Some people who live in the northern regions of the U.S. look forward to the winter months, while others just try to bear it until the earth’s north pole tips back towards the sun. If you are a die-hard winter-sports enthusiast, you may not want to miss a minute of winter fun. However, most people tend to get a little tired of the short days and bitter temperatures pretty quickly. If you are in the latter group, here is a list of the top warm winter vacation destinations in the United States:
The “Sunshine State” lives up to its nickname, with over 300 days of sunshine every year. With lower humidity, fewer midday thunderstorms, and no hurricanes, December, January, and February are the best winter months to visit Florida. Note the insects can be bad in Florida, even in the winter, so be sure to pack some good bug spray. If you are concerned about chemicals, a quality deet free repellent will keep the bugs at bay.
The theme-park mecca of Orlando is a great winter destination as all the parks see smaller crowds. However, try to avoid the parks during the major holiday weekends of Christmas and New Years. There are also some great community holiday events with outdoor parties and ice skating rinks. Among others in the area, Wekiwa Springs is an excellent destination for a family swim.
The trifecta of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami are collectively known as the “Gold Coast and offer some of the best winter weather in the world. The days tend to see temps in the low to mid-70s, and the nights rarely dip below 60 degrees. With beaches, restaurants, shopping, museums, theaters, parks, street fairs, and fishing, South Florida will not disappoint anyone looking for a winter getaway.
The town the world-renowned writer Ernest Hemingway made famous, Key West is a paradise for those looking to escape old man winter. At just 90 nautical miles from Cuba, Key West is the warmest winter spot in the continental U.S. and sees less than six days of rain per month during the winter. Most of the town is very laid back, with the exception of Duvall Street, where things can get a little colorful. From taking a snorkeling tour or jet skiing to visiting the famed Key West Lighthouse, Mallory Square, and Hemingway’s winter home, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. However, if you just want to kick back and enjoy the sunshine, Smathers Beach is a great choice.
South Padre Island, Texas
A popular winter getaway, South Padre Island sits at the tip of the Texas peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico and is the only tropical island in the great state of Texas. The top two attractions on the island are Sea Turtle, Inc. where you can get up close and personal with endangered species, and the Birding and Nature Center with a five-story high watchtower. Like Key West, the island is small and things fill up fast in the winter, so plan ahead and book early.
Las Vegas, Nevada
If you want glitz, glamour, and light along with warmer weather, Las Vegas is a great wintertime vacation spot. Casinos, shows, shopping, eating, dining, and miniature replicas of the world’s most famous landmarks are just the tip of the iceberg in Las Vegas. The mid-winter months of January and February are less busy, so you will get better deals on pretty much everything. However, while daytime temps will usually be in the 70s, be sure to bring a jacket as the desert can get nippy at night during the winter.
Another great desert winter destination is Tucson, as the weather is great during the day. Tucson has much of the culture associated with most big cities and lots of outdoor activities. Saguaro National Park has over 30 hiking trails that will take you among giant Saguaro cactus and Old Tucson, where they still shoot western movies just outside of town. Mount Lemon ski area is just an hour’s drive away, and there are mountain lakes on the way up that have trout waiting to be caught. However, like Las Vegas, it can get quite cool at night.
San Diego, California
With daytime temperatures averaging in the mid-70s all winter, you can enjoy the San Diego beaches year-round. Old Town San Diego, the actual birthplace of California, has over a dozen delicious spots where you can enjoy Mexican food and culture. You can visit the historic USS Midway aircraft carrier that was instrumental in helping win WWII, and Balboa Park offers art lovers a fun day out. Downtown San Diego holds Gaslamp Quarter, a wonderful spot to enjoy restaurants and nightlife.
Getting off the mainland, Maui has the warmest winter weather in all the states and is a great getaway for families, couples, and singles. Gorgeous Kaanapali Beach offers a dreamlike paradise setting with beautiful sandy beaches, palm trees, and water warm enough to swim in. While most people think of Hawaii as expensive, Maui is more affordable than you might think. There is plenty to do on a budget such as snorkeling, hiking into hidden waterfalls, and whale watching with peak humpback migration occurring in February. Book early for the best prices and try for the island’s west side as it sees less rain.
U.S. Virgin Islands
While the twin islands are not U.S. states, both are U.S. territories and U.S. citizens do not need a passport to visit. Even though St. Thomas and St. John are just twenty minutes apart, they are very different and nicely complement each other. Ferries between the islands depart every hour. Be sure to pack insect repellent as bugs can be thick in the tropics, and an odorless bug spray will keep you from smelling like chemicals on a night out.
Trunk Bay on St. John offers the picture-postcard perfect white sand beach with crystalline blue waters and tall palm trees. St John is the smallest of the major US Virgin Islands, and over 60 percent of it is a National park with the rest being predominately beautiful beaches and hiking trails. Sites to see include the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins and Watermelon Cay, Maho Bay, and Salt Pond are all fantastic for snorkeling. The island has its own brewery called St. John Brewers.
St. Thomas is the busiest cruise port in the Caribbean, is much more commercially developed than St John, and has all the restaurants, hotels, and nightlife. Note that because tropical storms have beaten up St. Johns in recent years, accommodations on St. Thomas can be on the pricey side and tend to book up quickly in the winter. If you plan to go, book early!
While this is not an all-inclusive list, these places offer a good representation of some great wintertime getaways. There are mosquitoes in most warm places, even in the winter, and these little pests carry a host of diseases, remember to pack an effective repellent. There are plenty of choices when buying bug spray, and many people are worried about using preparations with harsh chemicals. Proven insect repellent makes an entire line of repellents with low acute toxicity, including an odorless bug spray and a deet free repellent that can be purchased in stores or online.