The Best Places To Visit In North America In December

New York winter
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Who doesn’t want to go on vacation over the holidays? There’s nothing better than taking a winter break, either to get into the Christmas spirit at a festive location or to escape the cold under some tropical sun. We’ve put together a list of the best places to visit in North America in December, so keep reading! 

North America is absolutely MASSIVE so even over the winter, you’ll find a range of climates to choose from. If you’re into winter sports there are a load of incredible ski and snowboarding destinations, or, if you simply despise the cold, you could head down south and spend the holiday season getting a nice tan.

We think North America is a great place to head to at any time of the year, but in December, you’re going to want to really think long and hard about what exactly it is you’re looking for! Some of your summer go-to destinations could be completely transformed by the cold weather, or it could be their peak season, so you’ll need to plan for higher prices and crowds. Without further ado, let’s get right to it, shall we?

New York, United States

Central park New York in winter
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What could be better than December in New York? You’ll get to channel your inner Kevin McCallister (minus the criminal duo), and head to the Rockefeller Center to admire the iconic Christmas tree before taking a quick whiz around their ridiculously festive outdoor ice rink! A visit to Union Square is also a must, you can wander around their European-inspired Christmas market admiring the colorful booths and handmade gifts, a cup of mulled wine in hand of course! 

The Weather in New York in December won’t be as cold as in January or February, but it will still be quite chilly. On average, temperatures will reach highs of 43ºF during the day, and 32ºF at night. This means you’ll want to make sure you pack a good coat and scarf to keep you warm as you walk down Fifth Avenue to check out all the festive department window displays! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to enjoy some light snow, which normally falls for 2-3 days during the month. 

We think New York is definitely one of THE best places to visit in North America in December. The bad news is, so does everyone else… This means higher prices for accommodation and flights, plus bigger crowds. We advise you to book everything early, including tickets to any shows you want to attend to get the best prices possible! Attending a rendition of The Nutcracker is the ultimate holiday event, and there are countless shows throughout the city, including the classical version by the New York City Ballet and modern hip hop varieties. 

Aspen, United States

Skiing Aspen Colorado
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If you want a December full of festivities, plenty of snow, and winter sports, then Aspen Colorado is the place to be! We can already imagine how awesome it would be to spend the day carving up the slopes before heading down the mountain for a couple of hot toddies by the fire. If you’re not a ski or snowboard fanatic, you could head to Silver Circle Rink near the base of Ajax Mountain for some outdoor ice skating and a cup of hot cocoa, or take a ride on the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster for an exhilarating luge through the pine trees! 

The holidays are kinda a big deal in Aspen, and there are a load of Christmas activities to get involved in. The 12 Days of Aspen, is the name given to various events that take place in the downtown area, all with a cute holiday theme, of course! These include things like Christmas caroling, cookie decorating, and workshops. Downtown is a great place to stay, as you can easily walk to the stores, restaurants, and parks. The streets will be all lit up with twinkling lights, so walking home in the evenings will be extra special.

Prepare to pack for cold weather and snow (YAAAS!!), as the average daily high in Aspen is around 26.6ºF, and the average daily low can be as cold as 6.8ºF! There are just under 12 days of snowfall in Aspen in December, but for the most snow, head there towards the end of the month. This time of year is peak season, so book early to avoid disappointment AND to save on costs. 

Williamsburg, United States

Lamp in Williamsburg
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Williamsburg, Virginia is an amazing place to spend December. If you’re looking for a wintery, traditional, and family-friendly Christmas getaway, then this is it! Over the holidays Colonial Williamsburg gets fully decked out to the 9’s with trees, wreaths, and more twinkly lights than you could imagine. The outdoor ice rink is open every day and you can buy all the delicious treats and drinks you want right next to the rink. 

One of the most popular things to do in Williamsburg is to go give Christmas Town in Busch Gardens a visit. It’s a wonderful place to bring kids with a load of events catered to younger people. Santa will even make a guest appearance, and, if that doesn’t keep the kids happy, we don’t know what will! To get your shopping fix (and for super cute European Christmas vibes), the Williamsburg Christmas Market is awesome. There are over 60 stalls with vendors from all over the country, fire pits to huddle around while you gulp your craft beer, and live entertainment. It’s only open on the weekends, so time your trip well if you want to attend!

While summertime is the peak season, December is still a busy and exciting time! The daily temperatures are between 51.8 and 35.6ºF so pack some warm clothes. Sadly, snow during this time isn’t the norm, but that doesn’t take away from the general wintery feel to Williamsburg. You never know, you could experience a Christmas miracle and wake up to a couple of inches of fresh, powdery snow! 

Oahu, United States

Christmas tree Hawaii
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Right, let’s leave the traditional, cold, and wintery Decembers behind for a moment shall we?? It’s time to give the tropics their moment in the limelight, and we’ll jump right in with Oahu, Hawaii. Just because this beautiful island doesn’t fit your typical “White Christmas”, doesn’t mean you won’t feel just as festive! There are plenty of holiday events in Oahu over December, and for any snowbirds out there, it’s one of the best places in North America to visit!  

Forget Fifth Avenue, in Oahu the place to walk around and admire the Christmas windows is… China Town! With over 40 storefronts all kitted out for the holidays, strolling around is the perfect free way to spend a morning or afternoon. Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to Hawaii without experiencing a traditional luau, and in December, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Attending is a great way to kick off the festivities (island style), eating local food and downing more than your fair share of tiki drinks! Make sure you also have time to see the Honolulu City Lights for an amazing light display, better yet, attend the opening night for the lighting of the tree, plenty of food, and lots of festivities.

The end of the month is a super busy time in Hawaii, with people flocking to the islands for a tropical Christmas and a fun-filled new year. Expect the weather to be in the low 80s during the day, and as cold as the upper 60s at night. Although December is the rainiest month, the islands tend to experience short bursts of showers lasting around 10 minutes – not enough to ruin your holiday by any means!

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Playa del Carmen beach
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While we’re still on the tropical destinations, let’s talk about Mexico… The Riviera Maya to be exact! You may be thinking that if you are gonna take the plunge and visit Mexico, then you’d rather do it in summer… However, December is a great time to visit the Riviera Maya. Yes, December is one of the coldest months, but this makes it waaay more manageable. You’ll be looking at temperatures between 68 and 82.4ºF (which still sounds pretty good to us).

Mid-December to early January counts as the peak season. There are plenty of people who want to spend Christmas and New Year celebrating in Mexico and we have to say, we can’t blame them! Playa del Carmen, one of the Riviera Maya’s most popular towns, gets a true Christmas makeover, with trees, lights, inflatable Santas… it’s the full shebang! There’ll be plenty of holiday-themed gifts at the mall (plus some decked out palm trees), but for high-quality local handicrafts, there are plenty of stores along Quinta Avenida street. This street is also well worth a stroll at night, for the bars, restaurants, and Christmas lights.

If after swimming in cenotes, sun-bathing on white-sand beaches, and visiting the nearby Mayan ruins, you still want something to get you into the holiday spirit, then maybe watching a local ballet performance will do the trick! Coppelia’s Ballet, a local school, puts on two performances (normally of The Nutcracker) in December, with the proceeds going towards the school and its sponsorship program. If that’s not enough, on the 24th and 25th, lots of local restaurants offer a special Christmas menu featuring lots of your traditional favorites… with a Mexican twist of course! 

We definitely think the Riviera Maya has GOT to be one of the best places to visit in North America in December, but if you’re worried about safety in Mexico, you can check out our top tips here.

Solvang, United States 

Solvang California
Photo credit: Soly Moses/Pexels

We have found the absolute BEST place to visit in North America in December if you just LOVE the holidays. There’s nowhere better to get into the holiday spirit in North America (trust us) than Solvang, California. This Danish town (you read that right) will have you transported back in time and across the Atlantic. It’s a great place to visit any time of the year, but December is particularly special due to the month-long holiday celebration – Julefest. 

Julefest transforms this (already pretty festive-feeling) quaint village into a “winter wonderland” with twinkling lights, Christmas window displays, local festive treats, and a full calendar of events. Normally around the first Friday of the year, Solvang celebrates its annual tree lighting with live entertainment, ballerinas, and caroling. The day after is the Solvang Parade (to kick off Julefest with a BANG), where parade floats go through the village streets – there’s a marching band, horses… they basically pull out all the stops. 

Throughout the rest of the month, aside from gorging on Danish holiday treats, you can attend Santa’s Village which is open every Saturday, join candlelight tours of the town, complete with caroling, and join in on the Nisse Adventure – a city-wide hunt for the elusive Solvang Nisse (A.K.A gnome). This place is hands-down the most Christmassy place in North America, and NOT to be missed! 

Yukon, Canada

Northern lights Yukon
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Of course, when writing about THE best places to visit in North America in December, we couldn’t forget Canada! Yukon is Canada’s uncharted wild territory and if you’re looking for snow, surreal landscapes, and a whole load of adventure, this is your place. Oh, and let’s not forget about seeing the magical Northern Lights! December is the perfect time to visit Yukon as you won’t have to stay up super late for Northern Lights sightings!

Weather-wise, we won’t sugar-coat it, it’s going to be FREEZING. Well, below freezing actually, with an average minimum temperature of 1.94ºF. In Whitehorse, Yukon’s main city, there’s an average of less than 30 hours of sunshine over the whole month, so you’ll want to pack in all your fun activities while you can! The main things to do here are skiing, snowshoeing, flightseeing tours, ice fishing, and dogsledding. After a long short day’s adventuring, head on home for a hot bath or relaxing sauna session before hitting up the bars in Whitehorse or Dawson City.

As for the holiday spirit, there is plenty going around in Yukon! You can head to the 12 days of Christmas Firewood Community Market for some handmade Yukon goodies, watch the Dawson City Christmas Boat Parade, drive around Whitehorse to take in all the twinkly lights, and for a real Whitehorse tradition, you can look for Garbage Truck Santa and ask him for a pic! 

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Alex is a marine biologist-turned-freelancer who spent parts of her childhood and adult life living on a small island in the Philippines. She is an enthusiastic (but super uncoordinated) surfer who also loves scuba diving. She's travelled throughout Southeast Asia and Europe, but her heart is in the Philippines. As a massive foodie, you'll always find her chowing down on some of the tastiest street food around.