When faced with the prospect of a long, cold winter, travelers have two reasonable responses: either dive headfirst into exploring the most breathtaking winter destinations or seek out warmth wherever it may be.
Everyone will understand if you opt for option two if you’re sick of dealing with hot buildings and icy sidewalks. American vacationers can say goodbye to bulky outerwear without ever leaving the nation.
Find sun and fun this winter whether you’re craving a beach getaway, an animal adventure, or a taste of urban culture.
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara is a great weekend getaway for those looking to spend time at the beach or in the canyons, and it’s only about two hours northwest of Los Angeles. Its upscale yet laid-back beach-town vibe is the true draw, though celebrity sightings are common (among the area’s notable residents are Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Jennifer Lopez, and Oprah Winfrey). Discover one-of-a-kind shops, artisan food and wine stores, and an abundance of outdoor dining options along the State St Promenade. Continue along it until you reach West Beach, where thrill seekers can hire SUPs and kayaks and view-seekers can peruse Stearns Wharf.
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The weather in Phoenix, Arizona is absolutely unbelievable; on average, there are 299 days of sunshine per year. That’s why fifteen Major League Baseball teams move there for preseason training. When summertime temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you might beg for a break. However, the sunny, mid-70s days of late winter are perfect for enjoying outdoor activities.
If you’re not a baseball fan, you should definitely check out the Desert Botanical Garden’s “Cactus League” exhibition, where art exhibits coexist with succulents and other prickly desert plants. Alternately, you could ride your bike through South Mountain Park, a popular spot for trail riders, or hike to Papago Park to see the sandstone formations.
The Everglades, Florida
Perhaps those baseball clubs are onto something: half the league is in Arizona, and the other half is warming up in Florida. The Everglades National Park in Florida has the warmest winter temperatures in the contiguous United States, second only to Hawaii. One of the best times to visit—and perhaps see some wildlife—is in the winter, when the weather is dry. As a result of the marshes drying up, animals are settling into smaller areas, and migratory birds are following your lead and heading for warmer climates in Florida. For the best manatee viewing, head south on the Southern Everglades Hwy until you reach Flamingo, where the continent ends.
South Padre Island, Texas
If you visit South Padre Island, Texas, before spring break, you can experience the tranquility of this famous beach resort town. Birdwatchers, nature lovers, and those interested in alligators and sea turtles will find what they’re looking for on the fifty-acre South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary, which features a viewing tower, boardwalks through the dunes, and multiple blinds.Beachgoers flock to Isla Blanca County Park for its convenient proximity to restaurants and shops, but if you’re looking for some peace and quiet, try Edwin King Atwood County Park’s dunes or the North End’s expansive sand dunes.
Key West, Florida
Sunbathers from across the United States flock to Key West, which is located at the very tip of the Florida Keys, for its renowned culture. Famous literary history, fresh seafood, and plenty of lively bars can be found in this 7-square-mile oasis. Seize the opportunity to set sail as the sun goes down, tour the Ernest Hemingway House, and be amazed by the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory’s array of vibrant colors.