Where to Escape Winter in the U.S.

Pool at Hampton Inn and Suites St. Petersburg Downtown/Oyster

It's not even fall, but we're already starting to plan our escape from winter. We love snow and hot cocoa as much as the next person, but there always comes a time when we need to defrost, even if it's just for a few days. Luckily, the U.S. is large enough that we can flee without a passport or foreign currency. Whether you're looking for the best in culture, outdoor activities, wildlife, or food -- or are just hoping to touch up your tan -- we've got you covered with our list of U.S. destinations where you can briefly escape winter. After all, birds and whales aren't the only ones who need to migrate south to keep warm. 

St. Petersburg, Florida

CityofStPete/Flickr

With some of the warmest year-round weather and prettiest beaches in the U.S., it's no surprise that visitors flock to Florida in the winter. The Sunshine State is home to some serious gems, and St. Petersburg shines as one of the brightest. Winter temperatures in the 70s mean you can ditch the scarf and head downtown to take a street mural tour, visit over 40 galleries and artist studios on monthly art walks, or even do a beer crawl through the city's 16 different craft breweries. Hip eateries, delicious cocktails, and a wealth of top-notch museums also await. You can even catch a trolley to the beach. (Yes, people still hit the sand in November, December, and sometimes even January.) To top it off, the waterside views make for great winter sunsets. 

Where to Stay:

Catalina Island, California

Rooftop Deck at The Avalon Hotel on Catalina Island/Oyster

Catalina Island's beaches and ocean activities are big draws during the summer, but this small island off the coast of mainland California is a great winter destination, too. Temps in the high 50s may not be ideal for sand and surf activities, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the outdoors. The island is known for its wildlife, and the cooler weather makes for refreshing hiking conditions. There are several treks to choose from, including quick and easy walks from the Catalina Casino and more advanced paths along the Trans-Catalina Trail. It's also a great time of year to stroll around town, join a food and wine walking tour, and soak in the scenery from a zip line. 

Where to Stay:

Puerto Rico

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico/Oyster

We fully encourage travelers to put Puerto Rico on their trip list this year. Not only does the island have winter temps that hit near 80 degrees, but it also accepts U.S. dollars and U.S. citizens don't need a passport to visit. Plus, you can warm your winter heart by knowing your money is helping rebuild the island's economy as it recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Gear up to eat incredible food (mofongo, anyone?), meander through Old San Juan, go horseback riding in El Yunque National Forest, and lounge on the beach. For a real treat, time your visit with a new moon and book a bioluminescent kayaking tour

Where to Stay:

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Pool and Beach at Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa/Oyster

Hilton Head is another U.S. island that's great during the winter. While you shouldn't expect a tropical climate here, there's still plenty of sunshine and mild winter temps that tend to stick in the mid-60s to low 70s. Since winter is the off-season, you'll also find fewer crowds and shorter wait times, allowing you squeeze in a pretty packed itinerary that includes dolphin cruises, beach walks, and visits to top restaurants. The sunny, cooler weather is also great for breaking a sweat on the tennis court, exploring the island by bike, and playing a round of golf. 

Where to Stay:

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Beach at Best Western on the Beach/Oyster

This city on Alabama's Gulf Coast is most popular during spring break, but the sun usually keeps things warm with temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s through December. Ocean temps vary, but travelers can still swap building snowmen for sandcastles here. Other outdoor activities include boat rides, golfing, parasailing, hiking, and cruises. Families will find an array of seasonal events, from Christmas markets and Santa visits to themed dinner cruises and pet parades. Plus, hotel prices are lower and restaurants are less crowded this time of year.

Where to Stay:

Golden Isles, Georgia

Pool at The Cloister at Sea Island/Oyster

Georgia's four barrier islands -- known as the Golden Isles -- were named for their natural beauty and pristine beaches. Escaping winter weather is easy on these upmarket isles, thanks to temperatures that hover around the 60s (though last year, the Isles saw a few days in the low 70s). Toss your gloves, grab the sunscreen, and head to the beach. Visitors can also hike through the marshland, spot wildlife along the river, or explore on horseback or in a kayak. Bonus points if you can spot a bald eagle, right whale, or merganser duck -- all of which flee winter by migrating here. Golf is a popular pastime here as well. Winter months also see a treasure hunt as several handmade glass orbs are hidden on Jekyll Island. If you find one, you may keep it -- sounds like the perfect souvenir to us. 

Where to Stay:

Maui, Hawaii

Hana Kai Maui/Oyster

You may have to travel a bit farther to reach Maui, but you won't remember winter's name once you touch down on the Hawaiian island. Temps in the low 70s mean you can still hit the beach, though the Pacific waters might be a bit too cold for a swim. Daytime activities include boating, fishing, hiking, and whale-watching tours. We recommend twisting along the Road to Hana for stunning views and pull-off points with great hikes to waterfalls. Meanwhile, bonfire parties on the sand really heat things up at night. Just keep in mind that winter is peak season for Hawaii, so expect high prices and tons of fellow winter defectors. 

Where to Stay:

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