In December, the world transforms. The Northern Hemisphere sees winter’s touch with snow and chill, while the Southern Hemisphere basks in summer’s warmth.
Travelers can choose anything from snow-capped landscapes ideal for winter sports to sunlit beaches for relaxation. As the year-end approaches, many places come alive with holiday preparations, each offering unique cultural experiences.
Whether it’s the allure of festive markets, the thrill of outdoor adventures, or simply exploring new terrains, December provides something for every traveler.
But where should you go? Here are the 10 best destinations to visit in December.
Imagine a place where the winter comes alive — that’s Breckenridge in December. Picture world-class ski slopes, cozy family sleigh rides and thrilling snowmobile adventures. Not to mention, the history here is captivating. December’s Ullr Fest is also a special treat for travelers. The festival is a local favorite held in honor of Ullr, the Norse god of snow. (We’re hoping he blesses us with plenty of powder.)
There’s also plenty to explore in nearby towns like Frisco and Leadville; less than an hour away, you can take a rejuvenating dip at Indian Hot Springs. Or, weather permitting, head to Rocky Mountain National Park to marvel at its natural beauty.
If you’re still in Breckenridge come January, you’re in for a spectacle. During the International Snow Sculpture Championships, artists carve massive snow blocks into stunning creations.
TPG tip: Hyatt Vacation Club at The Ranahan offers a spectacular Rocky Mountain retreat with premium skiing, winter escapades, boating, mountain biking and year-round family-friendly outdoor activities. It’s available for about $205 in December, or 21,000 World of Hyatt Points per night.
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When winter arrives, Truckee transforms into a snow-draped haven. From peaceful snowshoe treks to exciting family sledding spots, there’s something for everyone here. For skiing enthusiasts, some of the region’s best slopes await. Beyond winter sports, the stunning beauty of nearby Lake Tahoe is a must-see.
After a day in the snow, explore downtown Truckee. It offers museums full of rich local history, and its numerous breweries and eateries provide a taste of the town’s culture. You can even opt for a guided tour of the town.
TPG tip: Book a stay at SpringHill Suites Truckee for about 37,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or $282 per night.
Dorado, Puerto Rico
Seeking a warm winter getaway? Dorado sits on Puerto Rico‘s stunning Caribbean coastline, and it boasts white-sand beaches perfect for surfing, swimming and many family-friendly adventures.
A short drive away, San Juan immerses you in a vibrant blend of culture, music and culinary delights. Here, you can experience cultural festivities throughout the year, savor delicious local dishes and sway to the rhythms of salsa, bomba and plena echoing from the city’s picturesque squares.
Beyond that, the region offers thrilling activities like hang gliding and paragliding. For those keen to explore, guided tours can lead you to hidden beaches and lush tropical paths. Don’t miss out on the YuYu Cave — a captivating and educational spot for young adventurers who love nature.
TPG tip: Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a great home base for exploring the area and is available from $1,645 or 215,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
During the holidays, Zurich becomes a festive paradise. Streets shimmer with lights, and Christmas markets spring to life. Highlights include Burkliplatz’s candle dipping, the enchanting “Marlitram” fairy tale tram and the singing choirs at Werdmuhleplatz, accompanied by its famed “Singing Christmas Tree.”
Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Station, one of Europe’s largest indoor Christmas markets, boasts a radiant tree adorned with Swarovski crystals. The nostalgic Dorfli market in Old Town offers a vintage charm with fondue and artisanal goods.
For a warm treat, stop by Cafe Felix and choose from a medley of hot chocolate iterations. Or, savor history at the luxury confectioner Sprungli, which has been in operation since 1836. For elevated dining, Restaurant Felsenegg provides fondue with a stunning city view.
Beyond these, visitors can skate, toboggan or take a scenic fondue eTukTuk ride. Zurich’s thermal baths and saunas overlooking Lake Zurich promise relaxation. For artsy souls, the “Herzebaracke” floating theater offers diverse performances by the lake from Nov. 1, 2023, to March 10, 2024.
TPG tip: Stay near the heart of town at Crowne Plaza Zurich for around $146 or 30,000 IHG rewards points per night.
In December, Japan lights up in celebration, offering visitors a magical experience. From Tokyo’s Omotesando Illuminations, aglow with around 900,000 lights, to Ashikaga Flower Park’s radiant 5-million-light display, the country is a spectacle. Mie Prefecture’s Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination lets guests immerse themselves in LED light fields and explore captivating light tunnels.
Meanwhile, Kobe’s touching Luminarie shines in remembrance of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake victims. December also welcomes ski enthusiasts as Japan’s winter sports season begins.
From the breathtaking views at Shiga Kogen Ski Area in Nagano — with its Olympic-endorsed slopes — to the sought-after resorts in Niigata — easily accessible from Tokyo — skiing here is a dream. But there’s more to Niigata than just skiing: Indulge in its renowned hot springs and savor its exquisite seafood, rice and sake.
TPG tip: Book a room at the Conrad Tokyo for $389 or 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Dubai in December is a whole different vibe. The scorching heat takes a backseat, making way for cooler days. This means beach picnics, outdoor adventures and late-night strolls become even more inviting. And then there’s the festive buzz. Everywhere you look, from the towering skyscrapers to the cozy lanes, Dubai sparkles with holiday decorations.
It’s not just about twinkling lights, though. The city pulses with events — think bustling markets, lively performances and the aroma of seasonal treats filling the air. Against the backdrop of the vast desert and the iconic skyline, the festive cheer feels even more special. So, if you’re dreaming of a mix of relaxation, retail therapy and rich culture, Dubai is your go-to.
TPG tip: Book a room at La Ville Hotel & Suites City Walk for $586 or 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, or stay at the lavish Atlantis The Royal.
Traveling to the Bahamas becomes a breeze this December, thanks to several new flight routes. Delta Air Lines is launching a direct flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Nassau. For travelers on the West Coast, there’s good news, too: American Airlines is rolling out direct flights from Los Angeles and Seattle to Nassau.
Not to be left out, JetBlue is introducing a weekly nonstop service from LA. Once you touch down, the Bahamas offers a plethora of experiences. Dive into the clear waters, explore the world’s third-largest coral reef or swim with the wild pigs.
And if you’re into sailing, December is the prime time to visit. Events like The National Family Island Regatta showcase the region’s rich maritime heritage.
Just a quick 50-minute drive from Phoenix, Morristown is the perfect desert escape in December. The weather’s a treat with comfy temperatures in the 60s and 70s — a lovely switch from Arizona’s intense summer and the cold weather of other destinations.
If you love the outdoors, you’ll be in your element. Morristown’s desert beauty is a big draw, with opportunities to go hiking or 4×4 riding.
At night, the town’s clear December skies, away from bright city glows, offer some top-notch stargazing. Witness the breathtaking Geminids and Ursids Meteor Showers, peaking on Dec. 14-15 and 22-23, respectively. And there’s more to the celestial show: Mark your calendar for the New Moon on Dec. 13, the Winter Solstice on Dec. 22, and the Full Moon on Dec. 27.
TPG tip: Book a stay at Castle Hot Springs, which is an American Express Fine Hotels + Resort partner. Platinum cardholders receive 12 p.m. check-in (when available), room upgrade at check-in (when available), daily breakfast for two, $100 property credit to be used during the stay, complimentary Wi-Fi and 4 p.m. checkout guaranteed.
New York City
New York City in December is an enchanting experience. Imagine skating below the gleaming Rockefeller Center tree, surrounded by the city’s sparkling skyline. Fifth Avenue transforms into a festive paradise, with its department stores showcasing captivating holiday window displays.
Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights is a must-visit for those who admire festive lights. The neighborhood’s homes are grandly decorated for the holidays, and dedicated bus tours guide visitors through the most brilliantly lit blocks.
But the magic doesn’t stop there. You can also catch a classic holiday show at Radio City Music Hall, wander through the winter markets at Bryant Park or Central Park, and marvel at the giant holiday ornaments scattered throughout the city.
TPG tip: Book a stay at the Park South Hotel for $480 or 23,000 Hyatt World points, or check out TPG’s favorite hotels in New York City.
December is the perfect month to explore Uganda. The landscapes are at their greenest, yet the weather stays dry. This combination is ideal for gorilla tracking, an experience you won’t forget. Boat safaris also shine in December. As water sources become a focal point in the dry terrain, spotting the Big Five becomes even more thrilling.
While Uganda is gaining attention, it’s still a quieter East African destination. Venture beyond the natural wonders, too. The capital, Kampala, is a city full of surprises. From the lively Equator Bar in the Sheraton to the unique crocodile tail delicacy at The Lawns, there’s much to savor. And if you’re into art, the Afriart Gallery showcases contemporary pieces.
TPG tip: Book a stay at Hilton Garden Inn Kampala for $170 or 37,000 Hilton Honors points.