There are many benefits of taking a winter vacation in January in the USA, fewer crowds, better deals, and atmospheric and very beautiful and unique scenery. When you’re planning where to go, you can either embrace the cold and have as much fun as you can in the gorgeous snowy landscapes or head to states where you’re pretty much guaranteed fine sunny weather. Whatever you choose, here our best places to visit in January in the USA…
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Breckenridge, Colorado – easily one of the best winter destinations in the USA
Breckenridge, Colorado is a charming mountain town that offers incredible skiing slopes, vibrant après options and a lively nightlife. Built with Victorian architecture, Breck is known not only for its legendary skiing opportunities but also its iconic main street that is packed with restaurants and shops.
Breckenridge has the highest chairlift in North America. And with skiing being the biggest attraction, January is the best time to Breck when the slopes are covered in fresh powder and the city is alive and vibrant.
Palm Desert, California – perfect for a warm leisure break in January
Palm Desert is the absolute winter escape. Palm Springs, California is based approximately 100 miles east of Los Angeles in the Coachella Valley area of the Sonoran Desert. Known for its natural hot springs, luxury hotels, country clubs, gourmet restaurants, golf courses, and sunny weather, Palm Desert is a popular resort city.
With its clear blue skies and warm sunny days, it is no wonder that Palm Desert is a winter favorite pick amongst celebrities! Though the city is proud to have over 360 days of sunshine each year, the temperatures in January are around 80F. It is neither too hot nor too cold, but rather just perfectly hospital, which is why winter is peak season in Palm Desert. January weather is ideal for all sorts of activities from hikes and treks to pool lounging, sunbathing, golf, and spa pampering. Easily one of the best January vacation destinations in the USA.
Bonus: Festivals like the Palm Springs International Film Festival take place in early January.
Zion National Park – the park often takes on a new beauty in January
In southwest Utah lies a unique natural reserve distinguished by Zion Canyon’s steep red cliffs called the Zion National Park. The national park is known for its photography-friendly scenery and natural beauty. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive passes through the park and leads to serene forest trails along the Virgin River. The river flows to the Emerald Pools, which contain gorgeous waterfalls and a hanging garden. Near the river is Zion Narrow, a wading hike.
January is a great time to explore Zion without the crowds. Being based in southern Utah, the park experiences mild winters. Due to little snowfall, the trails are accessible even in winter. In fact, a bonus of coming in winter is that the park opens for cars. By being able to drive, you can hike both at sunrise and sunset, which opens up many possibilities for more adventurous hikes. Zion is magical in the winter, the tranquil; atmosphere and glistening snow in the canyon and on the cliffs make it a must-visit in winter!
Big Sky, Montana – one of the best places to visit in January in the USA
January is prime time in Big Sky because of the plethora of family-friendly events and activities it has to offer. While the nearby famous Yellowstone National Park is definitely an attraction, other outdoorsy activities include nature ziplines, hikes and escape rooms.
Winter activities include sledding, snowmobiling, snow-go bike rides, ice-trekking, and cross-country skiing. For those less adventurous, the après ski scene is extremely happening and well worth a visit. Big Sky is truly the perfect winter destination!
Miami, Florida – a great beach destination to head to in January
Miami is situated in the Sunshine State of Florida and is known for its sun-kissed sandy beaches, laid-back beach bars, and opulent hotels. While this vibrant city is a year-round destination, January is a cost-effective time to visit the luxurious city of Miami. Since January is off-peak season, you not only miss busy crowds of school children and spring-breakers, but you can also enjoy luxurious hotels and famous events at affordable prices.
The temperatures hover around 23 degrees so the perfect weather to explore the city, its popular Ocean Drive, museums such as the Vizcaya Museum and Perez Art Museum, historic sites, clubs, casinos, and other attractions.
Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina – for a unique winter trip
Hunting Island is a 5,000-acre secluded semi-tropical barrier island that is 15 miles east of Beaufort, South Carolina. Known for its pristine beaches, maritime forests, historic lighthouse and exclusive nature center, Hunting Island State Park attracts more than a million visitors each year. It offers the only lighthouse in the state that is publicly accessible.
The island also comprises a saltwater lagoon, ocean inlet, and fishing pier, for tourists to camp by the oceanside. The warm sea temperatures in January make it a great time to go visit the island and enjoy swimming in its alluring lagoon. Further, in January, the park opens beach access for equestrian riders.
With its acres of natural scenery that is filled with wildlife, it is no wonder Hunting Island is South Carolina’s most popular state park.
Heavenly, Border of California-Nevada – for great skiing in January
On the shore of South Lake Tahoe is Heavenly, one of the world’s biggest ski resorts that offers breath-taking lake views from its runs that are as broad and bump-free as freeways.
As the name suggests, Heavenly has some of the most truly idyllic. This extraordinary ski resort is not only known for its unparalleled natural beauty but also its extensive range of terrain parks, mogul runs, untracked slopes and happening après-ski scene. Besides ski and boarding, the mountains offer other adventure activities like zip-lines, tube runs, and gondola rides. While the après-ski is especially popular with international travelers, the after-dark off-the-slope fun is equally exciting. Heavenly’s base village, with an ice-skating rink, outdoor fire pits, and a range of restaurants, makes it a great attraction.
As with most ski resorts, the best time to ski Heavenly is in January, after the holidays when the crowds have lessened, and the resort has gained a decent snow base.
Brunswick & Golden Isles, Georgia – one of the best winter breaks in the USA for nature lovers
Nestled along Georgia’s Atlantic coast, Golden Isles comprise the city of Brunswick and the barrier islands of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. The Golden Isles are known for their marshlands and beaches that are spotted with small islands called hammocks.
The magnificent landscape includes stretches of sandy beaches to barrier islands. Golden Isles offers breathtaking views, historic landmarks, museums, art galleries, golf courses, cozy inns and luxury resorts and unparalleled southern hospitality – basically a perfect vacation even in January!
Payette National Forest, Idaho
Based in central-western Idaho, the Payette National Forest is a U.S. National Forest that offers an amazing alternative to bigger name ski resorts like Aspen. Receiving over 300 inches of snow per year, Payette is known for its extensive array of winter activities. On-slope activities consist of snowmobiling, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing and many more recreational experiences.
The area boasts 500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails that continue to increase in number and popularity as well as 19,000 acres of elevated terrain that is ideal for backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Irrespective of your winter sport skill level, Payette National Forest is definitely an incredible winter destination in the USA and January is perfect to enjoy its buffet of winter activities.
Kailua Kona, Hawaii Big Island – a perfect warm vacation in January
Kailua-Kona is a seaside town on the west coast of Hawaii Island, where western slopes of the Hualālai volcano meet the ocean. This gorgeous island boasts flawless sunny, dry weather all-year round. While summers can get extremely hot, the warm temperatures (80F) in January, present the ideal weather to truly enjoy all the Kona island and its beaches have to offer.
The island is known for its white sandy beaches that are ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling and swimming. Laid-back vibes, all-inclusive resorts, five-star spas and world-class golf courses are typical of this lovely island. South Kona is known for its lush forests and renowned Kona coffee. Be sure to explore its expansive coffee farms, historic Hawaiian landmarks, local farmers markets, boutiques, restaurants, bars etc.
One of the warmest places to visit in January, Kona surely is the perfect pick for some winter sun.
Alta & Snowbird, Utah – gorgeous skiing destinations to head to in January
Alta is a ski area in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah in Salt Lake County. This amazing ski area is known for its wide array of slopes that make it ideal for every level of skier. Alta averages 550 inches of snow each year and its soft snow slopes offer incredible skiing opportunities. Alta is renowned for its stunning snow-cover scenery and fresh powder snow terrain. Snowbird is a world-famous must-ski destination that is situated only a mile away from Alta. Snowbird is known for its all-year round ski season as it remains open for over 200 days.
Alta and Snowbird are both best visited in the peak winter month of January when they have received big snow totals, when the snow is fresh and powdery and when they have their fair share of bluebird days- making the ideal ski destinations and January the perfect time for skiers to visit.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico – a unique beauty spot
White Sands National Park, located in New Mexico, is enveloped by the White Sands Missile Range. The region’s dune field is very dynamic, with the most active dunes moving at a rate of up to 30 ft. per year.
Attractions to this marvelous location include the largest gypsum dune field, the tall glistening range of white dues in Tularosa Basin (“internally drained valley”) and over 800 unique species of fauna and flora that survive in these extreme temperatures. Not only the natural geology of the region but also paleontology of the animals that live here is what makes this destination truly intriguing. Summers are too hot to visit, making winters the peak visiting season.
Death Valley, California – a safer time to visit this extraordinary place
Bordering the Great Basin Desert, Death Valley is a desert valley in Eastern California that is one of the hottest places on Earth, often compared with deserts in the Middle East and the Sahara. Being one the hottest, driest and lowest national parks and places in the world, Death Valley has unbearably blistering summer temperatures. Therefore, winter is the best time to visit. There are two exclusive hotels that offer distinct experiences – relaxing or adventurous and both include pools and other activities.
While exploring the national park, try to spot its unique wildlife such as desert bighorn sheep, lizards and the tiny pupfish, which lives in pools saltier than sea water. At night, you enjoy stargazing in this mesmerizing landscape.
San Diego – makes a gorgeous winter city break to visit in January
San Diego is an excellent destination to visit in January because firstly it offers a great escape from cold dreary weather. But San Diego offers much more than just pleasant temperatures and clear skies in January
Located on the Pacific coast of California, San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches, family-friendly parks and warm weather. It offers almost picture-perfect year-round Mediterranean-like weather with sunshine and soft ocean winds. San Diego boasts 70 miles of pristine sand along its stunningly beautiful coastline, laden with cypress trees. You can choose from various activities such as sunbathing, surfing, kayaking, bodyboarding.
Average winter temperatures range from the mid-60s to 70s Fahrenheit making it ideal for more than seaside activities. With its rich cultural heritage and magnificent Pacific Ocean views, San Diego, one of “America’s Finest City” is an ideal winter travel destination.
Other attractions include the Immense Balboa Park, Japanese Botanical Gardens, Old Town San Diego, art galleries, artist studios, museums, and gardens.
Mt Baker, Washington – a snowy winter wonderland
Mt. Baker Ski Area is an epic ski resort in Washington that is well-known for its unbeatable snow levels of 17 mts per season, extreme inbounds terrain, and vastly accessible backcountry. The fresh powder snow in high volumes makes Mt Baker a great attraction for skiers and snowboarders.
However, since Mt Baker is not as known as some of its comparable ski areas, it’s generally less crowded and an ideal pick for anyone looking for some discreet ski-time away from the rush. Along with its groomed ski trails, visitors can enjoy winter sports like snowmobiling, snow hikes, sledding and explore the old-growth forest.
South Padre Island & Port Isabel, Texas – pleasant temperatures (for January) and beautiful scenery
Off the coast of Texas lies South Padre Island is a resort town on a barrier island that is known for its soft beaches and calm waters. While summers can get too hot, and spring attracts large crowds, winters with pleasant temperatures ranging between 55°F – 75°F are the best time to visit. A popular attraction is the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center comprising a 5-story watchtower with marvelous views of migrating birds.
A short trip away is Port Isabel that is separated from the shores of South Padre Island by the 2.6-mile-long Queen Isabella Causeway. Dive in the bay, take a dolphin cruise, or stroll along Laguna Madre Nature Trail, or enjoy a picnic in Isla Blanca Park.
With its amicable subtropical climate and rich culture and history, South Padre Island is definitely a favorite winter destination for millions of visitors each year.
Moosehead Lake, Maine – winter fun on a beautiful frozen lake
The largest mountain lake in the eastern United States and the second-largest lake in New England, Moosehead Lake is a deep, cold water lake situated in the Longfellow Mountains.
Imagine cozying up in a rustic cabin by a serene frozen lake, surrounded by picturesque scenery – that’s what a trip to Moosehead Lake in winter entails. An array of adventure activities includes winter hikes, snowmobiling and snowshoe trails by day and campfires, and stargazing in the clear northern skies by night. If you’re lucky you can even witness the Northern Lights. Also, in January, the nearby Squaw Mountain is open to snowboarders and skiers. Moosehead Lake surely offers the perfect balance between exciting adventure and peaceful relaxation!
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida – a great place to visit in January
Situated in the Gulf of Mexico, west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park comprises 7 islands with protected coral reefs. This beach destination gives tourists an opportunity to escape the cold winters and relish warm sunshine.
The Dry Tortugas, as the name suggests, have a dry winter season (November-March) with little or no rainfall, which are not as hot and humid as its summer months. January is a great time to visit because its warm temperatures are perfect for snorkeling, sunbathing and other enjoying other water sports like kayaking, and boating. Moreover, with fewer visitors you have a better chance at bird sightings. You might spot the Brown Noddy, Sooty Tern, Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, or Black-bellied Plovers. Bush Key is a nesting site for seabirds, Loggerhead Key has an iconic lighthouse and is home to sea turtles. Garden Key is known for its lovely beaches and the historic 19th-century Fort Jefferson.
Tucson, Arizona – less crowds and pleasant temperatures
Tucson is known as the ‘City of Gastronomy’ by UNESCO, and rightly so. This amazing city offers some of the most remarkable restaurants, cafes, bars and breweries. Tucson’s downtown is a thriving hub of activity and fun. Apart from its rich food scene, Tucson is known for the spectacular natural beauty of its national parks and pine forests like Saguaro National Park and Mount Lemmon, its colossal cave, open-air museums and gardens, and its iconic old town.
With summers being desert hot, winters with daytime temperatures between 50-70 are the preferred time to visit.
Fairbanks, Alaska – winter activities and a chance to see the Northern Lights
One of the largest cities of Alaska, Fairbanks is situated at a latitude that makes it perfect to witness the aurora borealis and midnight sun. If you’re looking to chase the northern lights, January is the perfect time to visit Fairbanks when chances are seeing the lights are higher, but the crowds are lesser due to the cold weather. But viewing northern lights makes the temperatures that fall to 20 degrees worth it! Since crowds are less in January it’s easier to get books and off-season deals on hotels, flights and activities.
The scenic natural landscape includes serene mountains and pristine rivers and lakes that are flourishing wildlife. Experience sunrises and sunsets that last forever (typically two hours), where the sky displays a parade of changing oranges and blues. Besides viewing the truly mesmerizing sky by day and night, especially the Northern Lights, Fairbanks offers an array of winter activities. Enjoy sledding, snowmobiling, sleighing, snow hikes and visit the nearby Chena hot springs.