You usually don’t consider the colder months to be great road tripping months. Poor weather conditions, dangerous roads, and a lack of attractions can create the idea that the colder months are best spent at home or flying to a warmer destination. In reality, the United States is home to many different climates and cultures. Some corners of our country are not really built for winter road tripping, but other areas definitely are. For those that call some of our southern states home, winter road trips are still on the list of winter adventure possibilities. From Texas to Florida, these states experience winter in a much different way than many of the states a bit north of them. For that reason, the roads aren’t as dangerous, the weather isn’t as chilly, and their attractions are open all year round.
Texas definitely isn’t tropical in the winter months, but it’s not nearly as bad as many northern states. On occasion there is some snow, frost, and cold, but nothing that should deter you from taking a trip if you feel the need — though you might need a coat. Just be prepared, if there is snow, many areas aren’t prepared enough to keep roads safe. It probably won’t last long, but there won’t be many plows out either. For a fair amount of winter, however, the cold is moderate and road tripping is still an option for winter travel. For this trip, you’ll start out in Dallas and make your way to San Antonio making a few stops along the way. Each city has a ton of great food and attractions both listed and not.
Estimated Drive Time: 4 Hours 15 Minutes
Pro Tips: Most of us know the saying that “everything is bigger in Texas.” Well, many random roadside attractions take that principal and create giant cowboy boots, cowboys, or insects and turn them into a reason for tourists to stop. Keep an eye out and make sure you stop. It’ll be a great photo! Whether you’re taking a photo of some amazing scenery, or taking a fun giant bottle of Ketchup photo, be sure to practice good travel photography tips to capture the perfect memory.
1. Perot Museum of Nature and Science – Dallas, Texas
There are a ton of amazing things to see in Dallas. One of them is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. It’s a natural history and science museum in Dallas that is a great place for adults and children. Many of the exhibits are interactive and there are two campuses to make this a really fun-filled stop on your trip.
2. Dr Pepper Museum – Waco, Texas
This museum isn’t quite the same as the Perot museum, but still very interesting for people of all ages. It’s a unique little stop on this Texas trip that not many people think to take advantage of. There is a gift shop, lots of history, nostalgia, interactive games, and a soda making session if you’re interested.
3. HOPE Outdoor Gallery – Austin, Texas
HOPE Outdoor Gallery (HOG) is an educational art project located on 11th and Baylor in Austin and is one of the biggest outdoor galleries in the United States. Austin offers so many attractions for tourists, but this one is rather unique. The area is free to explore and offers so many great opportunities for photos. The large-scale art pieces cover walls in all directions showcasing some amazing artistry from the city of Austin.
4. Ripley’s Haunted Adventure – San Antonio, Texas
Being scared is not just a thing reserved for Halloween. At Ripley’s Haunted Adventure in San Antonio, you can scare yourselves during any part of the year. There is a Guinness World Record exhibit, the Haunted Adventure, Tomb Raider 3D, and more, depending on your interests.
This adventure is from eastern Oklahoma to western Arkansas. These states aren’t exactly great for sunbathing during the winter months, but the temperatures aren’t unbearable and the driving conditions are usually conducive to a road trip if you want to take one and take advantage of some winter travel in this region. However, it’s still great to check your weather road conditions first just to be sure. Many people might not peg this area when considering a travel destination, but they’d be wrong. Each state and city offer something magical and Oklahoma and Arkansas is no different. From Norman, Oklahoma to Little Rock, Arkansas, you’ll see the culture and geography that make these states shine.
Estimated Drive Time: 7 Hours
Pro Tips: This drive is the longest out of the bunch in terms of time on the road, so be sure you’re staying safe by getting enough sleep consistently. Drowsy driving can be dangerous, so don’t be afraid to break this trip up into a few overnight stops if you need.
1. National Weather Center – Norman, Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma is home to the National Weather Center. A tour of the center is free, though you should book in advance. Guests can look at the weather sphere, weather wall, and weather watching area. You can also see weather chasing vehicles and a tornado watch control room. This stop is so unique, and it’s amazing to see where so many meteorologists research weather.
2. Beavers Bend Resort Park – Broken Bow, Oklahoma
Beavers Bend Resort Park is a great place to visit no matter what time of year you decide to visit, though a lower number of visitors in the winter make this area serene and welcoming during the colder months. There are many nearby attractions that include hiking, restaurants, fishing, cabin rentals, and educational centers. If you’re looking for a great outdoor adventure during this time of year, Beavers Bend is perfect.
3. Bathhouse Row – Hot Springs, Arkansas
Bathhouse Row is a collection of bathhouses, buildings, and gardens built over the natural hot springs of Hot Springs, Arkansas. These turn-of-the-century buildings are now historic landmarks and showcase some of the amazing history and architecture of their time. Each bathhouse has its own architectural design from neoclassical to Spanish. Some of the buildings are still open so that you can fill yourself with its history and then relax with a soak.
4. Rock Town Distillery – Little Rock, Arkansas
Your last stop on this adventure is in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Rock Town Distillery is a really great little establishment with a tour and tasting room. It’s the first of its kind in Arkansas since prohibition and creates a few different items including whiskey, vodka, and moonshine.
The Louisissippi Spectacle begins in the swamps of New Orleans and ends in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. You probably won’t see bikini weather or winter coat weather, but you’ll find that this drive is doable throughout the year as long as road conditions remain stable. This area of the U.S. is rich in history and culture. The south is a place unlike any other and if you’re not from the area, you’ll see just how unique this region is. With only a four-hour drive between all four locations, you can make this a weekend trip or a week-long trip depending on how long you want to spend in each location — or add your own locations. Whichever way you do it, don’t let the winter months keep you from experiencing this spectacle through Louisiana and Mississippi.
Estimated Drive Time: 4 Hours 15 Minutes
Pro Tips: Many road trip enthusiasts tend to be those that would rather travel by RV. If that’s you, be sure to look up RV friendly areas and ways to commute into the city destinations if you choose. Just because you’re in an RV doesn’t mean you have to miss out on Bourbon Street. Maurepas is a great location for RV camping on this trip. Make some campfire hot chocolate, experience the swamp lands, and research a shuttle that might make city transport a bit easier when you want to head into places that may be more difficult to access by RV.
1. Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area Swamp Tour – Louisiana
You can’t plan a trip through Louisiana and not see their famed swamplands. The Maurepas Swamp Tours available are still going in the winter months, though the rising water in the swamps vary based on weather. If you are wandering around the trails and swamplands without a guide, be sure you’re in a safe area. Otherwise, this wildlife area offers geography you can only see in this part of the United States. You can take an airboat, walking tour, or kayak trip to see alligators, snakes, and other wildlife native to the area.
2. Bourbon Street – New Orleans, Louisiana
The next stop on this trip is not far from the first, but showcases an entirely new side of Louisiana compared to the swamp. Bourbon Street is a legend in its own right at the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans. It’s rich with history, chock full of entertainment, and a must-see if you’re anywhere near New Orleans.
3. Historic Train Depot – Bay St Louis, Mississippi
The Historic Train Depot in Bay St Louis, Mississippi is where this trip leaves Louisiana but still holds onto some similar history. The train depot has a Mardi Gras museum with amazing costumes of color and culture. There is also an antique section and Alice Moseley paintings and park outside. It may be small, but it’s charming and the history is great.
4. Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame – Jackson, Mississippi
This museum might not be for everyone, but even those who aren’t very into sports can appreciate some sports nostalgia or interactive games. Though it does highlight mostly Mississippi athletes, it’s still an important part of the state’s history and pride if you know anything about Mississippi. There are so many interactive sports games, and you can also rent it out for parties. It’s definitely a hidden gem in Jackson.
An Alabama-Georgia Trip
This trip through Alabama and Georgia will bounce between educational, outdoorsy, historical, and beautiful. Snow isn’t super common throughout much of these two states, but temperatures might be low. However, don’t let that stop you from taking a winter trip through these two great states. This short drive could be expanded to create an even longer journey through the south, or you can keep it at its four-hour mark and make it a weekend — though that’s just the drive time. Chances are you’ll want some time to explore these special destinations.
Estimated Drive Time: 5 Hours 20 Minutes
Pro Tips: Just because you might not run into snow related driving issues on the road doesn’t mean you should skip any vehicle maintenance. Change your oil, know how to check your tire tread, keep some tools in your vehicle, and stay alert when driving. Luckily, much of this trip will keep you near populated roads so if you do run into an issue with your vehicle, you should be able to get help fairly easily.
1. U.S. Space and Rocket Center – Huntsville, Alabama
Your first stop on this trip is at the U.S. Space and Rocket center in Huntsville, Alabama. This museum showcases rockets, artifacts, and exhibits that fill this museum with a plethora of amazing space history and achievements. You’ll see Apollo program items, astronaut training simulators, and the option of a bus tour to the Marshall Space Flight Center, among many other attractions. It’s a great stop that will entertain people of all ages and interests.
2. Noccalula Falls – Gadsden, Alabama
Noccalula Falls is a great outdoor destination in Alabama in the winter. Not only do they offer an amazing light spectacle during the Christmas, if any winter rain happens, the falls are even more spectacular. This is definitely not a destination specific to the warmer months. There are also paved walking trails through the park that the falls are a part of. Other attractions in the park include a petting zoo, playground, miniature golf, and camping areas. It’s definitely a must-see.
3. Atlanta Botanical Garden – Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is a rather large town with a ton to do in terms of restaurants, architecture, history, and entertainment. However, one great little location unknown to many tourists is the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The gardens offer an orchid house, plant tissue culture lab, canopy walk, conservatory, and the beautiful piece of plant art known as the Earth Goddess. This is truly a beautiful stop in Atlanta that will make you keep your camera in reach at all times.
4. Johnston-Felton-Hay House – Macon, Georgia
The Johnston-Felton-Hay House (Hay House) in Macon, Georgia is a historic residence and was built between 1855 and 1859. This mansion is a historic landmark and features amazing historic architecture and furniture. It’s ornate and beautiful, and it leaves visitors feeling the grandeur of the time that the home was built in.
The Florida Tip
The warmest journey on this road trip list exists in the southern tip of Florida. With winter temperatures that some states only see in the summer, it’s a great location for a winter road trip extravaganza. However, for this reason, Florida is a popular destination for winter travel. Some places offer locations with fewer people and more places to yourself, but Florida won’t be quite the same. Regardless, there are some amazing locations to visit on this trip through Florida’s southern tip.
Estimated Drive Time: 6 Hours 50 Minutes
Pro Tips: Unless you live close to Florida, chances are you’ll be flying to reach the beginning of this road trip. Be aware of the flight deals you may be able to snag to help save money. Things like accumulating miles, taking advantage of in-flight Wi-Fi texting, or looking up discounts you may be eligible for are all ways to save money on this leg of your journey.
1. Kennedy Space Center – Orlando, Florida
Orlando obviously has some pretty great tourist destinations like Universal Studios and Disney World, but don’t forget some destinations that Orlando offers that don’t pop up first in a Google search. The Kennedy Space Center in Orlando has been NASA’s primary launch center for human spaceflight since 1968. This center offers artifacts, history, interactive activities, simulators, and an entire day’s worth of things to see, so plan accordingly!
2. Tampa Theatre – Tampa, Florida
The Tampa Theatre in Tampa, Florida is a historic landmark in downtown Tampa. Since opening in 1926, it still plays a variety of films on a daily basis. This location is a great piece of history that still looks and feels as charming as it was intended — though the seats are updated and comfortable for modern visitors. For a tour you get to wander into the basement and hear the original organ played as well as hearing the history of this important Tampa landmark.
3. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park – Naples, Florida
It’s hard to turn down a beach in the winter time, especially one that is still worth going to while the rest of the U.S. is experiencing much colder temperatures. This beach state park in Naples, Florida offers many fun beach activities even during winter. The beach is clean, has many shells, and feels absolutely relaxing.
4. Anhinga Trail – Everglades National Park, Florida
The Everglades is a must-see stop when you’re in Florida and speaks to so much of the state’s culture and landscape. The Anhinga Trail, specifically, is a great way to see some amazing parts of the Everglades at your own pace from your own two feet. Visitors often see wildlife like birds, snakes, and alligators on this little trek — though wildlife is never promised.
In many of the northern states in the U.S., winter means that many aspects of life decide to hibernate; many outdoor adventures are put on hold, inside activities become a bit more popular, and many destinations shut down completely. However, that is not the case everywhere. In many locations in the southern U.S., the temperatures may dip, but the roads don’t close and outdoor activities are still doable. Not only are these trips completely available in the colder months, many are even better due to lower crowd sizes. In the south, road trippers don’t have to put their travel on a seasonal hold.
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in Missoula in 2012. She enjoys road-tripping with good friends, exploring the outdoors, traveling, drinking good beer, and drinking not-so-good beer. Follow her on Twitter!