Seagulls at sunrise on South Padre Island, Texas.

9 Best Towns in the Southern United States for a Winter Getaway

Whether travelers seek a weekend escape, a weeklong getaway, or a Christmas break with their family, these southern towns guarantee a memorable holiday season. Head to California for an atypical Golden State getaway, which features skiing and mountainous adventures, or discover the glorious beaches of South Padre Island in Texas, with temperatures in the 70s, to enjoy water pursuits.

With pleasant winter temperatures, discounted hotels, and winter sales, the Southern soul food and hospitality will melt any frozen grimace right off your face. Dahlonega is straight from Hallmark's "Christmas in Homestead," while Harrisonburg is deep within the beautiful Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia! There's also the small Delaware town of Rehoboth Beach for an intimate escape with an iconic boardwalk and no sales tax to enjoy holiday shopping and wintery steals. 

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Archway for Bay of St. Louis Mississippi, a coastal beach town.
Archway for Bay of St. Louis Mississippi, a coastal beach town. Image credit clayton garrison via Shutterstock.

Proudly marketing itself as "a place apart," Bay St. Louis is, the coolest small town, according to BudgetTravel, will appease all tastes on a winter getaway. As a real foodie paradise, visitors can indulge on a budget with a diverse and highly reputable Bay's restaurant scene. From southern-style brunches to decadent casino resort creations, there are also fresh-caught seafood places overlooking the Gulf. Voted as one of the best places to live in the state, Bay St. Louis offers an intimate seaside atmosphere with a pet-friendly character along the white-sanded beaches, perfect for families and couples. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, Snowflakes in the Bay features century-old live oaks sporting twinkling snowflakes, along with the exciting Bay St. Louis Christmas Parade early in December.

Whether seeking action or some leisurely indulging, Bay St. Louis is a lovely hideaway for one nice, easy, and warm southern escape, clocking winter temperatures in the 60s. Explore the tranquil Blue Bay on a fishing charter or a cruise and prowl downtown galleries, antique shops, and local historical attractions. The beautiful harbor town, with its friendly folks and historic buildings, embodies the authentic southern charm, blending coastal living with a unique Mississippi culture. There is the fancy Pearl Hotel by the shore, while Hollywood Casino & Resort Gulf Coast is surprisingly affordable, with easy access to coastal chain towns like Gulfport and Biloxi.

Big Bear Lake, California

Aerial view of Big Bear Lake and town in California in winter
Aerial view of Big Bear Lake and town in California. 

With its two alpine resorts, Big Bear, a charming lakeside town, is groomed to a "t" for your ideal winter escape with adventures and skiing. From Bear Mountain to Snow Summit, travelers can enjoy runs and terrain parks for all levels of powder-shredding and snowboarding with mountain views. At the same time, the great apres ski scene lets you relax in comfort, watching the snowflakes over hearty cuisine and a drinking scene. Offering a unique and destination winter getaway from SoCal, there is something for everyone to enjoy off-slope here in the San Bernardino Mountains! You can take a sightseeing cruise around the lake with views of the alien-like Big Bear Solar Observatory, where scientists work and stay!

The thrills come from the sensation that the slopes below are an ant hill while soaring high on a zip line or riding with the Soaring Eagle from the base of the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Take an innertube adventure or bobsled-style down an alpine hill. With captivating nature this time of year, can explore in a pair of snowshoes with miles up to miles of trails, enjoy bird watching for wintering bald eagles, and visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. Big Bear Lake Village is great to indulge in while devouring meals or ravaging through a holiday shopping scene, while the Lagonita Lodge offers the best lake views near the peninsula-like Gibraltar Point.

Dahlonega, Georgia

Horse back riders in single file going uphill.
Horseback riders going uphill in Dahlonega, Georgia in winter. Image credit ARYEVA via Shutterstock.

Straight from Hallmark's "Christmas in Homestead," Dahlonega feels unreal with its hallmark experiences like richly flowing wines, waterfalls, and a historic heart literally made from gold! One of the south's best destinations with a retro vibe and cozy atmosphere, the Square is revved up for the holidays under lights, garlands, and the 12-foot Christmas tree. For immediate nature access, Lake Zweger to the north offers picnic tables to relax with views, while the scenic Yahoola Creek Park just south features trails and a photogenic, rustic bridge.

The gorgeous, strollable downtown is packed with kid-friendly and thrilling activities through December for a memorable holiday escape, such as gingerbread house contests, caroling, and the old-fashioned Christmas market! Best of all, you can enjoy the festive atmosphere with the tree lighting against the mountainous backdrop. With six North Georgia Wine Country wineries nearby, it is easy to unwind over tastings and stock up for a party back home! Wind down at the reputable Smith House near the Dahlonega Gold Museum in the center, or choose the reliable Dahlonega Mountain Inn at half the price.

Frostburg, Maryland

Historic main street in Frostburg, Maryland.
Historic main street in Frostburg, Maryland.

Just a sliver in the panoramic Allegheny Mountains, Frostburg is both quiet and vibrant, with a quaint brick-lined downtown and a state university. Attracting wintering birds to the south, where the rolling green hills sprawl along western Maryland's panhandle between Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Frostburg is a perfect mountain getaway with abundant arts and diverse culture. Boasting a century-old history as a mining town along the first federally funded highway, there is something for everyone in the holiday atmosphere. You can grab a seasonal drink from a local coffee shop and prowl for 19th- and 20th-century relics like the train depot and stately homes.

Prettifying itself after the booming commerce and coal industry, the historic Main Street relinquishes the charms of the "old South." It is ideal for a blissful weekend stroll with mountain views, activities, and restaurants that cash in on its festive name, like Frostburg Freeze, an all-season famous ice cream shop. From Christmas movies at the Palace Theater to the Elf Olympics, there is also the excellent Bending Glass Art shop near the Community Park for a sunny day outdoors! The top-rated Gunter Hotel is near the mega-popular Sand Springs Saloon & Steakhouse.

Harrisonburg, Virginia

View of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia
View of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

There is no better getaway in the state than a winter escape deep into the beautiful Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia! Harrisonburg, an award-winning Main Street community, is "friendly by nature" with the surrounding George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and Shenandoah National Park. Designated the First Arts and Cultural District and the First Culinary District of Virginia, it celebrates the International Festival and the holiday season with music, food, and cultural festivities worldwide. The valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers 360-degree views of the ancient mountain ranges right from the historic district. It would be a real Christmas miracle to catch it in the snow, but this would be a real weather anomaly.

Fitting in countless restaurants and five craft breweries, the town of around 50,000 residents retains a homegrown feel. It is a quick scenic ride for adventures and skiing, from parks, trails, and waterways to the Massanutten and Wintergreen ski resorts. Warm up at local favorites such as Bella Luna or Black Sheep for some soulful hospitality and treats. Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University offer world-class entertainment in the arts, a unique arboretum, and an enthralling planetarium. The reliable Hotel Madison has a conference center downtown for convenient accommodation, while By the Side of the Road Inn & Cottages offers easy nature access.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Harbor Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Harbor Town Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Hilton Head Island is a great escape from winter cold and replaces it with the white-sand fringe of beaches, and it is a place where lifelong family memories are made. The splendid Green Shell Park features exotic-looking plants and drooping willows, while the famous Jarvis Creek Fitness Trail has an adventurous playground where kids can stay active. Hilton Head sits spoiled in nature with towering live oaks, tidal creeks, and green spaces, while Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, across a sliver of water, is ideal for birding. From the refreshing Sea Pines Forest Preserve to over 60 miles of leisure pathways, sit back and get blissfully lost in natural splendor on a dolphin-watching cruise and take in the views from the Windmill Harbor.

Blending refined coastal elegance with southern small-town charm, check out the iconic Old Oyster Factory Restaurant and the most casual Fishcamp on Broad Creek for some fantastic comfort food. Boasting art galleries and live performances, explore the vibrant living history of the island’s thriving Gullah community, among other cultural treasures. Why wait for the summer rush when the glorious 60-degree winter temperatures are perfect for paddling the 11-mile lagoon at Palmetto Dunes, world-class golf, and better rates at The Omni Hilton Head with its pampering Ocean Tides spa? Combine some holiday shopping with a unique souvenir hunt, or decorate your home through locally owned shops, artisanal farmer's markets, and unique boutiques.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware
Boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. Image credit Ritu Manoj Jethani via Shutterstock.

This underrated summertime beach town offers a great winter getaway with even more freedom to roam and take in scenery from the beaches. Best of all, with dogs only allowed from October 1 through April 30, you can get active and play with your pup, including along the state park's beaches and trails. Herring Point is always dog-friendly, but the nearby town of Lewes hosts Winter WonderFest! Rehoboth Beach is a great romantic winter escape, with cheaper lodging for a couple's suite and intimate strolls along the beach.

The reliable Boardwalk Plaza Hotel offers ocean-view rooms and private balconies, while the iconic boardwalk features shops, restaurants, and romantic sunsets! While the girls indulge in retail therapy, the men can enjoy a fine choice of breweries and pubs here. Utterly free of sales tax, Rehoboth Beach is a spectacular holiday shopping destination with cute downtown shops while saving a few bucks! If headed in December, bring the kids on the getaway and bring them to the Santa Claus parade!

Sedona, Arizona

Travel in Devil's Bridge Trail, scenic view panoramic landscape, Sedona
Travel in Devil's Bridge Trail, Sedona. 

Sedona, a small town that has earned itself a famous name in the nation for its spectacular nature and becomes particularly lively in the wake of winter. Due to summertime monsoons and fiery hot temperatures, wintering birds flock to this southern town, which has a popular trail system and a variety of parks. On the way to the Grand Canyon, the breathtaking town in northern Arizona is a perfect way to upgrade your American Southwest adventure. It is all about the outdoors here, encouraging a mindful Christmas break to reset and return as a refocused and rejuvenated version of yourself. From yoga amid the mighty red rocks to The Wilde Resort and Spa mimicking nature's colors, together with the unique and eclectic culture, Sedona will chase away any winter blues!

Travelers here can stay active or relax, as well as book a budget hotel like Sugar Loaf Lodge or a vacation rental and visit the Grand Canyon on a day trip. A destination hotspot for mountain bikers and hikers, there are also jeep tours and hiking trails with spectacular views like Slide Rock and Oak Creek Canyon that attract artists, nature photographers, and even filmmakers. The stunning area with spiritual healing, massages, and energy vortexes will have your senses buzzing for days! While there is a chance to see snow, visitors can expect temperatures to stay in the 60s and 80s—perfect for outdoor adventures through the winter under sunny and clear skies.

South Padre Island, Texas

Seagulls at sunrise on South Padre Island Texas
Seagulls at sunrise on South Padre Island, Texas.

Want to get as far away from the snow as possible? Then South Padre Island is the perfect destination in the second-largest state. This Gulf Coast barrier island gem has steady wintertime temperatures in the 60s and 70s—perfect to escape the cold and even get some water activity in! With year-round sunshine, enjoy building sand castles with your family. The windy weather and bright blue surf are great for a fun deep-sea fishing trip, in addition to parasailing, flyboarding, windsurfing, sailing, and kiteboarding. Whether looking for a family jam at Gravity Park or a holiday shopping spree, there are plentiful shops and booths for gifts, souvenirs, and unique pieces to upgrade or decorate your home for Christmas.

Home to just over 2,000, allegedly the best beach towns in Texas, is full of talented artists to see at work, buy from, or nurture your creative side with the island nature as your muse. You can pay a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc., which rehabilitates and releases sick and hurt turtles into the sea, while the year-round South Padre Island Farmers' Market is minutes away along the highway to the beachfront Edwin King Atwood Park. Keep driving further to South Padre Island Adventure Park, End of Road SPI, and Sea Shell Beach, or come back to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. With reliable places like Pearl South Padre or a private beachfront rental, serene ocean views are guaranteed.

Travelers will have a new favorite season after visiting any of these towns, each with a unique and eclectic culture. Dahlonega's infectious festivities along the gorgeous downtown will stay in your memories longer than the bottles from its wine trail will last, while Sedona's warmth will chase away the winter blues. No matter the small town you visit this winter, visitors will be well-taken care of!

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