January is often considered quite a nothing month, but if you’re anything like me you’ll want to liven it up a bit. One of my favorite ways to do this is by heading off and exploring. As a bonus, you’ll find even the most popular tourist destinations are usually much quieter this time of year, meaning better deals and more opportunities to explore the spectacular scenery of the USA at its uncrowded, unspoiled best.
So you can either embrace the cold and make the most of the winter snow sports on offer; or head to states where you’re almost guaranteed fine sunny weather. Whatever you choose, here are my favorite awesome places to visit in January in the USA…
1. Breckenridge, Colorado – one of the best winter destinations in the USA
Why visit Breckenridge, Colorado in January? You’ll find mesmerising scenery at every turn as well as world-class skiing.
Originally called ‘Colorado’s Kingdom’ (for reasons I promise will become apparent when you visit), I’m a huge fan of the charming mountain town of Breckenridge. It offers incredible ski runs that are deeply coated in perfect powder for much of the winter months coupled with vibrant après options and a surprisingly lively nightlife in the town itself for when you finally manage to drag yourself off those picturesque slopes.
Characterized by its charming Victorian architecture, Breckenridge – affectionately called Breck by locals – is known not only for the legendary skiing opportunities that surround the town but also for its iconic main street. It’s a bustling but very charming hub packed with cafes, restaurants, and shops that are popular both with those who call the town home and the visitors who flock to experience its charm.
I would highly recommend going on the highest chairlift in North America when you visit and this time of year provides you with easy access to the very best runs. January sees some of the highest average snowfall of the year and the town transforms into a very beautiful winter wonderland – I personally think it’s the ideal time to see Breckenridge at its most enchanting.
- Visitor’s Center Address: The Breckenridge Welcome Centre, 203 S. Main Street Breckenridge, CO 80424, Phone: 877 864 0868
- Average temperatures in Breckenridge in January – minus 1 to minus 7 degrees
My must-do highlights of Breckenridge
- Take a wander down Main Street to enjoy the magical holiday lights and stop off for a warm cup of hot chocolate.
- Experience an exciting, guided snowmobile tour to explore the backcountry in a memorable way.
- Visit the International Snow Sculpture Championships where teams from across the world hand-carve their creative ideas.
How to get to Breckenridge
As the county seat and most populous town in Summit County, it is relatively convenient to reach Breckenridge both from within the state and from beyond.
Located just 80 miles from downtown Denver, there are two airports that service Breckenridge: Denver International (95 miles away) and Eagle/Vail Regional Airport in Gypsum, about 60 miles west of I-70.
There are shared shuttles as well as private taxis available from each of these airports and all major car rental offices operate from them also.
Many people choose to rent a car and drive during their stay in Breckenridge/Summit County, and certainly, the roads are modern and well-maintained by a world-class snow removal system, though I would of course always advise caution when driving in wintry conditions and checking the weather forecast beforehand.
2. Palm Desert, California – perfect for a warm/hot leisure break in January
Why visit Palm Desert, California in January? It’s the perfect place to escape the winter freeze and unwind under blue skies.
Nestled next to Palm Springs in the sun-baked Coachella Valley, roughly equidistant from lively and eclectic Los Angeles and surfers’ paradise San Diego, I honestly think Palm Desert is a fantastic choice. I’m a big fan of this cool and quirky destination.
It’s filled with natural hot springs, luxury hotels, country clubs, gourmet restaurants, boutique hotels, golf courses, and sunny weather, Palm Desert makes for a popular tourist destination all year round, attracting visitors from within the state of California, other states, and further afield alike.
With its promise of Californian sun and warmth, even when most of the Northern Hemisphere is hunkered down for winter, it’s no wonder that Palm Desert is a favorite pick among celebrities for a blissful winter retreat – and temperatures in the first month of the year frequently hover around a balmy 26 degrees.
Those perfectly hospitable temperatures, neither too hot nor too cold, mean that January is ideal for all sorts of activities; from hiking to biking, desert treks, and golf. Although I would recommend simply lounging by the pool before a visit to one of the town’s numerous spas. I would also suggest heading to the Palm Springs International Film Festival which handily takes place in early January.
- Visitor’s Center Address: 73510 Fred Waring Dr, Palm Desert, CA 92260
- Average temperatures in Palm Desert in January – 21 degrees
My must-do highlights of Palm Desert
- Hire a bike and explore the city whilst admiring the beautiful scenery and views.
- Take a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway where you can snap Insta-worthy shots of the breathtaking Chino Canyon.
- Reserve a pass for the Palm Springs International Film Festival and do some celebrity spotting.
How to get to Palm Desert
The closest airport is Indio/Palm Springs (PSP) which is easily accessible from the town. It is also incredibly easy to take the train into Palm Desert as around 33 US cities have services that run into the main station with roughly 45 scheduled trips each day.
I choose to drive to Palm Desert as this offers the greatest freedom. When you get there, there are many well-maintained highways that provide quick and convenient access to the other fantastic attractions around the area.
Car rental is available at the airport as well as from a few other pick-up locations around the city.
3. Zion National Park, Utah – an otherworldly natural wonder
Why visit Zion National Park in January? The park often takes on a new beauty in January.
In southwest Utah lies a unique natural reserve distinguished by the steep red cliffs of Zion Canyon, part of the awe-inspiring Zion National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty that’s a photographer’s dream.
I would suggest heading out onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, a winding two-lane road that carves a path through the National Park, and offers magnificent vistas at every turn before winding up at the serene forest trails along the Virgin River.
The river itself is absolutely not to be missed during your winter break to Zion. I would also recommend exploring the luminous Emerald Pools and the nearby waterfalls.
Or make your way along the Zion Narrow for a unique wintertime walk. January is a great time to explore Zion without the crowds, and, being based in southern Utah, the park experiences mild winters and limited snowfall – so walking trails are accessible even during the winter months.
In fact, one of the benefits of visiting Zion National Park in winter is that areas closed to cars in summer allow vehicular access – so reaching its wealth of natural attractions is never easier!
I promise that the uniquely tranquil atmosphere and spellbinding sight of the snow-filled canyon will make this an unforgettable winter break.
- Visitors Center Address: 1 Zion Park Blvd, Zion National Park, UT 84767
- Phone: (435) 772-3256
- Average temperatures in Zion National Park in January – 10 degrees
My must-do highlights of Zion National Park, Utah
- Take a hike on one of the trails and catch the picturesque views overlooking the red sandstone cliffs.
- Explore the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive by car and discover the beautiful lands at your own pace.
- Go paddleboarding on the quiet Quail Creek State Park Lake and spend the day out on the serene waters.
How to get to Zion National Park, Utah
As a result of its remote location, driving is the easiest and most convenient way of reaching the park, and you will find a range of car hire options available in the larger towns outside of the park as well as at the closest airports.
The park is serviced by a couple of airports, the closest being that in St. George’s: the closest medium-sized town to the park itself. Though SGU is a regional airport, large airlines such as Delta and Southwest do fly in. The airport itself is located just 47 miles from the Springdale gate of the park.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, I would recommend embarking on a classic all-American road trip: flying into Las Vegas’ Harry Reid Airport (around 170 miles away) and staying a couple of nights in the infamous ‘Sin City’, before heading out on the road to park for some rest, relaxation (and perhaps detoxification) in its serene environs.
4. Big Sky, Montana – one of the best places to visit in January in the USA
Why visit Big Sky, Montana in January? The park often takes on a new beauty in January.
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 outdoor activities include nature zip lines, hikes, and escape rooms.
Winter activities include sledding, snowmobiling, snow-go bike rides, ice trekking, and cross-country skiing. For those less adventurous, I’d highly recommend the après ski scene!
No matter how you choose to spend your days, winter evenings in Big Sky are made for curling up in front of a fire with a mug of hot chocolate or a glass of something stronger.
The endless panoramic views of Montana’s magical winter scapes make Big Sky the perfect winter destination and I’m a big fan!
- Visitors Center Address: 88 Ousel Falls Rd Unit A1, Big Sky, MT.
- Average temperatures in Big Sky, Montana in January – 0 to -13 degrees
My must-do highlights of Big Sky, Montana
- Explore along the scenic Ousel Falls Trailhead and discover the frozen waterfall where you can also enjoy a picnic.
- Have a shopping day at the upscale and unique boutiques located in the town center.
- Go skiing at Big Sky Resort which is suited to all abilities and well known for being a favourite for those who love powder.
How to get to Big Sky, Montana
Located midway between Bozeman and West Yellowstone, Big Sky is serviced by Bozeman International Airport (BZN): around an hour away along scenic, relatively quiet roads.
Perhaps the easiest and most popular means of traveling to the park is to fly into Bozeman and then hire a car.
This also allows you to explore more of Big Sky and the surrounding landscapes of magnificent Montana, a state which, by the fact of its sheer size and unspoiled wilderness, is not well-serviced by public transport routes.
5. Miami, Florida – a fun and warm beach destination to head to in January
Why visit Miami, Florida in January? This iconic tropical melting pot never cools down – not even in January.
Situated in the famous Sunshine State of Florida, Miami is of course known for its sun-kissed sandy beaches, humming beach bars, and opulent At-Deco style hotels.
While this vibrant city is a popular year-round destination, January is a cost-effective time to visit the ever-exuberant Miami as it is off-peak – so not only will you miss the busy crowds of families, friends, spring-breakers and other partygoers, but you can make the most of many attractions and fabulously extravagant hotels for a rather more budget-friendly price.
Also, Miami’s sub-tropical climate means that whilst other states find themselves in the depths of winter, the pastel-coloured streets of Florida’s most Instagrammable city are still abuzz with activity.
I’d recommend strolling down the famous Ocean Drive, and visiting museums such as the Vizcaya Museum and Perez Art Museum, historic sites, clubs, and casinos, and then staying at one of the many awesome boutique hotels – the options are endless!
- Visitors Center Address: 530 17th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139
- Average temperatures in Miami, Florida in January – 23 degrees
My must-do highlights of Miami, Florida
- Go on a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus tour and explore the popular attractions of the city.
- Discover the Night Garden which is a spectacular botanical garden to visit during the winter season which is filled with trees, scavenger hunts, and dandelion flower fields.
- Slow down and relax at the iconic Miami Beach where you can spend the day sunbathing or swimming.
How to get to Miami, Florida
Fly directly into Miami International Airport (MIA) from cities and countries all over the world, and then either take a cab, shared shuttle, or bus right into the heart of downtown.
Car rental is also of course available from the airport and in the city itself, which is a great option if you’re looking to branch out from Miami and explore other nearby towns and highlights such as Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, and the world-famous Everglades.
6. Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina – for a unique winter holiday in America’s South
Why visit Hunting Island State Park in January? This serene and beautiful melting pot never cools down – not even in January.
Hunting Island is a 5,000-acre secluded, semi-tropical barrier island 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 is also home to the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state and I’d definitely recommend paying it a visit.
The island is also home to a saltwater lagoon, an ocean inlet, and a fishing pier, and I’d also recommend camping to make the most of the beautiful oceanside location.
The warm sea temperatures, even in January, make it a great time to go visit the island and enjoy swimming in its alluring lagoon.
- Visitor’s Center Address: 713 Craven St, Beaufort, SC 29902
- Average temperatures in Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina in January – 13 degrees
My must-do highlights of Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina
- Climb 167 spiral steps to the top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse and enjoy the picturesque view overlooking the coast and other nearby islands.
- Stroll along Hunting Island campground and admire one of the most beautiful starry skies.
- Explore the lush greenery along the exotic island’s coastal barrier on several trails.
How to get to Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina
The park is the single most popular in South Carolina and attracts many visitors each year, most of whom find it easiest to drive from one of the nearby towns such as Charleston and Savannah.
The nearest large airport is Charleston around 70 miles away, although there are a few very small local airports open to light aircraft within the area too as well as limited public transportation services.
7. Heavenly, the border of California and Nevada – a huge ski resort with heaps of hidden gems
Why visit Heavenly in January? Discover breathtaking lake views and fantastic skiing amenities.
On the Southern shores of Lake Tahoe, you will find the aptly named Heavenly, one of the world’s biggest ski resorts that offers amazing views of the lake as you ascend up or make your way down its pristine slopes.
As the name suggests, I honestly think that Heavenly has some of the most truly idyllic and unspoiled mountainous landscapes and ski slopes in America.
This extraordinary ski resort is not only known for its unparalleled natural beauty but also its extensive range of terrain parks, mogul runs, and untracked slopes – not to mention its happening après-ski scene which I highly recommend sampling!
Besides skiing and boarding, the mountains offer other adventure activities including zip lines, tube runs, and gondola rides. While the après-ski is especially popular with international travelers, I personally the after-dark, off-the-slope fun which is as equally exciting and pulls in crowds from the local area and further afield.
Heavenly’s base village; with its ice-skating rink, outdoor fire pits, and a range of restaurants, makes it the perfect place for a ski trip for friends, families, and larger groups looking for comfort as well as adventure.
As with most ski resorts, the best time to ski Heavenly is in January, after the holidays when the crowds have lessened, and the slopes themselves have had time to build up a thick layer of snow topped with the fluffy powder that continues to fall throughout the month.
- Visitor Center Address: Explore Tahoe Visitor Center 4114 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
- Average temperatures in Heavenly in January – 8 to -2 degrees
My must-do highlights of Heavenly
- Experience a unique and thrilling ride through the snow-covered forests on the Mountain Coaster.
- For those who like to party, head to Unbuckle for a lively atmosphere at 9,150 feet high.
- Enjoy the Insta-worthy views at the observation tower before taking one of the epic runs back down to the resort.
How to get to Heavenly
Heavenly Ski Resort is one of America’s most readily accessible ski resorts and is within easy reach from both the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) and Sacramento International Airport (SMF), which offer more than 200 non-stop and direct flights with numerous connecting flights from 24 other US cities – but not international flights.
I personally choose to hire a car from the airport and then make the drive over, although there are several companies providing bus/coach transfers from these airports, so it is well worth looking into these before you arrive.
8. Brunswick & Golden Isles, Georgia – one of the best winter breaks in the USA for nature lovers
Why visit Brunswick and Golden Isles, Georgia in January? Atmospheric coastlines, secret islands, and a surprising cultural scene.
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, and accommodation options which range from everything from cozy inns to luxury resorts.
Throw in some of that unparalleled southern hospitality and basically, I honestly think it’s winter break perfection!
- Visitor Center Address: 2017 Lee St, Brunswick, GA 31520
- Average temperatures in Brunswick & Golden Isles in January – 18 degrees
My must-do highlights of Brunswick and The Golden Isles
- Catch a show and enjoy some entertainment at the historic Ritz Theatre located in the Old Town.
- For those who love to golf, experience a round at one of the courses situated across this breathtaking bucket list destination.
- Spend a night camping at Jekyll Island Campground which is in close proximity to other local attractions.
How to get to Brunswick and The Golden Isles
As a large urban economic center in South-eastern Georgia, the area of Brunswick and the Golden Isles is well served by bus transportation.
The closest international airport is Jacksonville, which is around 3 hours drive away and there are buses that run between the two locations. There is also a small local airport in Brunswick and Golden Isles as well as on Jekyll Island.
9. Payette National Forest, Idaho – a great alternative winter ski holiday destination in January
Why visit Payette National Forest in January? It’s perfect for a spectacular winter holiday off the beaten track.
Based in central-western Idaho, the Payette National Forest comprises of over 2.3 million acres of peaceful natural beauty for you to explore, and offers an amazing alternative to the 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, snowshoeing, and many more recreational experiences.
The area boasts 500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails that are well-maintained and continue to increase in number and popularity, as well as 19,000 acres of elevated terrain that is ideal for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, which I highly recommend.
Irrespective of your winter sports skill level, Payette National Forest makes for an incredible winter destination in the USA – and I think January is a great time for visitors to make the most of its array of activities on offer.
A truly beautiful place for a winter holiday in December, January, and even February – so don’t miss out!
- Visitors Center Address: 500 N Mission St, McCall 83638
- Average temperatures in Payette National Forest, Idaho in January – minus 1 to minus 16 degrees
My must-do highlights of Payette National Forest, Idaho
- For those who love skiing or snowboarding, take advantage of being surrounded by some of Idaho’s best snow-covered resorts.
- Take a snowmobile ride to explore over 500 miles worth of trails and admire the stunning views.
- Learn about the county’s history and its native tribes with a visit to Payette County Museum.
How to get to Payette National Forest, Idaho
Payette National Forest is reachable by car by way of a number of well-traveled interstate routes, and indeed many visitors opt to drive into the relative wilderness of the park from all over the country.
The nearest airport is found in Boise and there are shuttles as well as bus and taxi services that run to and from the area, so I would suggest making some inquiries before you travel to secure the best rate.
10. Kailua Kona, Hawaii Big Island – a perfect warm getaway in January
Why visit Kailua Kona in January? If you’re looking for a tropical and very warm island escape in the midst of lush greenery, look no further.
Kailua-Kona is a seaside town on the west coast of Hawaii Island, where the western slopes of the Hualālai volcano meet the ocean. This gorgeous island boasts blue skies and sunny, dry weather all year round.
While summers can get extremely hot, the warm temperatures (around 80F) in January, present the perfect opportunity to truly enjoy all that Kona Island and its sugary soft 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 all await you on this lovely island.
South Kona is known for its lush forests and renowned Kona coffee, so be sure to take a walk through some of its unspoiled green areas and take a trip to its expansive coffee farms as well as the historic Hawaiian landmarks, local farmers’ markets, boutiques, restaurants, and bars.
One of the warmest places to visit in the USA in January, Kona surely is the perfect pick for some winter sun.
- Visitors Center Address: Big Island Guide 73-4318 Keokeo St, Kailua Kona, HI 96740
- Average temperatures in Kailua Kona, Hawaii Big Island in January – 27 degrees
My must-do highlights of Kailua Kona, Hawaii Big Island
- Take a trip to see two of the world’s most active volcanoes at the National Park for an unforgettable experience.
- Discover the unique and beautiful Punaluu Black Sand Beach after grabbing some food to enjoy from the Punalu’u Bake Shop.
- Visit the famous ‘Akaka Falls which stands at 442 feet high and can be found by following an easy and beautiful hiking trail.
How to get to Kailua Kona, Hawaii Big Island
You will find a variety of flights from the US mainland to Kona, and then a host of taxi/shuttle and bus services to choose from upon arrival which will take you into Kailua Kona.
Alternatively, you can also always fly into Hilo International Airport and make the scenic drive clear across the island, which takes around 2 hours and will take you through some of the island’s most beguiling scenery.
11. Alta & Snowbird, Utah – gorgeous skiing destinations to head to in January
Why visit Alta and Snowbird in January? Crisp white snow and comparatively uncrowded slopes.
A picturesque ski area part of the imposing Wasatch Mountains of Utah located in Salt Lake County, Alta 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, so the season is both long and filled with variety.
Alta is renowned for its stunning snow-cover scenery and the fresh powder snow which falls on its terrain, while. Snowbird is a world-famous ‘must-ski’ destination situated just one mile away from Alta. Snowbird is known for its all-year-round ski season as it remains open for over 200 days.
January sees heavy snowfall on top of an already thick covering on the ground in Alta and Snowbird, which makes it an ideal month for seeing the best that these snow trails have to offer.
The month of January also sees its fair share of bluebird days, so you can truly appreciate those stunning views as you head up on the lift and down on your skis!
- Visitors Center Address: 9260 E Lodge Dr, Snowbird, UT 84092
- Phone: (801) 933-2222
- Average temperatures in Alta & Snowbird, Utah in January – 3 degrees
My must-do highlights of Alta & Snowbird, Utah
- Indulge in some R&R at The Cliff Spa and treat yourself to luxurious wellness treatments.
- Experience helicopter skiing on a fresh powder day for a unique and unforgettable memory.
- Take a guided ski tour and discover the tranquil backcountry trails.
How to get to Alta and Snowbird, Utah
You can fly into Salt Lake City International Airport, from which you can arrange shuttle and taxi transfers to take you the mere 32 miles to Alta and Snowbird – making them some of the most surprisingly easy ski resorts to get to!
Car rental is also an option but as the two neighboring resorts of Alta and Snowbird are so well-connected and self-contained, it is not necessarily needed during your January ski break to the area.
12. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico – a unique beauty spot to explore in January
Why visit White Sands National Monument, New Mexico in January? Take an ethereal escape into a natural landscape like no other.
White Sands National Park, located in New Mexico, as its name might suggest is characterized by its stunning, seemingly endless stretches of bright white sand – white enough to rival even the freshest of snowfall!
The region’s dune field is very dynamic, with the most active dunes moving at a rate of up to 30 feet per year.
Some of the main attractions to this truly marvelous location include the largest gypsum dune field, the tall glistening range of white dunes in Tularosa Basin (“internally drained valley”), and over 800 unique species of fauna and flora that survive in these extreme and largely inhospitable conditions.
Not only the natural geology of the region but also the paleontology of the animals that live here is what makes this destination so uniquely intriguing. Summers are too hot to visit, making winter the peak time to visit White Sands National Monument.
- Visitor Center Address: 19955 US-70 W, Alamogordo, NM 88310
- Phone: (575) 479-6124
- Average temperatures in White Sands National Monument in January – 14 degrees
My must-do highlights of White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
- Visit the white gypsum dunes that cover 275 square miles of land, making them the largest in the world.
- Have a go at sledding down the sand dunes ideal for the whole family to enjoy.
- For those who love the outdoors, spend a night or two camping underneath the starry skies at one of the ten campsites.
How to get to White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
The nearest airport to White Sands National Park is Roswell, which operates domestic flights. Alternatively, you can fly into El Paso in Texas, and then either drive in just under 2 hours or take one of the Sun Metro Greyhound USA bus services which run on a semi-regular basis and take around 4 hours.
Busses operate within the area, and there are several private touring options that will collect you, and show you the incredible landscapes of the dunes, before dropping you back to your accommodation.
13. Death Valley, California – January is a safer time to visit this extraordinary place
Why visit Death Valley, California in January? It’s the perfect time to explore this vast, cinematic landscape.
Bordering the Great Basin Desert, Death Valley is a desert valley in Eastern California and is one of the hottest places on Earth, often compared with deserts in the Middle East and the Sahara.
Being one of the hottest, driest, and lowest national parks and places in the world, Death Valley has unbearably blistering summer temperatures. Therefore I’d recommend visiting in the wintertime instead!
There are two exclusive hotels that offer distinct experiences – relaxing or adventurous and both offer swimming pools and a variety of other activities.
While exploring the national park, I’d suggest trying to spot its unique wildlife such as desert bighorn sheep, lizards, and the tiny pupfish, which live in pools saltier than seawater. At night, enjoy stargazing free from light pollution in this mesmerizing landscape.
- Visitor Center Address: 328 Greenland Blvd, Death Valley, CA 92328
- Phone: (760) 786-3200
- Average temperatures in Death Valley, California in January – 19 degrees
My must-do highlights of Death Valley, California
- Take a journey along Artists Drive to discover Artists Palette whilst admiring the pink granite and magnificent rock formations.
- Enjoy a hike through the Golden Canyon and experience some Insta-worthy views, well-known for being one of the best trails.
- Catch a sunrise at one of the most iconic places in Death Valley, Zabriskie Point, offering visitors a panoramic view.
How to get to Death Valley, California
Straddling the border between California and Nevada, you have a choice of airports in either state to fly into, depending on where you wish to enter the valley.
Given its somewhat unforgiving landscape public transport is not available in the area and although some do drive into it with private vehicles, the best, and safest, way of exploring this awesome desert landscape is with a pre-arranged tour group who can show you all the very best bits of Death Valley.
14. San Diego, California – makes for a gorgeous winter city break to visit in January
Why visit San Diego, California in January? Explore pretty coastlines without the crowds.
I honestly think San Diego is an excellent destination to visit in January because, whilst it is on the cooler side compared with other months, it still offers a great escape from cold dreary weather, boasting an almost picture-perfect, year-round Mediterranean-like climate with sunshine and soft ocean winds. 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 laid-back atmosphere. Top that off with some world-class restaurants, wonderful bars, and excellent artistic and cultural offerings which you can enjoy with thinned-out crowds in January and you’ve got yourself an awesome break!
San Diego boasts 70 miles of pristine sand along its stunningly beautiful coastline laden with cypress trees. I’d recommend choosing from various activities such as sunbathing, surfing, kayaking, and 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, museums, and gardens.
- Visitor Center Address: 996 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
- Average temperatures in San Diego in January – 19 degrees
My must-do highlights of San Diego, California
- Take a stroll around San Diego Botanic Garden which provides 4 miles of trails and an array of stunning flora and fauna.
- Visit the Old Town located in the heart of the city and taste your way through the Mexican-inspired restaurants.
- Explore around on the hop-on-hop-off bus to discover as many of San Diego’s popular attractions as you like.
How to get to San Diego, California
It is easy to get to San Diego, with direct flights operating both internationally and domestically. Then once you are there you are spoilt for choice of transport options; with bus, train, taxi, and trams/trolleys as you would expect of any larger American city.
The city itself is also very bicycle-friendly, so there is always the opportunity to swap four wheels for two and head out to explore with a hire bike.
15. Mt Baker, Washington – a snowy winter wonderland and perfect for a trip in January
Why visit Mount Baker, Washington in January? A glaciated volcano buried under snow in January.
Mt. Baker Ski Area is an epic ski resort in Washington that is well-known for its unbeatable snow levels of up to 17 meters 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 resorts, it’s generally less crowded so an ideal pick for anyone looking for some discreet ski time away from the rush.
Along with its groomed ski trails, I’d also highly recommend participating in winter sports on offer like snowmobiling, snow hikes, sledding, and exploring the spellbinding old-growth forest.
- Visitor Center Address: 7509 Mount Baker Hwy, Maple Falls, WA 98266
- Average temperatures in Mt Baker, Washington in January – minus 9 to minus 14 degrees
How to get to Mount Baker, Washington
The closest airports are Seattle (148 miles away) and Vancouver (93 miles and just across the border). Both offer international and domestic flights as well as a range of car hire and shuttle options.
The ‘Baker Bus’ is a subsidized bus service that runs on weekends and holidays from Bellingham, which is perfect for those without access to a car.
16. South Padre Island & Port Isabel, Texas – warm and pleasant temperatures (for January) and beautiful scenery
Why visit South Padre Island and Port Isabel, Texas in January? A quiet set of beaches with an array of activities and a warm welcome.
Off the coast of Texas lies South Padre Island: a resort town on a barrier island 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 South Padre Island.
I’d recommend visiting the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Centre, which comprises of a 5-story watchtower with marvelous views of migrating birds especially if you’re a nature lover.
A short trip away is Port Isabel which is separated from the shores of South Padre Island by the 2.6-mile-long Queen Isabella Causeway. Dive into the bay, take to the waters on a magical dolphin cruise, stroll along Laguna Madre Nature Trail, or enjoy a picnic in Isla Blanca Park.
With its pleasant subtropical climate and rich culture and history, it’s no surprise that South Padre Island is a favorite winter destination for millions of visitors each year.
- Visitor Center Address: 600 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island, TX 78597
- Average temperatures in South Padre Island & Port Isabel, Texas in January – 21 degrees
My must-do highlights of South Padre Island and Port Isabel, Texas
- Visit one of the most Instagrammable spots, Holiday Sandcastle Village, and see some life-size sculptures.
- Take a trip to the entertainment district where you can have some fun on the Ferris wheel, mini golf, go-karts, and more.
- Enjoy a relaxed stroll along the beach whilst listening to the serene sounds of the ocean.
How to get to South Padre Island and Port Isabel, Texas
Whilst South Padre Island does not have an airport itself, it is accessible via the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge, providing relatively easy access by car from the nearest airports: the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport and the Valley International Airport, each of which is within a 40 miles drive of this popular beach resort.
There are also local bus services that will take you around the South Padre area so you can make the most of all the sights and attractions.
17. Moosehead Lake, Maine – winter fun on a beautiful frozen lake
Why visit Moosehead Lake, Maine in January? Relaxing lake and sweeping mountain vistas await.
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.
I’d highly recommend cozying up in a rustic cabin located by a serene frozen lake, surrounded by picturesque scenery – that’s what a trip to Moosehead Lake in winter entails (and much more besides).
The array of adventure activities on offer includes winter hikes, snowmobiling and snowshoe trails by day campfires, and stargazing into the clear northern skies by night.
And, if you’re still after more, there is even the possibility of glimpsing the elusive Northern Lights on your trip I didn’t see them on my trip but it’s definitely possible! In January, the nearby Squaw Mountain is also open to snowboarders and skiers should you want to venture out to another mountain.
I personally think that Moosehead Lake offers the perfect balance between exciting adventure and peaceful relaxation!
- Visitor Center Address: 480 Moosehead Lake Rd, Greenville, ME 04441
- Average temperatures in Moosehead Lake, Maine in January – minus 6 to minus 18 degrees
My must-do highlights of Moosehead Lake, Maine
- Start your day right with a breakfast around the lake and fuel yourself ready for a full day of activities.
- Take a snowmobile ride along the Moosehead Trail which offers an expansive and scenic range of 160 miles.
- Experience the picturesque views by going on a hike to explore your surroundings.
How to get to Moosehead Lake, Maine
Arguably the east way of getting to Moosehead Lake is to fly into Maine’s Bangor International Airport and then make the ½ to 2-hour drive to the lake itself.
There is no direct bus route, but it is possible to take a car ferry from Bay Harbour to Yarmouth.
18. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida – a great place to visit in January with warm temperatures
Why visit Dry Tortugas, Florida in January? Its sun-filled days and warm waters make it the perfect warm weather winter break.
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 the warm Floridian sunshine all year round. The Dry Tortugas, as the name suggests, have a dry winter season (November-March) with little or no rainfall, which is not as hot and humid as its summer months.
I think January is a great time to visit because the warm temperatures allow for snorkeling, sunbathing, and enjoying other water sports like kayaking, and boating without being too hot and sticky which is sometimes a risk in the summer months.
Also, with fewer visitors, you have a much better chance of spotting some of the rare birds that call this area home; including 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 so I would suggest visiting!
- Visitor Center Address: Florida Keys, FL 33040
- Phone: (305) 294-7009
- Average temperatures in Dry Tortugas National Park in January – 24 degrees
My must-do highlights of Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
- Explore the historic Fort Jefferson for some of the best views overlooking the crystal-clear waters and surrounding islands.
- Experience some of the best snorkeling in Florida at the Moat Wall or South Coaling Dock Ruins.
- Take a walk around the lush Bush Key, a perfect activity for those who don’t want to go in the water.
How to get to Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
As one of the most remote National Parks in America, it takes a little organizing to get to Dry Tortugas. It is, however, accessible via private or charter boat, organized group tour, ferry, and seaplane!
The nearest airport is at Key West (EYW), and international flights arrive here regularly.
19. Tucson, Arizona – fewer crowds and pleasant winter temperatures
Why visit Tucson, Arizona in January? Bountiful sunshine and a host of gastronomical goodies.
Tucson has been dubbed the ‘City of Gastronomy’ by UNESCO, and rightly so. This amazing city offers some of the most remarkable restaurants, cafes, bars, and breweries in the Southwest – and so unsurprisingly Tucson’s downtown is a thriving hub of activity and fun. Even hotels in Tucson strive to meet the city’s reputation for its excellent fare.
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.
But with summers being desert hot, it can sometimes be difficult to make the most of these rich cultural offerings, so I believe wintertime can allow you to really make the most of what Tucson, Arizona has to offer.
- Visitor Center Address: Southern Tucson Visitor Center, 115 N. Church Ave. Tucson, AZ 85701
- Average temperatures in Tucson, Arizona in January – 19 degrees
My must-do highlights of Tucson, Arizona
- Take an underground tour at one of the most unique attractions in Tuscon, Kartchner Caverns State Park, and discover the mesmerizing cave formations.
- Visit Pima Air and Space Museum, the world’s largest aerospace museum which is home to over 300 aircraft.
- Play a round of golf in the Tuscan sunshine at one of the 40 courses located across the city,
How to get to Tucson, Arizona
Tucson is very well connected, both to other states and internationally. You can fly into Tucson International Airport, or access the city from other towns and cities in the US by means of its excellent rail networks. Amtrak offers a service to Tucson from a number of other cities.
20. Fairbanks, Alaska – for awesome winter activities and a chance to see the Northern Lights
Why visit Fairbanks, Alaska in January? To experience a truly magical winter wonderland.
One of the largest cities of Alaska, Fairbanks is situated at a latitude that makes it perfect to witness the famed aurora borealis and mystical midnight sun.
If you’re looking to chase the northern lights, January is the perfect time to visit Fairbanks when chances your chances of seeing the lights are higher, but the crowds are lesser due to the cold weather.
The weather may be cold – but catching a glimpse of nature’s most elusive natural phenomenon makes the temperatures totally worth it, I promise! I also find much better deals on flights, hotels, and tours during January as it’s officially off-season.
The scenic natural landscape includes serene mountains and pristine rivers and lakes that are teeming with wildlife. Experience sunrises and sunsets that last forever (typically two hours), and where the sky’s made up of a kaleidoscope of oranges and blues.
Besides viewing the truly mesmerizing sky by day and night, especially the Northern Lights, Fairbanks offers an array of winter activities. I’d suggest going sledding, snowmobiling, snow hikes, and visiting the nearby Chena hot springs.
- Visitor Center Address: 101 Dunkel St, Fairbanks, AK 99701
- Average temperatures in Fairbanks, Alaska in January – minus 8 to minus 26 degrees
My must-do highlights of Fairbanks, Alaska
- Experience the sky come alive by taking a Northern Lights tour and watch how it dances over your head.
- Discover the creative and incredible sculptures at the Ice Museum.
- Take some time out to relax at the beautiful Chena Hot Springs Resort which is run off geothermal energy.
How to get to Fairbanks, Alaska
The easiest way to reach Fairbanks, particularly during the winter months when many roads are entirely blocked by snow, is by air – and beautiful Fairbanks has its own international airport from where you can arrange shuttles or taxis to take you where you need to go.
Once in Fairbanks, you will find many of the transport amenities you would expect from a larger, cosmopolitan city: with regular and reliable buses to take you around the town. The Fairbanks North Star borough runs a year-round bus service that takes you all the way to the North Pole!
I hope you enjoyed my list of suggestions, my personal favorites are Breckenridge for its winter wonderland charm, Fairbanks for the Northern Lights, and San Diego for its fine weather. Enjoy your trips!
Where is a good place to travel in January in the US?
Palm City in California makes a fabulous destination to visit in January as temperatures hover around 80F and offer hikes, treks, pool lounging, sunbathing, golf, and spa pampering.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more typical winter destination Breckenridge in Colorado is a charming mountain town that offers incredible skiing slopes, vibrant après options, and a lively nightlife.
What is the number 1 vacation spot in the US?
These rank among the best and most popular places to vacation in the USA:
- New York
- Las Vegas
- Grand Canyon
What is the prettiest city in the USA?
What is the warmest place in the US in January?
Where should I travel in January 2022?
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Becky Moore – Owner, writer and photographer
My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my ex Athens street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Borneo, Finland, Greece, Berlin, Laos, California and the surreal and beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.
I’ve been quoted in Forbes, National Geographic, The Times, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Thrillist, British Airways Magazine, Entrepreneur, express.co.uk, Wanderlust, Telegraph Travel, Daily Mail and metro.co.uk. Find me on Linkedin or Facebook.