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Looking for trip ideas in January within the US

It will be my wife and I (mid to late 40s) and our children. 22 and 21 yrs old.

The kids have been pretty fortunate too have seen quite a few places. DC, Disney World, Universal Studios and Hawaii the Grand Canyon Yellowstone Mount Rushmore multiple cruises and trips to the Caribbean to name a few.

Wife and I have been to Vegas and Mardis Gras multiple times. So that isn't interesting to us right now. Been to Alaska for a cruise last yr so that's out

I'm not sure we want to do anything like skiing so it would probably need to be somewhere fairly warm or moderate that time of year.

I like to see historical places, they dont get too excited about that kind of thing and All 4 of us are generally pretty easygoing as far as destinations go.

But I want to take us to somewhere that is at the top of people's lists for must sees and must do in the US.

I've thought about the Florida Keys I've also thought about the east with all the history but I'm not sure weather wise if I want to fight that. But I really don't know for sure what it's like that time of yr.

We've never really been to Texas to speak of. So I suppose we could go there.

I just really don't know what to do. I think I'd like to come up with 4 or 5 options and then let everybody vote on it.

Posted by
6511 posts

Are you looking for a place to fly into and just stay there? Or are you planning on renting a car and won't mind driving a couple of hours to visit multiple places? My suggestion for January would be either San Diego as a single location, or Charleston SC/Savannah GA (and areas in between) for a road trip type of tour. I also like the idea of the Florida Keys.

Posted by
338 posts

Thanks for the reply. I'm open to either driving to our destination, we live in the midwest, or flying in and renting a car. I guess I could add we are probably more of the hotel type people than maybe camping or roughing it. But we're really not opposed to just about anything.

We are open to visiting multiple locations. And driving around. However if it made sense we wouldn't be opposed to staying and one or maybe two places during the duration. Probably looking at a week to 10 days total

Posted by
338 posts

I would be really interested to hear about the Charleston South Carolina / Savannah Georgia and everything in between idea. I would like to hear more about the Florida Keys from people too. Never been there

Posted by
6511 posts

In addition to the cities of Charleston and Savannah, there is also Beaufort, SC - all of which have tons of civil war and revolutionary war sites to satisfy anyone interested in American history. All of these also have preserved old town areas with lots of shops and restaurants and lovely southern charm that appeals to many people. There are the popular islands of Hilton Head (near Beaufort), Kiawah Island (Charleston) and Tybee Island (Savannah). Being originally from the Midwest myself I love driving coastal areas, for the scenery and the nature areas, and I'm particularly interested in lighthouses myself so if that appeals to anyone of your group there are several to visit in the area. Beaches might not be swimmable in January but they can be a beautiful place for a picnic.

Weather in January is pretty unpredictable but highs in January are historically in the 50's and low 60's with overnight lows in the 30's and 40's so can be a bit chilly. Always the chance of rain or even ice storms but hard to predict, at least the hurricane season is over by then.

Posted by
15051 posts

San Francisco Bay Area Winter weather is mild (50's-60's), not much rain. So much fun.

Spend time in the city, lots to see and do: a day in Golden Gate Park (world class aquarium, great art museum, activities on the lake), a few hours in Chinatown, Japantown, and drinks and boutique shops in the Castro. Go across the bay to Alameda (I think you can do it on public transportation) and spend a day on the U.S.S. Hornet (really really interesting).

Then rent a car and explore. Yosemite is a 4 hour drive and is gorgeous in winter (if snows don't close the road in); you need reservations - now - but you can always cancel). Drive south on Hwy 1 along the beautiful coastline to Ano Nuevo and visit a colony of elephant seals (best time of year to see them up close and personal), then keep going to see the monarch butterflies in Santa Cruz and spend a couple of days in/near Carmel/Monterey, much to see and do there too. Go north of the city, just across the Golden Gate bridge are the coastal redwoods at Muir Woods, the very touristy but still cute Sausalito, the note as touristy Santa Rosa and lots of wine-tasting. Go to Korbel Champagne Cellars - they still have free tasting and are often pretty generous with them, they have a great tour (lots of interesting history plus a little about the wine-making), and a good Italian deli for lunch. Go east to Sacramento (about 2 hours drive). See the Capitol and the fun Old Town.

If you start researching it, you'll want 4 weeks. There is just so much variety. No place better in January. This is one place I can't imagine your not wanting to return to again and again.

Posted by
184 posts

As an escape from the dreary winters in central Ohio, we went to Tucson, Arizona a couple of times. The Sonoran Desert is a very interesting ecosystem. Saguaro National Park has two districts, east and west, very different from each other. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is a nice place to learn about the area. I particularly enjoyed the hummingbird aviary. There is a mineral (gem) museum on the campus of University of Arizona. Mission San Xavier del Bac is lovely. I enjoyed shopping at Native Seeds in the downtown area.

If you're into the ocean and beaches, the Florida Keys are nice. We aren't, but were curious. We did learn where all the colors on Florida Keys t-shirts come from! The water is truly beautiful. We started in Miami's South Beach, as Denis has a fondness for Art Deco architecture. I wanted to see Everglades National Park. He wanted Key West as well. It's something like a four hour drive along the only road that goes all the way to Key West. (We also tried to see Key Biscayne National Park, at least the land portion, but it was still closed following the damage done by Hurricane Andrew six months earlier.) On such a trip, you could see a variety of things.


Posted by
2353 posts

I would so no to the northeast in January - lousy vacation weather.

The Florida Keys - we drove the Overseas Highway - it was like the land that time forgot! You could tell most of what is on the highway was built in the 1940's - 1960's - there were many vacant buildings. If you are into diving then the Keys might make sense. Key West the largest town has a small downtown area with shops, restaurants & galleries - the rest of the town is unremarkable and.

Texas - even South Texas can get chilly in January but is usually pretty nice. San Antonio is a great place - the Riverwalk is a fun shopping, eating area downtown and the Alamo is an interesting site. A day trip to the hill country you will experience the Texas wine country and the proud German heritage there. The Natural Bridge Caverns are a popular visit as is the zoo, several historic missions and several art museums.

The southeast coast would be a nice trip - Charleston, Savannah & St. Augustine.

Posted by
13700 posts

Tough one as the top contenders on my personal must-see list - that you haven't yet done - are the "Mighty 5" national parks in Utah, Santa Fe (New Mexico), Olympic National Park (Washington)... but not in January.

How about San Diego? I won't go into the list of things to do but there's a lot to choose from:

You might see some rain but that's going to be a possibility in quite a lot of places at that time of the year. Even if you can't do it this year, do put Santa Fe on your list for the future if history/culture is your thing? That one is simply loaded with it, and the architecture and food are terrific. Nice day trips to Taos pueblo and Bandelier National Monument, too.

Posted by
6879 posts

I would stick to either the southern states or California...southern CA especially can't be beat all year round and there is plenty to do there (too much to mention). Since you have 10 days, CA would likely offer the most diversity in that time frame. San Diego, LA, Orange County, drive up the coast....possibilities are endless.

I too would vote for Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA which are driving distances from one another. Lots of interesting places in between - plantations, towns like Summerville and Beaufort, etc. Florida and the Keys are always a hit in the winter time but lodging is really pricey at that time (it seems that everyone from New England and East Coast goes there to escape). Key West and the Keys are very special and worth visiting.

I went to San Antonio, TX last year at end of February and it was COLD (I think perhaps a little unusually so)! Could not believe it. But I highly recommend what's called the Hill Country in Texas - beautiful! That includes using San Antoni as base and heading out to Bandera, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, New Breunfels, Gruene, etc. You can even see Lyndon Johnson's ranch along the long loop. You'll get a feel of German Taxes in the Hill Country. It's worth spacing it out over several days - a day trip is too much depending on how many small/er towns you'd like to stop in. With 10 days, you can throw in Austin and surroundings as well, which is another base for the Hill Country.

Posted by
1104 posts

I would say either the Boston area, Pennsylvania as a whole with history and winery trails, or the Charleston and Savannah suggestions.

Posted by
1733 posts

If you do opt for the Savannah/Charleston area, you could also go ~40-50 miles north of Charleston to Murrells Inlet, SC, which has Brookgreen Gardens (an impressive outdoor sculpture park), and Huntington Beach State Park (a wonderful wildlife refuge, and also Atalaya Castle). If you're into traditional crafts, while in that general area, keep an eye out for Gullah ladies selling baskets woven from sweet grass and pine straw (please do not photograph the ladies, however).

Posted by
351 posts

I am from Charleston and currently live in Savannah. They are 2 hours apart and the drive between them is scenic - through the marshes. In Charleston, you have the historic downtown with good hotels, B&B Inns and restaurants. In January, you could take a carriage or walking tour, see house museums, visit the aquarium, take a boat out to Fort Sumter or go visit Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island. Then there are plantations that can be visited. Boone Hall Plantation is in Mt. Pleasant and Drayton Hall, Magnolia Hall and Middleton Place Gardens are "West of the Ashley." If you enjoy such things, you can go tour the Yorktown Aircraft Carrier at Patriots Point, and you can also walk over the big bridge that separates downtown Charleston from Mt. Pleasant. You can also go see the Hunley civil war era submarine which has been recovered. If you prefer the beach, you can get favorable winter rates at Kiawah Island and rent bikes to ride around, walk on the beach, play tennis or go golfing. The inn there has a large indoor pool. Charleston can keep you entertained for a week, but I would at least give it 4 nights.

En route to Savannah, a stop in Beaufort is fun. We have ridden bicycles all over, stopping for a nice lunch or to tour a church and cemetary. Off of Beaufort, there is Hunting Island State Park which is lovely and you can climb the lighthouse there. Hilton Head Island is also between, and in January, you can usually enjoy walking on the beach. From Hilton Head Island, you can get a boat to Daufauski Island which is very pretty to tour or stay.

Once in Savannah, the activities are similar to those in Charleston, minus the plantations - carriage rides, house tours, walking, biking, some museums. Savannah is particularly nice to walk due to it's grid-layout with wooded squares. You can go out to Fort Pulaski - masonry, or drive down to Richmond Hill to see for Fort McAllister - earthen. Out near the interstate, there is the Mighty Eighth Airforce Museum.

South of Savannah I can also recommend St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. These two can be reached by car and are worth the visit. St. Simon's Island has good resorts and also Fort Frederica National Monument which you can visit. Jekyll Island was a "millionaires club" a century and more ago and their "cottages" are available to tour. You can either stay in the hotel which was their clubhouse, or have a meal there which is fun. Biking on Jekyll is especially fun as there are lots of wooded paths, and low traffic roads.

I think I could write a similar glowing recommendation for driving the Florida Keys, starting with Everglades National Park and working your way down. I have done it several times, and it's one of my favorites. It will be more reliably warm than Charleston and Savannah in January.

Posted by
3580 posts

Anywhere or everywhere in Hawaii. Rent a car. Visit more than one Island. My preference is the Big Island. Many airbnb places listed.

Posted by
6950 posts

U.S. vacations in January if you're not up to winter sports are best limited to California and the Deep South--below Orlando. The Charleston/Savannah area is still very cold and the weather unpredictable.
Our last year's winter vacation was Las Vegas, Hawaii and San Francisco.
Another great trip is to fly to Puerto Rico and take a cruise to the Southern Caribbean. Ships hit a new island every day and the region has some of the worlds' best weather.

Posted by
21 posts

How about a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands??? Or a Mexican Riviera cruise??

Or just get in your car and go....

Posted by
338 posts

Thank you so much for all the responses this far. Some really great ideas.

I am liking the Charleston/Savanah idea so more details ideas will be appreciated.

I also like the California ideas but leaning toward the history and the SE.

I think I previously mentioned we've been to Hawaii twice and New Orleans multiple times so those aren't very intriguing to me at this point. We have also flown to Puerto Rico and then the Southern Caribbean cruise.

I don't believe skiing or cold weather will be something we're looking for either

Any other ideas you have are certainly welcome.

Posted by
1002 posts

David in AL - Bless your heart, thinking south of Orlando is the "deep South" ... that made me laugh out loud. Anything below Daytona is south New England or north Cuba. You'll find nothing of the South down in that neck of the woods. :-)

Posted by
6879 posts

If you opt for CA, this is a great guide to have (no need to reinvent the wheel - they do a great job putting together itineraries for road trips). I'm partial to CA - spent over 20 years living there and really loved it.

Charleston and Savannah too have a very robust tourism sector. I get their e-mails all the time since I signed up.
Nearby Hilton Head....and Beaufort

Posted by
16883 posts

I've enjoyed New York City for a couple of visits in January. There's always a ton to see and most sidewalks are kept well clear of snow. If you go, consider the Tenement Museum on the lower east side.

I also enjoyed Charleston, Beaufort, and Savannah this past early December, when the weather was about 70 degrees for the Charleston Christmas parade. History, architecture, attitude, and moss all felt quite different from my part of the US, similar to the way that New Orleans does.

Posted by
334 posts

January may be the right time to visit Texas and New Mexico. There are several under-appreciated National Parks (Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands) that are grouped pretty close together in west Texas and southeast New Mexico. While spring or fall may be the ideal time to visit, winter is preferable over summer. Usually summer has very hot temperatures and the chance of severe thunderstorms. Just know that even in winter, it can get cold and that you can have snow depending on where you are in the mountains.

Another possibility is a south Texas trip where you could visit San Antonio, Austin, and the gulf. Depending on how much time you have, you could include Houston, beach time at South Padre Island, and/or the Texas Hill Country. Of course, it all depends on tastes and how you want to spend your days.

Posted by
334 posts

Agnes, you're right that February of last year was unusually cold! All of us who live here were disappointed because we got a very poor wildflower/bluebonnet season because of it. This most recent spring was awesome. Plenty of rain recently and we didn't have a cold snap after the flowers starting coming out. Also, I liked your write-up of my area (San Antonio, Austin, Hill Country). I've lived here for so long now, I forget how a traveler sees it.

Posted by
914 posts

I'd echo San Diego (be sure to also go to Coronado) or San Francisco. You may also want to look at the Amtrak service on the west coast and connect a couple California cities together. The Carolinas and Georgia coast are laid back and interesting for history. It's on the other side of North Carolina and in the mountains, but I think everyone should see the Biltmore at least once.
Good luck with your decision!