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19+ Amazing Vacation Destinations & Warm Places to Visit in January in USA
If you’ve watched Christmas with the Kranks this holiday season, then you know how and why it is so appealing to hit the warm, tropical beaches in the middle of a freezing Midwest winter. But who wants to miss Christmas with all of those family members!? Don’t worry – with this list; you can have your cake and eat it too! I’ve put together the best list of warm places to visit in the USA in January!
So go ahead, celebrate the holidays, and then take your vacation to relax away from the stress of that celebration.
Let’s begin with a sure-fire winner when it comes to escaping the cold weather! Los Angeles, California, boasts a balmy high temperature of around 68 and is the perfect place to get a glimpse of glamour! With wineries, breweries, Venice Beach, the Sunset Strip, movie studio tours, the LaBrea Tar Pits, the Hollywood Sign, and so much more, you will not be short of options for things to do and see in Los Angeles.
The two very distinct beach towns of Santa Barbara and Santa Monica are within L.A. Both are worth a visit. While Santa Barbara is a more relaxed beach town with a hilly background and low-rise buildings created with a bit of a Spanish feel, Santa Monica is more hip and happening, with the feeling of L.A. on a smaller scale. One thing’s for sure – if you’re looking to get out of the winter chill, Southern California offers countless opportunities.
We all know that California is warm and sunny most of the year! Head for the West coast to visit San Diego, where the temperature averages a high of 66 and a low of 50. San Diego is the perfect place to get out and enjoy the sights without bundling up in warm winter gear. A few layers will work just fine. But what is there to do in San Diego? The list is long, my friends!
If you are an animal lover, there’s no zoo like the San Diego Zoo. Home to over 3,500 rare and endangered animals and 700,000 exotic plants, you will have plenty to do and see to keep you busy for at least a whole day!
When you’ve finished at the zoo, spend some time at Balboa Park, taking in all the culture. There’s a reason this park is known as San Diego’s 1,00-acre backyard. With stunning garden spaces and 17 museums in addition to the zoo, wandering Balboa Park is a lovely and unique way to take in the gorgeous outdoors without being swathed in all your favorite winter gear.
Finally, if you want an all-inclusive look at all the treats the city has to offer, treat yourself to a tour on the San Diego Trolley. For one fee, you can hop on and off the trolley all day long. Or make it two days. The trolley makes it easy to explore the city without any worries about finding or paying for parking. For a bonus, enjoy the narrated tour when you’re on the trolley, learning about the city and taking in the fresh air. For all the details, check out Trolley Tours in advance. These tours do fill up.
Another way to get out of the winter chill is by heading south to Palm Springs. Average highs of around 71 await you in this sunny city in the Sonoran Desert of southern California. Get a taste of the finer life by exploring the top-rated Indian Wells Celebrity Golf Course or one of the many spas or hot springs in the area.
Finally, if you’d like a more modern view of the city, take a journey on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating (yep, you read that right, rotating) tram car. As you slowly make your way up the two-and-a-half-mile journey up the cliffs of Chino Canyon, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Mt. Jacinto State Park. Treat yourself to a “culinary experience above the clouds” at the Peaks Restaurant at the mountain station at the top. Make reservations in advance as Peaks Restaurant, listed on Architectural Digest’s World’s Best Cliffside Restaurants, fills up fast. Make extra time to enjoy the views of the valley floor from the observation decks at the Mountain Station before heading back down.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley lies about 4 hours Northeast of Los Angeles and is the perfect California trip that isn’t along the oceanfront. Death valley averages temperatures around 67 in January and has very little rainfall, making the winter months the ideal time for a visit. This National Park covers over 5,000 miles and is the fifth-largest U.S. National Park. You can explore Death Valley by driving on the thousand miles of paved and dirt roads or hiking on your own. But if you like someone else to do the planning and thinking, there is no shortage of touring options available when you get there.
Looking for an amazing way to commemorate your National Parks Visits? Look at these awesome Token Holders from The Wander Club – then get a token for each of the National Parks. You can even add the date on which you visit!
Joshua Tree National Park
While talking about National Parks, let’s talk about Joshua Tree. Situated 2.5 hours Southeast of Los Angeles, this desert land National Park is another inland option for a warm, sunny day away from the winter chill. Known for its stunning rock formations, including the famous Arch Rock, Joshua Tree doesn’t disappoint. While you’re here, take in some gorgeous star-gazing, and grab a photo or two while you’re at it. LINK TO NIGHTTIME PHOTOS – STAR TRAILS. Be on the lookout for some of the native wildlife that calls this park home. You may be lucky enough to spot a scorpion, a rattlesnake, or a tarantula. Beware! Or you might get a peek at the more harmless Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, a Kangaroo Rat, or a Lynx!
If the wildlife and unusual terrain make you nervous, look into a guided tour. I think it’s safe to say there are many travel options in the Southern California region. But now let’s head South and talk about some other warm and sunny options for a January trip out of the snow.
South Carolina is a lovely option for those who want to drive south but don’t want to head to Florida. Myrtle Beach is known for its thriving Spring Break crowds, so January is the perfect time to beat the rush. With over 60 miles of beach along the Atlantic Ocean and temperatures reaching around 60 in January, you can get out of the winter freeze without roasting your face off.
Since the weather may be a bit cool for a day on the beach, check out the Myrtle Beach Arts & Gallery Trail that takes you through 14 unique communities in the area, all culturally relevant and filled with sculptures, murals, and galleries showcasing the arts! The best part is it’s free! Just sign up HERE, download the app, and you can run off to explore.
Another mild-weathered community with plenty to see and do in South Carolina is Charleston. January is the perfect time to visit because the temperatures are mild, and the beaches are gorgeous and less packed with people. Catch the Lowcountry Oyster Festival near the end of January where you can shuck and eat oysters til your heart’s content and wash them down with a cool and frosty ale. Or take a free walking tour around the area. Explore the ghosts of Charleston, check out the architecture, or learn something about the area’s history. One thing’s for sure – you will not lack things to do in Charleston.
Let’s start with one of my favorite winter destinations, the St. Petersburg and Clearwater area. I have friends who winter there each year, so I’ve had some fantastic visits from my Michigan home down to Florida in the winter. The area is beautiful, and you’ll find warm weather, sunny, with an average high temperature of 70. What’s not to love? I took a Segway Tour with Doo’s Amazing Tours on my last trip. It was my first time on a Segway, and it was so much fun! I have been on several since, and let me tell you, Doo’s is one of the best! We were lucky enough to see a manatee swimming on our tour. From
Now is the perfect time to mention that St. Pete Beach was named the number one beach in the U.S. and the number 5 beach in the world by TripAdvisor and it is clear to me why. The beach is clean and not overly crowded, and I have seen some gorgeous sunsets from that very beach.
St. Pete promises more than just outdoor beaches and sunshine too. Check out one of the many galleries or museums. My favorite is wandering through the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center. And finally, you won’t find better restaurants than those in St. Pete.
Head about 5 hours Southeast of St. Pete to reach another Florida favorite, Fort Lauderdale. Average high temps in this beachy town hover around 75 degrees in January. Perfect for a sunny day at the beach or several days along the 24 miles of beautiful beaches.
While in Ft. Lauderdale, stop at one of the many world-class restaurants and bars. Take a tour on a yacht, a paddleboard, or the famous water taxi, which takes you through one of the 300 miles of waterways running through town. Or, check out the sites with a private tour, spend time in nature at one of the many nature preserves in the area, all a part of the “Gateway to the Everglades.”
Miami and the Florida Keys
For the warmest temps in Florida, look into a trip to Miami. Situated about an hour and 45 minutes south of Fort Lauderdale, Miami is warm in January, with daily highs averaging around 76 degrees. Known for its non-stop nightlife and gorgeous beach weather, Miami is the perfect destination to explore the nightlife. After you’ve slept off your crazy night on the town, head for South Beach (known as SoBe by the locals), relax on the soft, white sand, and take in the sights of the many other sunbathers catching some rays.
Since you’re near the southernmost point of the U.S., consider wandering down the scenic 110-mile Highway through the Florida Keys ending at Key West. This archipelago (or group of islands) allows you to cross 42 bridges and take in unrivaled views of the water as far as the eye can see. Keep traveling til you reach the Southernmost Point Buoy so you can tell all your friends that you’ve seen the Southernmost point in the continental United States.
Old San Juan
For a truly unique way to warm up, head for Puerto Rico! With an average temperature of 83 in January, you won’t find a much warmer way to spend the coldest winter month. If you don’t want to fly, then take a cruise ship! Old San Juan, or “El Viejo San Juan,” is one of the most popular stops in the Caribbean for any cruise lines heading that direction and is one of the best places to take in the unique Puerto Rican culture. January is the best time to visit because it’s the perfect temperature. The coldest month of the year in Puerto Rico is ideal for those who are used to below-zero temperatures up north!
Head down to Friendship State, Texas, for some warm and sunny relaxation. There’s a reason there are so many snowbirds in Texas. My parents have spent the past several years in Texas because the weather is warm, the cost of living is reasonable, and hey – it’s downright friendly there, y’all!
San Antonio, Texas, is gorgeous. San Antonio is located in the bottom third of the state and centrally located between Corpus Christi and Houston, then about 2 hours West. With an average January temp in the mid 60’s, January is the perfect time of year to visit the Alamo. San Antonio is entrenched in Hispanic culture and known for its Spanish colonial missions.
While you’re there, spend a day at SeaWorld. Seaworld has the distinction of being one of the largest marine animal rescue organizations in the world. Spend your day learning all about marine life, laugh with the antics of the Sea Lions and Otters, and get your thrill with one of the 13 amusement park rides in the park.
South Padre Island
If you’re an island person, but want something less tropical than The Keys in Florida, check out South Padre Island. This gorgeous island is situated at the southern tip of Texas, about 3 hours south of Corpus Christi. You don’t need to take a ferry to get to the island. You can drive over a toll-free bridge right onto the Island. South Padre Island offers many fun experiences, including dolphin watching, horseback riding along the beach, or a night out on the town enjoying live music and a cocktail.
Vegas baby! Las Vegas isn’t just for gambling anymore. Las Vegas is the perfect place to escape the Midwest winters and enjoy the mild weather. This world-known city averages temperatures in the mid-50s in January, making it ideal for getting away from the snow and enjoying the great outdoors.
Take a helicopter ride over the city, drive a ball down the fairway at one of the many gorgeous golf courses, or have an adrenaline-filled adventure in the desert. Then top it all off with your favorite dish at one of the over 4,000 restaurants in Vegas. Oh! And maybe play a quick game of Blackjack in one of the fantastic casinos in town before heading home.
If Vegas is too exciting and too big a city for your tastes, head to Reno, which lies about 7 hours Northwest of Vegas. Home of the National Automobile Museum and an assortment of shows, casinos, and restaurants, Reno has earned its moniker as “The Biggest Little City in the West.” Reno also has a short distance of around an hour to the gorgeous Lake Tahoe, which is worth the drive for the scenery alone.
Finally – you can’t have a list of warm places in January without talking about the Hawaiian Islands. This trip may not be a short weekend getaway, but it would be hard to compete with the tropical weather, the stunning scenery, and the cultural experiences that await you in Hawaii. I could go on for days about the many things you can see or do when you’re there, but I’ll save that for another post on another day.
Wrapping It All Up
One of the best things about living in the Midwest is the gorgeous changing seasons. But I’ll be the first to admit that those cold winter days sometimes last just a little too long. January is the perfect time to slip out of the cold, dreary winter and enjoy the warmth without all those pesky scarves, hats, and mittens. What are some of your favorite warm places to visit in January in the USA?
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