where to travel in December
Ri_Ya (pixabay)

December is a beautiful month in which to travel. All over the U.S. you can find incredible places to stay. If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to go abroad, you can easily pick between snowy mountains and sun-drenched beaches. Read on to find out more about where to travel in December.

Feel the Spirit in New York City

Christmas decoration at Manhattan, New York
Christmas decoration at Manhattan, New York – Jay Joshi (unsplash)

Let’s start off with a classic. New York City is always bustling, but it’s never as stunning as in December. The Christmas decorations usually go up after Thanksgiving, so if you’re traveling at the end of the year, you should see them as soon as you arrive.

If you enjoy ice skating, going to the rink at Rockefeller Center must be on your bucket list. Once you’re finished, head up 5th Avenue and admire the Christmas lights in this bustling shopping street.

If you get tired of the crowds, move into Central Park for a carriage ride. You can marvel at the city in your own horse-drawn oasis. Stop for a warm drink to protect you from the cold and snuggle up under a blanket.

Go Trekking in Yellowstone National Park

Winter in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Winter in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – 12019 (pixabay)

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most stunning places on Earth, no matter what time of year. But to see it covered in snow is not to be missed. You can even book a guided tour of the park, so you won’t miss any of the best landscapes and geysers.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the best ways to get around. Hiking can be tough because of the snow. If you decide on an all-inclusive trek, you will be provided with all the gear you need.

It’s important to know that because of the snowy conditions, the only entrance to the park in December is through Gardiner, Montana. If you’re feeling brave, there is a campground 5 miles (8 km) away from this entrance. If you’re looking for somewhere more comfortable, the Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge are open during this season.

Enjoy a Floridian Holiday in Key West

Sunny December at sandy beach, Key West, Florida
Sunny December at sandy beach, Key West, Florida – Michelle_Raponi (pixabay)

Many people choose to visit Florida in the summer. However, if you want to avoid the high temperatures and crowds, December is a great choice to travel here. The Key West area can feel like a tropical paradise without the need to leave the country.

Temperatures are generally warm during the day, even reaching as high as 89oF (31oC). The evenings can be chilly, but nothing a light sweater can’t help with. The water is even warm enough for aquatic activities like swimming, parasailing, and snorkeling.

Stroll down Duval Street to find the best restaurants, museums, and shops in town. And if you’re a fan of literature, make sure to visit the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center and the home of Ernest Hemingway.

Admire Magnificent Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Mountain ski area, Mammoth Lakes, US
Mammoth Mountain ski area, Mammoth Lakes, US – Benton Sherman (unsplash)

One of the best winter destinations in the whole U.S. is Mammoth Lakes, California. Formally a mining town, it’s now a snowy wonderland filled with activities, mainly due to the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort.

If you’re traveling with kids, they can enjoy sledding, tubing, and snowball fights. There is also skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. For those looking to avoid the crowds, Yosemite National Park is situated just 32 miles (51km) to the north.

One of the most exciting nights of the year is December 18th. There is a fireworks show, live concerts, food stalls, and a torchlit parade.

Stay Active in Phoenix

Phoenix at dusk with mountain seen on the horizon
Phoenix at dusk with mountain seen on the horizon – sepavone (depositphotos)

Somewhere you might not associate with winter is Phoenix, Arizona. It doesn’t get much rain, temperatures are fair, and it’s hard to imagine it blanketed in snow. These things are what make it a perfect getaway in December.

Outdoor activities are available all year round in Phoenix. December is a great month for doing sports like biking, golfing, and hiking, as there’s a low risk of overheating or sunstroke.

Just because it’s warm doesn’t mean you have to forsake winter sports. Head to the CityScape shopping center and enjoy the ice rink, which is open from the end of November until the beginning of January.

Ride the Rails in Alaska

Aurora seen from Alaska
Aurora seen from Alaska – Pixabay

Alaska has so much to offer, especially in December. The snowy landscapes are breathtaking, there are treks to glaciers, ski resorts, and the possibility to witness the Northern Lights. And then there is the Aurora Winter Train.

Starting in Anchorage, it travels north in the direction of Fairbanks. If you decide on a weekend trip, you make the 12-hour journey on Saturday, rest in Fairbanks for the night, and return on Sunday. There are also options during the week.

Along the way you will see the beautiful scenes of interior Alaska. Pass by the Denali National Park to the west and admire the forests and wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled if you want to see a moose in its natural habitat.

If you prefer to stop in one of the smaller towns, Talkeetna offers cozy accommodation, winter trails for skiing, and a pie-making class at the famous Talkeetna Roadhouse.

If you prefer to skip the return train journey, there are special rail-fly tickets. These give you the chance to ride the rails one way and fly back the other.

Keep Warm in Hawaii

Staying warm in Hawaii - people swimming at one of Oahu beaches
Staying warm in Hawaii – people swimming at one of Oahu beaches – Luke McKeown (unsplash)

For people who want to stay in the U.S. but are looking for warmer temperatures, Hawaii is a perfect destination. All the islands are gorgeous, but Maui and the Big Island have the lowest levels of rainfall in December.

On Maui, you can enjoy the warm waters and go surfing, snorkeling, and even whale watching. It’s also a great time to try some seasonal delicacies, including slowly cooked Kalua pork and delicious kabocha pumpkin.

Temperatures tend to stay around the low 80s (26oC and higher) during the day, and in the evenings it’s recommended you bring a light jacket as it can get chilly. These temperatures won’t make you think of Christmas time, but the amazing poinsettia flowers that grow on the islands at this time of year will remind you.

Zip Through the Air in Newfoundland, Canada

Winter in St John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Winter in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada – gloverbh222 (pixabay)

Canada is always amazing for winter getaways, and Newfoundland is no exception. There are all the usual snow activities, like skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. In the capital of St. John’s, there is the most idyllic ice-skating rink called The Loop.

However, Newfoundland has more to offer. In Petty Harbour, you can go on one of the longest ziplines in the world. It’s also one of the few that stays open in the winter months. Or, if you prefer something closer to the ground, you can try ice fishing on frozen waterways, lakes, and coastal inlets.

Make sure to bring warm clothes and a flask of coffee, though. Temperatures rarely surpass 50oF (10oC) during the day, and the lows average around 25oF (-4oC).

Explore the Dominican Republic

A beach at Bavaro, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
A beach at Bavaro, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – DEZALB (pixabay)

The Caribbean Sea is full of paradisical countries and islands. The Dominican Republic may not be the best known, but it really has everything. Beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, and the tallest mountain in the Caribbean. And let’s not overlook the breathtaking towns, relaxing resorts, and delicious cuisine.

If you’re looking for some local culture, try the capital of Santo Domingo and its Zona Colonial. One of the most important attractions is the Primada de América cathedral, which was built in the 16th century and overlooks the picturesque Columbus Park.

If you’d prefer a beach holiday, there are many to choose from. Punta Cana is the country’s best-known seaside town and is located on the island’s eastern tip. The beaches stretch for miles in each direction, and there are many fantastic resorts and hotels right on the coast.

For those looking for an exciting adventure, the waterfalls of Damajagua are highly recommended. There are 27 in total, and you can book a guide who will take you to each one. Once you climb to the top, jump down into the refreshing pool of water below.

Slide Down to Whistler, Canada

Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America
Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America – meunierd (depositphotos)

When you search for a winter wonderland, Whistler in British Columbia, Canada is always going to be high on the list. It really is an idyllic town with the perfect combination of snow sports and relaxing activities.

For enthusiastic skiers, try out Whistler Blackcomb. It has over 200 runs and can accommodate all levels, from beginners to pros. If you prefer to free-slide down the mountain, head to the tubing slope.

For a truly spectacular experience, head to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, where you can learn more about the history and culture of these First Nations peoples.

It’s important to remember your thermal wear when traveling to Whistler. Average temperatures are between 23 and 32oF (-5-0oC). And bring a raincoat: there is an average of 18 days of rain in the month of December.

Watch Whales in Baja California, Mexico

Watching a gray whale at San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California
Watching a gray whale at San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California – mike_laptev (depositphotos)

In December, gray whales start arriving in Baja California, Mexico, for the winter. They stay in the region until around April, giving birth to calves and mating. You can book an ocean safari to see gray and humpback whales, as well as whale sharks.

These safaris take place in the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, where you can also observe coyotes, California sea lions, and the perfectly named pronghorn.

If you travel further south, you can enjoy the towns of Los Cabos: Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo. This area has a booming tourism industry, and is perfect for those looking for sun, sea, and watersports. Temperatures are splendid and range from 60 to 85oF (16-30oC).

Experience an Italian Winter

Snow covered town at Dolomites during winter
Snow covered town at Dolomites during winter – 12019 (pixabay)

Italy always ranks highly on travel lists, and with good reason. There really is something for everyone all year round. Skiing in the north, stunning monuments and museums in the center, and sunny landscapes in the south.

If you prefer snowy winters, travel to Trentino-Alto Adige in the north. The Dolomite mountain range offers ski resorts, Nordic walking trails, and breath-taking lake views. The city of Bolzano has the biggest Christmas market in the country and is close to many ski runs.

For those looking for a slightly warmer trip, try Sicily in the south. It tends to be sunny but chilly in the winter months, with temperatures between 48 and 57oF (9-14oC). You can find snow atop Mount Etna and be back on the sandy beaches around Catania within an hour’s drive.

Celebrate the New Year in Japan

Tokyo's festive Christmas decoration on December
Tokyo’s festive Christmas decoration on December – Shawn.ccf (depositphotos)

Japan is famous for its well-defined seasons. Winter is no exception. December marks the beginning of this season, and temperatures are milder than the following months. The northern island of Hokkaido is the coldest (25 to 36oF, -4 to 2oC), especially when compared to the tropical atmosphere in Okinawa (61 to 70oF, 16 to 20oC).

However, the central and biggest island of Honshu is the place to go in December. There are ski resorts in the north, and the possibilities for city breaks are endless. Visiting Tokyo is highly recommended as it’s sunny, doesn’t get much rain, and has stunning views of Mount Fuji. The area around the majestic mountain is also full of natural, warm water springs.

For a truly traditional New Year’s Eve, visit the Hatsumode celebration in Kyoto. You can visit the many temples, listen to bell-ringing ceremonies, and celebrate the beginning of a new year in style. Finish the night off with a warm dish of nabe, made with delicious vegetables, tofu, and meat.

The weather in Honshu can depend on the region, but the central area that contains Tokyo, Kyoto and other major cities usually has temperatures between 41 and 54oF (5-12oC).

Live in Paradise in Phuket, Thailand

Tour boat ashore at Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, Thailand
Tour boat ashore at Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, Thailand – deepain108 (unsplash)

Phuket is an island in the southwest of Thailand that can be considered a real-life paradise. The beaches are gorgeous, the water is refreshing, the food is phenomenal, and the prices are low. It really is hard to find a better travel destination.

December is a great month to travel to Phuket. Temperatures range from 75 to 89oF (24-32oC) and the humidity is at its lowest. Beautiful accommodation is abundant, and there is a wide variety of tours, spas, and exciting nightlife.

If you’re a fan of Thai food, then there are some great culinary tours of the old town. You can even book a cooking class, so you can make your favorite dishes when you return from your holiday.

The island can be quite busy in December, so it’s best to book for earlier in the month.

Learn Husky-Sledding in Lapland, Sweden

A group of Siberian huskies pulling sled in Lapland, Finland
A group of Siberian huskies pulling sled in Lapland, Finland – Ugur Arpaci (unsplash)

What better way to celebrate the Christmas season than in the home of Santa? The northern regions of Sweden and Finland are amazing at any time of year, but December is a particularly stunning month to travel there.

You can experience some of the rawest forms of nature left on Earth here. Snowy landscapes, lush forests, and incredible animals are everywhere. However, there’s no need to live out in the elements. There are log cabins and glamping parks for you to enjoy your stay in.

You can learn to drive your own group of huskies, go snowmobiling, or travel in a reindeer-drawn sleigh. You might even spot the indigenous Sami tribe herding their reindeer through the tundra.

Be aware that this region gets very little to no sunlight in December, so plan your activities carefully. The further north you get, the better chance you have of seeing the Northern Lights. But make sure to wrap up tight: windchill can bring the temperatures down to -22oF (-30oC).

Let Your Jaw Drop in Torres del Paine, Chile

Grassy field next to a lake with snowy mountain backdrop at Torres del Paine, Chile
Grassy field next to a lake with snowy mountain backdrop at Torres del Paine, Chile – Olga Stalska (unsplash)

If you’re tired of winter, why not get away from it altogether? Travel down to the Southern Hemisphere and feel the summer vibes. And if you want a hiking trip, then you must try Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

This really is one of the most astounding places on the planet. The name of the park comes from the three towering granite mountains whose peaks reach up to 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level. But that’s not all there is to see. There are beautiful glaciers, lakes, and rivers to amaze you.

You can book guided treks through the park with different durations, from daytrips to full circuit walks that take up to 9 days. There are campsites dotted around the routes, so you can pitch a tent and have basic amenities.

December is a great time to visit, as there isn’t much rain, and temperatures are great for hiking, with highs of around 65oF (18oC) during the day.

Feel the Extremes of New Zealand

Queenstown, the home of extreme adventures
Queenstown, the home of extreme adventures – Ömer Faruk Bekdemir (unsplash)

If you’re looking for a summer getaway in December, New Zealand is an ideal choice. Average temperatures are cool and comfortable (54 to 72oF, 12 to 22oC), there isn’t much rain, and outdoor sports are in abundance.

One of the most magnificent areas to discover is Rotorua. This lakeside town is steeped in Maori culture and surrounded by geothermal activities. You can witness the Pohutu geyser, which erupts many times every day, and relax in mud pools in Hell’s Gate.

Rotorua is only a few hours from Auckland, so you can take a few days away from the metropolis for some relaxation.

Let’s not forget that New Zealand is a world capital for extreme sports, so if you’re looking for white water rafting, sky diving, bungy jumping, mountain biking, or helicopter trips that land on volcanoes, you can find them close by.

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