A long, bitter winter presents travelers with two viable options: either embrace the chilly air and seek out the most breathtaking winter places, or look for warmth wherever it may be.
Nobody will blame you for selecting option two if you’ve had enough of frozen sidewalks and hot buildings. For visitors from the US, giving up the scarves and mittens doesn’t even require leaving the country.
Here are some places to have fun in the sun this winter, whether you’re looking for a beach getaway, an encounter with animals, or a taste of big-city culture.
California’s Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, which is less than two hours northwest of Los Angeles, is the type of vacation location ideal for beach strolls and canyon treks. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Jennifer Lopez, and Oprah Winfrey are just a few of the famous locals, but the main draw of this place is its posh yet laid-back beach town vibe. For one-of-a-kind boutiques, artisanal wine and food establishments, and a variety of outdoor eating options, stroll the State Street Promenade. Continue down State Street until you reach West Beach, where you may stroll Stearns Wharf or rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for those who are more daring.
Florida’s Key West
At the northernmost point of the Florida Keys, Key West has a culture that is noticeably more avant-garde and diverse than those to the south. This 7-square-mile sanctuary of renowned literary heritage, excellent seafood, and several bustling taverns is the southernmost tip of the contiguous United States. Don’t miss the chance to sail at dusk, see The Ernest Hemingway Home, and be in awe of the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory’s rainbow of hues, which are among the best things to do.
California’s Palm Springs
Although Palm Springs has its own distinct brand of chilly all year round, the thermometer seldom ever reflects it. The typical high temperature seldom falls below 70 °F, however, winter evenings can occasionally feel a little like the dry, desert cold. It’s not exactly a well-kept secret that Palm Springs is a popular winter destination; but, there are choices, like vintage motor court motels and mid-century contemporary properties for your private pool parties. Less than an hour away are Joshua Tree National Park and the quirky charm of the Salton Sea (home to attractions like the International Banana Museum), for those seeking a little more activity than lazing by the pool.
15 Major League Baseball clubs go to the greater Phoenix region for preseason training for one simple reason: the weather is fantastic. Phoenix experiences an average of 299 sunny days each year.
You might wish for a bit less sun in the middle of summer when the temperature often soars beyond 100°F, but the clear, blue days in the mid-70s of late winter are ideal for outdoor activities. If you’re not there for the baseball, you can at least visit the Desert Botanical Gardens, where succulents and other spiny desert plants coexist with art exhibits, to see why the players refer to it as the “Cactus League,” or you can hit the trail and explore the sandstone formations of Papago Park or South Mountain Park, which are popular with trail riders.
the Florida Everglades
Because the majority of the league is warming up in Florida and a portion of it is in Arizona, perhaps those baseball clubs are onto something. Florida frequently has the hottest wintertime temperatures on the US mainland, making it the warmest city, state, and coastline. The Everglades are usually the hottest national park in the system outside of Hawaii. There, it is also the dry season, making it one of the busiest seasons for tourists and one of the finest periods to see animals. Migratory birds are doing what you’re doing because the wetlands are drying off, which causes species to gather in fewer regions.
traveling to Florida to escape the cold. Drive down the Southern Everglades Highway, an excellent site to see manatees, until you reach Flamingo, where the continent ends.
US Virgin Islands St. John
Are you seeking pleasant weather and the impression that you are far from home? St. John would be a good fit. Two-thirds of the island is preserved by the Virgin Islands National Park, which also protects miles of shoreline and coral reef ecosystems. Taking a family vacation? Try Maho Bay, which is well-known for its quiet, shallow waters that are ideal for snorkeling and green sea turtles.
Los Angeles, California
The average temperature in January and February in New Orleans is in the mid-60s, which isn’t exactly warm and sunny, but it’s a nice change from someplace that’s covered in snow, and the crowds are at their lightest right before Mardi Gras kicks off. But since it’s New Orleans, there’s always a celebration going on, even in the dead of winter. Every Christmas Eve, people light bonfires along the levees as part of a custom that is meant to signal the approach of Papa Nol, the Cajun Santa Claus. The Mary Queen of Vietnam Church hosts the annual Tet Fest to commemorate the Vietnamese New Year (late January or early February), which is a significant day for the city’s sizable Vietnamese community and a joyous fair with mouthwatering food for everyone.
The winter’s warm temperatures are also ideal for taking one of Crescent City’s many bike excursions and enjoying the backstreets.
The Hawaiian Islands do get a little bit of cooling and more rain in the winter. But let’s face it, Kihei’s “cooler” winter implies average highs of 81°F rather than 87°F. On average, Kihei experiences 276 sunny days each year. You won’t need a parka. Simple recommendations for choosing a location in Hawaii during the winter include:
1. To increase your chances of sunny days, stay on the south and west coasts of each island;
2. Winter waves can be more powerful, but there are always choices that are more kid-friendly, such as Kalepolepo Beach Park or Ulua Beach for excellent snorkeling;
3. Although prices are highest during the holidays, there are usually discounts in the early winter, especially to the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui, where most direct flights land.
Sun-seekers traveling to Georgia may do fairly well by making a stop in Savannah and staying there forever. But if you venture out to the coast a little further, you’ll discover a world of barrier islands and winding canals to discover.
The start of a chain of subtropical islands hanging down the coast of Georgia, all with moderate winter weather but each with its distinct personality, Tybee Island and its well-known beaches are just a half-hour drive from Savannah. A tiny settlement of Geechee people, who are descended from Africans who were held as slaves on the island’s plantations until the 19th century, may be found on Sapelo Island. The Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve Visitors Center is a place where nature enthusiasts may reserve wildlife excursions of Sapelo’s estuaries. Georgia’s Golden Isles, which include the touristy St. Simons and Jekyll Island, a former playground for the richest American families, are accessible from historic, multiethnic Brunswick.
Texas’s South Padre Island
South Padre, a well-known beach resort town in Texas, is at its most peaceful if you visit before spring break. A great place to observe our feathered friends that spend the winter on South Padre, as well as alligators and sea turtles, is the 50-acre South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center, which features several blinds, a viewing tower, and boardwalks through the dunes. The beach at Isla Blanca County Park is the busiest since it is closest to stores and dining establishments, but you may find some peace and quiet by visiting Edwin King Atwood County Park’s dunes or the extensive lengths of sand at the North End.