I feel that one of the biggest mistakes that people make when traveling is not taking into account the seasons that they are traveling in. What you can visit and do in New York City is totally different in the summer than it is in the winter. This is true of almost any city.
One of the last things that someone who is in the midst of planning a trip wants to hear is that there is yet another factor that they will have to take into consideration. Luckily, this list will do a lot of the work for you. This article will discuss what we think are the 10 best cities to visit in the summer and the 10 best in winter. I have tried to limit this article to cities that are major tourist destinations but I have included a few oddballs for flavor. I think you will find that cities in the southern part of the United States are best visited during the winter while cities along the northwestern and northeastern coasts are much more enjoyable in the summer months.
If you can think of any cities that are particularly better in the summer or winter months, or if you disagree with where I have placed some of my entries, feel free to leave a message in the comments section.
20 Winter - Austin, Texas - Fewer crowds and less heat
Austin is a very cool city. This artsy city in Texas has managed to escape many of the problems and stereotypes that plague the rest of the Deep South and establish itself as an island of progressiveness in a sea of red.
The problem with Austin is that, much like the rest of Texas, it is extremely hot at some points of the year. Therefore, the best time to visit is during the winter. Most of the students from the University of Texas are also gone during this time, so the city is less crowded.
19 Winter - New York City - worth braving the cold for
I understand that it is freezing cold during the winter, but New York City is still a must-visit during Christmas time. Most of the other winter destinations in this article are warm year-round, however, New York City is worth braving the cold for.
The Big Apple has a ton of things to see and do at any point of the year but around this time they really pump things up a notch. The famous tree and ice-skating rink at the Rockefeller Center are insanely popular and some of the biggest toy stores around town have huge displays during the holidays.
18 Summer - Bar Harbor - Maine's Beautiful coast
The coast of Maine is beautiful in the summer. It is during the months of June and July that I understand why the Puritans thought the Americas were their promised land. They must have been traumatized when the winter arrived but that is another story.
Of all the coastal towns in Maine, Bar Harbor is probably the best. It has been a tourist destination for decades, so it has all the hotels and restaurants that you could ask for. If you can come at the end of spring or beginning of summer, you should also be able to avoid Bar Harbor being too crowded.
17 Winter - Miami - It still feels like summer
The best thing about winter in Miami is that it doesn't seem like winter there. Miami is closer to the equator than any city in the United States so it doesn't experience the season changes that other parts of the country do. This is terrible in the sweltering heat of the summer but it's pretty great not having any snow during the winter. Hurricane season also ends in the winter, so you don't have to worry about any major storms if you stay during the winter.
The only real problem is the influx of tourists trying to escape the snow from up north.
16 Summer - Virginia Beach - A great beach town experience
Some people might argue that it is best to visit Virginia Beach in the winter months when the rest of the country is frozen solid, but I disagree. For starters, Virginia Beach isn't so far south that it stays warm all year round. During the winter, in fact, the water in the ocean is rarely warm enough to swim in.
In the summer, the water is warm and the town starts to come alive. All of the shops will be open and you can get the legitimate beach town experience, something that is unavailable when everything is boarded up during the winter.
15 Winter - Los Angeles - For When you're missing the sun
Say that you live in the northern part of the United States and this winter had been especially bad for you. It snows every day and it seems like you haven't seen the sun in years instead of just months. You know where would be a good place to go? Los Angeles.
The City of Angels has its faults but it certainly beats freezing your butt off all winter in cities like Boston and Chicago. LA never sees any significant accumulation of snow and even in the winter months, the temperature is always manageable.
14 Summer - Boston - Mild temps make for perfect activities
I have only lived in Boston for a year but I have to admit, I am a fan of these mild summers. There have been only two weeks where the weather was unbearably hot and the rest of the time the nights and days have been the perfect temperature.
Since the weather is much milder than it is in winter, you can finally enjoy all the outdoor activities that Boston has to offer. The harbor is very popular in the warmer months and there are several state parks, just outside of the city, which people can go to.
13 Winter - Las Vegas - You'll Be Indoors Anyway
Las Vegas is the perfect winter vacation. Even in places that don't typically see season changes, there is always the chance that they will experience a few days of winter storms. If these are the days that you are visiting the city, then you might be stuck inside for your entire vacation. Vegas solves a lot of these problems because you will probably spend a lot of your time indoors anyway.
Vegas' two major attractions are casinos and performance shows. You don't need nice weather for either of these things. If this wasn’t good enough, the dry heat of Nevada is milder in the winter, so the few moments that you do spend outside will be more pleasant.
12 Summer - Minneapolis - Open for business
One thing that you can’t say about the citizens of Minnesota is that they are unprepared for winter. If you go to the city from December to March, you will find that businesses close early during the winter and that there is hardly anyone on the street when it gets cold.
The winter tourists would be surprised to learn that Minneapolis is a totally different place during the summer months. This is the time when most visitors come to Minnesota and city officials and businesses do their best to take advantage of this influx of people. There are several festivals that happen all summer within the city.
11 Winter - San Diego - beautiful weather year-round
San Diego is beautiful year-round. It never really gets cold in that part of the country and this section of California doesn't feel the full brunt of the hurricane season. With that being said, San Diego in the winter is hard to beat.
The only fault about visiting this city is that the main attractions, like the San Diego Zoo, tend to get overcrowded. Visiting in the winter does a lot to solve this problem. There aren't as many tourists at that time of the year and even the residents are less likely to be out visiting the local attractions.
10 Summer - Chicago - Let Lake Michigan Play Host
The “windy city” is a very adept nickname for the city of Chicago. And sometimes, that wind is cold. I have visited Chicago in the winter and I can attest that it was absolutely miserable. All that you want to do is find a place to escape the wind and cold. Chicago is much more enjoyable in the summer months. Many of the residents go to Lake Michigan for fun on the weekend and there are festivals sprinkled throughout the warmer months.
Everyone should visit Chicago at least one in their life and during the summer is the best time to have a truly enjoyable experience.
9 Winter - Washington D.C. - More Room To Move
I don’t know if there is another city in the United States (besides maybe New York City) that has as many things to do as Washington D.C. does.
The only unfortunate thing about all these attractions is that they get very crowded during the summer months. It is really hard to enjoy the Museum of Natural History when there are a group of toddlers (not associated with you) running around your ankles. Things are much better in the winter when there aren’t as many people around. All the Smithsonian Museums remain open during the winter, so you should still have plenty to do even when it is chilly outside.
8 Summer - Sunshine in liberal Seattle
Seattle is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. The plethora of jobs and liberal culture has attracted a ton of young people in recent years, despite the fact that the winters there are pretty miserable.
It doesn’t snow a lot in Seattle, so the winter months consist mostly of dreary freezing rains. Therefore, the best time to visit Seattle is during the summer. The weather is a lot better then and you will be able to fully enjoy all that the city has to offer. Just keep in mind that the line for the Space Needle can get super long during tourist season.
7 Winter - Charleston - Fantastic historical districts
For all of its faults (and there are certainly a lot in the history of this part of the country), Charleston is a beautiful city. City officials have done a good job of maintaining the towns historical districts and there is something awe-inspiring about the estates and mansions that still dot the landscape.
The problem with visiting Charleston during the summer is that it gets so ungodly hot. Charleston isn’t far from the coast but due to some natural oddity, you get almost no breeze from the ocean. Instead, you are stuck with the insane humidity that can literally take your breath away. During the winter is a much better time to enjoy this beautiful southern city.
6 Summer - Pittsburgh - Don't miss out on Pickle Fest
I am an advocate for visiting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at any time of the year. The city is very cheap and there are a ton of attractions and things to do while you are there. Things get even better during the summer.
Pittsburgh is a very young city, so there is a huge base for festivals, obstacle courses, and other fun, unique activities. I have featured my favorite of these in the picture above. Pittsburgh’s Pickle Fest is a huge event that stretches from PNC Park (where the local baseball team plays), across a bridge, and into downtown. Anything pickle related that you could ever want can be found here.
5 Winter - Jackson Hole, WY - Hop over to Yellowstone
Most of our readers have probably never heard of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This small town in rural Wyoming is better known for being the closest town to Yellowstone National Park.
Everyone grows up hearing about Yellowstone and its natural wonders but very few people from the USA actually get to visit the park in their lifetime. Don’t be one of the people who never take a trip to Yellowstone. I do not have the descriptive prowess to explain how awe-inspiring this nature preserve is.
One issue with Yellowstone is that it gets extremely crowded in the summer. Things are totally different in the winter, there is a good chance that you will have an entire section of the park to yourself.
4 Summer - Escape the Heat In Hilly San Francisco
Everyone knows about the sunshine and beaches in California but the summer is actually not the best time for most cities on the West Coast. Not only do things tend to be overcrowded at this time of the year but unless you are physically on the coast, things can get pretty unbearably hot during the summer months.
San Francisco is in the northern part of California, so things tend to be a little better there. The city doesn’t see the high temperatures that occur in Los Angeles and San Diego, and the hills provide some protection from the sun.
3 Winter - The Only Time To Visit Atlanta
There is probably not another city that is more representative of the Deep South than Atlanta, Georgia. Whether it's the people or the culture, Atlanta represents true southerners in a way that few other cities can. There are also several important landmarks in the city, including the Hank Aaron Museum and the original Coca-Cola factory.
The problem with visiting Atlanta is that the city gets extremely hot, especially in the summer. Things are much better in the winter when you can walk down the street without being covered in sweat. Sometimes Atlanta also experiences power outages in the summer, you don’t want to get stuck in a large hotel with AC.
2 Summer - Denver - There’s Not As Much Sun When You're A Mile High
Denver is quickly becoming a go-to destination for tourists, especially young tourists. A lot of people visit during the winter in order to enjoy the various ski slopes nearby. I would argue, however, that you are much better off visiting Colorado's capital city in the summer.
Denver is known for its mile-high altitude but this can make things pretty dicey in the winter. The city gets some bad snow storms and you do not want to spend your entire vacation stuck in your hotel because of a blizzard.
For whatever reason, travel to and from Denver is also much cheaper during the warmer months.
1 Winter - Saint Louis - They go all out for the holiday season
There might not be another city in the entire United States that is overlooked as often as St. Louis. There is a noticeable east and west coast bias in the media, so things that happen in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions are largely ignored. But just because cable TV ignores the city of St. Louis doesn't mean that you should.
The city is enjoyable to visit year-round but I have heard that the best time to visit is during the holiday season. St. Louis goes all out for Christmas and New Year and there is a ton of stuff to do during these months.