America's Best Cities for Winter Travel
Danita Delimont / Alamy
What urban centers are most popular for winter travel?
Almost anywhere that doesn’t require snow tires, according to Travel +
This winter’s forecast: plenty of snow, and even more
travelers fleeing it.
That’s the message, at least, in this year’s America’s
Favorite Cities survey. Every year, Travel + Leisure readers vote on
dozens of qualities in 35 U.S. cities—from the best microbrews and museums to the most pet-friendly
Last year, Salt Lake City took the gold medal in the winter
category, but this year, the snowy Utah city—along with Denver—skidded down the
mountain of readers’ affections, while warmer cities took their places,
literally, in the sun. Compounding the situation, The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting another big-snow winter for parts of the U.S., especially in the
“More people appear to be flocking to warmer climates,”
confirms Suffolk County, NY, travel agent Tim Joseph, who is seeing an uptick
in snowbird-style bookings for this winter. “But I suspect it has as much to do
with the weather as the economy.” Caribbean destinations, he points out, offer
all-inclusive resorts—and that’s one reason he loves Puerto Rico’s San
Juan, a top 5 city in the survey. “It’s also a real foodie city,
and it’s still relatively low on the list for many travelers, so it’s not too
San Juan may be getting a little more crowded this year, along
with classic snowbird destinations such as Miami, Honolulu, and Phoenix, which
all landed in the top 10. Winter-frigid Anchorage, Minneapolis, and Chicago
occupied the bottom slots out of the 35.
Yet it’s worth noting that plenty of top 20 cities aren’t
beachy paradises. Instead, they have mild winters, seasonal events, and often
the best prices of the year. Take Houston—which barreled into the top 10 this
year—where cooler temps, along with the world’s biggest rodeo championship,
make the city come alive.
In other top 20 cities, winter just means having the city to
yourself. You’ll find shorter lines at theme parks in Orlando and San Diego,
and you’ll have an easier time getting tables at hot restaurants in San
Francisco and Los Angeles.
“I’m not looking for 90-degree beach weather,” says
publicist Sue Jean Chun, who regularly goes to New Orleans during winter—though
not for Mardi Gras. “I just want a city where food and music are the focus.”
The Connecticut resident also enjoys another simple winter
pleasure in the Crescent City: “being able to walk out the door in jeans and a
light sweater,” she says, “rather than a puffy jacket and beat-up boots.”