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) 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
- What to Eat in Texas
- 14) South Padre Island, Texas
- 15) San Antonio, Texas
- 16) Galveston Island, Texas
- 17) Tempe, Arizona
- 18) Phoenix, Arizona
- 19) Tucson, Arizona
- 20) Yuma, Arizona
- 21) San Diego, California
- 22) Santa Monica, California
- 23) Los Angeles, California
- 24) Death Valley National Park, California + Nevada
- 25) Las Vegas, Nevada
- Bonus Warm December Destinations in the US
- 26) Puerto Rico
- 27) St Croix, US Virgin Islands
- 28) St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
- 29) St John, US Virgin Islands
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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 in 2021
- 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
When you make new friends in Honolulu, don’t forget to say Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)!
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 he 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
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
4) 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!
» Related | Orlando on a budget
What to Eat in Florida
- Fresh seafood
- Shrimp BBQ
- Key Lime Pie
- Butterbeer at Wizarding World of Harry Potter
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).
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
Miami also features in our east coast road trip which includes 14 unmissable stops from Maine, Portland.
What to Eat
- Cuban sandwich
- Crack stone crab
- Alligator Bites
- Miami Vice cocktail
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 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.
Things to do in St Petersburg, Florida
- 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
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.
Yes! These water temps attracts lots of marine life, including manatees.
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
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.
Things to do in Key West
- Beach hop
- 2-stop snorkel tour
- Dine and drink on Duval Street
- Visit Audubon House’s beautiful gardens
- Take part in water sports
9) Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia, boasts charm and comfortable temperatures year-round, 62* F in December.
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!
Regardless of what time of year you visit, you’re guaranteed a positive experience at the “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.
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.
Things to do in Charleston
- 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 (Johns Island)
What to Eat
- In addition to above, Planters’ Punch cocktail
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.
Things to do in Beaufort
- 3-hour Old Beaufort heritage tour
- Check out the antebellum mansions, downtown historic district
- Beach hop at Hunting Island State Park
- Visit the Kazoobie Kazoo Factory
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.
Things to do in New Orleans
- 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
» 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
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!
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!
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!).
Things to do in South Padre Island
- Swim at Laguna Madre Bay
- Enjoy the waterslides at Schlitterbahn Waterpark
- Eat tacos, nachos and ceviche
Read next | Best beach towns in Texas
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.
Things to do in San Antionio
- Walk along the famous Riverwalk
- Dine at one of the Riverwalk restaurants
- 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
There’s a cool treehouse cabin in San Antonio which features in our guide to treehouse cabins in Texas!
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.
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
- See a show at The Grand 1894 Opera House
- Relax on the Lazy River at Palm Beach
17) 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!
Things to do in Tempe
- Shop at Tempe Marketplace and Arizona Mills
- Reserve a ticket for the magical drive through lights show
- Check out the decor at Peterson House
- See how the Sepanek’s do decor at Sepanek’s Holiday Lights
- Paddleboard or kayak 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
18) 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.
19) 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 Tucscon for your winter vaccation.
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
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 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
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) 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.
» Related |LA bucket list items
24) 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…
25) 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:
26) 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.
27) 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.
28) 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.
29) 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!
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Have I missed your favorite warm Winter destination in the US? Tell me in the comments.