11 Best Places to Travel in December

These are the best places to visit in December in the U.S. and around the world.

From frosty ski resorts to warm-weather destinations, there are many fantastic places to travel in December. Love winter, snow, and chilly weather? Mountain ski resorts like Vail are already booking plenty of December reservations, so it’s time to start planning your cold-weather getaway. 

Want to stay warm and relax on the beach or by the pool? Cancun and Anguilla are sunny options. Miami in December offers warm weather and annual festivities centered around art. Summer fans might want to head to the southern hemisphere where the season is just beginning in Cape Town and northern Chile. Travelers still wishing for a trip to Europe might consider Portugal’s island of Madeira.

Snowboarders in Vail, Colorado, in the winter

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Others want to get into the holiday spirit with glittering lights, decorated trees, and festive entertainment. We have a few suggestions including Ocala, Branson, Alexandria, and Solvang, where the holiday spirit is on full display. These are the best places to travel in December this year.

Ocala, Florida

Historic Main Street in Ocala, Florida

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Set in north central Florida about 80 miles from Orlando, Ocala offers parks, rivers, lakes, golf, fishing, water sports, and mild December weather with temperatures in the low 70s. Ocala has been named “Horse Capital of the World” for its horse farms, training facilities, shows, and horseback tours. The World Equestrian Center, the country’s largest equestrian complex, is located there, with a variety of competition venues and facilities. It’s also home to the five-star Equestrian Hotel featuring superb dining, the Calluna Spa, sumptuous decor, and unique shops for toys, jewelry, clothing, leather goods, and more. From Nov. 25-Dec. 24, Winter Wonderland celebrates the season with twinkling lights, a 60’ Christmas tree, skating rink, carolers, entertainment, and breakfast with Santa at Stirrups restaurant. 

Branson, Missouri

Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri

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There’s plenty to do in Branson year round, from theme parks to live entertainment, outdoor activities, golf, and water sports. In winter, visitors can enjoy museums, shopping, and fresh mountain air. The holiday season brings over-the-top light displays and family fun with the Polar Express, parades, shows, snow tubing, reindeer, and shopping. Silver Dollar City will feature more than 6.5 million lights from Nov. 5-Dec. 30 along with seasonal foods and shows. Big Cedar Lodge, with accommodations that include cottages, log cabins, and guest rooms, welcomes the holidays with visits from Santa and his elves, gingerbread houses, campfires, crafts, and an ice skating rink.

Alexandria, Virginia

Rows of townhouses in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

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Just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., Alexandria is a favorite city for its downtown district, history, and architecture. The holiday season starts there with a tree lighting on Nov. 19. The Annual Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade on Dec. 3 is part of the “Biggest Holiday Weekend” that also includes the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. At George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, Christmas Illuminations will return Dec. 16-17 with fireworks and a light show over the Potomac River. Candlelight tours will take place on select weekends in November and December. A visit to the nation’s capital in December is a perfect opportunity to enjoy its holiday decorations, museums, tours, and markets.

Cape Town, South Africa

Twelve Apostles mountain in Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

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Summer starts in December in Cape Town with temperatures in the 70s, ideal for being outdoors. Hiking, biking, and visiting the city’s gardens attract nature enthusiasts, and the “Mother City” offers a diverse food scene, from fine dining to street food. Table Mountain features stunning views from a cable car ride to its summit. Stay at Mount Nelson, a Belmond Hotel, and enjoy their new marine experiences like the ocean expedition through kelp forests, where the award-winning documentary "My Octopus Teacher" was filmed. Travel to Cape Town with non-stop flights from Atlanta on Delta and from Washington’s Dulles Airport on United Airlines beginning Nov. 17.

Solvang, California

Dutch-inspired main street of Solvang, California

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Solvang, founded by Danish settlers in 1911, is located in Santa Barbara County in Central Coast wine country. It’s a favorite destination for restaurants, shops, bakeries, and its European atmosphere. Solvang celebrates Christmas Danish-style with festive lights, Christmas trees, Santa’s Village in the park, a Julefest parade, food tours, and holiday markets. Stay in town at The Winston or Vinland Hotel + Lounge, both pet-friendly, convenient destinations. Nearby, the new boutique Hotel Ynez is set on two acres among redwood, oak, and madrone trees. The Santa Ynez Inn, just minutes from Solvang, features a new signature restaurant, The Victor

Cancun, Mexico

Aerial view of Cancun beach with boat

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Cancun, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, offers gorgeous December weather in the low 80s, ideal for the beach as well as for exploring nearby Mayan ruins and shopping downtown. With a range of places to stay for families, couples, and groups, visitors can choose resorts or all-inclusive hotels. The new Waldorf Astoria Cancun is set on 100 acres of coastline, and the NIZUC Resort & Spa is another luxury option. Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla is convenient for dining, shopping, and entertainment. Less than an hour from the airport in Cancun, the destination community of Mayakoba features beaches, lagoons, golf, restaurants, and four resorts: Andaz, Banyan Tree, Fairmont, and Rosewood.

Anguilla

Scenery from Anguilla's Beach in the Caribbean

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Located in the eastern Caribbean about 12 miles north of St. Martin, Anguilla offers great December weather with temperatures in the low 80s and little rainfall. The month of December starts slowly, with more visitors arriving from about mid-month through New Year's week, as is the case in most warm-weather resort areas. Gorgeous white-sand beaches, water sports, and friendly citizens make Anguilla a destination where guests can relax in the sun or stay busy snorkeling, fishing, or exploring the island. Stay at the oceanfront Zemi Beach House or Four Seasons Anguilla Resort on the island’s northwest shore. Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club, with the only golf course on the island, offers charter flights from New York, Washington D.C., and Fort Lauderdale. 

Miami, Florida

Harbor view in Miami, Florida

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Art is the focus in early December for Miami, with Art Basel from Dec. 1-3, Art Miami from Nov. 29-Dec. 4, and art institutions throughout the city creating what has become Miami Art Week. Events, exhibitions, galleries, and a variety of venues including the Miami Beach Convention Center will attract crowds of artists, collectors, and fans. Later in the month, the beaches, pools, restaurants, and clubs will be the star attractions as the year-end travel season begins. Stay in luxury at The Setai, the historic Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, or one of many great Miami resorts. Explore one of Miami’s original neighborhoods in South Beach, Española Way, with a stay at the charming Esmé Hotel

Madeira, Portugal

Aerial view of natural swimming pools in Porto Moniz, Madeira, Portugal

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Located in the Atlantic Ocean, the Portuguese island of Madeira is the largest in the archipelago of the same name. Mountains, valleys, beaches, and rugged scenery make it a beautiful destination, and December temperatures are typically in the 50s. It may not be swimming weather, but it’s a great time to be outdoors hiking, exploring, and sipping the famous local wines. Christmas traditions, decorations, holiday markets, and festivities are celebrated throughout December. The flight from New York to Funchal, the capital, is about seven hours, and non-stop flights will operate year round beginning in November on SATA Azores Airlines. 

Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

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It’s the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, and because of Chile’s unique geography, the weather varies greatly from north to south, a distance of nearly 2,700 miles. Set between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, the country includes deserts, lakes, volcanoes, and in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in the south, glaciers and fjords. For beaches and watersports, the town of Navidad is a perfect destination and appropriate for December. The capital, Santiago, is home to museums, restaurants, nightlife, and historic buildings. For wildlife, scenery, and adventure, head to Patagonia in the south.

Vail, Colorado

Aerial view of Vail, Colorado, in the winter

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Vail, located in the central Rocky Mountains, is about 100 miles west of Denver and 30 miles east of Eagle County Regional Airport. From Dec. 1-4, the Vail Film Festival will attract travelers early in the month, and skiers, snowboarders, and winter sports enthusiasts will continue to arrive through the month, filling hotels and ski resorts. Places to stay include The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort, with a spa, four dining venues, and curated experiences. The ski-in/ski-out Grand Hyatt Vail is located near Vail Village. Residential vacation rentals are available through onefinestay, and family-sized accommodations can be booked at Antlers Vail.

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