Autumn’s crisp air and bright colors inspire travelers to embrace the outdoors. Cooler weather makes it an ideal time to take a hike or road trip to admire the fall foliage. Fall is also harvest season, so the best places to vacation include wine-country regions from California to Virginia. In many places, it’s easy to combine leaf-peeping with stops at farmers’ markets and apple orchards, plus seasonal treats like cider donuts or pumpkin pie. For families, autumn’s corn mazes, hayrides, and roster of kid-friendly festivals are added incentives to keep traveling after school in back in session.
If pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is at the top of your agenda this year, booking a solo travel experience might be a good place to start. Friends weekends and romantic getaways are great—and often very necessary—but there’s something potentially life-changing about testing your own boundaries by exploring new places on your own.
“Solo travel makes you more outgoing. It requires you to engage with people you normally may not need to speak to and can open your mind to all different types,” says Dr. Magdalena Swierczewski, the founder of ExplorerMD. “You also learn more about yourself, as you have time to observe, reflect, and learn who you are and how you react to certain situations. Solo travel makes you feel strong.”
Where to start? If you’re planning to go abroad, Dr. Swierczewski suggests spending time researching areas of interest and familiarizing yourself with the culture and customs, specifically as they pertain to women, since safety should always be a first priority.
Still, solo travel doesn’t always mean hightailing it to faraway lands or planning a once-in-a-lifetime voyage.
“If you have the travel bug and want to [go] solo, a good way to start is short-distance domestic travel,” says Dr. Swierczewski. “You have the language down, which gives you more confidence, and after a few trips, you can graduate to international solo travel.” Plus, trips around the country can also be shorter—even if just a long weekend—making them ideal for those of us who can’t duck out of work for weeks on end.
Read on for eight cool, unexpected American destinations to consider this year.
This mid-Atlantic destination is often overlooked and ripe for entourage-free exploration. Art enthusiasts will love strolling through the NEON district, a mural-filled neighborhood where you can visit the Glass Wheel Studio, catch a comedy show, or attend an opera performance. Later, head to the cozy bar at Todd Jurich’s Bistro for drinks and some hand-harvested Eastern Shore oysters.
Courtesy of Pearson’s Pond Luxury Inn
Editor’s note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
We’re well into autumn, and if you’re wondering what happened to spring and summer, you’re not alone. Our unusual season of staying at home, dining outdoors, camping, road trips, and remote work and school is moving towards winter. Fall weather and changing colors on trees are reminders that natural events continue, and it’s time to get out and enjoy the scenery. We offer a few destinations that may be within driving distance, along with some further away for those of us anxious for a real change.
Related: More fall vacation ideas
Fall weather is ideal for exploring the outdoors in Sedona with its spectacular red rocks and perhaps even a vortex experience for extra energy. The rolling hills of Lexington, Kentucky and its wooded areas provide a colorful backdrop for horse farm visits. For history and late season autumn color, you can head south to Williamsburg, Virginia or to New Orleans for great dining in addition to comfortable weather.
Ski season arrives late in November, and we know there are those who can’t wait for snow. They just might find some in Mammoth Lakes, California or Stowe, Vermont, but if not, they can await snowfall in the beautiful mountain surroundings. Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah also offers fresh air and gorgeous scenery without crowds in November. On the other hand, there are sun seekers who don’t want summer to end, and they can find the perfect beach in Grand Cayman, expected to be open for visitors in November.
In Mexico, San Miguel de Allende will observe Dia de los Muertos traditions with adjustments for COVID-19 safety; visitors can still participate with health guidelines in mind. Wherever you go, be sure to follow local health and safety guidelines, and check the dates and hours of operation for the places you plan to visit as many attractions have reduced hours due to the pandemic.
The concept of a road trip is as American as apple pie, and yet, devising the “best” U.S. driving route is a bit of a head scratcher. Much depends on time parameters, personal preference, and frankly, how long you want to spend behind the wheel.
Tracy Staedter at Discovery News decided to take on that challenge, enlisting Randy Olson—Michigan State University doctoral student and the man behind the famed (and super helpful) Where’s Waldo algorithm—to devise what you might call the platonic ideal of the United States road trip. The parameters were: It had to hit all of the 48 continental states, every stop had to be a National Natural Landmark, a National Historic Site, a National Park, or a National Monument, and of course, had to be confined to car travel and within U.S. borders.
With a stop in Washington D.C. and two in California, the result is 50 points of all American awesomenesss.
Here are the destinations:
1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon, ID
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
5. Pikes Peak, CO
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
7. The Alamo, TX
8. The Platt Historic District, OK
9. Toltec Mounds, AR
10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
12. French Quarter, LA
13. USS Alabama, AL
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
17. Lost World Caverns, WV
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
19. Mount Vernon, VA
20. White House, Washington, D.C.
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, DE
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, MI
33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
37. Gateway Arch, MO
38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
40. Taliesin, WI
41. Fort Snelling, MN
42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
43. Mount Rushmore, SD
44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
45. Glacier National Park, MT
46. Hanford Site, WA
47. Columbia River Highway, OR
48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
50. Hoover Dam, NV
That list starts with the Grand Canyon, but you could theoretically begin anywhere as long as you drive in sequence after that. Staedter guesses it would take a little over nine days of driving straight through, but more realistically is a two- or three-month trip.
For the nitty gritty on how he came up with the route, check out Olson’s blog. After determining the stops, the main goal of the algorithm was to find the shortest distance between points.
Olson wrote to Staedter: “Instead of exhaustively looking at every possible solution, genetic algorithms start with a handful of random solutions and continually tinker with these solutions — always trying something slightly different from the current solution and keeping the best one — until they can’t find a better solution any more.”
And whether or not you understand the specifics of how it was created, the map is truly a marvel and the kind of itinerary you’ll probably spend all winter dreaming about. See the full, interactive map here, and for additional #travelgoals, check out Olson’s road trip maps for U.S. cities and Europe.
You don’t need a national holiday about love to justify taking a vacation with the one you love. All you need is a destination conducive to romance.
Just like there are beaches that are great for families and national parks, theme parks and more which you’ll want to experience while the kids are still young, certain places are ideal for reigniting any lost sparks. From rural wine regions to subtropical islands and even the City of Brotherly Love, here are 10 unforgettable romantic getaways that don’t require passports.
Greenville is the more pastoral, less posh version of Charleston. It has southern charm, but it also has the Blue Ridge Mountains. With Falls Park on the Reedy, Downtown Greenville also boasts its own outdoor oasis. Falls Park consists of 32 acres of river, waterfalls, gardens and public art. Pack a picnic or grab a bite at nearby Passerelle Bistro, one of only two U.S. restaurants included on CNN’s list of most romantic restaurants in the world. In the summer, the park hosts Moonlight Movies at dusk. On Main Street, you can enjoy free salsa dancing and free concerts every Thursday and Friday. Finally, if you dream of a staying in a luxurious French Chateau without the transatlantic flight, stay at Hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest. The inspiration behind this one-of-a-kind boutique hotel comes from one of its owners, 17-time Tour de France racer George Hincapie.
Grand Junction is to Colorado what Napa is to California. This underrated region where two impressive rivers collide (the Colorado River and the Gunnison River) is home to more than 20 wineries and vineyards. The scenery is also unrivaled. Grand Junction is bordered by Colorado National Monument — a national park with more than 20,000 acres of canyons and rock formations — and Grand Mesa — the largest flat top mountain in the world. In the winter, you can snowshoe and even downhill ski on Grand Mesa. If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with the Colorado Lavender Festival or Palisade Peach Festival. (If grapes can grow here, why not peaches?) Perhaps the most romantic accommodations in the region are at Two Rivers Winery and Chateau. At the very least you won’t have to worry about finding a ride home after tasting too many Chardonnays.
Visit Fort Worth
This former frontier town, famous for its historic stockyards, is where you’ll find Lockheart Gables, a B&B with heart-shaped jacuzzis in every suite. Now, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Fort Worth is perfect for the couple who likes to feel young. For starters, there’s Six Flags Over Texas, the first Six Flags and the inspiration behind today’s theme park chain. Then there’s the Fort Worth Zoo. Not only is it the only zoo in the country to have all four great ape species, it also specializes in weddings. Martha Stewart Weddings even featured a Fort Worth wedding reception including appearances by the zoo’s more amicable reptilian and avian residents.
Sheraton Maui Resort
More than 100 years ago, Niagara Falls claimed to be the “honeymoon capital of the world.” Today, that designation probably belongs to a place like Maui. It is to couples what Oahu is to families. In fact, in its list of the best honeymoon destinations in the world, The Knot calls Hawaii’s second-largest island a “no-brainer” when it comes to romantic vacations. Not only is the tropical weather welcoming, but Maui offers some of the world’s most epic, yet accessible, date ideas. Wake up early to catch a crater-top sunrise at nearly 10,000 feet in Haleakala National Park. End the day at sea level while toasting to the sunset after spending the day snorkeling along a world-class beach. Thanks to Hotel Wailea, Maui also now boasts Hawaii’s No. 1 resort, according to Conde Nast Traveler readers in 2018. An adults-only property, it has a spectacular five-day “Romance Under the Stars” package.
Bespoke Inn/Virtu Honest Craft
When you’re long overdue for a couples massage, head here. This enchanting Sonoran Desert oasis has more destination spas per capita than any other American city. With nearly 70 resort and day spas, wellness is available at most price points. For example, at Scottsdale’s No. 1 spa, according to TripAdvisor reviews, a classic one-hour couples massage costs less than $100 per person. Of course Scottsdale is also a great base for experiencing nature together. Take a day trip to Grand Canyon National Park or make a wish on a shooting star while stargazing on an after-hours desert tour. To be within walking distance of Old Town’s lively scene, stay at Bespoke Inn Scottsdale. It’s the city’s highest-rated B&B, or better put, B&B&B — guests can take advantage of complimentary bicycles for exploring the area during their stay.
Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
The City of Brotherly Love celebrates all kinds of love. With its iconic LOVE statues, and even an AMOR statue, throughout the city, Philadelphia has plenty of unforgettable places to pop the question. Or at the very least, they make for great photo opps. It’s also home to LOVE Park which hosts a charming, German-themed Christmas village during the holidays. Another reason Philadelphia is so great for romance? It’s the country’s 5th most walkable city, according to Walkscore.com, so there are plenty of opportunities to stroll hand in hand. And where else can mouths meet while sharing a world famous cheesesteak? Book a room at The Independent Hotel, a boutique property with rates starting at $139/night. The property’s Out and About Package includes a donation to a local LGBT organization and a 1-hour walking tour of Philly’s “Gayborhood.”
Goodstone Inn & Restaurant
Even if you’ve never been to Virginia, you know its slogan. In 2019, the tourism board is celebrating 50 years of “Virginia is for Lovers” which was even inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Hall of Fame. Starting in June, take advantage of 50 consecutive days of promotions and special events statewide. Visiting the historic, riverfront city of Alexandria is a must. (It’s consistently at the top of Amazon’s list of most romantic cities based on sales data for romance novels, relationship books and movies.) Book a room in an oceanfront resort in Virginia Beach, the third-largest beach in the U.S. Or, stay in a quaint inn in the heart of Virginia’s wine country. Goodstone Inn & Restaurant in Middleburg made USA Today’s 2015 list of most romantic inns in the country. The property’s award-winning French restaurant offers a selection of more than 820 wines.
Parrot Key Hotel & Villas
The Florida Keys may be the southernmost point of the continental U.S. but they’re also one of the most romantic. Nearly 20% of visitors participate in a wedding or vow renewal while visiting this remote archipelago comprised of more than 1,000 islands. With so much demand, prices aren’t outrageous either. Conch Concierge’s “Key West Barefoot” wedding package on the beach is only $195 and includes officiant and photos. Of course, you can also just come here for a regular weekend escape. A two-night package at Parrot Key Hotel & Villas — which just underwent a $25 million renovation and made Travel + Leisure’s 2019 list of Best New Hotels in the World — includes a “sip and sail sunset cruise” or tropical reef snorkel excursion.
One of film’s greatest love stories — power couple Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are fans — takes place in this idyllic region just 100 miles north of New York City. While the resort that inspired “Dirty Dancing” (and where Elizabeth Taylor got married) is now closed, this is the perfect place to hole up in a historic inn. The renovated and well-appointed inn, The Arnold House, originally built in 1851, includes rooms in the town’s former library and post office. It even has a vintage two-lane bowling alley. While autumn is when the Catskills come alive with color, a summer visit can be just as memorable. In August, Sullivan Catskills hosts the Woodstock Music Festival, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Another perk of escaping here? Cell service in the Catskills can be limited. There’s no better place to be forced to disconnect and enjoy each other’s company.
With its racetrack and mineral baths, Saratoga Springs, New York makes for an exciting and relaxing time. But if your idea of getting away together involves more open space and less people, consider Saratoga, Wyoming. Saratoga, pop. 1,605, also has natural hot springs, but theirs are open 24/7. And they’re free. After a relaxing soak, catch a sunset from your cabin while glamping at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch. For years this 30,000-acre ranch refuge has been the top-ranked resort, according to Conde Nast Traveler. And although you’re in the least populated state — which is featured on The New York Times list of 52 places to visit in 2019 — your chance of running into a celebrity is quite high. This is where Reba McIntyre celebrated her wedding anniversary, and more recently, Allison WIlliams got married in front of her famous friends including Katy Perry.
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Don’t let the winter blues put a damper on your December wanderlust travel dreams. Travel doesn’t have to stop simply because it’s December. In fact, some of the best places to travel in the US are fabulous at Christmas time.
Whether you are looking to experience a traditional American Christmas with snow, ice skating, and Christmas lights or you want to escape the cold winter and find the warm places to visit in December (hint: think Florida Vacation Rental!), this list of the best places to travel in December help you start planning the perfect holiday vacation.
After you learn all about the best US travel destinations in December, give yourself an early Christmas present while you plan by learning how to stay in hotels for free all year round and how to keep your sanity on the road with the kids.
Best Places To Travel in December For A Heart-Warming Christmas Experience
“Another tender Tennessee Christmas is the only Christmas for me…”
There’s no doubt the level of bias that lies in the heart of this travel writer!
The mountains of East Tennessee will always be my home and always capture my heart most vividly during the holidays.
While we don’t often get mounds of snow in the lower elevations of Tennessee, the upper regions of the Appalachian and Smoky Mountains will receive a beautiful white covering that truly enhances their beauty.
The amount of activity available in nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN is dizzying and some of the hiking trails couldn’t be more stunning covered in snow and glittering with shimmering ice cycles.
For some great ideas on what to do in Smoky Mountains in December check out these other ideas.
Airbnb Smoky Mountains Lodging
More Things To Do in the Smoky Mountains
Lookout Mountain, GA
Rock City © Adventure Dragon
While you are in Northeast Tennessee, why not take the short drive south to Lookout Mountain, GA and visit Rock City.
Located just five miles from Chattanooga,TN, Rock City Gardens lies hidden away at the top of a small mountain town on the border of Tennessee and Georgia.
It’s one of the best places to travel in December in the US that few people actually know about.
Throughout the entire month of December, Rock City hosts its annual Enchanted Garden of Lights–a celebration combining sparkling lights, decorations, and festive activities with hiking paths leading through tiny crevices in giant, moss-covered boulders to a waterfall that emerges on the other side.
From the top of the falls, you can even see seven US states on a clear, sunny day.
Santa will be waiting for you there, and you’ll sip on warm cider or hot cocoa while enjoying holiday music performed by local choirs and live bands.
You can also decorate Gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, paint ornaments, or design your own Christmas stocking.
If you’re a fan of beautiful nature, crisp winter air, waterfalls, holiday festivities, fragrant gardens, and pretty Christmas lights, then I highly recommend you choose Rock City for your next travel destination in the US in December.
Lookout Mountain Airbnb
YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: Best Places To Travel In October
Christmas is a magical time full of gorgeous decorations, lights, and cheer.
One of the best ways to experience the charm of Christmas is to visit a small historic American town like Alexandria, VA. It’s truly one of the best places to travel in the USA for a historic Christmas experience.
In Old Town Alexandria during December, you will be plunged into the Christmas fairy tale.
The 18th-century narrow streets with numerous galleries, shops, restaurants, and historic row houses is the perfect setting to experience a Charles Dickens style Christmas.
Alexandria, Virginia, sits on the Potomac River, right across Washington D.C with splendidly stretched around old cobblestone streets and red brick houses and chimneys perfectly decorated for a visit from the Santa Clause.
If you can, visit Old Town Alexandria is during the Tree Lightning weekend to experience a special visit from with Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as enjoy performances from local artists.
Maria Potehina from Call It Adventure
Alexandria, VA Airbnb
Maggie, from the Pink Caddy Travelogue says Washington D.C. is often overshadowed by nearby NYC, Washington, D.C. is one of the most underrated places to visit in December.
The weather is mild yet the Christmas celebrations are out in full force!
There are two, that’s right, TWO national Christmas trees.
One of them is located in front of the U.S. Capitol Building and provides one of the most picturesque DC Christmas settings.
The other tree is located in front of the White House.
That tree is also surrounded by 56 smaller trees, one for each US state and territory.
Speaking of the White House, it gets a makeover each holiday season.
The President’s home is open to public tours all year, but Christmas is the best time to visit.
The entire building is decorated with a multitude of trees, fresh pine garland, twinkling lights, and a gingerbread replica of the White House itself.
The National Cathedral puts on the Messiah each year, the Smithsonian Zoo hosts a light show complete hot cider and spiked hot chocolate, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon celebrates the season 1776 style.
There’s no shortage of reasons to visit DC in December!”
PLEASE NOTE: In order to tour the White House, you must contact your local congressman at least three months in advance to request the tour.
You can find out more information on the White House website here.
Washington, D.C. Airbnb
New York, NY
No place does Christmas better than New York City! In addition to the normal NYC tourist attractions, there are lots of special things to do for the holidays.
It’s one of the best places to visit in the US in December.
Just remember to bring some warm clothes!
First, you have to see the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
Nearby, you can see the department store windows elaborately decorated for the season.
If you have more time, venture to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights for some over the top displays.
For those that still need to buy gifts, there are a few Christmas markets, the largest being Bryant Park.
If you want to go ice skating, there are several outdoor rinks to try.
Rockefeller Center and Central Park may be the most iconic ice rinks, but there the one in Bryant Park is also popular.
During the holiday season in New York City, there are usually some Christmas-themed shows on Broadway.
I think the best show to see is the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.
It’s been a tradition since 1933!
New York Airbnb
Poconos Mountains, PA
As the air becomes crisp and cool, it’s time to put away the beach chairs and sunblock and take out the snow pants and gloves.
However, just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great vacation.
The Poconos in Pennsylvania is one of the best places to visit in winter due to the variety of activities available.
Camelback Mountain is famous for their 42 lanes of snow-tubing available for people of all ages.
You can even go galactic snow tubing at night under LED lights.
If you’re more into skiing and snowboarding, Camelback has that too, but there is also Shawnee Mountain and Blue Mountain with a variety of hills for all skill levels.
If a romantic weekend getaway is more your speed, La Spa Foret is a great place to relax and revitalize.
There are also a number of breweries and wineries in the area.
To get you in the mood for the holidays, you can take a carriage ride at Hawley Winterfest, visit Jim Thorpe’s Olde Time Christmas for train rides with Santa, and make ornaments at Santa’s Winterfest.
No matter your age, there is something in the Poconos to warm you up in December.
Pam from the Directionally Challenged Traveler
St. Louis, MO
Jessica from Unearth The Voyage says that St. Louis, MO is a great place to travel in December because during the month of December, St. Louis is home to the Brewery Lights at Anheuser Busch.
This annual Christmas lights tradition held by the brewery boasts more than a million twinkling lights.
During the “Brewery Lights Festival”, the brewery grounds are transformed into a winter wonderland in which you can walk around and enjoy the Christmas lights as well as a free sample of Anheuser Busch beer.
Find out more about this year’s Brewery Light Festival on their website.
“Garden Glow” is another great place to visit in December in St. Louis. Again, over 1 million Christmas lights illuminate the Missouri botanical gardens located in St. Louis.
Visit their website for more details on this year’s Christmas light celebration at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
Here are a few other festivals and events to look forward to in St. Louis, MO during the month of December.
St. Louis Airbnb
Omaha, NE is a hidden gem!
Omaha is a very affordable city, making it a great choice for a cheap family vacation in December.
Sarah, from The Prosperous Blonde, shared some of her favorite things to do in Omaha.
Omaha is a metropolitan area of more than 1 million people, but still has a small town feel.
My favorite place in the city is the area downtown known as The Old Market. This area is home to awesome historic warehouses that have been converted into super unique shops & restaurants.
You’ll find everything from antique stores to cool handmade jewelry. and if you love Christmas, you will love visiting Tannenbaum Christmas Shop-a shop dedicated to all things Christmas!
For more great things to do in December in Omaha, NE check out these options.
If you are looking to escape the cold this and celebrate Christmas in your shorts and flip flops, these United States December travel destinations.
Omaha, NE Airbnb
Sandpoint is a lake community in northern Idaho and is the perfect destination for families looking to experience the outdoors in December.
Sandpoint is a hidden gem in the Pacific Northwest and is accessible after a 1.5 hour drive from the closest airport, located in Spokane, Washington.
During the winter, snow blankets not only the lake and small town of Sandpoint but also the nearby world-class ski resort of Schweitzer Mountain.
Families who enjoy the outdoors will find that there are lots of things to do in Sandpoint during December, including skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing and even horse drawn carriage rides.
When not enjoying all there is to do outdoors, visitors to Sandpoint can explore downtown which is home to several boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops.
There is also a bowling alley and two movie theaters in the area if families are looking for activities to escape the cold.
Sandpoint, Idaho Airbnb
If you’re looking for a fun and unique destination to take the family this December look no further than Leavenworth, Washington.
This The bavarian-like town at the base of the Cascade Mountains is a popular year-round destination for families but, December is especially magical.
Starting on the first weekend of December and running all the way through to Valentine’s Day the town of Leavenworth is lit up with more than half a million Christmas lights.
Every Saturday and Sunday in December there’s a Christmas Lighting Ceremony complete with the arrival of St Nikolaus, roaming carolers, live music, sledding, and seasonal treats like hot chocolate, mulled wine, and hot chocolate.
Outside of town the fun continues with winter wonderland activities like sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
There really is something to excite everyone in the family during the month of December in Leavenworth, WA!
Leavenworth, WA Airbnb
Lake Tahoe, CA
Lake Tahoe is a stunning destination to visit in the USA in December if you want to tick both California and Nevada off your December bucket list.
The area is a white winter wonderland that is an enchanting backdrop for numerous outdoor activities suitable for all ages.
From skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing, ice skating and dog sledding, there’s a huge list of things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter for families.
Ride a horse-drawn buggy, warm up with a delicious pizza and hot chocolate or go on an exciting snowmobiling adventure in the backcountry.
The scenery is amazing! Actually, think of Lake Tahoe as a big winter playground for kids of all ages.
Lake Tahoe has 12 ski resorts and a number of world-famous ones, such as Squaw Valley, which was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Other ski resorts that families will love are Heavenly, Northstar and Sugarbowl.
Celebrate the holiday season at Lake Tahoe and see in the New Year at the Snow Globe Music Festival, which is a fun event that is popular with families.
Lake Tahoe, CA Airbnb
Keystone is the best ski resort in Colorado for families and December is the perfect time to visit.
The mountains are covered with a blanket of white snow and the trees in the ski village are strung with twinkling Christmas lights.
Families with young kids will love Keystone because there are so many fun activities besides skiing.
You can take the family ice skating on the frozen 5-acre lake, ride the gondola to an enormous snow fort at the top of Keystone Mountain, or take advantage of the activities offered just for kids through Keystone’s Kidtopia program.
My family’s favorite thing to do in Keystone around Christmas time is to visit the chocolate village in the lobby of the Keystone Lodge.
Every December the amazing Keystone pastry chefs set up a gigantic Christmas display made entirely of Chocolate.
There are chocolate presents under a huge chocolate christmas tree and an entire chocolate ski town complete with a chocolate gondola and train.
It is incredible. Santa frequently visits the Chocolate Village so make sure to ask the front desk when he will be there.
Check out these tips for booking the perfect Keystone family ski vacation when plan your trip.
Keystone, CO Airbnb
Jackson Hole, WY
The Part Time Tourists say that Jackson Hole, WY is “a great option for December travel!
This family friendly town is magical during that time of year and has something that everyone will enjoy.
A few activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family include taking a sleigh ride through an elk refuge and enjoying a “big red” tram ride up to the top of mountain to enjoy their world-famous breakfast.
You also can’t leave without taking advantage of the ice skating rink in the center of town. You won’t be able to miss it as it has the light-strung antler arches on all the entrances.
The last thing that you can’t miss while exploring Jackson Hole during December is taking a winter wonderland drive through Grand Teton National Park.
You’ll see wildlife and incredible views all from inside your warm vehicle.”
For even more ideas about check out this non-skiers guide to Jackson Hole in the Winter.
You Might Also Be Interested In: Jackson Hole & Teton Village in the Fall: So much more than a Ski Resort
Jackson Hole, WY Airbnb
Despite Minnesota’s reputation for cold weather and snow in the winter, Via Travelers tell us that the coldest months of the year don’t hit until January and February, making a visit in December a great time to experience the snowy beautiful city.
During December, you can hike a variety of trails or do cross country skiing in a number of different parks in surrounding Minneapolis.
Cross country skiing is a staple for Minneapolis given the Nordic heritage of the community.
Finally, take in a showing of the Christmas Carol the Guthrie Theatre or enjoy art in one of Minneapolis’ many art museums.
Minneapolis, MN Airbnb
Travel With A Plan has some great tips for enjoying the nearby Bloomington, MN while you are in the Minneapolis area.
“Be sure to leave time to visit nearby Bloomington, home to none other than retail giant Mall of America – which will be perfectly adorned for Christmas when visiting in December!
This iconic shopping mall is home to over 500 general retail stores, specialty attractions, and more than 50 restaurants.
Not only that, but MOA is also home to four of Minnesota’s top attractions – SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, Crayola Experience, FlyOver America and world-famous Nickelodeon Universe.
As the nation’s largest indoor theme park, it’s always 70 degrees and sunny at Nickelodeon Universe.
Thanks to its climate-controlled environment and glass ceiling that lets natural light in, guests avoid all inclement weather while still feeling like they are actually outside.
With its combination of Family, Junior, and Thrill rides, there is literally something to do for everyone!
Cap off your visit to the Mall of America with a magical skating experience at MOA’s free Skate the Star.
This custom-built ice rink is located at the North entrance of MOA.
Take note that though you can bring your own skates, the small rental fee of $5 goes directly to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities!
If you really want to thrill the kids in the middle of December, enjoy the indoor water park located at the Great Wolf Lodge which is located only steps away from the mall.”
Bloomington, MN Airbnb
Best Places to Visit in December for a WARM Up!
Key West, Florida
I know I said that Tennessee was a special place for me in December, but you know that I am easily persuaded that Florida is the place to be when those temperatures start to drop.
Coleman Concierge has me ready to book my tickets with this descriptions of Key West in December.
“Key West Florida is a fabulous place to travel in December because of its warm Caribbean sunshine. Since its an island, you can catch sunrise, sunset, and enjoy sunshine all day.
We recommend staying in a boutique hotel in the historic district like Amsterdam’s Curry Mansion Inn. It’s so convenient for an active family being walking distance from Duval Street, Mallory Square, and all of old town Key West.
Make sure you take a boat ride somewhere while you’re in Key West. Whether you’re snorkeling on the coral reefs or taking a sunset cruise. You can even take a jet ski tour around the entire island and count it for boat time if you like.
For more family fun, try taking the Conch Train across the island to explore the Hemingway House, butterfly Gardens, or Southernmost Point in the United States. Be sure to explore Fort Zachary Taylor and the shipwreck museum to learn about Key West’s nautical history.
The orange sun from sunrise at Higgs Beach to sunset at Mallory Square will be the perfect vacation to chase away the winter blues.”
Key West Airbnb
“December is the perfect time to explore Miami. With weather in the mid-seventies, it’s a great time of year for visiting the beach and exploring the city without the heat being too oppressive.
The beaches are much emptier at this time of year as they are too cold for the locals.
If you don’t want to spend the whole trip on the beach, there is also plenty to see in the city with it’s great shopping, food and many family friendly museums, most notably the Frost Science Museum which is a massive hands on museum that kids love.
You should also spend some time soaking in the Cuban culture with a visit to Little Havana.
In December the city also has some fabulous seasonal activities that should not be missed, like going to see the Nutcracker at the ballet or a visit to Santa’s Enchanted Forest which is the largest holiday theme park in the world!”
Get more tips on visiting Miami from Travel Mad Mum
Miami, FL Airbnb
Maui is one of the most popular places to travel in December in the US to escape the winter temperatures. The Hawaiian island of Maui is ideal to escape the cold in the continental US with temperatures around 25 Degrees celsius (77°F).
If you visit before Christmas you will avoid the crowds of New Year and January.
Maui is full of adventures, and it’s recommended to rent a car and drive the iconic Road to Hana where you get beautiful scenery, lush waterfalls and gorgeous beaches along the way.
There are also numerous hiking options and trails that you can explore as a family.
I recommend staying in Kihei or Wailea beach as it’s a nice place for families with a relaxed vibe, nice accommodation alternatives and not too far away by car.
Alex from Swedish Nomad
Maui, HI Airbnb
San Diego, CA
Corritta from Itz a Family Thing says that San Diego is definitely one of the best places to travel in December in the USA!
“When you think Christmas, I am sure San Diego is not the first place that comes to mind.
What we lack in snow we make up for in Christmas spirit and lights.
There is no shortage of activities available for families in the Christmas spirit.
There is the San Diego Holiday Parade, Christmas Pet Parade, Balboa Park December nights, La Jolla Christmas Parade, and The Holiday Bowl.
The crown jewel of the Christmas celebration in San Diego is Global Winter Wonderland.
You can see all the major attractions in lights from around the world in one-night. Start at the Nation’s Capital Washington D.C and work your way around the world through Tokyo, Paris, Italy, India, and China.
There are also spectacular interactive light character mazes for families to enjoy (last year there were dinosaurs).
So, the next time you are trying to think of your next Christmas destination, come and join us in San Diego for family fun and nights full of adventure.”
San Diego, CA Airbnb
Don’t Miss All of Our content on California
Travelgal Nicole has some great tips for hiking in Arizona and says that it is one of the best places to travel in December, “If you enjoy comfortable temperatures and plenty of fun things to do then you should definitely visit Phoenix in December.
Phoenix is the capital of Arizona and enjoys year round warm temperatures as well as lots of fun things to do for families.”
Here are a few things to do in Phoenix as you seek to warm up your December.
Phoenix, AZ Airbnb
If warmer, but not HOT, is what you seek, consider Charleston, SC for your December family vacation.
Elizabeth from Elizabeth Everywhere has a few pointers for making Charleston your December travel destination in the US.
“Head south for the winter with a trip to Charleston, South Carolina!
Charleston is the perfect destination for a mild December getaway, with temperatures ranging from the upper 40s to 60s!
The city is a great getaway any time of year, with interesting history, beautiful architecture, and tons of amazing food, but the city really comes to life in December!
Walk down King Street, the main shopping street, and admire the Christmas decorations (and get any last minute gift shopping done)!
Be sure to visit the model train in Charleston Place and the Christmas tree in Marion Square!
After a day exploring, warm up with some authentic southern cooking at one of the main soul food restaurants!”
Charleston, SC Airbnb
Where are your favorite US destinations to travel in December?
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