6 Best Warm Places to Visit in December in The USA

From snorkeling in crystal clear Gulf waters to Christmas bonfires along the Mississippi River, here are the best places to avoid the cold season

As a tropical ocean wave gently crashes at my feet, I can’t help but feel glad that I’ve managed a weekend getaway to Maui’s unique black-sand beaches, one of the best warm places to visit in December in the USA. And, if you’re anything like me, you know that knowing where to look is half the fun.

From chowing down on some world-famous Low Country boil on Tybee Island to snorkeling crystal clear waters in Dry Tortugas, the country’s least-visited national park, warm weather may sometimes truly just be a short plane ride away. If you’re looking to trade some wintry weather for sunshine and sand this December, here are six ideal warm-weather destinations for your next sun-soaked getaway.

Phoenix (AZ): Desert Hikes, Nightly Illuminations And Warm Weather in December

With average daily temperatures ranging in the low to mid-70s, Phoenix, Arizona, serves as one of the best warm places to visit in December in the USA. Perfect for those looking to escape the harsh December elements, this guaranteed warm-weather destination offers up plenty of fun in the sun with its late 19th-century ghost towns, old Western film sets, and numerous desert hiking trails, including the interactive outdoor one at the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park—which documents the lives of the area’s indigenous inhabitants, the Hohokam people.

For a truly Southwestern holiday experience, head to the Desert Botanical Garden, where over 8,000 hand-lit luminary bags illuminate cacti and other desert flora during the annual Las Noches de las Luminarias festival. And, if you’re still looking to partake in some frosty winter activities, the CitySkate ice skating rink in downtown Phoenix has everything from crooning carolers and twinkling holiday lights to hot cocoa and, of course, a 36-foot tall Christmas tree.

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Tybee Island (GA): Ultimate Southern Hospitality And Fresh Oysters in The Winter

Located just 20 miles east of Savannah, Tybee Island is one of several barrier islands surrounding Georgia’s eastern coastline. Home to the state’s oldest lighthouse, the island exudes small-town charm and southern hospitality, even during the slow-paced, milder winters—afternoon temperatures average in the low to mid-60s throughout December.

Head to CoCo’s Sunset Grille or The Crab Shack during the winter months when fresh shrimp and oysters are aplenty to sample the island’s authentic oyster roasts and buckets of world-famous Low Country boil, made by boiling fresh shrimp, sliced potatoes, corn, and sausage in seasoned water. This tranquil oasis is also an underrated choice for ringing in the New Year—the island is usually responsible for setting off the area’s largest fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.

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New Orleans (LA): Christmas Bonfires and Self-Guided Street Art Tours

From vibrant art walks in the Bywater district to multiple-course Creole-themed Réveillon dinners all month long, there are plenty of ways to laissez les bons temps rouler—let the good times rollin New Orleans in December. With low humidity, temperatures in the mid-60s, and the lack of crowds, winter proves to be a prime time to experience everything that the Crescent City in Louisiana has to offer.

For a one-of-a-kind Louisianan Christmas experience, head approximately 30 miles upriver to the levees along the east- and west-bank River Roads where local communities set aflame 20-foot towering wooden bonfires. Tracing its roots back to the region’s earliest Cajun settlers, this tradition lights the skies as Papa Noel begins his sleigh ride journey delivering presents to little ones in the neighborhood.

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Hana (HI): Lush Rainforests, Cascading Waterfalls and Azure Blue Pacific Ocean Waters

Situated on Maui’s rural eastern side, the tiny town of Hana may be one of Hawaii’s most isolated communities, but it’s surrounded by nature and adventure everywhere you turn. As one of the most ideal warm places to visit in December in the USA—temperatures stay consistently in the 80s—those seeking an adventurous weekend getaway can expect everything from pristine, black-sand beaches, and sacred pools to underground lava tubes and hiking through dense bamboo forests.

No trip to Maui is complete without taking a drive along the famed Road to Hana, a scenic 64-plus mile highway known for its winding one-lane road that traverses past lush rainforests with cascading waterfalls towards rugged cliffs with steep drop-offs into the azure blue waters of the Pacific Ocean down below.

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Key West (FL): Crystal Clear Waters and Hemingway's Island Abode

Whether you’re spending the morning touring Hemingway’s historic house in old town Key West or the afternoon learning and sipping on rum at an 8,000-square foot distillery, the incredible daily 90-degree sunny days make Key West (FL) one of the most ideal warm places to visit in December in the USA.

As part of Florida’s southernmost point, this island city of the Florida Keys archipelago is one of the country’s top island getaways. Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the United States’ least visited national parks, lies 70 miles west of the city and provides some of the finest crystal clear waters for snorkeling in the country. With over 67,000 acres of coral reef and green sea beds, expect to see moray eels, nurse sharks, mollusks, juvenile barracuda, coral shrimp, and squid.

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Galveston Island (TX): Centuries-old Architectural Marvels and Whale Watching in December

One of several barrier islands in Texas, Galveston Island, is a great family-friendly destination that offers not just hours of beach and outdoor fun but also architecture and history. Take a mansion tour of the downtown district to marvel at the plethora of Greek Revival, Neo-Renaissance, Gothic, or Beaux-Arts buildings, including the oldest standing building, the Michel B. Menard House, built by the port town’s founder in 1838.

With average daily temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low-70s, Galveston Island remains a top contender for warm places to visit in December in the USA. The Gulf of Mexico’s tropical blue waters are rife with humpback whales, as well as several schools of dolphins, including bottlenose and Fraser’s dolphins, who enjoy swimming fairly close to the shore.

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