I go absolutely giddy with holiday cheer and love decorating my apartment reach December (and spending countless nights curled up watching cheesy Christmas rom-coms at home!)
But, I also love traveling for pleasure in December. It’s one of those months that at a lot of write off as “only for Christmas and family travel” but there’s so many epic places to visit in December around the country. Some offer holiday vibes, and others offer ideal weather or a fraction of the normal crowds.
Very Best Places To Visit In December USA
If you’re planning a December getaway in the USA, these are spots you need to check out:
1. Leavenworth, Washington
If you’re looking for a magical winter wonderland that feels like you’re in strolling around Christmas markets in Germany (but you know, without the time and price tag of actually going to Germany) then you need to visit Leavenworth, Washington.
Tucked in the Cascade Mountains is a little town that was designed in a Bavarian style so it looks exactly like a little town outside Munich.
They go all out with a huge tree lighting ceremony, holiday lights around town, real reindeer you can actually pet, sleigh rides through the snow, a nutcracker museum and so much more. It’s hands down the best place to visit in December if you love Christmas.
2. New York City
Christmas in New York City is a classic! Rocking around the Rockefeller Center giant Christmas tree on the Ice skating rink, seeing the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, the Saks 5th Avenue Light Show (and literally all of the town gets dressed up in lights!)
It’s also a popular place to ring in the New Year, though only the brave head to Time Square for the ball drop.
3. Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley was the first ski lift built in the United States, so there’s some dang good skiing here. But even if you don’t hit the slopes, coming to Sun Valley, Idaho for a holiday visit is so special.
You can eat fondue on the top of Mount Baldy with panoramic Sawtooth Mountain views, go snowshoeing at Galena Lodge (bonus points if it’s in the middle of a snowstorm like we did), eat a potato as big as your head and take sleigh rides around the village.
This is of those super underrated places to visit in December that has quickly become our favorite! We had such a fun time last year, especially since we arrived the night of a big snow storm so the whole town felt extra magical.
4. Key West, Florida
If you’re looking for the best warm places to visit in December, Florida is always a classic but instead of lounging in Pensacola or Miami, head to the Florida Keys for year-round tropical beach vibes that feel more like you’re in Costa Rica instead of the United States.
The best beach on the island is Smathers Beach, and the weather will stay around 78 degrees even in December! Pack your snorkel and swimsuit for all the warm weather.
You can also venture off the islands to nearby Everglades National Park (a bucket list national park!) and for Christmas events, you can’t miss the Annual Schooner Wharf Holiday Boat Parade
5. Disneyland, California
Disney goes all out for the holiday season. There’s a Christmas-themed parade and fireworks, new holiday food and cocktail offerings, tons of lights and decor up and other special events to help make this the Merriest Place on Earth.
You could easily get lost for a whole week at Disneyland for Christmas, but if you can spare a few days in Southern California, pop down the coast to San Diego to see Balboa Park December Nights, the Christmas boat parade and the Surfin’ Santa Arrival for extra holiday fun.
But, even if you stick to the theme park, you’ll have a blast (and stay pretty warm!)
6. Joshua Tree National Park
About 45 minutes from Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park is one of our favorite parks in California. In the summer it can get easily over 120 degrees in the desert so visiting in the cooler months is just more enjoyable.
Plus, you may catch some snow in the park (trust us – seeing Joshua Trees covered in snow is utterly magical!)
When you’re not hiking around Skull Rock, there’s also the Noah Purifoy art exhibit, a huge rock with an alien background, and tons of cute Joshua Tree Airbnb’s with hot tubs to star gaze in the winter air.
7. Death Valley National Park
If you thought Joshua Tree got hot in the summer, Death Valley gets even hotter. The highest temperatures ever recorded was upwards of 134 degrees in the park. So, it’s also best to visit in the winter when it’s more enjoyable and just safer.
You’ll want to see Badwater Basin, Mesquite Sand Dunes, and Artists Drive. Make sure to pack layers and gloves, and it will be cold at night in the desert. It’s also one of the best places to go in December because you may get rare snow desert snow if you’re lucky!
8. Blue Ridge Mountains
Embrace southern hospitality at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Appalachian Mountains. Kick off your visit with Blue Ridge Scenic Railway ride, then visit the Holidaze Celebration Markets or Gingerbread Village.
This is such a charming area to visit in December that’s there’s even a Hallmark movie called “A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas”
This makes one of the best places to travel in December on a budget since the Blue Ridge Parkway span over 500 miles, so you can easily find hotels and activities at an affordable price.
9. San Antonio, Texas
Have you ever seen Santa with a cowboy hat? It’s fantastic and reason enough to visit the Lone Star State in December. South Padre Island is popular for a winter beach getaway, but San Antonio is one of the biggest cities in Texas, and there’s so much to do. The most iconic spot in town is the San Antonio River Walk – you can stroll along the river, take a river cruise (like the one pictured above) or sip on a margarita at one of the many restaurants along the River Walk.
One of the best places to visit in San Antonio is the Historic Pearl. A former brewery that has been given new life as a place to eat, shop and stay! One of the most beautiful hotels in San Antonio, Hotel Emma is located at The Pearl. Even if you don’t stay, it’s worth grabbing a drink to check out the space!
And you can’t forget the Alamo! Admission to the Alamo Church is free, but if you’re a big history buff, definitely take the full tour! You can also check out the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park for even more of the city’s rich history.
If you’re looking for an indoor activity, visit Hopscotch – an art gallery with 14 immersive and interactive installations from 40+ local, national and international artists!
10. Park City
Just an hour from Salt Lake City is the famous ski village of Park City.
They have tons of slopes and tubing hills to take advantage of in December, along with a downtown main street that gets covered in lights. It’s so dang charmiing.
Nearby in Midway is the famous Homestead Crater which is basically a giant hot spring cave and if you’re lucky, it’ll snow in December while you’re swimming here!
11. Scottsdale, Arizona
If you love to lounge by a heated pool during your winter vacations, you’ll love Scottsdale.
Early December is still the off season so you can find great deals on resorts. Many hotels string up lights and Christmas trees for all the holiday vibes.
The Fairmont has an epic ice skating rink and something even holiday rides. You shouldn’t miss the Desert Botanical Garden’s annual holiday events where they decorate the whole garden with holiday lights and have little musical shows all around.
12. Vail, Colorado
One of my favorite things to do in Vail during the cold months is head to the Four Seasons’ bar patio, find a seat next to a fireplace, and order one of their famous bougie hot chocolates while soaking in all the epic Rocky Mountain views.
Of course, Vail offers world-class skiing and there’s usually snow in December. When not on the slopes, check out Alpenrose’s gondola dinners, go snowshoeing or head to nearby Glenwood Springs for beautiful natural hot springs or visit vapor caves (they both feel amazing during the cold winters!)
13. Vancouver, Canada
Ok, so this isn’t in the United States but it’s pretty dang close. Vancouver is just over the border in British Columbia. It’s such a quick ferry ride if you live in Seattle or the Olympic National Peninsula.
I went here for my annual Christmas trip a few years ago and fell in love with all the Vancouver holiday activities.
Highlights include exploring the Capilano Suspension Bridge treetops which has literally millions of holiday lights, their authentic German Christmas Market, VanDusen Botanical Gardens Light Show and eating like, all the fresh seafood.
I hope this helps you figure out where to go in December!! I’m obsessed with taking Christmas trips each year and there’s still so many places on my winter bucket list.
This year, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be heading to Berlin with my friend Justina for a week running around all the Christmas markets and drinking like, a lot of beer.
I’ll also be heading to Quebec City with Robin for holiday lights but also things like ice canoeing. We’re really pumped for all these new to us December holiday destinations.
Winter travel is something more people need to take advantage of. It helps you get in the holiday cheer (or warm up and disconnect if this season overwhelms you!)
I find most companies only half work during December it’s a great time to take a trip so you can sorta stack a trip on top of Christmas break for a lot of time off. Happy holiday adventures!