25 Best Christmas Getaways to Escape the Cold
Put away the snow boots! These festive spots offer plenty of Christmas cheer without the freezing temperatures.
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Enjoy the holidays without the snowfall
White Christmases are gorgeous, but they’re cold! The icy roads, the shoveling, and the reality of being trapped inside with your kids over winter break can make the holidays less than happy. Luckily, this year, traveling is an option again, and Christmas getaways can provide the perfect escape. If you’re wondering what is Christmas without snow, think about waves lapping on the beach, palm trees swaying in the sand, and a warm breeze caressing your skin. So why not bring the family (or escape the drama of your family) and head off to one of these amazing warm-weather spots?
Because many of us are just now easing back into travel, try a destination that’s not too far from home. The southern half of the United States offers a number of picture-perfect escapes, many of which are bona fide Christmas towns in their own right, offering Christmas light shows, boat parades, and other Christmas activities during the holiday season. The Caribbean and Mexico are just a short flight away, as well—you can even travel with gifts to keep your Christmas morning special.
How we chose the best Christmas getaways
Our location choices are based on expert recommendations and user reviews from travelers who’ve been there, with hotel picks based on affordability and star ratings. We also picked destinations based on Christmas activities, family friendliness, convenience, and safety. Travel is open to tourists at all of these destinations, but before booking, make sure to check local, state, and country COVID-related requirements for entry, as well as re-entry into the United States for international locales. You’ll also want to follow our holiday travel tips for each destination to get the most out of your Christmas vacation.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Best for: Music
NOLA heats up the season for a Cajun Christmas that’s not too hot, not too cold. In general, New Orleans is one of the best cities for live music, and throughout December, you can listen to holiday concerts in the historic St. Louis Cathedral and caroling in Jackson Square. You can also see the Celebration in the Oaks’ lights display, tour decorated homes and hotel lobbies, and attend holiday cocktail tastings. On Christmas Eve, a centuries-old tradition of bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River light the way for Papa Noel, as Santa is known locally.
Stay at the upscale International House Hotel, a surprisingly affordable property within walking distance of the French Quarter and many other attractions. With richly appointed rooms and a relaxed vibe, this hotel will make your holiday merry indeed. Get 15 percent off with a three-night stay. Since you’ll likely be posting a ton of pics from your trip on social media, make sure to bookmark these Christmas captions for the perfect sentiments.
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Los Angeles, California
Best for: Family activities
Where else can you surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon? With its mild climate and mountains not far away, Los Angeles is the best of both worlds. Your family can see various light displays around the city including at the L.A. Zoo and the L.A. Arboretum, enjoy holiday events at Disneyland and Universal Studios, witness the splendor of the nightly Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, and watch a night of musical performances at the 62nd Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration. Experience the immersive Elf on the Shelf Magical Holiday Journey, an outdoor winter wonderland with scenery and lights, outdoor ice-skating, open-air trolleys, a Christmas village, and more. Then, stick around for the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
Step back in time to Christmas in Old Hollywood with a stay at the Millennium Biltmore Los Angeles, a historic downtown hotel. It’s worth visiting this 1920s gem for the architecture alone—take a peek inside the Biltmore Bowl, which hosted the Oscars during the Golden Age of Hollywood. It will make you think of some of the best Christmas movies ever. Yet, the grande dame of L.A. is surprisingly affordable; we found rooms for under $200 a night in December.
Best for: International food and traditions
The historic town of Old San Juan looks even more magical dressed up for Christmas with lights, decorations, and nativity scenes. Puerto Ricans go all-out for their long holiday season, with celebrations from right after Thanksgiving all the way to Three Kings Day on January 6, and even extending to San Sebastian Street Festival (“SanSe”) in mid-January. Experience Nochebuena, a Christmas Eve feast with traditional music and food, and a lively version of caroling called parrandas, one of the best Christmas traditions from around the world. Puerto Rico also has the advantage of being a U.S. territory, making travel to and from a bit easier.
To really get away from it all, stay at the oceanfront Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa on Puerto Rico’s southwest coast. With a gorgeous outdoor pool, not to mention the crystal-clear sea just a few steps away, this spot will make your Christmas getaway all the more relaxing.
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Best for: Shopping and dining
With highs near 80 degrees in December, this gorgeous town on the Sunshine State’s Paradise Coast offers a beachy respite from winter weather—plus, fun holiday attractions. The shopping and restaurant district of Third Street South presents Christmas on Third, a week of decorations, music, and even snow. The historic district of Fifth Avenue South has a tree-lighting celebration with a live nativity, skating rink, music, Santa Claus, and special dining events. And don’t miss holiday lights on the tropical plants of the Naples Botanical Garden.
Stay in the heart of the action at Bayfront Inn 5th Ave, which is close to all the shopping, dining, and holiday events going on downtown. Located on the marina, the hotel is a convenient spot from which to take a boat ride among the canals or a fishing trip out to sea. While you’re in the Sunshine State, make sure to check out the best Florida beaches locals want to keep secret.
Best for: A desert escape
A desert oasis awaits visitors to Tucson in December, without the scorching heat of the summer months and hardly any rain. Plus, the city goes all out with its Winterhaven Festival of Lights, a 71-year-old tradition of light displays in the aptly named Winterhaven neighborhood. Also, check out the illuminations at Reid Park Zoo, as well as those at Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul gardens and art galleries, which are accompanied by musicians and artists performing throughout the gardens.
For an authentic southwestern vacation, stay at the historic Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, set among 34 peaceful acres and overlooking the desert hills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Retire to traditional adobe buildings after enjoying the pool or a horseback ride for one of the most unique Christmas getaways you’ll ever have. For just the right activity to add to your vacation, take a look at this guide to celebrating the holidays based on your zodiac sign. (You won’t believe how accurate it is!)
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Best for: Stage performances
It’s not exactly beach weather in this resort town, but it’s still a warm place to get away from frigid temperatures and see the area’s attractions along the Grand Strand lit up for the holidays. Attend fantastic holiday stage shows like the Carolina Opry Christmas Special, called “The Christmas Show of the South,” one of Myrtle Beach’s best Christmas traditions. The stunning Brookgreen Gardens hosts Nights of a Thousand Candles, which features 2,800 hand-lit candles plus twinkling lights and live music set among the flowers and sculptures. And this year, you can also marvel at Winter Wonderland at the Beach, a new event along the boardwalk with outdoor ice skating, lights, shows, and more.
The oceanfront Dunes Village Resort is right in the heart of all the holiday happenings in Myrtle Beach. Plus, the hotel offers the only indoor water park in the area, so families can continue to enjoy swimming even if the weather outside is too crisp to go in the ocean. Plus, at just about $100 a night around the holidays, the price can’t be beat.
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Best for: A couples retreat
Celebrate Christmas the Caribbean way with traditional music and food. Get to the “Spice Island” in time for the Carriacou Parang Festival the weekend before Christmas to see a battle of the bands that includes local music incorporated with carols, with participants dressed in bright hues including the Christmas colors of red and green. Sample black cake, a dark concoction that’s like fruit cake but with a whole lot of rum. Then, of course, take a swim in Grenada’s warm, turquoise waters on Christmas Day to complete the island experience.
This stunningly beautiful island has a number of luxurious hotels for a couple’s getaway during the holidays. Our pick is La Sagesse Hotel for its amazing beachfront location and affordability. Fall asleep in your room just steps from the water while listening to the sound of the waves lapping on the shore.
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Best for: An island paradise
On Maui, the holiday has its own unique twist. For example, the famous banyan tree in Lahaina gets wrapped in Christmas lights, and you can celebrate with a festive Hawaiian Christmas Day luau on the beach. During your trip, make sure to book a whale-watching excursion, as the humpback whales begin their annual migration in December. And remember to greet those you meet with Mele Kalikimaka, the Hawaiian translation of “Merry Christmas”—and download the Christmas song of the same name for your holiday playlist.
Accommodations on Maui can be pricey, especially around the holidays, but the relatively reasonable Mauian Hotel on Napili Beach offers comfortable rooms and an oceanfront location on one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. Get ready to unplug—there are purposefully no TVs in the rooms—and enjoy snorkeling, hiking, and games on the beach. The hotel also offers free cancellation and a “reserve now, pay at stay” option.
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Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Best for: Ancient ruins
Have a white Christmas—a white-sand Christmas, that is—along the gorgeous beaches of the Riviera Maya on the Yucatán Peninsula. In Mexico, the Christmas Eve traditions of “Noche Buena” tend to be a bigger deal than Christmas Day, so get ready for a huge feast and festivities into the early hours. Plus, Mexicans extend the holiday season with celebrations all the way to Three King’s Day on January 6. Or, visit right before Christmas for the winter solstice at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, in which the play of light and shadow on the ancient pyramid is a sight to behold. Although it’s prime tourist season, the more, the merrier!
A stay at the family-friendly Occidental at Xcaret Destination is the perfect way to continue to experience Mexican tradition—and at a reasonable price, with a hotel direct offer of an additional five percent off stays through December 31. Nestled among natural jungle gardens (with monkeys!) and a private cove, the hotel is also next to the Xcaret eco-archaeological park, which features activities and exhibitions about the nature and culture of Mexico.
South Padre Island, Texas
Best for: A low-key holiday
Temperatures are generally comfortable on SPI in December, making this Lone Star State retreat just right for quiet Christmas getaways. Check out the Holiday Sand Castle Village, full of seasonal sand sculptures as part of the island’s Sandcastle Trail; there’s also a Sea Turtle Art Trail of decorated sculptures of the animals throughout the island. You’ll also get to enjoy horseback riding, golfing, birding, and bike riding during your stay.
Because most visitors to the island rent a condo, you can arrive in time to decorate and cook your own Christmas dinner, then take a post-meal stroll on the miles of gorgeous beach. It’s the best of both worlds: having a private family holiday and a Christmas vacation in one!
Best for: A city experience
Oozing with Southern charm, Savannah has to be one of the most beautiful cities to visit at Christmastime—despite the lack of snow. Take a trolley tour to see the lights and decorations of the historic buildings, visit the historic Davenport House for tours by candlelight, go on a spooky “Ghosts of Christmas Past” walking tour, or simply wander through the city’s many decked-out squares and along River Street. Afterward, have a gourmet meal at one of the city’s many fine-dining restaurants, or settle in for a holiday cocktail at an elegant pub.
Housed in an 1817 warehouse and in a great location right on River Street, the River Street Inn immerses guests in Savannah’s history. You can get a sightseeing trolley right outside the hotel for viewing holiday decorations, and there are four restaurants in the building for you to enjoy all the seasonal fare. Book your trip and then get in the mood for the holidays with these Christmas quotes that perfectly capture the spirit of the season.
Best for: Beach bars
If you’re in search of a sunny island you can book for Christmas, look no further than St. Kitts. Along with its dual-island nation partner Nevis, the country is unusual for celebrating its Carnival in December instead of the more traditional February. Combined with the Christmas season, the festival known as Sugar Mas creates an energetic and colorful atmosphere of parades, costumes, and street performances. (FYI, some activities may be virtual in 2021.) Of course, you could just spend your holiday limin’ (“hanging out,” in the local parlance) at the island’s many beach bars and seafood joints. In addition to its beautiful beaches, St. Kitts’ lively holiday atmosphere makes it perfect for Caribbean Christmas getaways.
There’s tons to do at Marriott’s St. Kitts Beach Club. As if the gorgeous beaches weren’t enough, there are also three outdoor pools, a golf course, a spa, and kids’ activities. Some rooms also offer full kitchens if you’re thinking about cooking your own Christmas feast. Travel earlier in December for Rewards member rates.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Best for: Nightlife
Trust Sin City to go all-out for the holidays in show-stopping style. Visitors can’t miss the hotel and casinos decked for the holidays, including stunning decorations at the Bellagio’s Conservatory and Fountains, as well as activities such as the Cosmopolitan’s rooftop ice rink, Red Rock Resort’s Merry Crimson specialty cocktail event, and Aria Resort’s Winter Wonderland display featuring a Sugar Palace made of 4,000 pounds of real sugar. You can also enjoy Christmas shows, holiday events at bars and nightclubs, and live entertainment and pop-up dining experiences at The Park.
Stay in the heart of the action at the Bellagio, which offers free cancellation until a few days before your stay. The resort’s amazing holiday displays include a huge snow globe, a 42-foot-tall live tree, and polar bears and a 10-foot-long train made from flowers. It’s truly a Christmas sight to behold. Here are some other things to do in Las Vegas that don’t involve casinos.
Best for: Affordability
With its beautiful beaches and reasonable room rates, the DR has long been one of the top destinations for U.S. travelers to the Caribbean. December starts the high season, but for good reason: Visitors enjoy some of the best weather of the year, with low humidity and highs in the 80s. The Spanish-influenced country also has unique traditions to celebrate Christmas, such as handcrafted wood versions of Christmas trees called charamicos. Also, listen for aguinaldos, a Dominican version of caroling; attend Christmas Eve mass at one of the historic cathedrals of the colonial city of Santo Domingo; and sample a roast pork dish called cerdo asado and ginger tea called jengibre.
A short walk from the beach, Bio Chalet Tropical offers a jungle retreat for families looking to really get away from it all for the holidays. Nestled among lush greenery, pools and waterfalls meander next to individual bungalows made of rustic wood and natural stone—all for under $200 a night.
Palm Springs, California
Best for: Spas
By December, the heat of summer in the desert has cooled to comfortable temperatures, making the tony Rat Pack–era retreat of Palm Springs a great option for a California Christmas. The season kicks off with a Festival of Lights parade, one of the best in the country, on December 5. And all month long, you can enjoy holiday-themed cabaret performances at supper clubs, as well as amazing illuminations at WildLights at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. In addition to great art and restaurant scenes, Palm Springs is renowned for its spas and wellness retreats, so it’s the perfect place to truly unwind and enjoy a rejuvenating Christmas away.
Palm Springs offers many 1960s-era upscale motels that give off a mid-century vibe. Adults can stay at the reasonably priced Little Paradise Hotel for modern accommodations set around a heated saltwater pool. The rooms have jet showers and fireplaces.
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Best for: Historic architecture
The seaside resort of Galveston looks spectacular at the holidays when its Victorian buildings get decked out. Blending the old with the new, the giant modern pyramids of Moody Gardens overlooking Galveston Bay becomes a winter wonderland with the Festival of Lights, plus other holiday activities including stage shows, train rides, pictures with Santa, fireside s’mores, holiday dinners, and more. The town’s festivities begin in early December with Dickens on the Strand, a costumed Christmas festival that plays up the town’s Victorian architecture.
Stay right in the heart of the Christmas action at the affordable Moody Gardens Hotel, which offers free cancellation until shortly before your stay. With all the holiday attractions just steps away, the hotel itself also has tons to do, including a pool, a spa, and kids’ activities. Speaking of the little ones, these Christmas crafts will keep them busy in the days leading up to the big trip.
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Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
Best for: Beaches
Many of the tropical locales on our Christmas getaways list have beautiful beaches, but perhaps the best of all are the wide, white sands and crystal-clear waters of Turks and Caicos. For the holidays, festive lights are strung along the lovely Grace Bay beach, and each resort decorates for Christmas. To experience some local culture, stay for Maskanoo, a street festival of music, masquerades, and merriment traditionally held on Boxing Day, December 26.
The big resorts on Grace Bay can be expensive at Christmastime, but Sibonne Beach Hotel offers a reasonable price for simple, clean accommodations right on the beach. For a comfortable holiday without the frills—and really, with one of the best beaches in the world, who needs them?—this small hotel is a hidden gem.
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Los Cabos, Mexico
Best for: An easy Pacific Coast trip
Florida and the Caribbean offer lovely beach destinations, but it can be a long flight for those located in the western part of the United States. Instead, try heading south of the border to Los Cabos, on the Pacific coast of Mexico at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, for a Feliz Navidad. From December 12, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to Three Kings Day (Los Tres Reyes Magos) on January 6 is a monthlong seasonal festival; locals call it the Guadalupe-Reyes marathon. December is whale watching season as well, so visitors can spot humpbacks and more; you’ll also find peak conditions for windsurfing, kiteboarding, and kitesurfing season if you’ve ever wanted to try a lesson. Fun fact: Did you know one of the biggest Christmas symbols, the poinsettia plant, is native to Mexico?
The surrounding rocks and cliffs give a sense of privacy to Solmar Resort, located in Land’s End, which is exactly what it sounds like—a wide beach at the tip of the peninsula, one of the most stunning spots in the area, but still only a few minutes’ walk from the town of Cabo San Lucas. Smaller in size than the high-rises of Cabo, this hotel has a relaxed Mexican vibe perfect for a chilled-out holiday. Plus, if you book now, you can save up to 62 percent off already reasonable room rates.
Best for: Guaranteed good weather
One of the best things about visiting Aruba is the consistently good weather—it’s known for year-round temps of 82 degrees and sunny skies—as well as gorgeous beaches and welcoming locals. Plus, it’s extremely safe, family-friendly, and easy to get to for U.S. visitors. Because of the island’s Dutch heritage, residents start off the holiday season with a visit from Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa) on December 5. At holiday time, visitors may also hear gaitas (Venezuelan folk music, as Aruba is off the coast of Venezuela) and enjoy traditional Christmas meals. December is also the height of Carnival season, so expect general merriment around this “one happy island.”
Located on its own gorgeous stretch of sand right next to popular Eagle Beach, the low-rise hotel of Divi Aruba All Inclusive offers an all-inclusive option without the crowds of the high-rises next door. With lovely grounds and pools, this smaller resort makes for a comfortable Christmas getaway for the whole family. Or, stay at one of these other fabulous all-inclusive resorts.
St. Petersburg, Florida
Best for: U.S. beaches
The beaches of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, located on a peninsula jutting into Tampa Bay, have been rated the best in the country. It’s easy to see why: Thirty-five miles of soft white sand and warm, blue-green water line the coast along the Gulf of Mexico, with plenty of keys and barrier islands to explore. At Christmastime, visitors can enjoy the added attractions of boat parades, holiday light shows, seasonal cocktails and tastings, and Christmas movies in the park. But the biggest holiday event in the area is Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field, which features an amazing light maze, ice-skating trail, Christmas market, holiday goodies, and the night sky projected on the stadium dome.
Every type of accommodation is available for Christmas getaways in the St. Pete area, from high-rise resorts to kitschy motels. Check into the 1950s-themed Plaza Beach Hotel for a comfortable stay right on the beach. Better yet, a hotel direct offer has 40 percent off rates and a daily happy hour of free beer and wine. Add to the fun by playing these Christmas party games, no matter where you are on the big day.
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Best for: Luxury
Although all the islands are more crowded over Christmas, Anguilla’s relatively low amount of hotel rooms makes it a good choice for those looking for a sophisticated escape rather than packed beaches. And keep your eyes peeled—this exclusive island has been known to attract celebrities on their own Christmas getaways. Although there aren’t a ton of Christmas-specific activities on this quiet island, Anguilla is the ideal place for foodies to enjoy an elegant holiday meal, as it’s known for its world-class restaurants.
Anguilla is definitely not the cheapest vacation, but the calm atmosphere, epicurean delights, and picture-perfect beaches are worth a bit of a splurge for a special Christmas away. A moderate hotel that won’t break the bank, the Carimar Beach Club offers lovely rooms right on the gorgeous Meads Bay. You may also want to check out these all-inclusive Caribbean resorts.
San Diego, California
Best for: California beach vibes
Catch that surfer-dude ‘tude with a trip to laid-back San Diego for the holidays. Go on a Christmas tree scavenger hunt on the city’s Christmas Tree trail, with decorated arbors at famous landmarks and even right on the beach. And visit the famous San Diego Zoo—it’s even open on Christmas Day—for Jungle Bells, with holiday decorations, roaming entertainers, and specialty treats. Of course, you could also just relax on San Diego’s beaches, go fishing, kayak, or whale-watch for gray whales, whose annual migration down the coast starts in December.
Many accommodations in San Diego are surprisingly not beachfront, so the affordable La Jolla Shores Hotel is a rare find. With the ocean just steps away, you can enjoy the best of your holiday in La Jolla, a small neighborhood just north of San Diego proper with a breathtaking coastline.
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Paradise Island, Bahamas
Best for: A tropical family vacation
Just a short flight from Florida, the Bahamas is a popular family destination for its calm waters, warm weather, and, of course, the Atlantis mega-resort. The aquatic activities are endless, from relaxing on the white-sand beaches to snorkeling, swimming with marine creatures, and taking boat excursions. Hotels and resorts offer Christmas and Hanukkah festivities and special dinners; locals celebrate Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) with Junkanoo, a parade and festival of traditional costumes and music.
The Atlantis has six hotels to choose from, and the most affordable is The Beach, for value-minded guests. But for families on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, there’s no better choice than The Royal, the iconic pink palace that’s right by all the best attractions, including the open-air marine park and water park. Even better, a hotel direct offer has guests saving $300 for bundling hotel and airfare for travel through 2022. It’ll make for wonderful Christmas vacation memories.
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Best for: Adventure
The glorious twin peaks of the Pitons tower over the southern part of this island, giving a dramatic backdrop to one of the hottest destinations to visit this winter. In addition to its stunning beaches, St. Lucia offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of the island with jungle adventures including hiking, natural mud baths, horseback riding, and zip-lining. The Christmas season starts early with the holiday of the island’s namesake, Saint Lucia Day, on December 13, traditionally celebrated with a parade of lanterns, illuminations, and fireworks. Many resorts offer a Christmas feast—be sure to try the local holiday spiced drink called sorrel. And if you hear a loud bang, don’t worry—it’s just “bursting bamboo,” a local tradition with a cannon made out of bamboo.
Wake up to a jaw-dropping view of the Pitons over the ocean right from your bed at the reasonably priced Green Fig Resort. You’ll feel like you’re in a treehouse set high over the town of Soufriere, but you’ll be just a five-minute walk to the beach. Enjoy hillside pools, as well as a restaurant featuring local seafood for your Christmas dinner.
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Key West, Florida
Best for: A Caribbean feel without leaving the United States
The southernmost point in the contiguous United States, colorful Key West has a definite Caribbean feel—even though you don’t have to leave the country to get there. Plus, there are tons of traditional Christmas activities to partake in during December’s monthlong Holiday Fest, including a Harbor Walk of Lights, Holiday Historic Inn Tours, and a lighted boat parade. Visitors can also take a tour of the island’s holiday lights and Christmas decorations with the Conch Tour Train or Old Town Trolley. Although guests should know that Key West’s beaches aren’t the best in Florida, there is spectacular snorkeling, diving, and fishing offshore.
The new Gates Hotel Key West features comfy, beach-themed accommodations and a beautiful pool with live music, a bar, and food trucks. A free shuttle conveniently transports guests downtown for all the Christmas festivities. Best yet, a hotel direct offer gives guests up to 20 percent off.