Whether you want to spend the winter season soaking up the sun or you want to spend the holidays surrounded by snow, there are plenty of vacation destinations within the U.S. Does skiing on down the slopes sound like a great way to enjoy the holiday season, or do you prefer to spend time surfing before trading gifts at your vacation rental? Find out where to go for the best December vacation for your family.
1. Anchorage, Alaska
When you’re craving a winter getaway filled with all things snow and ice, there’s no better vacation destination than Alaska. The Alaska Railroad’s Aurora Winter Train runs from September through May, but December offers a great time to take the ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks. During your stop in Fairbanks, be sure to check out the Aurora Ice Museum, which is constructed of 1,000 tons of ice and snow and stays a frosty 25 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. When you return to your Anchorage vacation rental, be sure to take in the beauty of the Northern Lights during their peak viewing season.
2. Oahu, Hawaii
Hawaii offers low humidity during the winter months, making it the ideal destination for your tropical holiday getaway. Surf conditions are also great in December, so head to Waimea Bay or Sunset Beach to catch a wave. For a more relaxing alternative, consider whale watching on Waikiki Beach or Diamond Head. Expect daytime temps in the low 80s, and bring a sweater for the evenings, when temperatures fall into the mid-60s.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
As evidenced by Mardi Gras, New Orleans knows how to throw a celebration, and Christmas and New Years are no exception, making December an exciting month in the Big Easy. The Holiday Home Tours let you explore the gorgeous homes along the French Quarter and Garden District, each decorated to the hilt. Celebration in the Oaks, in City Park, features thousands of lights, and incredible bonfires lit atop the Mississippi River levees on Christmas Eve light the way for Santa.
4. New York, New York
Few things are more romantic than New York City in December. Visit Bryant Park Winter Village to do some Christmas shopping, and be sure to catch the Rockettes in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, one of the city’s most popular winter attractions. Go ice skating beneath the incredible 78-foot-tall tree in Rockefeller Center, and spend the evening checking out the stunning window displays at classic department stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
5. San Antonio, Texas
While average high temperatures sit in the lower 60s in December in San Antonio, Texas, the city still knows how to celebrate the holiday season. Beginning November 30, the San Antonio River Walk transforms into a spectacular sea of lights, while 1.8 million LED lights and thousands of luminaries adorn the path along the river. As you stroll, listen to the carolers singing from the decorated boats that float along the San Antonio River.
6. Washington, D.C.
December is a great time to see the nation’s capital, because it’s not peak tourist season, but there are still plenty of attractions to get you in the holiday spirit. See the National Christmas tree, attend the Capital Christmas Tree Lighting, or celebrate the National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony on the White House Grounds. On Christmas Eve, be sure to check out water-skiing Santa on the Potomac River.
7. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is a great place to experience a good ol’ fashioned country Christmas. Catch the Nashville Christmas Tree Lighting in early December, then stick around for the parade that takes place the following day. Experience more than one million sparkling lights at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, as well as real reindeer, carolers, hot chocolate, and s’mores pits, or marvel over the incredible display at The Opryland Hotel. Take in a performance of “The Nutcracker” at The Nashville Ballet, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage at the Dickens of a Christmas festival.
8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Celebrate Christmas in the City of Brotherly Love. The Macy’s Christmas Light Show at Macy’s Center City is a must-see that may just become a family tradition. Go ice skating at BlueCross RiverRink Winterfest, then snuggle up next to the outdoor fire pits. Christmas Village is an open-air market that offers plenty of holiday shopping, and the New Year’s Eve Fireworks over the Delaware River Waterfront cap off the month of December.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
The City of Lights gets even brighter in December, when the glitzy displays and decorations take a festive turn for the holidays. The Rock ‘N Roll Las Vegas Marathon kicks off the month, while the Las Vegas Bowl, a NCAA football game, rounds out the year. Be sure to check out Mystic Falls Park, housed inside Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall, and don’t miss the Lake Mead Christmas Parade of Lights.
10. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago serves up plenty of family-friendly attractions to help you celebrate the holidays. Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo for the annual ZooLights event, where you can enjoy ice-carving demonstrations, a few animal exhibits, and lots of twinkling lights. The Christkindlmarket lets you shop for unique gifts for everyone on your list, while the Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest, an indoor carnival, has rides, games, and Santa.
11. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen’s peak visiting season falls from December to February, making a holiday getaway an ideal option. Shortly after Christmas, the city hosts a torchlight parade and fireworks, while the 12 Days of Aspen celebration proves to be a favorite among locals and visitors. Beginning annually on December 20 and running through New Year’s Eve, this event features carolers, food, crafts, free ice skating, and so much more.