The Best Winter Vacations in North America

By Dana Perkiss

Whether you want a sunny beach vacation or a cool snowy getaway, North America is filled with diverse destinations. From white sand beaches to snow-capped mountains and festive holiday markets, here are the best winter vacations in North America!

San Diego, California

San Diego's mild winter climate, beautiful beaches, diverse activities, and cultural attractions make it a great destination for those seeking a warm winter vacation. The weather ranges from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, making it perfect to enjoy leisurely beach walks, collect seashells, or simply relax by the ocean without the summer crowds.

Smaller crowds during the winter also make the best things to do in San Diego more enjoyable like visiting the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California, and SeaWorld. Meanwhile, mild temperatures make it the ideal time for outdoor activities like hiking in the nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve or exploring Balboa Park.

Banff, Canada

If you’re looking for a classic winter wonderland, then head to Banff National Park in Alberta. Filled with exciting activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and even dog sledding, you can rest assured that there are plenty of things to do in Banff in the winter.

Go ice skating on Lake Louise, relax in thermal hot springs, and enjoy 360-views of the landscape from The Banff Gondola. Perhaps most exciting, Banff is one of the places you can see the Northern Lights in Canada, so keep your eyes peeled and try to spot them!

Honolulu, Hawaii

The weather in Honolulu doesn’t change much throughout the year, but surfers will find winter a particularly ideal time to travel to Honolulu since the swells grow up to 20' higher than normal.

As for the best things to do in Honolulu in the winter, you’ll definitely want to welcome Santa on a canoe. Every year, Santa puts on an Aloha shirt and paddles around Oahu to greet people, which is by far one of the most unique Christmas traditions in the US. You’ll also want to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center to enjoy both fun and educational holiday-themed events, walk around Downtown Honolulu to admire the holiday lights, and build a festive sandman!

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago transforms into a true winter wonderland, with the magnificent display of holiday lights along the Magnificent Mile and throughout Millennium Park not to be missed. One of the best things to do in Chicago in winter is to enjoy its iconic ice skating rinks, including the Millennium Park Ice Rink, which offers stunning views of the city's skyline.

Winter also brings around the wonderful array of holiday markets in Chicago, such as Christkindlmarket and the Randolph Street Market. If it’s a little too cold out for you, then enjoy Chicago's fun indoor activities like exploring the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

The weather in Puerto Rico is warm all year round, but winter is ideal because you’ll find less rain and lower humidity between November and April. San Juan is particularly a fantastic winter destination, as it’s not only Puerto Rico’s capital and largest city, but also home to the award-winning Isla Verde Beach.

Of course, there are tons of beaches to enjoy but there are plenty of other fun activities in San Juan. You can hike in El Yunque National Forest, wander around historic Old San Juan, or practice your dancing with a Salsa Class. Best part of all? No passport required!

Québec City, Canada

Winter in Québec City is absolutely magical – the city gives off a charming old-town vibe mixed with French inspiration, making it the perfect destination in North America that feels like Europe. It gets pretty cold in the winter (around 41 - 33 °F), but you’ll feel too enamored with the enchantment of the city to notice.

Wander around the numerous Christmas Markets feasting on seasonal delicacies like sugar shacks and mulled wine, go snowshoeing at Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park, or treat yourself to ultimate relaxation at a Nordic spa! You can also check out the Santa Claus Parade in late November, or the Fête des Neiges de Montréal (Montreal Snow Festival) which happens over January and February.

New York City, New York

No matter what month you travel to NYC you’re sure to enjoy unforgettable experiences, but put simply, visiting NYC in the winter will make you understand why it’s called the most magical time of the year.

From snowy Central Park to bustling Christmas markets and the iconic Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree, there are tons of things that’ll make you fall in love with winter. Marvel at decadent holiday lights, go window-shopping on Fifth Avenue, and stay warm with some sizzling NYC pizza.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Winter in Las Vegas is ideal if you’re looking for a mild-weather vacation, especially since the cooler temperatures make exploring much easier and there are smaller crowds.

The entertainment center of the world is still vibrant and alive in winter though, especially in December when you’ll see an extravagant amount of holiday lights. There is no shortage when it comes to things to do in Las Vegas in the winter. Walk around the LINQ Promenade to marvel at a plethora of holiday decorations, check out the holiday exhibit at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, and try your luck at a casino!

New Orleans, Louisiana

With an average high of 78.5 °F and low of 60 °F, New Orleans is one of the best warm winter destinations in the US. Similar to other cities, winter calls for smaller crowds, except once Mardi Gras starts on January 6. Visit during this time and you’ll get to enjoy a myriad of exciting festivities to celebrate Carnival Season!

Winter activities in New Orleans don’t differ much from other seasons – walking around the French Quarter and dancing down Bourbon Street are always recommended, as well as delighting in fresh beignets or warm gumbo. If you happen to be in New Orleans for New Year’s, then definitely head to Jackson Square for the epic Fleur de Lis Drop and firework show.

Key West, Florida

Want a tropical vacation but prefer to stay domestic? Then Key West is your spot! With temperatures ranging in the upper 70s and 60s, it’s the perfect warm-weather destination for a winter vacation.

There are endless beaches and aquatic activities to enjoy, especially at Dry Tortugas National Park. On the dry side though, guests can wander around Mallory Square, snap a picture with the Key West Lighthouse, and hit up the vibrant nightlife on Duval Street. If you’re celebrating Christmas in Key West, then check out the Conch Republic Train Station which becomes part of the area’s Holiday Lights Tour (imagine warm cookies, cider, and caroling)!


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