5 States with Terrible December Weather (And When to Visit Instead)

Written by Jaydee Williams
Published: December 7, 2023
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If you love traveling around the United States, you might be wondering when the best time is to visit each state. While some states have great weather year-round, not all of them offer such comfortable temperatures.

When planning a vacation, knowing the weather is step number one. Bad weather can turn a fun trip into a nightmare very fast. If you aren’t used to dealing with icy conditions and blizzards, you certainly don’t want to visit one of these states in the winter. That’s why we’re here to go over the five states that have terrible December weather, and when to visit them instead. 

#5 — Minnesota

A Pedestrian Bridge in a Snowy Landscape during a Winter Sunset

Winter is beautiful, but the icy conditions can be dangerous for visitors who aren’t used to so much snow.

©SamWagnerTimelapse/iStock via Getty Images

In Minneapolis, the average December temperatures range from the 10°s to the 30°s. Those freezing temps, combined with an average of overcast skies for around 60% of the month, make Minnesota a dreadful place to visit in the winter. Get used to not seeing the sun very much, because even when it isn’t cloudy, sunset is around 4:30 p.m. throughout most of the month. 

On the contrary, you should make plans to visit Minnesota during summer, late spring, or early fall. Anytime from May through September should make for an enjoyable and comfortable visit. July and August are our top picks because they’ll be the warmest and you’ll be able to do the most. During the summer you can walk around Lake Superior, explore some of the state’s national parks, and visit tourist attractions like Duluth or Saint Paul. 

One of our favorite spots to visit in Minnesota is Voyageurs National Park. It’s a park centered around water and you’ll need a watercraft to explore the 218,055 acres. You can also camp, view the night sky, and explore the many lakes of the park. 

If you need even more reason to visit Minnesota in the summer, just know that average July temperatures range from the mid-60s to mid-80s. Sounds a lot more comfortable than freezing!

#4 — Michigan

Winter thaw on Lake Superior in Marquette, MI. Upper Peninsula Michigan

The ice begins to thaw in late spring and Michigan is most enjoyable to visit during the summer months.

©Wandering Introvert/Shutterstock.com

Michigan is a unique state because it’s usually split into two parts or Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula is further north and it isn’t attached to the lower. It’s bordered by the nearby state of Wisconsin and the Lower Peninsula borders Indiana and Ohio. 

The Upper Peninsula is colder, more mountainous, and quite isolated in the furthest regions. Average temperatures in Marquette, one of the UP’s larger cities, range in the 20s in December. The Lower Peninsula is warmer and more populated and average December temperatures in Detroit usually range in the 30s. 

Whether you’re looking to visit the UP or LP, we recommend visiting in the summer months. That is unless you’re going specifically for skiing and snowboarding, in which case, you’ll still want to wait until peak season hits in January or February. 

Summers in Marquette are much warmer, with July temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to mid-70s. You’ll ideally want to visit the UP during July or August because once the snow starts it can become a dangerous place. Especially if you aren’t used to dealing with severe temperatures, you’ll want to save Michigan for the summer. Places in the LP, like Detroit and Traverse City, are worth visiting anytime from late spring to early fall. They don’t experience quite as harsh weather as the UP, but I still wouldn’t go in December to avoid all the extra layering and snowy conditions. 

#3 — South Dakota

Mount Rushmore morning as the sun begins to light up the mountain range.

Since the peak visiting months are June and July, you could instead visit Mount Rushmore in May or September to avoid some of the crowds.

©Gunther Fraulob/iStock via Getty Images

Winters can be pretty harsh in South Dakota because of the strong winds and freezing temperatures. December temperatures range from the 20°s to 30°s. When winter isn’t in full swing, the state really springs to life. It’s best to visit South Dakota in the warmer months — anywhere between May and September. 

Summer is the most popular season for tourism in South Dakota, however, you run the risk of extreme thunderstorms. Aside from those few stormy days, you’ll usually see up to 16 hours of sun each day in the summer. You can explore some of the state’s waterways and lakes since most days reach highs up to the 90°s. 

Summer is a great time to check out Mount Rushmore or the Badlands when you can see both national parks at their best. Fall is our second favorite time to visit the state, specifically for the gorgeous leaf colors. Temperatures are usually more comfortable in fall, with most days staying in the 50°s. While you may occasionally see autumn snow, visiting early is your best bet for avoiding wet conditions. 

#2 — Alaska

Denali (also known as Mount McKinley) - Alaska - USA

At 20,310 feet, Denali is the highest peak in North America and it’s a breathtaking sight.

©SteveAllenPhoto/iStock via Getty Images

If there’s one thing you should know about Alaska in winter, it’s that it’s dark! In December, places like Anchorage and Fairbanks only receive around 4 hours of light per day. Some areas receive even less! That can make for a dreary and boring vacation, especially combined with temperatures in the 10°s and 20°s. 

While you may stand a chance at seeing the northern lights during December, we wouldn’t recommend going just for that. Instead, you should visit anywhere in the early fall or spring months like August, September, March, and April. Then, you can see the aurora borealis and enjoy more light and warmer temperatures. 

If you aren’t set on trying to see the northern lights, then we recommend visiting Alaska anytime from May through September. That way, you’ll have closer to 16 to 20 hours of daylight to enjoy and explore the area. Temperatures will be more comfortable, ranging from the 60°s to 70°s, and the state will be easier to navigate without all of the snow and ice. 

There are so many amazing places to visit in Alaska, but we really recommend exploring Denali National Park and the city of Anchorage. There are a few museums in Anchorage that highlight the local history and tons of hiking around the city. As long as you visit in summer, you’ll be able to drive around the state without having to worry about snow and ice.

#1 — North Dakota

Fargo North Dakota

Even if you’re used to driving on icy roads, you still don’t want to visit North Dakota during December.


North Dakota experiences some of the most severe winters of the lower 48 states. The terrible snow storms and blizzards cause traffic accidents, hypothermia, and even death. If you aren’t comfortable with driving in extreme snowy conditions, we don’t recommend visiting North Dakota in December. 

Instead, you should explore the state during summer, when the average temperatures are comfortable in the 70°s and 80°s. You could even try exploring during September when the first frost usually hits. However, we don’t recommend going much later than that. Early spring is an okay time to visit North Dakota, but late spring is the best. By May, most of the snow has melted and the slush is usually gone for the year. In early June, the area really springs to life. All the plants are green and flowering and the animals are out with their young. 

There are a few state and national parks in North Dakota worth visiting including Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Aside from that, there aren’t many touristy spots in the state. If you’re looking for a laid-back, relaxing place to visit with very few people, North Dakota is the state for you! Just make sure to explore the state during the summer to enjoy it the most!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Frank Fichtmueller/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Jaydee Williams is a writer at AZ Animals where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. She has over 5 years of experience in writing and researching and holds a Master's Degree in English from the American College of Education, which she earned in 2019. A central Florida native, Jaydee loves being on the water, playing music, and petting her cat, Beans.

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