Back Road Ramblers

The Absolute Best Winter Road Trips in the USA

By Author Tara Schatz

Posted on Published: October 14, 2022

Categories Destinations , road trips , Travel Inspiration , Travel Tips , United States , Winter Activities

The iconic American road trip is generally a summer affair, thanks in part, to rock n’ roll, convertibles, and school vacations.

Winter provides a totally different road-trip scene – perhaps a bit less romantic, but just as exciting. Winter road trips in the USA generally involve a lot less traffic, fewer crowds, and probably an extra bag full of warm coats in the trunk.

winter road trips usa

Of course, there are a whole lot of American destinations where winter temperatures are much less extreme than in the summer. And plenty more USA road trips where snow tires are a requirement in the winter.

The path you choose for your winter road trip is yours alone, but we can certainly make some suggestions.

Ready to find your winter adventure on the open road? These are the best winter road trips in the USA, perfect for a long weekend getaway or a midweek escape.

But, first, make sure you and your car are ready for your winter road trip with our winter driving survival guide.

Table of Contents

Warm Winter Road Trips in the USA to Escape the Cold

smathers beach key west dp

Cold winter temperatures got you down? Sounds like you’re ready for a southern vacation!

Time to dust off that swimsuit and head to where the weather suits your clothes. These are the best winter road trips to escape the cold in the United States.

Take a Louisiana Road Trip: New Orleans and the Bayou

New Orleans winter dp

-by Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor of Passions and Places

Since winter in Louisiana means 70 degrees and sunny (and since it’s unbearably hot during most of the year), the winter months are the perfect time for a winter road trip. Begin your trip in vibrant New Orleans, then meander around the bayou for a more rural experience.

First, spend a couple of days eating, sightseeing, and exploring a city that’s unlike any other in the United States. Get acquainted with the city by booking a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour . This 1.5-hour tour will show you the most important sites, including the French Market, Jackson Square, and the Garden District.

Here are a few more New Orleans adventures that you won’t want to miss:

Commander’s Palace: You may book a table at Commander’s Palace because it’s the most famous spot to eat in New Orleans, but you will love the food. Try the signature turtle soup and a martini.

Take a ghost tour: New Orleans is absolutely haunted, and if you’re not afraid of ghosts, you will absolutely want to take a spooky ghost tour , where you’ll learn about the fantastically scary history of this historic city.

Head to the Palace Market at night: This is the craziest night market in New Orleans and a fun place to people-watch and listen to live jazz.

Head to the Bayou! After leaving New Orleans, explore some of the rural towns that make this area so special.

Basing yourself in Houma or Thibodaux will give you some insight into everyday life in small-town Louisiana, and it’ll be easy to make the drive down to Cocodrie, a tiny town where most of the houses are built on stilts.

Best Winter Road Trip USA: A Louisiana sunset featuring a house on stilts in the bayou.

Just a couple of hours away, Lafayette is the heart of Cajun and Creole country, and you’ll be able to learn all about the area’s history at multiple museums and cultural centers. If you have time, you can also take a day trip to St. Martinville, Henderson, Erath, or one of several other nearby towns.

On the way back to New Orleans, stop in Louisiana’s capital of Baton Rouge. You can go up to the top of the country’s tallest capitol building and don’t miss the museum housed in Louisiana’s Old State Capitol.

Read more about this winter road trip in Louisiana on Passions and Places. 

Where to Stay on Your Winter Road Trip in Louisiana: We recommend basing yourself in Houma because there are so many affordable hotels to choose from. The Courtyard by Marriott in Houma has an onsite restaurant and an indoor pool. It’s perfect for families.

Discover Georgia and South Carolina on a Winter Road Trip

charleston south carolina dp

-by Margie DQ of DQ Family Travel

The southern states of Georgia and South Carolina are great destinations for your winter road trip. Although snow and cold temperatures are possible, the weather is usually mild in the winter. Start the road trip in Atlanta , a fantastic city to visit and explore.

Visitors to Atlanta will enjoy the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Park, touring CNN Studios, and visiting the College Football Hall of Fame.

Less than two hours away, is the quaint German city of Helen. Yes, it is true that there is a little Bavarian village nestled in the mountains of northern Georgia. Not only will visitors enjoy walking the charming downtown area, but there are a number of scenic waterfall hikes less than 5 minutes away.

Another two hours away is the next stop on your winter road trip, Greenville, South Carolina. This city is an up-and-coming destination in the United States. The downtown area boasts several great restaurants, a fantastic children’s museum, and a beautiful waterfall park called Falls Park on the Reedy. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is a 20-mile paved biking and walking lane connecting Greenville and two smaller towns.

Charleston, South Carolina is a three-hour drive away from Greenville and is loaded with southern charm. Things to do here include walking the waterfront Battery to see Fort Sumter, visiting the Charleston Public Market, and touring a World War II aircraft and submarine in nearby Patriots’ Point.

Charleston has long been known as a foodie city and has numerous famous southern restaurants like Husk and Hominy Grill. A visit to a southern plantation is a nice idea for those wanting to know more about the way of life in the 19th century.

A little over 2 hours away is the small city of Savannah, Georgia. The walkable historic area oozes low-country style. Visitors can ride a paddleboat on the river, explore the many public squares and fountains, and tour famous houses from the colonial period. Heading back to Atlanta is just under a four-hour drive from Savannah.

Where to Stay on your winter road trip through Georgia and South Carolina

Atlanta, Georgia : Hotel Claremont is a trendy hotel in a historic 1920s building. It’s just a mile from Piedmont Park and three miles from the gorgeous Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Helen, Georgia: Located right downtown, Heidi Motel is one of the most photographed buildings in Helen. Close to everything, this independently owned motel is such a gem!

Greenville, South Carolina: The Westin Poinsett has been upgraded and revitalized to offer four-star accommodations at an affordable price.

Charleston, South Carolina: The luxurious hotel experience at Emeline will have you singing winter’s praises all day long. Located in downtown Charleston with beautiful rooms and suites.

Savannah, Georgia: There are so many beautiful hotels in Savannah, but we love The Marshall House , voted the best downtown hotel in Savannah in 2021. Splurge on a balcony room for views of the city.

Winter Road Trip in The Florida Keys

Several people wait at a food stand in Key West, Florida.

-by Halef of The Round the World Guys

Florida has long been a winter road trip destination for many Americans escaping the cold of the north. One of the best winter road trips in the USA is the Florida Key stretch, starting in Homestead, south of Miami. The ocean highway scenic journey to Key West takes about three hours from mainland Florida.

Key Largo is the first stop in your Florida Keys road trip. Here, you can find some of the best scuba diving destinations in the USA, as well as several great restaurants and pubs to get you in the island mood.

Several other possible pitstops include Islamorada, Marathon Key, and Duck Key. Finally, you’ll come to the end of Highway 1 in Key West. Key West is rich in history, natural beauty, and famous landmarks. You can visit the Southernmost Point Buoy and Historic Marker, Duval Street, Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, and the Key West Lighthouse.

A great day excursion and a hidden gem in Florida is Dry Tortugas National Park . One of the most remote National Parks in the nation, these small islands are simply gorgeous. There is so much to do and to see here, starting from a guided tour of historic Fort Jefferson to kayaking or snorkeling in the turquoise waters around the islands.

It’s a trip you won’t soon forget.

Where to Stay in the Florida Keys : We recommend a night or two in Key Largo and a night or two in Key West so you can turn this little road trip into a relaxing vacation. Key Largo hotels are on the pricey side, but the cottages at the Seafarer Resort and Beach are more affordable than many hotel rooms. The resort is family-owned with amazing views with a beach, kayaks, and fabulous snorkeling. 

There are some amazing and quite luxurious lodging choices in Key West, but a good mid-range hotel is the Best Western Hibiscus, which is just one block away from the famous Duval Street. It’s three blocks from the beach with a spacious outdoor pool. 

Visit the Desert Parks in California

-by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

A boulder field in Joshua Tree National Park

California’s desert national and state parks make for a wonderful winter road trip. With pleasant daytime temperatures, you can get out of the car and explore the desert, whether it is through hiking a canyon or walking on sand dunes. The spectacular landscapes and amazing night skies will leave you spellbound.

Start this amazing winter road trip in Las Vegas, Nevada, a popular landing spot for both US and international travelers because of its proximity to many natural wonders. You can loop back to Vegas after you tour the parks, or end your trip in Los Angeles. From Las Vegas, head first to Death Valley National Park in southern California.

About 2.5 hours away from Vegas by road, Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States. Known for having recorded the hottest temperature ever on earth, Death Valley is very pleasant during the daytime in winter although it gets chilly at night.

At Death Valley National Park, you can walk on vast salt flats, photograph picture-perfect gold sand dunes, see the sunrise at the spectacular Zabriskie Point, and hike colorful canyons. Allow at least one full day to see the highlights. Spend the night in the park, or just outside it, where there are numerous lodging options to meet every budget.

Early the next day, drive to Palm Springs, California, about 5 hours away. In the afternoon, explore the city of Palm Springs, famous for its mid-century modern architecture and palm-lined main shopping street. Spend the night at Andreas Hotel and Spa, a luxurious Spanish Revival resort with amazing spa treatments and an outdoor pool. 

On day three, explore Anza Borrego State Park, about 90 minutes from Palm Springs. You will drive past the strange Salton Sea, a saltwater lake that seems to go on forever. At Anza Borrego, marvel at the huge metal sculptures strewn around the desert, hike through a slot canyon and enjoy a desert sunset.  Sleep in Palm Springs.

On the final day, get an early start for your day in Joshua Tree National Park, about an hour away.

There are tons of things to do in Joshua Tree! Do some rock scrambling on the gigantic boulders that Joshua Tree is known for. Watch expert rock climbers in action. Hike a trail or two. Admire the diverse plants in the park, including the strange Joshua tree for which the park is named.

Joshua Tree National Park is located not in one desert but two…the Mojave and the Colorado. At the end of the day, drive to Los Angeles, a little over 2 hours away, or back to Las Vegas.

Escape the Cold with a Winter Road Trip in Maui, Hawaii

A stretch of sandy beach on Maui in Hawaii discovered on a winter road trip.

The Hawaiian island of Maui has long been a tourist mecca, and for good reason too! With more than 120 miles of beautiful coastline, Maui draws crowds from all over the world. Would you believe, however, that most visitors to Hawaii’s second-largest island barely venture beyond the beach?

Now I’m not saying that the picturesque beaches are not something to ogle at, but there are so many other hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, and you may have to venture off the beaten path to get there.

One such gem is the lava fields of La Perouse Bay which, of course, requires a scenic road trip.

All roads lead to home, right? In this case, I would suggest starting in Kaanapali simply because all the fantastic resorts— such as the Marriott Maui Ocean Club —and restaurants here make for a great base of operations.

You can travel down highway 30. It will eventually turn to highway 3000 but will revert back to highway 30. Along the way, you will get to enjoy stunning views since the highway brushes right up against the coastline in many places. There are plenty of worthwhile detours too, such as the Launiupoko and Ukumehame Beach Parks, as well as the Maui Ocean Center. 

From Highway 30, you will turn onto Highway 310, which will turn into Highway 31 and will eventually turn into Makena Road. Of course, you can stop by Makena State Park on the way and experience the luster of one of the largest white sand beaches on the island.

Eventually, you will have to ditch the wheels since the road will eventually end and become a walking trail. As you walk across the jagged lava fields, keep in mind that you’re literally walking on history. The last lava flow in La Perouse Bay occurred way back in 1790.

Road Trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada

-by Jodie Dewberry of Ala Jode

A shot of Havasu Falls in Arizona

A winter road trip from Phoenix to Las Vegas is a great way to combine some of the USA’s coolest spots in one long weekend – and enjoy some variety, too!

As soon as you head out of Phoenix, drive up through the stunning landscapes of Tonto National Forest or Prescott National Forest, before arriving at one of the natural wonders of the world: the Grand Canyon. Stay here overnight near the South Rim and enjoy a sunset like no other.

In the morning, you’ll want to get up early to drive to the Havasupai Trailhead. If you want to attempt the Havasupai hike , you’ll need at least a full day because it takes around 5 hours each way.

Staying overnight at Havasu Falls is well worth it if you can get a spot – and the wintertime is pretty much the only time of year that’s possible! If you don’t fancy the hike, you can take a helicopter one way for around $100. It’s about a 4-hour drive from the Havasupai trailhead to Las Vegas.

Vegas is the kind of place everybody should visit at least once, and you’ll appreciate the extravagant hotel room (and bathtub!) even more after a night at Havasu Falls. Depending on how much time you have, spend at least one night enjoying the Vegas Strip and taking it all in.

Where to stay in the Grand Canyon: The Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn is just minutes from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with expansive grounds, a gorgeous pool, and on-site dining.

Where to stay in Las Vegas:  There are so many lodging choices in Vegas, it’s hard to choose a favorite. I suggest staying right on the strip so you can walk around and take in the sites. Paris Las Vegas is quite posh for the price, with great dining options, fabulous views, and a massive pool. 

Embrace the Cold with these Beautiful Winter Road Trips in the USA

A snow covered road near a misty lake.

While some folks hope to escape the cold on their winter travels, others want to embrace it. The following destinations make the best winter road trips for folks who don’t mind snow or freezing temperatures. Some of these destinations are actually quite mild in the winter months – we just can’t make any promises.

Drive Route 100 in Vermont

A snowy scene in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont

Vermont’s longest state highway runs 216 miles from north to south, through the rugged Green Mountains. Route 100 is incredibly scenic and well-loved, meandering through small New England villages, the Green Mountain National Forest, and alongside a number of ski resorts and beautiful state parks. 

Along the way, you’ll find a wealth of recreation opportunities, not to mention fabulous shopping, dining, and lodging. It’s no wonder Yankee Magazine named Vermont’s route 100 one of the best summer road trips in New England.

Traveling route 100 in the winter is a bit more adventurous than in other seasons, but unless there’s a major snowstorm, the road is generally well-maintained throughout the winter. Begin your journey in the mountain village of Wilmington, just north of the Vermont-Massachusetts border.

Here you’ll find several boutiques, fabulous restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. Wilmington is a bit of a hub because of its proximity to Mt. Snow, which is one of Vermont’s best-loved ski resorts.

As you head north, be sure to stop in Weston, which is home to the world-famous Vermont Country Store. If you fancy a local microbrew with your view, check out Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners.

The farther north you travel, the more the mountains and forests will be covered in snow. Instead of shutting down for the winter season, Vermonters embrace it.

Waterbury, in the northern Green Mountains, is foodie heaven – home to Ben & Jerry’s, Cabot Cheese, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and Cold Hollow Cider. Spend some time here and indulge!

Explore the Red Rocks of Utah 

A view of some of the many arches at Arches National Park in the Winter.

-by Jamie Joyner of Photo Jeepers

The adventure town of Moab, Utah is our favorite place to go for a weekend road trip in the winter. It’s a great spot to escape the cold and snow for a few days to enjoy outdoor activities. Exploring Arches National Park in the winter is one of our favorite destinations. It’s the off-season so there are no crowds and the temperature is nice for hiking the trails compared to the scorching heat during the summer. 

Drive about 25 miles to visit Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point State Park. You can photograph the stunning views or explore the trails on foot or bike, again without the crowds or heat. Winter temperatures in the area are pretty moderate with the high being 40-50 degrees and lows in the 20-degree range.

Moab is a high-elevation desert. The nights are cold and the days are warm. Be sure to dress in layers. It usually doesn’t snow, but when it does, it doesn’t last long. The white snow against the red rocks is spectacular to see!

There are plenty of things to do on a weekend road trip in the winter with 2 national parks, 1 state park, and numerous hiking and off-road trails near Moab. You’ll wish you had more time than just the weekend!

Where to stay in Moab: Red Cliffs Lodge ! What an idyllic setting! It’s perched on the Colorado River on 220 acres and is surrounded by 2,000-foot cliffs. The rooms are comfortable and affordable and it’s very close to the national parks and all the Moab attractions.

Switchbacks and Scenery in the  Smoky Mountains

-by Amanda Bowers of VeraVise Outdoor Living

Best winter road trips - A shot of Clingman's Dome in the Smoky Mountains

There is no better way to get a glimpse at what makes the Smokies so special than to experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountains on Hwy 441 through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to Cherokee, North Carolina.   

Day 1: Gatlinburg, TN

Spend the day hiking to Rainbow Falls or exploring the shops and restaurants downtown. Stay at Hilton’s Doubletree Park Vista Inn for the best views of the mountains and downtown Gatlinburg.

Day 2: Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC

Since you are taking to the road today, we recommend grabbing a coffee and a donut at the Donut Friar. Then hit the road early to get ahead of the traffic. Make a brief stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center, then continue south on Highway 441 to the 5,048-foot Newfound Gap where Tennessee meets North Carolina.

After taking in the view of this “lowland” area, drive 15 minutes to the Clingman’s Dome parking area, grab your lunch and backpack, and take the steep but not too technical hike to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet.

Finish the day by heading to Cherokee, NC to learn about the Cherokee Nation at their outdoor theatre or try your hand at the slots at Harrah’s Casino.  We recommend driving on into Asheville, NC to spend the night unless you stay at Harrah’s as the hotel choices are fairly limited in this area.

Day 3: Asheville, NC

If you took our recommendation to stay in Asheville, you will have already arrived in our little “Los Angeles” of the east.  Time doesn’t allow us to go into all there is to do in Asheville, NC, but we definitely recommend some time be spent touring America’s Largest Home: The Biltmore Estate. You can also enter the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to enjoy even more breathtaking mountain scenery.

Road Trip from Chicago to Memphis

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Photo credit: Roxanna Keyes

-by Roxanna Keyes of Gypsy with a Day Job

Chicago to Memphis is an ideal winter road trip if you don’t mind the cold.  There is so much to do, and most of the driving is along Interstate 55, so road upkeep should be good. 

There are a dozen potential stops, but for 3 or 4 days, stick to the major cities. As a starting point, Chicago has a multitude of things to do, but for some unique winter choices, try sledding beneath Soldier Field, or ice skating in front of the Jelly Bean at Millenium Park, or at the Sky Rink at Peninsula Chicago.

Once on the road, Springfield, Illinois is the first stop.  The Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic site is open all year, and there are a number of other sites within walking distance, including the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is fun and educational for all ages.

St. Louis is your next stop.  Visit the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, one of the newest National Parks in the United States.  Tour the Old Courthouse, let children participate in the Junior Ranger program, and take that heart-racing trip to the top of the Arch. 

Afterward, try a brewery tour, or spend some time outside at Forest Park, with a walk through the zoo, and outdoor ice skating at Steinberg Skating Rink.

Wrap up in Memphis, where the essentials are the Mud Island River Park and Museum, with its outdoor scale model of the Mississippi River, and the National Civil Rights Museum, which shares the story of Dr. Martin Luther King and the ongoing fight for equality. 

Music lovers may want to go a different route, with a visit to Graceland, the Stax Museum of American Soul, Gibson Guitar Factory, and Sun Records.

Fall in Love with Winter in Hocking Hills, Ohio

-by Tonya Prater of Travel Inspired Living

hocking hills winter dp

It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Hocking Hills, you’ll find it to be one of the most scenic destinations in Ohio. But when winter hits and the region is blanketed with a layer of snow and the waterfalls slowly turn to ice the landscape is transformed into a Winter Wonderland. 

While the main draw to the area is the hiking trails located in the nearby state parks (there are five of them), you’ll also find the small towns throughout the region are worth a visit too.

To reach Hocking Hills, travelers in Central Ohio can take State Route 33 E south out of Columbus. I suggest taking a slight detour on to 22E to explore downtown Lancaster. Grab a bite to eat at The Well or JB’s Downtown Grill, shop for locally handcrafted goods at Miss Molly’s Mercantile, or explore the displays in the Ohio Glass Museum. Don’t miss the artwork on the square by local students.

Head back to 33 E and follow it to State Route 664. If you turn towards Walmart, you’ll head into Logan to find the Hocking Hills Winery, Olde Dutch Restaurant for Amish-style buffet dining, or Pearl’s Diner for down-home cooking.

You’ll also find the World’s Largest Washboard hanging on the side of the Columbus Washboard Co., the only manufacturer of washboards in the United States. Turning right on 664 leads you to Old Man’s Cave State Park, one of the most photographed trails in the area. Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls are all a short distance away.

Continuing further on 664, you’ll come to historic Nelsonville. You’ll find unique architecture, an opera house with regular events, and The Emporium, an art gallery full of items from local artists. Grab a cup of coffee at FullBrooks Cafe and a bit to eat at The Boot Grill in the Rocky Outdoor Gear Outlet.

Where to Stay in Hocking Hills: At The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, you can stay in your own beautifully decorated yurt or a room in the main lodge. Free breakfast is available and the spa treatments are wonderful. 

Take the Back Roads: Salt Lake City to Las Vegas

-by Carol Guttery of Wayfaring Views

The voodoos in Bryce Canyon during the winter. They are dusted with snow.

Take the slow road on a winter road trip from Salt Lake City, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada.

If you drive it straight through, it’s six hours on a mind-numbing interstate freeway. But stretch it to three days and you can tack on two national parks, three state parks, and all of the red rock you can handle.

Doing the list below extends your drive time to ten hours, but that leaves you plenty of time for hiking and sightseeing.

  • Bryce Canyon National Park: Do sunrise at Sunset Point and/or sunset at Sunrise Point. Queens Garden is a nice, short day hike.
  • Zion National Park (enter from the east via Hwy 9): Check in at the ranger station for ranger-led hikes or consider the Canyon Loverlook Trail for views.
  • Snow Canyon State Park: Pick your distance from many interconnecting trails.
  • Valley of Fire State Park: A lot of the interesting geology on or just off the paved roads. The Fire Wave hike is the most popular.
  • Las Vegas: Go retro and do some fun kitschy things in downtown Vegas . If you have an extra half-day, go hiking in Red Rock Canyon, just west of Las Vegas.

Are you inspired to plan your next winter road trip in the USA? Leave a comment and tell us where you’re headed! Need packing advice? Check out our winter road trip packing list for cold-weather adventures.

Follow us on social media for more travel inspiration!

An aerial view of a road near the ocean. Caption reads: The Absolute Best Winter Road Trips in the USA.

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored , where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.

Tuesday 20th of September 2022

thank you for sharing amazing article on road trip, USA

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8 Great American Winter Road Trips

Explore legendary routes that pack plenty of scenery and few crowds.

A young couple enjoys a winter day next to a car. The hot guy is kissing his girlfriend's forehead.

Getty Images

From North Carolina to California, here's where you should hit the road this winter.

You've probably considered road tripping in spring or fall, when brilliant floral or foliage displays entice us to fill up the tank and take a drive. But in winter, when famed rock formations are frosted with snow and America's top national parks are crowd-free, you can experience the country's iconic routes with less traffic and reduced lodging rates. Of course, driving in winter comes with its own caveats. "Always have one or two alternate routes at the ready should weather force a plan B," advises Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. With that in mind, here are incredible drives across the country to experience this winter.

[See: 10 Bucket List Winter Family Vacation Experiences .]

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee and North Carolina

The scenic route along Interstate 40 and U.S. 321 through the Great Smoky Mountains, from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Asheville, North Carolina, looks like a storybook setting out of Europe in winter, says Rebecca Warren, Lonely Planet's eastern U.S. destination editor. "Incorporate the city of Gatlinburg for some kitschy fun, trading the road for the sky as you take the aerial tramway to get a great view across the mountains," Warren says. And don't miss hitting the trails when you need a break from the road. As for lodging, the LeConte Lodge offers high-end accommodations at a reasonable rate, with cabins (and two meals) available nightly for $140 per person through Nov. 22, 2016.

Big Bend National Park Texas

Big Bend National Park offers plenty of striking landscapes to explore. "This enormous park is stunning, offering incomparable vistas across wide expanses of desert," Warren says. "With more than 100 miles of paved roads, the winter offers pleasant temperatures that allow you to stop and take in some of the park's fantastic hikes without having to deal with the triple-digit heat found here in summer," she adds. Don't skip cruising along the 30-mile-long Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which features striking geological formations and the limestone cliffs of the Santa Elena Canyon. Plus, you can score affordable lodging at Chisos Mountains Lodge, with nightly rates in December available for around $140.

Florida Keys Florida

Florida's famous 113-mile drive along Route 1 affords a memorable journey year-round, but in winter, you can escape the chillier temperatures of the Midwest and Northeast to enjoy outdoor pursuits like kayaking in Bahia Honda State Park and a dose of history in Key West. "Key West has a party-hearty reputation," explains Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of "But it also offers Victorian homes, kayaking, art galleries and beautiful beaches," he explains. Plus, you can secure affordable accommodations in Key West. Hotel deal site shows nightly rates for three-and-a-half star accommodations in the area for around $115 in December.

Hudson Valley New York

Striking vistas abound after you hop across the Tappan Zee Bridge along Interstate 287 to visit charming towns, such as Nyack and Rhinebeck. "This region is beautiful in the winter, with winding roads and stately homes in plentiful supply," Warren says. "Drive along the Saw Mill River Parkway for peaceful views that make you feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of nearby New York City ," she adds. Along the way, stop at Hyde Park, an estate filled with a beaux arts palace and a Georgian colonial home that is part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. This history-filled journey is ideal for weekend jaunts.

Vermont's Route 100 Vermont

Vermont bursts with picturesque scenes, characterized by glistening slopes, charming small towns and villages and quaint lodges. And along the idyllic Route 100 roadway, you'll weave past little-known towns such as Wilmington, Weston and Stowe , and have the chance to visit unique attractions, like the Trapp Family Lodge. For a stay to remember, don't skip bunking down at Stowe Mountain Lodge, A Destination Resort , which offers rooms starting around $280 in December (early booking promotions are also available). For a cost-effective alternative, Firpo-Cappiello points to Stratton, Vermont, as an enticing area in the Green Mountain State, thanks to its beautiful resort, pristine terrain and reasonably priced ski lift tickets.

[See: 6 Secret Ski Destinations You Can Afford .]

Arches National Park Utah

In winter, Arches National Park is blanketed in snow, making its stunning sandstone rock formations even more postcard-worthy. Plus, you won't battle many other visitors as you take in the area's surroundings and otherworldly desert scenes. Make sure to snake along Scenic Drive for the best views of top points of interest such as Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock. An ideal entry point to Arches is about 5 miles north of Moab, Utah, along U.S. Highway 191. After admiring park highlights and hitting the trails, head to the heart of Moab, where you'll find budget-friendly places to stay, like the Red Cliffs Lodge (rooms are available for around $120 nightly in December) along with plenty of charming eateries and breweries.

The Pacific Coast Highway Southern California

"Winter weather can be great in the Golden State, and rainfall becomes a much bigger factor in January and February, so hit the road in the first half of winter," Saglie says. He suggests taking a classic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego, with stops in Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and coastal areas, like Morro Bay. Firpo-Cappiello also suggests carving out some additional time to explore can't-miss and affordable attractions in San Diego , such as Balboa Park and its 100-acre zoo. The drive from San Diego to Santa Monica also affords the chance to experience alluring coastal areas, including Laguna Beach.

[See: America's Best Family Road Trips .]

Lake Tahoe Nevada

If you've ever wanted to cruise along the 28-mile-long Lake Tahoe National Scenic Byway, consider making this scenic journey in winter. At this time of year, snow dusts the peaks along the Sierra Nevada range and the area's alpine regions beckon outdoor enthusiasts to partake in cold-weather pastimes, such as skiing, sledding and ice skating. You can also hit the trails and enjoy the splendors of the sprawling Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park and unwind in Incline Village, a charming town in North Lake Tahoe with plenty of skiable terrain and laid-back mountain lodges.

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13 Beautiful Winter Drives Around the United States

There’s a lot to see on these winter road trips, from iconic national parks to covered bridges and a centuries-old fort.

usa road trip december

Winter can be an ideal time to explore America's open roads. Cruising through a landscape blanketed with a fresh coat of snow is a dreamy way to travel during what, for many destinations, is the off-season. The fact that winter usually sees fewer tourists on the road certainly doesn't hurt.

Of course, winter driving comes with its own set of precautions. Snow makes the scenery pop, but it also makes the roads slick. And slick roads are challenging to navigate when you're in unfamiliar territory. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends stocking your ride with a basic winter survival kit containing an ice scraper, jumper cables, and road flares, a flashlight, batteries, snacks, water, and a first-aid kit. (Tire chains couldn't hurt either.) Always confirm that your vehicle is up to date on maintenance before embarking on a winter drive.

Ready to hit the road? Read on for 13 of the most beautiful winter drives in the U.S., from Florida to Alaska.

Arches National Park Road, Utah

Starting point: Arches National Park entrance

The route: 36 miles round trip on the park's scenic drive

What to expect: Beautiful any time of year, Arches National Park 's natural sandstone sculptures assume an ethereal quality when covered in a layer of snow and bathed in soft winter light — much to the delight of desert photographers. The National Park Service keeps the scenic drive plowed, though the process could take several hours right after a snowfall.

The paved Arches National Park Road , an out-and-back route, provides easy access to park attractions like the historic cabin Wolfe Ranch; the Windows Section , home to some of the park's largest arches; and the Delicate Arch viewpoint, the best-known attraction in the park.

Where to stop: Park in the Windows Section to stretch your legs on a half-hour stroll beneath North Window or Double Arch. About four miles further on the drive, stop at Wolfe Ranch and pretend you've traveled back to the 1800s. From here, you can hike a mile and a half uphill to Delicate Arch, but beware of ice on the trail.

Seward Highway, Alaska

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Starting point: Anchorage, Alaska

The route: About 50 miles on the Seward Highway from Anchorage to Portage

What to expect: Find the epitome of beautiful winter scenery among the snowcapped peaks of Chugach National Forest as you travel along Alaska's Seward Highway. Finish the journey at the ghost town of Portage or steel your nerves — and make sure you have chains — for the remainder of the drive all the way to Seward, another 80 miles past Portage.

Although Alaska is known for its cold and snowy climate, the Seward Highway is a highly trafficked route that stays relatively clear through the winter. The drive from Anchorage to Portage takes only about an hour — two and a half hours if you go all the way to Seward — so it can absolutely be done in a day.

Where to stop: The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center provides a close-up view of native fauna — like reindeer, lynx, moose, and grizzlies — that have been injured and can no longer survive in the wild. The tiny settlement of Whittier (about halfway between Anchorage and Seward) is known as "the town under one roof" because most of its residents live in the same 14-story building (which also houses the post office, police station, convenience store, and health clinic). Its remoteness and notably small population (of about 250 people) have turned it into a tourist attraction.

Yosemite Valley Loop, California

Don Smith/Alamy

Starting point: Groveland, California

The route: CA-120/Big Oak Flat Road from Groveland to El Portal Road in Yosemite, then El Portal Road to Southside Drive, looping around to Northside Drive and ending back at El Portal Road, about 45 miles

What to expect: Driving through Yosemite Valley in the off-season reveals an awe-strikingly silent winter wonderland. Snowfalls coat its granite monoliths, and cold temperatures turn parts of Yosemite Falls to ice. The park has many annual winter road closures , but Yosemite Valley and Wawona remain accessible by car all year. Specifically, Wawona Road (Highway 41), El Portal Road (Highway 140), Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120 from the west), and Hetch Hetchy Road are open year-round but subject to weather-related closures.

Where to stop: The adventurous set can enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area, accessible from mid-December through early April. The road to get to it is maintained, but tire chains are often required. Besides that, make sure to stop under El Capitan in the Valley and admire its grandeur.

Covered Bridge Circuit Through Parke County, Indiana

Starting point: Rockville, Indiana

The route: Bridgeton Road from Rockville to Bridgeton, High Banks and Rosedale roads to Rosedale, Coxville Road to Mecca, then Mecca Road and U.S. Highway 41 back to Rockville, totaling about 45 miles

What to expect: With 31 historic covered bridges, Parke County is known as the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World," and perhaps the best time to see them is after it snows. The bridges, many of them built in the 1800s and still in use, cross icy rivers and streams, contrasting gorgeously with meadows blanketed in white. There are many different routes you can take, but this loop showcases eight bridges and takes about an hour and a half.

Where to stop: Along the route, pause to admire the McAllister Covered Bridge, built in 1914; Neet Covered Bridge; Bridgeton Covered Bridge; Roseville Covered Bridge, the longest of the eight; Mecca Bridge, the oldest (completed in 1873); Phillip's Bridge, the shortest; Sim Smith Bridge, supposedly haunted; and Melcher Bridge. If you fancy a snack midway, stop in Rosedale for biscuits and gravy or a slice of pie at Comar's Cafe .

Skyline Drive Through Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Starting point: Front Royal or Rockfish Gap, Virginia

The route: 105 miles between Front Royal and Rockfish Gap on Skyline Drive

What to expect: The Blue Ridge Mountains are arguably the prettiest peaks in the eastern United States, and Skyline Drive carries travelers right along their crest. It's the only public road through Shenandoah National Park (though portions may close during inclement weather). In the winter , many of Shenandoah's 500-plus miles of trails remain open for snowshoe and ski enthusiasts keen to see crystallized waterfalls and other iced-over sites.

Where to stop: Stick to the 35-mph speed limit and pick any of the 75 overlooks along the drive for sprawling views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west or the Piedmont Mountains to the east. Watch for wildlife, too — though many animals hibernate, foxes and bobcats remain active all winter.

Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

Starting point: Ouray or Silverton, Colorado

The route: 24 miles on U.S. 550 between Ouray and Silverton

What to expect: Is this Colorado road called the Million Dollar Highway for its million-dollar views? Or because an early traveler was so spooked by the route's steep climbs and hairpin turns that he claimed he would never travel it again, not even for a million dollars? Perhaps it's because the road reportedly cost a million dollars a mile to build. Whatever the reason, there's no denying the dramatic drive – part of the San Juan Skyway, a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway – offers priceless mountain vistas.

Keep in mind that the highway, or sections of it, can close due to snow. During the winter, snow chains are recommended as it's a mountainous route with many steep cliffs and sharp turns.

Where to stop: Pull over at any of the designated viewpoints to take in natural wonders like Bear Creek Falls and the iron-rich peaks of Red Mountain. If you plan to stick around for more exploring, make the historic town of Silverton your basecamp. A bit off the route but still worth a visit is the ghost town and former mining hub of Animas Forks.

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee to Asheville, North Carolina

Starting point: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The route: About 120 miles on U.S. Highway 441 and the Blue Ridge Parkway

What to expect: This drive takes you through the stunning alpine wilderness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pisgah National Forest. From Gatlinburg, stop along U.S. 441 at Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome for panoramic views, then hop on the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway. Stretch your legs on a winter hike to the Devil's Courthouse summit before continuing the journey to Asheville.

Where to stop: Play for a day at Ober Mountain , a mountainside amusement park with skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and more — the 2.1-mile Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg to the top is a scenic treat in itself. On the Blue Ridge Parkway, you'll get your pick of more than 50 scenic pullouts with mountain views. On the other side, in Asheville, a tour of the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate is a must.

Route 100, Vermont

Dennis Curran/

Starting point: Stowe, Vermont

The route: 142 miles on VT-100

What to expect: Most roads that traverse this beautiful state are scenic, but Vermont Route 100 (VT-100) is arguably the best of the lot. It puts road-trippers in the perfect position for exploring the charming villages of Wilmington and Weston and touring the Mad River Valley and Moss Glen Falls. Winter is an excellent time to visit this part of Vermont, big on skiing and winter sports. Even if you aren't in the mood for outdoor adventure, the atmosphere is cozy and lively as ever.

Where to stop: Almost every village on the route offers a quaint country store, but Weston's old-timey Vermont Country Store is the ultimate pit stop for practical souvenirs and unique regional treats. And it may be winter, but the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury is nevertheless a must-visit.

High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, New Mexico

Starting point: Chimayo, New Mexico

The route: 49 miles through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Chimayo and Taos on NM-76, aka the High Road

What to expect: An hour-long journey into the high desert will reward you with sights of snow-dusted junipers and piñon pines as you travel past the wood-carving village of Cordova, marveling at the snow-capped Truchas Peak rising 13,102 feet high in the distance. Start at Nambé Pueblo , a centuries-old Indigenous community just south of Chimayo, for a dose of history.

Where to stop: Santuario de Chimayo , near the starting point of this drive, stands on what some consider sacred ground with miraculous healing powers. San José de Gracia de Las Trampas is a National Historic Landmark along the High Road. Closer to Taos, San Francisco de Asís Mission Church dates back more than 200 years.

Highway 57 in Door County North, Wisconsin

Starting point: Green Bay, Wisconsin

The route: 85 miles on Wisconsin Highway 57 from Green Bay to Gills Rock

What to expect: Door County North provides the Upper Midwest with its own Cape Cod experience: Think coastal towns, local shops, and family-owned restaurants that invite a heartwarming winter escape. The popular hour, 45-minute winter drive between Green Bay and Gills Rock ping-pongs between the eastern and western shores of the peninsula. After passing through a handful of small, historic towns, you'll land at the top.

Where to stop: Take every opportunity to stop and soak in the sites of Lake Michigan. On the eastern shore, you'll find the tallest dunes in Wisconsin at Whitefish Dunes State Park and some extraordinary cliffside ice formations at the nearby Cave Point County Park . At Newport State Park , on Lake Michigan near Gills Rock, you can cross-country ski on more than 26 miles of trails. Newport is also a designated Dark Sky Park , and long winter nights are great for stargazing.

Lake Tahoe Loop, California and Nevada

Don Eim/Travel + Leisure

Starting point: Incline Village, Nevada, or South Lake Tahoe, California

The route: 72 miles around the perimeter of Lake Tahoe on NV-28, U.S. 50, and CA-89

What to expect: Sierra Nevada peaks are reflected in one of the deepest lakes in North America, casting breathtaking scenes on its glassy surface — an especially resplendent sight in winter. It takes about two hours to drive the perimeter of Lake Tahoe without stopping, but plan extra time for whatever beauty captures your attention along the way. The route on the eastern side of Lake Tahoe (in Nevada) is a National Scenic Byway, considered one of the most beautiful drives in the U.S.

Where to stop: Sand Harbor , part of the 14,300-acre Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, is an ideal place to dip your toes into the icy lake (it never freezes) before hitting the trails for a winter walk, snowshoe, or ski. Additionally, stop near the state line closest to South Lake Tahoe for a scenic gondola ride to Heavenly Ski Resort , home to a viewing platform offering epic bird's-eye views of the lake along with tubing and ice skating.

Lakes to Locks Passage, New York

Starting point: Waterford or Whitehall, New York

The route: 60 miles on U.S. 4 between Waterford and Whitehall

What to expect: This National Scenic Byway travels north–south for 190 miles through northeastern New York State, but the stretch between Waterford and Whitehall is especially beautiful. When the temperature drops below freezing, the lakes and ponds along this National Scenic Byway turn into ice-fishing destinations.

More into birds than fish? This winter drive passes through the Atlantic Flyway, so keep an eye out for overwintering dark-eyed juncos, evening grosbeaks, and purple finches.

Where to stop: Enjoy views of the Hudson River and the Champlain Canal along the drive. At Saratoga National Historical Park , stop at the Schuyler Estate , built in 1777 as the home of General Philip Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton's father-in-law. It's where the wedding of Hamilton and General Schuyler's daughter Elizabeth took place in 1780.

Interstate 95 to U.S. 1, Florida

Starting point: St. Augustine, Florida

The route: About 470 miles; take I-95 from St. Augustine to Miami before switching to U.S. 1 from Miami to Key West

What to expect: Not up to battling winter road hazards? Skip chilly temperatures and enjoy Florida's glorious take on winter. For a scenic drive that showcases the best of the Sunshine State, head south along its Atlantic coast from St. Augustine — the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States — all the way to Key West , the southernmost point of the continental U.S. You'll find sand in place of snow and palms instead of pines.

Where to stop: Explore must-see highlights like historic St. Augustine, including the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument , the oldest masonry fortification in the continental U.S. The route passes by the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Miami (make sure to stop for a cortadito in Little Havana for a perfect behind-the-wheel pick-me-up), and the Florida Keys , where you'll cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge on your way to Key West.

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32 Warm Places to Visit in December in USA (Best Spots to Escape the Cold)

Posted on Published: August 10, 2022  - Last updated: October 7, 2023

There’s nothing quite like a warm getaway to escape the cold, dreary weather. The USA has some pretty incredible vacation spots that are perfect for winter. Feel the sunshine at these amazing destinations: warm places to visit in December in the USA!

warm places to visit in December in USA view of colorful mountains and beach with lingering clouds

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my  disclosures .

To find warmth in the USA in December, you’re pretty much heading south. From island vacations to coastal destinations and deserts, there’s so many beautiful and adventurous places to beat the cold.

This list of warm places to visit in USA in December includes spots you’ve definitely had on your radar – but perhaps more intriguing are the underrated places you haven’t heard of!

Whether you’re looking for a vacation destination to get outdoors and active instead of cooped up, a perfect location to spend your holiday break, or you’re just looking for the best beach to visit in December, you’ll find a bit of everything on this list!

Map of the best warm places to visit in USA in December

From Hawaii to Florida, there’s so many ideas on this list! Use this map as a visual of the destinations, then check out the photos and tips below on what to do in each location.

By the way, since I’m actively crossing places off my bucket list but haven’t been everywhere yet, I’ve asked some fellow travel writers to help with this list.

Let’s get to it!

Must-see video: best warm December vacation ideas

Warm places to visit in December in USA

Starting this list off with a bang! When all you want in December is warmth, these are the perfect vacation destinations for you!

1. St Croix, US Virgin Islands

view of city and bay of St Croix USVI best warm places to visit in December

Average temp:  high 82, low 72

Wishing for warmer temps in December? Well St. Croix might just be the perfect spot for your winter getaway! The largest and least visited of the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix is an tropical oasis while escaping the cold.

Just at the start of the dry season, December is a perfect time to visit St. Croix. It’s a festive time of year with Christmas events and festivals across the island, including the Crucian Christmas Festival .

If you’re looking for the perfect beach in December on St. Croix, then Sandy Point Beach is it! Open on the weekends, it’s a National Wildlife Refuge, and one of the longest beaches in the US Virgin Islands. It’s closed during sea turtle nesting season, typically April through August, so December is the perfect time to visit!

For a true taste of the Caribbean, visit a rum distillery. St. Croix is home to Captain Morgan Rum Distillery and Cruzan Rum Distillery. Or, visit one of the 150+ sugar mill ruins on the island to soak in some history.

Other popular activities are hiking for those turquoise water views, taking a day trip to Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge and visiting Fort Christiansvaern.

There’s so many things to do in St. Croix, you won’t get bored! It’s one of the very best warm places to visit in USA in December, and one you’ll love!

Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes

2. Monterey, California (one of my favorite warm US destinations in December)

Big Sur view of rugged coastline with wild flowers beach blue water

Average temp:  high 61, low 45

One of the ‘coolest’ warm places to visit in December in USA is Monterey, California. Known for it’s mild temperatures year-round, it’s a great spot for a winter getaway.

December is especially a great time to visit Monterey because the marine fog has mostly dissipated , versus the summer or early fall when it’s still lingering around. Crowds are fewer and prices are reduced, which is awesome for enjoying the area attractions.

Monterey is home to one of the United States best marine sanctuary, making it one of the best spots in the US for wildlife viewing ! Take a kayak tour of the Monterey Bay or witness seals and sea otters in their native habitats at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve .

Spend a day – or more experiencing Big Sur and one of the best scenic drives in the US, just south of Monterey. There are so many things to do in Big Sur that you’ll find something you love! Chase waterfalls, relax on beaches or get active on a hiking trail with incredible views of the coast.

Be sure to visit Cannery Row where you’ll find shopping, dining and plenty of entertainment options for all ages. It’s home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best things to do with kids in Monterey.

3. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Warm places to visit in December in USA Best winter sun destinations Warm places to visit in USA in December Warmest place in US in December view of Puerto Rico ruins ocean and city in distance

Average temp:  high 85, low 67

San Juan is a must on any  Puerto Rico itinerary , no matter when you vacation, but December is a particularly wonderful time to visit. Hurricane season is officially over, and daytime temperatures are in the low 80s, making is a great time to explore and hit area beaches.

The holidays are celebrated with verve all through the month. Old San Juan, the city’s historic district, is decked up in holiday lights and nativity scenes.

Enjoy Puerto Rican eggnog, an alcoholic concoction made with rum, coconut milk, and sweet spices. You’ll also find live music in the streets, and, leading into Christmas, folks singing Christmas carols at night. Very festive!

December is also perfect for sightseeing. Be sure to visit the historic forts of Old San Juan, and walk the colorful alleys to snap photos of the beautiful facades. 

The balmy weather makes December a great time to spend time of the many idyllic beaches in San Juan and just beyond , from the beaches of Isla Verde to Luquillo. For more beach time, plan on a day trip to Culebra Puerto Rico or Icacos Island ! If you’re looking for unique experiences, consider the Bioluminescent Bay, as reviewed in the battle of Culebra vs Vieques .

It’s also a great time to visit El Yunque, the tropical rainforest near San Juan. Hike amidst lush vegetation and waterfalls and take in the views from the observation tower. 

Hotel El Convento is a great place to stay in Old San Juan! It’s housed in a beautiful historic building. 

Recommended by Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles

4. Maui, Hawaii

maui coastline rocky shore against ocean cliffside

Average temp:  high 80, low 66

If you’re looking for the best winter sun destinations, look no further than Maui. Home to incredible scenery like gorgeous beaches, tropical rainforests with beautiful waterfalls and epic adventures, Maui is an awesome place to visit!

It’s especially great in December because the rainy season hasn’t hit yet and the crowds of summer are gone, making it more affordable and more enjoyable. If you go in the first 2 weeks of December, you’ll avoid the holiday pricing.

Be sure to relax on Maui’s beautiful beaches! For year-round snorkeling fun, Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach is a must. Don’t forget your snorkel gear so you can go when you want! Or, watch the surfers at D.T. Fleming Beach on the North Shore.

If you’re looking for adventure, hike the Waihee Ridge Trail . You’ll get epic views of the valley and coast. Just be sure to wear hiking shoes for this one – the trail can get muddy after it rains.

And if you’re up for a road trip, driving the popular Road to Hana is one of the best road trips USA and an experience you’ll never forget. Be sure to make it to Wai’ānapanapa State Park and see the black sand beach (reservations required).

Side note: if you’re really into unique beaches, a must-see is the Black Sand Beach Vieques in Puerto Rico. So stunning!

Anyway, for a more remote drive, consider the Kahekili Highway. This one-lane road offers stunning views and adventure like hiking, waterfalls and more.

Maui is an ideal destination for the best beaches in December, and one you’ll definitely want to consider!

5. St. George, Utah

large canyon green valley orange rocks at sunset

Average temp:  high 56, low 31

One of the most unique spots on this list of warm places to visit in USA in December is St. George, Utah. Nestled on the southwest corner of the state, it’s just minutes away from Arizona and Nevada.

A great launching spot for a Utah national parks road trip, St. George is located about an hour west of Zion National Park. You could certainly take a day trip to Zion, but it may have a bit of snow in December.

There’s so many things to do in St. George. The downtown is rich in history, with museums and parks to learn about the region in years – and centuries past. From the dinosaurs to the Paiute natives and then finally settled by Mormons in the 1800’s.

Of course there’s plenty of outdoor activities in St. George – even in December! Snow Canyon State Park is just 15 minutes north of town, and worth the visit. With 20 miles of hiking trails through petrified dunes, lava tubes and of course, stunning overlooks, it’s a hiker’s dream.

For more adventure, consider a sunrise hot air balloon ride near the city. Or, rent a sled and sandbar at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, a little over an hour south of town.

6. Siesta Key, Florida (another favorite on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA)

view of yellow lifeguard stand with teal ocean in distance in Florida

Average temp:  high 74, low 55

Ranked as one of the best beaches in the USA over and over again, Siesta Key is an amazing getaway. Although high’s in the mid 70’s may not seem like great swimming weather, it still means you can enjoy this beachy destination.

You’ll get more of the beach to yourself in December, which is one of the perks of traveling to Siesta Key in winter. Fly a kite or build a sandcastle. Take beach chairs or a lightweight beach towel and just enjoy the sound of the gentle waves hitting the shore.

And when you need a break from the beach (if that’s even a thing😉), you can head into Siesta Key Village where you’ll find the cutest town square . With boutique shops and restaurants, there’s plenty to do here, too. Be sure to try Meaney’s Mini Donuts & Coffee House (the cinnamon ones are the best).

With so many things to do in Siesta Key , there’s truly something for everyone! You’ll love this beach town, as it’s one of the best warm places to visit in the USA in December.

7. Temecula, California

best winter sun destinations Temecula winery with hills in background

Average temp:  high 67, low 47

If you are ready to escape the cold, snowy weather for somewhere warmer this December, look no further than Temecula, California. Located in Southern California, just an hour’s drive from San Diego, this city has plenty to do – including wine tasting, shopping, and more! 

In December, Temecula’s high temperature is just shy of 70°F, with only 2 days of precipitation, so you can expect warm, sunny days. And there’s no better way to enjoy the beautiful weather than with a visit to Temecula Valley Wine Country!

Temecula is home to 50+ local wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms . Some of the best wineries in Temecula include Wilson Creek Winery, Leoness Cellars, and Baily Vineyard & Winery. 

December is a fabulous time to visit Temecula because of the fun holiday events you can attend, like the Temecula Chilled Holiday Market and Santa’s Electric Light Parade in Old Town Temecula. Despite the warm weather, you can even ice skate at the Peltzer Ice Skating Rink or Temecula on Ice during the holidays. 

Old Town Temecula is a fantastic location to base your trip if you want to walk around and soak up the sunshine, as it’s one of the best winter sun destinations in the US.

You can eat at some of the best restaurants in Old Town Temecula , like The Goat & Vine or 1909 Temecula, or you can shop at the dozens of quaint boutiques selling unique items, like wine-barrel furniture, olive oils and more. 

Carter Estate Winery and Resort is the perfect place to stay for your warm-weather getaway to Temecula, CA. Located on a gorgeous vineyard, this resort allows you to wake up in the heart of wine country every morning! 

Recommended by Brittany of Travel By Brit

8. South Padre Island, Texas

sunset on the beach with waves and two birds

Average temp:  high 72, low 57

If you’re looking for an amazing warm destination to visit in December in the USA, then South Padre Island is the perfect destination for you. 

After all, temperatures are usually around 72 degrees during the day and then around 57 degrees in the evening throughout the month of December.

Plus, the weather here is usually pretty dry, making it the perfect place to relax, take a walk through the Padre Island National Seashore, and enjoy the single biggest undeveloped barrier island in the world.  Additionally, December is off-season. Therfore, crowds will be minimal and hotel prices will be quite reasonable. 

As a result, you can quietly enjoy some of the best things to do in South Padre Island , like take some time to explore the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse from 1852 . In fact, it’s the only lighthouse on the coast of Texas that is open to visitors and makes for a fun place to visit. 

Then, learn about local wildlife at the Sea Turtle Conservation Center. In fact, this amazing wildlife rescue center helps upwards of 100 turtles per year and is an ideal place to learn all about these fascinating creatures. 

You can also visit the South Padre island Birding Center and admire local populations of Buff-bellied hummingbirds, White Ibis, and Red-winged Blackbirds as you stroll along the picturesque boardwalk here. 

Then, pamper yourself at the Sapphire Spa before spending the night at the swank Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island to create the ultimate getaway. South Padre Island is one of the best warm places to visit in USA in December.

Recommended by Victoria of Texas Travel 365

Warm places to visit in December in USA, continued

Can you believe this list?! Just 25% through it and there’s so many more adventures to have. Let’s keep going!

9. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans storefront brightly colored with holiday decorations

Average temp:  high 65, low 46

If you’re looking for a place to escape winter’s frigid clutches and have a little fun in December, there is no better place than New Orleans! While the weather in New Orleans can be oppressive at certain times of the year, December is ideal as it averages in the 60s – 70s which is perfect for sightseeing!

You might think The Big Easy is only a party town during Mardi Gras – wrong! December ushers in plenty of its own one-of-a-kind holiday fun.

The beginning of December kicks off with the Krewe of Jingle – a downtown holiday parade with special appearances from Mr. and Mrs. Clause. New Orleans knows how to host a parade, so this is one you should make sure you don’t miss!

In the middle of December, head to historic Lafayette Square to enjoy the LUNA Fête festival . Over a long weekend, the city celebrates with awe-inspiring light shows; it generally brings in over 100,000 attendees!

In addition to the holiday fun, another great way to get to know the city is on a walking tour. This is an especially great activity if this is your  first time visiting New Orleans  — there are a range of tour options, from learning about Voodoo to exploring the chic Garden District.

New Orleans is a fun city and one of the best warm places to visit in December. And, if you have a bit more time in the area, be sure to check out the best things to do in Lafayette, Louisiana .

Recommended by Rebecca from Veggies Abroad

10. Oahu, Hawaii (a destination full of the best beaches in December)

warm places to visit in USA in December view of teal water beach along hillside

Average temp:  high 82, low 67

When you think of a warm December getaway, Oahu may be one of the first destinations to come to mind. And with its stunning white sand beaches, epic mountains, and abundant wildlife, it’s no surprise this is one of the most popular destinations, come December. 

Thanks to its location close to the equator, Oahu enjoys temperatures in the low 80s in December, which is warm enough to break out the tank tops, sun dresses and even a long travel skirt .

In December the island may experience a rain shower or two. These showers usually only last for a few hours and should not be too much of a hindrance on your outdoor adventures. 

Many visitors primarily focus their explorations of the island to Honolulu, but there’s so much else to see and do here. For example, one of the best things to do in Oahu in December is to watch the professional surfers take on the big waves of the North Shore . Check out the Banzai Pipeline or Waimea Bay Beach Park, which can see waves up to 25 feet in height! 

While snorkeling along the North Shore is probably not advisable in December, given the aforementioned monster waves, you can still check out some of the best snorkeling in Oahu by heading to Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, just 10 minutes east of Honolulu .

Here, the waters stay calm year round, where you can swim with and observe the 400 species of fish, turtles and other marine life. Bring your own snorkel gear to hit the water when and where you want while on Oahu!

For a conveniently located home base during your stay, consider The Modern Honolulu , just steps away from Waikiki Beach, both a family-friendly and adults only pool and an excellent onsite restaurant. 

Oahu is one of the best winter sun destinations in the US, and one you won’t want to miss!

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

11. Disney World, Orlando, Florida

warm us destinations in December teapot with holiday flowers and dinner in distance

Average temp:  high 75, low 55

The happiest place on Earth, aka Disney World, is an easy pick for any families out there looking for iconic warm places to visit in December in USA. 

After all, Disney World comes alive at this time of year with festive holiday decor and fun seasonal events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. 

Plus, the weather at  Disney in December  is super comfortable throughout the month since the average high is 74 F and the average daily low is 56 F. 

However, to avoid insane crowds, try to time your visit for the first week of December. This is when kids are still in the school and when the park is less crowded. 

You should also try and buy Park Hoppers so that you can avoid more crowded parks on an as needed basis. 

Additionally, try and visit Magic Kingdom on Party Days and avoid parks with extra Magic Hours to get the most out of your visit. 

Then, make time to enjoy seasonal activities like Tony’s Most Merriest Town Square Party (an add-on experiences for extra fees), Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace or Plaza Garden Viewing (another add-on event), A Frozen Holiday Wish (happens nightly all month long) and more. 

You can also attend the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot before spending the night at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  It’s probably the best Deluxe resort in Disneyworld and features an island theme that is accentuated by leis that are presented to you as you walk in the door.

Looking for more fun? Check out the best Hollywood Studios rides in the park!

Recommended by Victoria of Disney Trippers

12. Augusta, Georgia

warm places to visit in USA in December view of city with boats and river

Average temp:  high 60, low 41

One of the most underrated spots on this list of warm places to visit in USA in December is Augusta, Georgia . A southern city full of charm, Augusta is known for outdoor recreation, historical sites and hist vibrant restaurant scene.

Tour downtown finding fun murals, shopping and dining. A foodie’s delight, Augusta is known for outdoor patios, which you’ll find especially inviting in the warm sun during mid-day. Bring layers for the evenings as it gets chilly!

One of Augusta’s top attractions is the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. Walk the trails and soak in the peaceful nature all around you. Or, get a little more active on the 32 miles of biking trails through the Forks Area Trail System.

And you can’t visit Augusta without a stroll along the Augusta Riverwalk . It’s a fun, brick trail along the Savannah River! If traveling with kids, they’ll love the playground on the Riverwalk.

During December, the city has holiday festivals and markets. Enjoy historic holiday tours where you can visit homes from the 1800’s, including the childhood home of President Woodrow.

13. San Diego, California (perfect for this list of warm places to visit in December in USA)

view of California coast from above palm trees rocky shore and buildings

Average temp:  high 66, low 49

San Diego is an incredible place to visit during December. With incredible weather and tons of fabulous attractions, you can’t go wrong with visiting this Southern California City! 

You can expect temperatures around the high 60’s during the day and in the 40’s at night. Some of the best things to add to your San Diego itinerary in December include wandering through the famous Balboa Park.

Balboa Park is comprised of 1,200 acres. You can explore beautiful gardens and dozens of museums including The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Air and Space Museum, Museum of Us, San Diego Natural History Museum and more! Additionally, the famous San Diego Zoo is also located in Balboa Park.

The Old Town San Diego Historic State Park is another must-visit. Here you can indulge in amazing food while experiencing San Diego’s Spanish roots and history.

A special experience in San Diego during December is whale watching . Around 20,000 Grey Whales start migrating in mid-December. Seals also start giving birth around mid-December at the La Jolla Caves. You will likely also be able to see the Sea Lions in La Jolla too!

If you are in search of some additional beach time, don’t forget to check out Coronado Island. Walk along the beach, enjoy the many eateries, and visit the famous Hotel Del Coronado .

Recommended by Sam of Find Love and Travel

14. Sedona, Arizona

mountains of Sedona brightly colored red with town below

verage temp:  high 60, low 34

Sedona is the perfect sunny escape in December! Excellent for various travel styles, there’s hiking and outdoor adventures, as well as low-key things to do in town. With mild temperatures and minimal crowds, December is a great time to visit Sedona.

Take the Sedona Trolley around town to get acquainted without the worry of driving or traffic. Visit the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for just that – shopping.

Go hiking or horseback riding at Cathedral Rock or Oak Creek Canyon. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love jumping around the unique landscape at Slide Rock State Park .

Perhaps the most popular hiking trail in the area is Devil’s Bridge Trail . At 3.9 miles and rated as moderate, this trail is perfect for an afternoon hike in December! Bring your grippy hiking shoes for this one, as the rock stairs leading up to the bridge can get pretty slick.

For the best views of the incredible landscape in Sedona, head up to Airport Mesa. There’s a parking lot at the overlook so it doesn’t require much hiking at all. It’s also a great spot for stargazing!

15. Culebra, Puerto Rico (perfect for visiting the best beaches in December)

warm places to visit in December in USA view of white sand beach waves and palm trees

Average temp:  high 85, low 74

Quite possibly the warmest place in the US in December, Culebra Puerto Rico is an amazing destination you’ll love. Puerto Rico was previously mentioned above, but Culebra is so spectacular it deserves it’s own spot.

Culebra Puerto Rico is located just 18 miles off the eastern side of Mainland Puerto Rico . Getting to Culebra requires a ferry ride or small plane, but it’s so worth it!

Home to one of the most incredible beaches in the Caribbean, Flamenco Beach Puerto Rico is one of the best beaches you’ll ever see, and a phenomenal place to visit for the best beaches in December.

This crescent-shaped beach sits along rolling hills and its undeveloped land makes it seem from a fairytale. With plenty of parking and amenities, you’ll want to spend a day – or more – at Flamenco Beach.

Spend some time in with the sea turtles while snorkeling at Tamarindo Beach. Or, for some solitude, visit the lesser-known Zoni Beach. And when you’re hungry, be sure to head downtown to grab a bite.

For couples traveling, consider the cozy cottages with phenomenal views – Aleli Cottages . For more space, try the Oceania Villas .

You’ll fall in love with Culebra. It’s definitely one of the best on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA!

16. Florida Keys

warm US destinations in December to visit view of green ocean water white sand beach and sand dunes

Average temp:  high 75, low 70

The snow is falling, the temperatures keep dropping and you’re ready to escape to a tropical paradise. One of the best warm places to visit in December is the Florida Keys!

Stretching approximately 120 miles from Key Largo to the southernmost point in the continental USA (Key West), the Florida Keys are the perfect getaway if you are looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation. With average December temperatures in the high 70’s, you’ll never want to leave! 

Your best and most affordable option would be to fly into Miami and rent a car to make the Miami to Key West road trip . From here, you can take your time exploring each island and all they have to offer. You’ll want to spend at least one night in Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West. 

The list of things to do in the Florida Keys is never-ending. Depending on how much time you have, you will have to decide between scuba diving in John Pennekamp State Park, deep sea fishing at Robbie’s, parasailing over the sparkling blue water or simply relaxing on the beach. 

After your road trip of adventures, you’ll definitely want to stay in Key West at Tiki Suites.  There are 2 suites located in the middle of the ocean! You’ll have nothing but the ocean surrounding you as you relax and fall asleep to the sound of the waves. A truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Recommended by Jordan of The Homebody Tourist

Best winter sun destinations

Okay – let’s catch a breath here. We’re 1/2 way done. A few of my personal favorites are coming up next!

More winter sunshine ahead…

17. St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

view of st Thomas USVI boats in harbor with island in distance

Average temp:  high 84, low 76

The US Virgin Islands are a great place to visit in December for a number of reasons, especially St. Thomas . First, the weather is absolutely beautiful during this time of year.

The average high temperature is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low is only about 75 degrees. This makes it the perfect time of year to enjoy all that the islands have to offer, including the beaches, without having to deal with crowds of people.

The beaches on St. Thomas are calm and perfect for swimming, and there are plenty of water sports activities to keep everyone entertained. Magen’s Bay is the most popular beach on the island and is great for families.

Coki Beach and Sapphire Beach are also a lot of fun! Sapphire Beach, especially is a great place to base during your stay because Sapphire Beach Resort offers discounts on snorkeling equipment rental to its guests. There are also several pools and a restaurant there, in case you don’t feel like going elsewhere to eat.

December is also a great time to visit St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands because it’s one of the quieter times of the year.

While the islands do see a significant number of tourists during the winter months, it’s nothing compared to the summer crowds. This means that you’ll be able to enjoy all that the US Virgin Islands have to offer without having to worry about fighting for space on the beach or in restaurants.

Recommended by Brodi of Our Offbeat Life

18. Santa Barbara, California

tall palm trees along beach with orange and pink sunset

Average temp:  high 65, low 45

Known for its incredible Spanish architecture, wineries, expansive beaches and moderate temperatures, Santa Barbara is always a good idea. Deserving on this list of warm places to visit in December in USA, Santa Barbara offers sunshine to those wishing to escape grey skies or snow elsewhere.

Dive into culture, history and art in Santa Barbara. See a performance at the Lobero Theater, visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara, get lost in the beauty of Santa Barbara Museum of Art or shop and dine on State Street.

Of course, you’ll want to visit the beach while you’re at the California Coast! Santa Barbara is one of the best stops on a Pacific Coast Highway vacation from San Francisco to San Diego road trip . The area’s best beaches along the way are East Beach, Hendry’s Beach and Goleta Beach Park.

December is a fabulous time to visit Santa Barbara, as the city is full of events and festivities . Watch the boat parade through the harbor at Stearns Wharf. Shop for someone special at the city’s annual Folk and Tribal Arts Marketplace.

And don’t forget about New Year’s Eve in Santa Barbara! For a night to remember, try a champagne cruise, catch a drag show, do a bar crawl or so much more. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of the year!

Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels

19. Kauai, Hawaii (another favorite on this list of best warm places to visit in December in USA)

Average temp:  high 82, low 65

You gotta go to Kauai! It’s not only one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA, it’s also an incredible destination for adventure and relaxation! Known as ‘the garden isle’ for its lush vegetation and epic waterfalls, it has stunning coastlines unlike any other spot on this list – or in the world.

You’ll want to see the Waimea Canyon, AKA the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Explore it’s epic views from the inside by hiking the Waimea Canyon Trail . Right down the road is the Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park, to see the stunning NaPali Coast.

For sunshine in December, you’ll want to stay in the Poipu area to get the least amount of rain . Popular for awesome beaches like Poipu Beach or Shipwreck Beach, the waves can be the smallest in the winter, which is perfect for a warm getaway to the beach.

Kauai is home to some amazing food too. On the North Shore, try Kalypso Island Bar & Grill in Hanalei. You’ve gotta try the acai bowls at Java Kai in Kapaa, or the famous Hula Pie at Keoki’s Paradise in Koloa. Some of the best places to eat in Kauai won’t break the bank, either, like Da Crack Mexican Grinds.

Early December is a fabulous time to visit Kauai as it’s the shoulder season. The pricing is lower than late December over the holiday, and the crowds are much fewer, meaning you’ll have less waiting at restaurants and attractions.

20. Bisbee, Arizona

city of bisbee arizona buildings with mountains in sunlight

The quaint, little town of Bisbee, AZ is attracting winter travelers from all over the world due to its stunning beauty and quirky vibe.

Why visit Bisbee in December? It is truly the best month, boasting highs in the mid-50s and lows in the low-30s. Being an inherently dry climate, you can expect little to no precipitation this time of year. Instead, you’ll find clear skies, colorful sunsets and more stars than you can imagine. 

In visiting Bisbee you can expect a true getaway. The town is small, with just over 5,000 residents. However, what it lacks in population, it makes up for in charm.

A haven for artists and other creative types, the town is full of murals, quirky antique shops, charming cafes and relaxed breweries. Make sure to spend some time shopping in downtown, visiting the nearby ghost town of Lowell and viewing the Lavender Pit, which is an open copper mine located just outside of town.

If you’re lucky enough to spend some time  road tripping in the area , you should also check out Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument, which are both less than 2 hours away. 

You can’t go wrong with booking a boutique hotel in the main part of town. If you are looking to get close to the action, try the  Copper Queen Hotel . If you would like something a little bit quieter, the  School House Inn Bed & Breakfast  may be more your speed.

Either way, you are sure to enjoy a picturesque and relaxing stay in the heart of the American Southwest, one of the best warm places to visit in December!

Recommended by Michele of Slow Traveling Cat

21. Anna Maria Island, Florida (another one of my favorites for warm places to visit in USA in December)

florida beach with white sand teal water

It’s small-town charm and crisp, white beaches will draw you in. Anna Maria Island is definitely one of the most fabulous (and underrated) warm places to visit in USA in December!

Located just an hour west of Sarasota, this island is the picturesque Florida vacation destination. Lacking chain hotels or restaurants, you’ll find boutique shops, fun places to eat and awesome beaches.

Check out the Anna Maria Pier for unique views of the island and local waters. If you’re lucky, one of the local fevers (groups) of sting rays will be lurking in the waters below! Hunt for seashells at Coquina Beach, hang out the beach at Bean Point or find some adrenaline in a parasailing adventure.

Celebrate the holidays in Anna Maria Island by visiting the cute Bridge Street, covered in twinkling lights . Or catch one of the island’s boat parades, where locals and tour companies decorate their boats with holiday lights and show them off during a water parade.

December is a special time on Anna Maria Island, and with so many unique things to do on Anna Maria Island , you won’t get bored!

22. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

warm places to visit in December in USA view of beach from above at sunset with city skyline bridge and ferris wheel

When planning a summer vacation, Myrtle Beach might come to mind, but have you ever considered retreating to beautiful South Carolina in December? This southern beach town is the perfect retreat if you’re trying to escape the cold and enjoy some warmer weather.

In December, Myrtle Beach offers weather in the 60s with mostly sunny days. Visiting this month means very little crowds, cheaper room rates at places like the Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes .

One of the  locals’ favorite things to do in Myrtle Beach  is to visit Brookgreen Gardens, located just 30 minutes outside of downtown. The gardens are an amazing destination year round, but from the end of November to the beginning of January, they hold the Nights of a Thousand Candles. The whole property is lit with over a million lights and almost 3,000 hand-lit candles. You can listen to holiday music, admire the lights and drink some hot apple cider, getting in the holiday spirit.

Spend another evening at one of Myrtle Beach’s famous theaters for a holiday themed show! Pirates Voyage, The Alabama Theater and The Carolina Opry all hold special holiday themed shows during December and are so much fun for all ages.

The daytimes will be warm enough to walk on the beach, eat fresh seafood outside on the boardwalk and ride the massive Ferris Wheel. Try the Sea Captain’s House or River City Cafe for some of the best food with ocean views!

Recommended by Tori of Tori Pines Travels

23. Joshua Tree National Park, California

smooth tan rocks sand and Joshua Tree blue sky

Average temp:  high 61, low 37

Joshua Tree is an incredible place to visit in December for warm weather and sunshine! The desert landscape means that unlike most national parks in the US, summers are too hot for outdoor adventures. 

December brings perfect weather for hiking in Joshua Tree , as daytime temperatures are comfortable , usually in the high 50s or low 60s. It does get chilly at night, so be prepared with some layers – especially if you’re camping, or if you plan to be out in the mornings or evenings!

December is also less crowded than spring or fall, when the park is most popular – but, starting your day early or staying in the park close to sunset will be the best way to avoid crowds. Some of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park include the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, Ryan Mountain and the Lost Palms Oasis Trail.

Some other great things to do in the park include stargazing, off-roading and wildlife viewing. You can see lizards, snakes, tortoises, birds, and if you’re lucky, maybe some big horn sheep, foxes and bobcats!

When you’re in Joshua Tree, you can camp in the park, check out some of the quirky vacation rentals nearby, or stay at the Joshua Tree Inn.

Recommended by Anna of Anna Tee

24. San Antonio, Texas

river at dusk with restaurant brick sidewalk and trees

Average temp:  high 64, low 40

If you’re looking for the best warm places to visit in December, then San Antonio, Texas should be on your radar! With sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s during the day, you’ll be exploring this fun city in warm weather, a nice escape from the cold.

The San Antonio River Walk is the shining star of this destination, but it offers visitors so much more!

Explore The Alamo – the location of the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1863 (timed ticket entry required). For more history and art, visit the San Antonio Museum of Art, Brisco Western Art Museum or the McNay Art Museum.

If you’re looking for a family getaway during December, you’ll want to hit up Six Flags Fiesta Texas . Rides for kids and adults of all ages, it’s a thrilling way to enjoy your time in San Antonio.

And of course, you can’t go to San Antonio without experiencing the River Walk. There’s so much to do and see in the area. From street vendors and shops to restaurants and cool architecture, you can spend a whole day (or more) exploring the area.

A warm getaway, San Antonio just might be the perfect December getaway!

If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to plan your trip to San Antonio to include the best Texas resorts for families .

More warm places to visit in USA in December

From the best beaches in December to adventurous destinations off the beaten path, let’s round out this list with more incredible destinations!

25. Page, Arizona

curvy orange rocks leading upward to the sky

Average temp:  high 45, low 30

If you’re looking to spend time in the American southwest, Page, Arizona is one of the best places to visit. It’s home to some of the most popular places to visit in Arizona including Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. December is a great time to visit because the weather is beautiful. 

In the month of December, the days are warmer and the night cold so it’s a good idea to make sure you bring layers. There is little to no rain here during the month of December. These are great temperatures for hiking and going on outdoor adventures in the area. 

There are lots of great  places to stay in Page . If you’re looking for a unique experience, try glamping with Under Canvas . For a traditional hotel stay, consider Country Inn & Suites by Radisson or the Hyatt Place Page Lake Powell .

One of the best things to do in Page is tour Antelope Canyon . This beautiful slot canyon is one of the most famous in the country, and it’s an amazing experience to walk through. It’s gorgeous!

December is a popular time to tour Antelope Canyon, so you’ll want to make your reservations well in advance. After your tour of Antelope Canyon, be sure to leave some time to walk out to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook.

There are lots of other fun destinations in this area, including Las Vegas, Southern Utah and Sedona. Page, AZ is a great destination to include if you’re going on a road trip through this area, and one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA.

Recommended by Candice of CS Ginger

26. Clearwater Beach, Florida

sunset behind pier on ocean

Average temp:  high 70, low 60

Clearwater Beach is one of the best winter sun destinations! Located just 25 miles west of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, it’s one of the most popular beaches in the country.

Temperatures consistently stay between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter, but the crowds are significantly less during this time of year. This makes it the perfect time to be able to relax in comfort without having to fight for a free spot on the sand or get overheated by the scorching summer sun. 

Unlike the majority of beaches on mainland USA, Clearwater Beach has powder white sand and turquoise blue water. It’s absolutely beautiful, and the sunsets on this beach are even prettier!

There’s even an entire nightly festival that was created just to celebrate the sunsets! It’s called the Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival, and it starts 2 hours before sunset every evening. When deciding  where to stay in Clearwater Beach , a hotel right by the pier is your best pick to keep you close to the action. Opal Sands is a top-rated choice!

Boat tours are another popular activity during December. There are dolphin-spotting cruises and even pirate cruises for kids.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium also celebrates the holiday season. W hen you visit during December, you can see Christmas lights, festive habitats and even tank divers dressed up as Santa and his helpers.

Definitely consider Clearwater Beach for your next warm weather vacation in the US in December!

Recommended by Jillian of Adventure Dragon

27. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas strip buildings at sunset

Average temp:  high 60, low 27

You know what’s awesome? Las Vegas in winter, as opposed to summertime. 🤣 Las Vegas deserves a spot on this list because of its entertainment and food scene. Not to mention the outdoor adventures that are perfect during December!

Perfect for a long weekend away in December, Las Vegas is home to countless entertainment opportunities. Get concert or show tickets and you’ll be sure to see top-notch performances!

Of course there’s gambling and clubs, but also plenty of things to do that don’t include being on The Strip your entire trip. For some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the city lights, check out Red Rock Canyon scenic drive . A timed entry reservation is required in December. Bring your hiking shoes and hit the trails!

Or enjoy one of the many day trips from Las Vegas. Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam are cool to see in person. And if you’re really up for some cool sights, be sure to do a Las Vegas to Zion National Park day trip for incredible canyon views!

Las Vegas is an excellent destination for December, and also one of the top warm winter vacations in the US !

28. Gulf Shores, Alabama (must-see for warm places to visit in USA in December)

Gulf State Park beach with white sand blue water and pier in distance

Average temp:  high 66, low 47

Okay, if you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway to a warm winter sun destination, then Gulf Shores, Alabama is for you! Offering mild temperatures year-round and some of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast , you’ll fall in love with Gulf Shores and its sister city, Orange Beach.

One of the most fun things to do in December in Gulf Shores is a day at The Track. With go karts, mini golf, roller coaster and kiddie rides and an arcade, you could literally get lost here!

Head over to The Wharf at Orange Beach for some serious entertainment and dining. Take a Ferris wheel ride, enjoy some laser tag, grab ice cream or enjoy some water-front dining.

In December, The Wharf hosts a variety of winter and holiday festivities including an ice skating rink, horse-drawn carriage rides under twinkling lights and shopping events.

Don’t forget to enjoy some activities on the Gulf! Go for a dolphin cruise, build a sand castle, rent jet skis or go sand crab hunting at Gulf State Park .

29. Big Island, Hawaii (one of the best winter sun destinations)

big island best warm places to visit in December view of statues on beach

One of the best warm US destinations in December is the Big Island of Hawaii. People can escape the chilly weather on the Mainland and enjoy a tropical island without needing a passport.

If you’re visiting the Big Island during the holidays, you can enjoy many island-style decorations and community events.

Another fun Big Island activity is stargazing at Mauna Kea. Winter is a great time to do this because the sun sets a bit earlier than in the other seasons, so you won’t have to stay up as late to see the dazzling stars.

December is also whale watching season in Hawaii. It’s best to see them on a whale watching tour .

One of the unique  things to do on the Big Island  is swimming with manta rays. Luckily, these manta ray tours run throughout the winter so you can participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The top attraction on the Big Island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is the only place to see lava in Hawaii. It’s important to check conditions before your trip to see if and where the lava is flowing.

The weather on Kona in December is typically in the low 80s during the day and the upper 60s at night. The Hilo side of the island is usually rainier than the Kona side.

And you should pack warm layers if visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Mauna Kea. There is often snow at the summit of Mauna Kea!

A few great places to stay on the Big Island are the Royal Kona Resort in Kona and the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo.

Recommended by Marcie of Hawaii Travel Spot

30. Catalina Island, California

view of town along bay with mountains and boats

Average temp:  high 59, low 43

Off the coast of Southern California is Santa Catalina Island, and it definitely deserves a spot on this list of warm places to visit in December in the US. Just an hour ferry ride from Long Beach, getting to Catalina Island is convenient from the LA area.

Visit Catalina Island in early December to enjoy off-season pricing and fewer crowds than later in the month. With temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, pack layers and enjoy the sunshine on the island!

Find adventure on the water with kayaking, parasailing or a submarine tour. Enjoy the island views by soaring through the air on a zipline or hiking. Try the Avalon Bay Trail with water views, or for more of a challenge, hike the Hermit Gulch Trail.

Downtown Avalon is such a charming harbor town. It’s as cute as ever with brightly colored shops and homes, which reminds me more of Europe than California! Enjoy strolling the Green Pleasure Pier and grabbing some delicious food from a variety of locally-owned restaurants.

31. Phoenix, Arizona

phoenix arizona city skyline at sunset

Average temp:  high 68, low 44

One of the best warm US destinations in December is Phoenix! With sunshine and only a few days of rain, it’s perfect weather for indoor and outdoor activities.

Phoenix is a great destination for families, couples and solo travelers of all ages. One of the best places to include on your Phoenix itinerary is Papago Park. Stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden, where you can see over 50,000 plants!

Have a picnic at the Papago Ponds or hike the short 0.3 miles to Hole in the Rock. Animal lovers will enjoy spending time at the Phoenix Zoo, also located at Papago Park.

The city of Phoenix and neighboring Scottsdale really celebrate the holidays big, too. Enjoy pop-up ice skating events, various festivals and multiple light shows throughout the area, including 2 drive-through animated light shows.

And of course, you can’t come to Phoenix without eating delicious food! For the best Mexican food in town, try Taco Guild or Barrio Cafe. Or enjoy a variety of local restaurants in downtown Phoenix on 7th Street.

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or longer vacation, Phoenix is one of the best warm places to visit in December in USA.

32. Destin, Florida (warm places to visit in December in USA – a must-see destination)

best beaches in December view of Destin florida beach with sand dunes in foreground

Average temp:  high 64, low 48

Destin, Florida is a beautiful place to visit during December. The weather is perfect for spending time on the beaches, and there are plenty of great activities and attractions to enjoy. 

Destin Harbor is especially festive during this time of year, with decorated boats and lights everywhere.  Every year in December, HarborWalk Village has the Destin Boat Parade with fireworks and activities for everyone. 

The city of Destin also has an annual Christmas Parade which covers most of the town. This parade is a must-see for anyone in town in December and features floats, marching bands, and of course, Santa Claus himself. 

Destin Commons and The Village of Baytowne Wharf both have events going on throughout the month of December. Destin Commons has pictures with Santa and Baytowne Wharf has a holiday concert series in December and even an ice skating rink!  

Other places to visit in December in the Destin area include Crab Island, James Lee Beach and Norriego Point.  If you’re looking for state parks, Henderson Beach State Park is great and offers a beautiful beach, walking trails and camping. Topsail Hill State Park is in nearby Santa Rosa Beach and offers many amenities, as well. 

A great place to stay in Destin is The Palms of Destin , which is right in the heart of the city, near Henderson Beach State Park and The Track (go-karts and mini-golf). 

If you’re looking for a fun, festive and warm place to visit in December, be sure to visit Destin, Florida!

Recommended by Wayne of Always on the Shore

usa road trip december

Whew! What a list!

Warm places to visit in USA in December

  • St. Croix, USVI
  • Monterey, CA
  • San Juan, PR
  • St. George, UT
  • Siesta Key, FL
  • Temecula, CA
  • South Padre Island, TX
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Disney World, Orlando, FL
  • Augusta, GA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Culebra, PR
  • Florida Keys
  • St. Thomas, USVI
  • Santa Barbara, CA
  • Anna Maria Island, FL
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Clearwater Beach, FL
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Gulf Shores, AL
  • Big Island, HI
  • Catalina Island, CA
  • Phoenix, AZ

Related content you might like: 30 FUN Warm Winter Vacations in the US (You’ll Absolutely Love) 32 Awe-inspiring Adventurous Bucket List Ideas You Gotta See to Believe

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32 warm December getaways photos of 3 beachy destinations

Saturday 2nd of December 2023

So many good ideas! I need a getaway this winter and these are all good options. Now it's just about choosing! HA

Sunday 3rd of December 2023

Haha that's the truth! So glad you found some inspiration here :)

A great list! So many warm winter sun places in the USA, you are really lucky! I have been to Hawaii and would go back there in an instant! LAst time I visited was early December and it was wonderful weather

Friday 1st of December 2023

There's quite a few places on your list that my husband and I would enjoy. We are always on the lookout for someplace to escape the winter snow.

Oh yay Jolayne! Sounds like it's time for a getaway😎

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

What a great list! So many beautiful places to access with a US Passport. We've visited 7 of these in the off season and St. Croix is probably our fave so far!

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Oh awesome Kathryn! St. Croix is certainly dreamy💛

It's always good to find a comprehensive list like this, especially to escape the cold! I'm off to Puerto Rico for the first time next year & this has really whetted my appetite too!

Ah thanks so much for the compliment, Sue. I hope you love Puerto Rico, it's one of my favorites!!

Boundless Roads

25 Best Places to Visit in The USA in December

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Are you looking for travel inspiration? This post on the best places to visit in the USA in December is a collection of travel tips from US-based travel writers that will help you decide about your next trip around the US next December.

Whether you are short of ideas or you have too many this post will help you find some inspiration or give you some useful tips for your next winter vacation in the US!

Just like I ditched Italy to discover the rest of the world, we all normally tend to ignore the beauty that we have right under our nose and take it for granted instead.

The recent pandemic outbreak has “forced” us to think otherwise. And if you live in the USA, trust me you will have nothing to be sorry about. This immense incredible country, with its spectacular parks, modern cities, and quaint historical towns, has it all.

Not to mention the Caribbean US Virgin Islands an easy to reach with no need for a passport.

If you live in the US, even if you couldn’t leave your country for the rest of your life, you wouldn’t have enough time to see all its spectacular sites.

If you are not from the US and you would like to travel and discover the amazing places this country has to offer, now that the traveling restrictions are slowly loosening up for everybody, it’s your chance to travel and this post will hopefully inspire you with some travel ideas.

I have included a collection of the best places to visit in the USA in December according to world travelers and expert bloggers.

If you are ready, sit back and read on. I have organized this list in alphabetical order.

Table of Contents

The best places to visit in the USA in December

The best places to visit in usa in december, 1)asheville – north carolina.

by Kelly Johnson  @  Snap Travel Magic

river in asheville

If you’re a solo traveler looking for a winter getaway, look no further than  Asheville , North Carolina, for sure, is one of the best places to visit in December.

Tucked away in the  Blue Ridge Mountains , Asheville is especially gorgeous during the winter. As a solo traveler in December, you can stay busy with unique winter events, hikes, and decorated, hip downtown areas.  

Fly into Asheville Regional Airport and  rent a car .  Stay in West Asheville or downtown Asheville  for proximity to restaurants and breweries.

Or, rent a cabin off of the Blue Ridge Parkway for some  amazing views . 

Get into the winter spirit and see  holiday lights at N.C. Arboretum . Or, take a look at the National Gingerbread House Competition and Display at the Omni Grove Park Inn, stay for a drink, and an amazing sunset.

If you’re looking for entertainment, go see the  Nutcracker performance  or an adults-only Christmas comedy show. History buffs can enjoy Christmas at the  historic Biltmore Estat e. 

Make sure you also take advantage of the hundreds of hikes and  outdoor activities  in the region.

Hike in  Dupont State Forest  to see some frozen waterfalls, the most beautiful are Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls.

If views are more your thing, check out  Bearwallow Mountai n or  Looking Glass Rock  for awe-inspiring winter vistas.

Hit the slopes for some skiing, snowboarding, and tubing at  Cataloochee Ski Area  or  Wolf Ridge Ski Resort . 

After exploring Asheville in the cold, warm up in one of the  traditional spas  in the area.

For something unique, relax in a salt cave at the  Salt Spa Asheville , or take a dip in a  saltwater flotation tank  for some sensory deprivation at Still Point Wellness.

Other relaxing activities include relaxing in a hot tub with a view at  Shoji Resort and Spa  or taking a hike and relaxing in the natural hot springs off of the  Appalachian Trail .  

2) Big Sur – California

by  Ale  @  Sea Salt & Fog 

Big sure coast line views

Big Sur is definitely one of the best places to visit in December, especially if you are looking for warm weather.

It stretches almost one hundred miles along the California coast, starting around  San Simeon  and ending at  Carmel . The area is known for its dramatic, jaw-dropping cliffs with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

The best way to see  Big Sur is via road trip  on the  Pacific Coast Highway  (PCH). PCH is a two-lane highway that weaves its way through the cliffs.

This isn’t a drive you rush through; this is a drive you enjoy. The coast can get chilly, so prepare in advance for your trip by  packing the right things for your California adventure.

Make your first stop a visit to  Hearst Castle  for  beautiful architecture , grand rooms, and stunning grounds.

Stop at the  Elephant Seal Vista Point  to see giant marine animals lounging in the sand. Nearby, the  Ragged Point Inn  grounds offer sweeping cliffside views. For coastal access, you can stop at  Sand Dollar Beach , or  Lime Kiln Beach .

To see a stunning waterfall, make your way up to  McWay Falls.  You can’t access the falls, but you get some beautiful views from the lookout area. For food, stop at  Nepenthe .

It’s pricey, but you get stunning views in recompense.

Point Lobos  offers easy hikes and is a local jewel.

Past here you’ll hit Carmel, an upscale beachside community with great shops and restaurants. Treat yourself to a relaxing couple of hours at the  Refuge , a  silent spa with hot and cold plunge  pools – it’s a must-do.

For  solo travelers , visiting  Big Sur in December is a great way to enjoy the area with thinner crowds.

The drive up the coast in December is  solitary  and slower-paced.

Take your time, and stop at places that seem interesting to you. There are plenty of pullouts along the way.

You really don’t need anyone with you when you have the awesome  beauty of the Big Sur coas t for one of the best December warm vacations destination in the USA.

3) Boone-North Carolina

by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

Tweetsie Railroad

Located 85 miles northeast of Asheville in the “High Country” of North Carolina, Boone NC is a beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain town with a population of around 20,000 people and it makes a great place to visit in December. 

Home to Appalachian State University, the hip college town is filled with cool restaurants and breweries and surrounded by outdoor recreation opportunities, offering everything from hiking and mountain biking to rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and tubing. 

Although these outdoor adventures and more are available all year round, Boone is arguably the most visited in winter, when the temperatures tend to dip.

With highs in the low 40s, and lows in the low 20s (Fahrenheit), Boone averages more than 33 inches of snow each year.

So it’s a very popular place for snow-skiing, with myriad ski resorts in the area including  Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain Resort, and Sugar Mountain Resort.

But here in the Southeast (where we live), Boone is probably best known for its incredible array of Christmas tree farms.

This is where most of the decorated evergreens in Southern homes come from, and there are lots of farms in the area where you can cut your own Christmas tree. 

As a result, many families make annual trips to the area every December, enjoying local Christmas traditions such as taking a ride on the Tweetsie Railroad through thousands of colorful Christmas lights and animated scenes, or visiting the alpacas and other animals at the Apple Hill Farm Christmas Celebration in neighboring Banner Elk. 

Boone visitors can get there by flying into the Tri-Cities Regional Airport (45 miles away), Asheville (72.9 miles), or Charlotte (80.5 miles). But most people tend to visit as part of a road trip, as Boone is located about 11 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, about halfway between Cherokee NC and Roanoke VA.

4) Boston – Massachusetts

by Krystianna  @  Volumes & Voyages


 One of the best places to visit in December  in the USA is Boston, Massachusetts. 

Located right on the coast, Boston is one of the most beautiful cities. Luckily, there’s something there for every type of solo traveler, so whether you’re a sports fan, a history fanatic, or just like exploring new places, this is the destination for you!

Boston is easily accessible by car, and since it’s a big city, it’s also accessible by buses (like Peter Pan or Greyhound) as well as the Amtrak which you can take directly to South Station near Copley Square.

The city also has its own airport, Boston Logan, which can be reached by most other airports in the United States.

There are so many great things to do in Boston, especially in December. The best thing to do in  December  in Boston is to attend the  Christmas tree lighting in Faneuil Hall .

This normally occurs at the beginning of the month and is also usually during the week. So many people attend, and there are a lot of Christmas festivities!

Oftentimes, there’s even live music to help keep you occupied until the tree is officially lit.

There are also a good amount of  ice skating ponds  that travelers can visit in December. The most popular of these is  Frog Pond .

There are of course more affordable options too, like the new pop-up rink in front of 401 Park in the Fenway/Kenmore area. Both of these rinks also have night shows where professional skaters in the city will put on shows for the public!

In December, be sure to also do some of the normal fun sightseeing in the city too. Visit Newbury Street for some shopping, explore the  Prudential Center , and eat Italian food in the North End.

If you’re visiting and you won’t have a car, an insider tip of mine is to definitely purchase a visitor Charlie Card to save yourself money on public transportation!

5) Boulder – Colorado

by  Oksana & Max  @  Drink tea and travel 


Located in the  foothills of the Rocky Mountains , Boulder is an excellent destination for  solo travelers  on the lookout for a  December getaway .

The city is vibrant and the surrounding natural attractions are second to none. Pair that with a social atmosphere and you have the perfect solo destination. 

If you are a snow bunny, you’ll want to check out the great number of  nearby ski hills . Located just 21 miles from Boulder is  Eldora Mountain Resort .

This local haunt has 11 lifts and is particularly well suited for beginners. Solo travelers will enjoy taking a group lesson here. 

Another way to explore the surrounding mountainscape is on foot. There are  over 150 miles of trails surrounding Boulder  which are open all year-round.

However, the weather can be unforgiving in December so we would recommend solo visitors trek with a  local hiking group  or a guide.

Back in the city, you’ll find the bar and restaurant scene lively during the winter season. There are a burgeoning craft beer scene and plenty of tours to explore  local brew houses  with a guide and a pack of new friends.

You’ll, likely, end up at  Pearl Street Mall  which is particularly well known for its plethora of shops and dining options.

If you want to do something festive we suggest grabbing a ticket to the Nutcracker at the  Boulder Ballet  and  Boulder Philharmonic . Otherwise, the  Lights of December holiday parade  takes place in the first week of December.

The residents don’t hibernate in the winter so there is always something going on! 

Most people visit Boulder by flying into Denver and then driving the 40 minutes northeast. We discovered Boulder on our  Colorado road trip  and it quickly became one of our favorite places in the state.

We can definitely say that if you are looking for a winter holiday, Boulder is one of the best places to visit in December in the US.

You may also like: The 31 best places to visit in Europe in December

6) Bryce Canyon – Utah

Janine @  Le Wild Explorer

Bryce Canyon

Utah  has some of the best National Parks in the United States and Bryce Canyon is no exception, definitely one of the best places to visit in December in the US.

Not only will you beat the summer crowds you’ll also see the park when it’s most beautiful.

Bryce Canyon National Park is absolutely breathtaking any time of the year but seeing it with snow is something special.

Bryce Canyon National Park  is known for its orange-red hoodoos, which are natural tower-like rock formations. The snow-capped hoodoos are definitely a sight to see.

The color contrast really adds dimension to the already scenic backdrop and wintertime is definitely a photographer’s dream.

You don’t need to be a hiker to enjoy the park. It’s easy to drive to different viewpoints or enjoy a short, leisurely walk.  Sunset Point  is a popular viewpoint where you’ll see Thor’s Hammer and an amazing view of hoodoos spires. And if you’re in need of a short hike opt for the  Navajo Trail Loop .

It’s the most popular hike in the park. However, if you are an outdoor enthusiast I would recommend doing the  Fairytale Loop Hike .

This strenuous hike is over eight miles long and the elevation change is a butt-kicker but the scenery and views are well worth it.

The closest airports to the park are  McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas , Nevada, and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in Utah.

It’s a 4-hour drive from either airport and renting a car from these locations is easy. I recommend  booking in advance  to ensure you have a rental .

You don’t need a special off-road vehicle to visit Bryce Canyon but if you’re planning on visiting any other spots along your trip do some research if you need vehicle clearance.

7) Carmel by the Sea – California

Sunset in Carmel on the beach

With pristine white-sand beaches, great weather year-round, breathtaking views, and unique architecture, Carmel by the Sea is one of the most beautiful towns in the US that you should include in your bucket list of the best places to visit in December or winter in general.

It is indeed a tiny town but there are so many things to do in Carmel by the Sea, for any kind of travelers.

Outdoorsy loves Carmel for its incredible nature and amazing hikes, besides postcard-worthy beaches where surfers love to hang out.

But also, it is considered an artists city, boasting almost 100 art galleries and bursting with culture, and culinary delights.

Although the majority of events take place in the summer, it is never a bad time to visit Carmel for its temperate weather year-round.

It’s not a surprise that it’s a favorite hideaway for celebrities. Actually, an interesting fact that you may not know is that Clint Eastwood has been a Major of this town and if you are ready to splurge you can even stay in his charming and yet luxurious Mission Ranch Hotel.

So make sure you include a stop in Carmel in your California Road trip.

8) Key West – Florida

by Kenny Chow  @  Knycx Journeying

ocean and marina - key west

The Florida Keys  is an archipelago that stretches 180 kilometers at the tip of Florida – and at the tip is a small island that you must have heard and also, is one of the best places to visit in December in the US if you love the warm climate.

It takes about 4 hours to drive from Miami to  Key West , and there are also  shuttle services  connecting Key West from the Miami Airport.

Once you get there, just rent a bike or a scooter and explore the tiny island that is merely 13.6 big with an abundance of historic and cultural impacts.

There are a couple of shops around  Mallory Square  with bike rentals.

Besides, some motels or tourist agencies usually have bikes lining outside at the entrance for rent – like Island Safari Rental Inc. right at the corner of Greene Street and Telegraph Lane.

December is a good month to explore Key West because of its weather .

The cooling temperature and sunny days are perfect for going out, even on your own.

Navigate the streets with your bikes and just check out the numerous iconic cultural features on the island as you, please. For example, all the most popular “southernmost” spots from the southernmost point, the southernmost café, to the southernmost shop.

Ride along Duval Street , the main tourist and shopping street on the island where you will see several historic  Art Deco buildings , catch a movie at the historic movie theatre, and take pictures of the Goods Store, Joe’s bar, and other old houses.

Be aware that you will also see a lot of chickens roaming on the street while you ride! Finally, relax in one of the local cafes and enjoy their signature dessert, the key lime pie, which should be white in color if it’s authentic.

Don’t worry,  their pie portion is perfect for one !

9) Lake Geneva – Wisconsin

by  Paulina  @  Paulina on the road

beautiful home lake geneva

Lake Geneva  is one of the best places to visit in December in USA because of its colorful season, and also because the shore path is stretched twenty-one miles.

So, if you are thinking, that this is the only highlight, then it is recommended that you consider it again.

There are  plenty of things to do for solo travelers : golfing, enjoying the city’s best spas, or hiking.

Lake Geneva has a lot of history on its own. You will get a glimpse of that when you visit the  Geneva Lake Museum of History .

The museum arranges a scavenger hunt, where you team up to find a treasure. Imagine the fun, you are going to have when you participate in such activities, and on top, you’ll get to know plenty of people!

Lake Geneva is particularly great to visit in December.

From  Holiday Open Houses to Santa Cruises  and tree lighting ceremonies, and obviously, Christmas Parades, adorable Christmas shops, and visits from Santa, Lake Geneva is the  winter wonderland  to visit in Wisconsin.

When you are out for a winter vacation, relaxation is the most important thing. In Lake Geneva, there are some fantastic foot and body massage parlors that will calm your mind and soul.

Some of  the best hotels in Lake Geneva   are the  Grand Geneva Resort and Spa  and the  Geneva Inn .

Both the hotels have spacious rooms, and the staff is fabulous! If you are around Christmas to spend your holidays, then these are the hotels that you should stay in.

You’ll instantly feel at home when being received with a warm welcome and often even with champagne.

Their beds are so cozy that it will be tough for you to get up in the morning and you’ll never want to leave Lake Geneva.

However, the biggest event in December is  Winterfest . Did you know that Winterfest is the setting for the “United States National Snow Sculpting Championship”, where snow sculptor teams and artists from around the country gather to compete?

10) Malibú – California

by  Monica  @  This Rare Earth

malibu beach at sunset

Let me tell you why I consider Malibu one of the best places to visit in December in the US.

When most people hear “Malibu, Ca” they picture a ritzy and upscale area like Beverly Hills.  Surprisingly, that’s not what Malibu is all about. 

Malibu is a  quiet and sleepy seaside area  that still very much has a  small-town vibe,  despite being located within LA County.  

Mom and Pop restaurants and shops line the beautiful coastline, with just a few major restaurant chains sprinkled in, and you’d be surprised to hear that most parking for beach-goers is free.

In  December , though the ocean water may be quite cold, the views are spectacular and the air temperature is often still warm.  It’s the perfect place to spend some quality solo time and relaxes in nature.

My favorite beach for exploring in Malibu is  El Matador State Beach , because of the stunning rocky cliffs that you can wander in and around. 

Bring tennis shoes if you want to climb to the top of these rocks, but check the tide beforehand; many of the cliffs are inaccessible once the waves roll in at high tide. 

You can often catch wildlife at El Matador as well, such as  sea lions , pelicans,  starfish,  and  sea anemones , to name a few.  They are often on the sand or, for the underwater wildlife, in small tide pools.

Pro Tip : Stay until  sundown  if you can, because this is the most beautiful place to watch the sunset along the  Southern California coast , in my opinion!

If you enjoy hiking, the nearby Leo Carillo State Park offers a few trails that are accessible all year round.  Leo Carrillo SP is conveniently located less than 3 miles north of El Matador State Beach.

Malibu is in the northernmost corner of LA county, and the absolute best way to get there is by car on the  Pacific Coast Highway  (PCH), or Highway 1, for the incredible ocean views along the way.

11) Moab – Utah

by Kaisa  @  Glam Granola Travel


Moab, Utah, is one of the coolest destinations for solo travelers in the  Southwest and one of the best places to visit in December.

Its claims to fame are numerous:  mountain biking, off-roading, river sports on the Colorado River , and let’s not forget Moab is home to  two of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks .

It’s an outdoorsy adventure-seeker’s paradise in a  red rock oasis , especially in December.

Moab is inherently  perfect for the solo traveler  because most of the activities it’s known to foster a welcoming community of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. Feeling social? You can join a snow biking trail ride, or check out the  Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair .

The Moab Brewery is also a great gathering place to meet people. The people in Moab come here because they are passionate about something. Maybe they’re passionate about biking, kayaking, hiking, or their jeep, but they’re always welcoming and wanting to chat.

This is even more  authentic in the winter when even the very mild snowfalls keep away the tour busses. 

There is also ample opportunity for solitary activities in Moab, as my extremely introverted friend who just moved there will tell you. He spends most of his time on overnight mountain biking trips, enjoying the solitary expanse of red rocks and canyons on all sides.

Canyonlands National Park  is much quieter than the  always-busy Arches , so if you want a peaceful experience far away from humans it will be your best bet. 

Of course, never, ever adventure in the wilderness alone  unless you know what you’re doing (as the mountain biker in  127 Hours   learned the hard way—just outside Moab). 

The famous Delicate Arch hike in Arches National Park is insufferably crowded most of the year, but in December you should have it at least somewhat to yourself!

Also, one place many folks skip but are absolutely worth the short drive, is Dead Horse Point, State Park. Camp here if you can, as the views are just ridiculous!”

12) Mobile – Alabama

by Wendy Werneth  @  The Nomadic Vegan

usa road trip december

The laid-back  coastal city of Mobile ,  Alabama  is often passed over in favor of nearby New Orleans, but it actually offers many similar attractions in a smaller, more compact, and safer environment.

Even though Mobile is now part of Alabama, at one time it was the first capital of the French Louisiana Territory. 

This French heritage can be seen in its architecture, such as the wrought-iron balconies overhanging the streets, and in its annual Mardi Gras celebrations.

Thanks to its location on the Gulf Coast, Mobile has a very mild climate for most of the winter.

While cold snaps do sometimes blow through and last for a few days, it’s also possible that you could be walking on the nearby beaches of  Dauphin Island  or  Gulf Shores  in shorts in the middle of December.

Just outside of Mobile are the  Bellingrath Gardens and Home , which are worth a visit at any time of year but it’s one of the best places to visit in December in particular.

For the whole month, the 65-acre gardens are covered in 3 million lights for the yearly celebration known as Magic Christmas in Lights. 

Another seasonal attraction at this time of year is  Christmas at Oakleigh , hosted in the historic Oakleigh mansion built in 1883.

In addition to the special Christmas decorations, living history reenactors also dress up in period costumes and share the story of Oakleigh’s rich history.

And of course, while you’re in town you’ll also want to dine at some of   Mobile’s best restaurants .

Local eateries cater to all budgets and tastes, and a growing number of them now offer vegan and vegetarian options. 

Mobile is conveniently  located at the intersection of I-10 , which runs across the country from east to west, and I-65, which starts in Mobile and heads north to Chicago. 

It’s therefore easy to reach by car from pretty much anywhere in the US, and there’s also a  Greyhound Bus terminal  in town.

13) Monterey – California

monterey coastal road

Among some of the best places to visit in December in the US is Monterey California.

Located on the Southern Edge of Monterey Bay in Monterey County, California, the popular town of Monterey has attracted artists since the late 19th century when many celebrated painters and writers moved here and the nearby area, including the pretty town of Carmel-by-the-sea at only 20 minutes drive.

And who can blame them? The all-year-round temperate climate, the picture-worthy beaches on the picturesque rouged coastline, the thriving nature with incredible hiking trails and beautiful landscapes, make this area the perfect place for creative inspiration. 

With an array of oceanside hiking trails , restaurants , and shopping choices, travelers find amazing things to do in Monterey , and plenty of activities for any kind of travelers, outdoorsy, foodist, and culture lover.

Make sure you check out the famous Cannery Row, visit Point Lobos Natural Reserve , or take some whale-watching trips if you are interested in the wild sea life in the area.

14) New Orleans – Louisiana

by Derek and Mike  @  Robe Trotting

boat in a river

If you are wondering where to go in December for a vacation, one of the best places to visit is New Orleans.

It’s one of America’s most  exciting  and unique cities, which makes it a perfect destination to travel to at any time of the year.

It’s a city with delicious food,  lively nightlife , and beautiful architecture. The  mild climate  and  lively atmosphere  make it especially wonderful to experience in December.

Getting to New Orleans is best done by flying into Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. From there, a 25-minute drive will take you into the city and the center of the action.

There’s a lot to do in New Orleans for a solo traveler and one of the best places to start is the  always-vibrant French Quarter .

There you will find the famous party atmosphere of  Bourbon Street  with walk-up drink windows, street performers, and wandering brass bands.

One of the most important  New Orleans travel tips  is to experience live music. Even if you aren’t a fan of jazz, you can enjoy all kinds of local music in the city. Check out Frenchman Street for a more authentic music scene where the locals go to unwind.

Another way to take in the music scene is to book a river cruise with a live band or performers. From  jazz  to cabaret, a  Mississippi River cruise  is the ideal way to experience the music of New Orleans when traveling solo.

New Orleans has many other activities that are perfect to join along like the  World War II Museum , tours of the Battle of New Orleans battlefield from 1812, and touring the cemeteries or a ghost tour.

The unique  history and culture  of New Orleans make it a great American destination.

You’ll notice the French, Spanish and Caribbean influences as you stroll around the incredibly walkable city with comfortable weather in December.

15) New York City – New York

by Sean Lau  @  Living Out Lau

usa road trip december

If you are planning on  traveling solo in December , then consider New York City, a.k.a “The City That Never Sleeps”.

While many cities in the USA tend to get duller in the winter, the Big Apple is quite the opposite. And we can easily say that NYC is indeed one of the best places to visit in December, not only for the holiday spirit but because New York is always a great place to be.

As you stroll down the different boroughs of New York City, you will see  festive spirits and winter decorations . Locals and tourists are out enjoying the numerous winter attractions that New York City has to offer.

One of the best winter-exclusive activities is unquestionably  ice skating in Bryant Park .

Located between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, Bryant Park is a green space like any other park, that is, until winter.

The park becomes a  winter wonderland , with decorations and a massive ice skating rink. If you meet others while traveling alone, it’s a great place to hang out with your new friends.

Another top place in NYC during December is the  Rockefeller Christmas Tree . Definitely one of the top instagrammable places in NYC .

At over 20 meters tall, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is one of the tallest Christmas trees in the world. The tree is lit 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Even if you are seeing the tree alone, the festive crowd will make you feel like you are not alone!

As one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, NYC is filled with other solo travelers all year round.

By staying in a youth hostel such as  Jazz on the park  Colombus Circle, solo travelers can find places to socialize and make friends from other parts of the world.

Its location next to Central Park is ideal for anyone who is looking to be closer to nature but not too far from the action as well. Solo traveling doesn’t have to mean you are alone all the time!

Also, make sure you check out this packing list for New York City to make sure you take everything you need.

16) Oahu – Hawaii

by Jackson Groves  @  Journey Era

usa road trip december

The  island of Oahu  is one of the top destinations in the USA year-round with its temperate weather, surfing culture, beautiful beaches, and exciting hikes.

But it’s definitely one of the greatest places to visit in December in the USA, especially for its elevated average temperature.

While the rest of the country is enduring cold weather in the festive season, there is no better place for a solo getaway than the ‘Aloha State’.

You can expect the weather to be in the low 80’s for your vacation to  Oahu in December , which is perfect for hanging out at the beach and surfing while it snows in many states on the mainland.

It is more likely to rain than in the summer, the downpours are usually short and accompanied by rainbows.

The rain also means you’ll see lots of tropical flowers in bloom, which is a big drawcard for Oahu.

There’s  so much to do on Oahu  you simply will never get bored.

The island has so many incredible hikes you will be blown away with some of the views. The most popular hikes are  The Stairway to Heaven  in the center of the island and the  Diamond Head hike  near Waikiki.

Oahu is home to some of the  best beaches in the world . Every time you get into the water it’s likely you will come across a green sea-turtle or even a spinner dolphin if you are lucky.

The warm water of the Pacific Ocean makes a snorkel in December possible.

The waves on the North Shore are known as some of the most to-rated surfing spots in the world. There are waves for beginners or seasoned professionals.

In fact, in December you can catch the  Vans Triple Crown of Surfing  event at Sunset Beach on the North Shore.

The North Shore of Oahu is the perfect place for solo travelers  with a laidback surf vibe setting the tone of the town.

Waikiki is the other good option with lots of hostels on offer, which are always a good choice for solo travelers looking to meet other tourists.

This 5-day Oahu Itinerary , packed with the best sites on the island, will help you plan your trip.

17) Oklahoma City – Oklahoma

by Debra  @  Finding Debra

oklahoma city memorial

Put  Oklahoma City,  Oklahoma on your calendar in  December  for a surprising trip you won’t soon forget.

Read on to learn why I consider it one of the best places to visit in December.  

To get there, fly into the state’s largest airport,  Will Rogers World Airport , or  take an epic road trip along historic Route 66 which takes you right into OKC . 

Solo travelers will want to head to  Myriad Botanical Gardens  for a night to remember, where a glass sphere conservatory is the location of a magical holiday venue complete with a light show and the outdoor  ice skating rink  is found at the base of high rise buildings – what a view! 

End the evening with a drink at The Jones Assembly, a restaurant found in the heart of historic  Film Row .

It’s there you’ll discover holiday decor and an atmosphere reminding you of New York City during the holidays. You might even spy a full-size movie theater screen on a back wall playing Christmas favorites. Drive or stroll down  Automobile Alley  twice.

Once for the  holiday lights , as you’ll discover an entire street full of buildings aglow on the sidewalk to rooftop lights. Second for the shopping.

Shops like  Plenty Mercantile  make this street the epicenter for fulfilling your holiday shopping needs. Prepare for an  emotional must  on your to-do list as you visit the  Oklahoma City National Memorial .

The site is more beautiful this time of year as a wreath is meticulously placed on each chair honoring those whose lives were lost on that fateful day in 1995. 

All this walking in OKC with a chill in the air will have you ready for a little pampering at  Udånder , a full-service  Scandinavian steam and sauna spa . Treat yourself to a Danish foot soak. 

Must-Do Insider Tip : Head to an empty lot that has been turned into a holiday wonderland with igloos! They are called the  Holiday Pop-Up Shops . Do a little shopping and grab a gourmet hot chocolate at Katie Bug’s camper.   

18) Orange County

Huntington beach - Orange County California

Famous on the screen for the hit TV drama “ The OC ,” the reality show “ Laguna Beach ” but also for its spectacular beaches, competitive surfing industry, Disneyland , and Knott’s Berry Farm Orange County is one of the most wealthy and pretty regions of California. 

And it definitely makes it on the list of the most beautiful places to visit in December, especially for its elevated average temperature, for a warm winter destination.

Located in Southern California, right between Los Angeles and San Diego, Orange County is the sixth most populous county in the entire United States.

Travelers and locals alike fall in love with the picturesque coastlines dotted with mansions, palm-tree-lined private streets, sprawling mountains, and perfectly manicured suburbs.

Although natural wonders are the most impactful attractions, there are around 34 cities in Orange County among which some charming sites are worth visiting, such as Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, and Costa Mesa.

Most of these cities are famous for surfing but they all boast their own industries, attractions, and vibe. 

With fantastic weather, stunning beaches, beautiful nature, and a booming economy, Orange County is a popular destination for both tourists and its residents.

Some may compare it to paradise. Although summers may be more ideal for surfing and beach time, traveling to Orange Bay in December is a way to escape the winter colds and find temperate warm weather, although the water may still be too cold for swimming. 

19) San Diego – California

by Sharon Gourlay  @  Dive Into The Philippines

san diego beach

San Diego is a great place to visit in December especially if you want to go somewhere to defrost!

With a mild winter, the average temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. As an added bonus, December is the low season for tourists  which means you may also be able to nab a bargain and won’t have to worry about crowded attractions.

However, the main reason you should visit San Diego is its  variety of attractions , diversity of cultures, and great food. It’s an easy city to visit, to get around and to enjoy.

Its range of attractions varies from natural ones, such as great beaches and hiking trails, to world-class museums and historic sites.

As a visitor, a place definitely worth heading is  Balboa Park.  Here you will find a range of museums and performing arts centers.

It’s all set in a big park so you can learn about whatever areas interest you at the museums and watch a show in one of the centers.

La Jolla Cove is another place worth heading to where you can see sea lions in their natural habitat. You can get up close to them by kayaking or by stand-up paddleboarding.

Another interesting place to explore is the  USS Midway  where you can explore the aircraft carrier USS Midway.

There are many different paths you can take that wind their way around the ship so you can see many different areas like the cabins, mess halls, onboard surgery, captain rooms, and engine room. It’s fascinating.

For a local experience, make sure you head to a Padres game at  Petco Park . You won’t just get to see a great game of baseball but there are great views of San Diego from the stands.

San Diego has an international airport and it’s also possible to fly into Los Angeles and drive down from there.

20) San Francisco – California

by Chrysoula  @  Travel Passionate

usa road trip december

If you’re looking for somewhere with character and culture to visit this December, look no further than  San Francisco , California .

San Francisco is the perfect year-round destination for solo travelers as there are plenty of activities to enjoy indoors and out that can keep you entertained whatever the weather.

But it’s definitely an amazing place to visit in December.

With an excellent selection of museums and galleries including the San Fransisco  MoMA , the  Asian Art Museum,  and the  California Academy of Science , there is something for everyone to enjoy, no matter your interests.

When you’re not discovering the arts in a museum or two you can take in the views of the city with a  ride across the Golden Gate Bridge  or a walk along  Fisherman’s Wharf .

This is where you’ll want to stop off to dine on classic San Fransisco  clam chowder  and watch the  friendly seals and sea lions  play in the quay.

Of course, you can’t talk about visiting San Fransisco and not mention  Alcatraz , and if it’s your first time visiting the city then this is a must.

The tour of the island tells you about the history of the prison and the fascinating stories of the penitentiary inmates.

The real joy of San Fransisco is that it’s such an  eclectic, welcoming place . With lively hostels, friendly cafes, a great public transport system, and pretty much everything you need within walking distance in the city center, it’s ideal for those traveling alone.

Take a ride on the streetcar, visit the famously  winding Lombard Stree t or simply sit in a bar chatting to locals about the latest tech start-ups to come out of  Silicon Valley .

Although you will basically never run out of things to see and do while in San Fransisco, it’s good to note that the city also boasts  excellent shopping , a range of decent  spas , and some lovely  parks and gardens .

21) Sanibel Island – Florida

by  Lori Sorrentino @ LLC

shells in hand sea in the background

Just off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida in the southeastern United States lies the island of Sanibel, a barrier island off the coast of Ft. Myers that was cut in two by a hurricane years ago, separating it from Captiva Island by a narrow inlet that flows from the Gulf of Mexico.

Getting to Sanibel is easy.  Regional Southwest International  airport (RSW) is just minutes away, and it makes one of the best  Florida road trips  for the adventurous traveler. 

Sanibel Island has a laid-back tropical vibe, and December is the perfect time to visit when the weather is a balmy 75-80 degrees (F). You won’t find high-rise hotels, fast food, or glitzy nightclubs.

Known as the  Shelling Capital of the US  for the thousands of colorful seashells that wash up on its shores each day, Sanibel beaches are largely uncrowded with gorgeous, soft white sand.

The  Sanibel Lighthouse  beach has great shelling and is one of the best photo ops on the island.

 Besides shelling, solo travelers can enjoy small group  boat tours of surrounding islands , or explore the entire island by bike — a dedicated bike path runs the entire length of the island so you can get anywhere on 2 wheels.

Shopping and dining will also satisfy everyone, from high-end shops and restaurants to fun ice-cream shops and waterfront tiki bars. 

Insider Tip :  Don’t miss the  J. N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge . Though largely hidden from view, a visit here is a must for nature lovers. 

Kayaking  is a popular way to explore the refuge, where large groups of wading birds, pods of manatees, and even the occasional alligator or two can be seen. 

22) Savannah – Georgia

by  Sydney @  A world in reach

usa road trip december

If you’re looking for the perfect US city to take a  solo trip to in December , look no further than beautiful Savannah, Georgia. This charming southern city has December high temperatures in the 60s, making  Savannah  a perfect place to escape the cold.

If you’re flying to Savannah, you can fly into the  Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport .

The airport is served by most of the major US airlines; you can also find flights to Savannah on budget carriers such as Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines. Driving to Savannah is also an option – I-95 along the east coast runs through the city.

Savannah is most frequently visited in the summer, which means insane crowds and insanely humid weather. December weather is mild and much more tolerable, making it the perfect time to spend a  long weekend in Savannah  and explore the city.

Additionally, the city becomes festive during this time of year for the  holiday season , so exploring the city while it is decorated for Christmas is an added plus! Make sure to check out the ice skating rink at the civic center.

Another fun way to explore Savannah is by taking a ghost tour – some of the tour companies even offer special holiday tours! You also can’t visit Savannah without taking a walk through the gorgeous  Historic District , admiring the antebellum architecture and historic squares.

Stroll through the district before ending in  Forsyth Park , a great place to relax and people-watch after a long walk.

Savannah is home to many delicious restaurants, and the  Olde Pink House  is one of the best places to sample delicious southern cuisine.

Reservations are recommended, but if you’re traveling solo, skip the wait by dining at the  Planters Tavern , the bar located downstairs.

Grab a drink (the Pink Lady is excellent!) and order some delicious food from the same menu as the Olde Pink House.

23) Seattle – Washington State

by  Alex @  Alex on the map


 I can’t think of a better city than  Seattlefor solo travelers . Not only is it super  accessible  with one public transportation line (that goes directly to the airport and back), but it also is mostly walkable when you get to the downtown area.

You can get there by flying or driving from any of the other major cities in the  Pacific Northwest . Also a plus? Very rarely do you have a ton of snow in Seattle!

Along with some amazing light displays and a number of  Christmas trees,  you have the opportunity to experience both big events and smaller, local ones, as well.

Seattle is known for being a crafter’s paradise, and you can find plenty of unique gifts for loved ones at the holiday bazaars set up on  Dayton Avenue . With over 120 booths, there’s no way you won’t find something you want to buy.

For something a little different and  off the beaten path , check out Argosy’s Christmas Ship Festival.

Located on Alaskan Way Pier 55, the Spirit of Seattle takes passengers throughout Puget Sound .

All dressed up and ready to go, you can enjoy themed drinks and fun cheer as you get to explore the  Seattle-Tacoma  area. If you can’t get on the main boat, you can book one of the smaller ones that follow.

Of course, you have to head down to Pike Place Market. Along with living music, there’s tree lighting, cookie decorating, and more great shopping. 

While it can be easy to immediately jump to cities like New York as the best places to celebrate Christmas as a solo traveler,  there’s a lot to see and do in Seattle in December . With the  mild weather , you also don’t have to worry about bundling up in order to experience it.

24) Sedona – Arizona

by Vicky @  Buddy The Traveling Monkey

sedona moutain and vegetation

One of the best places to visit in the USA in December is Sedona, Arizona. A  weekend in Sedona  is perfect because of its mild winter temperatures, dramatic landscapes, and amazing culinary scene.

Getting to Sedona is an easy  two-hour drive from Phoenix  unless you stop along the way to take photos.

One of the top things to do in Sedona is go  hiking . There are plenty of trails but two of the most popular are the  Bell Rock Hiking Trail  and the  Crescent Moon Ranch Hiking Trail .

Neither was difficult so you can easily do them as a solo traveler. Both were well marked and both offered beautiful scenery.

Sedona  also has  wineries  and  great restaurants  where you can treat yourself to delicious wines and dishes.  Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery  is a great place to do a wine tasting.

You can sit outside on their patio and sip while taking in the surrounding vistas.

To eat, you absolutely can’t go to Sedona and not go to  Mariposa . It’s one of the best restaurants in Sedona and has amazing views. Here’s a tip: order the Pulled Pork Tostadas!

The  weather in Sedona in December is absolutely gorgeous , and one of the main reasons people visit during this time of year.  

Temperatures are mild , with highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s. It doesn’t snow in Sedona, although once in a while visitors might see a light dusting of snow atop the iconic red rocks.

Many people from up north travel down to Sedona in December to get away from frigid temperatures. With that said, Sedona is still open enough that it doesn’t feel crowded.

You can easily explore and shop around town or head out on a hike. Either way, Sedona is a fun place to visit.

25) St. Pete – Florida

by Pauline Vergnet  @  B eeloved City

sunset on the beach

 Located on the Gulf of Mexico,  St Petersburg  FL is the perfect destination for solo travelers, especially in December! December is one of the best months of the year to visit  Florida . 

The  weather is warm and dry , making it very pleasant (especially when it’s cold everywhere else!). The easiest way to get there is by flying to  Tampa .

From the airport, cross the Sunshine Skyway bridge and drive down to St Petersburg.

I highly recommend renting a car. There are  many things to do in and around St Pete !

Having a car will make your life way easier and allow you to discover stunning places.

As a solo traveler, you will want to spend some time in the city. St Pete Downtown is very lively and people are super friendly!

You can walk around and discover beautiful street art murals, museums, and art galleries.

You will also find a lot of cafes and restaurants, all along Central Avenue.

If you fancy playing games, go to  Park and Rec  on 4th Street South.

They have plenty of arcades and outdoor games.

It’s a very  lively bar  and you will quickly find people to play with you! In the afternoon, you should hit the beach!

You will be spoiled with options! You can head to  St Pete Beach ,  Treasure Island , or  Clearwater beach .

If you are looking for a quieter place,  Fort De Soto ,  Caladesi,  and  Honeymoon Island  will be perfect for you!

In the  evening , go to  Jannus Live .

This outdoor music venue is very unique! It’s located in the  historic district  and hosts amazing gigs every night!

Another option is to grab a pizza at Britt’s on Treasure Island and head to the beach nearby.

This white sanded beach is beautiful and quiet. Most of all, it’s an amazing sunset spot. You can eat your delicious pizza while  watching   the sunset and the dolphins !

You will also find a couple of tiki bars, perfect to grab a cocktail!

26) Joshua Tree National Park

joshua tree park boulders

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park in winter is an amazing way to escape the crowd and enjoy some good quality time in contact with nature.

Spending some winter time in Joshua Tree National Park is a great idea if you don’t mind low temperatures, of course.

What you will get in exchange is abundant sunshine, fewer crowds, and, why not some snow for amazing landscape photography.

You will also have an amazing glamping experience in Joshua tree National Park to relax and treat yourself after glorious hikes and road trips.

Among the winter activities in Joshua Tree National Park you can in fact:

  • Stargazing at Skull Rock
  • Driving along the geology tour road
  • Exploring Hidden Valley
  • Spotting the bighorn sheep at Barker Dam, one of the most popular destinations in Joshua Tree Park.

The average temperature in December ranges from 61F to 31F, so be prepared and make sure you pack accordingly.

If you love some adventure Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places to visit in December in the US.

Planning a trip soon? Here are My Recommended Travel Resources .

  • BOOK FLIGHTS –   Expedia , (former Scott Cheap flights) , and always remember to compare
  • BOOK TOURS –   GetYourGuide or Viator . Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
  • HOTELS & HOMES – – Expedia –   VRBO
  • CAR RENTALS:  Discover Car Rentals

usa road trip december

Founder and Editor

Isabella is traveler and animal lover, a former tourism professional with an multinational background that includes living and working in Jamaica, Antigua, Seychelles, Egypt, and Mexico, where she spent seven years. In 2017, she took a bold leap, leaving her fancy job in Cancun to embrace a nomadic lifestyle when she founded her travel blog Boundless Roads, with the purpose to help solo female travelers to live their best travel adventure, embracing their fears and choosing the roughed path. Today, she manages three successful travel blogs, balancing her digital ventures while exploring new places and photographing this beautiful world.

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6 U.S. Road Trips to Take This Winter

By Emily Pennington

Image may contain Road Freeway Highway Outdoors Nature Mountain Ice Tarmac Asphalt and Mountain Range

A dusting of powdery, white snow is beginning to fall across the country, but that doesn’t have to mean your road tripping days are over. With a little extra research and creativity, winter can be a fantastic season to go for a drive, whether that's a sunny desert escape or a slope-searching tour du ski. We’ve compiled a list of our winter-specific favorites, with a little something for everyone—from active travelers to fine dining gourmands to national park collectors. They're all across the country, too, so wherever you are, a great winter road trip route isn't far. 

As always during the pandemic , locations mentioned are subject to alter their hours and operations at any time, so check with any restaurants and attractions before hitting the road. Likewise, it’s a good idea to read up on state travel restrictions prior to commencing a trip. Read on for six of our favorite winter road trips, from Tennessee to Washington. 

Image may contain Nature Outdoors Mountain Architecture Building Mesa Arched Arch Housing and Monastery

Zion National Park to Moab National Park, Utah

The onset of winter shouldn’t automatically mean that sunny days in the great outdoors are over; to chase bright, dry skies, head for the desert. This jaunt will have you swooning over Utah’s myriad of red rocks, elaborate hoodoos, and slot canyons, with pitstops in Zion , Bryce Canyon , Capitol Reef, and Arches national parks. Spend a full week to really soak up the scenery (and craft beer).

Where to stop: Begin early in Zion to take in the sunrise glow from within the fabled canyon walls. Stop for photos and say hello to the horses in rustic, cliff-lined Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park , then cruise up to Moab for the Arches scenic drive before taking in sunset at Dead Horse Point .

Where to eat: Enjoy epic views, casual Mexican fusion and local brews just outside Zion National Park at Whiptail Grill . In Moab, savor wood-fired pizza at Antica Forma , topped with fresh house-made mozzarella (they craft 200 pounds in-store each morning).

Where to stay: For canyon views, it doesn’t get better than Xanterra’s Zion Lodge . If you’re brave enough to camp in the cold , the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef is one of the dreamiest in the state. Top it all off with a little R&R at Moab's Red Cliffs Lodge . Perched right on the banks of the Colorado River , enjoy southwestern décor, in-room jacuzzi tubs, and sky-high red rock views from their dining hall, The Cowboy Grill.

Image may contain Road Freeway Highway Outdoors Nature Mountain Ice Tarmac Asphalt and Mountain Range

Highway 395, California

Winding past historic wild west towns and countless dramatic 14ers (mountains with elevations of at least 14,000 feet), California’s Highway 395 is a stunner at any time of year. It really sings in winter, though, when you can marvel at the snow-capped Sierra Nevada and enjoy your après-ski in chic mountain lodges. Allow at least a few nights (four minimum) for this route. 

Where to stop: Snap a photo at the famous Mobius Arch (and gaze up at an icy Mount Whitney) in the Alabama Hills , just outside of historic Lone Pine. Stretch your legs on the accessible boardwalk around stunning Convict Lake , then cozy up for a quick drive over to Mammoth Mountain for some downhill fun. Before parking in Reno , take a breathtaking gondola ride in Tahoe for the best views of California’s largest lake.

Where to eat: Copper Top BBQ in tiny Big Pine, California, was voted the best restaurant in the country on Yelp back in 2015, and their pulled pork still lives up to the hype. For fancier fare, reserve a table at Chef Lonny Huot’s Edgewood Restaurant in South Lake Tahoe and feast your eyes on a spectacular sunset over the lake.

Where to stay: Lounge in luxury at the lakeside Edgewood Resort in Tahoe. Committed to minimizing its environmental footprint (it's a LEED-certified building), this world-class hotel and spa offers superb dining and waterfront views.

North Carolina Blue Ridge Parkway

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, to Nashville

One of the best things about east coast mountains (apart from their rich human history) is their year-round accessibility, due to being lower in elevation than their counterparts out west. This trip is all about soaking up the best of both worlds—the human and the wilderness—from the panoramic views of Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive, to a spooky tour of Mammoth Cave, and even the lively honky-tonk bars in Nashville’s historic downtown. 

Where to stop: Shenandoah National Park , in Northern Virginia, is a hiker’s dream, with 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail cutting right along the park’s spine. From there, it’s easy to continue onto the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to Great Smoky Mountains . Head to Cades Cove to take in the centuries-old Cherokee and homestead history of the area, before veering north towards a self-guided tour of Mammoth Cave National Park .

Where to eat: Nashville’s Geist has consistently been rated one of the most beautiful restaurants in the country, with its 1886 brick façade, twinkling chandeliers, and studded barstools. Plus, no trip to Music City would be complete without a drink and a live show at the iconic Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge .

Where to stay: Just minutes from Great Smoky Mountains lies The Lodge at Buckberry Creek , a boutique, all-suite stay away from the bustle of downtown Gatlinburg that’s decked out with gas fireplaces, private balconies, and soaking tubs to soothe those post-hike bones. In Nashville , enjoy the colorful décor and stained glass at The Russell , where no two of their quirky, upscale rooms are alike.

Million Dollar Highway Colorado

Boulder to Durango, Colorado

There’s nothing quite like the scenic splendor of the Rockies, especially with a dusting of fresh snow. Start in Boulder, nestled beneath spellbinding Rocky Mountain National Park , then wheel past Vail to Avalanche Ranch and its soakworthy hot springs. The trip ends with a cliff’s edge drive along the winding Million Dollar Highway , weather permitting.

Where to stop: Moraine Park has some of the best views in the Rockies and is a fantastic spot to search for elk in the snowy valley. Afterwards, enjoy the twinkling lights and small-town shops of neighboring Estes Park . Downhill addicts won’t want to miss a stopover in Vail before steering through Aspen towards the eerie, narrow Black Canyon of the Gunnison . Lastly, explore Durango’s wilderness and mining history with a railroad ride into Cascade Canyon .

Where to eat: From their organic, locally-sourced alpine ingredients to their extensive, curated wine list, the creative tapas of Leonora at The Sebastian in Vail won’t disappoint. For local brews and epic tacos in a more casual setting, try Avalanche Brewing Company in Silverton.

Where to stay: The St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder offers eco-friendly elegance, a great restaurant (Jill’s), and spectacular views of the Flatirons mountains from your very own in-room patio.

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Vermont to Maine

Frigid New England might not be the first place that comes to mind when brainstorming a winter road trip, but take one look at Vermont’s storybook villages like Weston , Wilmington , and Stowe , and we bet you’ll change your tune. Tack on a trip to Acadia National Park , by way of lobster-rich Portland , Maine, and experience the ragged Atlantic coastline free of summer crowds.

Where to stop: Have an Instagram moment at frozen Moss Glen Falls , then cruise along Vermont’s scenic Route 100, stopping for the infamous Vermont Country Store in Weston and a quaint horse-drawn carriage ride. Savor a scoop at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury and round out the trip with a drive along the plowed portion of Ocean Drive in Acadia .

Where to eat: Havana , in Bar Harbor, Maine, is just minutes from Acadia, serves a mean seafood paella, and boasts a noteworthy wine list. Reservations are recommended.

Where to stay: Nestled between Stowe Village and the slopes lies Topnotch Resort , an upscale haven with dining and soothing post-slope spa treatments. In Bar Harbor, finding winter lodging can be trickier, but the cozy Inn on Mount Desert stays open year-round and even has a lending library for cuddling up by the fire.

Image may contain Road Freeway Highway Asphalt and Tarmac

Crater Lake, Oregon, to Seattle

The Pacific Northwest is a dream road trip destination in any month, but there’s something about traversing moss-laden forests and seeing a snow-capped Mount Rainier in winter that just makes the entire experience more special. Start with a snowshoe around Oregon’s Crater Lake , then warm up on the drive along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway before stopping in Portland, Oregon . Wheel over to Olympic National Park for a moody stroll along the forested Pacific before taking in the natural beauty of Mount Rainier.

Where to stop: Though most of the Rim Drive is closed in winter, photographers will enjoy snowy Crater Lake views from Rim Village. Pick up a new or rare read for the journey at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, the largest independent bookstore in the world. Nature addicts can chase a few waterfalls at the Columbia River Gorge, then head to Rialto Beach way up on the Olympic Peninsula. Or, simply make a beeline for Seattle and play in the snow at Mount Rainier’s Paradise .

Where to eat: Voodoo Doughnuts is a Portland staple and sweet stop for a road trip snack. In Seattle, warm up with hand-cut hot soba at chef-driven Kamonegi .

Where to stay: Enjoy late-night nosh in a stunning building dating back to 1909 at Portland’s artsy-chic Hotel Lucia . It’s an ideal location for exploring the city’s notoriously quirky downtown scene. As for Seattle, keep the post-Rainier adventure vibes alive at the elegant, whimsical Kimpton Palladian .

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Winter View of El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls and Half Dome seen from the Tunnel view. Yosemite National Park.

15 Best Winter Road Trips in the USA

Let's face it, shorter days and gray skies can make the winter months seem way longer than they are. So kindle your adventurous spirit and belt out some of your favorite holiday tunes on an epic winter road trip that's sure to make the season bright.

From festive, holiday card-worthy villages to a frosty take on some of America's greatest parks, we've searched far and wide to find the most irresistible winter destinations for you this season.

Discover the many faces of the American winter in our best winter road trips in the USA, which include world-class slopes, charming towns full of cheer, and sunnier spots to beat the winter blues. There's sure to be a trip for you.

Read on below to discover the best winter road trips, conveniently organized, and start planning your own!

Best winter road trips in the USA: a quick overview

Our favorite winter national parks.

One of America's greatest offerings is its vast, diverse National Park system. While crowded in the summer months, the winter is a great time to have a quieter, more relaxed experience in some of the country's most popular parks.

1. Road Trip from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe via Yosemite

10 hours 10 minutes (520 miles)

Why you should visit: This road trip from LA to Lake Tahoe is a double feature of the two most majestic natural gems in California's Sierra Nevada Mountain range. For many coastal Californians, these are the go-to places to experience that mythical thing called snow which is rumored to fall in winter.

A chance to see the glacier-carved granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley and the deep blue azure of Tahoe surrounded by snow will make you wonder why you haven't taken this trip already.

A snowy pier at Lake Tahoe with snowy mountains in the background on a clear winter day.

How to get there: Hop on I-5 N until Fresno, then take California Routes 99 and 41 N /Wawona Road. into Yosemite Valley. From Yosemite, Take California Route 120 to California Route 49 N and 88 E which will take you in to South Lake Tahoe.

If you'd like to see more of Lake Tahoe, drive along scenic Highway 89 from South Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City, it's well worth the extra mileage.

Our highlights: The Valley Loop Trail in Yosemite is mostly flat and easy to do in any season. From here you get a great view of Yosemite's most famous natural monuments, like Half Dome, and if you're lucky they might have a dusting of snow to go with the season.

There are also great opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in Yosemite. People of all skill levels can find a beautiful trail or even groomed track to explore.

Tahoe in winter is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders - some places such as Palisades Tahoe and the aptly named Sugar Bowl get 500 inches of snow in a year. Many of the region's connoisseurs prefer slopes around the North Lake Tahoe area, so consider extending your trip up there.

Whether you ski or not, it is worth taking a trip on the Gondola at Heavenly Resort to the observation deck to see the lake decked out in all its frosty glory. Continue your gondola ride up to the lodge and enjoy a warm drink in a cozy setting.

Finally, make time to simply take it all in by the Lake. In Tahoe, there are plenty of beaches and piers to sit or stroll by the water and feel the winter magic.

Bonus: Dozens of movies have been filmed around Tahoe, including “True Lies” (1994), “Jack Frost” (1998), “Into the Wild” (2007), and most recently “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022). Just be careful while trying to do your own stunts like Tom Cruise.

Our travel tips: Yosemite gets so busy during the summer that the park has started requiring reservations to drive in during the peak months. Though far fewer people come during the winter, the school vacation weeks around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's will be more crowded.

Yosemite Valley Road and Wawona Road are open during the winter, and you can use the Big Oak Flat Entrance , Arch Rock Entrance , South Entrance and Hetch Hetchy Entrance to enter the national park.

However, Tioga Pass Entrance and several other Sierra Mountain pass roads are closed, so you will have to take a slightly longer route to get to Tahoe. You can find detailed information on the entrances to Yosemite National Park and their seasonal availability by clicking here .

READ MORE - Road Trip from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe

2. Road Trip from Salt Lake City, UT to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton and Jackson Hole, WY

6 hours 30 minutes (360 miles)

Why you should visit: With its mix of steam and snow, Yellowstone in the winter is like an American version of Iceland. Bordered by the dramatic profile of the Grand Teton Mountains in the south, this trip makes for an epic and adventurous winter road trip .

The main drag of Jackson Hole, with its Old West façades set against the towering Tetons, is rustic any time of the year. It also makes for a cozy home base from where you can explore two fantastic national parks, ski the surrounding slopes, and return for evenings by the fireside.

Bald Eagle standing on a fence, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

How to get there: Begin your trip by following I-15 N and US Route 30 E for 171 miles to Soda Springs, ID. From there, Take Idaho Route 34 E to US Route 89 N. After Hoback, WY, US-89 merges with US Route 191 N and heads to Jackson Hole. US-191 N continues on to Grand Teton and Yellowstone to the north.

Our highlights: Winter road closures throughout Yellowstone might sound like a bummer until you hear that from mid-December to mid-March you can see Old Faithful and other natural wonders via snowmobile tour! The park website has more details and a list of authorized tour companies.

While you aren't allowed to enter any of the hot springs within Yellowstone, mostly so that you don't become a human lobster, there are nearby places like Chico, Fairmont, and Montana Hot Springs where you can take a relaxing dip as you watch the flakes fall.

In the Grand Teton National Park, go on a guided snowshoeing hike with a park Ranger who can give you ample insight into the park's winter inhabitants and rhythms.

Elks have a large presence in Jackson Hole. Nearby you can visit the National Elk Refuge which was sent up in 1912 to protect one of the largest herds left in the continental US. Even downtown you'll be reminded that you're in elk country by the four arches of antlers welcoming people to Jackson Town Square.

During the winter months, it's great to have some indoor activities on the itinerary as well. Be sure to visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson- the building is a piece of art in itself and its collection is impressive.

Yellowstone contains the largest geyser in the world, named Steamboat. Water from this geyser's eruptions can reach 380 ft. While not as regular as Old Faithful, it has erupted quite often since 2018. Catching one during a clear winter's day would be the experience of a lifetime.

Our travel tips: For an even more spectacular drive from Salt Lake City, take Utah Route 89. It branches off just before Brigham City and is also known as the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway. Get on Route 91 in Logan then head north, over the Idaho border, to connect back with I-15.

Road access within Grand Tetons is limited during the winter months. The only road open year-round stretches between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park

3. Road Trip from Boston to Portland, ME and Acadia National Park, ME

5 hours (280 miles)

Why you should visit: The drive from Boston to Portland is a trip where the snow meets the sea: you'll find the area dotted with dozens of photo ops and full of romantic spots to walk mitten in mitten.

While many people consider doing a Northeastern coastal trip during the summer or fall, a trip during the winter months has its own rewards. Explore the mystic quiet of Maine's vast forests and rugged coast under a glistening bed of snow.

The Portland Breakwater Light (also called Bug Light) is a small lighthouse in South Portland, Maine,United States.The lighthouse winter view after snow with blue sky background.

How to get there: Take US Route 1 N from Boston, then hop on I-295 north for 90 miles to Portland, ME. Once you've explored Portland, continue on I-295 towards Bangor, ME. Then take US Route 1A E and Maine Route 3 E to Mount Desert Island which contains Acadia National Park.

Our highlights: In the first stop in Portland, make sure you see the iconic Portland Head Light, with its red roof and whitewashed walls blending into snow drifts. It is also Maine's oldest lighthouse, built in 1791, and one of Portland's major attractions of any season.

In case you are open to suspending incredulity, visit the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland where you can learn more about the Sasquatch, Nessie, and other mythical beasts as the frigid winds blow outside.

Winter is a great time to explore Acadia National Park by cross-country skis or snowshoes. There are 45 miles of carriage roads to choose your own adventure through this stunning park.

The next day, try your luck with ice fishing on Jordan Pond or simply go there to take in the winter scenery. There is also a 3.5-mile loop that will work up some body heat and reward you with even more beautiful views.

In case you can't quite part with your car's heater, but you'd still like to enjoy stunning coastal views from within Acadia National Park, take Schooner Head Road south of Bar Harbor and cruise along Ocean Drive for a few miles until Otter Cliff Road takes you back to Route 3.

Bonus: The temporary Glacier Ice Bar and Lounge is constructed every winter out of 20,000 lbs. of crystal-like ice. Sip a Snow Ball Martini or a hot cider with a little something extra and admire crystalline ice sculptures while meeting some hearty locals.

Our travel tips: Severe storms and road maintenance can affect I-295 so check for any closures before you leave. Please also note that, If you are visiting Acadia National Park and plan to drive on the Cadillac Summit Road, keep in mind that vehicle reservations might be required. Please check the national park's website to avoid any disappointment.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Boston to Portland, Maine

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Get some mountain air

Nowhere feels more suited to the winter snow than the mountains. The crisp air, stunning views, and of course winter sports excitement all await you on the following trips.

4. Road Trip from Denver to Aspen and Breckenridge Resort, Colorado

4 hours 20 minutes (180 miles)

Why you should visit: These are two of the premier skiing locations in Colorado, if not the entire US, so they make an obvious choice for a winter trip.

Even if winter sports aren't your thing, the chance to breathe pine-scented air, letting your inner child play in the powdery snow, and snuggling up by a crackling fire are deserving reasons to make this short and rewarding drive from Denver.

Skiing down the Rocky Mountains at Breckenridge Resort in Colorado winter snow wearing a colorful red ski jacket and helmet.

How to get there: From Denver, hop on I-70 W and follow it until you reach Colorado Route 9 S to Breckenridge. From here to Aspen, follow CO-9 back to I-70 and follow that until you get to Copper Mountain, and follow Colorado state highways to Aspen.

Our highlights: With 5 major peaks and 34 chairlifts, Breckenridge will spoil any skier or snowboarder for choice. Beginners can check out Frontier or Springmeier runs and more advanced folks can head to Centennial or even one of the double black diamond runs such as the Whale Tail.

Here you can also go dog sledding with some huggable huskies! We recommend a tour which winds through the dazzling Swan River Valley.

Once you move on to Aspen you can sing your favorite winter tunes as you skate around the Ice Garden, just don't pull anything as you attempt that triple axel.

Bundle up and go for a hike on Smuggler Mountain Trail to get a great view of Aspen surrounded by powered mountains and evergreen forests.

Downtown Aspen looks like it could be the setting of a winter fairy tale and some buildings hint at its 19th-century past as a silver mining town. Wander the streets after the fresh snow to take in the glittering window displays and try some of Aspen's world-class culinary offerings.

Aspen receives around 300 inches of snow a year and its most popular skiing area, Snowmass, covers over 3,000 acres, so there's little wonder why so many snow sports enthusiasts flock here every year.

Our travel tips: Since this is a mountain drive, it would be best if you had an AWD vehicle with winter tires. Click here to learn more about the potential challenges you can face on a drive from Denver to Aspen.

The trip from Breckenridge to Aspen is particularly scenic, so take some extra time to stop at lookout points and admire the alpine views.

5. Road Trip from Phoenix, AZ to Santa Fe and Taos Ski Resort, NM

9 hours 20 minutes (600 miles)

Why you should visit: This road trip takes you from the lap of the Sonora Desert to the snow-dusted Sangre de Cristo range in northern New Mexico, offering plenty of breathtaking scenery along the way.

Given the extreme summer temperatures, winter is the best time to cruise through the Southwest and actually be able to explore without risking heat stroke. At the destination, you will be dazzled with an ideal winter landscape surrounded by fir and pine trees along the slopes of Taos Ski Valley.

An entryway with a blue door in Santa Fe with Christmas decorations in New Mexico in winter.

How to get there: From Phoenix, navigate to I-40 E in Holbrook and take this all the way to Albuquerque. There, change onto I-25 N to Santa Fe. After seeing the sights or staying the night, follow New Mexico Routes 84 and 68 to Rancho de Taos, then take New Mexico Route 240 E to Route 150 N and into the mountains of Taos.

Our highlights: While we still recommend seeing all the top attractions in Santa Fe, such as the Santa Fe Plaza, Museum of International Folk Art, and Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, this is the best time to explore the area's exciting outdoor offerings like the Atalya and La Cuchara trails in the surrounding hills.

Even though you might be thinking of Taos as your main destination to have fun in the snow, the hills around Santa Fe can get hundreds of inches of snowfall every year. Join many locals and enjoy a sleigh or toboggan ride in Hyde Memorial State Park and Aspen Vista.

Once you get to Taos, if you're rearing to hit the slopes, you have a few excellent options at your feet. From the Taos Ski Valley itself to the nearby Angel Fire Resort, you will have plenty of opportunities to shred that powder and catch some air.

Taos' exquisite hills perfect for skiing aren't its only attraction. This town's vibrant mix of cultures, from the Pueblo Native American inhabitants to early 17th-century colonial Spanish influence can all be explored in the winter months as well.

A must-see is the nearby Taos Pueblo which is over 1,000 years old and both a National Historic Landmark and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Bonus: There's nothing quite like being surrounded by cool air and immersed in balmy waters. Did you know there are several hot springs around Taos? Stagecoach Hot Springs, a few miles northwest of Taos, and the more accessible Black Rock Hot Springs are good options.

Stagecoach Hot Springs is also known as Manby Hot Springs after a British explorer with quixotic dreams. He started to build a world-class resort at the springs named after him in 1922, which he was going to bill as the Lost Springs of the Aztec, but the project was never meant to be.

You can still see some ruins of bathhouse walls at the Stagecoach Hot Springs while you soak your bones and listen to lore from the locals.

Our travel tips: While most people say they don't need tire chains like in the Sierras, since you will be in mountainous terrain, an AWD vehicle would be preferable for this trip. Be sure to check any weather advisories before you go.

Santa Fe is quite popular in the winter - as is Taos - so make sure to make your bookings well in advance.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Phoenix to Santa Fe

Enjoy a festive dose of retail therapy

Why not turn the stress of holiday shopping into a grand, and even romantic, adventure? You can stock up on presents to surprise your loved ones or treat yourself to a much-deserved retail therapy and festive decorations after a long drive.

6. Road trip loop from Burlington, VT to Jackson, NH, Woodstock, VT, and back

7 hours 30 minutes (360 miles)

Why you should visit: Get ready for a trip through a storybook winter wonderland! Vermont and New Hampshire embrace the winter season like few other states in America.

Even though the fall trip to Vermont is on many a bucket list, we think a winter trip should be on there as well. Exceptional winter road maintenance and infrastructure make this a great place to drive safely and enjoy winter scenery to the fullest.

Christmas lights and decorations shine in Woodstock, Vermont's downtown district

How to get there: From Burlington, take I-89 S until the exit for Vermont Route 100 N towards Stowe, VT. Continue along VT-100 N and Vermont Route 15 E to I-93 in St. Johnsbury. Look for the intersection with US Route 302 E, which will take you through Bethlehem and Bartlett to Glen, where there's just a short drive up New Hampshire Route 16 to get to Jackson.

Once you're done exploring Jackson, follow the route back to Glen and take US-302 towards Conway, NH. From there, take New Hampshire Route 112 W to Mt. Moosilauke, then navigate I-91 S to Woodstock. To get back to Burlington, follow Vermont Route 12 N to I-89 N.

Our highlights: Just before Jackson, you'll pass through the White Mountain National Forest. After putting on plenty of layers and glancing at the weather conditions, this national forest offers hikes that even beginners can enjoy in the winter. The Lonesome Lake is very accessible, as is the Mount Willard hike, which offers magnificent views over the snowy landscape.

In Jackson, North Hampshire, get ready for some true winter magic at Nestlenook Farm. Here you can ride in a custom-made Austrian horse-drawn sleigh, ice skate on an idyllic pond, go snowshoeing through the surrounding evergreen forest, and then return for a fireside drink at the old estate.

For those who like a little more adrenaline on their trip to Jackson, great skiing for people of all skill levels can be found at Wildcat Mountain and Attitash Mountain Resort.

Woodstock is a classic New England village that evokes Hallmark imagery when enveloped in the winter frost. It boasts architectural styles spanning from Georgian to Greek Revival.

Wander the adorable downtown full of holiday cheer or visit the impressive mansion at Marsh–Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park to learn more about local conservation efforts. For the outdoorsy type, you can ice skate or even try your luck at ice fishing on Silver Lake.

Vermont has the highest density of covered bridges in all of the US and boasts over 100 throughout the state. Two cute bridges can be found near Woodstock: the Middle Covered Bridge and the Taftsville Covered Bridge.

These highly photogenic locations would make for a great personalized winter greeting card to send to your friends and family.

Our travel tips: As with any road trip, you will want to make sure your vehicle is in top-notch condition before you hit the highway. Given the extreme winter weather of the Northeast, make sure to pack warm clothing, water, snacks, and a blanket for the road.

If you are planning to spend more time in Vermont, we recommend checking our ultimate guide on the stunning road trip on Vermont Route 100 for more ideas.

7. New York City, New York

(Travel time will vary)

Why you should visit: The buzz of holiday excitement starts with Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and doesn't let up till the first days of the New Year. Whenever you decide to make your trip, you're sure to feel the magic. It's New York City, need we say more?

While all five boroughs have their own take on the holidays, none are as full of holiday cheer and glittering storefront displays as Manhattan, where most of our highlights below are located.

Giant red Christmas baubles located on Sixth Avenue, Manhattan.

How to get there: In case you'd like to get a taste of gorgeous Upstate New York, take a short day trip to Beacon, NY or combine this trip with the Catskills and Hudson Valley trip we've laid out below.

Beacon is 68 miles north of NYC and will take about an hour and a half to drive, mostly along New York Route 9 and the Palisades Interstate Pkwy, crossing over the Hudson River using the Bear Mountain Bridge.

Our highlights: No shopping trip to Manhattan is complete without a stop by Rockefeller Center. We think it's worthwhile to brave the crowds in order to experience one of the world's premier retail destinations.

A must-see a few blocks over is the classic window display at Saks Fifth Avenue. Another store you can't miss is Bloomingdales, which looks like it was constructed to be a dazzling temple to Christmas itself.

To shop like a local, journey to one of NYC's outdoor winter markets. In Bryant Park, there's the Bank of America Winter Village with over 170 shops and vendors, as well as free ice skating. Another option is the Makers Show at City Point where you can find a truly unique gift or souvenir for yourself.

Especially for couples, a horse-drawn carriage ride around the iconic Central Park will be a unique and romantic way to see the sights while listening to the friendly trot of a Clydesdale. It would be good to book this equine adventure online ahead of time.

In case you'd like to ice skate in the city and skip the crowds, head to Central Park or Brookfield Plaza to glide along, hand in hand.

Even though many of the classic NYC holiday sights are in Manhattan, there are still four other boroughs to explore. Take a peek at the elaborate decorations in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights Christmas Lights display which you can also explore by bus tour if you've had too much eggnog.

Bonus: Catch the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza. This is the heart of the holidays in NYC and has been a cherished tradition since 1933. This 70 ft. tall and immaculately decorated tree, topped with a Swarovski Star, is sure to give you an idea or two for your own holiday decorations.

Our travel tips: If you are more interested in simply seeing NYC in the snow, or late winter is the only time you have to make the trip, aim to go in January or February for some of the cheapest rates on flights and hotels.

If you'd like to learn more about the best areas to stay in NYC to plan your trip accordingly, please check our detailed guide below:

READ MORE - Our Area-by-Area Guide to NYC

Enjoy some festive, small-town charm

No matter where you grew up, most likely when you imagine the winter holidays, scenes of snow-covered roofs, frozen lakes, and cozy shops glowing with candlelight fill your mind. Why not experience the frosty winter holiday of your dreams and try out one of the following trips?

8. Road Trip from Chicago, Illinois to Elkhart Lake

2 hours 30 minutes (150 miles)

Why you should visit: This is a great day trip to experience a bit of winter in the countryside or could be turned into a romantic weekend getaway where you can cozy up at a lakeside lodge.

While you may have enjoyed this beautiful lake during the verdant summer months, a whole different kind of merriment can be found in this charming lakeside town as the snowflakes glisten and the lake freezes over.

Winter in the center of Milwaukee. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

How to get there: From Chicago, take I-90 W, which merges with I-94 W. Follow that through Milwaukee where you will get on I-43 N. Exit in Saukville and continue north on Wisconsin Route 57 N to Elkhart Lake.

Our highlights: The Village Square in Elkhart is beyond adorable in the wintertime and there are great boutique shopping opportunities as well as plenty of places to try local microbrews paired with a warm pretzel.

Bundle up and enjoy the fresh air lakeside. Around Elkhart Lake, there are trails to walk, snowshoe, or even take a horse-drawn carriage around this winter wonderland.

When it's freezing outside, what could be better than a Fish Fry! Make a reservation and head out to the Quit Qui Oc Golf Course on a Friday night to try their delicious Perch Dinner or All-You-Can-Eat Bluegill.

Treat any winter stiffness at the Aspira Spa located in the impressive Osthoff Resort. Situated in a peaceful cedar forest and using water from a nearby spring, here you can get an individual or couples massage or simply relax in a steamy sauna as the winter frost outside does its own thing.

Bonus: For over 20 years, Elkhart has hosted the Old World Christmas Market for over ten days in early December. Vendors come from all over the world to show their wares.

From Central European blown-glass ornaments to hand-painted Russian dolls and German nutcrackers, there is sure to be a finely crafted and eye-catching piece just for you.

Our travel tips: The winter roads can be icy, hazardous, and vary dramatically, so be sure to check for any alerts. In case you'd like to improve your confidence driving in freezing conditions, the well-known Road America racetrack in Elkhart has a highly recommended Winter Driving School.

9. Road Trip from Atlanta, GA to Nashville and Franklin, TN

4 hours 30 minutes (270 miles)

Why you should visit: Nashville is always a kick but in the winter, they take it up a notch and really get into the holiday spirits, with music, lights, and Southern charm.

Both Nashville and nearby Franklin embody the warmth of spirit which makes the coldest time of year so merry. If you're still feeling the cold in your bones, then there are plenty of distilleries to sip whiskey and warm yourself up from the inside out.

New Year's Party at night in Nashville with fireworks going off in the background.

How to get there: To reach Nashville from Atlanta head north on Interstate 75 N and change onto Interstate 24 W Chattanooga. Take I-24 W all the way to Nashville. From there, follow Interstate 65 south to Franklin.

Our highlights: See Nashville at its winter best, along with some of the well-known music stops like the Johnny Cash Museum, by riding the Old Town Trolley.

The Dancing Lights of Christmas in Nashville is the perfect holiday attraction to enjoy from your car. The light-strewn streets will flicker to the beat of classic Christmas songs you can tune into on your car radio.

Some people might know Franklin from its prominent Civil War history. Learn more about the intense battles that were waged here by going on a guided tour at Carter House or the Lotz House Museum across the street.

Just outside of Franklin there is an equally adorable village called Leiper's Fork. This quintessential small country community is full of friendly people, boutique stores, art galleries, a distillery, and in the center of the village at Fox & Locke you can catch plenty of live music.

Bonus: If you come in early December, you can catch a unique and festive pop-up event in Nashville: Porter Flea Market. This heated, indoor, winter market features 200 diverse vendors and there's even a 21+ preview event. You'll need to book tickets online, ahead of time.

Our travel tips: Even though it's nothing like the Northeast, winters in Tennessee can be quite chilly and it occasionally snows in Nashville, so make sure to bring plenty of layers.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Atlanta to Nashville

10. Road Trip from Baltimore, MA to Bernville and Bethlehem, PA

3 hours 10 minutes (165 miles)

Why you should visit: Both Bethlehem and Bernville have a strong connection to the most wonderful time of the year. Bethlehem is even nicknamed Christmas City USA and regularly makes it to “must-see holiday destination” lists.

The scenic and sometimes Old World feel of eastern Pennsylvania makes for a classic winter trip already. Paired with these two jolly towns during holidays, it is a hard trip to pass up.

Koziar's Christmas Village light show in Bernville, PA, USA.

How to get there: Drive north from Baltimore towards York via Interstate 83 N. From there, head east on US Route 30 and 222 to Bernville. Once you've seen the sights there, drive north to Shartlesville, where you'll link up with Interstate 78 E which will take you to Bethlehem.

Our highlights: Bernville's top attraction is Koziar's Christmas Village. This life-sized Christmas diorama is a throwback with thousands of fairy lights, retro decorations, and cutesy stalls. Reconnect with your inner child and all the excitement that Christmas brings.

Bethlehem got its name on Christmas Eve in 1741 when a group of Moravians christened their new town. It was so spirited that it earned the town the name Bethlehem.

You can still see hints of this central European heritage at the Moravian Book Shop, which was established in 1745, making it one of the oldest bookshops in the world.

Once in Bethlehem take a tour of the historic town led by costumed and knowledgeable guides on the Christmas City Stroll.

Later, peruse hundreds of dazzling, hand-blown ornaments and Moravian glass Christmas stars at Bethlehem's Christkindlmarkt Holiday Market. The market is open for a few select dates in November and December, check the town's website for more information.

Participate with the locals in a unique Bethlehem offering: a Live Advent Calendar. Every evening on Main Street a new surprise is revealed amidst trombone choirs and general jubilation.

One of the coolest and most intriguing Bethlehem stops in any season is the multi-purpose SteelStack, housed in a former industrial area that contains the monumental blast furnaces of the old Bethlehem Steel Plant. Come here for music, a museum, food, brews, and festivities.

Our travel tips: Given the common theme of Bethlehem being the place for Christmas, you'd better book your hotel earlier if you plan on coming during December.

11. Road Trip around the Catskills and Hudson Valley, NY

7 hours 10 minutes (320 miles)

Why you should visit: The Catskill Mountain ranges in Upstate New York are both a summer playground and winter wonderland for people to take a break from the city and be refreshed by the grace of nature.

Winding roads through dormant forests and a dramatic stretch along the Hudson, where you will pass ice-covered cliffs make this a surprisingly scenic winter getaway.

Partially frozen Buttermilk Falls spills into Peekamoose Gorge on a chilly late November day in the Catskills Mountains on New York

How to get there: From Beacon, NY head north along Highway 9 past Staatsburg until you hit Rhinebeck. From there head east, then north to connect with the Taconic State Parkway and make your way to Stockbridge, MA.

Begin making a look by heading west on I-90 until you cross the Hudson River and change onto I-87 south, following the river until you'll hop onto NY Route 212 before Saugerties to get to Woodstock, NY.

From Woodstock, wind your way west to Callicoon, then south along NY Route 97 towards Sparrow Bush. Get onto I-84 west until Mechanicstown, NY, where you'll take NY Routes 6 and 17 to Bear Mountain State Park.

Our highlights: This trip has the option to pass through Stockbridge, MA and we heartily recommend spending some time here. The town itself is full of historic charm and there's a Norman Rockwell Museum with the largest collection of this American painter's pieces.

Woodstock has some notable religious architecture including the wooden Holy Transfiguration Church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and a Dharmachakra Tibetan Monastery. The austerity of the colder months compliments the mystique of these spiritual refuges.

Between Catskill, NY and Callicoon, NY you pass a variety of state parks and forests where you can hike along a quiet trail and catch glimpses of frozen falls and streams. One of the most iconic waterfalls in the area, Kaaterskill Falls, becomes an otherworldly cascade of icicles in the depths of winter.

The Overlook Mountain trail is a relatively easy hike near Woodstock which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. If you come after fresh snow, you will be welcomed by a powdery landscape full of glistening branches.

We haven't forgotten the skiers on this trip and the Catskills are home to some of the best skiing spots in New York. North and west of Woodstock you will find great slopes at Belleayre, Hunter Mountain Resort, and Windham Mountain.

Towards the end of your trip, the rolling hills of Bear Mountain State Park offer ample opportunities for winter adventure including sledding, cross-country skiing, and even ice skating on the park's own outdoor rink.

Bonus: If you check the almanac and time your trip just right, try to be in Stockbridge for a full moon. Hilltop Orchards offers a guided snowshoe trek under the lunar light which culminates in a bonfire! Magical doesn't even begin to describe it.

Our travel tips: In the event of an unexpected blizzard, be sure to have an extra blanket, water, and even some gravel or road salt in case you're trying to navigate a smaller country road that has iced over.

12. Road Trip from Asheville, NC to Williamsburg, VA

9 hours 50 minutes (520 miles)

Why you should visit: Would you like to experience a variety of winter landscapes in one fantastic drive? This winding route takes you from Appalachian Mountain County to coastal Williamsburg near the opening of Chesapeake Bay.

Part of this route covers the Blue Ridge Parkway, known as “America's Favorite Drive.” It is breathtaking in every season and hardly the only highlight of this interstate trip through exquisite nature and colonial American heritage.

Rime ice lines the trees at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

How to get there: From Asheville, head towards the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and go north. We suggest stopping at the Chestoa View and Round Meadow Overlooks along the way.

Continue heading towards Roanoke and drive northeast on Interstate 81 until you reach Staunton, then hop on Interstate 64 E. In case you wanted to see Shenandoah National Park, look for signs or Skyline Dr. in Afton. Otherwise, stay on the I-64 past Richmond until you reach Williamsburg.

Our highlights: For anyone who loves the great outdoors, some time spent exploring the beautiful trails of Shenandoah National Park is a must. Particularly in the winter, when the trees have shed their leaves, the mountain views are more open than ever.

Colonial Williamsburg is actually an open-air museum. One of the most spectacular heritage properties in Williamsburg is the Governor's Palace. A recreation of the 18th-century Virginia Governor's Mansion, originally built by the British, then destroyed and rebuilt in 1934. In wintertime, the surrounding gardens take on a storybook quality when dusted with snow.

See Colonial Williamsburg as the gentry of yesteryear saw it, atop a horse-drawn carriage. While carriages operate year-round, they are dependent on the weather and tickets are best purchased early on the day you wish to go.

For a bit of afternoon or evening fun, go ice skating at Liberty Ice Pavilion then find a tasty treat or warm drink at the quaint and festive Merchant's Square across the street.

In case you want to escape the cold and enjoy a convivial environment, check out one of Williamsburg's theaters, comedy clubs, or even the symphony and enjoy a night out.

Are you interested in meeting the ghost of Christmas past? You have a good chance at Peyton Randolph House in Williamsburg. Originally built in 1715, it is rumored to be haunted and is home to frequent ghost sightings.

Our travel tips: In case the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed for any reason, or if you just want to make this a more direct trip, you can take the I-40 to Greensboro, then take I-85 to Richmond where you'll meet up with I-64.

13. Road Trip from San Diego, CA to Grand Canyon, AZ

10 hours 40 minutes (690 miles)

Why you should visit: This trip passes through an unforgettable desert landscape, including Joshua Tree National Park, and brings you to one of the greatest natural wonders in the whole country, the Grand Canyon.

As you can imagine, the Southwest can get pretty toasty in the summer months, so the winter is a great time to drive the desert and take a canyon hike in more temperate weather. There's nothing quite like breathing in the cool morning air, scented with sage, and gazing out over a natural wonder carved over millions of years.

Clearing storm over south rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona in winter with slow over the canyon.

How to get there: To reach the Grand Canyon from San Diego , head north towards Riverside, then hop on Interstate 10 E to Highway 62 in order to see Joshua Tree National Park. Once you've explored this picturesque park, get back to I-10 and drive towards Phoenix, AZ.

There, you'll start heading north along Interstate 17 towards Flagstaff. Continue north, taking I-40 to US Route 64 just before Williams and that will take you into the southern entrance to Grand Canyon National Park.

Our highlights: While in America's most popular National Park, explore the South Rim, including the ever-photogenic Yavapai Point or Mather Point. Here you can see layer upon layer of geological history revealed on the canyon walls. The Yavapai Geology Museum is also open for limited hours (9 am-5 pm) during the winter season.

After you've taken the compulsory canyon selfie, take a drive along Hermit Road to the Hermit Trailhead. From March to November, this road is closed to private vehicles, so this is a unique opportunity to make this scenic drive through the southern part of the canyon.

For more car-based exploration, follow the scenic Desert View Drive to the breathtaking Grandview Point, explore the 800-year-old Tusayan Ruin, and a little further on you'll encounter the Desert View Watchtower.

Most of the trails in Grand Canyon National Park are still open during the winter. Even though the days are shorter, you won't face the searing mid-day heat.

Try the South Kaibab Trail which follows a ridgeling with amazing views or do the Canyon's most popular Bright Angel Trail down to the Colorado River, just watch out for ice near the top of the canyon.

Bonus: It snows in the Grand Canyon! Even though it is no guarantee and there are also many clear, sunny days, in the months of January and February it is not uncommon to see the iconic canyon landscape transformed into a snowy wonderland overnight.

Our travel tips: In addition to passing through Joshua Tree National Park, this route also has the possibility to stop and explore Coconino National Forest between Phoenix and Flagstaff.

One minor drawback to visiting the Grand Canyon in winter is that the North Rim area of the park is closed to vehicles in the winter. In case you still wanted to camp, Mather Campground is open in this season.

As the only campground open, however, it would be best to make your reservations in advance. Also, pack plenty of layers to accommodate the variable weather.

In case you needed yet another reason to visit during the winter, this time of year enjoys far fewer crowds, and the sun rises quite a bit later (around 7am), so it will be easier getting up to take that epic sunrise picture.

READ MORE - Road Trip from San Diego to Grand Canyon

Escape the cold with some winter sun

Do you simply think snow is overrated? On these trips ditch the heavy coat and get ready to enjoy some vivifying solar rays. From cool white sandy beaches and turquoise waters to world-famous landmarks, our suggested trips have it all!

14. Road Trip from Miami to Key West, FL

3 hours 10 minutes (170 miles)

Why you should visit: This is your chance to have a truly tropical winter trip without needing to fly. The warm, sandy beaches and turquoise waters will have you thinking winter is a million miles away.

Key West is a quirky, tiny, island full of conch (pronounced “con-k”) shells and delectable key lime pie. If you need a little boost to get over the winter blues, then this is a road trip for you.

Beautiful sunrise on the beach with a palm tree at Key West, Florida, USA

How to get there: From Miami head south along the Overseas Highway (US-1) all the way to Key West for an unforgettable drive bordered on both sides by the ocean blue.

Our highlights: While in Key West, be sure to spend at least one evening at Mallory Square and enjoy the Sunset Celebration with plenty of local artisans and upbeat music befitting the island vibe of the Keys.

Get a little adventure in on this trip and paddleboard through one of the most unique ecosystems in the world- a mangrove. In this shallow water forest, you can see plenty of wildlife and learn from knowledgeable guides why the mangroves are key to coastal preservation.

What's a trip to Key West without a beach day? Sunbathe, snorkel, or sit with a good book feeling the warm sand between your toes at Higgs Beach or Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Then travel all the way to the southernmost point of the continental USA and get a picture with the giant buoy marking this special spot.

Finally, enjoy the local flavors at Blue Haven, which feels like it's been plucked straight from the Caribbean, or get some authentic Cuban fare at El Siboney.

One of America's literary giants, Ernest Hemingway, lived and worked in Key West in the 1930s. His former home is now a museum and one of the area's most popular attractions.

Here you can also pet one of the dozens of six-toed, or “polydactyl,” cats that are said to be descended from Hemingway's own furry friend named Snow White.

Our travel tips: Winter is Key West's peak tourist season, so budget accordingly and expect a few crowds. The well-known Duval Street can get pretty rowdy at night, so visit during the day if you're not in a party mood.

To learn more about the drive from Miami to Key West, you can check our detailed guide out.

READ MORE - Road Trip from Miami to Key West

15. Road Trip from San Francisco to Solvang, CA

6 hours 30 minutes (340 miles)

Why you should visit: Solvang was born when Midwesterners of Danish descent grew tired of harsh winters and purchased a large ranch in the early 20th century. From fairytale-like Danish architecture to delicious wines, Solvang will delight every visitor.

This town has such a Danish draw that even Prince Henrik of Denmark visited it in 2011. We suggest you do too if you'd like to live it up like a member of the Danish royal family.

Christmas shop in Solvang, California, USA.

How to get there: There are several options for this route, but we recommend taking CA Highway 101 south, through the Salinas Valley and San Luis Obispo, all the way to Solvang.

Our highlights: One of the best things to do in Solvang is simply wandering around and taking in the unique architectural sights, from the outdoor Solvang Festival Theater to Hamlet Square and the towering windmill.

In Solvang, there's a quaint museum dedicated to the Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, who has illuminated the imaginations of children all over the globe. For any lovers of literature, this is likely to be the trip's highlight.

On a sunny Californian winter day, a biking tour of the surrounding wineries would be divine. Rusack Vineyards is a popular winery with some stellar reds such as their Pinot Noir and Syrah. There are options for renting regular bikes as well as e-bikes downtown.

Before the deluge of Danes into this Californian valley, it was a site of Spanish Colonialism and you can still see this heritage at the Mission Santa Inez, built in 1804. While this is a much more typical Californian sight if you haven't seen one of the missions, we definitely think you should visit while you're here.

Bonus: Even though the climate of Southern California couldn't be more different than that of the frosty Nordic lands, a warm pastry is welcomed in any weather.

There are five authentic Danish bakeries in Solvang, so hop on a bike and see for yourself which one makes the most delectable cheese danish or crumbly kringle.

Our travel tips: In case you really wanted to make this an unforgettable and awesome Californian coastal road trip, we recommend that you take CA Highway 1 all the way from San Francisco to Solvang, through stunning Big Sur and along pristine Pismo Beach .

If you cannot get enough of winter sun and calm beaches, here is our ultimate guide to the best beaches on the Pacific Coast Highway for inspiration!

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29 of the Best Places to Travel in December (USA Edition)

12/01/2023 by Ashley Yap 1 Comment

With the end of the year comes a new world of travel possibilities. You can spend December fully embracing the chill of the season, or find a warm getaway if that’s more your style! Good thing the United States offers opportunities for travelers of all types, with appealing destinations scattered throughout the country. 

Starting from the West Coast and heading east, here’s a list of the top 29 destinations to visit this December:

Table of Contents

1. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua trees in nevada

Winter is without a doubt the best time to see the deserts in California . Joshua Tree National Park is  one of the best places to visit in the colder months . The park’s temperatures range on average by December from near 40 degrees Fahrenheit overnight to near 60 by afternoon, which makes daytime hiking and rock climbing infinitely more enjoyable than the unbearable summertime heat. 

Read Next: What to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Deserts make up around a quarter of the state, so there are plenty of others as well.  Check out this BMTM post  for some of the best deserts in California.

2. Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada

death valley national park in winter

If you’ve been dying to check out Death Valley (see what I did there?) but are a little nervous about its famously scorching temperatures, consider going in December! All throughout the winter months, the area sees a dip in its usually high temps, making it much more enjoyable for hikers.

Death Valley National Park is home to some seriously out-of-this-world landscapes that you definitely don’t want to miss out on. From the colorful Artist’s Palette to the stunning  Golden Canyon , there’s plenty  to see and do in Death Valley . Even though December is one of the best times to visit this incredible national park, it’s not typically crowded, so you can enjoy some of the best spots without worrying about overwhelming crowds cramping your style.

3. Mendocino County, California

fort bragg glass beach

While Mendocino County is famous for having weather reminiscent of eternal spring, December sees chilly temperatures that are cold enough to bundle up for, but warm enough to be able to get outside and enjoy the area’s moody coastline.

Mendocino County is the perfect December getaway for nature lovers and anyone who loves the cozy vibe of the beginning of winter. Fort Bragg is home to the legendary Glass Beach, which gets its name from the layer of colorful sea glass that washes up on its shore. In  Mendocino , you can check out Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, Van Damme State Park, Mendocino Headlands State Park, and other stunning natural areas. Stay at a chic boutique hotel to soak it all in each evening!

4. Truckee, California

Truckee california

Truckee in the winter is a snowy wonderland and absolutely beautiful when the snow settles. You’ll want to check out the lake views at Donner Memorial State Park, hike the Truckee River Regional Park Legacy Trail, and dive in the Emerald Pools swimming hole — it’ll be cold, but so very refreshing. Lake Tahoe and Reno are only day trips away, and Donner Pass is a historic experience to drive through. There’s also fun to be had with snowboarding, skiing, and ice skating!

If you get snowed in though and must spend time indoors, there are plenty of neat museums, breweries, and coffee shops to fill your heart. Check out this amazing list of things to do in Truckee .

5. Sun Valley, Idaho

sun valley Idaho

Idaho  is one the country’s best-kept secrets, and December is especially a great time to visit the state. Sun Valley gives you the opportunity to see some of the most picturesque winter landscapes  in the United States. Throughout December, the nearby Sawtooth Mountains get  that  much more magical when a new layer of snow decorates the scenery. With fantastic skiing opportunities,  naturally occurring hot springs , and hospitable locals, Sun Valley is one of the most ideal trips for a cozy December getaway.

6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone national park

As the least populated state, Wyoming may be the ideal destination to get some peace and quiet.  Yellowstone National Park is beautiful  no matter what time of year, but especially so during the winter. There’s a reason why  the park is one of BMTM’s bucket list–worthy road trip stops !

Many roads may be closed during the month, but the oen between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance is open all year. Check out the  park’s webpage  for more information.

7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

grand Tetons national park

Head 30 miles south of Yellowstone and you’ll find  Grand Teton National Park , which can be enjoyed just as much in December. Most of it is only reachable by cross-country ski or snowshoe during this time of the year, but the isolation is more than worth it.

8. San Juan County, Utah

valley of the gods

Many people thinking of December trips may not consider  Utah . Lucky for you (and your wallet!),  there’s so much to explore in the state’s off season . The temperatures in the area dip to highs only in the 40s Fahrenheit and lows in the 20s in December, making the weather chilly but bearable. If you want a trip  full of exploration , San Juan County’s Valley of the Gods is BLM land, meaning you can camp in any of the road pulloffs (provided you leave no trace). If you decide to hike in any of Utah’s national parks, be sure you’re prepared for potentially icy conditions.

9. Moab, Utah

Moab Utah

Moab sits between two of  Utah’s best national parks :  Arches  and Canyonlands, so this charming town surrounded by red-rock landscapes is a great pick for December adventurers. Not only can you hit up popular places like Delicate Arch and Mesa Arch without seeing too many crowds, but the chilly weather here isn’t too frigid to put a damper on your trip.

Moab doesn’t get very much snow, but the surrounding La Sal Mountains will likely be completely white this time of year. The color contrast between the white mountains and red-orange rock formations is a stunning sight that you only get in the wintertime.

Find out what else to do in Moab here.

10. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain national park Utah

If you want a December full of towering mountains, Colorado is the place to go. For one, the state is known for having the most “fourteeners” (mountains higher than 14,000 feet) in the country. 

While some parks close during this time of the year,  Rocky Mountain National Park  is open year-round. Though you can enjoy your trip here with just snowshoeing gear, there are opportunities for sledding and skiing too. The colder months are also ideal for watching wildlife like elk, moose, and deer. Check out the  park’s page  for more details on the winter activities you can do here. 

Colorado also makes for a  fun road trip  if you want to explore the state during your December trip. 

11. Sedona, Arizona

sedona arizona

Sedona, Arizona , is one of the  United States’ hubs for everything spiritual , but it’s also a fantastic place to enjoy the outdoors in December. If you’re coming from a place that gets super cold in the winter, Sedona is a great escape to warmer temperatures without it being too hot.

Another huge plus of visiting Sedona in December is the laid-back atmosphere and thinner crowds. Head out for a hike to the Seven Sacred Pools or Devil’s Bridge, and you might be able to enjoy some solitude, as there won’t be as many hikers as there are in the warmer months.

Find out what else there is to do in Sedona here .

12. Bisti Badlands Wilderness, New Mexico

Bisti Badlands Wilderness, New Mexico

Want to see some otherworldly landscapes with names like “Alien’s Throne” and “Dragon Eggs”? Head out to the Bisti Badlands Wilderness in New Mexico for all that and more. This incredible slice of undisturbed nature is a  must-see place in New Mexico  because of its uniqueness. The Bisti Badlands are a whopping 45,000 acres, with no real trails or paths to follow, making it ideal for travelers seeking a truly rugged adventure.

You can visit the Bisti Badlands any time of year and find very few people, but December is especially ideal because of the mild weather and even fewer people. Make sure to bring a 4×4 vehicle and plenty of water!

13. Taos, New Mexico

Taos New Mexico

After the heat of the New Mexican climate fades away, December brings a time of rich cultural activities to the state. Taos combines both the natural and traditional draws of New Mexico, as a historic town located a half-hour drive from mountains ideal for skiing. If you come around Christmas, you’ll be able to see  luminarias  light the streets and parks of the state.

Taos is also a hub for forward-thinking architecture and has an entire community of people with Earthships, a sustainable type of home with all kinds of neat, environmentally friendly features.  Read more about the Taos Earthships here .

Check out this post  for other things to do in New Mexico.

14. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque New Mexico

If you like history, Albuquerque might be the best next vacation for you. Definitely take a walk through Old Town, check out the Albuquerque Museum, stay at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm , go to the Petroglyph National Monument, and watch a film at the historic KiMo Theatre.

But there’s plenty more to do if you’re not that into history, like snowshoe the Cibola National Forest , hike the Sandia Mountains, and get a view from above on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway.

15. Big Bend National Park, Texas

big bend national park

Big Bend National Park  is a desert area along the southwest Texan border with Mexico. This park is arguably the best place on this list to stargaze — it  has the least light pollution of any other national park unit in the lower 48 states ! 

The average temperatures in Big Bend range from a nighttime low of 39 degrees to a daytime high of 63 degrees Fahrenheit, though sudden periods of cold weather happen on occasion. According to the park’s website,  the holidays are typically busy , so reservations for accommodations are highly recommended.

16. Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas

For a holiday experience with a  German  touch, check out Fredericksburg, home to the largest number of Texas German speakers. If you come in the latter part of December, you’ll be able to  see the town decked out in full Christmas decorations — German Christmas pyramid included!

The town is also around 70 miles from other cities, such as San Antonio and Austin, making for a great roadtrip stop.

17. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans

New Orleans has  so  much to offer beyond the Mardi Gras season. Besides being a great city for solo female travelers , it is just as full of energy in December as in February during Mardi Gras. Definitely go to the Bywater District , and maybe try some delicious vegan food ! Here’s a great itinerary for exploring New Orleans , and a helpful packing list . As a plus, December is during the shoulder season, so you’ll be able to still find relatively good accommodation deals.

18. Florida Keys Road Trip

florida sailing school

If you’re craving a sense of freedom, the Florida Keys are the answer. You can drive the entire Overseas Highway and gaze out at the Atlantic Ocean the whole time, hopping from key to key. There’s plenty of things to do in Key Largo , Islamorada , Marathon , Big Pine , and Key West , like sunset sails , snorkeling , and heading to the beaches . It’s America’s own slice of Caribbean paradise, with a special feel. (If you’re traveling solo, here’s everything you need to know .)

Where to Stay in Marathon Where to Stay in Key Largo Where to Stay in Key West

19. St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

If you want a December trading snowboards for surfboards, few places fit the bill as perfectly as Florida. During the holiday season, St. Augustine is most known for its  Nights of Lights , a free celebration during which the city is covered in lights! 

In general, you can enjoy Florida’s summer activities during the winter. Whether you want to  learn how to sail in Ft. Myers or  explore Cocoa Beach , the state has a ton to offer throughout the end of the year.

20. Savannah, Georgia

savannah georgia

For a quaint Southern getaway,  Savannah  is an ideal destination. Shops selling holiday trinkets fill the hallmark  River Street  in December, offering the festive experience without the intense cold.

As a bonus, head about an hour and a half south to Georgia’s Jekyll Island for its annual  Holly Jolly Jekyll  festival. Throughout December, the island offers activities, ranging from a skating village to an array of light displays.

21. Charleston, South Carolina


Similar to the charm and historic landscape of Savannah,  Charleston  is a relaxing option for travelers this month. The city has a mild climate, giving visitors a slight chill of winter without the dramatic snowfall. Throughout December, the city hosts a celebration called the Holiday Festival of Lights , complete with lights, sculptures, and Santa!

22. Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville’s location lets you experience the best of the Appalachian’s winter scenery while keeping the conveniences of the city. Depending on the weather, some parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains may be closed.

But there are more things to do here than just day hike.  Here are a few of the best free and budget-friendly things to do in Asheville . If you’re willing to spend some money, the Biltmore Estate hosts an annual  Christmas at Biltmore  celebration that’s made the city popular during the holiday season.

23. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee

Even though much of December is  Nashville ‘s low season, the city doesn’t lose any of its charm. Popular pastimes throughout the month include seeing the Christmas decorations at the  Gaylord Opryland Hotel  and attending the  annual Christmas Parade . If you come at the end of the month, you can catch Music City’s  New Year’s Eve extravaganza .

This is also a fantastic  budget destination in the US , as there are dozens of  free things to do in Nashville .

24. Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hocking Hills is an area in southeastern Ohio with some of the most dramatic topographic features in the Midwest. There are a ton of scenic preserves and parks in the area, the most famous being  Hocking Hills State Park . In December, you may see snow and ice formations along the trails, adding to the beauty of the parks’ hikes.

25. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

There’s no denying that winters in  Chicago  can get very cold. However, December doesn’t suffer the brunt of the winter freeze, which makes it an excellent destination if you want to take advantage of some off-season deals. You’ll be able to see some of the city’s main holiday attractions, including light displays at the  Lincoln Park Zoo and the traditional  Christkindlmarket .

Chicago also has tons of  free things to do , so between that and the off-season deals, December is the  perfect time to visit Chicago  on a budget. 

26. New York, New York

New York, New York

If Hollywood has showed us anything, it’s that  New York City  is the quintessential place to spend the holiday season. And how can it not be iconic? From ice skating in the parks to holiday shopping down Fifth Avenue, NYC is a playground of festive activity.

If you’re intimidated by its reputation for being super expensive, consider all of these  free things to do in the Big Apple , which can help offset some of the higher prices on things like food and accommodation.

27. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park , a piece of northeastern coastal land mostly on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, shines in December. Some of its roads close this month, so be aware of the park’s  operating hours and seasons . Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are a few of the popular activities this time of year, along with  ice fishing  (though that is mainly popular during the latter part of winter).

Off the Mainland

28. maui, hawai’i.

road to hana

There isn’t really a bad time to visit Hawai’i , making it a popular destination for those with time off during the holiday season. Maui is a great spot to explore, especially solo (here are tips for how to experience Maui alone ), with journeys like the  Road to Hana  to keep you busy.

Check out  our Hawai’i guide  for more tips as to how you can spend your December here. Not sure what to pack? We’ve got you covered with this perfect Hawai’i packing list .

29. Vieques, Puerto Rico

Vieques, Puerto Rico

Thanks to its location south of the Tropic of Cancer,  Puerto Rico  is in a year-round state of summer. As one of two territories in the Caribbean that US citizens can enter without a passport, Puerto Rico is a perfect option for December travelers wanting to brush up on their Spanish. Most people visiting Vieques Island come to see  Mosquito Bay , one of the five bioluminescent bays in the world. Come out here on a dark night to experience nature’s very own light show.

Regardless of where in the US you are, there is no one way to spend the month of December. With the holiday season in full swing, there’s bound to be a destination that’ll finish your year off in an unforgettable way.

Is there a place you want to visit this December? Let us know!

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09/20/2023 at 2:03 am

All places are perfect

Global Grasshopper – travel inspiration for the road less travelled

14 Amazing Places to Visit in December in the USA

Whether you are looking for beautiful warm winter sunshine, snowy mountain adventures, or just oodles of Christmas magic, there is the perfect place to discover.

To help you choose and from my time traveling around in the holiday season, here are my favorite spots to explore…

1. Leavenworth, Washington 

Leavenworth in the winter

Nestled in the snowy peaks of The Cascade Mountains, just over a hundred miles north of Seattle , is the stunning little town of Leavenworth. 

I love that it’s a perfect replica of a Bavarian town, complete with German beer, Bavarian cuisine, reindeer, Christmas markets , and a unique Nutcracker Museum . I personally think it’s super cute, especially this time of year!

The town offers many activities all year round, but this month, it turns into a magical wonderland with snowmobiling and skiing. If you love kitsch, I think you’ll love this picturesque little town, especially during the snowy winter months of this month, January and February . 

  • Average temperatures in December – from 1°C to -6°C
  • Visitor’s center address: 940 US Hwy 2 STE B, Leavenworth, WA 98826

My favorite highlights…

  • Gong for fun beginner snowboarding lessons!
  • Dining on a vegan hot dog and sauerkraut at München Haus.

2. Avila Beach, California

Avila Beach California December

If you’re craving a dose of Vitamin D during the winter months, look no further than the charming beach resort town of Avila Beach in California!

It offers some of the warmest temperatures this month, averaging around a pleasant 18 degrees, and I love coming here to soak up the warm sun and unwind. It’s too cool to swim, but I watch the surfers, explore the scenic hiking trails, take leisurely bike rides, and go paddleboarding.  

I recommend visiting the iconic lighthouse or indulging in a wine-tasting adventure at nearby vineyards for those seeking a more relaxed pace.

  • Average temperature  – 18 degrees
  • Location: San Luis Obispo Bay, 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

My highlights…

  • Staying in a suite at the super cute boutique inn Avila La Fonda Hotel , complete with a large hot tub and a microwave with popcorn.
  • Shopping for unique seasonal gifts and local produce at Avila Valley Barn.

3. Durango, Colorado

Durango in the winter

Durango, steeped in Wild West charm and framed by the rugged San Juan Mountains, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure amidst breathtaking scenery.

This month, it’s a snowy haven that caters to skiers of all levels and abilities. After a day on the slopes, I love soaking up picturesque views and sampling craft brews from one of Durango’s six esteemed brewing companies.

In my opinion, the biggest draw is the magical historic steam train that passes stunning snow-clad landscapes! 

  • Average temperatures – 5 to -10 degrees
  • Visitor Center Address: 802 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301, United States

My personal highlights…

  • Dining on hearty local cuisine at the fabulous Seasons of Durango.
  • Going on a scenic round-trip journey on a restored steam train that offered scenic and dining on homemade black bean burgers along the way.

4. Waikiki, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach Hawaii

Waikiki is a beautiful option for those seeking a warm and enchanting winter getaway. With daytime temperatures averaging a balmy 28 degrees, affordable prices and fewer crowds (until the holiday rush starts), it’s a great time to visit, particularly at the beginning of this month.

Alternatively, spend the seasonal holidays here and enjoy a beautiful, warm Christmas vacation surrounded by paradise-like scenery.

I love its pristine beaches, excellent surfing, dreamy resorts, boutique-dotted vibrant neighborhoods, and chic waterfront areas with cocktail bars and upscale dining experiences. I also recommend visiting a captivating hula show, an experience that genuinely encapsulates the islands’ spirit! 

  • The average temperature – 28 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 159 Kaʻiulani Ave # 102, Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Going snorkelling at Sans Souci Beach and spotting a super-cute sea turtle.
  • Going for a dip in the hot tub and sipping on cocktails at the rooftop Na Lani Sky Lounge at Hokulani Waikiki.

5. New York

New York Christmas

There’s an undeniable magic in New York City during the Christmas season, beginning in November and extending through this month. One of my favorite seasonal rituals is indulging in hot apple cider at Bryant Park, followed by a nostalgic twirl on the city’s free ice rink, and then embarking on a serene snowy stroll through the enchanting pathways of Central Park.

I also make sure to fit in a visit to the iconic Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, take a pilgrimage to Santaland at Macy’s, venture into the historic Meatpacking District for eclectic shopping experiences, and then explore cozy bars and cafes in the vibrant East Village. Christmas perfection! 

  • Average temperature – 7 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 810 Seventh Avenue,between 52nd & 53rd Streets, New York City, NY 10019. 
  • Trying the incredible plant burgers at   Superiority Burger.
  • Going ice skating at the iconic Rockefeller Center and then warming up with an eggnog oat milk latte at Cafe Grumpy. 

6. Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Key Florida - hot December vacations

For a delightful winter escape filled with warmth and sunshine, Siesta Key, Florida, is an excellent choice within the US.

This picturesque barrier island, nestled along the Gulf of Mexico, exudes a unique charm and boasts a stunning public beach that has earned the prestigious title of the best in America—not once, but twice!

Ideal for a family vacation, I’m a huge fan of its charming ambience, a fine array of shops and cafes in Siesta Key Village and family-friendly amenities such as shallow waters perfect for paddling, playgrounds, and tennis courts. 

While the water may be swimmable for those brave enough to take a dip, the occasional hot day will bring more comfortable temperatures.

  • Average temperature – 23 degrees
  • Tourist Office Address: 5223 Avenida Navarra, Siesta Key, FL 34242
  • Going for happy hour cocktails at the fun Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill.
  • Snorkeling at the Point of Rocks, an incredible series of unique limestone rock formations.

7. Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg Virginia in the winter

Williamsburg holds immense historical significance. In 1776, George Wythe affixed his signature to the American Declaration of Independence.  

What truly captivates me about Williamsburg is its transformation into a living history museum within its historic center. Here, old colonial buildings stand proudly restored, costumed interpreters bring the past to life in shops and cafes, and I feel immersed in a journey into America’s colonial era.

During the Christmas season, Williamsburg emerges as a picture-perfect town adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations, casting a magical spell over its streets. Blanketed in a layer of powdery snow, I personally think it resembles a scene from a fairytale!  

  • The average temperature – 12 degrees
  • Tourist Office Address: 421 N Boundary Street | Williamsburg, VA 23185
  • Dining on hearty Uruguayan cuisine at the rustic chic Tabaré Williamsburg Uruguayan.
  • Going on a fun pub crawl combined with a ghost tour! 

8. Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville

Gaylord Opryland Resort Christmas

If you’re seeking a festive Christmas extravaganza that goes all out, look no further than Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee—it’s an absolute gem!

During Christmas, the resort undergoes a breathtaking transformation, adorned with over 3 million twinkling lights, enchanting ice tunnels, an indoor ice skating rink, whimsical grottos, and even festive scavenger hunts.  

I also love venturing into Nashville to soak up the vibrant energy of the legendary ‘Music City’. At this time of year,  its streets are adorned with twinkling lights and an array of festive activities to suit every taste.

  • The average temperature – 11 degrees
  • Address: 2800 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214
  • Going for a hearty buffet breakfast at Cascades American Cafe compete with waffles and home fries.
  • Going for a hot stone massage at the European-inspired Relâche Spa. 

9. Aspen, Colorado

Aspen - places to visit in December

Aspen shines as one of the most prestigious winter resorts in the country, captivating celebrities and travelers alike with its snowy allure.  

I adore the cozy log cabins adorned with twinkling lights, where the air is infused with the aroma of hot toddies, and the streets are filled with festive trimmings and the sound of Christmas carols.

With skiing opportunities catering to all abilities, along with options for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and enchanting outdoor ice skating rinks, Aspen offers a range of snowy delights.  

Don’t miss the chance to embark on a snowplough tour, indulge in culinary delights at esteemed restaurants and bars, and discover the chic boutiques that line the streets. 

  • The average temperature  – 2 to -12 degrees
  • Aspen Chamber Resort Association Address: 425 Rio Grande Place 81611 Aspen
  • Having a fun evening out at the lively Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar.  
  • Trying tubing at The Meadows at Elk Camp on Snowmass.

10. Crystal Beach, Texas

Galveston Beach Texas

For a low-key, warm getaway, Crystal Beach is an excellent choice! With temperatures averaging a comfortable 18 degrees during the day this month, it offers pleasant warmth without the scorching heat, and it’s notably less crowded than some of Texas’s more popular beach resorts.

Known for its strong commitment to eco-friendliness, Crystal Beach appeals to the discerning traveler seeking sustainability alongside relaxation. Here, expansive open spaces, breathtaking views, a great range of accommodation options, and sightings of seagulls and dolphins await.

My favorite highlights include the pristine sandy coastline, indulging in delectable dining experiences at local restaurants and soaking up the laid-back coastal vibes!

While the water may not be warm enough for comfortable swimming this time of year, I recommend soaking up the sun’s rays on the beach and enjoying a leisurely paddle along the shoreline. With a ferry departing from Galveston to Crystal Beach around the clock, accessibility to this idyllic destination is effortless year-round.

  • The average temperature – 18 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 2275 TX-87 Suite 10 #2621, Crystal Beach, TX 77650
  • Watching live country music at Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe.  
  • Playing a round of miniature golf at The Gulf Range.

11. Biltmore Estate, Asheville

Couple vacation Asheville

The first Christmas celebrations at the breathtaking Biltmore Estate in historic Asheville occurred on Christmas Eve in 1895, and today , the festivities kick off in early November with the grand raising of a massive Christmas tree. This marks the beginning of a spectacular display throughout the house and grounds, and over 100 hand-decorated trees and twinkling lights transform the estate into a magical wonderland.

I love that thousands of poinsettias and fresh evergreen garlands adorn the grand hallways, creating a cozy vibe accompanied by live musicians singing festive carols.

Amidst the festive atmosphere, Asheville’s cafes and restaurants offer delectable seasonal fare that perfectly complements the holiday spirit. I highly recommend a visit to Antler Village Winery. Here, as it unveils its annual sparkling white, the winery transforms into a dazzling festival of illumination.

For those seeking a hands-on experience, workshops offer the chance to craft your decorations. At the same time, candlelit evening tours provide a magical opportunity to wander freely through the house, aglow with the warm light of candles and crackling log fires. 

  • The average temperature  – 10 degrees
  • Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
  • Seeing the beautiful twinkling Christmas tree display adorned with hundreds of lights.
  • Going for a hearty English-style meal at cozy Cedric’s Tavern with a side dish of warm homemade pretzel rolls.

12. Vermont

Christmas in Vermont

I mmortalized by films like ‘White Christmas,’ Vermont rightfully earns its fame for its stunning winter landscapes. This month, Vermont’s quaint villages and historic towns are adorned with wreaths, trees and homes are illuminated, town squares swish with ice skaters, and The Polar Express sounds its horn! 

To me, Vermont resembles a scene straight out of a Christmas card, with picturesque towns nestled amidst snow-laden spruces. I love that the state buzzes in the joyous spirit of the season through shared meals, festive drinks, and merry gatherings.

The charming town of Woodstock hosts the Annual Wassail Weekend, an enchanting celebration with carol singers, craft workshops, and open houses. There are also plenty of skiing opportunities, and I love the exhilarating Ice Skating Trail at Lake Moray.

If you feel like you’ve lost the Christmas Magic, I recommend a trip to Vermont as the perfect antidote!  

  • Average temperature  – 3.5 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 680 North Main St., Route 2. Alburgh, VT 05440
  • Trying Fat Biking at The Stowe Recreation Path.
  • Hunting for artisan seasonal gifs at Vermont Holiday Market.

13. Solvang, California

Solvang at Christmas

Founded by Danish immigrants in 1911, Solvang offers a charming glimpse of Nordic life in the heart of Santa Barbara County, California.

From its modest origins, this themed town has blossomed into a beloved destination, drawing visitors far and wide. In my view, the Julefest celebrations, spanning November to December, exude a warmth that can thaw even the iciest of hearts! 

I love the quaint Danish-style buildings that drip with festive decorations, the cute bakeries, the cosy cafes that give off ‘hygge’ vibes, and the charming boutique shops. 

My favorite seasonal highlights include the Christmas markets, candlelight tours, and enchanting caroling sessions that infuse the streets with joy. Don’t miss the magical tree lighting ceremony and the grand Julefest Parade, where Christmas floats glide through the town.  

  • Average temperature – 20 degrees
  • Visitor Center Address: 1637-1639 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
  • Paying a visit to the super-cute Christmas store Jule Hus, the blown glass ornaments were gorgeous.
  • Having an organic, gluten-free lunch at the quaint Actor’s Corner Cafe.’

14. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Usa

What could be more fitting than spending this month in Bethlehem?

This charming town is aglow with twinkling lights and festive decorations each year, casting a magical spell over its historic snowy streets. I’m particularly fond of the Christmas huts lining the streets, offering artisanal treasures, and the renowned Christkindlmarkt—a sprawling indoor market brimming with unique gifts.

One of Bethlehem’s most charming traditions is The Living Advent Calendar, a daily event held at 5:30 pm at The Goundie House. I suggest experiencing this enchanting tradition firsthand!

Beyond the holiday splendor, Bethlehem is home to The Moravian Bookstore, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the country. Founded in 1745, this literary haven is nestled in the heart of Bethlehem’s historic district, and when I visit, it’s hard to tear myself away! 

  • Average temperature  – 5 degrees
  • Visitors Center Address: 505 Main St. Bethlehem, PA 18018.
  • Warming up with an authentic German Glühwein at the local Christkindlmarkt.
  • Searching for unique Christmas presents at the trendy Domaci shop.

usa road trip december

Beth Pinches - writer and photographer Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road-tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. Other places she loves include Croatia, Finland, Japan and India. In between adventures, travel writing and performing she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele. Find Beth on Linkedin or  Facebook . Hotel Reviewing Experience - Asked by many tourist boards and many high-profile travel brands to formally review hotels including Visit Jersey , Visit Sweden , and Israel Tourist Board. Also travelled around the world scouting out and reviewing all the most unique hotels in the world, check out our Instagram page for photos . Listed as a top UK travel journalist . Portland Reviewing Experience - Lived in Portland for 6 months and spent many months scouting out all the coolest spots.

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Explore Now Or Never

Travel guides for global adventures

27 Best Places to Visit in the USA in December (2023)

Updated on May 5, 2024

Fairytale Christmas villages and candelight strolls. Sleigh rides and fresh powder. The very best places to visit in the USA in December offer these and so much more. Whether you’re looking to experience a magical, classic Christmas with twinkling lights or a beachy warm weather escape to forget the cold, here are the best places to visit in December — the most wonderful time of the year…

Traditional cookies for the new year and christmas. Gingerbread men. Festive dessert.

Best Places to Visit in the USA in December

1. maui, hawaii.

Maui is one of the best places to go on vacation any time of year, but If you’re looking for warm places in the U.S. in December, Maui is ideal! Expect daytime temps in the 80s and mid-60s at night. ( Go in June for best weather if you don’t mind crowds.)

The best things to do in Maui ? Lots of time on the golden sand beaches near Kihei or Lahaina. Excellent snorkeling is easy to find here. Don’t miss the food trucks !

Or catch the sunrise on Mount Haleakala. (You’ll need reservations ahead of time…or book a guided tour and driver .)

Drive the stunning Road to Hana to black sand beaches, bamboo forests, and see the rainbow Eucalyptus trees. To maximize beach time, the best place to stay on Maui is in Kihei , Lahaina or at one of the stunning resorts south in Wailea or up north near Kaanapali.

One of the best activities in Maui to enjoy in December is whale watching . This is the month when humpback whales head to the Auau Channel here from Alaska to birth their young.

Plus, holiday celebrations abound this month. Be sure to attend the lighting of the historic Banyan Tree…the largest in the U.S. Its 60 foot trunks twinkle with Christmas lights.

Holiday markets are hopping at Whalers Village in Kaanapli, Wailea, and Makawao. Nick’s Fishmarket and Merriman’s Kapalua make great spots for a Christmas dinner.

Or, attend a Christmas luau…where Santa arrives in a red canoe to surprise children for this traditional Hawaiian feast. Where to stay in Maui: There are pros and cons to every area…depending on whether you’re looking for swank resorts or family-friendly condos. You can read my complete guide to Maui accommodations with recommended hotels and condos here .

Turquoise ocean and golden sand between rocky lava cliffs in Maui in December

2. Leavenworth, Washington

Tucked within the east Cascades, about two hrs from Seattle, sits the quaint Bavarian town of Leavenworth, WA.

Like a theme park, its architecture and art transport you to a charming German town as it sits beneath the shadow of the mountains along the Wenatchee River.

The best time to visit Leavenworth is during the Village of Lights Christmastown festival “where it’s Christmas every day in December!” For that Christmas spirit this is one of the best places to go in December.

The village is all decked out for the holidays with fresh evergreen garlands lacing the shops, and half a million colorful lights illuminating Front Street Park. Hear live holiday music wafting through the air from the gazebo, and snow usually blankets the ground to add that extra bit of enchantment.

Expect to find holiday activities like gingerbread houses, sleigh rides, kids crafts, a story corner, sledding, and roasted chestnuts. Write letters to and take photos with Santa. See Santas from Around the World. Try your luck with contests, daily prizes, and giveaways.  

Stroll along the streets, ducking into shops that meet your fancy. You’ll find more than one Christmas themed shop, a gingerbread factory, a cheese shop, art galleries, and so much more; even a nutcracker museum with a collection of over 7,000 nutcrackers!

For lunch, Munchen Haus serves different bratwurst choices with warm sauerkraut and an endless variety of mustards. During the winter, they serve a mean glühwein.

Leavenworth in December is a PNW winter wonderland, not to be missed in Washington State. Where to stay in Leavenworth: Stay at the Bavarian Lodge right downtown. You can walk wherever you want to go. Plus, your stay comes with cinnamon rolls and egg casseroles for breakfast! Check price and availability at the Bavarian Lodge here .

Tabitha | Travel Compositions

snow draped over colorful buildings in winter

3. Asheville, North Carolina

Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina , Asheville is a medium-sized town (with a population just under 100,000). It makes for a great weekend getaway . It’s surrounded by wilderness, including nearby attractions such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Gorge, Mount Mitchell (tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River), and Pisgah National Forest. As such, there’s a tremendous array of  things to do in Asheville  all year round. (It’s a great August destination in the USA .) There are countless hiking trails, waterfalls, critically-acclaimed restaurants, craft breweries, museums, art galleries, and more to choose from. 

But even though frigid winter weather conditions may make the area’s high-altitude adventures less than inviting, December is one of the best times to visit Asheville, especially if you love the colorful sights and sounds of Christmas. 

For starters, there’s Christmas at the 125,000-acre Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned home in America (250 rooms encompassing over 135,000 square feet).  Their celebration begins with a tree-raising event, plus they offer daytime and candlelit nighttime tours of the festively decorated rooms of the Biltmore House. You’ll also enjoy holiday events in both the Antler Hill and Historic Biltmore Village areas.  But the Biltmore isn’t the only great place to celebrate Christmas in Asheville. There’s also Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum and the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Numerous other local Christmas light displays make Asheville a great place to spend the holidays!  Bret and Mary | Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide Where to stay in Asheville : The Omni Grove Park Inn , of course! This historic hotel hosts the National Gingerbread Competition, features a world-renowned spa, and huge roaring fireplaces in the lobby! Check price and availability at the Omni Grove Park Inn here .

The Biltmore Mansion decked out in white Christmas tree lights

Read more on USA travel: • 19 Amazing U.S. Vacations in October • 21 Places to See in the U.S. in November • 23 Warm Destinations in the U.S for January • 17 Warm Places to Go in the U.S. in February

4. Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is an absolute gem for many reasons, including great weather, a fantastic food scene, and famously vibrant nightlife with live music every night of the week! To top all of it off, Austin hosts one of the 10 Best Public Displays of Holiday Lights in December,  The Trail of Lights , in Zilker Park. This event has been a city tradition for almost 60 years, bringing together companies, nonprofits and communities, families, couples, and college students alike for a walk beneath its winding twinkling lights.  The Trail of Lights is now a drive-through winter wonderland because of Covid. There are over 2 million Christmas lights, and over 150 lit-up Christmas trees and installations overlooking the town’s lake and Austin skyline. Tickets need to be purchased beforehand and will range from $50-100 per car. This means the best way to enjoy this unique event is to pack your car with friends (to split the cost) and grab a hot beverage for everyone beforehand. Blast some Mariah Carey or  play a mini road trip game , and get into the holiday spirit as you take the 30 min drive through the Trail of Lights. And when you’re done, hightail it into the many Christmas-themed bars downtown to continue the good time! Yee-ha!  With a free day in Austin, head out to Texas Hill Country for a half day guided BBQ and wine tasting tour . Mariana | Road Trip Euroguide Where to stay in Austin: Stay at The Driskill , a gorgeous 19th century Hyatt hotel. It comes old world charm and luxe modern amenities in the heart of the city. Check price and availability at The Driskill here .

car driving through a tunnel of colored lights at night

5. Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is one of those Christmas destinations that’s so picturesque it almost resembles a scene straight out of a Hallmark movie (although it’s also makes a great May vacation in the US when spring blooms!)

The Downtown Neighborhood Association decorates the squares with red ribbons and greenery. Plus, Broughton Street gets festive with string lights and a massive tree, and vendors along the riverfront set up a bustling German-style Christmas market. 

One of the best ways to experience  Christmas in Savannah, Georgia  is to simply stroll through the Historic District to see the beautiful historic homes decorated in their holiday best.

Make sure to stop by the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist to see the elaborate annual nativity scene! 

There are numerous events to keep visitors entertained throughout the month of December. Some of the most popular include the Holiday Tour of Homes, the Holiday Boat Parade, a unique Gingerbread Trail throughout the Historic District, and the above-mentioned Savannah Christmas Market. There are plenty of incredible locally owned shops that are perfect for last-minute shoppers, too. December weather in Savannah is usually quite comfortable, with temperatures often climbing to the upper 60s or low 70s during the day.

Pack a jacket and gloves in case evening strolls down River Street turn breezy. Where to stay in Savannah: Stay at The Marshall House , a beautiful 19th century boutique hotel in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District. Includes evening wine and cheese reception. Check price and availability at The Marshall House here .

Erin | Savannah First-Timer’s Guide

Christmas trees in shop windows

How to Rent a Car for Your December Adventure Discover Cars has no hidden fees, 24/7 customer service, and free cancellation. They search all the major rental car companies so you don’t have to. Check price and availability on rental cars here .

6. Park City, Utah

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, one of the best places to visit in the U.S. in December is Park City, Utah.

This famous ski town hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. You can actually still visit the Utah Olympic Park and marvel at the athletes’ training there or you can even take a ride down the bobsled track yourself, if you dare!

A ski trip to Park City can be pricey, so to make it more palatable, try looking at a multi-resort season pass, like the Ikon Pass (valid at Deer Valley —skiers only) or the Epic Pass (good at Park City Mountain Resort, the largest ski resort in North America).

Either way, these passes make Park City some of the  most affordable skiing options in Utah .

December is a great time to visit Park City. There are lots of holiday festivities—from  Snowfest at Park City Mountain —where Santa comes to town via ski lift, to an annual torchlight parade down the mountain, and even fireworks for New Year’s Eve.

You can also take a ride on Heber Valley Railroad’s North Pole Express, which is especially popular among families with young kids. Or book a private guided snowshoe excursion away from crowds.

Park City’s Main Street is dotted with giant snow globes and holiday decorations and is a popular place to go for bars, restaurants, art galleries, and holiday entertainment.  Where to stay in Park City: Planning a family getaway or ski retreat with friends? Book Adobe at Powder Watch , a cozy, luxurious mountain dream on the “Gold Coast”, just a 3 minute walk to Main Street. Check price and availability at the Adobe mountain retreat here .

JJ | Minivan Bucket List

Aerial view of snowy Park City in December

7. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is one of the best national parks in the United States to visit during December. (It also makes a great destination in spring though.)

Well known as the “hottest place on Earth”, the world record for the highest air temperature (a scorching 134°F!) was recorded at aptly named Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

During the summer, temperatures in the park frequently top 120°F and don’t drop below the mid-90s overnight. 

During December, the weather tends to be much more pleasant, with average highs in the mid-60s and average lows in the upper-30s at the lower elevations.

Death Valley features an enormous range of elevation, from 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin to over 11,000 feet at Telescope Peak, the tallest point in the park.

At higher elevations, temperatures are colder and snow is not uncommon in December.

With milder temperatures, one of the best things to do in Death Valley in December includes hiking the Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop (6.4 miles, 1000 feet elevation gain). Explore the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, visit the Badwater Basin Salt Flats at the lowest point in North America, spend a night camping at the Panamint Sand Dunes, or hike to the bottom of Ubehebe Crater. Where to stay in Death Valley: The Inn at Death Valley is inside Death Valley National Park. It’s a beautiful property with a pool and excellent food on-site…ideal for a couples’ getaway. Check price and availability at The Inn at Death Valley here . Sarah & Matt | Two Outliers

Sand dunes in Death Valley, one of the best places to visit in the US in December

8. Aspen, Colorado

One of the most popular destinations to visit in December, Aspen is a winter wonderland in the heart of Colorado’s Rockies.

A trip from Denver to Aspen  is about three hours via Interstate-70, and is by far one of the most popular road trips from the Mile High City.

In winter, visitors from all over Colorado and out of state come to Aspen to enjoy the spectacular scenery and take in scenic views.

In winter, Aspen transforms into one of the most popular destinations for skiing and snowboarding thanks to its world class ski resorts.

December in Aspen offers a magical atmosphere with sleigh rides though the town’s streets, ice skating, and tubing among other winter activities.

If you want to see a true Christmas spirit, Aspen is one of the best places in the United States to visit.

As a bonus, you can also visit some of the best hot springs in Colorado, if you are willing to take a 1.5-hour trip to some of the nearby towns.

The city boasts many bars and restaurants where you can enjoy traditional winter treats such as hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Spending Aspen in December means you can see Santa, watch a live show, and enjoy the magical atmosphere of this place. Where to stay in Aspen : Gathering the family? Make memories at “Above It All” , a beautiful four bedroom ski-in home with iconic views of Aspen’s most famous mountain peaks. Check price and availability at Above It All here .

Daria | The Discovery Nut

snow covered mountain peaks mirrored in a lake in Aspen in December

9. Arches National Park, Utah

Head directly to Arches National Park in Utah! Winter is divine here, mainly because the crowds of summer, spring, and fall are long gone.

It’s the perfect time, to see the Mighty 5 (Bryce, Arches, Zion , Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks). When visiting Arches National Park in December , you will probably have the place all to yourself, except for the week in between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  You’ll also love that many of the hiking trails in Arches National Park remain open all year long, including popular spots like Delicate Arch and Devil’s Garden.  Also, because of reduced light pollution from guests, you’ll be able to enjoy fabulous stargazing spots like Balanced Rock Picnic Area, The Windows, the Garden of Eden Viewpoint, and Panorama Point. However, with daily highs in the 40s (F) and daily lows in the 20s (F), snow can accumulate quickly on the ground.  And while it looks lovely, snow can obscure trail markers and make the ground incredibly slippery.  Therefore, it’s always a good idea to bring traction devices, trekking poles, and to dress in warm layers.  You’ll also want to bring plenty of sunscreen  and water on any of your hikes since Arches National Park sits at an elevation of 5,653 feet.  That means humidity is lower and sweat evaporates more quickly. As a result, you may not appreciate how much moisture you’re losing while exploring the park. Jamie | Photo Jeepers Where to stay at Arches National Park : Nearby Moab makes the best base as there’s no lodgings inside the park. If you’re planning a hiking adventure for a group, stay at Moab Springs Ranch , a two bedroom luxury townhome with a loft that sleeps eight. It’s a great value! Check price and availability at Moab Springs Ranch here .

giant natural arch in snow

10. Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida, is one of the best places to visit thanks to the perfect weather and abundance of Christmas activities without the snow.

Visiting Orlando in December means enjoying mostly clear skies, low humidity and cooler weather.

Unlike the summer months, you can still wear shorts but avoid the daily rainstorms and possibilities of a hurricane. Plan for highs in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 50s and 60s.

Besides experiencing the best of Orlando’s weather, you can also find lots of fun Christmas things to do in Orlando in December .

Disney and the other theme parks go overboard with Christmas decorations and events, but you can visit Disney Springs to do the Christmas tree stroll for free.

While you are here, head over to the Grand Floridian for the massive Christmas tree and huge gingerbread house.

Depending on when in December you visit, you can also enjoy the different parades, including boat parades.

Find “snow” at some of the Christmas events and take a stroll around Lake Eola for the Christmas light display and Orlando Christmas tree.

Many of the smaller cities that make up Greater Orlando also have events featuring Santa and movie nights, as well as fun games and activities for the kids. Where to stay in Orlando : Heading to Disney World? Stay at Buena Vista Suites Orlando . Just a 3 minute drive to the park, it also includes a complimentary breakfast and scheduled transportation to skip the drive. Check price and availability at Buena Vista Suites Orlando here .

Christine | Live Love Run Travel

Huge indoor Christmas tree decked in white lights and ornaments

11. San Diego, California

Spending December in San Diego makes for a great winter escape plan. Better yet, there are a whole lot of fun outdoor and Christmas-themed activities you can do during the month of December. The weather in San Diego during December will average a daytime high around the mid-60’s and will still require the use of a sweatshirt as it becomes chilly in the evenings. These temperatures, while comfortably mild, will make it a bit too cold to try all of the fun  San Diego water sports , a great excuse to come back in the summer! Whales can be spotted all year long in San Diego , however, mid-December to mid-March is the best time to take a tour. Sunsets during this time of year are particularly colorful because of how close the sun is to San Diego. You could watch from Sunset Cliffs or even book a sunset sailing experience!  There are plenty of fun Christmas-themed activities you can do like exploring the Holiday Market at Petco Park or spending an evening at Del Mar Fairgrounds Snow n Glow. Watch the Boat Parade of Lights light show, or ride the trolley through the Lights and Sights Tour in Old Town San Diego. Head north for the Encinitas holiday parade. There are even fun Christmas-themed bar crawls for adults!

Basing yourself in San Diego will also make it easy to drive to nearby mountainous areas for snow activities if you so desire.  Where to stay in San Diego: See my post on the top 10 San Diego vacation rentals here . La Jolla is also a great option! Chelsey | Chelsey Explores

boat with colorful Christmas lights during winter in San Diego

12. New York City

New York City is a dream destination for many around the world, but it’s even more magical in December. It’s one of the best places to visit in the U.S. during this time of the year with Christmas and New Year’s as the main highlights.

From visiting the sparkling lights of Times Square as it counts down for the New Year to taking a stroll through Central Park all dusted with snow, New York City is a wonder. From seeing the snow-capped skyscrapers from high above the Empire State Building to ice skating at the Rockefeller Center, there are many great things to do in  New York in December .

It’s an incredible destination that promises a unique holiday experience where visitors certainly won’t get bored…day or night. It’s also been named as a city that never sleeps and it truly lives up to this name, most especially in December!

Come nightfall, there are a diverse set of holiday experiences to enjoy. These include seeing the Christmas tree light up in Rockefeller Center and getting hot wine in the Christmas Markets of Union Square and Bryant Park. Watch the lights show at Dyker Heights and Fifth Avenue, or enjoy a winter-themed Nutcracker Show on Broadway.

December in New York is when the festivities are at their liveliest, the city is covered in snow, and the buzzing energy of New York is at its peak.

Antoine & Marielle | Offbeat Escapades Where to stay in NYC: Stay in the heart of the city at The Refinery in Manhattan if you’re looking for a quintessential NYC vibe. It’s a 10 minute walk to Times Square. Check price and availability at The Refinery here .

Central Park draped in snow

13. Marco Island, Florida

Nestled along Florida’s southwest coast at the gateway to the Florida Everglades is Marco Island, a popular tourist destination that’s a great place to visit in the winter months, especially December. As the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands, Marco is simultaneously well-traveled yet is just minutes away from the Everglades and the shallow waterways that surround countless barrier islands just begging to be explored. December in Marco Island is a particularly good time to visit; the weather is a comfortable 75 to 85 degrees (F) with no humidity.

Snowbirds have not yet arrived and the city is gearing up for unique holiday celebrations. Don’t miss the festive Marco Island boat parade featuring boats of all sizes decorated with lights playing Christmas music for all to hear! There are  plenty of things to do in Marco Island  for outdoor lovers from kayak and boat tours to a thrilling airboat ride. Its sister city of Naples, Florida is also just minutes away, which gives even more options for fun.  But Marco is also a great destination even if your ideal vacation involves little more than the beach, sun, and poolside umbrella drinks. There are plenty of luxury resorts such as JW Marriott and Marriott Crystal Shores which line the beach here and offer all that along with breathtaking sunset views of the Gulf of Mexico. Where to stay on Marco Island: If you’re gathering with family, stay in your own private condo with sunset views…directly on the beach. Check price and availability on the Marco Island condo here . Lori | Naples Florida Travel Guide

December sunset on a Marco Island beach

14. Chicago, Illinois

When you’re looking for a perfect December destination, add Chicago to your bucket list.

This city becomes a winter wonderland with many annual holiday traditions. The Christkindlmarket is an authentic German Christmas market and is one of the most popular  things to do in Chicago  in winter.

It’s down the street from Millennium Park and the city’s official holiday tree. On Friday evenings, the park is filled with music during the Holiday Sing-Along.

Even Scrooge lets the Bah Humbugs go at Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol , and Joffrey Ballet reimagines a classic with its version of  The Nutcracker .

There’s nothing like ice skating with the city skyline as your backdrop. There’s a rink in Millennium Park and a skating ribbon in Maggie Daley Park.

North Michigan Avenue is strewn with lights after the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. While the festival takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving, the decorations continue through the winter.

Another favorite tradition is Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The museum’s entrance is filled with trees decorated to represent Chicago’s many ethnic communities. During Lincoln Park ZooLights, the zoo is lit up with millions of lights, and you can even visit Santa Claus.

These are just a few of the reasons Chicago is a magical place to visit , so bundle up and plan a trip to the Windy City. Where to stay in Chicago: Looking for the perfect base in the city? Stay in the heart of the city at gorgeous Level Chicago , a sustainable contemporary property with your own kitchen. Michigan Avenue and the Museum of Contemporary Art are close! Check price and availability at Level Chicago here . Theresa | The Local Tourist

CHICAGO - DECEMBER: People pass through the Christkindlmarket in on December 17, 2013. The Christkindlmarket is a popular tradition during the holidays in Chicago

15. Mammoth Lakes, California

Tucked away in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Mammoth Lakes, an adorable ski town, is the perfect place to visit this month, due to its endless opportunities for outdoor winter adventures.

For example, consider skiing at one of its world-renowned ski resorts, like Mammoth Mountain or June Mountain. The slopes are usually covered in incredible powder during December and the dramatic Sierra Nevadas provide an unforgettable backdrop.

Alternatively, try a number of other winter activities, like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at the neighboring Inyo National Forest.

And after all that playing in the snow, Mammoth has plenty of incredible natural hot springs to soak your aching muscles, like Wild Willy’s Hot Spring , where you can relax and take in the surrounding snow-capped mountains.

While Mammoth attracts the majority of its winter visitors due to its slopes, there’s still plenty of holiday spirit to enjoy.

The town’s largest outdoor shopping area, the Village at Mammoth Lakes, is decorated with countless Christmas lights throughout the season. There’s a number of activities, from an annual tree lighting to visits from Santa, that are scheduled leading up to Christmas.

So whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure or a little Christmas cheer, Mammoth Lakes may just be the perfect place for a December getaway! Where to stay in Mammoth: A ski-in ski-out hideaway in the woods , of course! This upscale two bedroom, 2.5 bath sleeps seven. With a wood burning fireplace and 30 feet of glass to mountain views, you’ll slip right into vacation mode. Check price and availability on the upscale ski-in ski-out home here . Jessica | Uprooted Traveler

Convict Lake covered in snow

16. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Only one word can describe Nantucket in December, and it’s magical . To celebrate the holiday season, Nantucket pulls out all the stops to dress up the town.

Dozens of Christmas trees are put up and decorated along the streets of downtown, and they all light up every night at dusk to create a warm, festive glow while you shop.

A giant wreath is hung on Brand Point Lighthouse, creating the perfect backdrop for Christmas card photos. Over 50 trees are individually decorated by local artists and businesses, and displayed inside the Whaling Museum for all to enjoy.

And it’s not quite Christmas on Nantucket until the famous dory boat on Easy Street has put up its own iconic little tree on the water. The first weekend of December is the official Nantucket Christmas Stroll. Santa arrives at the wharf on a boat with the U.S. Coast Guard and restaurants host cookie decorating and wine tasting events. Talented local residents put on concerts as artists and crafters come together to put on the Yuletide Craft Fair. Children can write and send their letter to Santa at the special North Pole mailbox downtown. A day trip to Nantucket in December is guaranteed to fill your heart with Christmas cheer! Where to stay in Nantucket: Nestled into a quiet street in the historic district, the Seven Sea Street Inn is in the very best part of Nantucket. Guests rave about the homemade breakfasts here. Check price and availability at the Seven Sea Street Inn here . Samantha | New England Wanderlust

Christmas tree on a brass canoe in the water in Nantucket in December

17. Phoenix, Arizona

If you’re looking for amazing weather, one of the best places to visit in the US in December is Phoenix, Arizona.

The average high in Phoenix during December is about 70 degrees, making it perfect for outdoor activities like hiking as well as getting to see Christmas lights in warmer temperatures. 

At the Desert Botanical Garden , you can see beautiful Christmas lights during the annual Las Noches de las Luminarias festival.

In the beautiful weather, you can see thousands of sparkling holiday lights. There is also live music, food, and hot apple cider to complete the experience.  

One of the best  indoor things to do in Phoenix   around Christmas time is visiting the Heard Museum’s Holidays at the Heard event. The museum celebrates the spirit of the holidays and native cultures. 

If you want to do some holiday ice skating, you can find a beautiful outdoor rink at the CityScape shopping complex. After ice skating, be sure to check out the great retail and dining options in the area. Where to stay in Phoenix: Heading to Phoenix for some sun? Stay in this beautiful one-bedroom townhome in the historic Roosevelt neighborhood, within walking distance of all that downtown Phoenix has to offer.

Check price and availability of the one-bedroom townhome here .

Candice | CS Ginger

Phoenix, Arizona, USA downtown cityscape at dusk.

18. Boston, Massachusetts

Visiting Boston in December means festive markets, outdoor ice skating, and cozy igloos … Yes, igloos ! 

Definitely don’t head to this New England hub for a reprieve from cold winter temperatures, which fall toward freezing in December.

However, while volatile weather is common here, you could luck out with milder weather in the 50s (Fahrenheit). 

Snow is more common in January or February, but a winter wonderland cityscape isn’t out of the question for Boston in December!

For winter fun, head to Boston Common to go ice skating on Frog Pond.

Afterward, spend an evening overlooking the harbor from The Lookout Rooftop at The Envoy in the Seaport. You can rent a heated igloo, making it one of the best date ideas in Boston if you’re looking for a romantic getaway!

December also brings festivities! Be sure to check out the giant menorah in Copley Square and see the Christmas tree on the Common or the one at Faneuil Hall. 

Winter holiday markets include the one at City Plaza Government Center, the craft fair at the Old South Church at Copley Square, and the SoWa Winter Festival.

If you come to Boston at the end of December, you can enjoy the oldest and largest New Year’s Eve arts festival in the entire United States!

First Night is a massive celebration including fireworks, music, and likely a few drinks to stay warm on that last winter night of the year. Where to stay in Boston: Stay at The Godfrey Hotel in the Theater District. With an onsite restaurant and city center location, you can walk wherever you want to go. Check price and availability at The Godfrey Hotel here . Amanda | Hey! East Coast Travel

Giant Christmas tree twinkling with white lights in Boston square

19. Oahu, Hawaii

The island of Oahu is just as beautiful as the other islands in Hawaii , and the weather in December is arguably nicer than ever!

Temperatures in December range from a high of 80 F to a low of 70 F, so it’s almost never too hot or cold for anyone’s liking.

There are lots of great things to do in Oahu , including sightseeing, relaxing, and hiking . You can also enjoy water sports like jet skiing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, surfing, and more.

Even though Oahu is the most populated island in Hawaii, there’s a ton of natural scenery to enjoy if you get out of the crowds and look around.

If you’re lucky, you may even see whales, Hawaiian monk seals, or sea turtles!

The whale watching season in Oahu generally runs from December to May, as this is when the whales like to come to the warm waters of Hawaii to breed and give birth.

You can sometimes see whales with the naked eye from shore, or you can try to get a closer look with a whale watching tour or boat charter. Whale sightings are almost guaranteed if you come in the right season, and it’s an amazing experience! Plus, December is a great time to head to the North Shore to see the Big Wave Riders compete. The North Shore food truck scene is also on point! Where to stay on Oahu : Stay in Ko Olina at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club . With a private beach, family-friendly and adults-only pools, you can’t beat the views here! Check price and availability at Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club here .

David & Inlan |The World Travel Guy

Bright orange sunset and green lawn with palm trees in shadow

20. Burlington, Vermont

Head to Burlington, Vermont! Not only will this city be covered in a stunning blanket of snow, but it overlooks majestic Lake Champlain. In fact, it’s an incredibly large lake that freezes over in December, giving eager visitors the opportunity to ice skate and ice fish to their heart’s content.  However, if you want to take some time to explore the city itself, then be sure to walk down Church Street, which is bedazzled with vibrant holiday lights and festive store windows all December long. If you want, you can even hop aboard the Polar Express and go on an impromptu train ride to the North Pole.  Plus, to add to the festive spirit, guests are encouraged to wear their pajamas as expert chefs dole out homemade cookies and hot chocolate during the trip.  Then, after you’ve listened to a special reading of the Polar Express children’s book, head back into Burlington to watch the Santa Parade and enjoy the annual tree lighting as part of a romantic getaway in Vermont . Where to stay in Burlington: Stay at Hotel Vermont Burlington in central Burlington. This modern hotel is filled with contemporary artwork and comes with free yoga classes. Church Street Marketplace is just a 10 minute walk away. Check price and availability at Hotel Vermont Burlington here .

Kelly | Girl with the Passport

blue canoe on an icy snowy lake in Burlington Vermont in December

21. Palm Springs, California

California in December is gorgeous! It’s a wonderful month to plan a trip to Palm Springs.

While there are lots of  things to do in Palm Springs  year round, the pleasant weather and holiday happenings make December an especially lovely time to visit this gateway to the California desert. 

Palm Springs has gorgeous weather in December, with daytime highs in the low 70s.

It’s perfect weather for exploring outdoors, so plan on some hikes into the many oases in the area. Or consider a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park or Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Near the city, the hiking at Thousand Palms Oasis or Indian Canyons is excellent. 

Downtown Palm Springs always looks festive, with the palms lining the main street wrapped in lights, but in December, you’ll find holiday decorations everywhere.

If you visit in early December, you can attend the Festival of Lights Parade, with lit-up floats, marching bands, and flashy cars. 

Tree lighting ceremonies happen in many resorts and at the Aerial Tramway Valley Station.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in nearby Palm Desert also has a WildLights celebration. Some neighborhoods put on amazing displays of holiday lights, so it’s worth driving around to take in the holiday magic. 

Palm Springs is known for its dining scene and December is no different. Enjoy holiday seasonal menus at area restaurants and share a toast with holiday-themed cocktails. Where to stay in Palm Springs: Make your Palm Springs base in a contemporary mid-century home , complete with swimming pool and spa. Two master bedrooms + a den sleep six. Check price and availability on the mid-century modern home here .

Dhara | Roadtripping California

sunset over mountains and palm trees in Palm Springs

22. Duluth, Minnesota

Though the weather may be cold, Duluth, Minnesota becomes a magical winter wonderland in December.

Located right on the shores of Lake Superior, the city sure knows how to make the holidays special, even in freezing temperatures.

In downtown Bayfront Festival Park, the Bentleyville Tour of Lights shines bright with over 4 million Christmas lights and displays.

Visitors can walk through the magical lights at no cost and enjoy free hot cocoa, cookies, s’mores, and more.

Not too far from Bentleyville is Glensheen Mansion, which opens in December for tours of the grounds all decked out for the holidays.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides can be found in Canal Park, where you can enjoy the beauty of twinkling lights around you as the waves crash on Lake Superior.

Children love rides on the Christmas City Express, where you’ll enjoy free cookies and cocoa as well as holiday tunes and a fantastic train ride up the shore of the lake.

For adventure lovers, Spirit Mountain is the perfect spot to hit the slopes, for some of the best skiing in the Midwest.

Most don’t think of Minnesota as a place to visit in the winter, but Duluth shows magic and beauty all year, especially in the month of December. Where to stay in Duluth: Gather at the historic Pumphouse , an iconic home directly on Lake Superior. With period chandeliers, it’s a stunning French-style home. Check price and availability on the Pumphouse here .

Kassidy | Kassidy’s Journey

Christmas Lights in Duluth, Minnesota during the Winter Season on Lake Superior Shores

23. Coastal Mississippi

While every month of the year is a wonderful time to visit, December in  Coastal Mississippi  is particularly special.  Gulfport Harbor Lights Festival is a phenomenal holiday light show featuring over 1.5 million lights, enjoyed by walking or on a heated trolley ride.

Jones Park is also taken over by Santa’s Village (bring letters for Santa), carnival rides and holiday treats, and plenty of elfie selfie stations for holiday photos.

The festival is open from late November through December 31 and was highlighted in Lifetime’s  Christmas in Mississippi  holiday movie. All Coastal Mississippi communities demonstrate their holiday spirit with festive events, including Christmas on the Water Boat Parade (Biloxi), Snowflakes in the Bay (Bay St Louis), and Downtown for the Holidays (Pascagoula). See the Bay St Louis Christmas parade and stop in at Ocean Springs Christmas tree lighting and open house. Most hotels, restaurants, and stores decorate heavily for the holidays and the Beau Rivage lobby specifically is worth a visit.

The weather here is mild and active people might run the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon or enjoy ice skating at MS Coast Coliseum. End December and kick off the new year at Coastal Mississippi’s Oyster Drop, their fun version of NYC’s crystal ball drop. Where to stay in Biloxi: The Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort is just a 5 minute drive from Biloxi Beach and includes an onsite miniature golf course and heated pool in the Garden Oasis. Check price and availability at The Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort here . Charles | US Gulf Coast Travel

Fat snowman on the beach made out of sand

24. Washington, DC

Washington DC is one of the most festive places to visit in December and many of the  best holiday activities in DC  are absolutely free.

The month kicks off with the unveiling of the Capitol Christmas Tree and the White House Christmas Tree which are lit nightly throughout the month.

At the U.S. Botanical Garden, visitors enjoy an elaborate model train display that honors sites across the country. The garden is also decorated with beautiful poinsettias and recreations of famous DC monuments and memorials, all created from natural elements.

Sparkling Christmas trees and giant wreaths adorn Union Station and the Library of Congress.

December in DC is generally chilly, and the city often experiences an early winter snowstorm. Snow is celebrated with sledding on Capitol Hill and happy gatherings organized by the DC Snowball Fight Association.

As long as the weather cooperates, there is ice skating for a small fee at outdoor rinks at the National Sculpture Garden and Washington Harbor. Shoppers can head to the Downtown DC Holiday Market and Smithsonian Museums to find unique gifts for everyone on their holiday list.

And the many monuments on the National Mall remain open every day, including Christmas Day, and are beautifully lit at night. Where to stay in Washington, D.C: Stay at the Dupont Circle Hotel , just minutes from the mall and all the best historical landmarks. Large windows, marble bathrooms, and a farm-to-table restaurants bring your experience alive. Check price and availability at the Dupont Circle Hotel here .

Julie | Fun in Fairfax VA

Christmas tree lit up at night in front of The White House

25. Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport, Maine is a quintessential New England town that is overflowing with Christmas spirit come December 1st.

Of course, it has its beautiful beaches in the summertime and charming fall foliage, but nothing quite compares to visiting this seaside town in southern Maine after the snow starts to fall! Each year, for the first two weekends in December, what is known to locals as the “Christmas Prelude” comes to life. Head directly to the port (known as the Port of Kennebunk, or Kennebunkport) for enchanting light displays. You’ll also find an enormous Christmas tree covered in buoys and lobster pots, fireworks, tree lighting ceremonies, an exciting hat parade, and seemingly endless mulled wine and hot cocoa tents. 

Often rated as one of the best Christmas towns in America, you can even choose and cut down your own Christmas tree! Wintertime in Maine can get a bit chilly, but on occasion, you will be treated to beautiful snow flurries or even a full winter blanket of snow.

Regardless of the weather, you can be sure that the local Mainers will be dressed in their holiday best and ready to kick off the holiday season with a giant celebration year after year.” Where to stay in Kennebunkport: Walk to galleries, shops and restaurants when you gather your group in a beautiful private home in this prime location. It’s dog-friendly too! Check price and availability on the Kennebunkport home here . Emily | Emily Embarks

Welcome to Kennebunkport sign near clapboard house

26. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Vacationers looking for a warm weather December escape need look no further than  sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico . 

This US territory is located in the Caribbean and enjoys balmy tropical temperatures year-round.  December average temperatures are in the mid-eighties for the daily highs and mid-seventies for the daily lows.

Puerto Rico’s historical center, Old San Juan, is a delight to explore and is extremely walkable.   

Visitors can stroll along the picturesque El Paseo del Morro National Recreational Trail, with views of the imposing fortified city walls on one side and the azure waters of the harbor on the other. 

Visit San Juan’s well-preserved forts, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal, which is the largest Spanish fort in the New World.

Puerto Rico’s holiday season is quite extensive, commencing after Thanksgiving and continuing all the way through the middle of January.    Enjoy the holiday lights decorating the city, as well as the holiday boat parade in the San Juan Harbor.   

Be sure to sample some coquito, the traditional Christmas drink of the island.  Puerto Rico’s holiday alternative to eggnog features coconut milk or cream of coconut, with a dash of spices and a splash of white rum.  ¡Salud! Where to stay in Puerto Rico: Stay in your own private villa with kitchen by the beach at Villa Athena on the grounds of the fabulous Bahia Beach Resort. Includes use of a golf cart! Check price and availability at Villa Athena here .

Lisa | Waves and Cobblestones

View of the coast from the cemetery at Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

27. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

If you’re looking for a New England Christmas wonderland, come visit New Hampshire!

This underrated state in New England is home to charming small towns, country roads, sapphire lakes, and forested mountains. Portsmouth is a small, funky seaside city in New Hampshire that goes all out in December. The Candelight Stroll takes place all month long at the Strawbery Banke Museum on Saturdays and Sunday evenings.

This “living museum” recreates one of the oldest neighborhoods in New England, complete with restored historic homes and costumed role-playing guides. The Candlelight Stroll brings glowing lanterns, 19th century-style Christmas decorations, and even ice skating performances!

But Portsmouth is just one of many great spots in New Hampshire in December. If you love small towns at Christmas time, head to the Monadnock region in southwest New Hampshire.

The towns of Jaffrey Center, Peterborough, Keene, and Walpole, with their decorated farmhouses and old-fashioned town squares, look like they’re a snow globe come to life!

Finish with a sleigh ride at Stonewall Farm in Keene. It’s easily one of the best  things to do in New Hampshire in the winter , especially when combined with a stop at L.A. Burdick chocolates in nearby Walpole, home to the best hot chocolate in New Hampshire.  Where to stay in Portsmouth: Stay at the Silver Fountain Inn for world-class service. This elegant, three story Victorian B&B is right downtown! Check price and availability at Silver Fountain Inn here . Kate | Adventurous Kate

PORTSMOUTH - The South End neighborhood in Portsmouth, NH is an historical district

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Christmas lights adorning Leavanworth, Washginton

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usa road trip december

The 10 Best Winter Road Trip Routes On The West Coast To Help You Embrace Cold-Weather Adventures

Post Summary: 10 Best Winter Road Trip Routes For Some Cold Weather Adventures!

During most road trips, you check the forecast to make sure you won’t be running into inclement weather.

Things like snow, closed mountain passes, and heavy storms can be a real bummer when you aren’t expecting them!

But what if you want to drive TOWARDS the snow?

Winter road trip routes are definitely more challenging to pull off, but they also come with huge rewards that you don’t get any other time of year!

In this post, we’re sharing the 10 best winter road trip routes, for those of you with brave souls and a love for the snow!

Now go and heat up the car…let’s go!

The 10 Best Winter Road Trip Routes To Help You Embrace Cold-Weather Adventures

But first, safety on winter drives….

There are very important items you will need to keep in your car during your winter road trip. Car complications can happen any time of year, but they can be a bit more dangerous if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, trapped in the snow.

If you’re considering driving cross country in the winter, being prepared for winter driving conditions are essential for your safety!

Here are some winter road trip tips for you – things you need to pack during cold weather:

  • Portable Chargers (to juice up your phones and other electronics)
  • Windshield Scraper ( Click here for the brush/scraper combo on Amazon )
  • Car Shovel ( Find our favorite one here on Amazon )
  • Extra blankets, gloves, and hat

Want to see the entire list? Read our entire list of emergency essentials below!

Read More: The 12 Essentials You Need To Pack In Your Car Emergency Kit

Emerald Lake Lodge in The Canadian Rockies In Winter - The

The Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies Winter Road Trip Route

Starting Point: Calgary, Alberta Canada

Time Required: ~5-6 days

Looking for those Narnia-inspired winter scenes like snow-covered trees and frozen waterfalls? Look no further than the Canadian Rockies in the wintertime!

Banff in the winter season  brings its own magical vibe to the season. From ice skating on Lake Louise to dog sledding in Banff , there’s so much to do and see during the winter.

Make sure your car has excellent snow tires, extra chains, and an ice shovel in your car. Bring a confident driver, and keep these Alberta road condition websites handy (by saving this blog post!) to check and see if your winter road trip route is open.

511 Alberta – a Province-wide source for updates on road conditions, closures and accidents.

Drive BC – Updated road conditions in the province of British Columbia.

Banff Winter Resources:

  • 20 Bucket List Things To Do In Banff In Winter
  • Take a Johnston Canyon Ice Walking Tour To See Frozen Waterfalls!
  • The Ultimate Banff Packing List For Winter Trips
  • Ice Skating on Lake Louise 

Vancouver Canada, Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Pacific Coast Highway (Winter Road Trip – California to Washington)

The Pacific Coast Highway Winter Road Trip Map -

Starting Point: San Diego, California (Northbound) or Seattle, Washington (Southbound)

Time Required: ~1 week

The Pacific Coast Highway is an iconic Western USA road trip that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

From the rainy shores of the Washington beaches , incredible sea stacks on the Oregon Coast , and the golden sunsets of California, there’s never a dull moment on a Pacific Coast road trip . Don’t have time to do the entire route? Try taking a shorter, Northern California road trip itinerary instead! We’ve created this route that takes only 1 week to complete!

This is a more warm winter road trip itinerary because of the temperate climate all along the coast. You may encounter lots of rain, but hardly be stuck because of snowy conditions. Check out our complete guide to the Pacific Coast Highway here !

Pacific Coast Road Trip Resources:

  • The Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary
  • How To Find Free Camping Anywhere in the USA
  • The Complete Guide To Sleeping In Your Car
  • 30 Essentials You Need To Pack For Your Next Road Trip

Bryce Canyon National Park In Winter - Utah -

Utah National Parks

Road Trips To Take In The Winter - Utah National Park -

Starting Point: Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah is full of amazing high desert national parks and they are an excellent option for planning your next winter road trip route! Because winter is the low season for all 5 Utah National Parks , you’ll likely find yourself being one of very few visitors.

While not everything will be open in the winter (for example, Angels Landing Hike is likely closed due to icy trail conditions), you can still check out the highlights of each park.

A Utah National Parks road trip in winter provides a chance to see the parks in a new light. Bryce Canyon looks amazing with a blanket of snow, and hiking to Delicate Arch during sunrise  (have you seen photos of Arches National Park in winter?!) will bring a magical winter desert scene!

Utah National Park Road Trip Resources:

  • The Complete Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
  • 10 Epic American Southwest Destinations You Need To See To Believe
  • The Ultimate Southwest Road Trip Route

Yellowstone in the Winter - The Boiling River Trail -

The Grand Tetons + Yellowstone

Winter Road Trip USA - Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in Winter Route -

Starting Point: Jackson, Wyoming OR Bozeman, Montana

Time Required: ~3 days

From the snow-capped peaks of the Grand Teton range to the fluffy buffalo and elk in the valley just below, winter in the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone provide some amazing opportunities to get outside and enjoy this region.

Spend some time snowshoeing to a frozen lake like Taggart Lake at the foot of the Tetons, or camp out with your camera in the valley to capture some beautiful elk photos or amazing sunrises and sunsets.

The core of Yellowstone is closed during the winter season (check out winter road access here ), but you can explore their many winter options in the Mammoth Hot Springs area and Grand Loop Road in the northern part of the park for a unique experience in Yellowstone during winter!

Yellowstone/ Grand Teton National Park Winter Road Trip Resources:

  • What To Expect in Mammoth Hot Springs During Winter
  • Snowshoeing to Taggart Lake in the Winter
  • The Complete Rocky Mountain Road Trip Route (6+ National Parks)
  • What to Expect on String Lake Trail in Jackson, Wyoming

Alaska Road Trip Westfalia Van -

Anchorage To Fairbanks

Trips To Take In The Winter - Alaska Road Trip -

Starting Point:  Anchorage, Alaska

Instead of running away from winter, why not embrace it with the ULTIMATE winter road trip itinerary? Nothing says ‘winter’ more than an Alaska road trip , and there’s plenty to do during this magical season in the 49th state.

From witnessing the Northern Lights, experiencing days with total darkness, and discovering Denali National Park in its snowy glory, this trip is one for the bravest of the brave.

Alaska Winter Road Trip Resources:

  • Drive The Entire Alaska Road Trip Route (Fairbanks to Homer)
  • 10 Awesome Things to Do In Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Outdoor Activities To Do Near Anchorage, Alaska

Seward, Alaska In April -

The Seward Highway

Winter Trip Ideas - The Seward Highway Road Trip Route -

Time Required: ~4-5 days

Not ready to do full winter mode but still want to discover Alaska? Luckily, Alaska is the largest state in the USA, which means there are a plethora of adventures to take during the winter season!

Check out Homer and Seward, Alaska, amazing coastal towns along Cook Inlet and Ressurection Bay. Along this winter road trip route, you can stop to take a winter kayaking tour through the ice, attend a local winter carnival, or just hang out in a pub and meet some friendly locals!

Winter Road Trip Resources :

  • The Essential Seward, Alaska Travel Guide
  • 40 Items That Should Be On Your Winter Travel Packing List
  • 10 Essential Road Trip Planner Tools and Apps to Have On Your Phone

Emily Mandagie in Cannon Beach, The Oregon Coast -

Winter Trips On The Oregon Coast

Winter Trips - The Oregon Coast Itinerary -

Starting Point:  Portland, Oregon

You won’t find snow on the coast, but you’ll sure and hell encounter those iconic, gloomy Oregon coast days on this Pacific Northwest winter road trip route. If you can stand a little rain and wind, you’re likely to have many of these Oregon coast towns to explore without the crowds!

Bring your rain boots (with extra warm socks underneath) and a waterproof coat and get exploring! (Here’s our Oregon Coast packing list for all season!) Winter on the Oregon Coast brings an entirely new perspective. Crashing waves and muddy trails will bring a new meaning to the word ‘adventure’ on this winter drive.

Oregon Road Trip Resources :

  • The Complete Oregon Coast Road Trip Route
  • The 25 Best Beaches In Oregon (North To South)
  • 26 Jaw-Dropping Oregon Coast Hikes
  • 101 Things To Do In The Pacific Northwest
  • Amazing Things To Do In Coos Bay, Oregon

Burgdorf Hot Springs -

This Idaho Hot Springs Route Is The Perfect Winter Road Trip

Winter Trips USA - The Idaho Hot Springs Route -

Starting Point:  Boise, Idaho

Time Required: ~3-4 days

Is there anything better than soaking in hot springs while the snow peacefully falls around you? Come visit the state full of gorgeous commercial and natural hot springs…in Idaho!

Starting in Boise, you can easily see 6+ hot springs on one long weekend trip! Some of the highlights include The Springs in Idaho City, Kirkham Hot Springs , and Moutain Village Hot Springs!

When visiting, remember to leave the place better than you found it. That might mean packing out more garbage than you came in with! Thanks for keeping these delicate Idaho hot springs a magical place to other visitors too.

Idaho Winter Driving Caution: Some of the routes required to see Idaho hot springs (Like Highway 21) in winter often receive very heavy snowfall. Save this Idaho Road Conditions website for up-to-date information on road closures and expected openings.

Idaho Winter Driving Resources:

  • All The Best Idaho Hot Springs To Explore
  • How To Reach Burgdorf Hot Springs (snowmobiling only in the winter)
  • Stay at The Springs Idaho Mountain Resort
  • Why You Should Stay in Stanley, Idaho in The Winter

Kayaking in Washington State -

The Olympic Peninsula (Washington)

Olympic Peninsula Winter Road Trip -

Starting Point:  Seattle, Washington

Time Required: ~2-3 days (One long weekend trip from Seattle, Washington)

There are so many amazing spots to see on the Olympic Peninsula – even more beautiful with a light dusting of snow! Being from Washington, this is one of the best winter trips for us, and we love returning to the Washington coast time after time – there’s always something new to see. (By the way, if you want to stay longer, read our 10-day guide to the Olympic National Park !)

Some of the highlights of this west coast winter road trip include seeing the Kalaloch Tree Root Cave (Tree of Life) , hiking along Rialto Beach , exploring tide pools and Ruby Beach , and driving to the most Northwest part of the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery .

There are also plenty of Washington winter hikes on the Olympic Peninsula – the milder temperature makes many trails accessible year-round!

More Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Resources:

  • The Complete Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Itinerary
  • All The Best Washington Beaches To Explore

Notable Mentions For Winter Drives On The West Coast

We haven’t explored all the best winter trips in the USA, but they are on our list!

Here are some dream winter road trips we’d love to take someday, and we’re leaving them here to inspire you too.

  • Lake Tahoe, California – Discover all the wonderful things to do in Lake Tahoe in the winter (think skiing, sleigh rides, and more!)
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon – See this gorgeous Oregon national park in the deep snow!
  • Mount Hood Scenic Byway, Oregon – Don’t forget to stop by the Timberline Lodge for a snowy winter wonderland trip!
  • Highway 84, Sante Fe, New Mexico – See the desert in a blanket of snow on this adventurous highway.

What are some of your favorite winter road trip routes to take during the colder months? Share your favorites with us in the comments below!

More road trip routes + tips.

The Complete 10-Day Southwest Road Trip Route To See Everything

10 Easy Camping Meals Anyone Can Make On The Road

Find Free Camping Anywhere In The USA With Our Extensive Guide

How To Sleep In Your Car: The Art of Car Camping

Don't let the snow scare you! Take these 10 winter road trip routes to keep the adventure going all year long! We're sharing the best winter drives in the USA and Canada here... #roadtrip #winterdrives #winterroadtrip #winter #wintertrip #wintervacation #winterravel #westernUSA #canada #snow #mountains #USA

The perfect itinerary for an epic USA roadtrip (48 states at once)

You are currently viewing The perfect itinerary for an epic USA roadtrip (48 states at once)

  • Post author: Andrew D'Amours
  • Post published: December 28, 2022
  • Post category: Travel inspiration / Trip itineraries & destination discoveries
  • Post comments: 23 Comments

Do you like roadtrips? They happen to be a very American tradition and we found the perfect itinerary to visit every state in the continental USA during 1 epic roadtrip. A great trip idea for those who have a lot of time but want to stay closer to home .

Personally, I love roadtrips and I hit the road as much as I can, despite also being an aviation geek: you can like both, right? What matters is traveling and seeing new places , no matter how.

So here are the maps and details of the 2 itineraries that allow you to see all the lower 48 states at once, depending on your travel preference.

Basics of the 2 epic USA roadtrip itineraries

The USA is a huge country, almost as big as Europe (it’s even larger than Canada when considering land area alone).

So the USA has a lot of variety in terms of landscapes, but even in terms of culture too (even if many who aren’t from the country don’t realize that).

If you aim to eventually visit every state, any 1 of these 2 itineraries is a great way to almost all of them at once. The only 2 states you’ll have left to visit after this roadtrip will be Hawaii and Alaska.

There’s a version for national parks and points of interest and a version for cities.

usa road trip december

I’m on the quest to visit all 50 states myself (in addition to also visiting every country obviously), and I’m not doing too bad with 47 already.

But let’s just say it would’ve been much quicker to get to 48 at once with this roadtrip instead of having to do it over dozens of trips.

Here are the details.

48-state roadtrip – national parks/points of interest version

Here’s a map of the 1st itinerary.

usa road trip december

It was conceived by American Ph.D. student Randy Olson, on  his blog , and it was done scientifically to optimize the routing: each stop represents a national park or a point of interest.

So you’re not just seeing every state, you’re seeing cool parts of every state (which sadly wasn’t our case in North Dakota during our very random 1200-miles-nonstop-in-2-days Flytrippers roadtrip across the Midwest just for fun).

Good times. Roadtrips always make for great stories.

Anyway, the itinerary has also been optimized to be as efficient a route as possible to see all 48 states, so you can rest assured you won’t be wasting any time.

If you only stop to sleep, you can complete this roadtrip in only 9 days, but we recommend taking at least a couple of weeks to explore all these places obviously.

And gas is significantly cheaper in the US in case you were wondering. You can start anywhere, it’s a continuous loop, and it passes through many spots near the Canadian border.

You can even take a shortcut from Michigan to Vermont through Canada, as the stop in Cleveland is only to keep Americans without a passport from crossing into the Great White North.

Here is the complete list of all 50 landmarks (48 states + Washington, DC + a bonus stop in California):

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

These are all very enticing attractions, for the most part. It seems I’ve only seen 14 of those, so maybe I should hit the road again after all.

How about you? Tempted?

48-state roadtrip – city version

Here’s a map of the 2nd itinerary.

usa road trip december

If you’re more of a city slicker, the map’s author has created a 2nd version that routes you through amazing cities instead.

It is slightly shorter but quite as impressive: it makes you go through the “Best City to Visit” in each state, according to TripAdvisor .

But you won’t have all the lower 48 states, unlike the other itinerary. That’s because no city in Vermont, West Virginia, or North Dakota made the top 400 cities to visit ranking, unfortunately. So plan on making a few extra detours if you want to hit all states at once with this version of the itinerary.

Here is the complete list of all cities:

  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • San Francisco, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Park City, Utah
  • Jackson, Wyoming
  • Billings, Montana
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Manchester, New Hampshire
  • Portland, Maine
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • New Haven, Connecticut
  • New York City, New York
  • Ocean City, New Jersey
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Wilmington, Delaware
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Houston, Texas
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Branson, Missouri

I do a little better on this list, with 31 already visited. You can see I love cities. How about you?

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If you were looking for an excuse to go on a roadtrip, this is it. And since we always enjoy giving you more for your money, we think 48 states instead of only 1 or 2 is something you’ll enjoy!

What’s the coolest roadtrip you’ve ever been on? Tell us in the comments below.

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Featured image: The itinerary (image credit: Randy Olson)

Original publication date: May 29, 2018

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Andrew D'Amours

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This post has 23 comments.

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Hello Andrew, the PHD student suggests in the 1st Itinnerary that the one stop to make in Washington State is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation?! Flat out, that is a terrible idea. It is in the middle of nowhere, I am just shocked it’s mentioned. Out of all the beautiful and amazing places to see in such a diverse state as Washington, a Nuclear Site was chosen? Surely this student could have done so much better. Thank you for allowing comments.

' src=

Having been all around the Olympic Peninsula, I agree that’s there are better stops. But my understanding is that he really optimized for the quickest way to do all 48 and had to choose a point of interest that wasn’t too far off that optimal path, hence that choice (I think).

' src=

thanks for sharing this information with us.

' src=

I have taken a road trip from California to the the most northeastern part of theUS. west Quaby light house. it was my 1st trip across the us. .I seen so many amazing places.

Quite the drive for sure! Must have been epic.

' src=

Why do Americans always think the Statue of Liberty is in NY? it is in NJ. I’ve done road trips now that have taken in 39 states. Here’s a quiz to see how well you know the USA: Which state has only one syllable? Only one city has been name-checked on the moon. In which state is it? Which is the most Northerly of the contiguous states? In which state were Tennessee Williams and Elvis Presley born? Which was the last of the contiguous states to be admitted into the USA? Which four states all share a border with each other? Which state has the lowest population? Twelve cities are name-checked in “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” but only three states. Which? Which state has the longest name? Which two states have the most borders with other states? In which state is the geographical centre of the USA – and which one if you exclude Hawaii and Alaska? Which of the states of the USA has respectively the most Northerly, Southerly, Easterly and Westerly points?

' src=

The official Statue of Liberty address is Liberty Island, New York, NY, 10004.

' src=

Wow, these comments are very rude for no reason. Thanks for the article, maybe when I graduate from college I’ll consider hitting part of one of these itineraries.

' src=

“it’s a huge country (even larger than Canada when considering land area alone).”

Canada – 3.855 million mi² USA – 3.532 million mi² Where does this math fail you?

Where did reading fail you :P? It explicitly says “ when considering LAND area alone ” The quote you copied literally has a link provided under “even larger than Canada” and if you read that, it explains how Canada is only larger than the US due to water area being counted 🙂

' src=

There is no stop in North Dakota on the city version. You should stop in Fargo after Billings and before Sioux Falls

' src=

I’m 46 years old .. I have been to all 50 states and I’m 17 away from all 50 twice .. I have driven to 47 .. flown to Alaska, Hawaii and Washington..

Wow! That’s impressive :O

' src=

This is awesome

' src=

This is inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

' src=

“this roadtrip in only 9 days“ is extremely false statement. It is only 9 days if you are driving non stop, no breaks to even get out of your car, get gas, or actually see these places. From start to finish drive time it is 225 hours, 16 minutes = 9 days. Wow. Take some time to enjoy the view.

Yes, that’s what we said too 😛

' src=

Thanks for the tip 😊

' src=

Do you know the total distance of this itinerary? At what moment of the year doing this trip would be the best? Thanks!

Hi! It is 13,699 miles (22,046 km) for the landmarks itinerary and 12,290 miles (19,780 km) for the city version. You can even have the Google Maps links on the creator’s original post (I’ve reposted the link below). As for the timing, I guess it depends on your preferences, but I’d want to avoid that top half of the country (so half the itinerary) in the winter for sure!

' src=

Crappy itinerary! Does not even include Zion National Park… and so many stops in the North Eastern states?? Nobody cares about those places except maybe a couple of places.

As explained, the PhD student who built the itinerary wanted to have one stop per state, and there are many states in the North-East so that’s why there are many stops there. I agree that Zion is an iconic spot, but his goal was also to optimize a routing that was as short as possible so that’s why it’s billed as an itinerary to see all lower 48 states at once and not an itinerary to see *the best spots*. But those interested in doing this can definitely adapt it and add many interesting stops for sure 🙂

' src=

Curtis, you are crappy. Obviously this is meant as a guide that can be adapted to add spots. I think it’s awesome.

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USA Tours in December 2024

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161 USA trips in December 2024

Mighty 5 From Las Vegas Tour

  • Hiking & Trekking
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Mighty 5 From Las Vegas

Tour Radar made the booking process easy. Great variety of tours available. I would use this service again.

Wild West – 5 days Tour

  • In-depth Cultural

Wild West – 5 days

I love my tour guide Pasquale. He is the most sweetest, friendliest, kind, generous, and genuine tour guide I know. He really knows everything during my trip. He’s very easy going and I had the best experience ever in the 5 days I was traveling. Amazing experience and I would highly recommend Pasquale if you wanna travel with him and experience so much travelling for Wild West tour. Thank you so much an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Mighty 5 From Salt Lake City Tour

Mighty 5 From Salt Lake City

This was a wonderful experience brought to life by a passionate and caring tour guide.

Magnificent West – 8 days Tour

Magnificent West – 8 days

Except the hotels and breakfast, rest of the tour was great.

Hawaiian Explorer (8 Days, Intra Trip Surcharges Hawaiian Explorer) Tour

Hawaiian Explorer (8 Days, Intra Trip Surcharges Hawaiian Explorer)

Niagara Falls, Washington DC, Philadelphia & Amish Country 4D/3N (from New York) Tour

Niagara Falls, Washington DC, Philadelphia & Amish Country 4D/3N (from New York)

Great tour, we enjoyed it very much. Got to see loads of interesting things and ticked a lot off our bucket list.
  • 10% deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Hawaiian Discovery (11 Days) Tour

Hawaiian Discovery (11 Days)

It could have been more cost effective. We did enjoy the tour especially Tom Pugliese, the tour director. He made the trip worthwhile and memorable

USA - The Western Deserts Tour

USA - The Western Deserts

We have chosen the tour specifically because it was in German and also in other languages shown. Also on our voucher was again confirmed the tour with professional, German-speaking tour guide. Unfortunately, the tour guides did not speak German. We were able to help ourselves a bit with the translation app but we also missed a lot of information. We are very disappointed about this and expect compensation. The tour guides have tried and were very nice also the tour was very nice.

USA - The Golden Experience Tour

USA - The Golden Experience

USA – 8 Days Arches Canyonlands Antelope Zion Bryce Grand Canyon Tour

USA – 8 Days Arches Canyonlands Antelope Zion Bryce Grand Canyon

Tennessee Music Trail to New Orleans Tour

  • Food & Culinary

Tennessee Music Trail to New Orleans

Georgia History Trail to Nashville  Tour

  • Sightseeing

Georgia History Trail to Nashville

National Parks Winter Tour Tour

National Parks Winter Tour

Amazing tour I did the tour end of March amazing trip. A little colder than I expected but I still had an awesome and fabulous time. I regretted I did not take the helicopter tour for the Grand canyon. Zion is also beautiful do anticipate the shuttle bus ride that theres a lot people and could take you up more time as theres very long line up. Antelope canyon was my highlight for this tour its incredibly beautiful. Take the Navajo guided tour- you won't regret it. Hogan was very patient with us and very informative. Highly recommended.
  • 5% deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Great Cities of the West Tour

Great Cities of the West

Sedona, Monument Valley & Antelope Canyon Experience 3D/2N (from Las Vegas) Tour

Sedona, Monument Valley & Antelope Canyon Experience 3D/2N (from Las Vegas)

Roberto -our guide & Joel - our driver were both awesome - very helpful & kind & have a great sense of humour & very tolerant of us seniors. I definitely would recommend the tour and hope to take another tour soon with the same guides. Thank you for a great trip! It was a great experience!

What people love about USA Tours in December

Excellent tour of the Mighty 5 in Utah. Our guide Robin was knowledgeable and accommodating throughout the tour. Just enough time was allocated for hiking the trails, viewing the sites in the distance and even visiting the Visitor Centers in each park. Hotel/motel accommodations were good and chosen for access to restaurants. Lunch stops with corresponding places to eat were well planned and the food and service was good. We thoroughly enjoyed our time.
Everything was great. We enjoyed the pacing of our itinerary and our guide Gogee was excellent.


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linn cove viaduct on blue ridge parkway with early fall foliage, one of the best southern usa road trip itineraries

17 Spectacular Southern USA Road Trip Itinerary Ideas

From the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains to the sandy beaches of the Lowcountry, and from the music of Nashville to the food scene of New Orleans, there is no shortage of wonderful options when looking for the best southern USA road trip itineraries.

I’ve been taking road trips in the south for my entire life, crisscrossing across the southeast USA visiting cities, towns, national parks, beaches, marshes, and beyond.

And yet, even after all that time, there are still plenty of southern road trip routes on my wish list.

In order to give perspectives beyond my own, I asked several other travel bloggers to share their favorite road trips in the south, and the result is a road trip bucket list that would take even the most dedicated road-tripper years to complete!

From weeks-long deep south road trip itineraries to quick weekend getaways, these southeast US road trip ideas cover an enormous variety of landscapes and interests.

No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for, we have a southern USA road trip itinerary here for you!

Table of Contents

Quick Tips for Your Southeast USA Road Trip

Deep south usa road trip itinerary ideas, other multi-state southern usa road trip routes, more single-state southeast road trip itineraries.

Jones Street in Savannh GA with a green house in the left foreground and an oak tree on the right. Jones Street is one of the best Savannah photo spots

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Ideally, take your southern road trip in the spring or fall.

While you can technically take all of these southern USA road trips year-round, the south’s notoriously brutal summer means that it’s best to avoid the months of June, July, and August if you can (unless you plan to spend most of your time on the beach, of course).

Winter, depending on the location, can be gray and rainy, but can also be a joyous time to visit cities, towns, and mountains that see far less tourism in the winter (but don’t underestimate the possibility of snow in the mountains, either: it may be the south, but the Smokies still get snow!).

kate storm jeremy storm and ranger storm at craggy pinnacle on blue ridge parkway during 3 days in asheville nc

If you’re renting a car, shop around.

The best company to rent a car from for your US south road trip will likely vary dramatically depending on where and when you’re traveling.

Sometimes large international carriers offer the best prices, sometimes local outfits. Sometimes one company has an excellent base price, but terrible rental requirements.

The best way to find your rental car is to search through  Discover Cars , which will sift through dozens of companies to find the best combination of low prices and reasonable rental terms for your USA road trip.

Browse rental cars  for your southern USA road trip today!

We have offered suggestions for the best hotels in each place but if you are doing this as a true road trip it is really cool to do it in an RV. You can rent incredible RVs and camper vans from Outdoorsy, book here for your next road trip!

Kate in a pink dress next to a blue Vespa on Ocean Avenue.

Read the rental requirements carefully.

Especially make sure you know how many miles you’ve been allotted (or ideally, if they’re unlimited), if you need to return the car empty or full of fuel, what to do if the car breaks down, and what damages you’re liable for in the event of an accident.

two lane road shaded by spanish moss on jekyll island georgia

Don’t underestimate the south’s national parks!

The wide-open spaces and epic landscapes of the American West are often the typical images conjured up when imagining the USA’s national parks–but the south has plenty to offer, as well!

In fact, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee is the most-visited national park in the country, and its gorgeous vistas and jaw-dropping waterfalls are well worth exploring.

Other southern national parks to consider adding to your road trip through the south include Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Everglades National Park in South Florida, and Congaree National Park in South Carolina–just to name a few!

rainbow falls smoky mountains, surrounded by green foliage

Make sure you pack the right gear.

From safety gear to snacks, a deep south road trip requires bringing the right tools along, whether you’re taking a short vacation, trying out van life, or something in between.

We recommend taking a look at the suggestions on  our road trip packing list  before you go!

Don’t overextend yourself.

Exploring every nook and cranny of the US south is a project for a lifetime, not one trip!

As tempting as it is to add on additional driving to stop at just one more beach or small town, make sure that you leave enough time to thoroughly explore each destination rather than spending the entirety of your road trip driving from one spot to the next.

Kate Storm in a purple dress standing at the top of Cape Lookout lighthouse with the barrier island visible behind her

Mississippi Gulf Coast Scenic Byway

From Charles of US Gulf Coast Travel

One of the best scenic coastal drives in the United States is the Gulf Coast Scenic Byway (US Highway 90 / Beach Boulevard) in  Coastal Mississippi , where for 11 glorious miles there is nothing between you and the soft sugar sand and Gulf of Mexico water.

The most awe-inspiring section of the Gulf Coast Scenic Byway is from Henderson Point Beach to the Port of Gulfport Mississippi.

Drive this portion, or this entire road trip, in either direction, but we suggest west to east because you are closer to the water.

Start this road trip after an overnight in Bay St Louis or New Orleans (55 miles away).

In Bay St Louis, fuel up at Mockingbird Cafe (try their pulled pork and grits) or Serious Bakery (superb chicken salad).

Drive across the iconic St. Louis Bay Bridge and your senses will activate and heighten with your first Gulf and sand view.

Stop as often as you want because parking is free!

The coastal drive continues through Gulfport and into Biloxi.

road lined with trees in mississippi on a deep south road trip itinerary

Visit the new Mississippi Aquarium, stroll the Biloxi Beach Boardwalk, and eat at White Pillars or The Blind Tiger.

After crossing the Biloxi Bay Bridge, make time to explore the wonderful small town of Ocean Springs.

Stroll the gorgeous oak-lined Washington Avenue, stop at Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and eat at Vestige.

Highway 90 continues through Pascagoula (Jimmy Buffett’s birthplace) and into Mobile, Alabama, where you can turn around and complete this classic deep south road trip again.

Driving Distance

Bay St Louis to Pascagoula is 50 miles. New Orleans to Pascagoula is 107 miles and it is another 35 miles to Mobile, Alabama.

Recommended Road Trip Length

You can drive this coastal scenic drive in a couple of hours but we suggest allowing three or more days to fully experience the spectacular sugar sand, seafood, sunsets, and small beach towns of Coastal Mississippi.

beach at sunset in mississippi as seen on southeast usa road trip route

Alabama Black Belt Road Trip

From Lori of Southerner Says

A road trip through the Black Belt region of Alabama is one of the best southern USA road trips around.

Named for the dark fertile soil of the region, the Alabama Black Belt is made up of twenty-three states across central and south Alabama.

This part of Alabama is the place where significant law-changing history was made, where literary giants were born, and is home to some of the best food that can be found in the United States.

For first-time visitors or someone flying in, there’s no better way to start an Alabama southern road trip than by including the capital –  Montgomery.

Plan on visiting important civil rights sites and the renowned Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

Next, drive west approximately fifty miles to Selma, Alabama on Highway 80.

This route is the same route as the important Selma to Montgomery march for voters’ rights that took place in 1965.

See the places that put this small town on the map and made it crucial in the civil rights movement.

Walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge, eat locally caught catfish, and sleep in a hotel that was built in 1837 . 

edmund pettus bridge in selma alabama, important civil rights destination

After saying a farewell to Selma, drive county backroads approximately seventy miles to the literary capital of the south.

As unbelievable as it may seem, Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird and Truman Capote – Breakfast at Tiffany’s were childhood friends in the south.

They both grew up in Monroeville, Alabama – the next stop on this southern road trip. Take a walk around the charming downtown square to spot murals that pay tribute to these well-known books and authors.

From Monroeville, it’s easy to hop on Interstate-65 north to return to Montgomery or take the scenic route for a few more towns and sites on your southern road trip.

Driving Distance 

Recommended road trip length  .

This itinerary would be good for a weekend or long weekend.

Since the Alabama Black Belt is a rather large region there is an abundance of small towns and sites that can be added to a southern road trip.

Visitors could easily spend a week or two in the area.

historic route street signs in montgomery alabama on deep south road trip itinerary

Mississippi’s Highway 61 (Blues Trail)

From Hannah of HH Lifestyle Travel

A road trip from Memphis to New Orleans down Mississippi’s Highway 61 is rich in music history; and the inevitable river lore that pervades a road trip running parallel to the Mighty Mississippi.

In true road trip style, the road itself is part of the fun of the journey.  

Highway 61 is long and flat and often sits higher than the fields and levees below it.  It is punctuated by quaint southern churches, glimpses of the Mississippi River, and cities rich in blues history. 

Enjoy visiting one of the legendary ‘juke joints’ in  Clarksdale, Mississippi .  

If there is one stop on the road trip to learn about the history of blues music in the area, it’s Clarksdale.  

Visit the Devil’s Crossroads, the Delta Blues Museum, and many more Blues Trail plaques.

Your next stop is Vicksburg.  Brimming with Civil War history, Vicksburg mixes reverence with rejuvenation.  

Pay your respects to meaningful Civil War history, but then enjoy a day spa and quality craft brewpub experience.

bridges crossing the mississippi river at vicksburg, an interesting stop on a deep south road trip itineraries

Natchez sits on an important bluff on a bend in the Mississippi River with a long history.  

The historic district of Natchez Under-the-Hill has a prime position along the river and was once famous for gambling and river pirates.  

Nowadays it’s a cute place to see the Mighty Mississippi and have lunch in one of the historic buildings.

End your road trip in the vibrant and magnetic city of New Orleans .

Driving Distance  

It takes around 9 hours of non-stop driving time from Memphis to New Orleans, but with time spent in the stops above it would suit a 5–7-day road trip.  

Plan a bit longer if you want to spend time in both Memphis and New Orleans before and after this deep south road trip experience.

Street in NOLA French Quarter at night with neon lights from the bars lighting it up--don't miss a chance to experience the legendary New Orleans nightlife during your 3 days in NOLA itinerary!

Coastal Georgia and South Carolina Road Trip

From Noel of Travel Photo Discovery

One of the fabulous road trips in the southeastern USA travels along the historic coastal corridors of Georgia to South Carolina, finishing in Charleston.

From the Georgia border to Florida, the major artery is Hwy 95, you’ll pass through so many historic and recreational sites along the way to make this a few days or even a longer visit depending on how many places you want to see and experience.

Some of the cool and historic places to visit in Georgia include St. Marys and Cumberland Island, Brunswich and St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island , Tybee Island , and Savannah .

Places to explore around South Carolina’s southern coastline from Savannah include Hilton Head, Beaufort, Edisto Island, and Charleston.

Each of these areas caters to historic sites or recreation getaways that are fun to explore when you have more time to visit each area on this road trip.

woman riding a bike through a path lined with spanish moss on jekyll island, one of the best day trips from savannah georgia

Even though you can go directly on Hwy 95 from the Georgia border all the way to South Carolina, it’s the small detour expressways and backcountry roads that will give you a better insight into visiting some of these gems in the region.  

If you only have a few days or longer then the major cities of Savannah and Charleston are memorable cities to prioritize to experience the local lifestyles foods that you’ll enjoy on this southern road trip experience.

Savannah, with its historic squares, fabulous architecture, and historic district that remains intact includes so much to see, do and experience around the historic center of the city.

Charleston on the other hand is more compact and walkable with a tighter historic district to enjoy and explore on your own or with some tour operator sharing the main attractions to see in town.

It’s 107 miles to drive straight from Savannah to Charleston.

If you’re focusing on Savannah and Charleston, 5 days is a comfortable length for this USA southern road trip itinerary.

Add additional days for each city, small town, or island that you’d like to visit.

kate storm in a floral dress at rainbow row in charleston sc

The Classic Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Route

From Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches 469 miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, is such an unimaginably epic USA road trip, that veterans almost envy people who are experiencing it for the first time.

There are a lot of reasons it’s the #1 most visited unit in the US National Park system (with more than 15 million annual visitors), including 200 jaw-dropping BRP overlooks that offer stunning Blue Ridge Mountain vistas and provide access to the region’s most incredible hiking trails, landmarks, mountain towns, and waterfalls.

Designed as part of FDR’s New Deal to protect American wilderness and provide jobs in the wake of the Great Depression, construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began back in 1935.

Most of the scenic route was completed by 1966, but the popular 8-mile stretch around the iconic Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina (including the engineering marvel known as the Linn Cove Viaduct) wasn’t finished until 1987.

The BRP is the longest linear park in the country, taking travelers through the Jefferson, George Washington, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests.

usa road trip december

So naturally, there are a lot of exciting things to do along the way. 

At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River, with lots of challenging hiking trails and a relatively easy paved path to the observation platform at the summit.

Grandfather Mountain State Park is also home to epic hiking trails (including several with ladders to climb massive boulders), and the neighboring Grandfather Mountain attraction is home to the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, a small zoo featuring native North Carolina animals, and myriad picnic areas. 

Virginia’s Mabry Mill is the most photographed spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and one of the region’s many historical attractions.

mabry mill on blue ridge parkway, one of the top us south road trip itinerary ideas

There’s very little commercial development along the Parkway, with only a few hotels and resorts (including the historic Switzerland Inn in  Little Switzerland NC ,  and the Peaks of Otter Lodge in Bedford VA).

But part of the fun is exploring some of the charming little mountain towns along the way, including Cherokee, Blowing Rock, and Boone in NC, and Bedford, Lexington, and Waynesboro in VA.

You could drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway in as little as 15-16 hours if you wanted, but that would totally defeat the purpose.

Some people like to break it up into weekend getaways, basing themselves in a local town.

But you could also spend a week or two driving the entire route, spending nights in lots of little towns along the way.

usa road trip december

Chattanooga, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina

From Kim of Traveling Swansons

A Chattanooga, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina southeast road trip takes you on a tour of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the region.

Chattanooga is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and located along the Tennessee River.

There are many fun things to do here including the Tennessee Aquarium, Lookout Mountain, Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway.

After leaving Chattanooga, your next stop will be Knoxville, Tennessee.

Check out the Sunsphere Tower, which was built for the 1982 World’s Fair.  Walk around Market Square and grab a bite to eat and shop.

After leaving Knoxville, your next stop will be Pigeon Forge. 

historic gristmill in pigeon forge tennessee at night, one of the best places to stay down south

Here you find no shortage of attractions including the popular Dollywood. 

Right next to Pigeon Forge, you’ll find the town of Gatlinburg. 

In Gatlinburg, you will also find plenty of attractions including Anakeesta and the Gatlinburg Skybridge. 

Gatlinburg is one of the busiest and most popular gateway towns to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park  has many amazing hiking trails, waterfalls, and views. 

Drive the breathtaking scenic Newfound Gap Road to Cherokee, North Carolina. Jump out along the many turnouts along the way and enjoy the scenery. 

Once you reach Cherokee, explore the Oconaluftee Indian Village and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.  Shop for some authentic Cherokee arts and crafts.

The drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina is 191 miles and takes 3 hrs 51 minutes if driving straight through. 

Since there is so much to do on this southern USA road trip, you will want to spend at least 5 days here in order to take in as much as you can along the way.

view of great smoky mountains sunset from newfound gap road trip south usa

NOLA to Nashville Southern Road Trip Itinerary

From Agnes of The Van Escape

The southern USA road trip from New Orleans to Nashville is extraordinary.

Why? Nashville and New Orleans are music cities.

New Orleans – the world capital of jazz and Nashville – the capital of American country music – anyone who likes live concerts will appreciate this combination.

And indeed, in both cities, you can listen to music at every turn!

Concerts, music events, live music in almost every restaurant, bar, and even on the streets – Nashville and New Orleans are alive with sounds.

Moreover, there are many great  things to do in Nashville and in New Orleans.

In Nashville visit Jonny Cash Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Grand Ole Opry, reproduction of the Parthenon, and Downtown with famous Broadway Street.

Skyline of Nashville Tennessee at sunset overlooking the river, one of the most romantic getaways in the United States

In New Orleans, visit the French Quarter, the Jazz Museum, the Woodoo Museum, the National WWII Museum, explore one of the famous cemeteries, sign up for a swamp tour. Enjoy the best cocktails at the famous Bourbon Street.

Both cities are also known for their excellent cuisine. In New Orleans, you’ll melt at the tastes and smells of Louisiana Creole cuisine, and in Nashville, you’ll delight at the famous juicy BBQ ribs and more.

That’s not all. Both cities are famous for the finest spirits.

New Orleans offers great alcoholic cocktails and in Nashville, you can try classic Tennessee Jack Daniels whiskey , whose distillery is nearby.

The driving time from NOLA to Nashville is about 8 hours, and 4-5 days is perfect for this road trip.

You can cover the distance in one day or split it into two days and spend one night in Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama.

To feel the atmosphere of each city and immerse yourself in its music world, we recommend two nights in New Orleans and two in Nashville.

3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary: St Louis Cathedral

Virginia Beach, Virginia to Hilton Head, South Carolina

From Alex of Wander With Alex

If you’re planning a road trip from Virginia Beach, VA to Hilton Head, SC, and need a few stops along the way, we’ve got you covered!

While Virginia Beach and Hilton Head are both popular southern beach towns, the experience is very different!

They are both, however, family-friendly vacation destinations with lots of unique things to do and see.

While in Virginia Beach, VA you’ll want to check out the main beach at the Oceanfront.

fishing pier in virginia beach va at sunrise

There are 35 miles of beachfront, an amusement park on Atlantic Ave, and tons of souvenir shops for you to choose from.

If you’re looking for something free to do, check out the Creative ViBE District for murals, sidewalk art, and other creative artwork!

Now that’ll you’ve explored Virginia Beach, it’s time to hit the road!

After being on the road for seven and a half hours, you’ll be nearing Savannah, GA! If you’ve never been to Savannah, consider staying overnight.

You can take a riverboat dinner cruise on the Savannah River or enjoy a low country dinner at one of the best restaurants in Savannah .

Kate Storm and Ranger Storm on Jones Street, one of the best places to take pictures in savannah ga

And since Hilton Head is only 45-minutes from Savannah, you can stick around for a few hours in the morning and to Tybee Island before heading over to Hilton Head!

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is a laid-back resort town offering beautiful beaches and tons of golf courses.

Additionally, Hilton Head is incredibly bike-friendly.

Head over to Hilton Head Outfitters, rent bicycles for the whole family, and go exploring!

And if you are a seafood lover, you’ll have tons of waterfront restaurant options!

A road trip from Virginia Beach, VA to  Hilton Head, SC  via Interstate-95 is approximately 589 miles.

If you do not want to stay overnight in Savannah, you can make the trip in seven and a half hours.

However, if you prefer slow travel and wish to explore Savannah, you should consider making this a two-day drive.

red and white lighthouse and small harbor in hilton head sc, one of the best stops on a deep south usa road trip route

Gulf Coast Beach Road Trip from Alabama to Florida

From Ashlee of The Happiness Function

One of the best-kept secrets in the South are the sugar-white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico from Alabama to the Florida panhandle.

If you have never heard of Dauphin Island, Alabama, it is a must-visit southern destination.

Take the ultimate beach road trip from Dauphin Island, Alabama, to Pensacola, Florida!

Dauphin Island, Alabama, is a beautiful place to visit. The island is home to many different wildlife species, including sea turtles, and the scenery is simply stunning.

If you’re looking for a place to relax and enjoy nature, Dauphin Island is the perfect spot. Plan to stay at least two days.

beach at dauphin island alabama southern beach road trip

From Dauphin Island, take the ferry across Mobile Bay to Fort Morgan, where visitors can continue the road trip to Gulf Shores.

Be sure to visit Gulf State Park and enjoy the incredible beaches from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach! Plan at least two days in Gulf Shores.

Gulf Islands National Seashore in Fort Pickens is a popular tourist destination offering a variety of activities such as catching some sun on beaches, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and exploring the historic fort.

Camp at the  Fort Pickens Campground  for a few days to enjoy all the island offers.

From Gulf Shores, continue east into the Florida panhandle towards Pensacola.

A road trip along the southern coast of Alabama into the Florida panhandle makes for an incredible beach road trip any time of year.

We recommend taking about a week to enjoy this road trip in the US south.

This way, road trippers can enjoy each destination for two days.

pensacola beach water tower with beach visible in the background

Savannah, Georgia to Clearwater, Florida Road Trip

From Terri of

If you’re looking for beautiful beaches and fun in the sun, plan a short southern road trip route from Savannah to Clearwater.

Plan to start at dawn from Savannah on a Saturday so you can arrive by noon in  Clearwater, Florida .

Google Maps or Waze will offer you the choice of traveling down I-95 toward Orlando and then across to Tampa/St. Pete outposts.

Alternatively, you can drive through Jacksonville and then cut across the state via US-301 S and I-75 S.

The estimated time is 6 hours if you don’t hit bad traffic on I-95.

aerial view of clearwater beach florida, a fun stop on a usa south road trips

You will also have time to eat fried grouper at Clearwater Beach for lunch, then hit the Clearwater Aquarium for an afternoon adventure.

Dedicate the evening to drinking margaritas and watching the sunset.

You might want to watch the sunset (while sipping a cocktail) at Pier 60 on Saturday night or delay until Sunday because you will be exhausted from your early morning drive.

Clearwater is also a great place to settle while you plan day trips to Tampa, St. Pete, and Sarasota.

While you can easily make the drive in a day, it’s best to set aside a week for this US south road trip as you will lose two days to travel.

Florida’s Gulf Coast deserves a minimum five-day stay so you can experience different beaches.

promenade along the sand in clearwater beach florida

Southeast USA Road Trip from Washington DC to Florida

From Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids

One of the best road trips in the southeast US is from Washington, DC to  Anna Maria Island, Florida . 

If you want to break it up with overnights and stops, I recommend going from Washington DC to Raleigh, NC on Day 1.  On Day 2, drive from Raleigh, NC to Savannah, GA.  Then on Day 3, drive from Savannah, GA to Anna Maria Island, FL.

Starting in Washington, DC, where there is much to see from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to the Smithsonian Museums, you can begin heading on the road toward Virginia and the Carolinas. 

In Virginia, the historic college town of Williamsburg is well worth a visit. 

In addition to being a beautiful town, home to William and Mary College, it is also where you can step back in time at Colonial Williamsburg and learn a bit about American history. 

Horse and carriage in colonial Williamsburg that is moving away from the camera on a paved road

From here, head into North Carolina and stop in Raleigh if you plan to spend the night.

Then head into South Carolina, where a drive-through or stop in Charleston is a great thing to do. 

The historic and lavish architecture is well worth a look, and the southern hospitality and walk on the waterfront are worth it even just for a short visit. 

From here, continue into Georgia, where a stop in Savannah is a must. 

If you have a bit of time to spend in this southern city, the hop on hop off trolley, walking tours, and a 90-minute riverboat sightseeing cruise would be worth doing. 

This beautiful and historic city really is a gem on this road trip, so be sure to build in a bit of time, and even book a bed and breakfast for the night.  

Kate Storm in a black dress in front of a brick home on Jones Street during a long weekend in Savannah GA

Continue on from Georgia into northern Florida, where if you can stop in Jacksonville for a visit to the University of Florida or in St. Augustine for lunch or a walking tour of this beautiful and historic city. 

There is an old town part of St. Augustine well worth visiting, and depending on the time of day, is a great stop for a lunch. Continue on from St. Augustine to Anna Maria Island, Florida.

You may pass through Orlando and Tampa, which if you have time, may want to stop in one of these cities. 

While Orlando is home to many theme parks and activities, you won’t have time on this drive to do many of those unless you build in another day or two to your drive.

Instead, I suggest stopping in Tampa, where you will get to view this fantastic seaside city, where you can enjoy a cruise, walk around Ybor City, or grab a meal at the famous (and delicious) Columbia Restaurant. 

view of downtown tampa fl looking up with skyscrapers and palm trees

While you are also right at Clearwater Beach, you may want to save that beach visit for Anna Maria Island, just about an hours drive from Tampa, on the Gulf Coast, and renowned for its teal Caribbean-like water, white soft sand, quieter beaches, and home rentals perfect for a beach getaway. 

It’s the perfect destination to such a cultural and historic road trip, and one of the best road trips in the south USA.

Approximately 945 miles (about 14 hours total) one way.

Approximately 945 miles (about 14 hours total) one way, this road trip is at least a two to three-day drive, depending on how much you would like to stop along the way. 

aerial view of anna maria island, one of the best unknown vacation spots in us hidden gems

The Outer Banks of North Carolina Road Trip

From Candice of CS Ginger

One of the best Southern USA road trips is driving through the Outer Banks. There are so many fun things to do in the Outer Banks  and its sweeping coastal scenery is gorgeous.

The Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands off the North Carolina coast filled with beautiful beaches, lighthouses, and fun beach towns.

A great historic stop in the Outer Banks is at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

This is where the Wright brothers completed the first controlled flight in December of 1903.

There are a fun visitor’s center, some historical markers, and a replica of the first plane.

The Outer Banks is also home to the tallest brick lighthouse in the world. You can climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. There are 257 steps to the top.

The lighthouse and Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a great place to spend the afternoon. The beaches are beautiful and not crowded.

view of black and white cape hatteras lighthouse north carolina

After spending time at Cape Hatteras, you can take the ferry over to Ocracoke Island.

There is another lighthouse on this smaller island, but it is not open to visitors.

There are, however, beautiful beaches making this island a fun spot to explore.

The distance from the northern town of Corolla through Hatteras, the southern point, is about 95 miles.

If you continue to the ferry to Ocracoke, the mileage is longer.

You can easily fill 4-5 days with fun activities during your Outer Banks road trip, and spend even more time in the area if you want to relax on the beach.

couple walking along the beach at sunset in the outer banks, one of the most romantic getaways in north carolina for couples

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park

From Anna of Stuck On The Go

One of the best road trips in the southern US winds through Shenandoah National Park offering stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you drive Skyline Drive straight through it only takes a little under 3 hours but there are so many hikes, overlooks, and small towns to stop and explore. This is the perfect road trip for outdoorsy people.

You can start at the Front Royal Entrance Station and on your first day hike to Compton Peak where you’ll find a gorgeous view as well as unique geological formations that resemble the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland .

In the afternoon, head out to the town of Luray where you can shop in the boutiques along Main Street and visit the famous Luray Caverns.

If you like to camp then stay the night in Mathews Arm Campground, otherwise rent a room at the Skyland Resort inside the park.

For day two you can fit in two hikes – Stony Man and Hawksbill – which both offer stunning mountain views and are 2 of the best hikes in Shenandoah .

stony man cliffs in shenandoah national park virginia

Have lunch at Big Meadows and make sure you get the blackberry ice cream pie for dessert!

In the afternoon you can hike Dark Hollow Falls or just head into Elkton or Sperryville.

Visit Sperryville for wineries and Elkton for breweries. Tonight stay at the Lewis Mountain Cabins & Campground.

On the last day of the road trip, hike Doyles River Falls and Blackrock Summit.

Stop for lunch at Blue Mountain Brewery and check out some of the other Waynesboro breweries. Main Street in Waynesboro is also very quaint.

For many people, 3 days is enough to spend in Shenandoah National Park.

However, if you are very outdoorsy and love to hike and explore small towns then you can spend a week in the Shenandoah Valley.

road through shenandoah national park from above in early fall, one of the best road trips in south usa

Northwest Arkansas Road Trip Loop

From Lydia of Lost With Lydia

Arkansas is an underrated state with a lot to offer for outdoor adventurers!

The state has beautiful state parks, incredible mountain biking trails, a uniquely historic national park, and much more.

The northwest portion of Arkansas is where you’ll find the most beautiful natural areas along with some fantastic cities. 

This road trip begins in Bentonville, a city known for mountain biking, modern art, and as the Walmart headquarters.

There are miles of mountain biking trails in parks around the city and trails range from beginner to advanced. 

Continue on from Bentonville to Buffalo National River, a beautiful river with epic canyon walls towering above it.

After the National River, enjoy hiking in the Ozark National Forest (the most famous hike is Whitaker Point) and take in the views at Mount Magazine and Mount Nebo. Mount Magazine is the highest point in the state. 

Be sure to not miss the most iconic state park in Arkansas: Petit Jean. This state park is a favorite of many and is home to a 95-foot waterfall, caves, and several unique rock formations. 

Spend some time in Little Rock for great food and interesting history. 

hiker standing on hawksbill crag in northwest arkansas ozark mountains

Things to do in Little Rock include visiting the Little Rock Central High School Museum, exploring the vibrant SOMA neighborhood, and hiking at Pinnacle Mountain. 

Finally, end your road trip with a visit to Arkansas’ only national park: Hot Springs.

Hot Springs National Park was a resort destination in the early 1900s and there are a couple of bathhouses still in operation today.

In addition to the spas, you can visit a brewery inside of a bathhouse and enjoy the views from the observation tower. 

A week is the minimum amount of time you’ll want to fully explore the cities and hiking destinations along the way.

Ideally, take 10 days or more to take your time and enjoy this underrated southern USA road trip itinerary.

small waterfall in hot springs national park arkansas

Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast Road Trip

From Lori of Travlinmad

If you’re looking for an ideal year-round  road trip destination, Florida’s Gulf Coast  offers dreamy beaches, fantastic food, and some of America’s most (in)famous history!

Begin your road trip in Tampa, where you can spend 2 days exploring the city’s Cuban history in Ybor City and enjoy the amazing cuisine before heading south to Sarasota and Siesta Key.

Spend the next day in Sarasota admiring the mid-century architecture and visiting the Ringling Museum.

Shoppers will no doubt stay longer on St. Armand’s Circle, then head to Siesta Key later in the day to take in the new age vibes of the nightly drumming circle on the beach at sunset.

The next day, drive south to Casperson Beach in Venice and rent a “Florida snow shovel” for a few dollars to dig in the sand for prehistoric megalodon shark teeth.

Millions of them wash ashore every day and you just might find a big one to treasure!

Spend the night at Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, one of Southwest Florida’s most historic towns before heading out the next morning for Fort Myers.

port boca grande lighthouse in florida at sunset, a fun stop on a usa south road trip

Situated where the Caloosahatchee River meets the Gulf of Mexico, the city of Fort Myers is worth a few days to explore the history and the beautiful beaches on Sanibel and Captiva.

Visit the summer homes of neighbors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, whose mansions are popular tourist attractions today.

The last stop on your road trip is Naples and Marco Island on the southwestern coast. This stunning region is known as the Paradise Coast and it’s easy to see why.

Spend your days on the soft white sand beaches, shopping at the luxury stores and dining downtown, or get out into the Everglades for some adventure.

It is 180 miles from Tampa to Marco Island.

Plan on 7-10 days for this southern road trip route.

There is plenty to see in the major cities of Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Naples, and Marco Island, but you’ll find the real gems in between!

dome houses on marco island florida

Virginia’s Eastern Shore Drive: Chincoteague to Cape Charles

Recommended by Erin Gifford of Go Hike Virginia

There’s so much to love about  Virginia’s Eastern Shore .

Roll down the windows and breathe in the salt-infused air as you make the 70-mile drive north to south from Chincoteague to Cape Charles.

Get ready to make stops for sandy beaches, ice cream shops, and verdant wetlands just right for a scenic paddle.

Start at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to miles of stroller-friendly hiking and biking trails.

The Chincoteague Lighthouse Trail is a must-visit to ogle the red-and-white striped Assateague Lighthouse.

Take a guided kayak tour or nature cruise across pristine coastal waterways with Assateague Explorer.

Keep your eyes open for wild ponies, as well as native wildlife, like sandhill cranes and eastern mud turtles, that call the wildlife refuge home.

wild horses on the beach of Chincoteague virginia, one of the best usa small towns to visit

Order up a scoop of Mint Chip or Pony Tracks at Island Creamery.

Spend the night at the Refuge Inn, a mainstay in Chincoteague since 1973. Chincoteague is also home to several camping resorts, including KOA and Jellystone Park.

Continue on to Onancock, a historic waterfront town.

Start your day with a delicious breakfast sandwich at Janet’s Café before strolling the hamlet’s tree-lined streets that wow with Victorian-style homes.

Take a tour of Ker Place, a historic Federal-style home.

On the south end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore is Cape Charles, which is home to gentle beaches and vibrantly-colored sunsets.

sunrise in the harbor with boats in virginia

Spend the day on the beach at Kiptopeke State Park, then order hush puppies at The Shanty.

Cap off the day with a scoop at Brown Dog Ice Cream and settle in at the Sunset Beach Hotel on the Chesapeake Bay.

70  miles.

This trip is best enjoyed over at least 3 days, including one day in Chincoteague, one day in Onancock, and one day in Cape Charles.

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2 photos of southern road trips, charleston and anna maria island. black and red text reads "17 epic road trips in the south"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

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Road trips USA: Route inspiration and ideas

usa road trip december

There's no vacation more American than a road trip through the USA. To help you plan your adventure, we're sharing some of the best road trip routes in the USA, from Route 66 to the Pacific Coast Highway. Plus, find out what factors to consider when choosing when and where to go.

In this post

Suitable cars for your road trip in the U.S.

Best time to do a road trip in the u.s., estimate your road trip budget, one-week road trip usa: from seattle to los angeles, the ultimate 2-week road trip in the u.s., 5-day road trip in texas.

Three happy friends capture a cheerful moment with a selfie during their travel adventure

The U.S. is a massive country with diverse road conditions, so the best rental car for your USA road trip depends on your route. If you're taking a city-centric East Coast road trip, consider booking a smaller rental car to more easily navigate city streets. If you're crossing vast distances out in the wilderness, a larger vehicle like an SUV might be more suitable. Avoid electric vehicles when driving remote routes, as charging stations may be sparse.

Two happy women hug in front of a vehicle parked by the shore.

Because the U.S. is so vast, there's no singular best time to take a road trip. The weather varies dramatically across the country. For instance, the wettest month in New York City is July, yet July is the driest month in Los Angeles (data sourced on ). And while the average temperature is below freezing in Salt Lake City in January, the average temperature in Los Angeles is a mild 57.3°F. Overall, it's best to avoid extreme weather no matter what USA road trip route you're taking, so avoid winter up north and summer down south or in the desert.

You should also consider the popularity of the destinations along your route. Peak travel months may mean accommodations and rental cars are more expensive and harder to book. Most tourism peaks in the summer or during the holidays (based on KAYAK’s flight searches data), so consider traveling during spring or fall for the fewest crowds and more reasonable prices.

A person stands beside a dog next to a car and a tent pitched on the hilltop.

Before you select your road trip destination and length, you might want to know how much a USA road trip can cost you. Here is some data, based on the comparisons of hundreds of travel providers, to help you estimate the cost of your trip and adapt accordingly.

  • Average daily rate for a car rental in NYC: $109
  • Average daily rate for a car rental in Los Angeles: $69
  • Average price for one night in a mid-range hotel in NYC: $318
  • Average price for one night in a mid-range hotel in Los Angeles: $233
  • Cost of 1 gallon of gas in NYC in March 2024: $3.86
  • Cost of 1 gallon of gas in Los Angeles in March 2024: $5.35 (source: )

For an East Coast USA road trip, the cost of a one-week journey that spans 700 miles might be about $3100 for 2 travelers ($1550 per person).

For a West Coast USA road trip, the cost of a one-week journey that spans 700 miles might be about $2280 for 2 travelers ($1140 per person).

To reduce expenses, consider camping if the weather is mild . Plus, if you travel with more than one other person, you can split expenses even more. But do keep in mind that these estimated costs are just for the rental car, gas, and accommodations. You'll still have to pay for food and entrance fees to attractions, whether museums or national parks.

Rent a convertible to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway on this iconic USA road trip.

Day 1: Seattle


Start your trip in Seattle, home to iconic attractions like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the Museum of Flight. Fuel up your body and mind with some coffee, as Seattle is known for its coffee culture.

Where to stay in the Seattle area: Hyatt Regency Seattle is the best rated hotel in town, according to KAYAK data.

Day 2: Portland

Two people hiking up a crater mountain on a sunny summer day

Distance from Seattle: 174 miles – 2 hours 40 minutes

On your drive from Seattle to Portland, consider making a side journey to Mount St. Helens for scenic views, a history lesson and some epic hiking. Once in Portland, don't miss a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden, and wrap up your day with a beer from a local brewery (there are many to choose from!).

Where to stay in the Portland area: One of the most elegant hotels in town is The Benson Portland, Curio Collection by Hilton .

Day 3: Crater Lake National Park

A two-lane road beside a rocky mountain with foggy autumn trees behind where the sun shines brightly.

Distance from Portland: 232 miles – 4 hours

In the warm months, take the opportunity to go boating on the deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake, which is 1,943 feet deep. If you'd rather stay on solid ground, consider hiking the many trails along its edge.

Where to stay in the Crater Lake National Park area: Crater Lake Resort is located in the nearest town to the national park, Fort Klamath.

Day 4: Redwood National and State Parks

A pickup truck with its headlights on travelling through the woods on a dirt road.

Distance from Crater Lake National Park: 154 miles – 3 hours

Redwood trees are some of the largest in the world, topping out over 300 feet tall. They're also some of the world's oldest, living up to 2,000 years.

Where to stay in the Redwood National and State Parks area: The Historic Requa Inn has beautiful views of the Klamath River.

Day 5: San Francisco

Aerial view of large metal red bridge over a bay surrounded by low clouds

Distance from Redwood National and State Parks: 311 miles – 5 hours 30 minutes

There's far too much to do in San Francisco than can be accomplished in a single day, but we'd recommend visiting Alcatraz Island, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and listening to the sea lions bark at Fisherman's Wharf.

Where to stay in the San Francisco area: If you're willing to splurge, the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero offers bird's-eye views of the city.

Day 6: Morro Bay

A massive rock in the centre of a bay near a coastal village as seen from sloping hills covered in greenery.

Distance from San Francisco: 232 miles – 4 hours

Morro Bay is the halfway point between San Francisco and Los Angeles along Highway 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway. It's a good overnight stop, but spend most of your day exploring the California coast, from Monterey (home to the famous Monterey Aquarium) to Big Sur.

Where to stay in the Morro Bay area: The Estero Inn overlooks Morro Bay Rock and the harbor, and it's one of the most highly rated hotels in town.

Day 7: Los Angeles

A busy highway along a spacious sandy beach next to a parking lot with an expansive ocean view.

Distance from Morro Bay: 202 miles – 3 hours 20 minutes

As you make your way down the coast, visit San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Then once in LA, the world is your oyster. Visit the iconic Santa Monica Pier, take a Hollywood studio tour or visit one of the city's world-class museums.

Where to stay in the Los Angeles area: The Fairmont Century Plaza is a historic hotel that's fairly centrally located, making it easy to get around town.

There's no USA road trip more iconic than Route 66, also known as the Mother Road. Here's how to travel its full length, with stops at a few must-see off-route destinations.

Day 1: Chicago, IL

Route 66 Illinois Begin road sign at Chicago city downtown. Buildings facade background. Route 66, mother road, the classic historic roadtrip in USA

You'll find the beginning of Route 66 in Chicago at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue. Before you start driving, take a moment to enjoy some of Chicago's top attractions, from its numerous museums to the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture (you might know it as "the bean").

Where to stay in Chicago area: Chicago Athletic Association has stunning architecture, as well as a rooftop bar with views of Millennium Park.

Day 2: Springfield, IL

Wooden footpath leading along street with white fence and shadows in New Salem, Springfield, Illinois, USA.

Distance from Chicago: 202 miles – 3 hours

It's all about Route 66 in this Illinois town. Visit the Route 66 Twin Drive-In or the Route 66 Motorheads Bar, Grill & Museum for a taste of Route 66 history. And don't miss the chance to snap a photo of the Lauterbach Giant.

Where to stay in the Springfield area: The Inn at 835 Boutique Hotel is one of the most highly rated hotels in town.

Day 3: St. Louis, MO

Cars moving through a busy street studded with directional signs, traffic lights, and huge buildings.

Distance from Springfield: 101 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes

Just down the road from Springfield is St. Louis, home of the grand Gateway Arch. After you make your way to the top, visit the City Museum, an architectural playground for children and adults alike in a 600,000-square-foot industrial building.

Where to stay in the St. Louis area: The St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton is housed in the former train station, and its lobby is breathtaking.

Day 4: Branson, MO

Two bridges across a lake connecting the tree-covered neighbourhoods.

Distance from St. Louis: 253 miles – 4 hours

Branson might be just off Route 66, but it's a resort destination worth a stop. Choose between relaxing on Table Rock Lake or visiting any one of the numerous attractions here, from the Titanic Museum Attraction to Dolly Parton's Stampede.

Where to stay in the Branson area: The Lodge of the Ozarks is one of the top-rated hotels in the region.

Day 5: Tulsa, OK

A river across a forested landscape with distant views of the city skyline.

Distance from Branson: 220 miles – 3 hours 17 minutes

Architecture lovers will enjoy Tulsa's Art Deco buildings, while music lovers won't want to miss the Woody Guthrie Center. And aviation lovers should visit the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.

Where to stay in the Tulsa area: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tulsa Downtown is one of the highest-rated hotels here.

Day 6: Oklahoma City, OK

A night-time view of a calm water canal with an anchored tourist boat along a row of trees and commercial establishments.

Distance from Tulsa: 106 miles – 1 hour 35 minutes

Oklahoma City has no shortage of attractions, from the Myriad Botanical Gardens to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Plus, you can visit the poignant Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, honoring the victims, survivors, and rescuers of the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Where to stay in the Oklahoma City area: The National, Autograph Collection is located inside a former bank, and its

Day 7: Amarillo, TX

A winding roadway surrounded by sandstone hills and mountains.

Distance from Oklahoma City: 260 miles – 4 hours

For a photo op, make for Cadillac Ranch, an unusual roadside art installation comprising a series of 10 Cadillacs. For dinner, dig into the 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. If you finish it (and its trimmings) within an hour, it's on the house.

Where to stay in the Amarillo area: The highest-rated hotel in Amarillo is TownePlace Suites by Marriott Amarillo West/Medical Center .

Day 8: Santa Fe, NM

A tower with a flag overlooks a residential neighbourhood amongst lush trees under an orange sky.

Distance from Amarillo: 279 miles – 4 hours 14 minutes

Take the Santa Fe loop of Route 66 to visit artsy Santa Fe. The city is a haven for creative types, who will be drawn to institutions like the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum or interactive attractions like Meow Wolf.

Where to stay in the Santa Fe area: Pueblo Bonito Santa Fe has charming rooms in adobe buildings, plus free parking.

Day 9: Albuquerque, NM

A long paved highway on a barren landscape overlooking the mountain range against the cloudy blue sky.

Distance from Santa Fe: 64 miles – 1 hour 3 minutes

It's a short drive today, which means you can spend your morning in Santa Fe before heading to Albuquerque attractions like Petroglyph National Monument, Sandia Peak Tramway and the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

Where to stay in the Albuquerque area: Hotel Chaco is one of the highest-rated hotels in town.

Day 10: Flagstaff, AZ

An empty road between the red and orange sandstone canyons with riverfront views.

Distance from Albuquerque: 323 miles – 4 hours 50 minutes

Use Flagstaff as your home base for visiting Grand Canyon National Park, which is just 90 minutes away. At night, visit the nearby Lowell Observatory for stargazing.

Where to stay in the Flagstaff area: The High Country Motor Lodge has a retro road-trip vibe.

Day 11: Page, AZ

A person stands inside Antelope Canyon, gazing upward through a natural opening in the sandstone formations, immersed in a surreal world of textured beauty and the play of light.

Distance from Flagstaff: 129 miles – 2 hours 17 minutes

Page is another detour from Route 66, but we think it's a worthwhile one for the landscapes. This is the nearest town to Antelope Canyon, one of the most picturesque slot canyons in the Southwest, and the scenic Horseshoe Bend.

Where to stay in the Page area: The highest-rated hotel in town is Hampton Inn & Suites Page - Lake Powell .

Day 12: St. George, UT

A person walking through a subway-tunnel-like narrow canyon with a swimming hole.

Distance from Page: 154 miles – 2 hours 35 minutes

Add another national park to this road trip: Zion National Park. This Utah stunner, known for its red rock cliffs and dramatic landscapes, is best accessed from St. George.

Where to stay in the St. George area: Staybridge Suites St. George is a top mid-tier hotel in the area.

Day 13: Las Vegas

A jumble of marquee lettering and store signs along a debris path.

Distance from St. George: 120 miles – 1 hour 45 minutes

No, Las Vegas isn't on Route 66, but if you're all the way over here, Sin City is worth a visit. If gambling isn't your thing, visit the Neon Museum for a taste of Vegas history, then catch a show in the evening.

Where to stay in the Las Vegas area: Encore at the Wynn Las Vegas is the highest-rated hotel on the Strip.

Day 14: Los Angeles


Distance from Las Vegas: 274 miles – 4 hours 5 minutes

Congratulations, you made it! Route 66 ends in Santa Monica. Celebrate with a dip in the Pacific Ocean, a sunset view off Santa Monica Pier or an ice-cold drink at Big Dean's Ocean Front Cafe.

Where to stay in the Los Angeles area: Treat yourself to an ocean view at Shutters on the Beach .

As the second largest state in the US, Texas is an ideal candidate for a road trip. Visit several of its major cities (plus one fun pit stop) on this five-day journey.

Day 1: Dallas

A pool of water in a forested park reflects the surrounding high-rise buildings in the city.

Dallas is a sprawling metropolis, so pick one or two things to do during your brief stay. We recommend a taste of presidential history at the George W. Bush Presidential Center and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza for a look into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Where to stay in the Dallas area: Hotel ZaZa is one of the highest-rated boutique hotels in town.

Day 2: Fort Worth

Stockyards Historic District in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Distance from Dallas: 32 miles – 33 minutes

Fort Worth (is the oft-overlooked counterpart to Dallas, but it's renowned for its works by architectural icons like Philip Johnson Fort Worth Water Gardens), Louis I. Kahn (Kimbell Art Museum), and Tadao Ando (Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth). Plus, don't miss the Old West heritage in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Watch the twice-daily cattle drive to see Texas longhorns on the move, then head to Billy Bob's, the world's largest honky tonk, for a concert and a round of pool.

Where to stay in the Fort Worth area: For a highly rated hotel in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards district, pick the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Fort Worth Historic Stockyards

Day 3: Waco

The majestic Waco Suspension Bridge, with its robust towers and intricate web of steel cables, gracefully spans the tranquil Brazos River.

Distance from Fort Worth: 89 miles – 1 hour 21 minutes

En route from Fort Worth to Austin, the city of Waco is worthy of an overnight. Fans of home renovation TV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines will no doubt want to spend time at the Silos, the home base of the couple's Magnolia empire. But there's also the Dr. Pepper Museum and Waco Mammoth National Monument in town.

Where to stay in the Waco area: For some warm hospitality, stay at the Bed and Breakfast on White Rock Creek

Day 4: Austin

Sixth Street music and entertainment district in downtown Austin, Texas, USA

Distance from Waco: 102 miles – 1 hour 40 minutes

Live music is everywhere in Austin, so head into your nearest bar to catch some tunes. Animal lovers will want to witness the nightly flight of the Congress Avenue Bridge bats, while nature lovers might enjoy paddling on Lady Bird Lake.

Where to stay in the Austin area: The boutique Colton House Hotel is the highest-rated accommodation in Austin.

Day 5: San Antonio

A scenic riverwalk unfolds, featuring rows of vibrant parasols and buildings with inviting outdoor dining, all set amidst a backdrop of towering trees.

Distance from Austin: 80 miles – 1 hour 20 minutes

San Antonio's biggest claim to fame might be the Alamo, but the mission is just one of five in the city. After visiting them, head to the trendy Pearl District for dinner and drinks.

Where to stay in the San Antonio area: Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk has a lovely outdoor bar overlooking the Riverwalk.

Though flying from city to city might save you a bit of time, there's no better way to travel the US than via a road trip. If you need information about rental cars , road trip tips or the best places to visit in the US during the summer , we've got you covered.

The hotel recommendations included in this article are based on customer ratings and the author's personal choices, so please feel free to use our hotel search tool to find the accommodation best suited to your needs.

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23 Incredible Road Trips in the U.S.

Whether you’re looking for sweeping views of the pacific ocean or a multiday adventure through national parks, these road trips provide plenty of opportunities to explore the united states..

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A highway leading toward mountains

Glacier National Park is one of many scenic places you can visit on an American road trip.

Photo by Zack Frank / Shutterstock

In a country as large as the United States, there’s no shortage of destinations and detours to explore by car . Whether your idea of the perfect American road trip entails an epic, cross-country journey or a shorter jaunt through a few of its most iconic national parks , your options are as large and varied as the country itself.

Even if you don’t have the time to drive cross-country, there are plenty of road trip routes (ranging from three days to a week or longer): classic California itineraries , New England routes that shine especially well in the fall, scenic East Coast adventures, and a variety of Midwest journeys for folks farther from the coasts.

No matter your mode of transportation—be it van, RV, motorcycle, or four-door sedan—these are 21 of the best road trips in the nation to consider.

Put a New Twist on Route 66—Make It an American Whiskey Road Trip

Plan your next Route 66 trip around thirst-quenching stops.

Photo by Peek Creative Collective/Shutterstock

There are many ways to do a cross-country road trip in the USA, but these two itineraries will take you through some truly iconic American places.

1. Chicago to Los Angeles: A Whiskey Road Trip on Route 66

It doesn’t get more American than a 2,000-mile drive along the entirety of Route 66. There are endless ways to take this legendary trip (including an EV version —but to take your cross-country road trip to the next level, we recommend exploring another American pastime: whiskey.

Starting in Chicago and ending in L.A., you’ll stop by some of the leading craft distilleries in the United States, like Few Spirits in Chicago, Still 630 in St. Louis, and Red Fork Distillery in Tulsa. In between tastings, make time for detours to natural attractions, like the Grand Canyon, and quirky roadside curiosities, like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Just remember to drink responsibly—this is a road trip after all.

Plan your trip

The full itinerary: Put a New Twist on Route 66—Make It an American Whiskey Road Trip

People biking on a busy street

No cars are allowed on Mackinac Island, so you need to park before taking the ferry to this spot.

Photo from Shutterstock

2. Bangor, Maine, to Seattle, Washington: The Great Northern on U.S. Route 2

Covering both the U.S. and Canada, a cross-country trip along U.S. 2 is ideal for anyone who wants to experience the vast diversity and expansiveness of North America. This drive runs the entire top border of the U.S. and showcases otherworldly natural wonders like Acadia National Park in Maine, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, and Mackinac Island in Michigan. The route also passes through Canada, taking road-trippers through Ontario into Quebec—this route may focus on nature, but you won’t want to miss a stop in Montreal or Ottawa.

You’ll also get to explore Montana and Glacier National Park ( reservations may be required ) before passing the Columbia Plateau and ending in the Pacific Northwest’s largest city, Seattle. Don’t miss spending time in the Olympic Peninsula (home to Olympic National Park) for a peek at one of the most scenic places on the West Coast.

3. Dana Point to San Francisco: Driving California’s Pacific Coast Highway

The seemingly endless views of the Pacific Ocean along Highway 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway) are what road trip dreams are made of, and exactly what makes this California road trip so popular. However, with so many stops along the 655-mile stretch, we pulled together a list of the ones well worth pulling over to view. Don’t miss the perfect surfing waves in Santa Cruz, seasonal cuisine in Malibu, an afternoon a the boardwalk in Santa Monica, or a night in Big Sur as you drive between Dana Point (just south of Los Angeles) and San Francisco.

  • The full itinerary: The Best Stops for a Road Trip on the Pacific Coast Highway
  • The AFAR Guide to San Francisco

Wooden pier with shops on top juts out into the ocean

The seaside town of Monterey was the setting for John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row .

Photo by Denise Lett/Shutterstock

4. Big Sur to Mono County: A Literary Road Trip Through Northern California

Yes, this itinerary requires you actually put down your book to drive, but seeing some of the pivotal places that shaped American authors will be so worth it. Follow in the footsteps of writers like Jack Kerouac, Maya Angelou, and Amy Tan on this road trip that takes you through literary landmarks in Northern California, such as Caffe Trieste, a meeting place for Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Alan Watts, and other bohemian writers and thinkers. This 12-stop itinerary is perfect if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area because you’ll be able to stay make these trips in one or two days.

The full itinerary: The California Road Trip All Book Lovers Should Take

Wide shot of a red canyon with a river running through it

Arizona may take its nickname from the Grand Canyon, but the state has far more natural wonders than just that one.

Courtesy of Shutterstock

5. Phoenix to the Grand Canyon: An Iconic Arizona Road Trip

This 240-mile Arizona road trip takes travelers along some of the state’s most iconic highlights, including its most famous one, the Grand Canyon. A great itinerary for first-time visitors and returning travelers alike, it offers plenty of opportunities for scenic drives, hiking, and biking—as well as tasty food along the way. Hike the 2,704-foot-tall Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale or take in the beautiful red rocks of Sedona on a hike to Cathedral Rock while exploring the Grand Canyon State.

  • The full itinerary: The Classic 5-Day Arizona Road Trip
  • Grand Canyon guide: The First-Timer’s Guide to the Grand Canyon
  • Where to eat in Phoenix: A Chef’s Guide to the Best Restaurants
  • Where to stay: The Best Hotels in Arizona ; The Best Airbnbs in Sedona

The Delicate Arch living up to its name in Utah's Arches National Park

The Delicate Arch living up to its name in Utah’s Arches National Park

Photo by tusharkoley / Shutterstock

6. Zion to Grand Canyon: A National Parks Road Trip in the Southwest

If you’re looking to visit as many national parks as possible in one road trip, this southwestern itinerary is for you. This journey through Utah and Arizona lets you hike Angel’s Landing in Zion, feel tiny under Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, explore Fairyland Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon, and, of course, raft down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Most visitors to the Grand Canyon remain on the rim, but take at least four days to venture within the canyon and take advantage of the trails and river rafting.

  • The full itinerary: The Ideal Road Trip Through U.S. National Parks
  • Utah’s 8 Best National Parks and Monuments
  • 10 Best National Parks and Monuments in Arizona
  • The First-Timer’s Guide to the Grand Canyon

Couple sitting in front of a curving road

Stop and admire the winding roads of the San Juan Skyway.

Photo by Anh Luu/Shutterstock

7. San Juan Scenic Skyway Road Trip: An Adventure Through Southwestern Colorado

This Colorado trip takes you along the 232-mile loop of the San Juan Scenic Skyway, where you will see plenty of alpine forests, mining towns, and craggy peaks. And for anyone looking to enjoy refreshments after a long day of driving, this route features many opportunities to stop at some of the best breweries in Colorado , such as Ska Brewing Co. in Durango.

  • The full itinerary: The Ultimate Southwestern Colorado Road Trip
  • Five Classic Colorado Road Trips To Take This Year

In small-town Buena Vista, the riverfront Surf Hotel offers front-row seats to Colorado-style adventure seekers.

In small-town Buena Vista, the riverfront Surf Hotel offers front-row seats to Colorado-style adventure seekers.

Courtesy of the Surf Hotel

8. Denver to Montrose: A 420-Mile Road Trip Through Colorado

Want to explore even more of the Centennial State? Head out on this weeklong road trip where you can fish for salmon in Colorado’s largest reservoir, visit numerous small towns, like Paonia and Crawford, with thriving art scenes along the Colorado Creative Corridor , and explore Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, one of the least visited national parks in the nation.

  • The full itinerary: Art Stars, High-Altitude Wines, and a Remote National Park: The Ultimate Colorado Road Trip
  • Where to stay: The Best Hotels in Colorado
  • The AFAR Guide to Denver

Woman walking by a mural of a river and bridge

Portland may be Oregon’s largest city, but with a population of some 652,000 (or 2.5 million in the larger metropolitan area), it isn’t intimidatingly large.

Photo courtesy of Travel Portland

9. Portland to Astoria: An Oregon Coast Road Trip for Outdoor Lovers

If you love the outdoors, then this six-day road trip along the coast of Oregon is for you. After driving to Coos Bay from Portland, travelers will meander along Oregon’s dramatic, rocky coastline, discovering some quintessentially Pacific Northwest vistas along the way: evergreen forests, seaside dunes, and marine ecosystems. Between stops, there are ample opportunities to stretch your legs hiking, kayaking, or strolling around the region’s small towns—like the historic old town in Florence.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon road trip without a stop (or three) at a craft brewery, such as Fort George Brewery in Astoria, or cozy coffee shop, like Bread & Roses in Yachats.

  • The full itinerary: An Outdoor Lover’s Road Trip on the Oregon Coast
  • The AFAR Guide to Portland

The State Capitol Building in Nashville marks the end of this road (trip).

The State Capitol Building in Nashville marks the end of this road (trip).

Photo by / Shutterstock

10. Seneca Falls, New York, to Nashville, Tennessee: Follow the Path of the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Starting in New York’s Finger Lakes region and ending at the State Capitol Building in Nashville, this road trip traces the route of the national women’s suffrage movement. Highlights include stops at the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House ; Union Square in New York City, which was the site of the first suffrage march; and the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, D.C.

  • The full itinerary: Celebrate Women’s Suffrage on an Epic, Self-Guided Road Trip
  • Where to stay: The Best Hotels in Nashville
  • The AFAR Guide to Nashville
  • The AFAR Guide to Washington, D.C.

A long shot of a mountain-backed city, framed by flowers and trees

Asheville is one must-stop on a North Carolina road trip.

Courtesy of

11. Charlottesville to Asheville: A Scenic Road Trip Through Virginia and North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the country. Beginning in the soft hilly meadows of the Appalachian Mountains from Shenandoah National Park down into the Blue Ridge Mountains, then into the Great Smoky Mountains, this five-day road trip is best done at a slower pace, which is perfect for admiring the dramatic outlooks and green plateaus. This eclectic itinerary features stops at an art museum, a dairy farm, and plenty of hiking trails.

  • The full itinerary: The Ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
  • Where to stay: 12 Dreamy Blue Ridge Mountain Cabins You Can Rent on Airbnb and Vrbo
  • 8 U.S. National Park Road Trips to Take in Your Lifetime

Dowa:kwe dance group from Zuni Pueblo in 2019

Dowa:kwe dance group from Zuni Pueblo in 2019

Courtesy of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

12. Albuquerque to Las Cruces: Discover New Mexico on This Three-Day Road Trip

This route steers you away from New Mexican tourist hot spots like Taos and Santa Fe and instead takes you on a three-day adventure with places that teach you about Pueblo history. You’ll stop at Indian Pueblo Kitchen (formerly known as Pueblo Harvest), a restaurant inside the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center that features Indigenous cuisine ; pick up peppers at Three Brothers in Hatch; and slide down the dunes in White Sands National Park.

  • The full itinerary: This New Mexico Road Trip Is the Perfect Introduction to the Land of Enchantment

Green tree near brown house during daytime

Historic Fort Martin Scott is one of the places travelers can visit to learn about Fredericksburg’s history.

Photo by Mark König/Unsplash

13. A Five-Day Scenic Road Trip Through Texas Hill Country

This Texas road trip starts and ends in San Antonio with stops in small towns like Bandera, Boerne, and consider a stop in Fredericksburg, which is one of AFAR’s best places to go in 2024 ). Over five days, you’ll find opportunities to stroll in a Japanese tea garden in San Antonio, relax along the Sabinal and Frio Rivers by inner tube, and eat as many tacos as you want. Seriously: You could eat tacos for every meal on this road trip and not get tired of them.

  • The full itinerary: Tree Houses, Tubing, and Tacos: The Ultimate Texas Hill Country Road Trip

Mount McKinley looms large on a drive through Denali National Park.

Mount McKinley looms large on a drive through Denali National Park.

Photo by warnsweet / Shutterstock

14. A Weeklong Road Trip Through Alaska’s Most Majestic Sights

This weeklong drive in Alaska starts and ends in Anchorage. You travel along four scenic byways; explore Wrangell–St. Elias wilderness, the largest U.S. national park; catch sight of Denali, the tallest peak in North America; and enjoy the surprisingly stellar food scene of McCarthy, a one-road town with only a couple dozen residents.

  • The full itinerary: Glaciers, Mountain Peaks, and Organic Farms: The Ultimate Alaska Road Trip
  • Which Alaska National Parks Should You Visit?

More than geothermal pools, Kirkham Hot Springs features a piping-hot waterfall.

More than geothermal pools, Kirkham Hot Springs features a piping-hot waterfall.

Courtesy of Idaho Tourism

15. Boise to Sun Valley: Explore Idaho’s Scenic Byways

Even a short road trip can be packed with adventure, good food, and scenery, which is exactly what this trip from Boise to Sun Valley along Idaho’s Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway offers. Although the drive only takes six hours, we recommend taking a few days to explore all the stops and detours along the way. One can’t-miss spot is the Kirkham Hot Springs , where you can stand under a waterfall that will splash you with 135-degree mineral water year-round.

  • The full itinerary: The Little-Known Idaho Road Trip You Need to Drive
  • Things to do: The Best Outdoorsy Things to Do in Idaho

Grand Portage State Park is the only state park jointly managed by a state and a Native American band.

Grand Portage State Park is the only state park jointly managed by a state and a Native American band.

Photo by Shutterstock/QZ

16. Duluth to Grand Portage State Park: A Scenic Minnesota Sampler

Although there are many appealing road trips throughout the Midwest, this 143-mile, three-hour circuit, which starts and ends in Duluth, Minnesota, is worth keeping in mind. Meandering north on MN-61 with this itinerary, you will enjoy prime views of Lake Superior and towns like Grand Marais, as well as Grand Portage State Park, home to waterfalls, hiking trails, and opportunities to learn about the Ojibwe community who occupy the land today. Once back in Duluth, enjoy a beer at Canal Park Brewing Company before checking into the waterfront Canal Park Lodge nearby.

  • The AFAR Guide to Minnesota

Overhead view of curvy Kancamagus Highway through fall forest

Wind your way through colorful foliage in New Hampshire.

Photo by Shutterstock

17. Kancamagus Highway: A Quintessential New England Drive

Yes, you can take a road trip in New England at any time of the year , but this region shows off its best colors in the fall, when locals and tourists alike head out into the country to view the changing colors of the trees. Join other admirers of fall foliage on this popular, 34.5-mile road trip along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway, colloquially known as the “Kanc,” for picturesque ponds, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks.

  • Plan Your Fall Getaway With This Peak Foliage Prediction Map

Red boat beside a wooden dock in a cove

Ogunquit is home to the small, postcard-perfect harbor of Perkins Cove.

Photo courtesy of QualityHD / Shutterstock

18. Maine’s “Lobster Trail”: Travel Route 1 Along the Coast

Traveling Route 1, affectionately known as “the lobster trail,” along Maine’s jagged coastline is an exercise in indulgence. Sample lobster dishes in all forms—buttered, steamed, on a roll, or even in a decadent mac-and-cheese.

The trip starts in the quaint small town of Ogunquit , with its rare (for the area) 3.5 miles of white-sand beach. Make your first lobster of the journey count, steamed with a side of drawn butter at Barnacle Billy’s in picturesque Perkins Cove harbor. Stop at Big Daddy’s for a cone on your way to the shipbuilding center—and summer home of George H. W. Bush—Kennebunkport. Stay at the recently redesigned 150-year-old classic White Barn Inn , and consider a sailing trip for an afternoon. With lobsters cooked in ocean water, the legendary lobster roll at the Clam Shack is a must.

  • 8 Scenic East Coast Road Trips to Take This Year

Interior of Leah & Louise restaurant in Charlotte

Throughout North Carolina’s Piedmont region, innovative restaurants, shops, and restaurants like Leah & Louise in Charlotte, above, are creating a buzz.

Photo by Peter Taylor Photography

19. Raleigh to Charlotte: A 4-Day Trip Through North Carolina’s Reinvented Core

North Carolina’s Piedmont region extends from the coastal plain to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and includes farmland and rolling wooded hills, especially on the 1-40 stretch near Hillsborough. Starting in Raleigh, drive the short distances to Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte to see how these cities are innovating through art, food, and a celebration of the past. Take your time—four days should do—to experience downtown arts districts, James Beard Award–winning restaurants, and civil rights museums that speak truths. Plan your trip

  • A Road Trip Through North Carolina’s Reinvented Core

The Florida Road Trip You’ve Been Missing

Scenic South Walton is part of the Emerald Coast of Florida.

20. Scenic Highway 30A: A Sunday Drive Through South Walton, Florida

Florida is full of places to cruise with the top down, but it’s hard to beat a Sunday (or any day) drive along Scenic Highway 30A through northwest Florida, home to a postcard-perfect stretch of seaside towns known as South Walton.

The roughly 28-mile route through South Walton County kisses the coast for nearly all its length, taking you through gorgeous residential Gulf-front communities like Rosemary Beach, Grayton Beach, and Blue Mountain Beach . Roll down the windows and let the emerald-hued views in.

Pull over to explore, too—maybe to admire the New Urbanism architecture in Alys Beach or to swim in the clear waters at Grayton Beach State Park . (The beach here has been lauded among the best in the world.)

  • The full itinerary: The Florida Road Trip You’ve Been Missing

Two stand-up paddleboarders on the water at sunset

Stand-up paddleboarding is just one way to enjoy a Florida Keys sunset.


21. The Florida Keys: An Island-Hopping Getaway

For a sunny road trip itinerary in Florida, skip Miami and head farther south. Beginning in Key Largo and ending in Key West, the Florida Keys Scenic Highway is often overlooked for more well-known routes up north, but it is well worth going out of your way to experience.

As the name suggests, this route is very scenic, so plan to spend at least a few days exploring it and numerous stops along the way. Some highlights include driving across the impressive Overseas Highway, stopping to admire art in the town of Islamorada, and enjoying the historic sites, food, and (of course) beaches in the city of Key West.

  • The full itinerary: How to Road Trip in the Lesser-Known Florida Keys

A brick building with an oversized guitar hanging off the side and a sign that says "Sun Studio"

Sun Studio in Memphis was the site of the famous Million Dollar recording session that brought together Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.

Photo by f11photo on Shutterstock

22. Memphis to Bristol, Tennessee: A Music-Driven Adventure

If you have about a week to spare and a deep appreciation for music, take a road trip from one side of Tennessee to the other, starting in Memphis and ending in Bristol. The eastbound trip spans genres, including rock ( Graceland ), blues ( Beale Street) and, of course, country (did you really go to Tennessee if you didn’t go to Dollywood ?). Nashville serves as the halfway point on your journey—so consider penciling in an extra 48 hours to fully explore the state capital’s greatest hits.

  • The full itinerary: 5 Great American Road Trips For Music Fans

The stunning coastline near Cueva del Indio has been the backdrop of star-studded films.

The stunning coastline near Cueva del Indio has been the backdrop of star-studded films.

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23. Arecibo to Condado, Puerto Rico: A Lesser-Known Side of a Well-Loved Island

In the minds of many, trips to Puerto Rico bring images of stunning beaches , delicious foods , and maybe a bioluminescent bay or two . But there’s plenty of history to be found here, too, as Puerto Rico was home to an Indigenous population known as the Taino, a heritage many Puerto Ricans embrace. That history can be explored via a road trip. Starting in the northern town of Arecibo, travel south to Ponce, then back north to Condado—along the way you’ll encounter petroglyphs, Indigenous sites, and breathtaking natural spots.

  • The full itinerary: A Puerto Rico Road Trip That Puts Indigenous Culture First

Additional road trip planning resources Picking the route for your road trip is only one part of your planning. From what snacks to pack to which podcasts to listen to, these additional resources will help you prepare for your next adventure:

  • Best road trip snacks
  • Road trip planning apps
  • Podcasts and audiobooks to download
  • What to pack for a road trip

This article originally appeared online in August 2020. It was most recently updated on April 4, 2024, to include current information. Additional reporting by Jessie Beck, Erika Owen, Ray Rogers, Terry Ward, and Sheryl Nance-Nash.

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11 BEST Southern USA Road Trip Ideas

Posted on Last updated: December 5, 2023

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Unfamiliar destinations are often on most peoples’ bucket lists, but right at home, the best Southern USA road trips can rival them for sheer pleasure.

There are beautiful sights to see on our doorstep , and road trips are a fantastic way to explore them. Each mile of landscape unfolds in front of you without you having to focus purely on the destination.

In this post, I’m going to whet your appetite, encourage you to pack the essentials in the trunk, and set off on a south US road trip, on your own, with your partner, with a friend, or with the whole family, to discover with your own eyes incredible places to visit in America .

Table of Contents

11 Best Southern USA Road Trips

Here are some of our favorite road trips in the southern USA in no particular order. For more American road trips , check out our country-wide guide.

Road Trip 1 – Sunken Lands Cultural Roadway

Cotton in the Arkansas delta

The “Sunken Lands” was created by the New Madrid earthquakes over three months from December 1811 to February 1812. The land dropped by over 50 feet, forming huge lakes such as Big Lake in Arkansas.

Only 52 miles long, the Sunken Lands Cultural Roadway has fascinating stops all along its route and is a favorite cycling path through the Arkansas Delta. 

But then, who says a road trip must be made by car? The roadway is a loop off the Great River Road National Scenic Byway and starts close to the town of Tyronza with its Tenant Farmers Museum. Some of the “must-see” stops along the way include:

The Marked Tree Delta Area Museum in Marked Tree is a general history museum with artifacts and memorabilia reflecting 2000 years of Arkansas Delta history. (History buffs will love it!)

You’ll find quaint replica stores and buildings in Lepanto, creating a real-life portrait of Delta history. Also, in Lepanto, you can see the original Painted House used in the John Grisham movie of the same name.

Hampson Museum State Park shouldn’t be missed, with its excavated ruins of a Nodena tribal village dating back 600 years.

Parker Pioneer Homestead . is a rebuilt 19th-century Pioneer Village just south of Harrisburg, Arkansas, with more than 20 buildings and artifacts from the past. You will probably find an event underway that you can enjoy, as they run all year round. 

Lake Poinsett State Park – a peaceful retreat on the banks of the lake, with camping and RV facilities, great for fishing, boating, or relaxing.

Read next: Best Cabins in Arkansas

Road Trip 2 – Mississippi Gulf Coast Scenic Byway

Fishing pier at Gulf Port, Harrison County Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico

The Mississippi Scenic Byways Program (MSBP) has identified fourteen scenic byways it is developing and marketing, but I will take you on just one South US road trip.

The Gulf Coast Scenic Byway is the 18-mile stretch of Highway 90, beginning at Bay St. Louis and passing through the three southern cities of Pass Christian, Long Beach, and Gulfport. 

The byway is the main access road for these downtown areas, containing the cities’ history and culture. 

In addition, there are over 13 miles of Gulf shores and 30 miles of walks to enjoy, so there are plenty of sights to enjoy on a road trip along this byway.

In Bay St. Louis , the pristine white beach is the main attraction, but there are some excellent restaurants, and Creole cuisine is not to be missed. 

If you’re into culture and history, make sure you get to the Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antique Museum , which is dedicated to understanding the work of the folk artist and painter Alice Moseley. 

In Biloxi , visit Beauvoir , the retirement home, library, and museum of Thomas Jefferson, or take a tour around another “must-see,” the Biloxi Lighthouse . The Grammy Museum Mississippi is a definite for lovers of the country music and blues of the Mississippi Delta. 

And then there are the famous pristine beaches of Ship Island , only 11 miles off the coast. 

In Long Beach , Mississippi – of course, the beach! Voted a “Can’t-Miss” beach on the East Coast by CNN, the beautiful white sand and warm sea make this a definite stop on your deep south US road trip.

All this and so much more packed into an 18-mile coastal road trip in the southern USA – you could do it in a day or take a week. The Gulf Coast Scenic Byway is a definite winner.

Road Trip 3 – Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Outer Banks, North Carolina

A large North Carolina Outer Banks area forms a part of a National Park called the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which is hands down one of the best places to visit in the South .

Covering over 70 miles of coastline and with 30,000 acres of beaches, it became the first proclaimed national seashore in 1953 and has since become a “go-to” tourist destination and a favorite southern USA road trip. 

Cape Hatteras National Seashore was created to protect parts of three barrier islands: Bodie Island, Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Island. 

All three islands provide hiking trails, beaches, and sightseeing opportunities. The long, hot summers and short, mild winters attract thousands of tourists, making it a popular road trip in the southern USA.

Top sights in Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras has won several awards as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the United States by Forbes, CNN, and the Travel Channel. 

Battered by hurricanes and strong winds in season, Cape Hatteras nevertheless offers you an exciting south US road trip, and it’s the closest you’ll get to Bermuda without flying there!

The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum has no shortage of artifacts, with over 600 wrecks off Hatteras Island providing a fascinating source of the material.

Climbing Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a “must-do” if you’re up to the 200-step climb to the top of the tallest lighthouse in the US – the view is worth it! (It’s allowed all year except winter)

Not many southern USA road trips allow you to put your car on a ferry for a free ride to an island, but it’s a worthwhile and novel chance to visit Ocracoke Island and explore its quaint stores and galleries.

There are lots more to see and do, but hopefully, I’ve managed to whet your appetite for this unique South US road trip.

Road Trip 4 – Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway is definitely one of the best Southern USA road trips

This Southern USA road trip is America’s favorite, and for a good reason – Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park—two excellent East Coast national parks that are true landmarks in America .

Winding 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, this is the longest road trip in the southern USA and will take 12 to 13 hours to drive if you do it non-stop. 

You should give yourself seven days to take in the best Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer.

Read next: Most-Visited National Parks in the US

Natural Bridge At Milepost 61.6

This impressive limestone archway spans 90 feet, is 200 feet high, and was carved out of the landscape over centuries by water flowing through the valley. 

Stop here and enjoy the majestic views of forests, mountain peaks, and green meadows. 

Apple Orchard Mountain At Milepost 76.5

This is a “must stop” moment because it’s the highest point on the parkway. There are no apple trees, but there is a short hike to the beautiful Apple Orchard Falls if you have some time to spare.

Mabry Mill At Milepost 176.1

The most picturesque setting makes the old mill and blacksmith shop the most photographed site on this Southern USA road trip. 

Local history, Appalachian culture, and an excellent restaurant make this an enriching break in your journey. 

Blue Ridge Music Center At Milepost 213

Combining a museum and an outdoor amphitheater, the Blue Ridge Music Center hosts midday music sessions featuring bluegrass, blues, and country music for road trippers and those who love the fiddle and banjo. 

The Blowing Rock At Milepost 291

The Blowing Rock is a fascinating natural phenomenon and the oldest attraction in North Carolina. 

It’s a rock formation at the height of 4,000 feet that causes air to shoot up, forming plume-like clouds and, in winter, forcing snow to fall upwards. 

The town of Blowing Rock is called The Crown of the Blue Ridge, is picturesque, and boasts an art and history museum and a memorial park with a preserved country estate and mansion.

The magnificent Linville Falls, Rough Ridge, and the iconic Biltmore Estate are also essential stops on this, the most popular of all Southern USA road trips.

Road Trip 5 – Alabama Black Belt

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama

A road trip in the southern USA that’s uniquely interesting, not so much for the scenery but for its rich and sometimes complicated history and some of the best food in the country – that’s what the Alabama Black Belt offers. 

About 160 miles of driving will take you from Tuscaloosa in the west to Auburn in the east, with some interesting stops along the way. 

Montgomery And The Rosa Parks Museum

The state capital and where the famous year-long protest against segregation on busses, Montgomery, houses the Rosa Parks Museum honoring the woman who led the protests and was arrested as a result.

The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and Dexter Parsonage Museum

The restored church building where Martin Luther King Jnr preached, and the home he shared with Coretta Scott King is open to visitors and gives the background to their struggle for civil rights and against institutional segregation.

The Hank Williams Museum

Also in Montgomery, the Hank Williams Museum is based in the home of the famous musician of the 1940s and ’50s, who is considered the father of modern country music. 

This exhibition includes many artifacts, his music, and his favorite blue Cadillac. 

Selma And The Edmund Pettus Bridge

Spend some time in Selma, on the banks of the Alabama River, and the site of the Bloody Sunday attack on civil rights protesters, which occurred on March 7th, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus bridge. 

This resulted in the march from Selma to Montgomery on March 25th, with 25,000 protesters, a historic turning point for the civil rights movement. This famous bridge is now a designated National Heritage site. 

Camden And The Arts Center

About an hour from Selma, the small town of Camden is the home of the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center, where you will find exhibitions of the work of local artists like the well-known Charlie Lucas and quilter Mary Margaret Pettway. 

Road Trip 6 – Charleston to Savannah

The Regency-styled mansion The Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters in Savannah, Georgia

Both Charleston, South Carolina , and Savannah, Georgia , are delightful cities to spend some time in, so plan to spend a couple of days in each at the beginning and end of your journey. 

Two hours and 108 miles separate these two major cities. A day can quickly be filled with a memorable South USA road trip, with some fascinating stops along the route.

Fort Sumter National Park – This island fort in Charleston Bay is reached via ferry and is a “must do” on this road trip. Fort Sumter was where the first shots were fired in the American Civil War and has a rich military history.

Hilton Head Island requires a brief detour, but it’s well worth it. Apart from the beautiful beaches and famous golf courses, “must-sees” on this part of your road trip in the Southern USA include the Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum and the Coastal Discovery Museum, which features heritage buildings and lovely themed gardens.

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor – learn about the history and culture of the Gullah Geechee people, enslaved West and Central Africans. 

The corridor is not a single site but comprises several places of cultural significance that can be visited on your south US road trip from Charleston to Savannah. 

These include Phillip Simmons House and Museum, Charleston, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, and the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island.

Tybee Island – this barrier island and small city near Savannah is known for its wide, sandy beaches, including South Beach, with a pier and pavilion. 

In the island’s north, Fort Screven has 19th-century concrete gun batteries and the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum. The still-functioning 18th-century lighthouse has been rebuilt many times. 

Road Trip 7 – Cajun Country

Jungle Gardens in Avery Island, Louisiana

Louisiana is so much more than Mardi Gras! Like many Southern USA road trips, a 150-mile adventure through Louisiana’s Cajun Country is an adventure into history and unique cultures. 

Also known as Acadiana , the region is the historical home of many French-speaking Canadians who were expelled by the British in the mid-18th century and settled in this part of Louisiana.

The name “Cajun” is derived from “Acadien,” and the cuisine and culture associated with the word still have powerful French connections. 

From Lafayette, there are many exciting stops where one can delve into the past, enjoy Cajun cuisine and southern classics, listen to music, and soak up the culture.

Vermilionville in Lafayette is a faithful recreation of an 18th-century Cajun village built along the bayou, which gives an insight into what life was like for the Canadian exiles who settled there. Sample Cajun cuisine at the Vermilionville Cafe

St. Martinville , a historic small town in Louisiana filled with beautiful old homes and buildings, is considered the mother city of Cajun culture. 

The St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church stands in the center of the town, surrounded by majestic oak trees and picturesque houses. There is also an Acadian Museum that’s well worth a visit.

Avery Island is a few miles south and is known as the home of Tabasco Sauce. A fascinating tour covers the Tabasco experience, including tasting and Cajun cooking at Restaurant 1868 and a walk through Jungle Gardens. 

Road Trip 8 – Chattahoochee And Oconee National Forests

Helen to Brasstown Bald is one of the best Southern USA road trips

These two forests are the only designated national forests in Georgia and cover 867,000 acres north of the state. 

A southern USA road trip on the scenic byways in the forests will reward you with some dramatic scenery and a glimpse at the rich history and culture of the area. 

While some of the roads are paved or well-surfaced, there are occasions when you need a vehicle with high clearance, so ensure that you’re driving a car that can negotiate some somewhat tricky terrain.

One drive I can recommend is from Helen , a small former sawmill town with strong Bavarian roots up to the point of Georgia’s highest peak , Brasstown Bald . 

This 40-mile loop leads you past the Unicoi State Park , the Anna Ruby Falls , Helton Creek Falls , and Lake Winfield Scott, and the scenery is spectacular. 

Suppose you have time on this South US road trip to do some hiking. In that case, there are some genuinely remarkable trails, some moderately difficult but most straightforward, and camping, fishing, and swimming facilities at many stops.

Road Trip 9 – Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg is one of the best places in the US

When they tell you everything is bigger and better in Texas, you better believe it! 

You’ll need at least four days to make this Southern USA road trip, and even that will give you only a taste of what Texas Hill Country has to offer. 

All we can do is give you an idea of some places you should not miss and some of the most enjoyable ways of spending your time. The Hill Country is in central and south Texas, west of Austin and north of San Antonio .

Marble Falls – nestled right in the center of Hill Country, this small city makes an ideal base for your 4-day road-tripping but also has a lot to offer from fishing, boating, and swimming on Lake Marble Falls, shopping or dining in the historic downtown precinct.

Visit one or more State Parks – Colorado Bend, Longhorn Cavern, or Inks Lake – each park is unique in its own way.

Krause Springs – 32 springs feeding into an artificial pool, a butterfly garden, and a perfect family stopover on your road trip in the southern USA.

Despite its name, Iron Wolf Ranch and Distillery is a great family venue, with a kid’s playground, live music, food trucks, and the handcrafted spirits they produce here.

Fredericksburg Wine Route – With over 50 wineries in the area, there’s no shortage of wine-tasting venues in the Texas Wine Country, including the Wine Garage, which combines an acceptable range of wines with a superb classic car collection. Wine tours here.

Read next: Best Warm Winter Vacations in the US

Road Trip 10 – Washington DC to Anna Maria Island

Aerial view of the beautiful Bean Point beach in Florida

The ultimate Southern USA road trip itinerary – just under 1,000 miles from DC to Anna Maria Island in Florida .

I’d suggest making the journey in three days, but it can be done comfortably with only one overnight stop if time is at a premium for you.

Day One – From Washington to North Carolina

I suggest a stopover in Outer Banks, North Carolina, after a 306-mile drive from Washington, DC, which should take about 6 hours. 

Alternatively, stay over in Raleigh if you don’t fancy the road to the Outer Banks (some people find the dunes and sand a bit of a problem). 

Day Two – North Carolina to Savannah Georgia

Another similar distance of around 270 miles will get you to the historic city of Savannah, where you can explore the historic district, stroll through the manicured parks (like Forsyth Park and Chippewa Square from Forrest Gump), and eat at excellent riverside restaurants. 

Savannah is also known for being one of the most haunted cities in the US, so be sure to go on a ghost tour in town .

Read next: Ghost Towns in the US

Day Three – Georgia to Anna Maria Island

Three hundred and eighty-two miles and just over six hours of driving will take you from Savannah to the Gulf Coast beaches and blue seas of one of Florida’s prime resorts, Anna Maria Island.

But the excellent beaches , restaurants , and vacation rentals on Anna Maria Island will make everything well worth the trip.

Suggested Stops Along The Way

Richmond, Virginia – one of the oldest cities in the US and steeped in history. Stop over to explore the American Civil War Museum or Battlefield Park.

Jekyll Island – It is one of the Sea Islands and one of the Golden Isles of Georgia barrier islands. The island is owned by the State of Georgia and run by a self-sustaining, self-governing body. 

Jacksonville – it’s one of our favorite cities on the banks of the New River, with a historic downtown area, a short stop over here is well worth the time.

Fayetteville – The home of Fort Bragg, a city with a great deal of history, situated on the Cape Fear River with its beautiful botanical garden.

Read next: Best Places to Visit in Florida

Road Trip 11 – Natchez Trace Parkway

Elvis Presley singles Recorded in RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee

Natchez Trace Parkway’s 444-mile stretch of three beautiful states tracing the same route bison would follow north for their salt licks.

Please educate the USA road trip-loving community if there’s any better way to cruise from Mississippi’s Natchez to Nashville in Tennessee . 

The beauty and nod to simpler times of the rural southeast are great to posture you for a more kicked-back vacation . 

Make your way through the hallowed grounds of RCA Studio B, which should remind you of the contributors to making Nashville the capital of country music. 

Although the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is great fun for the whole family, the studio has a leg-up on a variety of sorts. 

It once had the sliding feet of Elvis Presley recording “Now or Never,” so go the day you get there because the following day might be too late—wink. 

Who doesn’t love some guuuud fixin of southern barbeque to whup their tastebuds into shape? Bless your heart; the complaint line is down to the left. Visit the Pig Out Inn BBQ for good wood-fired BBQ served over the counter.

Another must-see for the military and history buffs is the Vicksburg National Military Park to see the USS Cairo, one of the few remaining first American ironclad warships.

More Road Trips in South USA You Should Check Out

Here are some other Deep South road trip ideas:

Nashville to Atlanta – two beautiful cities with lots of attractions and things to offer

Houston to Baton Rouge and New Orleans (so you can stroll around the French Quarter, hang out at Bourbon Street, and enjoy the southern hospitality)

Charlotte to Nashville (Music City) through Asheville , with a day trip to Pigeon Forge (and Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park) and Knoxville

Oklahoma to Amarillo (Route 66) – a short but enjoyable Southern road trip

Tampa to Miami – one of the best road trips in Florida ! Besides, you can make a stop at the fantastic Everglades National Park (one of the best Florida national parks !)

Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Memphis (former home of Elvis Presley) and Nashville

Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain/Rock City and Tennessee Aquarium, anyone?) to Asheville

Did you enjoy this article about road trips in the southern USA? Then share it with your friends!

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Ina Daly has spent most of her life on the road.

“My dad was a truck driver and that led me to becoming a truck driver,” she said. “What we do in a day, on a daily job would be like a long road trip to most people.”

With nearly 40 years of driving for freight transportation services provider XPO and numerous industry accolades under her belt, including grand champion at this year’s Arizona Truck Driving Championship , Daly is a pro. She’s also a mom and a grandmother who’s happy to share her experiences to make everyone’s road trips better.

“Some of the things I'm telling you are what we truckers tell our family members,” she said. “I've had a lot of accomplishments in my career and going to the National Truck Driving Championships (this month) is a reward, but the bigger reward is being able to share some things … that have the potential to save lives.”

What to do before a long drive

“Make sure that your vehicle’s road trip ready,” Daly said. ”Really pay close attention to your tires, your coolant, your fan belt.”

She notes tire dealers often offer free inspections to ensure tires are properly inflated and undamaged.

AAA spokesperson Aixa Diaz advises getting the whole car serviced before hitting the road.

“If you're a car person and you can, do that yourself at home, by all means,” she said. Otherwise, she recommends getting the oil changed and battery and tires checked professionally. 

To save time and avoid stress, Diaz also suggests filling up on gas the night before leaving and making hotel reservations well in advance, noting that many hotels allow cancellations without penalty up until the day beforehand. 

What do you need before a road trip?

It’s always good to keep an emergency kit with supplies like first aid, a flashlight and extra batteries, and basic tools in the vehicle.

“You want to make sure that if you do have a tire issue, you have the proper tools and jacks in your vehicle to be able to change it,” Daly said. She said warning signals like reflective triangles can also warn other drivers to steer clear in the event of a breakdown.

For road trips, both she and Diaz recommend shelf-stable snacks like protein bars that won’t melt and plenty of water. “Don't think that a bottle or two for everybody is enough,” Daly said. “You've got to have, you know, five or six bottles for everyone.” 

Diaz also recommends wet wipes, blankets during the winter, and any time-sensitive medication or pet food that might be needed in the event of an extended delay.

“These things ideally wouldn't take up too much room in your trunk but they're just good to have in case of an emergency,” Diaz said. “Just think, ‘If I were stuck for a long time, what would keep me comfortable until I was able to (get) help?’”  

A printed map and a general sense of the route can also help in case there GPS hiccups or a phone dies.  AAA’s free TripTik planner can help travelers plot their trips in advance and find rest stops, lodging, food and gas along the way. And its free Gas Cost Calculator can help locate the cheapest average gas prices for drivers when it’s time to refuel.

'Get out there': This mom is using a never-ending road trip to inspire Black family travel

What I should know before a road trip?

“Everything can be a distraction in the car – the radio, the kids, etc. But the phone is a big one,” Daly advised. “When you’re driving, that thing should not ever be in your hand.”

More than 3,500 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2021 because of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . 

Daly also recommends watching out for distracted drivers.

“You can tell a distracted driver by their fluctuating speed,” she warned. “They're drifting in their lane. Their head is looking down instead of focusing on the road. You want to give those people a wide berth.”

How long will a road trip take?

Road trips always take longer than expected because of traffic, construction and other things that arise en route.

Diaz says to expect at least an hour longer than whatever the GPS predicts. Daly recommends leaving at least two hours early.

“You don't want that stressful drive,” Daly said. “You’re hurrying. That lends to bad driving behaviors like tailgating and speeding, which leads to accidents. Don’t put yourself in that situation.”

How many hours a day should you drive on a road trip?

“It just varies so much from person to person, how long they’re comfortable driving,” Diaz said. “We want to err on the side of safety. We want people to be safe on the roads and drive the speed limit and not rush it, but everybody's different.”

Switching out drivers can lighten the load, but no matter who is driving, Daly said, “If you're starting to feel a little, less attentive, maybe a little fatigued, it’s time to take a break.”

What time is best to drive?

“We always recommend, especially during the holidays, leave early in the morning,” Diaz said. “The later you leave in the day, the worse it's going to be because a lot of times during the week … you're going to mix with those commuters on the road.”

“Some people enjoy night driving,” she added. “Once you get to like 8 p.m., 9 p.m. traffic comes down a lot.” 

However, she noted drivers who leave in the evening should watch out for fatigue and plan to drive less than if they started fresh in the morning.

How do you take a good road trip with kids? 

When possible, Daly recommends having a designated passenger to help with kids so the driver can focus on the road.  

Another important thing is to keep seatbelts on the whole way.

“Kids have a tendency to take those off,” Daly said. “Make sure they stay buckled up. I've seen some horrible things out there.”

'I just want to see more of us': The importance of seeing people like you while traveling

What do kids need on a road trip?

Entertainment helps pass the time, but it doesn’t have to be digital. There are all sorts of screen-free road trip games . 

Diaz recommends printing a map or list of sites or cities for kids to watch for along the way.

“You know, yell it out or mark it on your sheet,” she said. “Have some crayons in the car with them so they're following along on the trip, and they feel like they're part of it.”

“Point out historical landmarks and scenery; enjoy nature,” Daly echoed. “That's one of the things that we truck drivers love about our jobs is we get to see the country and nature.”

Stop at points of interest every few hours or simply for everyone to stretch their legs.

And for those times when kids are on screens, make sure to pack car chargers.

What is the best way to save gas?

Don’t speed. 

“Fuel economy peaks at around 50 miles per hour on most cars, and then it drops off as the speeds increase,” Diaz said. “You think, ‘OK, if I just go 70, I'm going to get there faster, and it'll be better,’ but essentially, you're just wasting gas at that point." Fuel economy can be increased by as much as 15% by reducing highway speeds by 5 to 10 miles per hour, she said.

Don’t idle unnecessarily either, like at rest stops.

“Your car engine consumes about a quarter to a half a gallon of fuel per hour while it's idling,” she said. “But a warm engine only takes about 10 seconds’ worth of fuel to restart, so if it's safe to do so, just shut off your engine.”

Story continues below.

What happens if my tire blows out?

“When you blow a tire, kaboom, it freaks you out. Do not panic,” Daly said. “Don't slow down abruptly or brake hard or jerk the wheel because that will cause you to lose control and have an accident.”

“Just focus on steering,” she added. “Slow very gradually, off to the side of the road in a safe area, and you won’t have any issue from your blown tire.”

How do you drive around semitrucks?

“Be aware of our needs and limitations,” Daly said. “You know we’re big. We need a lot of space around us. We have big blind spots. … If you can’t see the truck driver’s face in the mirrors of the truck, the truck driver can’t see you.”

She advised against passing on the right. 

“If you have to pass quickly, don’t linger over there. We see people driving over there for the shade (and it) puts us in a very dangerous situation,” she said. “And don’t cut in front of us and then hit your breaks. People don’t like to follow a truck because they can’t see around us, so they pass us and then cut in front of us.”

“It takes away that safety cushion we leave in front of us,” she added. “When you see all that space in front of a truck, that's not for your convenience so that you can pass us and cut into it. That’s for our safety and yours.”

By the same token, she advised fellow drivers to leave plenty of space in front of their own vehicles, so they have enough room to stop quickly in an emergency. If another driver cuts into that space, she suggested, “Take a break. Slow down again. Recreate that space. Bite your tongue and think pure thoughts.”

That last tip may not be so easy.

What has been your best or worst road trip experience?

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Memorial Day weekend 2024 travel will be busiest at these times: How to avoid traffic jams

I f you’re traveling for Memorial Day weekend , be prepared to run into some crowds. The next holiday weekend – taking place May 25 to 27 – is slated to see a record-breaking number of travelers, according to AAA. 

A projected 43.8 million Americans are expected to pack their bags for trips over 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend – a 4% increase from last year and close to 2005’s previous record of 44 million. 

“We haven’t seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel, in a press release. “We’re projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we’re exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead.”

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Both roads and airports will be extremely busy, with a historic number of roadtrippers since AAA began tracking data in 2000. That’s 38.4 million drivers, up 4% from last year. 

A predicted 3.51 million airline passengers are expected to hit the skies over the holiday weekend, a 4.8% increase from 2023. This will make for the most crowded Memorial Day weekend at airports since 2005, AAA said. 

Here’s everything you need to know about traffic if you’re hoping for a Memorial Day weekend getaway.

Summer is just around the corner. Here's everything you need to know for your summertime trip.

What are the most popular destinations for Memorial Day weekend travel?

Most popular domestic destinations:

  • Seattle, 
  • Las Vegas, 
  • Anaheim/Los Angeles

Most popular international destinations:

  • Vancouver, Canada

What are the best times to drive for Memorial Day weekend? 

To avoid the worst traffic, drivers leaving for their long weekend trip on Thursday, May 23, and Friday, May 24, should hit the road before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday. 

Travelers driving on Saturday, May 25, who leave before 1 p.m. and after 6 p.m., will be able to avoid the worst traffic jams. On Sunday, drivers should head out before 1 p.m. to avoid the worst congestion. 

Travelers returning home on Monday, May 27, should embark after 7 p.m. if they want to dodge peak traffic. 

What are the worst times to drive by car for Memorial Day weekend?

Travelers should expect the worst traffic on Thursday between noon and 6 p.m. 

Friday between noon and 7 p.m. since they’ll encounter commuter congestion as well. 

Over the weekend, peak traffic is anticipated to be between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday. 

On Memorial Day, drivers heading back home can expect peak traffic between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., aka peak rush hour time.

Peak congestion times in major US cities

Travelers who are going through major metropolitan areas should unfortunately expect travel times to be up to 90% longer than usual, according to Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Travelers should stay up to date on traffic apps, 511 services, and local news stations to avoid sitting in traffic longer than necessary,” Pishue said in a statement. 

  • Worst route: Atlanta to Savannah via I-16 E
  • Worst day: Saturday, May 25
  • Worst time: 4:45 p.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 5 hours, 31 minutes
  • 54% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Manchester to Boston via I-93 S
  • Worst day: Sunday, May 26
  • Worst time: 8:45 a.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
  • 50% increased travel time 


  • Worst route: Milwaukee to Chicago via I-94 E 
  • Worst time: 4:30 p.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
  • 27% increased travel time
  • Worst route: Fort Collins to Denver via I-25 
  • Worst time: 4:15 p.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
  • 56% increased travel time

Los Angeles

  • Worst route: LA to Bakersfield via I-5 N 
  • Worst day: Thursday, May 23
  • Worst time: 6:15 p.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
  • 84% increased travel time
  • Worst route: New York to Albany via I-87N 
  • Worst time: 11:45 a.m. 
  • Estimated travel time: 2 hours, 37 minutes


  • Worst route: Philadelphia to Baltimore/DC 
  • Worst day: Friday, May 24
  • Worst time: 7:30 a.m.
  • 64% increased travel time

San Francisco

  • Worst route:  San Francisco to Napa via I-80 E
  • Worst time: 11 a.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Washington, D.C.

  • Worst route: Washington, DC to Baltimore via Balt/Wash Pkwy N 
  • Worst time: 2:15 p.m.
  • Estimated travel time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
  • 72% increased travel time

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected] .

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Memorial Day weekend 2024 travel will be busiest at these times: How to avoid traffic jams

Whether you're driving across the country on your annual family road trip or taking a weekend to enjoy the open road, there are plenty of ways to save on the cost of fuel.


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