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
*Note: All 2020 events and activities should be carefully reviewed as the situation continues to change.
1) Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu 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!
Don’t forget to say Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)!
2) 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.
3) Oahu, Hawaii
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.
Beyond that day, Oahu is ideal for surfers! The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing happens annually in December.
4) Orlando, Florida
Orlando is an obvious one, right? Visit Orlando in December for the most magical of experiences: Disney World itself.
Crowds are smaller than summertime, though the school holidays still attract families for a winter break.
» Related | Orlando on a budget
5) 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).
6) 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.
While here, you can explore the Craft Beer Trail, called The Gulp Coast.
Combine all that with average high temperatures of 72* F/22* C and you’re in for a winter treat!
» You may also like | For your Florida bucket list
7) 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.
Enjoy average high temperatures of 70* F/21* C while you fawn over those manatees.
8) 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 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.
9) Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia, boasts charm and comfortable temperatures year-round.
Georgia’s oldest city, Savannah is popular for its cobbled streets, manicured gardens such as Forsyth Park (below) and antebellum architecture.
Learn about Georgia’s role in the civil rights movement at its the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
Stroll the beaches, learn local history, and enjoy getting around town on a decorated trolley — or hop into a boat parade!
10) 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.
11) 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.
12) 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.
» You may also like | Things to do in New Orleans
13) 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!
» Related | Austin Christmas events
14) 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!).
15) 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.
16) 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.
17) Tempe, Arizona
Tempe 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!
18) 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.
19) 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.
20) 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.
21) San Diego, California
San Diego is just known for its perfect year-round climate.
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!
» Related | California bucket list items
22) 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.
23) 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…
24) 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.
» You may also like | Las Vegas itinerary ideas
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:
25) 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.
26) 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.
27) 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.
28) 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!
Save this post to your USA planning board
Have I missed your favorite warm Winter destination in the US? Tell me in the comments.
About the author: Amanda Walkins is a freelance travel writer and digital content strategist. She grew up in New England but now calls bonnie Scotland home, after several stops in between. Read all about expat life and travel in all the countries she’s lived.
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) Kauai, Hawaii
- 3) Oahu, Hawaii
- 4) Orlando, Florida
- 5) Miami, Florida
- 6) St Petersburg, Florida
- 7) Crystal River, Florida
- 8) Key West, Florida
- 9) Savannah, Georgia
- 10) Charleston, South Carolina
- 11) Beaufort, South Carolina
- 12) New Orleans, Louisiana
- 13) Austin, Texas
- 14) South Padre Island, Texas
- 15) San Antonio, Texas
- 16) Galveston Island, Texas
- 17) Tempe, Arizona
- 18) Tucson, Arizona
- 19) Phoenix, Arizona
- 20) Yuma, Arizona
- 21) San Diego, California
- 22) Santa Monica, California
- 23) Death Valley National Park, California + Nevada
- 24) Las Vegas, Nevada
- Bonus Warm December Destinations in the US
- 25) Puerto Rico
- 26) St Croix, US Virgin Islands
- 27) St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
- 28) St John, US Virgin Islands