It's January, a new beginning and the perfect time for setting goals. Perhaps you've resolved to spend more time in the outdoors, or maybe you want a romantic getaway with someone special. Whatever your motivation, don't wait to make good on those promises. Kick off the new year with a proper vacation, or pack the car for a short road trip and hit the highway.
Aside from New Year's resolutions, cheap plane tickets and reduced hotel rates are also great reasons for considering a post-holiday escape. Some travelers take advantage of wintertime sports; others take part in local traditions celebrated for over 100 years.
Whether you are a snowbird or a winter lover, from the East Coast, West Coast, or somewhere in between, you won't have to go far to squeeze a vacation in before the end of winter break. Consider your many options, and visit one or more of the best domestic places to travel in January.
St. Paul, MN, sees a lot of snow during the winter, but that hasn't kept locals from enjoying the beautiful outdoors all season long. From dogsledding to cross-country skiing to snowshoeing by candlelight, they've embraced the deep winter and its mythology. Every January, the St. Paul Winter Carnival draws tourists from all over the world with ice sculptures, snow sports, and an ice palace made of bricks cut from the surrounding lakes. Most events are free of charge, with something new happening each day of the festival. Make sure you're aware of the weather conditions and any resulting schedule changes.
The weather in Oregon is known for being mostly wet, resulting in a lush, forested landscape and brightly colored flowers. Portland has earned the nickname 'Rose City,' but in the wintertime, you have a better chance of seeing the mountainous landscape draped in snow. There are several surrounding national parks with hiking trails and walks accessible during the winter. If you feel like escaping the cold, head into one of the coffee shops or Powell's Books in Downtown Portland. Beer and coffee lovers can catch the annual NW Coffee Beer Invitational in January. Local coffee and beer breweries join forces to create some truly unique blends.
Las Vegas is the Entertainment Capital of the World. There is something to satisfy everyone, whether it's an indoor amusement park, access to art and traveling installations, sports bars, or gambling. In the winter, the weather is mostly chilly and rarely freezing with clear skies at night. That means walking down the famous Las Vegas Strip is just as enjoyable in January as it is in the summer. If you can get away from the excitement of Sin City, drive 15 miles west to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This set of large red rock formations is striking against a clear blue sky. The park includes several accessible hiking trails, bicycle loops, and rock climbing areas. Stay for a spectacular sunset over the snow-dusted mountains.
Located 25 miles outside of Salt Lake City, Park City, UT is 'Winter's Favorite Town.' Outdoor enthusiasts can find a wide range of cold-weather activities to get their sports fix, with family-friendly options available so everyone can be active together. After a day of biking or fly-fishing, make your way to the center of town for dinner at one of over 150 restaurants. Every January, the Sundance Film Festival comes to town; even if you don't score tickets to a screening, you might glimpse a famous face. The town has a free bus and trolley system, so feel free to explore at your leisure.
The city of Brainerd has long been a winter wonderland, but it wasn't until the mid to late 90s that the world started to hear about this large city in central Minnesota. An annual charity event organized by locals to raise funds for the community began building steam, and today the $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is the largest ice-fishing competition in the world. Make the trip in January to participate, or if ice-fishing isn't your thing, head over to the Brainerd Lakes for the annual Antique Snowmobile Rendezvous. Check out the various antiques along the Paul Bunyan Trail, and enjoy watching as their proud owners compete for bragging rights. Afterward, rent a snowmobile and speed along over 100 miles of plowed trails.
January is the perfect time to visit the small town of Leavenworth, WA. Charmingly modeled after an old Bavarian village, this little city is a winter sport and recreation stop for travelers hoping to fit outdoor activities into their next romantic getaway. The magical setting is a lovely backdrop for the alpine skiing and snowboarding resorts in the area. Family-friendly ventures and festivals also abound at this time of year, including the Bavarian Icefest. Every January, Leavenworth celebrates a weekend of snow games, comfort foods, ice sculpture contests, and live music. The festivities end with a grand finale of fireworks and uplifted spirits.
If you're interested in warmer winter weather in an urban metropolis, consider a trip to Los Angeles. With January temperatures averaging in the high 60s, you'll find yourself strolling down Sunset Ave. under clear blue skies and in short sleeves. Head downtown to the Broad Museum where the experience is free, then take a stroll down Olvera Street and sip on a hot cup of champurrado. Zip up your jacket and make your way over to the Santa Monica Pier before driving up the Pacific Coast and marveling at the gorgeous ocean views. Make plans to be in Pasadena on New Year's Eve so you can grab a spot on the world-famous Tournament of Roses Parade route. This parade features beautiful floats, marching bands, and performers, and precedes the Rose Bowl college football game.
Some people welcome January and the end of the holiday season with relief. Others prefer to continue celebrating well into the New Year, and those souls will find themselves at home in New Orleans. Every sixth of January, New Orleanians celebrate the Twelfth Night, a Christian feast day that signals the end of Christmastime and the start of Carnival season.
During the following month, locals celebrate with parades, masquerade balls, and by eating King Cake, a delicious pastry available only during this time of year. When you're not celebrating, take a ride on downtown's famous streetcars for a tour of surrounding neighborhoods. Visit the museum of art and shop at the French Market before trying some delicious New Orleans cuisine. Average temperatures are in the mid-50s to low-60s, so don't be afraid to bring a costume and join in on a walking parade.
When tourists think of winter, Florida is one of the top domestic destinations to find refuge from the cold. Thanks to the tropical climate, daily temperatures in the Florida Keys range from the mid-60s to mid-70s in January. Spend your days snorkeling and sunbathing, or take a ferry to the Dry Tortugas National Park, a long stretch of low-lying islands that are a haven for turtles, birds and marine life. After a day of water sports and activities, enjoy some local seafood and a cocktail along the waterfront. In January, the Keys are the place to be for great tasting wines and inventive cuisine. The Key West Food and Wine Festival attracts food lovers from across the country with tasty collaborations and waterfront festivities.
As one of the nation's most famous natural attractions, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona welcomes millions of visitors every year -- including during the coldest months. Some of the resident wildlife hibernates while others amble along the picturesque South Rim with thicker coats to keep warm. Life in the canyon moves slowly during the winter season, and fewer tourists mean you'll have more of these breathtaking landscapes all to yourself. Visitors can enjoy the snow-covered vistas from several campsites or the Yavapai Museum of Geology, a lookout near Grand Canyon Village. There are multiple campgrounds and lodges within the park, as well as the Grand Canyon Railway, a historic railroad that goes through the canyon. The railway runs the family-friendly Polar Express from November through the beginning of January.