San Antonio Botanical Gardens
- Then again at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
- Check out the Christmas tree and ice skate at Travel Park
- Walk along the famous Riverwalk or do a carol along from a boat!
- Dine at one of the Riverwalk restaurants
- Enjoy a beer and festive lights at Pearl Brewery
- Eat s’mores and skate at Natural Bridge Caverns
- Learn about historical conflict at The Alamo
- Shop at El Mercado in downtown
- Spend time in the Pearl District for independent shops and restaurants
- See the dinosaurs at Witte Museum on the Broadway Cultural Corridor
- Take a train ride through Brackenridge Park
- Shop at North Star Mall to see the huge cowboy boot sculpture
There’s a cool treehouse cabin in San Antonio which features in our guide to treehouse cabins in Texas!
Where to Stay in San Antonio
- For couples: Thompson San Antonio Riverwalk, great location, exceptional restaurant
- For groups: Huge house which sleeps up to 8
San Antonio also features in our guide to the best places to visit in January in the US as that’s when the coffee festival and restaurant week kicks off so if you like food, you might want to hang back a month!
23) Galveston Island, Texas
An under-the-radar destination for December, Galveston Island offers miles of lovely beaches to walk in very comfortable temperatures.
Even better? Galveston is known as the “Winter Wonder Island” of Texas and offers more than 50 days of holiday events and activities!
If you love beaches, here’s a guide to the best beaches in Texas.
Things to do
- Beach hop between East Beach and Galveston Island State Park
- Use the world’s longest continuous sidewalk – walk or jog?
- Enjoy the rides at Pleasure Pier
- Get a selfie with the welcome mural
- See a show at The Grand 1894 Opera House
- Relax on the Lazy River at Palm Beach
Where to Stay at Galveston Island
- For couples: Hotel Galvez and Spa on Seawall Boulevard with heated pool
- For groups: Comfortable house with patio and BBQ
24) Tempe, Arizona
Tempe, an inner suburb of Phoenix, is enjoying a bit of a burst of popularity right now!
Visit Tempe for its historic downtown and focus on the arts.
The average December high temps of 68* F/20* C don’t hurt either!
Image Credit – Tempe Tourism
Things to do in Tempe
- Shop at Tempe Marketplace and Arizona Mills
- Tempe Fall Festival of the Arts displays over 350 local artist work
- Enjoy the light strung between Mill Avenue’s trees
- Reserve a ticket for the magical drive through lights show
- Join the locals at the Fantasy of Lights Opening Night Parade
- Check out the decor at Peterson House
- See how the Sepanek’s do decor at Sepanek’s Holiday Lights
- Watch the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake from dry land
- If you you’ve got a sweet tooth you’ll love Candy Cane Lane at The District Stage
- Paddleboard, kayak or rent a swan boat at Tempe Town Lake
- Explore the 1500 acres of Papago Park
- Learn about the native communities in Arizona
What to Eat in Arizona
- Sonoran hot dog
- Ach’íí’ – a Native delicacy
- Mesquite flour pancakes or deserts
25) Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix offers a unique place to visit in December in USA.
Despite the warmer temps (average highs of 66* F/19* C), there’s a downtown ice skating rink to enjoy!
You can’t miss visiting the Desert Botanical Garden for Las Noches de Las Luminarias.
More than 8,000 paper lanterns guide your way.
Also, look out for the many Hanukkah celebrations around the Valley.
Expect a lighting ceremony, live music and doughnuts.
Stay at the MOXY Phoenix for modern rooms at the reliable MOXY.
26) Tucson, Arizona
Tucson really leans into the holiday spirit.
You can’t miss the Oro Valley Marketplace featuring local artisans and performers, plus an annual tree lighting ceremony.
It’s one of the biggest community arts festivals in southern Arizona.
Be prepared for dessert and snow if you choose Tucson for your winter vacation.
Things to do in Tucscon
- Enjoy Mexican food
- Take this Box Canyon and Pinal half day ATV tour
- Check out the space crafts at Pima Air & Space Museum
- See the saguaro cactus at the Sonoran Desert
- Hike Douglas Spring Trailhead
- Ski at Mount Lemmon Ski Valley
- Dine at Monetery Court cafe
Where to Stay in Tucscon
- For couples: Hotel Tucson City Center, Ascend Hotel Collection, clean rooms and big hotel
- For groups: Grand Hilltop House with incredible views over Tucscon, 4 bedrooms, sleeps 8
27) Yuma, Arizona
Yuma, Arizona, is the sunniest location in the continental US in December.
If that’s not reason enough to visit, then check this: Yuma actually holds the Guinness World Record as the sunniest city…in the WORLD.
It was also named Arizona’s Best Historic Main Street Community, so you can enjoy learning local history and shopping along the quaint downtown.
28) San Diego, California
San Diego is just known for its perfect year-round climate with highs matching LA at 65* F/18* C, a comfortable sightseeing temperature.
As a warm US December destination, it offers warmth, sunshine, beaches, history, and — to top it all off — it’s fairly budget-friendly for a big city!
Things to do in San Diego
- Watch the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights
- Walk or drive through the many neighborhoods that go big on their holiday light displays (even timing them to music)
- Don’t miss the Gaslamp Pet Parade!
- Go to San Diego light show with the kids
- Tailgate at the Holiday Bowl
- Catch a viewing of Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Who Stole Christmas at Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park
- Take in the 70 miles of coast – swim, surf or sunbathe?
- Enjoy a harbor cruise
- Cycle or run the 10 mile Mission Bay loop
- Take a road trip from Ocean Beach to Torrey Pines (one day)
» Related | California bucket list items
What to Eat in California
- Açaí Bowl – Brazilian power food
- California burrito – asada (meat) and fries
- Sushi and sushirrito – sushi burrito
Where to Stay in San Diego
- For couples: SpringHill Suites by Marriott San Diego Downtown/Bayfront for incredible views and location
- For groups: 2-bed Ocean Beach apartment with ocean views
29) Palm Spring, California
Temperatures highs in Palm Springs are 72*F and lows of 45*F in December but you have to pack for surprise rain with recordings of below normal weather lately.
Things to do at Palm Springs
- Golf or admire the gardens at Sunnylands Center
- Enjoy the natural palm fans at Indian Canyons once home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
- Use the Palm Springs Tramway up Mount San Jacinto for great views
- Take a day trip to Pioneertown, created in the 1940s as a “Living Breathing Movie Set”
- Do a day tour to Joshua Tree National Park
25) Santa Monica, California
Visit Santa Monica for WinterLit during the holiday season.
Take photos with Santa (pets can do it, too!), go ice skating beachside, attend menorah lightings, and shop at the holiday market.
Average highs of 65* F/18* C make it comfortable for moseying along to buy last-minute gifts.
Stay at the Sant Monia Hilton for lazy pool days chilling on a cabana.
26) Los Angeles, California
Visit Los Angeles in December for Disney, views, food and endless summer vibes.
The city is known for its glitz and glam year-round, but it steps up a notch for the holiday season.
It doesn’t hurt that the weather is lovely all year long. Great for outdoor strolls without having to bundle up against the cold!
Expect temperature highs of 66* F/19* C.
Things to do in Los Angeles in December
- Watch the Newport Beach Boat Parade
- Get tickets to Walt Disney Concert Hall for festive events
- Get extra festive at Universal Studios Hollywood
- Enjoy the Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens.
- Visit the LA Auto Show
- Take a drive down Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena
- Go ice skating…yes, even in LA! (try out the LA Kings Holiday Rink)
- Revel in the winter wonderland that is Winter Fest OC.
Where to Stay in LA
- For couples and young friends: The Kinney for cool art and decor on Venice Beach
- For groups: 4-bed villa in Beverley Hills, private pool and daily housekeeping, sleeps 10
» Related | LA bucket list items
27) Death Valley National Park, California + Nevada
One of the hottest locations on Earth is finally manageable in winter.
Death Valley National Park in December reaches an average high of 65* F/18* C, making it the perfect time to hike and explore this notorious region.
The park is partly in California and also in Nevada.
So, after hiking and getting your dose of outdoor adventure, it’s time to finish off December with an NYE party like no other…
Stay at The Inn at Death Valley for manicured grounds and stargazing.
28) Las Vegas, Nevada
Ah, Vegas. The city where debauchery is ubiquitous and oxygen is pumped through buildings to make you forget time exists.
If that’s your thing, then hit Sin City to escape whatever winter woes befall you.
Note that Las Vegas isn’t the warmest of places to visit in December in USA (average highs are 57* F/14* C), but you’re mostly indoors there anyway.
And it’s really a destination for New Year’s Eve extravaganzas!
Dress to impress and leave time in early January for recovery.
Things to do in Vegas
- Check out the Christmas trees – they will be extra
- See the holiday display at Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
- Festivities at the second most famous streets in Vegas, Fremont Street
- Be wowed by the famous Bellagio Fountains Light show to Xmas tunes
- Visit the Magical Forest with the kids
- Enjoy an all day buffet on Xmas day
- Join in the Great Santa Run
- See a festive live show
- Hit the slots
- See the sign
Where to Stay
You May Also Like
Bonus Warm December Destinations in the US
Don’t forget the US has other islands!
While these islands aren’t full states, they are US territories. If you’re not a US-passport holder, you’ll most likely follow the same visa entry rules.
Not having statehood is a major issue for residents’ voting rights and representation.
You can learn more about the legal background here or listen to John Oliver’s more lighthearted take on the issue:
29) Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is an ideal December US destination if you’re seeking warmth, sunshine, beaches, history, culture, and more.
The holiday season is particularly special in Old San Juan. Be sure to visit for the parrandas, which grow into big street parties.
Extra bonus: Puerto Rico is still recovering from the devastating hurricanes of recent years.
Putting our tourism dollars where they make the biggest, most positive impact is the least we can all do as tourists.
30) St Croix, US Virgin Islands
The largest of the US Virgin Islands (USVI), St Croix boasts an interesting cultural blend and multi-layered history.
Enjoy the beaches, blow bubbles underwater, and come back home with a tan to tide you over until summer.
31) St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
St Thomas is the most popular of the USVI, with too many cruise ships regularly visiting.
But, if you can get away from those busy spots and overwhelming crowds, this island offers ample amenities alongside stunning natural beauty.
32) St John, US Virgin Islands
St John is the smallest of the three USVI. You have to go through St Thomas to get here, but it’s absolutely worth the journey.
Enjoy snorkeling and relaxing on white-sand beaches or walking through the lush, tropical jungle along hiking trails.
St John is perfect for a relaxing warm December USA getaway in the sunny Caribbean.
USVI average high temperatures are 86* F/30* C for a proper tropical island getaway!
Warm Vacation in US Packing List
- Aloe vera coolng gel
- Mosquito repellent bracelets
- Cool cup with spores for beach
- Electrolyte hydration powder
- Large sandproof beach towel
- Universal cellphone waterproof pouch
- Large hanging travel toiletry bag
- Backseat organizer if road tripping – check out this guide for more essential car/RV gear
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Have I missed your favorite warm Winter destination in the US? Tell me in the comments.