It might be winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up camping. Even if it’s too cold to camp close to home, the United States has plenty of warm-weather camping destinations calling your name. Among them is something for everyone whether you love beaches, national parks or deserts. Here are several recommendations from east to west offering plenty of opportunities for some fun in the sun.
Tampa Bay, Florida
Florida is one of the first places that comes to mind for warm weather in the winter, but it’s a big state. Tampa Bay is a prime location if you are looking for amazing weather with a wide range of activities. Surrounded by the Tampa Bay and close to Florida’s Gulf coast, it is a water lover’s paradise. Combine that with average high temperatures in the 70s throughout the winter, and you can’t go wrong with these warm-weather destinations.
On the state’s west coast, the white-sand beaches and emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico are a big draw. Nearby Clearwater and St. Pete Beach are the most popular places for beachgoers looking for plenty of shops and restaurants. If you’d like a little more relaxation with your ocean views, pay a visit to Honeymoon Island State Park. If the beach is not your scene, there are many quiet county parks and waterways for kayaking.
Tampa is also home to a terrific zoo, aquarium, several museums and Busch Gardens amusement park. Each January heralds an annual pirate invasion known as the Gasparilla Pirate Fest complete with two parades, one geared towards families with children.
Located in Northwest Tampa, Bay Bayou RV Resort is especially popular for the social snowbird crowd and conducts many activities during the winter months. Set amidst natural surroundings on Double Branch Creek, it doesn’t even seem like you’re in the midst of a city.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Alabama may not be the first state that comes to mind when considering beach destinations this winter, but that’s one of the reasons why Gulf Shores is such a great choice. It’s one of the south’s best-kept secrets. With mild weather (highs in the 50s) and bright sun, you can leave your winter coat at home.
With more than 32 miles of coastline, you can choose between adventure and peaceful days lounging on the beach or make up your own mixture of the two. A terrific place to stay and play is Ahoy RV Resort. With 62 sites, this resort is in proximity to fishing and is close to the area’s white-sand beaches. Near to Lake Rougaroux, the resort has a pool and splash pad.
South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island, the world’s longest barrier island, is a nature lover’s dream. It is particularly well known for its distinction as a crucial first landfall for birds making the difficult cross-Gulf migration from Southern Mexico and Central America. No visit to the island is complete without a stop at the 50-acre South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. The island is also home to a sea turtle rescue as well a dolphin research center.
As you might expect from an island destination, there are also lots of water activities. Stroll along the coast, snorkel coral reefs, enjoy a dolphin cruise or parasail high over the Gulf of Mexico. Camp right on the beach or choose from one of several Good Sam campgrounds in the local area.
If you’re looking for a balance of urban exploits and nature activities, look no farther than Phoenix. Well known for its warm, dry climate, the state capital of Arizona attracts sun-lovers in droves during the winter months. It boasts a diverse cultural scene, as well as phenomenal hiking for every skill level.
Papago Park is a great place to spend the day. Start with an early hike among the red sandstone formations and then pay a visit to one of the stellar attractions in the park’s boundaries like the Phoenix Zoo, Hall of Flame Fire Museum or the Desert Botanical Garden.
Don’t miss the internationally acclaimed Heard Museum, one of the best places to experience the art and history of the American Indians of the Southwest. The museum uses its collections of both historic and present-day artists to tell the stories of American Indian cultures from a first-person perspective. It also has a phenomenal café featuring southwest inspired dishes many of which feature American Indian and locally sourced all-natural ingredients.
Be sure you’re booking the right campground for your family. Phoenix is well known for its 55+ RV resorts. If you have children, you’ll want to find a family-friendly option. Use the Find RV Parks & Campground page to pinpoint the RV park that is just right for you.
San Diego, California
Southern California is known for its mild winter weather, and San Diego is no exception. All along the coastline, you will find numerous scenic spots. Beaches range from sandy Mission Beach to the cliffs of La Jolla.
No trip to San Diego would be complete without a visit to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. In fact, you could actually visit over a series of days and not experience all it has to offer. Located in Balboa Park, the zoo is home to more than 3,500 animals in large habitats. Tickets include a free narrated bus tour and it is a great way to get your bearings.
San Diego is also home to the USS Midway Museum, which is a World War II-era aircraft carrier located at Navy Pier. Tour the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. It’s home to an extensive collection of aircraft, many of which were built in Southern California. This is a family-friendly museum, and young visitors are able to participate in the Junior Pilot Program, an activity allowing them to earn their own pilot wings.
Stay at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, a privately owned campground located less than 20 miles from both La Jolla and Balboa Park. With over five miles of trails for walking and biking along seven stocked fishing lakes, it is a peaceful retreat within close distance of the big city. In fact, is located less than 20 miles from La Jolla beaches and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Even better, you don’t have to worry about traffic. You can leave the car or truck at the campsite and ride your bike to the trolley for a trip into the city.