While some folks can’t wait to bust out their sleds and snow boots come winter, plenty of people prefer to ditch the chilly temperatures and flock to a warmer climate. And if you can leave your passport at home -- well, that can almost seem like a holiday miracle. From sandy beaches and boat parades to boozy Santa runs and traditional tree lightings, here are eight warm-weather vacations in the U.S. where you can snag a bit of holiday cheer without having to pack a sweater.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the holiday celebrations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are no exception. These two cities may be about an hour apart, but since they share a major airport, we’re giving you the goods for both. Expect temps around 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, though they can drop down to the 40s at night.
Over in Dallas, you can check out the 12 Days of Christmas outdoor display or illuminate your night with over one million lights at the annual Holiday at the Arboretum. The Neuhoff Family Christmas Village also puts on a European-style Christmas market, plus you can get your festive fill at City Hall Plaza’s Deck the Plaza, where you’ll find a massive tree lighting, Winter Wonderland experience, and traditional holiday treats like hot cocoa, spiced cider, and cookies. There’s also a holiday parade, Christmas concerts, and more.
In Fort Worth, don’t miss the decked-out homes sporting holiday decorations for Candlelight Christmas in Ryan Place and stop by to peep the light display at the Modern Art Museum. For a pinch of Texas during the holiday season, head to the Stockyards where a cowboy-clad Santa rounds up folks for photo ops.
Our Pick for a Dallas Hotel: Hotel ZaZa Dallas
Hotel ZaZa has a trendy, eclectic vibe that lacks the pretension found in some of the neighboring hotels in Uptown Dallas. Expect 169 sophisticated rooms (some with fun themes), a cool bar and restaurant that’s big with locals, a small pool, and a decent fitness center.
The hype over hygge might be waning, but our love for a Danish Christmas stands strong. Luckily, you don’t have to travel across the Atlantic to experience an epic Danish Christmas celebration; all you need to do is head to Solvang, a small Danish town about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara. The entire month of December is dedicated to Yulefest, where you can learn about the town’s history, meet the Claus family, sing Christmas carols, see holiday lights, experience a festive tree-lighting ceremony, and enjoy a parade, just to name a few. Plus, the temps will be in the mid-60s.
Our Pick for a Solvang Hotel: Hamlet Inn
The Hamlet Inn is a budget boutique property with just 15 rooms, and we love it for its Danish vibes. The minimalist decor with Danish flags and coats of arms only add to the feeling of a Danish getaway. Bike rental and vouchers for local wine and beer tastings are extra bonuses.
Christmas on the water? Sure, if you’re soaking in the California sun at the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Here, trade in your snow boots for flip-flops and join onlookers as they watch festively decorated boats sail past the city. Restaurants and bars get in on the action with deals, parties, and great holiday cheer on tap. The best part is that the weather is in the 70s, meaning you could even go for a Christmas surf.
Our Pick for a Newport Beach Hotel: The Resort at Pelican Hill
Live in the lap of luxury at The Resort at Pelican Hill, where you’ll find 500 acres with two golf courses, a 23,000-square-foot spa, five restaurants, and 332 bungalows and villas. Rooms have top-notch tech features, marble bathrooms, fireplaces, and terraces (several with ocean views). Villas add fully equipped kitchens, separate living spaces, and butlers.
St. Petersburg boasts 361 sunny days per year, making it a no-brainer to visit during the holidays. In December, you can still go to the beach (yes, you read that correctly) and temperatures are in the 70s. As far as festivities go, they’ve got Enchant Christmas, the world’s largest Christmas light maze paired with a holiday market (both are held in the city’s domed baseball field). Folks also pile into cars to drive through festive neighborhoods that are lit with bright lights and displays. There are also Christmas-themed concerts by the Florida Orchestra and performances like the Nutcracker at Mahaffey Theater. Just north, you can also watch the twinkling lights pass by as boats make their way through the Tarpon Springs Boat Parade.
Our Pick for a St. Petersburg Hotel: Hollander Hotel
The Hollander is a boutique hotel with a lot of heart, great freebies, and a convenient location in downtown St. Petersburg. Noteworthy features include a small spa, free shuttle around town, free parking, a hip restaurant with events and live music, and a fun outdoor pool. Originally built in 1933, the hotel’s 96 rooms are full of vintage charm and King Suites have full kitchens.
How better to spend the holidays than by soaking in the sun on a tropical island — no passport needed. Head to Oahu for the Honolulu City Lights, a month-long celebration that includes a 50-foot Christmas tree, light parade, and festivities that last long after the sun goes down. Between holiday celebrations, mix in some snorkeling, sailing, and beach time, and swap out traditional warm holiday drinks with fun, frozen cocktails. While you’re here, take the time to celebrate traditional Hawaiian culture and to learn about this beautiful island chain’s history before it became a part of the United States.
Our Pick for a Honolulu Hotel: Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
The 639-room Outrigger Waikiki Beach is all about beachside luxury. A huge plus here is the hotel’s location right on the beach (not across the street). Expect beautiful grounds, an outdoor pool, and some of the finer hotel offerings in Honolulu.
While Miami is a hot spot come wintertime, we’d like to propose a more chill, but equally warm, option: Fort Lauderdale. Here, you can hit the beach, then cruise down the three-mile-long decorative display of lights set up for the Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Tradewinds Park. Keep the radio off, roll the windows down, and take in the lights while listening to a festive playlist. Looking for a more water-based activities? The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade hosts an over-the-top and festively decorated boat show on the Intracoastal Waterway. Or, hop aboard the city’s water taxi for a tour of the holiday light displays on local mansions along the Intracoastal Waterway. Just be sure to pack your bathing suit and shorts, as Christmastime weather in Fort Lauderdale is in the high 70s.
Our Pick for a Fort Lauderdale Hotel: Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach
Visit Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach during the holidays and you’ll enjoy fun activities and amenities like cookie decorating, welcome hot chocolates, and special Christmas menus. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, the spa will set you straight with a festive take on treatments titled the “12 Days of Relaxation.” This is all in addition to the modern beach resort features, which include 24/7 room service, upscale food and beverage options, a swish gym (including free yoga classes), luxe rooms, and a great kids’ club.
Southern charm mixes well with the holiday spirit, and Charleston’s warm weather that hovers in the low 60s is an added bonus for folks looking to escape the snow. Christmas may not be white, but it’ll be full, thanks to areas that exude holiday cheer and “A Christmas Carol” vibe. Take candlelit tours of the 19th-century Nathaniel Russel House or check out the city’s annual Holiday Festival of Lights. It’s a great way to incorporate a bit of history and modern Christmas traditions into one trip — scarves and mittens need not apply.
Our Pick for a Charleston Hotel: Jasmine House Inn
Housed in a beautifully renovated mansion dating back to the mid-1800s, the Jasmine House Inn is a great spot to spend your holiday. Expect all the comforts of a hotel with the charm of a B&B, plus a central downtown Charleston location. The 12 rooms sport hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs, and decor like patterned rugs and floral wallpaper. Freebies include a continental breakfast, Wi-Fi, and evening snacks.
With tons of free activities all year long, we can’t get enough of this freewheeling city. Around the holidays, you’ll find free holiday concerts at St. Augustine Church and at the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Wilder events include an annual boozy Running of the Santas, which ends with an open bar and a hilarious Santa costume contest. There’s also the Krampus parade along the Bywater for those who are interested in a more morbid take on Kris Kringle. More traditional activities include a production of “A Christmas Carol” and the holiday-themed transformation of Fulton Street, where you can grab festive drinks, light decorations, and lots of spiced treats.
Our Pick for a New Orleans Hotel: The Saint Hotel, Autograph Collection
Located right on the border of the French Quarter and the Central Business District, The Saint is a sleek hotel with 166 stylish rooms and great amenities like minibars, iPod docks, free Wi-Fi, and a rooftop bar that’s perfect for grabbing views over the city.
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