January through March marks a time in my travel calendar when I try to escape the icy streets of New York City, in favor of warmer locales. I don’t always have to travel somewhere far like Puerto Vallarta either – there are some really great places in the United States that offer warmth, activity, and a change of scenery. Some of these are old winter-travel-standbys, but I’ve thrown in a few surprises to keep things interesting as well:

photo by Max & Dee Bernt, via flickr

1. Key West, Florida

I always recommend Key West for American honeymooners looking to get a Caribbean vibe, without leaving “mainland” USA. Temperatures average out to 74°F* in January, and with the palm trees, clear water beaches, conch fritters and laid-back locals, it’s easy to forget you’re not sunning yourself in some exotic, tropical vacation spot.  The Key West Food and Wine Festival in January is a big draw as well, and island hopping through Highway 1 offers a cool take on the other destinations that make up the Florida Keys.

2. Kona, Hawaii

There’s no doubt that you’re lucky to be anywhere in Hawaii in the wintertime, with its nice, balmy 80°F days. My area favorite of the islands is Kona, for its lush, green terrain, and amazing coffee farms. Hawaii is a great escape for those on the west coast, but full disclosure: your vacation will be pricey! And you will definitely miss the fresh ocean breezes, flowers, and fruits, so be prepared to watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall upon returning home. 

San Diego (172)

3. San Diego, California

I’ve been told that the weather in San Diego is pretty much perfect all year round, making it an ideal spot to visit when a blizzard is on its way to your city. You could spend an entire day at Balboa Park, with its museums, parks and the San Diego Zoo. Those who want to walk around in light clothing, but not sweat to death, will enjoy the city’s 65°F steady temperatures and ten hours of sunlight.

4. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is a great place to experience Mexican culture, without having to deal with customs. Walking along the city’s Riverwalk district in the 65°F weather is really pleasant, and there’s great shopping throughout the area as well. Definitely check out Rosario’s for a cool, local vibe and amazing, authentic Mexican dishes.

photo by Stuart Seeger, via flickr

5. Phoenix, Arizona

The capital city of Arizona has a hot but dry heat, and travelers will feel comfortable with temperatures around 66-70°F. I didn’t find it distracting while hiking or mountain biking on any of the surrounding area’s amazing nature trails.  It’s especially wondrous to see the desert bloom with life from February onward; miles of colorful buds and cacti, combined with gorgeous Arizona sunsets, feel like a painting brought to life.

6. Biloxi, Mississippi

Maybe not high on every traveler’s radar, Biloxi is a cool town on Mississippi’s coast that will surprise you. There are lots of great little cruises, including shrimpin’ trips, so you can recreate your favorite moments from Forrest Gump. And if 60°F is too chilly, it’s easy to duck into one of the city’s many casinos (including a Hard Rock property).

photo by TravelingOtter, via flickr

7. South Padre Island, Texas

This is as far south as Texas can get and it’s pretty awesome. Breezes from the Gulf of Mexico will feel refreshing in the 70-75°F heat, and you’ll have plenty to do, with great water activities along the island’s long stretch of beach. January and February are better for visiting, as the area gets filled with college students on Spring Break from March onward. But hey, maybe that’s your thing!

8. Miami, Florida 

I don’t really need an excuse to jet set off to Miami, but knowing I’ll get to enjoy the party city’s 75°F weather is a great incentive. Winter is one of the best times to go, when the mosquitos have left and the humidity takes a holiday as well. Just make sure to blast Will Smith’s hit from the 90s as you drive around South Beach, looking for drag clubs or some killer Cuban food.

photo by pml2008, via flickr

9. Brunswick, Georgia

Yes, there are beaches and resorts in Georgia and they are beautiful! This tiny sliver of this Southeastern American state offers visitors great biking, fishing, and relaxing on Jekyll Island and Saint Simmons Island. Temperatures are cooler, at around 60°F, but its ten hours of sunlight will help boost your mood better than the gray skies back home would.

10. New Orleans, Louisiana

NOLA is awesome even beyond Mardi Gras, although being there during this five-day festival in February/March (depending on when Lent begins) is definitely worth the trip as well. With temperatures in the low 60s, you will feel comfortable exploring the city’s historic and cultural sites, and if you ever get too cold, a bite of spicy Creole cuisine or a sazerac cocktail, helps warm the body and soul.

photo by Darrell Miller, via flickr

These are just a few warm-weather escapes to get you through the colder days. Because of their pleasant weather, winter is the peak season for many of these destinations, so plan accordingly.

Which other locations would you add to this list?

*Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion: 60°F = 15°C, 70°F = 21°C, 80°F = 27°C

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