The holidays are over and the winter has set in throughout much of the United States in January, but that doesn’t mean that you have to settle in, too. If you are looking for the best places to travel in the US in January, look no further. January is a great time to travel in the United States. Whether you want to hit New York City for the ball drop and some winter museum hopping, escape the cold in southern Florida, 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, hop on a plane or hit the road and explore one of these best places to travel in the US in January.
Best Places To Travel In January In Florida
Florida is a natural choice for an eastern US winter escape in January. Here are a few gems from the sunshine state to warm up your winter.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island, Florida may very well be the best kept secret on the Gulf of Mexico. Located about an hour south of Tampa, FL this gem has managed to maintain the Old Florida feel with no high rise hotels and quaint shops and amazing 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 some shopping or visit the Mote & Marine Aquarium with the kids. Read our full review of Anna Maria Island.
Amelia Island, Florida
Looking for mild winter temperatures, great golf, historic 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 well 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.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Home to 27 miles of coastline, Panama City Beach, Florida is a destination that should definitely be on your US bucket list for a January vacation. Not only is it a tropical paradise, with palm trees and sandy beaches at every corner, there are Panama City Beach activities for everyone.
If water adventure is your thing, we highly recommend shipwreck diving or spending the day on a fishing charter. Additionally, there are two amazing state parks in this town, Camp Helen State Park and St. Andrew’s State Park that are definitely 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!
Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz @GettingStamped
Fort Lauderdale, FL
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. Hire a car in Miami and head north near the southern tip of the Florida Panhandle, an area home to amazing sand beaches and expansive wetlands.
It’s an important starting and stopping point for cruises, while the city itself 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. For a dose of culture, the Arts and Entertainment District is the place to go.
Matt from Go4CarRental.com
Best Places To Travel In January In California
Taking a road trip in California in January sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Here are a few of the great places to to visit on the way.
Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz, California is a small beach town in 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 60’s most of the year, there’s plenty to do in January as well!
January is the perfect time to do some whale watching along the 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 easy and the weather in Santa Cruz is beautiful so it’s not strenuous. Do yourself a favor and visit the Pie Ranch that’s 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.
Ale at Elote Sisters
Monterey, California is great to visit at any time of year, but January is a wonderful 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 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 make time to 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 that was once upon a time 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.
Kelsey from Sights Better Seen
Big Sur, California
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 months and crowds are significantly lower than you would see during the busy summer months. Spend a day or two exploring the sites located in and around Big Sur including Bixby Creek Bridge, McWay Waterfall and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where there a number of 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 which are both lovely towns with interesting things to do and see.
Michael of The World Was Here First
San Luis Obispo, California
San Luis Obispo is a sleepy college town (home to Cal Poly SLO) with perfect weather all year round, and beautiful scenery. SLO (San Luis Obispo for short) has a lovely downtown area I’d also recommend walking around in. 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 actually 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 in it. It’s definitely an interesting 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.
Kelsey from Sights Better Seen
Best Places To Travel In January In Hawaii
Are you really looking for the great American escape for January? Why not consider the trip of a lifetime to one of the fabulous island destinations in Hawaii?
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 and see the humpback whales migrating either 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!
Marcie Cheung of Hawaii Travel With Kids
Maui is blessed with 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. Best of all, 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 amazing road trips; You can drive right to the 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.
Sam Wilbur of Worldwide Wilbur
The island of Kauai, is known as the Garden Isle, meaning that it is the wildest and greenest of the Hawaiian Islands and a beautiful place to travel in the month of January. Travelers might think that 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! You can view these majestic creatures from the water on a boat tour with Captain Andy’s 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. In winter, the waters are too rough for boat rides, but an aerial view will gift you with 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 with you, the 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 a great spot for seeing tropical fish and swimming during the winter months. A sunrise walk on Shipwreck Beach is also a perfect way to start the day in paradise.
Sierra Schmidt of Free to Travel Mama
Best Places To Travel In January For A Traditional or Adventurous Winter Vacation
If you aren’t necessarily looking to escape the winter, but rather want to enjoy some traditional US winter holidays, consider some of these iconic US travel destinations for January.
New York City, NY
There’s no question that when one thinks of quintessential places to travel in January in the US, New York City come 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.
Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World
Big Sky, Montana
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 some extra winter fun. Big Sky is located in the southwest part of Montana within the Rocky Mountain Range. 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.
Gina of Travel Montana Now
If you need to get away for a weekend getaway, visit the 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.
Blake at Style Island
Grand Canyon, AZ
The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is an excellent place to travel in January. Located in Arizona, this national park is home 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 wonderful time to visit if you would like 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, 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. With highs in the upper 50s (F), you will need warm layers. Warm coats, hats, gloves, and sunglasses are recommended. Snow storms are a possibility, 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.
Leah from An Adventure Is Calling
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