25 Best Places to Visit in December
December is a month packed with holidays, including Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years, and for those who live in the northern hemisphere, thoughts on December typically include cooler weather and possibly snow. However, many popular destinations for December throughout the world are popular for specific reasons, whether because December is one of the warmest months of the year or the snowiest. Whether you are looking to visit a place for pristine skiing conditions, sandy beaches covered in sunshine, or intricate and time honored holiday celebrations, your next dream vacation spot might be somewhere unexpected. Photo: lena_serditova/Fotolia
Spending December and the holidays in Porto will often lead to better deals than can be found any other time in the year, given that the weather is a bit chillier than average and the rainy season is in full swing. However, even though the weather isn’t pristine, there are still plenty of delightful attractions to enjoy, such as indoor ice skating for children and adults, Christmas performances in and out of theaters, and many restaurant and hotel deals that can’t be found at other times of the year. In Porto, despite the weather, there are always plenty of places to enjoy delicious local food and port wine.
Photo: Boris Stroujko/Fotolia
»Christchurch, New Zealand
Though many varieties of weather can be experienced within a few hours’ drive of Christchurch, New Zealand throughout the year, it is only during the warm summer months that the beaches, surfing, and long sunlight days can be thoroughly enjoyed. December is the start of summer, and with over 40 safe swimming beaches within easy commute of the city center, there are certainly plenty of opportunities to enjoy a bit of sunshine and perhaps a pleasant swim. As the sun sets and the stars come out, finding a location to stargaze from is as easy as leaving city limits and looking up as the vastness of the cosmos presents itself for your viewing pleasure.
Photo: Dmitry Naumov/Fotolia
»Cortina D' Ampezzo, Italy
Nestled in the southern Alps of northern Italy, Cortina D’ Ampezzo was built along the Boite River and has been entertaining Italian and international tourists for many years. Because it sits in a valley, Cortina D’ Ampezzo often has more mild temperatures than the surrounding areas, making it the ideal location when visiting the southern Alps. Cortina D’ Ampezzo is well known for its winter sports, and was even host to the Winter Olympics in 1956. Visitors to this town in December will enjoy festive markets, holiday celebrations, and unbridled access to world class skiing without the inconvenience of long travel times.
As the rainy season typically comes to an end and the sun starts to shine more and more, visitors who find themselves in Costa Rica during the month of December will most likely be enjoying time on the beach or hiking in nature. Given the ideal weather, December is often one of the busiest times for Costa Rica, as most hotels are filled with tourists and many of the adventure packages will be booked up. For those guests who plan ahead and book many months in advance, visiting Costa Rica in December can lead to the perfect sunshine holiday that will keep them coming back time and time again.
It feels like Calistoga is created for relaxation. A small city in the Napa Valley in California, Calistoga is famous for two things: Fantastic wineries and healing hot springs and mud baths. The wineries are world class and one of several tours will take you through the orderly rows of vines to some fascinating wineries. One of the most scenic is located in Castello de Amorosa, a true medieval castle. While you are strolling through town, visit the Ca’toga Galleria dARte to see works by renowned Italian artist Carlo Marchiori. For a bit of history, take a hike through Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park and visit the well-preserved 1846 mill.
Visitors to the Fiji Islands in December will be braving the wet season, but it is not without its rewards. The weather will oftentimes be rainy, but because it is not during the peak of tourist season, guests will often find accommodations to be less expensive, and booking for adventure trips, restaurants, and other attractions is much easier to achieve. Depending on which island is the primary destination, the weather may change in accordance with the stormward and leeward sides of the islands. The ocean at this time of year is frequently the ideal temperature for swimming, and if the sun is out it makes for a wonderful day at one of Fiji’s many beaches.
With thousands of Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas Markets, spread throughout the country, visitors to Germany in December would be hard pressed not to stumble across one of these markets while exploring whatever town they may be in. These markets are typically filled with open air vendors, food, spiced mulled wine, handcrafted toys, games, jewelry, trinkets, and clothing, as well as performances of traditional holiday songs. Some cities, like Berlin for instance, often have over 70 different markets scattered throughout the city going on at the same time. Guests still in Germany for New Years will be greeted with a display of fireworks, a tradition that is said to stem from the desire to scare away evil spirits before the new year begins.
December is one of the best times to visit Goa, India, and visitors planning a trip for this time of year will find plenty to do and see. During Christmas and New Year, Goa holds extensive celebrations that are inclusive, filled with food and drink, and very popular with tourists and locals alike. There is also the Sunburn festival, a huge electronic dance music festival that draws hundreds of thousands of fans to Goa every year. Given that December is in the middle of peak tourist season, it is heavily recommended to book hotels, adventure packages, and restaurant reservations far in advance to guarantee a successful trip.
Hawaii, and Honolulu specifically, makes for an an interesting December destination because the first three weeks of the month are relaxed, far less expensive, and not nearly as crowded as the last week of the month, when the city fills with tourists enjoying Christmas and New Years. Although December falls in the rainy season for Honolulu, thanks to the warm and wet climate, many tropical flowers and plants will be blooming during this time. As long as you have a light breathable rain jacket, visiting Honolulu in December allows you to experience a tropical paradise filled with occasional rain showers, sunny beach days, and all the stargazing you could desire.
Mild temperatures that may require a light jacket or sweater certainly do not keep tourists away from Ibiza, Spain, during the winter months. With a wide array of events happening throughout the month, some to celebrate Christmas, others to celebrate New Years, and some just for the fun of it, visitors to this island city will find more than enough entertainment to keep them busy during their stay. When the sun sets, there are many dance and nightclubs open to entertain you until the early morning hours, and many visitors may find the brisk weather more enjoyable after dancing the night away.
»Iguazu Falls, Brazil
The Iguazu River is the physical border between Brazil and Argentina, and given that the falls are part of both countries’ territory, it is impressive to note that both Brazil and Argentina have declared the Iguazu Falls as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many bridges, walkways, and viewing platforms built around the 275 individual waterfalls that make up the Iguazu Falls, giving tourists and locals alike an opportunity to view the spectacle in many unique ways. Visiting the falls in December is a special treat because the rainy season brings more water to the Iguazu River, making the falls even more spectacular.
»Key West, USA
Florida’s furthest reaches into the Gulf of Mexico often experience warm and pleasant weather right up to and throughout the New Year. There are many events and attractions to keep visitors and locals entertained during the month of December, from spending time on the beach to taking a tour of historic inns around the city. There is an annual Lighted Bike Parade that features a variety of cyclists raising awareness and funds for needy children, and there is also a Lighted Boat Parade that showcases a large variety of different ships decorated in creative and unique ways. Dog lovers won’t want to miss the annual Dachshund Parade. Clearly, there are a number of ways you can ring in the New Year all over the city.
If you want a typically snowless holiday still filled with cheer, spending December in Nashville is perfect for any music or food lover who isn’t in search of a tropical retreat. Home to many special December events such as the Deck the Hall program at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville brings its unique charm to the holiday celebration. For a special twist on a holiday classic, Monell’s Victorian Christmas Dinner features Tennessee style cooking coupled with live carolers and music. Reservations are heavily encouraged as this event tends to book fast. For visitors who are staying through the New Year, the Bash on Broadway is a huge concert outdoors, ringing in the New Year with live music and friends.
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Outdoor ice skating, huge electronic light spectacles, and the annual Army-Navy football game are just a few of the exciting things that take place in Philadelphia during December. A creative way to see Santa during a visit to Philadelphia is to visit the Adventure Aquarium and see Scuba Santa swimming around with his elves –make sure to stop by the 18-foot tree that the aquarium has on display. Outdoor fun can be had at the Christmas Village, an outdoor market filled with toys, trinkets, clothing, food, and a variety of drinkable treats to keep the whole family warm.
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»Prague, Czech Republic
December in Prague features snow capped buildings, gorgeous vistas from many of the cities high vantage points, and one of Europe’s best Christmas Markets. The Prague Christmas Market takes place in Old Town Square, making it easily accessible on foot and by public transit from nearly anywhere in the city. The Christmas Market goes on for nearly all of December, and visitors who find themselves in the city for the New Year celebration will be able to enjoy a spectacular firework show that takes place in the sky over Old Town.
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Located in northern Ecuador, Quito is a landlocked city filled with rich history and culture, and during the month of December visitors to Quito are invited to observe and participate in many celebrations. Early in the month, the Spanish Foundation of San Francisco de Quito festival takes place, a celebration that includes bullfights, parades, and dancing. The Queen of the Quito is also elected during this time. On the 21st of December, Karak Raymi is celebrated, a festival to begin the initiation of teenage maturity. On Christmas Eve, many churches and streets are decorated with Nativity scenes, and on the 31st, it is custom to create a stick figure or doll that will be burned at midnight.
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Salzburg is a city that celebrates many festivals and holidays throughout December, and although the city rooftops aren’t always snow covered, the surrounding mountains are typically snow capped and offer the opportunity for winter sports. From the celebration on December 6th of St. Nicolas’ Day to the larger celebrations on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, there will be lights and decorations all over Salzburg. Don’t miss the Christmas Markets selling traditional food, toys, clothing, mulled wine, and a number of other warm drinks to keep the whole family happy. Salzburg is a one-stop destination for skiing, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and wholesome family fun.
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Although rain falls often in Seattle when December comes around and the sunshine is often nowhere to be found, spirits are up during this time of year as festivities begin and extra holiday light decorations are strung through the streets. Pike’s Place Market, Seattle’s famous openbazaar style farmers’ market, is filled with holiday decorations, foods, and cheer during this time of year, and guests are encouraged to explore all the ins and outs that the market has to offer. The Seattle Great Wheel, the ferris wheel located downtown, will give guests a splendid view of the city and all of its decorations from the comfort of an indoor cabin.
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Given the elite status of this island, it is no surprise that December is one of the most sought out and most expensive times of the year to see St. Bart’s. December is known as the high season, a pleasant lull between the rainy and the hot season, that offers guests to the island a chance to enjoy one of 22 pristine beaches in delightful conditions. To visit in December, it is recommended to book at least six months in advance, as hotels typically fill up fast. Along with the gorgeous weather, there are plenty of shopping, outdoor eating, and boat tours to participate in while spending time in St. Bart’s.
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With everything from alpine skiing and snowboarding to dog sledding, fat tire biking to ice fishing, and even winter horse drawn sleigh rides, Stowe, Vermont, is the perfect winter getaway to enjoy all that the season has to offer. The Stowe Mountain Resort has an extensive network of trails for riders to enjoy and explore, so this resort is sure to keep the family entertained for the duration of the trip. If outdoor activities aren’t your preference, there are plenty of award winning restaurants in Stowe to keep everyone fed and a selection of craft breweries to try during your stay. Families will enjoy a visit to the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory, where they can take a guided tour of the facility and enjoy a sample of the ice cream of the day.
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»Sun Valley, USA
Sun Valley, a resort town in Idaho, has been charming visitors throughout the month of December since its founding in the 1930s. Although the temperatures may be low in December, the skiing is great and spirits are high with celebration, including many live performances and alpine based events. Families can easily find plenty of outdoor activities like snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice skating, and alpine skiing to keep them busy while the sun is out. After the sun sets there are plenty of family-centric restaurants to enjoy, and for individuals or couples travelling without kids there are many craft breweries and fine dining experiences to explore.
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Telluride, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is a wintertime dream for any outdoor enthusiast, whether they are travelling alone or with family. Telluride offers traditional activities like alpine skiing and snowboarding with added bonuses like helicopter skiing, backcountry CAT access, and Nordic cross country skiing paths. There are snowmobiles, snow shoes, and fat bikes that can be rented, and there are even opportunities for winter fly fishing and challenging ice climbing near the city. Horseback riding is also on option, or for those without any desire to take the reins, there are horse drawn sleighs and carriage rides that can be enjoyed.
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»Yellowstone National Park, USA
Every year around the beginning of November, most of the park roads close to regular traffic as Yellowstone National Park prepares for the winter season. That means that those visiting in December will have to access the park through the northeast entrance, the only road open being the one that connects to Mammoth Hot Springs. If guests arrive at any other entrance, they will have to leave their cars behind and use an oversnow mode of transportation, such as snowmobiling or snow coaches. The park is a completely different experience during the winter months, and those lucky enough to visit in December can enjoy cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and seeing Yellowstone with far smaller crowds.
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Wintertime in this Southern gem is sure to be filled with any number of pleasant surprises. The city is home to the annual Peach Bowl, a college football game that has been held in Atlanta since 1968, and fans of the sport will enjoy wintertime tailgating with fellow enthusiasts before and after cheering on their chosen team. Families who find themselves in Atlanta during December will want to experience the Children’s Christmas Parade, a day filled with huge balloons of popular characters, a visit from Santa, and plenty of snacks and warm beverages to go around. Aside from the parade, there are many lights to see around the city in many of the parks and gardens.
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Horse drawn carriages will take you from one venue to the next as you enjoy a plethora of food, drinks, and hors d'oeuvres in a variety of locations during the Annual Progressive Dinner, a traditional and festive event that has been drawing crowds since its inception. If carriage rides don’t sound appealing, guests may prefer to attend the Annual Dickens Dinner, held at Circa 1886, which includes a four course meal inspired by “A Christmas Carol,” as well as a live retelling of the aforementioned novella by Tim Lowry. For less interactive entertainment, you may enjoy catching a performance at the 34 West Theater Company.
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25 Best Places to Visit in December
- Porto, Portugal, Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- Christchurch, New Zealand, Photo: Courtesy of Dmitry Naumov - Fotolia.com
- Cortina D' Ampezzo, Italy, Photo: Courtesy of xbrchx - Fotolia.com
- Costa Rica, Photo: Courtesy of alexanderkonsta - Fotolia.com
- Calistoga, Photo: Courtesy of ziss - Fotolia.com
- Fiji, Photo: Courtesy of emperorcosar - Fotolia.com
- Germany, Photo: Courtesy of Noppasinw - Fotolia.com
- Goa, India, Photo: Courtesy of Fotolia.com
- Honolulu, USA, Photo: Courtesy of yuruphoto - Fotolia.com
- Ibiza, Spain, Photo: Courtesy of jovannig - Fotolia.com
- Iguazu Falls, Brazil, Photo: Courtesy of Mathias - Fotolia.com
- Key West, USA, Photo: Courtesy of lucky-photo - Fotolia.com
- Nashville, USA, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
- Philadelphia, USA, Photo: Courtesy of MISHELA - Fotolia.com
- Prague, Czech Republic, Photo: Courtesy of Yasonya - Fotolia.com
- Quito, Ecuador, Photo: Courtesy of pablo - Fotolia.com
- Salzburg, Austria, Photo: Courtesy of auergraphics - Fotolia.com
- Seattle, USA, Photo: Courtesy of kanonsky - Fotolia.com
- St. Bart's, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Stowe, USA, Photo: Courtesy of Don Landwehrle - Fotolia.com
- Sun Valley, USA, Photo: Courtesy of John - Fotolia.com
- Telluride, USA, Photo: Courtesy of Dave Newman - Fotolia.com
- Yellowstone National Park, USA, Photo: Courtesy of Reid - Fotolia.com
- Atlanta, USA, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Charleston, USA, Photo: Courtesy of chromoprisme - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of lena_serditova - Fotolia.com
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