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If you’re looking for the best places to travel in the US in this cold weather, look no further. Here are some of the best places to travel in January in the US, whether winter museum hopping is your scene or you’d escape the cold in Florida instead.
If you want to hit New York City for the ball drop, see some whales in California, or take that tropical vacation you’ve always dreamed about in Hawaii, don’t wait until those spring rates go back up.
Even though the holidays are over and the winter has set in throughout much of the United States, that doesn’t mean you have to settle in, too.
Hop on a plane or hit the road and explore one of these best places to travel in the US in January.
Where is The Best Place To Go in The USA in January?
The best places to go in the US in January depend primarily on personal and climate preferences. Places like Florida, Arizona, or California are great destinations if you prefer warmer temperatures.
The Southeast region is an excellent choice for those seeking a chillier getaway, with its various ski resorts and winter villages experiencing snowfall.
The Smoky Mountains are also a great choice to visit in January, with its many winter activities like snow tubing in Pigeon Forge, skiing, and snowboarding.
No matter where you choose, there are plenty of places to visit in the US during January.
With its diverse climates, the US is full of places to explore and activities to experience in the winter months. From skiing to beach-going, there’s something for everyone!
Best Places to Travel in January in the US
Here are some of the best travel destinations in the USA for January.
Anna Maria Island, Florida, may very well be the best-kept secret in the Gulf of Mexico. Located about an hour south of Tampa, FL, this gem has maintained the Old Florida feel with no high-rise hotels, quaint shops, and excellent restaurants.
You won’t believe the colors and beauty of this place, not to mention the mild temperatures in January, with highs still in the low 70s. Take a day trip to Sarasota for shopping or visit the Mote & Marine Aquarium with the kids. Read our full review of Anna Maria Island.
Looking for mild winter temperatures, great golf, historical travel, and a secluded old south feel? Consider a January vacation in Amelia Island, Florida. You probably won’t break out the swimsuit, but you may not need that winter coat, either.
Take the kids to explore Fort Clinch State Park and make time to enjoy the historic downtown. Read our full review for more Things To Do in Amelia Island, Florida.
Home to 27 miles of coastline, Panama City Beach, Florida, is a destination that should be on your US bucket list for a January vacation. It is a tropical paradise, with palm trees and sandy beaches at every corner, and Panama City Beach activities for everyone.
If water adventure is your thing, we recommend shipwreck diving or spending the day on a fishing charter. Additionally, this town has two fantastic state parks, Camp Helen State Park and St. Andrew’s State Park, worth exploring. And if you’re looking for a more relaxing day, pick your spot on the beach and soak up the sun.
Panama City Beach is as adventurous or relaxing as you want to make it!
Blessed with no fewer than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and annual temperatures that average 75°F, Fort Lauderdale is one of the best spots in the US for a winter break in January. Rent a car in Miami and head north near the southern tip of the Florida Panhandle, home to amazing sand beaches and expansive wetlands.
It’s an important starting and stopping point for cruises, while the city features a beautiful oceanfront promenade, a historic riverfront, canals, shopping opportunities, and great food.
Active travelers can go diving and snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean or go for runs on the many miles of beaches. A quick jaunt to the west brings you into the Everglades Wildlife Management Area. The Arts and Entertainment District is the place to go for a dose of culture.
Santa Cruz, California, is a small beach town on the California central coast, just an hour and a half south of San Francisco. But Santa Cruz isn’t just great for summer travel because the weather hovers in the 60s most of the year. There’s plenty to do in January as well!
January is the perfect time to do some whale watching along Monterey Bay. While you can take a whale-watching tour to get up close and personal, you can often spot the whales from the beachside cliffs, which is perfect and FREE.
If you’re in the mood to see more wildlife, you can check out the elephant seals in Ano Nuevo State Park. The breeding season starts in January, and you can see newborn baby elephant seals. You do need reservations for the guided tour, but the tour itself is pretty straightforward, and the weather in Santa Cruz is beautiful, so it’s not strenuous. Do yourself a favor and visit the Pie Ranch on the other side of the highway from the park for some freshly baked pie. It’s so worth it.
Other things to do:
· Go kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough to see California sea otters;
· Go for a hike at Big Basin State Park and see the California redwoods;
· Bike down Westcliff Drive and enjoy the views;
· Walk along one of the many beaches and enjoy the crisp sea breeze.
Monterey, California, is great to visit any time of year, but January is a beautiful time to see gray whales on their annual migration! And it’s not just a few whales, but 20,000 on their way to Baja, California, Mexico from Alaska.
You can also see Humpbacks, and Blue Whales, too. This is a fabulous time to book a whale-watching tour, but you can often see the spouts from the shore if you don’t fancy a boat trip. Do know it can be windy and cold on the water, so layer up!
You should also visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium while you’re there! Tickets are a little pricey but well worth it. It’s HUGE, and the exhibits are extremely well done. They’re a wonderful organization that supports ocean research and conservation.
You also can’t miss Cannery Row, the historic street once home to sardine factories but is now lined with shops and restaurants along the beautiful waterfront! Note that Monterey can be cold, foggy, and windy at any time of year, so prepare accordingly.
One of the best places to visit in January in the USA is the stunning Big Sur region of California. Temperatures remain mild throughout the winter, and crowds are significantly lower than you would see during the busy summer months.
Spend a day or two exploring the sites in and around Big Sur, including Bixby Creek Bridge, McWay Waterfall, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where there are several trails to explore. It’s also worth taking the time to pull off the Pacific Coast Highway and enjoy the numerous coastal walks while watching the waves crash into the Californian coast.
If you have enough time, it’s worth driving north from Big Sur and exploring Monterey or Carmel, both lovely towns with exciting things to do and see.
San Luis Obispo is a sleepy college town (home to Cal Poly SLO) with perfect year-round weather and beautiful scenery. SLO (San Luis Obispo for short) has a lovely downtown area I’d recommend walking around. There are lots of shops, both small and large, and great places to eat. Go to Bubblegum Alley (and add a piece if you’d like!) and see Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa nearby!
Even if you don’t stay in one of the rooms, stop by the Madonna Inn for a tour. The rooms are uniquely decorated. They have a PINK tennis court, and the men’s bathroom has a waterfall. It’s definitely an exciting place to visit if you enjoy eclectic and eccentric roadside attractions. While there, enjoy a meal or dessert at the Inn restaurant and a walk around the grounds.
January in Oahu is perfect. The weather isn’t too hot, and the further you get from the New Year holiday, the hotel rates plummet. It’s a great place to trade shoveling snow for digging your toes in the sand. Because most families are back in school, there are fewer crowds at popular tourist spots like the Polynesian Cultural Center, Dole Plantation, and Pearl Harbor.
January is also the start of whale watching season in Hawaii, and you might get lucky to see humpback whales migrating on a boat tour or while relaxing on the beach. You can also go on amazing Oahu waterfall hikes, kayak in rivers, learn to surf, and enjoy a traditional Hawaiian luau. It’s a great place to kick off the new year!
Maui has dozens of golden sand beaches, January highs around 80 degrees, and reliably sunny skies. You can surf warm waves in the morning and snorkel with dolphins in the afternoon. And unlike crowded Honolulu, it’s easy to find an empty stretch of sand to relax on. January is peak whale season, so you can even spy a humpback breaching from shore.
If you’ve had your fill of ocean activities, Maui offers a couple of fantastic road trips; You can drive right to the summit of Haleakala, a 10,000-foot dormant volcano. And the legendary “Road To Hana” takes you through 600 turns of tropical rainforest and waterfalls to a peaceful Hawaiian village. Read more about the best things to do in Maui here.
The island of Kauai is known as the Garden Isle, meaning it is the wildest and greenest of the Hawaiian Islands and a beautiful place to travel in January. Travelers might think winter is the off-season in Kauai, but the beautiful weather year-round has snowbirds flocking there to soak up the sun.
January is peak season in Kauai for watching humpback whales come to the tropical waters to birth their calves. It is worth traveling to Kauai in January for this reason alone! On a boat tour with Captain Andy, you can view these majestic creatures from the water, or you can watch from the shore at Kilauea Lighthouse.
The Na Pali coastline is Kauai’s stunning mountain-lined beaches that can only be accessed by boat, helicopter, or hiking. The waters are too rough in winter for boat rides, but an aerial view will give you the most incredible views of the majestic ridges and gushing waterfalls. A helicopter tour would be one of the best activities to add to your Kauai itinerary. If you have young children, private plane rides with Wings Over Kauai would be a great choice, and Jack Harter’s Door Off Helicopter Tour is best for thrill seekers.
Kauai’s green landscape is so vibrant and colorful due to its high rainfall, so staying in Poipu on a winter trip will bring you more sunshine and calmer waters for snorkeling. Poipu Beach Park is an excellent spot for seeing tropical fish and swimming in winter. A sunrise walk on Shipwreck Beach is also a perfect way to start the day in paradise.
There’s no question that when one thinks of quintessential places to travel in January in the US, New York City comes to mind. If you are dreaming of ringing in the new year in New York, don’t forget to leave time for all the other fabulous things to do in New York in January.
Enjoy ice skating in Central Park, stroll around Brooklyn for fabulous views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge or walk on the Williamsburg Bridge for a different view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the incredible buzz of New York daily life.
Finally, get out of the cold with a visit to one of New York’s amazing art museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum.
January is an excellent time to travel to Big Sky, Montana. The holiday crowds have mostly left, and after the New Year is often a great time to find fresh snow and excellent powder – which is important if you’re planning on hitting up the excellent ski runs at Big Sky Resort. Beyond the skiing and snowboarding, the Big Sky Town Center has craft beer, delicious restaurants serving hearty fare, and cozy cafes – perfect for a hot drink or satisfying meal after a day on the slopes. Even non-skiers will enjoy cozying up in front of the fireplace during a winter stay at one of the many mountain lodges and cabins located around Big Sky.
There’s also an ice skating rink in the Town Center for extra winter fun. Big Sky is located within the Rocky Mountain Range in the southwest part of Montana. Big Sky is about an hour’s drive north of Yellowstone National Park and an hour south of Bozeman, Montana, where you’ll find the state’s busiest airport.
If you need to get away for a weekend getaway, visit Mile High city. Two days in Denver this winter are all you need to step away from the stressful daily grind and return with a smile, what’s not to feel good about?
The city is clean and buzzing with creativity. Plus, they use scooters to get around that people just drop off on the street. Like without a lock! Just one of the reasons to appreciate the vibe of this cool, laid-back city.
From the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheater to endless music venues, breweries, and public art, there are countless reasons to spend a weekend in Denver this January.
The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is an excellent place to travel in January. This national park is located in Arizona and is home to the world’s most famous red rock canyon, one of the seven natural world wonders.
It is beautiful year-round and attracts visitors from around the world during all seasons, but winter at the Grand Canyon is a beautiful time to visit if you want to avoid excessive crowds. You will find that you have most of the trails to yourself, you will not have to wait to take photos in popular spots, and you be able to dine at the lovely restaurants without reservations (although they are recommended if you want the best views), and you will have no trouble finding a parking spot for your car. Exploring the Grand Canyon in January will also allow you to avoid the excessive heat.
You will need warm layers with highs in the upper 50s (F). Warm coats, hats, gloves, and sunglasses are recommended. Snow storms are possible, so wear proper shoes for exploring in the snow. Keep in mind that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed in January, so you will need to stick to the South Rim.
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