TripAdvisor Announces Top 10 US Destinations This Winter


Key Takeaways

  • Travelers are opting for a diverse range of destinations across the U.S., spanning warm coastal areas to snowy landscapes, catering to various preferences.
  • Each location offers distinctive holiday-themed attractions, from light displays to cultural events, providing immersive seasonal experiences.
  • Beyond festivities, these destinations offer outdoor adventures like skiing, ice fishing, and walking tours, appealing to adventure enthusiasts.
  • Emphasis on community events and local traditions highlights a trend towards interactive and culturally rich travel experiences.
  • Lesser-known destinations attract travellers with unique offerings, promoting exploration of the traditional tourist paths.

Needham, MA–Travel booking platform TripAdvisor announced the top ten trending destinations in the United States this winter. Contrary to usual popular winter destinations like New York City or Orlando, this year features a surprisingly new list of regions a majority of Americans chose for their winter travel.

Winters in the United States can be harsh, with the highest temperature nationwide recorded in the southernmost state of Florida (averaging 60° F, or 15° C). 

Temperatures in the continent’s northern regions (North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington) reach a minimum average of 0 to 10° F, or -17° to -7° C during the December period. 

While driving during heavy snowfall can be very dangerous due to low visibility and slippery roads, air travel to exotic locations has historically been the next best alternative.

According to TripAdvisor, the top 10 US destinations (and popular activities) this winter is as follows:

  • 1. Chattanooga, Tennessee

The most popular destination for Americans this winter is a landlocked state located in the southern region of the country famous for the Holiday Trail of Lights, which showcases eight major points of interest across the city decked out in millions of lights, with holiday events, seasonal treats, Santa Claus sightings, and live music along the way. Along the way is the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian-only bridges in the world, measuring 2,370 feet and erected above the Tennessee River.

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TripAdvisor also recommends visiting Lookout Mountain (from where seven neighbouring states can be seen with the naked eye), the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum on the North Pole Limited Christmas Train, and the Holiday Christmas Lights Train.

  • 2. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Though warmer than the northern regions, the westernmost state of Virginia, which borders the Atlantic Ocean, experiences temperatures just above zero during the winter. According to TripAdvisor, must-visit spots in the state include the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and the Ghosts of Virginia Beach Dark History Walking Tour. 

  • 3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The midwestern state of Wisconsin experiences sub-zero temperatures during its winters yet remains a popular destination for American holiday goers. The Milwaukee Art Museum hosts live music shows while customers walk through the art gallery and perform Christmas-themed songs during the holiday season. Other attractions recommended by TripAdvisor include the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Lakefront Brewery, 

  • 4. Indianapolis, Indiana

The Winterlights display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which features 1.5 million lights glimmering in the garden, accompanied by popcorn, hot cocoa, and s’mores stalls, is an attraction in the northeastern state of Indiana. Other recommendations by TripAdvisor include Christmas at the Zoo at the Indianapolis Zoo, the Festival of Trees at the Indiana Historical Society, and the toy train wonderland that is Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg Museum.

  • 5. Hilton Head, South Carolina
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Decembers are a time for many fun-filled events at Hilton Head, a city in southern South Carolina. Some of them being hosted this year mentioned by TripAdvisor include the Harbor Town Lights at The Sea Pines Resort and the Historic Holidays on Hilton Head Island with “Authors, Artists & Afternoon Tea” on December 10. Another noteworthy attraction is Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, famous for its Christmas-themed musicals and shows.

  • 6. Minneapolis, Minnesota

One of the coldest regions in the country during winter, the city is famous for ice fishing and ice skating over scenic frozen lakes. TripAdvisor suggests watching all-time favorite Christmas carols and shows hosted at various local theatres, visiting the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Minneapolis Institute of Art, and attending the Terrors of Twin Cities St. Paul Haunted Ghost Tour. 

  • 7. Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Southern state of New Mexico is famous for its skiing destinations, namely the Sandia Peak Ski Area, located in the Cibola National Forest just outside the city. TripAdvisor also recommends visiting the Expo New Mexico Open Air Flea Market (weekends only) and watching the New Mexico Ice Wolves hockey match.

  • 8. Jekyll Island, Georgia
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The island is known for its unique Christmas lights and decorations. Also mentioned by TripAdvisor is a trolley tour of the Holly Jolly Jekyll lights show (which features more than 1 million light bulbs), Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and the Mosaic Jekyll Island Museum.

  • 9. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is famous for its culinary and art heritage, with a wide array of eateries, breweries, and art galleries. TripAdvisor suggests Crave Dessert Bar and Amelie’s French Bakery. It also recommends visiting the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra for a holiday show and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

  • 10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The Southern state of South Carolina has warmer temperatures than the rest of the country, with the coast rarely ever seeing snow. According to TripAdvisor, the Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach is a must-visit as it features the rare (one in 30 million) orange lobster. Other attractions include a walk at the broadway, wine tasting at Duplin Winery, and a meal at Big Mike’s Soul Food. 

What We Think

This shift toward less conventional winter destinations showcases a growing trend of seeking unique experiences during the holiday season. Travelers are increasingly open to exploring new regions, drawn not just by weather but by the variety of holiday-themed events and activities.

These destinations offer a blend of tradition, culture, and entertainment, appealing to diverse traveller interests. Opting for these offbeat destinations allows for a refreshing and engaging winter getaway, encouraging exploration beyond the usual tourist hubs.

Read the TripAdvisors report here.


Aqil K
Aqil K
Aqil writes about travel, tourism, and covers the many aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle.


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