As the holiday season fully takes hold, parents are making decisions about where to take their kids to play in the snow, couples are looking for a romantic New Year’s getaway, and college students are seeking an affordable Christmas vacation with their friends. All of the options can be overwhelming, especially when deciding whether to bundle up and explore the slopes or escape the chills and find warmth.
Thanks to Wallet Hub and their extensive research, we’ve got the top 10 U.S. winter holiday destinations. Don’t worry, there are options here to keep cold-weather lovers and sun worshippers happy.
Photo: alh1, CC-BY-NC-ND
McGee Nall is a travel intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.
1 of 10
1. Atlanta, GA
Being from this neck of the woods, I can testify to Atlanta's affordability, city charm and just plain awesomeness. Georgia's capital was ranked #1 in prevalence of affordable restaurants rated 4.5 stars and was in the top five for most cold-weather activities. From sitting under the stars inside the Fox Theatre, ice-skating in Centennial Olympic Park, going to the Georgia Aquarium, or seeing "A Christmas Carol" at the Alliance Theatre, you can always find a fun activity for you or your family.
Photo by joiseyshowaa, CC-BY-SA
2 of 10
2. New York City, NY
It's no secret New York is a magical place to be during the holidays. The Big Apple is #1 in number of attractions totaling at 3,592 (who's surprised?) and number of restaurants, coffee shops and teashops per capita. Broadway shows are a given, along with ice-skating near the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. There's also a Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in January for all you foodies out there. Oh, and watch out for the No Pants Subway Ride. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like.
Photo by Kaysha, CC-BY-NC-ND
3 of 10
3. Albuquerque, NM
You'd think the desert wouldn't fit into the "cold destination" category, but temperatures do in fact drop during the winter. Albuquerque was ranked #1 by Wallet Hub for the cheapest cost for a 3-star hotel at $41 per night and won overall for lowest local costs. For you art lovers, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a new permanent exhibition: "We Are of This Place: The Pueblo Story." Need New Year's Eve plans? Try celebrating on the Civic Plaza.
Photo by John Fowler, CC-BY
4 of 10
4. Kansas City, MO
Taking the cake for the cheapest and shortest flight at $235, Kansas City is a manageable and fun stop for a winter getaway. Itching to do something fun before Christmas? The KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony on Thanksgiving Day is a treat as well as riding around town with the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop that operates year-round. It doesn't even have to be the holidays to enjoy the city's best jazz joints like The Green Lady Lounge or The Phoenix.
Photo by Jonathan Moreau, CC-BY-NC-ND
5 of 10
5. St. Louis, MO
If you can't get enough of Missouri, St. Louis is here for you, too. The city wins for the number of music venues per capita, including The Firebird for local rock stars. If you're a closeted Cardinals fan, hide no more. Every year, St. Louis' favorite team hosts the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up where fans can meet the players and their money can go towards helping raise healthy, active kids. Speaking of being active, why not take a hike in Cliff Cave?
Photo by Timothy K. Hamilton, CC-BY-NC-ND
6 of 10
1. Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas is basically the New York of warm destinations – there are endless possibilities in activities in which to partake. The Sin City was rated #1 in the most attractions totaling to 1,584 and number of music venues per capita. It also wins the award for the cheapest flight at $244. Sharpen your ski skills at Lee Canyon or ride with Santa on the Springs Preserve Holiday Express. If you're feeling really fancy, go ice-skating at The Cosmopolitan…and hit the casino while you're at it.
Photo by Loic Lagarde, CC-BY-NC-ND
7 of 10
2. Los Angeles, CA
There's no better place to catch some sun then good ole L.A. The city was voted #2 in weather conditions, #3 in most attractions, and beats the other top 4 in number of tennis courts per capita. Head over to Disneyland during the off-season or chill at beaches like El Porto or Zuma. Oh, and pop by the acclaimed Mama Shelter for drinks with a view.
Photo by Anthony Kernich, CC-BY
8 of 10
3. San Diego, CA
San Diego was voted #2 in most warm-weather activities, and here's why. The city wins the award for the best park quality and beats the other top 4 warm destinations in number of baseball diamonds, basketball hoops and bike-rental facilities per capita. Right after Thanksgiving, you can go to the eleventh annual Surfin' Santa Arrival where Sana rides in from San Diego Bay adorning his best Hawaiian shirt to greet visitors and party. The months of December through April are prime for whale watching as the mammals migrate so they can give birth and raise their young. Who wouldn't want to see that?
Photo by Sunburned Surveyor, CC-BY-SA
9 of 10
4. Phoenix, AZ
Arizona may not be the top of your bucket list, but it should be considered for your next winter vacation. Phoenix was voted in the top 5 for lowest travel costs and the fewest hassles. A highlight for locals is the Las Noches de las Luminarias where the Desert Botanical Gardens light up in addition to nine entertainment ensembles. Some say you're not a true Arizonian until you see Camelback Mountain, so why not stay there while visiting? The Sanctuary Resort and Spa is right next to it so the landmark greets you every morning.
Photo by Al_HikesAZ, CC-BY-NC
10 of 10
5. Orlando, FL
Orlando wins in number of restaurants and ice cream/frozen yogurt shops per capita along with making the top 5 in most attractions and warm-weather activities. Orlando was voted #1 in diversity of attractions…maybe because of certain theme parks? Who knows. Besides celebrating Harry Potter, you can also go to the "I Love the 90's" tour that celebrates favorite rap, hip-hop, and R&B artists such as Salt-n-Pepa, Coolio and Tone Loc. Get ready to get down.
Photo by wbeem, CC-BY-NC