December is a magical time to explore the United States, with a plethora of destinations offering unique experiences and festive celebrations. Whether you’re seeking a winter wonderland or a sunny escape, there’s something for everyone. From charming small towns to vibrant cities, here are the best places to travel in the US in December.
Winter Wonderland in Aspen, Colorado
Experience the breathtaking beauty of Aspen in December. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this winter wonderland offers a charming alpine escape. Hit the slopes of Aspen Snowmass, one of the most renowned ski resorts in the world, and carve your way through pristine powder. The resort boasts over 5,500 acres of skiable terrain suitable for all levels, from beginners to experts. Enjoy the exhilarating rush of skiing or snowboarding down the iconic slopes, surrounded by majestic peaks and picturesque scenery.
When you’re not on the slopes, indulge in après ski at one of the cozy mountain lodges or trendy bars. Sip on warm mulled wine or hot cocoa by a crackling fire, relishing in the cozy ambiance. Explore the charming town of Aspen itself, with its quaint streets lined with boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere as the town sparkles with holiday lights and decorations.
Annual Winter X Games
If you happen to visit Aspen in late December, don’t miss the annual Winter X Games. Held in Buttermilk Mountain, this action-packed event brings together the world’s best winter athletes competing in various disciplines. From gravity-defying jumps in snowboarding and skiing to thrilling snowmobile races, the Winter X Games offer an adrenaline-fueled spectacle. Witness the incredible skills and daring tricks performed by these athletes, creating an unforgettable experience for spectators of all ages.
Festive Spirit in New York City, New York
New York City is synonymous with Christmas, and the Big Apple truly comes alive during the holiday season. From the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to the dazzling lights of Times Square, the city radiates a festive spirit that captivates visitors. Start your New York City adventure by ice skating at the legendary Rockefeller Center rink, surrounded by towering skyscrapers and a magnificent Christmas tree. Marvel at the intricate decorations and sparkling lights adorning the streets, creating a magical atmosphere.
Don’t forget to catch a Broadway show, as theaters in New York City feature special holiday performances. Experience the enchantment of beloved classics like “The Nutcracker” or “A Christmas Carol,” or opt for a lively musical that will have you tapping your feet and singing along. After the show, take a stroll through Central Park, where you can admire the beautiful scenery and perhaps even catch a snowfall if you’re lucky.
Fifth Avenue Shopping Extravaganza
For a truly luxurious holiday experience, head to Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s most famous shopping destinations. Adorned with extravagant window displays and holiday decorations, this iconic street offers a shopping extravaganza. Explore high-end department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, where you’ll find designer clothing, accessories, and luxurious gifts. Don’t miss the chance to browse through the holiday markets that pop up throughout the city, where you can find unique handcrafted items and delicious treats.
Sunny Escape to Key West, Florida
If you’re looking to escape the cold and bask in sunshine during December, Key West is the perfect destination. Located at the southernmost point of the continental US, this tropical paradise offers a laid-back island vibe and a wealth of outdoor activities. Relax on sandy beaches, soak up the sun, and take refreshing dips in the crystal-clear turquoise waters.
For a unique experience, explore the vibrant coral reefs surrounding the island through snorkeling or diving. Encounter colorful marine life, including tropical fish, turtles, and even the occasional dolphin or manatee. Charter a boat and go deep-sea fishing, or simply enjoy a leisurely sunset cruise as you marvel at the breathtaking views.
Key West Lighted Boat Parade
During December, Key West hosts the famous Key West Lighted Boat Parade, a dazzling display of beautifully decorated boats that light up the night. Watch as these illuminated vessels parade along the waterfront, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. You can either watch the parade from the shore or opt for a boat tour to get up close to the festive boats. The combination of twinkling lights, holiday music, and the warm sea breeze will surely put you in the holiday spirit.
Cultural Delights in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Santa Fe during December. Known for its adobe architecture and vibrant art scene, this city offers a unique blend of history, tradition, and artistic expression. Explore the historic Plaza, adorned with festive lights and decorations. Marvel at the intricate details of the adobe buildings and visit the numerous art galleries showcasing local and international artworks.
Indulge in traditional New Mexican cuisine, known for its bold flavors and unique ingredients. Sample dishes like green chile stew, enchiladas, and posole, and don’t forget to try the famous sopapillas for a sweet treat. During Christmas Eve, Santa Fe becomes even more enchanting as thousands of farolitos (small paper lanterns) illuminate the streets, creating a magical atmosphere. Take a stroll through the illuminated neighborhoods and soak up the festive ambiance.
Christmas at Canyon Road
One of the highlights of Santa Fe in December is the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road. This annual tradition sees the iconic art district transformed into a mesmerizing display of farolitos and luminarias. Walk along the charming street lined with art galleries and restaurants, as the soft glow of the lanterns illuminates the path. Enjoy live music, carolers, and warm drinks as you immerse yourself in the holiday spirit. It’s a truly magical experience that showcases the unique charm of Santa Fe.
Magical Christmas in Leavenworth, Washington
Experience a fairytale-like Christmas in Leavenworth, a charming Bavarian-style village nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. With its picturesque alpine setting, Leavenworth offers a truly enchanting holiday experience. The village’s buildings are adorned with festive decorations, creating a magical ambiance reminiscent of a European Christmas market.
Stroll through the quaint streets, lined with boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants, and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere. Listen to carolers singing holiday tunes, enjoy live music performances, and savor delicious German food and beverages. Don’t miss the highlight of the season: the Christmas Lighting Festival, where the entire village is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights. Witness the lighting ceremony and experience the joy and wonder of this charming Christmas tradition.
Outdoor Adventures in Winter Wonderland
While the festive charm of Leavenworth is undeniable, the surrounding natural beauty also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures. If you’re a winter sports enthusiast, hit the nearby slopes for skiing, snowboarding, or tubing. The nearby Stevens Pass Ski Resort boasts a variety of terrain suitable for all skill levels.
If you prefer a more leisurely outdoor experience, explore the picturesque landscapes through cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The tranquility of the snow-covered forests and the stunning mountain views will leave you in awe. After a day of outdoor exploration, warm up with a cup of hot cocoa or mulled wine by a cozy fireplace in one of the village’s charming lodges.
Holiday Fun in New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is known for its vibrant culture and lively celebrations, and December is no exception. Experience the unique blend of French, African, and American traditions during the holiday season, creating a distinctive holiday experience. The city’s charming architecture, lively music, and delicious cuisine make it an exciting destination for December travel.
Start your New Orleans adventure by exploring the historic French Quarter. Admire the beautifully decorated balconies and ironwork as you stroll through the lively streets. Indulge in the city’s culinary delights, from gumbo and jambalaya to beignets and king cake. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a Réveillon dinner, a New Orleans tradition featuring a festive multi-course meal with live music and entertainment.
Christmas New Orleans Style
New Orleans takes the holiday season to the next level with its “Christmas New Orleans Style” celebration. Throughout December, the city comes alive with a variety of events and festivities. Enjoy live performances of holiday music, dazzling light displays, and festive parades. Visit the historic Garden District, where beautifully decorated mansions create a magical setting. Take a steamboat cruise along the Mississippi River, enjoying the sights and sounds of the season. New Orleans offers a unique and unforgettable holiday experience.
Winter Paradise in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
If you’re a winter sports enthusiast, Jackson Hole is the place to be in December. Nestled in the stunning Teton Range of Wyoming, this winter paradise offers world-class skiing, breathtaking landscapes, and a cozy mountain atmosphere. The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is renowned for its challenging slopes and incredible vertical drop, attracting skiers and snowboarders from around the globe.
Hit the slopes and carve your way through the powder, surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain scenery. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, there areterrain options for every skill level. Take a break from skiing and embark on a snowshoeing or cross-country skiing adventure in Grand Teton National Park, where you can explore the pristine wilderness and encounter wildlife such as elk, bison, and even wolves.
After a day of outdoor activities, unwind in the charming town of Jackson. Browse through the unique boutiques and art galleries, and warm up with a cup of hot cocoa or a hearty meal in one of the cozy restaurants. Don’t forget to take a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge, where you can get up close to these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
Wildlife Spotting in Grand Teton National Park
One of the highlights of visiting Jackson Hole in December is the opportunity to witness wildlife in their winter habitat. Grand Teton National Park, located just north of Jackson, offers a pristine landscape where you can spot a variety of animals. Bundle up in warm layers and embark on a wildlife safari, either by car or with a knowledgeable guide. Look out for herds of elk grazing in the meadows, bighorn sheep perched on rocky cliffs, and moose wandering through the snow-covered forests. Keep your eyes peeled for elusive creatures such as wolves and foxes, as well as the iconic bald eagles soaring through the sky.
Coastal Beauty in San Diego, California
Escape to sunny San Diego and enjoy mild temperatures and stunning coastal beauty during December. With its picturesque beaches, vibrant neighborhoods, and world-class attractions, this Southern California gem offers a perfect blend of relaxation and excitement.
Start your adventure by exploring the iconic neighborhoods of San Diego. Visit the historic Gaslamp Quarter, where Victorian-era buildings house trendy restaurants, bars, and shops. Stroll through the charming streets of Little Italy and indulge in delicious Italian cuisine. For a taste of the local surf culture, head to Ocean Beach or Pacific Beach, where you can catch some waves or simply soak up the sun on the sandy shores.
San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park
No visit to San Diego is complete without a trip to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Located in Balboa Park, this renowned zoo houses a vast collection of animals from around the world. Marvel at majestic lions, playful pandas, and graceful giraffes as you explore the various exhibits. The zoo also offers unique experiences such as behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters, allowing you to get up close and personal with your favorite creatures.
After your zoo visit, take the time to explore the rest of Balboa Park. This cultural hub is home to numerous museums, gardens, and performing arts venues. Admire the stunning Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, relax in the tranquil botanical gardens, or catch a live performance at one of the theaters. Balboa Park is a true oasis of beauty and culture in the heart of San Diego.
Festive Charm in Charleston, South Carolina
Experience southern hospitality and festive charm in Charleston during December. Known for its well-preserved historic district, cobblestone streets, and antebellum mansions, this coastal city offers a unique blend of history, culture, and holiday spirit.
Start your visit by exploring the historic district, where you’ll find beautifully adorned buildings and festive decorations. Take a carriage ride through the cobblestone streets, guided by a knowledgeable driver who will share the city’s fascinating history. Visit iconic landmarks such as Rainbow Row, a row of pastel-colored houses that make for a picture-perfect setting.
Holiday Performances at the Dock Street Theatre
For a truly magical experience, attend a holiday performance at the historic Dock Street Theatre. This renowned theater, dating back to 1736, is known for its elegant architecture and rich history. During December, the theater hosts a variety of holiday-themed performances, including plays, concerts, and ballets. Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere as you watch talented performers bring classic holiday stories to life. From “A Christmas Carol” to “The Nutcracker,” these performances are sure to fill your heart with holiday cheer.
Mountain Retreat in Stowe, Vermont
Escape to a winter wonderland in Stowe, a picturesque town nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont. With its charming village, stunning natural scenery, and a wide range of outdoor activities, Stowe offers a perfect retreat for those seeking a cozy and adventurous December getaway.
Start your visit by hitting the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the premier ski destinations in the Northeast. With its varied terrain and state-of-the-art facilities, the resort caters to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Glide down the slopes, surrounded by breathtaking mountain views and snow-covered forests. If skiing is not your thing, explore the numerous trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, allowing you to immerse yourself in the peaceful winter landscape.
The Magical Stowe Lantern Parade
One of the highlights of visiting Stowe in December is the annual Stowe Lantern Parade. Held on Main Street, this enchanting event invites locals and visitors alike to participate in a procession of handmade lanterns. Join the parade and carry your own lantern, or simply admire the magical sight as the street comes alive with the soft glow of lantern light. The parade concludes with a community bonfire, where you can warm up and share stories with fellow participants. The Stowe Lantern Parade is a true celebration of community, creativity, and the holiday spirit.
In conclusion, December offers a wide array of travel options in the United States. Whether you seek snowy adventures or sunny escapes, cultural delights or festive celebrations, these destinations provide unique experiences that will surely make your December memorable. So pack your bags, embrace the holiday spirit, and embark on an unforgettable journey to one of these best places to travel in the US in December.