Warmest cities in America on Christmas

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December 5, 2020
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Warmest cities in America on Christmas

Celebrating a white Christmas is depicted in popular culture as an integral part of the holiday season in many parts of the United States. Yet despite looking forward to the Christmas season all year, the bitter cold and the need to stay bundled up in several layers of clothes can put a damper on many people's festive moods.

Because of the sheer size of the country, the weather varies greatly; while some U.S. cities are covered by a thick blanket of snow on Christmas Eve, several cities across the country offer perfect beach weather. For those who would be more than happy to hang up their heavy winter coats and jackets this December and instead travel to enjoy a warmer climate on Christmas, it's overwhelming to narrow down the list of the warmest cities to choose from.

To find out which U.S. cities traditionally record the warmest temperatures on Christmas (and other December holidays like Hanukkah Kwanzaa), Stacker consulted data from 96 available Southern cities in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s “City Time Series” database. We found the 50 warmest cities by average temperature in December with data from 1918 to 2018 and compiled the minimum and maximum temperatures since the earliest data point available.

The 50 warmest U.S. cities are listed in order of those with the mildest average December temperatures to the warmest. Most typically have a humid and subtropical climate. Keep reading to learn more about why the weather in Captain Cook, Hawaii, might be more welcoming that Honolulu, Hawaii, on Christmas.

#50. Abilene, TX

- Average December temperature: 46.34°F
- Maximum temperature: 64.3°F (1970)
- Minimum temperature: 25.1°F (1983)

During Christmas, Abilene offers an elaborate display of lights in its parks and streets and features a statue of the Grinch. The city also boasts of a 47-foot Christmas tree at the Abilene Convention Center. The city’s parade attracts over 15,000 people and features Santa Claus as the grand marshal. 

#49. Fresno, CA

- Average December temperature: 46.34°F
- Maximum temperature: 63.9°F (1958)
- Minimum temperature: 29.5°F (1990)

Fresno’s Christmas Tree Lane is a famous tradition that dates back to 1920. Beginning in December, a boulevard in Fig Garden is transformed into a two-mile Christmas wonderland filled with hundreds of trees and holiday-themed houses. With its semi-arid Mediterranean climate, Fresno has mild winters and dry, long summers. During winter, only around 10 nights drop to around -1.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

#48. Atlanta, GA

- Average December temperature: 46.62°F
- Maximum temperature: 65.7°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 27°F (1963)

In 2015, a Christmas heatwave hit the East Coast and South; some flowers even started blooming in December. Atlanta recorded its warmest Christmas Eve. The city goes all out with its holiday lights displays, including at the Atlanta Botanical Garden where a three-dimensional light curtain and more than 70,000 light bulbs that constantly change colors emulate the Northern Lights.

#47. Birmingham, AL

- Average December temperature: 46.65°F
- Maximum temperature: 66.1°F (1984)
- Minimum temperature: 26.3°F (1963)

Birmingham decks out its zoo with flashy lights and other holiday-themed attractions for 18 nights in December. The zoo offers 1 million lights, Christmas carols, and a 100-foot-long Yuletide Slide for children to enjoy. Birmingham’s humid, sub-tropical climate means mild winters where snowfall is rare.


#46. Eureka, CA

- Average December temperature: 47.25°F
- Maximum temperature: 59°F (2014)
- Minimum temperature: 33.3°F (1990)

Known as the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Ore., Eureka has a mild and temperate Mediterranean-type climate. However, its proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes it cooler than other places with similar climates. Eureka’s Christmas tradition for over three decades has been a Trucker’s Christmas Parade of huge 18-wheelers adorned with lights. Many trucks feature beautiful displays of dancing reindeer, flying fish, and massive bandstand platforms with generators to keep them running for several hours.

#45. Las Vegas, NV

- Average December temperature: 48.03°F
- Maximum temperature: 65.4°F (1980)
- Minimum temperature: 31.4°F (1948)

Thanks to the subtropical desert climate in Las Vegas, even during winter days are warm and sunny while nighttime temperatures can become cold by Nevada standards. The biggest draws for tourists and locals during the Christmas season are the displays at Bellagio Botanical Garden.

#44. Monroe, LA

- Average December temperature: 48.27°F
- Maximum temperature: 68.1°F (1984)
- Minimum temperature: 28.5°F (1963)

Monroe, La., is one of the U.S. cities where you can step outdoors to enjoy the colorful Christmas lights and wear shorts. The city has a mile-long Candy Cane Lane that includes a tunnel covered in lights of different shades.


#43. Shreveport, LA

- Average December temperature: 48.54°F
- Maximum temperature: 68.9°F (1984)
- Minimum temperature: 27.8°F (1963)

With its usually mild winters, The American Rose Center in Shreveport’s is transformed into a “winter wonderland.” The sprawling garden offers a dizzying array of holiday-themed lights and giant Christmas cards.

#42. Columbia, SC

- Average December temperature: 48.67°F
- Maximum temperature: 70.1°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 28.2°F (2010)

On Dec. 24, 2015, Columbia, S.C., broke its record for the warmest Christmas Eve as a heatwave covered the entire East Coast for more than 1,500 miles from Florida to eastern Canada. Per Mashable’s Andrew Freedman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Portland, Maine, joked that Santa should’ve worn Bermuda shorts that day.

#41. Dallas, TX

- Average December temperature: 48.81°F
- Maximum temperature: 66.4°F (1970)
- Minimum temperature: 26°F (1983)

While Dallas is known for its warm winters compared with other parts of the country, in December 1983, one of the most severe Arctic cold snaps engulfed the state. Soon after the cold spell set in, a winter storm in mid-December made the state even chillier than usual as the temperature dropped to an all-time low of 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Dallas is located at the lower end of the Tornado Alley, a point where tornadoes are far more likely, and it is prone to extreme weather conditions. However, winters and Christmas Eve are usually mild. In the city, a pecan tree, not the usual evergreen, is adorned with festive trinkets. Locals follow the tradition of decorating the Big Pecan Tree that is over 140 years old and is 75 feet wide and 75 feet tall.

#40. Macon, GA

- Average December temperature: 49.03°F
- Maximum temperature: 70°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 27.7°F (2010)

Atlanta broke its 1984 record for the warmest Christmas 31 years later in 2015. Meteorologists had forecasted a “blowtorch” for Christmas week, a term that refers to a warm-weather pattern that rapidly sweeps through different places. More than 80 sites from Maine to Michigan (including New York and Boston) and down to the South had recorded temperatures within three degrees of a record high for Christmas. The Pink Pig at Macy’s in Atlanta is an unusual and beloved Christmas tradition in which people line up to take turns riding in a metal pig built in a 1950s-themed tent.

#39. Jackson, MS

- Average December temperature: 49.09°F
- Maximum temperature: 68.8°F (1984)
- Minimum temperature: 28.4°F (2000)

In Mississippi during the holiday season for the past 34 years, residents started a relatively new tradition. Boats are jazzed up with festive lights for the Christmas on the Water Boat Parade on the Gulf Coast. After the parade, locals enjoy fireworks.

#38. Augusta, GA

- Average December temperature: 49.22°F
- Maximum temperature: 71.7°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 27.1°F (1960)

Augusta, a city-county about 150 miles from Atlanta, is the second-largest city in Georgia. The city is far more likely to have rain in December than snow. Hopelands Gardens is decorated for the holidays with over 100,000 lights and various holiday displays along two miles of pathways. There are also special holiday activities for children.

#37. Wilmington, NC

- Average December temperature: 49.52°F
- Maximum temperature: 70.9°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 28.2°F (2010)

In 2015, when Wilmington recorded its hottest Christmas, the port city already had gotten rid of its landmark Christmas tree, according to the Wilmington Star-News. It was once known as the world’s largest living Christmas tree and had been used for community Christmas celebrations since the 1920s. But WWAY 3TV reported it had become a shadow of what it used to be after nine decades. The tree was cut down, with plans to recycle and reuse the wood.

#36. San Francisco, CA

- Average December temperature: 50.11°F
- Maximum temperature: 61.9°F (2014)
- Minimum temperature: 38°F (1978)

In 2018, for the first time, San Francisco’s Civic Center hosted a winter-themed park inspired by the Wiener Eistraum in Vienna, Austria. The winter park boasted of a 6,000-square-foot rink surrounded by holiday-themed lights and held events like “Drag Queens on Ice.” In another event in December that same year, Grace Cathedral invited artists, musicians, and the famous drag queen, Donna Sachet, for free performances.

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#35. Montgomery, AL

- Average December temperature: 50.62°F
- Maximum temperature: 71.7°F (1984)
- Minimum temperature: 30.8°F (1989)

Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday in 1836, but it is rare for snow or cold temperatures at Christmastime. The Christmas Lights Festival at Montgomery Zoo attracts huge crowds every year.

#34. Columbus, GA

- Average December temperature: 50.66°F
- Maximum temperature: 70.1°F (1984)
- Minimum temperature: 31.7°F (2010)

In one of those exceptionally rare events, Columbus, Georgia, witnessed a white Christmas in 2010 after rain rapidly changed to snow. About one to three inches of snow was recorded on Dec. 25, as locals celebrated an unusually cold Christmas Day, including wind chills.

#33. Cape Hatteras, NC

- Average December temperature: 50.7°F
- Maximum temperature: 68.9°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 33.3°F (1989)

Cape Hatteras is known for its hot summers and short, mild winters. But the Southeast U.S. coast was hit by the largest snowstorm in history in 1989, just before Christmas. It was aptly named the Christmas coastal snowstorm, and Cape Hatteras received 13.3 inches of snow. Most people chose to stay indoors during the whitest Christmas ever recorded in North Carolina.

#32. Charleston, SC

- Average December temperature: 51.62°F
- Maximum temperature: 73°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 30.2°F (1960)

Charleston was one of the numerous U.S. cities and 50 sites that experienced the warmest Christmas on record in 2015. Cheyenne MacDonald of The Daily Mail reported that such uncharacteristically warm weather was because of unusual jet stream activity. At first, it caused a brief cool down. But, while heading north across the East Coast, it eventually ended up making room for warm air from the tropics. As a part of the city’s Christmas traditions, visitors to Charleston’s Edmondston-Alston House can experience what Christmas was like in 1860, before the Civil War.

#31. Savannah, GA

- Average December temperature: 52.24°F
- Maximum temperature: 74.1°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 31°F (1960)

In Savannah, Christmas is the season for locals to attend the Savannah Boat Parade of Lights at the harbor. Over 40 boats are decked out with elaborate Christmas decorations, followed by a tree-lighting ceremony and fireworks. Because of the coastal city’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, extreme weather is not common. During December, the weather stays mild and temperatures haven’t dropped below 32 degrees Fahrenheit since 1960.

#30. Austin, TX

- Average December temperature: 52.82°F
- Maximum temperature: 69.4°F (1970)
- Minimum temperature: 31.8°F (1983)

Austin’s weather in December tends to be mild as only 20% of the city’s Christmases have experienced freezing temperatures. While it has been reported that the warmest Christmas was in 1955 when the mercury hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the official record was 69.4 degrees Fahrenheit set in 1970, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

#29. Tucson, AZ

- Average December temperature: 52.94°F
- Maximum temperature: 73.3°F (1950)
- Minimum temperature: 34.2°F (1953)

In Tucson, Ariz., many attend the Rooftop Santa Show, where people dressed as Santa climb on top of roofs in midtown and throw candy to enthusiastic audiences below during the annual Poet’s Square Christmas Pageant. With its hot desert climate and mild winters, outdoor events are popular here during the holiday season.

#28. Mobile, AL

- Average December temperature: 53.02°F
- Maximum temperature: 71.6°F (1956)
- Minimum temperature: 32.7°F (1963)

Elfapalooza is one of the biggest Christmas events in Mobile, Ala., and is celebrated every year in an attempt to break the world’s largest elf-gathering record. As the city is situated on the Gulf of Mexico, it enjoys a subtropical humid climate with mild, occasionally rainy winters.

#27. Baton Rouge, LA

- Average December temperature: 53.14°F
- Maximum temperature: 73°F (1933)
- Minimum temperature: 32.7°F (1989)

Baton Rouge is yet another Southern city that enjoys mild winters. A famous Christmas tradition specific to Louisiana takes place every year along the Mississippi River. Locals light bonfires on earthen levees using pyramid-shaped burning logs 20-feet high. The tradition pays tribute to the river’s heritage and is believed to follow an ancient European tradition during which bonfires were lit after successful harvests.

#26. Del Rio, TX

- Average December temperature: 53.22°F
- Maximum temperature: 70.7°F (1970)
- Minimum temperature: 33.2°F (1989)

Del Rio has a mix of semi-arid and subtropical climates. The southwest Texas city celebrates Christmas with themed parades and various light shows.

#25. San Antonio, TX

- Average December temperature: 53.37°F
- Maximum temperature: 72.8°F (1933)
- Minimum temperature: 31.3°F (1989)

San Antonio’s cool Christmas nights offer the perfect weather to stroll through the University of the Incarnate Word’s light festival. With several thousand holiday-themed lights on display called “ Light the Way,” the event draws huge crowds every year. In Texas, tamales are a big part of Christmas celebrations, and the Historic Square Market is where you can find a variety of them for sale.

#24. Tallahassee, FL

- Average December temperature: 54°F
- Maximum temperature: 74.6°F (1931)
- Minimum temperature: 30.9°F (2010)

Tallahassee gets covered in shimmering lights for Christmas every year with various other holiday events taking place across the city. With over 200,000 lights and even computerized lighting sequences, the Allison Christmas Spectacular event will celebrate its 12th year in in 2019. Meanwhile, Dorothy B. Oven Park, which is six acres of gardens, also hosts its own holiday lights starting the week before Christmas.

#23. Phoenix, AZ

- Average December temperature: 55.34°F
- Maximum temperature: 74.6°F (1950)
- Minimum temperature: 38°F (1953)

The desert landscape of Arizona doesn’t stop locals from getting into a festive mood. At the Ahwatukee Foothills Festival of Lights, people cover cactuses and trees along a stretch of one mile with one million white lights. Festivities include food and street fair vendors and live music performances, and there is even a lighted motorcycle parade.

#22. Yuma, AZ

- Average December temperature: 55.36°F
- Maximum temperature: 75.2°F (1980)
- Minimum temperature: 37.7°F (1968)

The biggest Christmas attraction in Yuma, Ariz., is Candy Cane Lane. The city is known to have some of the most extreme weather conditions in the state because of the desert climate.

#21. New Orleans, LA

- Average December temperature: 55.88°F
- Maximum temperature: 72.1°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 38.2°F (1989)

On Christmas 2015, many parts of the country, including New Orleans, experienced record-high temperatures because of an El Niño event that affected weather patterns all over the country. As part of the city’s Christmas celebrations, bonfires for Papa Noel are commonplace, New Orleans tradition started by immigrants from France, Spain, and Germany. While their children were worried about weather Papa Noel or Santa Claus would find them in their new homes, the parents started bonfires to placate the kids, explaining that Santa’s reindeers would spot the flames and find the new addresses in Louisiana.

#20. Jacksonville, FL

- Average December temperature: 55.94°F
- Maximum temperature: 76.3°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 35.1°F (1960)

Thanks to the global 2015 El Niño event that also hit Jacksonville in Florida on Christmas, the city recorded its warmest Christmas day at 76.3 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the popular Christmas events in Jacksonville is Tuba Christmas, during which more than 200 students and adults play holiday music on the big brass musical instrument.

#19. Houston, TX

- Average December temperature: 56.29°F
- Maximum temperature: 76.2°F (1933)
- Minimum temperature: 35.7°F (1989)

Houston’s Gulf Greyhound Park hosts the annual lights festival and includes attractions like laser shows and holiday lights. The most densely populated city in Texas, Houston enjoys mild winters with average temperatures of 56.29 degrees Fahrenheit.

#18. Los Angeles, CA

- Average December temperature: 56.71°F
- Maximum temperature: 72.4°F (2017)
- Minimum temperature: 43.3°F (1948)

During Christmas, Los Angeles has two boat parades. One is at Venice Canals and another at Marina Del Rey. At the latter event, 70 boats compete for awards, such as “best lights” and “best theme.” Meanwhile, at Venice Canals, residents decorate their wooden bridges with twinkling holiday-themed lights that make the neighborhood stand out more than usual.

#17. San Diego, CA

- Average December temperature: 56.89°F
- Maximum temperature: 70.8°F (2017)
- Minimum temperature: 44.1°F (1978)

Christmas 2017 was a stressful period for locals and weather experts in San Diego as the city endured its driest year on record that persisted until December. The dry weather also led to the highest temperature ever recorded during Christmas in San Diego. Every year, more than 100,000 people attend the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights to watch vessels decorated with awe-inspiring lights make their way across the water.

#16. Corpus Christi, TX

- Average December temperature: 58.63°F
- Maximum temperature: 76.5°F (1933)
- Minimum temperature: 36.8°F (1989)

Corpus Christi, a coastal city in south Texas, celebrates 12 days of Christmas every year. The Art Museum of South Texas has a Christmas tree village exhibition that is a famous attraction.

#15. Daytona Beach, FL

- Average December temperature: 60.84°F
- Maximum temperature: 78.7°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 37.3°F (2010)

Daytona Beach goes from being warm and wet during the summer to dry and cool during the winter—typical weather in most places in this region of the country. Like several other coastal cities, Daytona Beach presents an elaborate boat parade on Christmas.

#14. Kula, HI

- Average December temperature: 62.42°F
- Maximum temperature: 73.7°F (1980)
- Minimum temperature: 52.3°F (1997)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has labeled Kula as the coolest place in Hawaii, with an average minimum temperature of 52.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Kula offers some higher elevations and some unusual landscapes than other parts of the state.

#13. Orlando, FL

- Average December temperature: 62.52°F
- Maximum temperature: 80.1°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 39.2°F (2010)

As warm air surged up the East Coast in December 2015, it resulted in the temperature increasing to an all-time high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Orlando. This heatwave was caused by an El Niño weather pattern, during which unusually warm waters in the Pacific Ocean cause an increase in surface temperatures, as well.

#12. Brownsville, TX

- Average December temperature: 62.89°F
- Maximum temperature: 77.8°F (2012)
- Minimum temperature: 42.6°F (1989)

The 2012 North American heatwave that began in July, stretched to December in Brownsville, Texas, as the city recorded its warmest Christmas. The biggest event in Brownsville during the holiday season is the Christmas Tree Forest Exhibit.

#11. Tampa, FL

- Average December temperature: 63.84°F
- Maximum temperature: 81.8°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 43°F (2010)

In December 2015, Tampa experienced record-breaking warm weather during Christmas. The National Weather Service found that the unprecedented heat could be blamed on the fact that Florida’s weekly jet stream responsible for pushing some Arctic air into the Sunshine State did not do its job. Because of the heat and high humidity, locals complained it was hard for them to get into the Christmas spirit, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

#10. Fort Myers, FL

- Average December temperature: 66.12°F
- Maximum temperature: 83.2°F (1931)
- Minimum temperature: 44.3°F (2010)

The beaches of Fort Myers turn into crowded locations for watching its Christmas boat parades. The most popular one is at the Fort Myers Beach down Main Street where lavishly decorated boats become parade floats.

#9. Captain Cook, HI

- Average December temperature: 66.34°F
- Maximum temperature: 76.9°F (2006)
- Minimum temperature: 56.1°F (1962)

Captain Cook, or Big Island, often has heatwaves or El Niño weather patterns that threaten its fragile coral reefs ecosystem. While the warmest Christmas was recorded in 2006, a heatwave engulfed the island in September 2019 that caused mass coral bleaching.

#8. West Palm Beach, FL

- Average December temperature: 68.29°F
- Maximum temperature: 80.3°F (2016)
- Minimum temperature: 47.5°F (2010)

West Palm Beach boasts a 35-foot Christmas tree sculpted from sand along with another massive 100-foot real tree in nearby Delray Beach. Despite its all-time highest temperature of 80.3 degrees Fahrenheit in 2016, the city still offered visitors “nightly snowfalls” and there is a famous ride called Polar Express in Boca Raton about an hour’s drive away.

#7. Miami, FL

- Average December temperature: 70.35°F
- Maximum temperature: 81.9°F (2016)
- Minimum temperature: 51.2°F (2010)

Miami had its toastiest Christmas on record in 2016, and it felt like summer because of high humidity. University of Miami tropical weather expert Brian McNoldy told the Miami Herald that the hot and humid December could be blamed on the fact that cold fronts that normally keep the city relatively cool on Christmas had “fizzled.” Meanwhile, warm air from the south kept getting pushed in because of a high-pressure ridge from the tropics. A big part of the Miami Christmas tradition is visiting Santa’s Enchanted Forest, a holiday-themed park that runs from the last day in October to early January.

#6. Key West, FL

- Average December temperature: 71.78°F
- Maximum temperature: 81.7°F (2016)
- Minimum temperature: 57.4°F (2010)

In December 2016, one of the longest mild spells that peaked during Christmas week resulted in many cities, including Key West, enduring record-breaking heat. Nick Wiltgen, a Weather Channel senior digital meteorologist, examined 60 years of data and found that 850 sites across the country were leading up to their warmest Christmases on record. One of the most awaited Christmas events in Key West is the Lighted Boat Parade.

#5. Hilo, HI

- Average December temperature: 72.16°F
- Maximum temperature: 82.5°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 62.9°F (1989)

In Hawaii, a famous Christmas tradition is to roast an entire pig over an open fire. The tradition dates back to 1786 when the first Christmas was celebrated in the state. After docking off the shores of Hawaii, a merchant ship’s crew members were famished. They hunted and roasted a pig. So began a tradition that is followed today in many parts of Hawaii.

#4. Lihue, HI

- Average December temperature: 73°F
- Maximum temperature: 81.5°F (2015)
- Minimum temperature: 60.9°F (1972)

The 2015 El Niño weather pattern that hit the East Coast and many other parts of the country, affected Hawaii during Christmastime as both Lihue in Kauai County and Hilo in Hawaii County, recorded their warmest holiday seasons. The Kauai Festival of Lights is one of the biggest holiday events in Lihue.

#3. Kahului, HI

- Average December temperature: 73.28°F
- Maximum temperature: 84.7°F (1995)
- Minimum temperature: 61.3°F (1972)

With its semi-arid climate, Kahului on Maui is one of the warmest places in the country on Christmas, despite being pretty windy. For tourists lucky enough to visit Kahului in December, a fun way to spend Christmas is to go whale watching. North Pacific Humpback whales swim through Hawaiian waters during their winter migration every year.

#2. Kapalua, HI

- Average December temperature: 73.51°F
- Maximum temperature: 82.5°F (1995)
- Minimum temperature: 65.5°F (2017)

Kapalua, situated along the northwest coast of Maui, in Hawaii, has bragging rights for having one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, according to Condé Nast’s Traveler magazine. For Christmas, locals adorn a huge banyan tree with thousands of Christmas lights in nearby Lahaina.

#1. Honolulu,* HI

- Average December temperature: 75.03°F
- Maximum temperature: 86.9°F (1995)
- Minimum temperature: 63.3°F (1972)

In 1995, Honolulu experienced a heatwave that lasted until Christmas, making it an incredibly balmy holiday season. In December, a month-long event called Honolulu City Lights is celebrated that includes a 21-foot Santa who shaka waves, and a massive Tutu Mele by the City Hall fountain.

*Honolulu has two data points, we averaged the two data points and took the highest maximum and lowest minimum from each.

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