If you wait until after the holidays to start your winter travels, you’ll probably get to enjoy a mellow vacation, no matter where you go. Most people will be worn out by the seasonal festivities or their own travel, leaving the roads clear—of people, not ice and snow, unfortunately—for you to drive to your ideal van destination this January 2023.
Do you have any idea where you’d like to go? It’s challenging to decide the best locations in the middle of winter, so we’ve come up with our top van destinations for January 2023 that will help you finalize your travel plans. Check out the details below.
1. San Diego, California
Let’s start with a winter escape in sunny San Diego, California, since it is considered one of the best U.S. places to visit in the winter. It’s also a popular van life city because of the mild year-round weather and beautiful atmosphere, so you might see some familiar faces if you participate in van life culture.
If you simply want to hit the road for a while after trudging in the snow to be with family during the holidays, you could probably use some time at the beach, so San Diego is a premier choice, and you’ll find plenty to do.
Here are some top picks for activities and events to consider during your time in San Diego and our Adventure Guide to the city:
- Spend time tidepooling in San Diego, which should occur from January 4-9 and 18-24, 2023 at various times in the afternoon. This activity will take patience, but you’ll be at the beach, so you should be able to find some fun things to do with your traveling companions while watching and waiting. Make sure to explore during low tide. If you want to make it official, find out about joining a tour with a naturalist who has a better idea of the times you can get the most out of watching tide pools.
- Enjoy live music, food trucks, beer tents, and more at the San Diego Beer Fest on January 7th at NTC Park.
- Whale watching at different San Diego beaches, where you’ll get the chance to see one or more of 25,000 California Gray Whales and dolphins and seals in the wild.
Since San Diego has such a big van life community, you’ll find plenty of official and stealth camping sites.
2. Everglades National Park, Florida
We didn’t pick a Florida location as much because it’s warm in January. It’s more accurate to say that we chose it because it’s so much less hot and humid in January than in much of the rest of the year. From November to May, it is known as “the dry season,” featuring milder temperatures, typically in the 70s during the day and 50s at night.
All that said and heat aside, Everglades National Park, at the southern tip of Florida, is a great place to visit whenever you get the chance to see and do the following in this biodiverse subtropical wilderness, brimming with beauty, mystery, and some danger. We also have an Adventure Guide to Everglades National Park for you to view here.
- Tour Shark Valley to see a vast abundance of wildlife, including alligators, birds, snakes, and turtles. The 15-mile paved loop means you can walk, bike, or take a tram for your tour.
- Hike the Snake Bight Trail to experience wetlands, winding along Snake Bight Trail to reach Snake Bight Bay, where you might see roseate spoonbills, alligators, and other wildlife.
- Stay overnight at the Flamingo Campground, where you’ll have to “glamp” in an eco-tent rather than sleep in your comfy campervan.
In addition to the eco-campground, you’ll find traditional camping in the area, including Lone Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground.
3. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
There are plenty of excellent reasons that the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular travel destinations in the U.S. It’s all-encompassing when you’re there, and it’s challenging to help people understand it through mere words. You just have to go, and January is a great time to do it.
Take the typical scenario of a visit, where you’re nearly cocooned by a massive canyon, and you don’t know where to look because there is stunning scenery in every direction. You’re captivated by the unearthly orange landscape and blue sky. In January, it’s all enhanced with a light dusting of snow covering the unmoving oranges and browns. It’s like nothing else, and you need to see it.
And visiting in winter means there are fewer visitors. According to Wild Land Trekking, “the national park service records that fewer than 15% of the parks’ 6 million annual visitors visit in December, January, and February.” With fewer visitors, that means you’ll have less competition for campground spots, and you’ll probably pay significantly less. That’s always good news, and you’ll find plenty of year-round campervan camping in the area.
Before you visit, you’ll need to ensure the areas you want to visit are accessible. However, there is plenty to see, so don’t give up. You don’t want to miss the exquisitely mild temperatures and unique way to see this national treasure.
Here are some spots and activities you shouldn’t miss when visiting the Grand Canyon and our full Adventure Guide to this stunning National Park:
- Hermit’s Rest and Scenic Drive is incredibly popular because of the many overlooks heading along the south rim. Without all the leaves gone, it’s the best time of year to drive this route because you can see things more clearly. This route allows you to explore the area in your own time, lingering at various overlooks.
- Plateau Point, along Bright Angel Trail, is where you get the best view of the Colorado River.
4. Acadia National Park, Maine
If you’re a die-hard winter lover—and you treasure wild beauty along coastal waters—there probably isn’t a much better place to visit in January. While summers in Maine are lovely, everything is busier at that time, and you miss out on the winter adventures you get deep into winter. You’ll get to see evergreen forests covered in layers of pristine snow and never feel the same about winter again. Walking in a winter wonderland changes everything, even if only for a few moments. You won’t mind the cold when you’re focused on experiencing the 45 miles of carriage roads, where you can spend days and days cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and never see the same place twice.
The National Park Service and Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce have some excellent recommendations for guests to get the most out of a winter Acadia National Park adventure. Click here for our Adventure Guide to Acadia National Park.
Here are a few things you should do and see:
- Drive along Park Loop Road to get incredible views of the ocean.
- Hike Acadia’s winter trails, but come prepared with an ice gripper, cleats, and footwear with traction. Avoid treacherous trails and choose areas like Ship Harbor, Ocean Path, and Carriage Roads.
- Warm up at one of the local breweries with a craft beer and dinner.
After a long day exploring Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, you’ll need a comfortable spot to park your campervan. Here are some nearby options.
If you need more gear for your campervan to travel safely in the winter or you need to buy a campervan, talk to your team at RecVan. We can help you gear up for any adventure.