Wouldn't it be wonderful to spend the winter holiday season in the USA wearing shorts and sandals?
While wide swaths of the Northeast and Midwest experience cold temperatures and snow, you can spend time in the southern parts of the country (or Hawaii), surfing, golfing, hiking or simply basking in the sunny outdoors. So leave the winter coat at home and pack the suntan lotion for these seven cities filled with warmth and a wealth of holiday-themed happenings.
Average December high temperature: 26 degrees Celsius
Popular outdoors activities: Surfing, snorkeling
In the city of Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, sip mai tais and splash in the surf at Waikiki Beach. Downtown's Honolulu Hale (city hall) combines Christmas, the holidays and the Hawaiian spirit of "Aloha" (Hawaiian for “peace and affection”) in its annual Honolulu City Lights display, complete with a 6.4-meter-tall Santa Claus. A convenient way to visit the display, the Waikiki Trolley offers a holiday lights tour. You'll also find fun holiday decorations in many of Oahu's resort hotel lobbies. Don't miss the Sheraton Waikiki's Christmas-themed sand sculptures.
Hawaii celebrates the holidays with the spirit of Aloha.
Average December high temperature: 18.9 degrees Celsius
Popular outdoors activities: Golf, hiking
Desert peaks, forests of saguaro cacti and nearly 200 golf courses invite you to pack your hiking boots and golf clubs for a trip to sunny Phoenix, Arizona, and its neighboring resort town of Scottsdale. You want holiday shopping? Try Scottsdale's art galleries, specialty boutiques and the mammoth Fashion Square mall. To marvel at one of the area's most impressive holiday light displays, visit the Phoenix Zoo at Papago Park. From late November to early January, ZooLights features 3D light sculptures shaped like animals, plus live music, camel and carousel rides, and ice-sculpting demonstrations.
ZooLights 2013 - Happy Holidays from the Phoenix Zoo!
San Antonio, Texas
Average December high temperature: 18 degrees Celsius
Popular outdoors activity: Walking the River Walk
Hungry? Mexican tamales (corn husk-wrapped concoctions of masa dough, meat and cheese) are a holiday staple in the south-central Texas town of San Antonio. During the holiday season you'll find homemade tamales on restaurant menus throughout the city. Be careful. Eat enough of them and you'll board the flight home with a Santa Claus-sized belly. Burn those excess calories strolling San Antonio's River Walk, a network of pedestrian paths lined with eateries and specialty shops along the San Antonio River. In December, millions of twinkling lights and thousands of glowing luminaria lanterns (flickering candles inside paper bags) light the way.
San Antonio lines the downtown River Walk with holiday lights.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Average December temperature: 17.8 degrees Celsius
Popular outdoors activities: Fishing, kayaking
The storied city of New Orleans, in the Southeastern state of Louisiana, is best known for its massive Mardi Gras in February. But don't overlook the holiday season, when hotel rates are low and festivities abound. Check out the annual Celebration in the Oaks, a display of 2 million sparkling lights illuminating City Park. Meanwhile, the city's iconic St. Louis Cathedral hosts live music and special holiday events. On New Year's Eve, join the mass of revelers in the city's historic French Quarter.
The iconic St. Louis Cathedral hosts multiple events during the holiday season.
Average December temperature: 22.8 degrees Celsius
Popular outdoors activity: Golf
Spend the holidays with Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. Located in the Southeastern state's central region, this ever-sunny city has more than a dozen major amusement parks. The Walt Disney World Resort goes all out with holiday-themed shows, parades and decorations, including Cinderella Castle hung with sparkling icicle lights. At Universal Orlando, home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions, the holiday season features a live show starring Dr. Seuss's Grinch. The stars of Legoland Florida's Christmas Bricktacular celebration are a 9-meter-high Christmas tree and life-size Santa Claus, both built entirely of LEGO bricks.
Theme parks in Orlando embrace the holiday season with extra lights.
Charleston, South Carolina
Average December temperature: 15.6 degrees Celsius
Popular outdoors activity: Boating, fishing
With its vibrant culture, rich history, preserved architecture, coastal location, celebrated dining scene and friendly locals, Charleston, South Carolina, is a beloved travel destination, particularly during the holiday season. Many house museums and plantations harken back to their founding days with displays of heirloom decorations. You can also shop one of the United States’ oldest open-air markets for treats and treasures found only in historic Charleston.
In Charleston, you can shop at one of the oldest open-air markets in the USA or take in the city’s renowned architecture.
San Diego, California
Average December high temperature: 18.3 degrees Celsius
Popular outdoors activities: Ice skating, surfing
Wonder what it's like to go ice skating by the sea while wearing a t-shirt? Consider California's southernmost coastal city, San Diego, where the circa-1887 Victorian Hotel del Coronado hosts a beachfront ice rink throughout December. All over town, popular attractions such as Balboa Park (including the San Diego Zoo), the Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village and Old Town celebrate the season with holiday lights and special events. Save room on your itinerary for the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, featuring a harbor procession of more than 80 decorated boats.
More than 80 boats take part in San Diego’s Parade of Lights.