From East to West: Where to Travel in the U.S. in January
Embrace the cold and indulge in a winter vacation at these destinations.
The holidays come and go quickly, but the magic of winter lasts for weeks, sometimes even months, after the month of December. And if one of your New Year's resolutions is to travel more, we've compiled the perfect list of photogenic locations across the U.S. that you can visit in January. They include whimsical street corners in New York, world-renowned museums in Michigan, mountain trails in Oregon and everything in between—no matter what kind of traveler you are (or want to become in 2022).
All of the featured locations can be found on the Explorest app and you can sort through thousands of photos based on the time of year you want to visit. Regardless of the season, you can find travel inspiration anywhere in the world, and below, we'll help you get started on planning your itinerary for the best places to travel to in January in the U.S.
There's nothing quite like being in New York in the winter. The hustle and bustle of the city doesn't slow down, yet the dark sky and snowy conditions create a calming energy in the concrete jungle. We highly recommend getting bundled up and walking down a quaint street to see the snowflakes softly falling in the amber glow of golden hour. And as you can see in @joethommas' image below, the snow-covered pavement, cast-iron façades, and illuminated intersection of Howard St & Crosby St highlight the charm of Manhattan. Another perspective of the city that you can only see in the winter is to head up to a snow-covered rooftop and capture the skyline against the cerulean horizon—especially if you're looking to amp up your Insta feed.
Those that want to visit New York in January, but don't want to deal with the temperature drop outside, have endless options to choose from to stay warm indoors. There are holiday-themed restaurants and bars, cozy coffee shops, retail stores, and museums, like the famous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). On a day that has less-than-ideal weather, walk around the museum and learn about the international artifacts they have. The museums in the winter months tend to not be as crowded as they are in the spring and summer, making New York one of the best places in the U.S. to visit in January.
credit: @dave.krugman — discover Above The Grand Staircase, The Great Hall at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Explorest app
Winter in Boston isn't for the faint of heart! A normal January day can consist of strong winds, storms, and an average temperature of 37 degrees. It makes us cold just thinking about visiting, however, those that are up for the chilly challenge get to reap major rewards. Almost everyone in Boston stays inside with their heaters on, meaning the probability of capturing photos without anyone in them is high. It's a rarity in a big city to be able to wander the streets without any other pedestrians, so seize the day and explore!
Boston is one of the most historic places in the U.S. and the cities' rich past is evident in photographs. The brick buildings along Water Street and the thoughtfully-designed 57 Hancock Residence are both prime examples of architecture that's withstood the test of time. They're classic, yet they still feel innovative and modern in today's world. Boston Public Garden, which was the first public botanical garden in the U.S. when it was built in 1837, is another landmark that has kept visitors coming back to Boston year after year. Stand across the lagoon and see the city sparkle as the January sun sets in the early afternoon. With one click of your camera, you'll create an eternal memory!
credit: @joethommas — discover Boston Public Garden Lagoon & Arlington Street Church on the Explorest app
The Windy City can get a bad rap for being so cold, but the biting weather has its perks, one of which is when Lake Michigan is frozen. The massive pieces of ice that are dispersed throughout the water create a unique texture that can't be found in the spring, summer or fall. Chicago-based photographer, @sdamiani, perfectly framed the skyscrapers as Lakeshore Drive meets the frigid shore. The above-ground viewpoint from 360 Chicago is open year-round, but in the month of January, you're able to take a photo that showcases a quintessential winter in the Midwest.
After getting a bird's-eye view of the architecture, take the elevator back down to ground level and walk over to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see The Honeycomb. The blue shade of the pavilion compliments the frosty hues often associated with winter and it's a stand-out photo spot if you're practicing portrait or lifestyle photography. And similarly to the varying shades of winter blue, the black façade and bare tree in front of La Storia Restaurant is another January favorite because of its brumal scene. Just don't forget your coat and gloves when you're taking photos outside—brrr!
credit: @nolis — discover Education Pavilion (The Honeycomb) at Lincoln Park Zoo on the Explorest app
Another Midwest destination that's on our travel bucket list in January is the state of Michigan. From Detroit to the coast of Lake Superior, Michigan is filled with hidden (albeit cold) gems. Where else can you find piercing icicles in a secret cave or a quiet forest of snow-covered pines? Alternatively, you can escape the weather and visit one of the many buildings in the area of Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The DIA museum is regarded as one of the top six museums in the United States, with an art collection valued in the billions of dollars! Familiarize yourself with architecture photography and snap a picture of a tourist-free Walter B. Ford Great Hall from the comfort of an indoor room that's protected against the outdoor elements of winter.
Once you've taken enough photos indoors, take a page out of @aubrietahope's book and capture the East Channel Ice Cavern. The grotto looks like it's in the middle of the arctic when in reality it's in Northern Michigan on the small isle of Grand Island. You have to have some skill to get to this location due to the lack of trail from the mainland of Michigan to the island, but if you're prepared and adventurous enough to walk across the ice, it'll be the trip of a lifetime.
credit: @aubrietahope — discover East Channel Ice Cavern at Grand Island National Recreation Area on Lake Superior Coast on the Explorest app
credit: @michaellaxphoto — discover Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Walter B. Ford Great Hall on the Explorest app
The Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is known for its rainy atmosphere and be that as it may, the snowfall in the winter provides some of the region's most epic photo locations. There are frozen waterfalls, as seen in @jesseroos' image of Washington's Falls Creek Falls and rugged mountain views, like in @andrew.studer's shot of Mount Hood from Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain in Oregon. The pine trees in Andrew's photo are reminiscent of Christmas, so if you visit after the holidays, you'll still feel the seasonal spirit in the air.
Out of all of the aforementioned destinations in the U.S. to visit in January, the PNW has the most to offer to hikers, climbers, and adventure seekers. Don't get us wrong, Portland and Seattle are also crawling with photogenic spots, but to experience winter in its natural form, it's best to head out into the wilderness. Luckily not all places in more remote areas require much exertion, so city dwellers can enjoy the great outdoors, too. Bowl and Pitcher Suspension Bridge is an awesome spot if you're looking to photograph an image of the landscape while avoiding hours marching through a few feet of snow. Low risk, high reward!
credit: @andrew.studer — discover Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain view of Mount Hood and Forest on the Explorest app
Even though there are areas of The Golden State that receive heavy snowfall, with temperatures dipping into the negatives, California is the perfect winter destination if you prefer warmer weather. Looking to surf and ski in the same day? California has got you covered! You can try a variety of activities, seasonal or not, without having to cross state lines—another major bonus of being in CA.
For the desert lovers, you can travel to Death Valley National Park to visit Badwater Basin. The white terrain closely resembles snow on the ground, except you don't have to trek through any snow to get to this epic photo spot. Plan a road trip with a friend and then have them stand in as your model. A human subject against the barren landscape is a great way to incorporate a focal point that attracts attention to the background.
Both Yosemite and Inyo Mountains are two of the most photogenic places to visit in the U.S., regardless of the season. In the winter, you'll have the chance to see the snow-capped mountains and experience a post-holiday White Christmas in California.
credit: @tommylundberg — discover Yosemite Parking Lot Tunnel Parking Lot view of El Capitan, Half Dome & Bridalveil Falls on the Explorest app
If you're looking to discover new photo spots, download the Explorest app today. We provide insider recommendations to help you capture your travels, near and far.