The 20 Best Places to Visit in December in the U.S.
December is such a special time for many people. You have the joy of Christmas and all the beautiful lights that seem to be almost everywhere. One of the most beautiful things about spending December in the United States is that you have so many options available to you when it comes to places to see. Furthermore, you don’t have to enjoy the cold temperatures and snow unless you want to. There are all kinds of places where you can enjoy December on the beach or at the very least, in your favorite t-shirt and shorts.
Here is a list of 20 places that are great to visit in December. One thing is certain, you’ll enjoy an entirely different experience in each of these locations. They all have their own unique flavor and they all celebrate the month in their own way. There is no doubt you’ll be able to find somewhere on this list that resonates with you. It might even be calling to you to come visit this year.
20. Maui, Hawaii
Have you ever thought about attending a Christmas luau? If you have, this is obviously the perfect place to do exactly that. All kidding aside, they do feature Christmas luaus in many different locations around Hawaii throughout the month of December, not just in Maui. They also have other Christmas events such as the lighting of the Banyan Tree. In case you’re interested in seeing more than just Christmas lights, this is also a near perfect time of year to go whale watching, as the humpback whales are migrating through the area at exactly this time of year.
Since the weather is good year-round, you can also enjoy time on the beach. As a matter of fact, it usually doesn’t get hotter than 85 degrees during the day throughout the month of December, but the lows are typically in the 60s. In other words, you can be comfortable 24 hours a day and you don’t have to constantly worry about whether or not the weather plans to be agreeable when you’re ready to go out and start exploring.
19. Leavenworth, Washington
This is a gorgeous destination any time of the year. The architecture is reminiscent of a German village from a bygone era and the town sits along the Wenatchee River, just below the mountains. It makes for a picturesque view any time of year, but it’s even better in December. That’s because they light up the entire Main Street, turning it into a real life work of art. What about activities? All you have to do is take a stroll downtown and you’ll find more things to do than you probably have time for. All the shops stay open late during the month of December and sell goods that are geared more toward Christmas. Some of them even sell roasted chestnuts. If you have a bit of an adventurous spirit, you can also go on a sleigh ride. You can even find local groups to go caroling with.
18. Austin, Texas
Austin is famous for a lot of things and in December, it’s most famous for the spectacular Trail of Lights, put on annually in Zilker Park. The park features more than two million lights and 150 lit Christmas trees. The display is so long that it takes roughly 30 minutes to drive through it. If you’re walking, you should plan on at least a couple of hours. When you’re finished, you can continue enjoying the night by going downtown to hear live Christmas theme music and even stop by one of the many bars there who typically have Christmas specials going on throughout the entire month.
17. Savannah, Georgia
In Savannah, there are many different places that you can choose to enjoy growing your Christmas spirit. If you go downtown, everything is decorated with lights, complete with red ribbons and bows. Do you prefer the river? If so, you can head on down to the riverfront and enjoy a whole string of pop-up shops with a German Christmas theme. It’s a great place to enjoy some traditional music, look at the lights and purchase some unique gifts for loved ones that you probably wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. There’s also a great nativity scene at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, one of the best in the country. It’s also worth noting that the town has a great historic district and all of the homes get decorated for Christmas.
16. Asheville, North Carolina
There are a lot of reasons to love Asheville, not the least of which includes dozens of hiking trails that sit right next to the Great Smoky Mountains. However, things take on an even more special atmosphere during the month of December. If you want to truly immerse yourself in the experience, book a tour at the Biltmore House, the largest privately-owned home in the entire country.
The house has more than 250 rooms. As it happens, they also offer daytime tours and overnight stays at the house throughout the entire month. If you prefer, you can even take a candlelight walk-through tour that happens at dusk. Rest assured, you won’t just be walking through an enormous house with nothing to do or see. The whole thing is decorated and they even have people on staff to give you a completely immersive Christmas experience.
15. Aspen, Colorado
There is definitely no shortage of things to do in Aspen during the month of December. In fact, it’s one of the most popular destinations in the entire country for those who love things like skiing and snow snowboarding. Of course, you can also take a sleigh ride or even ride an inner tube down a specially-designed hill that will definitely get your blood pumping. If you’re both athletic and artistic, consider enjoying time ice skating at the downtown ice skating rink. Of course, they have all kinds of shops downtown where you can purchase unique gifts and get hot chocolate. Anyone who’s in the mood for a luxury experience can choose one of their luxury ski resorts and make a weekend out of it, something that you definitely won’t regret doing.
14. Orlando, Florida
Spend time at the Grand Floridian and check out the huge lit Christmas tree and one of the biggest gingerbread houses in the United States. Of course, you can also visit major tourist attractions like Disney. They tend to decorate the park for Christmas in such a manner that it almost takes on an entirely new life. If you really want to enjoy the December experience in Florida, take care to book your trip at a specific time of year when they’re having one of their Christmas boat parades.
It’s definitely something that you probably haven’t ever seen before and more importantly, it’s worth seeing. This is also a great place to enjoy the month of December without freezing half to death, as they usually have temperatures in the 70s and 80s during the day. Even better, it doesn’t usually get colder than the low 50s at night. Typically, nighttime temperatures run somewhere in the mid-60s.
13. Miami, Florida
Enjoy some of the traditional festivities that usually occur during the month of December such as the special holiday decorations at Zoo Miami. Alternatively, you might decide to take in a show such as the Nutcracker. The town is renowned for putting on one of the best examples of this particular show in existence. At the same time, you can still enjoy warm beaches during the day and even take in some of the attractions that the city is well known for during every month of the year. Think about places like the Miami Design District, Little Havana and the Vizcaya Museum.
12. New York, New York
What isn’t there to do in New York? It isn’t only in December that you will find plenty of things to do. It truly is the city that never sleeps. As such, you have the opportunity to do shopping at some of the most iconic stores in the country while simultaneously taking in a show and enjoying fine dining. If it’s Christmas activities you’re looking for, consider stopping by Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree or even going ice skating in Central Park.
11. US Virgin Islands
The US Virgin Islands of St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas provide an excellent way for you to enjoy a tropical vacation without ever leaving the country and you can do it throughout the month of December. The weather there is warm enough to not only walk along the beaches, but to actually go snorkeling during the day. In fact, you can spend as much time as you want throughout the month of December at any of these islands, all the while feeling like you’re enjoying a summer holiday. The only thing you should be aware of is that there are a lot of people who want to experience the same thing during the cold month of December. As such, the beaches can sometimes be crowded.
10. Pasadena, California
If you’re one of those people who has sat at home watching the Rose Parade on television for the majority of your life and wished that you could somehow participate, this is the place to be during the month of December. As a matter of fact, they actually have something called Deco Week that occurs during the last week of the month. It’s the week where everyone gets to make final touches to the floats that they prepared for the parade and they use volunteers to help them get it all done on time. If you want to participate, all you have to do is book your trip in advance, show up and have the time of your life. While you’re there, you might as well go to the parade and see it in person.
9. Phoenix, Arizona
The great thing about Phoenix is that you can still spend loads of time outdoors during the month of December and you don’t have to worry about freezing cold or boiling hot temperatures. It makes it the perfect place to go if you’re really into things like hiking and rock climbing because there is plenty of it to be enjoyed. What if you’re more in the mood for festive types of activities that are geared toward the holidays? In that case, check out Glendale Glitters. It’s a holiday festival that has everything from food to music and lights. You can also go ice skating at CityScape. Don’t forget to visit the Desert Botanical Garden while you’re there.
8. Charleston, South Carolina
The city is famous for the Holiday Festival of Lights and so much more. There are loads of old plantations to visit as well as the Charleston Museum and the South Carolina Aquarium. If you love looking at Christmas decorations, head to the Historic District and enjoy all of the homes that make the most out of decorating for Christmas each and every year. It’s also a great place to take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage. You can do this through either the aforementioned Historic District or take a carriage ride downtown.
7. Washington, D.C.
Take a walking tour to see many of the area’s historic homes that are decorated for Christmas. While you’re there, be sure to visit the National Tree. Of course, if you prefer to do some indoor activities you can enjoy the Smithsonian Museum or one of the dozens of other museums dotted throughout the city.
6. Key West, Florida
Every year, the Historic Seaport hosts the Lighted Boat Parade, something that locals and visitors alike look forward to every year. As is the case with most other destinations in this part of the country, you can enjoy the time spent on the water, walk along the beaches or even take a boat ride. The weather is typically warm enough throughout the month of December to accommodate these activities. If you love older houses that are decorated, check out the dozens of Victorian mansions in the area, almost every one of them decorated for Christmas.
5. Boulder, Colorado
Go skiing on Eldora Mountain. If that’s really not your thing, consider visiting the Pearl Street Mall. It’s an outdoor street mall that has gained notoriety throughout the country. In addition to enjoying holiday music and looking at the lights downtown, you can also get involved in the Winter Craft Beer Festival. If you love craft beer and you like to try new things, this is one of the best festivals of the entire month, in Colorado or anywhere else.
4. Salt Lake City, Utah
Enjoy a carriage ride and taking in the lights at Temple Square. If you’re into history, you can learn more about how individuals who were local to the area during the 1800s celebrated Christmas at “This Is The Place” in Heritage Park. There are also numerous small, independently-owned shops that operate throughout the Downtown District. If you’re looking for a unique gift for someone, this is a great place to start.
3. Breckenridge, Colorado
Breckenridge is well known as one of the most prominent ski resorts in the entire country. It only stands to reason that it would be a go-to destination for people throughout the month of December. After all, numerous resorts in the area offer some of the best skiing you’ll ever find there, especially during this time of year. When you’re not skiing, take a trip downtown and enjoy the many shops where you can find unique gifts as well as some great food and even live holiday music.
2. San Antonio, Texas
You can enjoy holiday-themed activities at the Riverwalk or by going to either the Historic District or downtown in order to enjoy some spectacular lights and live holiday music. San Antonio offers some of the most diverse independently-owned shops as well as hundreds of places to eat. While you’re there, you can also take in some local culture by visiting the Alamo or seeing the types of dinosaurs that used to roam the area at the Witte Museum. If you just happen to have a bit of an adventurous spirit to your personality, you can go to the top of the Tower of the Americas at Heritage Park. It’s a 750 ft ride up that gives you a panoramic view of the city, provided you can handle all the excitement.
1. New Orleans, Louisiana
In addition to its old-world charm and great live music (not to mention the food), you can see more than 50 lit Christmas trees at The Roosevelt Hotel. By the way, the entire exterior of the hotel is also covered in lights, a site to behold. There are also loads of illuminated pieces of art located in Lafayette Square throughout the month.