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The Best U.S. Destinations to Visit in December

best places to travel in december

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December travel is a mixed bag because so many different people want so many other things during this high-stakes month. With that manic solstice energy on the rise, it’s crucial to land where you and your traveling companions will fair best. For some, this means bundling up for colder destinations like Colorado; for others, stripping down to enjoy seaside state parks with ocean views.

No matter your December disposition, one of the options below ought to ring truer than silver sleigh bells on a little drummer boy’s… you get the idea. Happy holiday and best wishes on your next December getaway!

The Best U.S. Destinations to Visit in December

American Deserts

The USA has some of the most breathtaking deserts that can be found on the face of the earth. Thanks to good old-fashioned American ingenuity, many have been preserved as national parks. For fans of the desert, December is one of the best times of year to enjoy their arid weather without suffering the worst their average temperatures can dish out. Popular desert destinations to add to your list include but are not limited to the following:

  • Utah: Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef
  • Nevada: Red Rock Canyon, Great Basin, Lake Mead (shared with Arizona), Death Valley (shared with California)
  • Arizona: Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Petrified Forest, Saguaro
  • California: Joshua Tree, Death Valley
  • New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands

New York City

So you say you like it cold? If we’re talking both weather and attitudes, there’s no better place to spend the holidays than the shooting location of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”! Whether enjoying the Big Apple’s many Christmas markets, ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza, or watching the ball drop in Times Square, Manhattan is the place to be in late December if you want to rub some cheetah blood on your season.

Las Vegas

Viva lost wages! Considering Nevada’s hot rest of the year, it’s often a stroke of genius to visit the Silver State during the colder months. Just remember, while Sin City has many attractions and activities that are more enjoyable in cool weather, high desert locations in the northern part of the state like Reno and Carson City actually get pretty chilly in December, so you might want to avoid them.

Southern California

RELATED: The Parent’s Guide to Exploring Joshua Tree National Park

Contrary to popular belief, the Golden State isn’t all beaches and glamor. Just like Nevada, the northern and more mountainous reaches of C.A. get very cold during December. That being said, December is prime time for So-Cal adventures.

Los Angeles: Although L.A. has pretty decent weather year-round, the cold season is when you want to tackle a majority of the area’s attractions. December is the best time of year to do a Los Angeles round-up that includes popular places like Hollywood, Disneyland, Universal Studios, and more.

San Diego: While most West Coast cities in California are sure to be more relaxed during winter, southern destinations like San Diego are at their least humid, making December a great time to do all the fun things the city has to offer. Suppose you’ve got San Diego in your crosshairs. In that case, you should definitely consider points of interest like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and Balboa Park.

Florida

If winter weather isn’t your thing, ditch the ski resorts for hot springs and white sand beaches in Florida. From the clear waters of Miami Beach to scuba diving and more, the month of December is the perfect time of year to enjoy the Sunshine State! If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the famed Florida Man.

Hawaii

Forget the road trips and get yourself a plane ticket. You’re headed across the Pacific Ocean. The Hawaiian Islands are among the best places to travel when the cold, dark of winter sets in. From active volcanoes to beautiful beaches, you’ll be happy you’re snorkeling in crystal clear waters and not buried under an avalanche.

Bonus: International Destinations

Warm weather can often be challenging to find when the holiday season hits. This being the case, December is an ideal time to plan off-season getaways to places where you can enjoy sandy beaches year-round. If you want to trade in your Christmas tree for palm trees and world-class nightlife, here’s a brief reminder of all those bucket list destinations you’ve been meaning to get to:

  • Asia: Thailand, Southern Japan, India, Maldives, Dubai
  • Americas: The Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Chile
  • Australia: The continent its self and its younger sibling New Zealand

On the other hand, if you want to spend that special time of year in the sort of winter wonderland that gave the U.S. many of its most popular holiday traditions, you might consider heading to Europe. Santa’s sleigh should still be able to find you and the European calendar shares the same New Year’s Eve as ours, so it’s time to make all those Spanish lessons pay off. Some of the most popular European destinations to head to during December include England, Germany, France, and Italy, just to name a few.

What’s your favorite U.S. December destination? Share the details on our Wide Open Road Facebook!

READ MORE: Off-Strip Las Vegas: 10 Ways to Explore Sin City’s Other Side

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