The winter season in Florida brings a different experience compared to winter in most of the other states in the country. Florida offers visitors a chance to enjoy a warm and tropical holiday season in December and a great escape from the cold winter temperatures.
After all, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season are over. It tends to be peaceful and calm this time of year, with not too many visitors or tourists. An exception is December, especially before Christmas and in the cities where snowbirds reside.
This guide was written by our Florida residents, and it covers everything you need to know before visiting the sunshine state in the winter:
- The best months
- Weather details
- What to wear/packing list
- How to avoid the crowds
- Things to do
Tip: For tips about other seasons, read our best time to visit Florida (weather, crowds, seasons) article.
Best Winter Months
January is one of the best months of the year to spend some time in the sunshine state while being able to enjoy lower crowds and lower rates, while February is the second slowest month of the entire year for tourism.
Continue reading this in-depth winter guide or visit our detailed guides for each month:
With no rain and clear skies, it would be hard not to enjoy this time of year. However, there are some downsides to a winter visit. That’s why have all the tips and expectations from a local you should need to enjoy your winter escape to the sunshine state.
The weather this season allows visitors to be comfortable outside most of the day without it being too hot or humid and makes it easier to enjoy physical activities. Florida weather in winter is a great chance to escape the freezing temperatures up north.
💡 Winter tends to bring along high fog levels and stronger winds. Nevertheless, southern Florida will always be somewhat warm.
Come February, the weather starts to become unpredictable when it comes to temperature. Will winter last late, or will spring come early?
In Florida, the average high temperatures during the winter months range from 62°F to 76°F (17-25°C). It is the dry season, with stronger and heavier winds. Precipitation is uncommon throughout the winter with an average of 2.0 – 3.2 inches.
Average high temperatures during the winter months:
- Miami | December: 76°F (24.4°C), January: 74°F (23°C), February: 75°F (24°C)
- Tampa | December: 73°F (23.7°C), January: 71°F (21°C), February: 73°F (23°C)
- Orlando | December: 74°F (23.3°C), January: 72°F (22°C), February: 75°F (24°C)
- Jacksonville | December: 68°F (20°C), January: 66°F (19°C), February: 69°F (20°C)
- Destin | December: 64°F (17.7°C), January: 62°F (17°C), February: 64°F (18°C)
The winter season is smack dab in the middle of the dry season. Visitors will almost never see snow, and rain will be very unlikely on most days. This is a great time of year to enjoy outdoor activities, without having to worry about the weather ruining any plans.
During the winter season in Florida, rainfall usually averages 2.0-3.2 inches, with February tending to be the driest month of the year. Thunderstorms are possible but rare.
Keep in mind, Florida is known for its unpredictable weather. Even though it is considered the dry season and although it is very uncommon, we have experienced heavy thunderstorms in the evenings during this time of year.
Wind: While rainfall is rare during this time of year, the wind is not. Winds will pick up in the mornings, and after the sun sets. It’s a good idea to keep a sweatshirt or jacket available.
Florida is close enough to the Caribbean to have high humidity levels all year round. Most of the year this is obvious and there is a noticeable difference when the seasons shift. However, even with the humidity being present, it isn’t too noticeable during the winter season.
During the winter season, the humidity levels in Florida can be as high as 87%, and as low as 53%. The mornings tend to be the most humid between the hours of 4-8 am, and the southern regions usually feel the most effects of the humidity in the winter.
Humidity isn’t too much of a problem during this season, and you should be able to enjoy the outdoors without getting too hot.
The water temperature in Florida tends to be rather chilly in the winter (the lowest is 60°F). It’s usually too cold for most people to swim, especially in the north. However, the further south you go, the warmer the waters become. The Atlantic side also tends to be a lot warmer than the opposing Gulf side.
💡 If you are wanting to do mostly beach or water activities, we highly suggest you head south/east during winter for the most favorable conditions.
Beaches along the Southern Atlantic on the Treasure Coast, such as Palm Beach and Boca Raton have some of the warmest waters in the state with an average of 74-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Miami and Key West will also average higher water temperatures throughout winter ranging from 71-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Northern and Gulf coasts tend to see slightly cooler waters compared to the rest of the state. The panhandle region will average water temperatures of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit, in places such as Pensacola or Destin. The Northern Atlantic, such as Jacksonville or St. Augustine, will average a slightly warmer water temperature of 62-66 degrees Fahrenheit.
What to Wear / What to Pack
Winter is the season for layering! Mornings and evenings are cold and chilly, however, afternoons can be sunny and quite warm. The further south you go, the warmer it will be for more hours of the day.
Florida offers visitors a subtropical climate all year. While it is still rather warm, especially for it being winter in the rest of the country, there are still some regions that can get right down cold.
During the winter season in Florida, you can wear t-shirts and shorts in warmer areas. In the cooler regions, jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and a jacket or a sweatshirt are appropriate. Wear clothing that can be layered easily and can be taken on and off as needed throughout the day.
The clothing items in your suitcase should consist of:
- Shorts (mostly for men or if heading south)
- T-shirts & V-necks
- Flannel or long-sleeved layering shirt (men and women)
- Bathing suits/ Cover up
- Swim Trunks
- Jeans (only season where jeans are usually tolerable)
- Leggings or Joggers (end of fall)
- Jacket or sweatshirt
- Sweatpants (we like these for relaxing evenings)
- Sandals & walking shoes
Dressing for Florida weather can be difficult when going in the winter season. That’s why layering is key.
Local’s Tip: Florida is a tropical place all year long. However, unless you are in Miami or somewhere south, winter can be chilly and cold, especially in the mornings and after the sun goes down. We suggest long sleeves and pants in the early and nighttime hours.
There are also some other essential things that shouldn’t be left at home such as:
- Small backpack or fanny pack for day trips & theme parks
- Beach bag
- Water shoes (for water sports or boating)
- Water bottle
- Small portable fan
- Mickey Mouse ears for Disney
Meds: A travel tip that we have learned from traveling in Florida is to always bring some medicine for a headache. The Florida heat is no joke and if you aren’t used to a warm climate, this could really bring a damper to your visit.
How to Avoid the Crowds
Winter will vary when it comes to crowds, depending on when and where you plan to visit. December brings large numbers of visitors every year for various reasons. Florida is one of the only places in the country where you have a chance for a tropical holiday season, and escape the cold temperatures of winter.
December is the busiest month during winter in Florida. Once the holidays are finished, the crowds start to die down. January and February are slow when it comes to tourism and family vacations. This is a great time of year to enjoy beaches and theme parks without fighting the high volume of visitors.
Good to know: Snowbird cities are going to have higher crowds throughout the entire season because of more seasonal residents in the area. Expect higher crowds this season in places such as Naples, Fort Myers, and Clearwater.
Superbowl: The NFL Superbowl is usually the 2nd weekend in February. While this doesn’t necessarily increase tourists (unless the game is in Tampa), it will increase the number of people at bars and restaurants for the game. Expect high numbers of people and longer wait times this weekend.
Local opinion: Locals flock to the beaches this time of year, especially in January & February. With fewer family vacations happening, and just for the fact of being able to go to the beach in the middle of winter. Traffic tends to be quite thick near beach towns, so plan for extra time just in case.
Just like crowds, the winter season will vary when it comes to prices and rates. The start of winter in December will have some of the highest rates of the year due to it being Christmas and New Year. Reservations are highly advised, months in advance if possible, as most things will fill up fast.
Once the holiday season is complete. Expect the rates to decrease for the rest of the season. A lot of people are still recovering from Christmas, and the first of the year can be rather hectic, and not the best time to take a vacation, depending on your job. This is a great time of the year to take advantage of lower prices.
Airbnbs and guesthouses average around $150-$200 per night, keep in mind beach and waterfront locations will always be more expensive. If you are traveling on a budget, there is also a big selection of hostels located all throughout the state, usually starting at $30-$60 per night. Family-sized hotel rooms will start around $35-$400 a night.
- 10 Best Hotels in Orlando (via booking.com)
- 10 Best Hotels in Sarasota (don’t miss this city! Read more below)
- 10 Best Tampa Hotels (via booking.com)
- 10 Best Hotels in Miami
The hotel links above are really useful to save time and money during the winter months. Bookmark your preferred hotels/cities and make your reservations as far in advance as possible to save money.
Christmas & New Year: Keep in mind, that Christmas and New Year’s are in the last week of December. This month is where you will see an increase in rates and crowds all over the state in winter due to the holiday seasons, especially in cities farther south like Miami, and those popular with beach crowds such as Clearwater. For Miami, check out our complete Miami December guide.
Places to Visit / Things to Do in the Winter
Besides the major attractions in Orlando (Disney, Universal, Sea World) and the beaches across the state, there are countless possibilities to immerse yourself in the sunshine state during the winter season.
Whether you are visiting family for the holidays, enjoying the beach, escaping the winter temperatures, or just simply traveling, there is always something going on in the winter season. This season is a superb time to plan a beach trip due to being able to enjoy the coastline without the exhaustion from the humidity and chance of rain.
The coastline of Florida is a vacation hotspot all year round because of the gorgeous beaches. Winter tends to bring more winds and cooler weather. While ocean water temperatures may be too cold for most, the beach still offers great sunsets and opportunities to relax on the coastline.
The Treasure Coast (West Palm Beach, Boca Rotan) has some of the warmest waters on the Atlantic coast of 74-76 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also a big shopping spot in Florida, and a great chance to finish any last-minute Christmas shopping.
There are also various golf courses in the area, a popular hobby this time of year, and one of the only places on the East Coast that is still warm enough to enjoy it.
Anna Maria Island and Tampa Bay are on the opposite side of the Gulf coast and will have cooler waters of 61-64 degrees Fahrenheit, but it has some of the best conditions for kitesurfing and manatee spotting!
The Florida Keys has the best weather in winter compared to other beaches. There are waters of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and offers some of the best diving spots in the country!
Miami Beach/South Beach will be the busiest due to its popularity and warm waters. The waters here will be on average 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Good to know: Beaches such as Naples and Fort Myers, or St. Pete and Clearwater are going to have extremely high crowds. Not only are these places most popular for snowbirds to reside, but it is also Christmas time in the month of December, so there will be double the visitors during this month.
The average high temperatures in Orlando hover around 72-75°F (22.2-23.8°C). There is a very low chance of precipitation and the season has lower humidity.
Crowds: Orlando tends to be pretty crowded in December. Not only is it home to popular theme parks, but there are also various holiday festivities going on at these theme parks. Staying in the Disneys’ Orlando town of ‘Celebration’ is popular this time of year because of the abundance of Christmas decorations.
Good to know: The theme parks in Orlando (Disney, Universal) are never really quiet anymore. Throughout the year crowds are either lower, higher, or a lot higher. However, there are still times when it’s more tolerable, as during the winter months (except December)
Universal Studios | Orlando
Universal Studios is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florida. It is known for movie-themed rides and attractions, for kids and adults. Other than December, the winter brings fewer visitors, causing the parks to be much more enjoyable and lower crowds.
- Tip: Hotels in Universal Studio Resort (stay there to save time)
Is the park-to-park ticket worth it? The park-to-park ticket allows you to roam between the three parks (see below) on the same day. You definitely should get it if you are a Harry Potter fan, as you can only ride the Hogwarts Express with this ticket.
Additionally, some visitors always get the park-to-park ticket as they love to move around, particularly if it’s too busy in one park. It just gives you more flexibility.
Skip-the-line-ticket: The crowds in December are going to be higher for various reasons. It may be best to do Universal Studios with the express/skip-the-line ticket, however, the following winter months can easily be done without the express ticket.
Three parks: Universal Studios is not just one park. There are a total of three Universal parks, each with its own theme and unique attractions:
- Universal Studios Florida
- Islands of Adventure
- Volcano Bay Water Park
Walt Disney World | Orlando (Nearby)
Disney World is Florida’s most prominent attraction and perfect for celebrating the holidays. Disney is a magical experience, even more so during the Christmas season.
There are various events in multiple parks including Festival of the Holidays at Epcot, Flurry of Fun in Hollywood Studios, and most popular, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Once the holiday season has passed, January and February bring fewer visitors and some of the cheapest rates of the year. If you are looking to avoid crowds, as well as high humidity levels, the mid-winter season is a great time to do it.
Disney Springs, formally known as ‘Downtown Disney,’ is filled with decorations and is known for the various stores and gift shops. A great way to do any shopping that may need to be done before Christmas.
While Disney World features multiple attractions, including water parks and golf courses, its main attractions are the four theme parks:
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
Tickets: For a hassle-free experience, get the base tickets in advance: Walt Disney World Orlando – Admission Base Tickets 2-7 days (mobile voucher or printed voucher)
How many days? 5-7 days are recommended for the best Disney World experience. If you only have two or three days, visit Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom or Epcot. Magic Kingdom is the best park as its rides and attractions have more magic than anything else.
In general, plan 1-2 days for each of the four parks in Disney World Orlando. Park experts recommend two days for each park, except Animal Kingdom, which can be easily done within a day.
SeaWorld | Orlando
When visiting SeaWorld in Orlando in the winter, you get the fantastic chance to see penguins, otters, dolphins, and other amazing sea creatures up close. The park won’t be as crowded as some of the other theme parks such as Universal or Disney, but still has an average number of visitors.
5 tips for a perfect SeaWorld visit in December:
- Make reservations in advance: It’s no fun waiting in a long line, regardless of the season. Save time and money by purchasing (mobile or printed voucher) tickets in advance: Park Admission Ticket Reservation
- Pack a light sweater: While winter offers comfortable temperatures in Orlando, the animal exhibits and aquariums which are not outside can get quite chilly, especially in later hours. Please pack a sweater!
- Arrive early at the shows: As the number of daily shows is limited, they often fill up quickly. In particular, the dolphin show, Dolphin Adventures, and Shamu’s close-up, Orca Encounter. Try to arrive 20 to 30 minutes before showtime.
- Check the weather forecast: Check the forecast in the morning and prepare for your visit. Since winter is the dry season, rains are less likely and shouldn’t be an issue.
- Bring rain gear: You can get wet easily during one of the water rides or in the splash zone of the shows. We recommend bringing some rain gear or wearing clothes that dry quickly.
Kennedy Space Center | Orlando (Nearby)
The Kennedy Space Center is worth visiting and is only a 50-minute-drive from Orlando. You can either buy the admission ticket (mobile or printed voucher) solo or one where you don’t have to worry about driving as it includes transport from and to Orlando (via GetYourGuide – safe booking)
- Watch a rocket launch
- See a real space shuttle
- Go behind the gates (NASA restricted areas)
- Take the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center
Guided tour: You can explore everything on your own, but a guided tour is highly recommended since the area is overwhelming in its size and scope.
In winter, the average high temperature in Tampa is 71-74°F (21.6-23.3°C). It gets noticeably colder in the evening and morning hours, with fog likely in the mornings.
Tampa Bay’s Sun Coast offers some of Florida’s best beaches, including Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach. These are some of the busiest beaches in Florida this time of year due to the high numbers of snowbird residents.
Fun Fact: The region surrounding Tampa Bay has some of the best kitesurfing opportunities this time of year due to the higher winds the area gets.
February Special | Manatees: Winter is the best time of year to go watching or swim with Manatees; as they gather in the Gulf coast region due to the cooler water temperatures. Manatees are found in various other places in the world, but in the sunshine state, visitors can legally swim with them in the Crystal River during the manatee season in Florida.
Besides hitting the beaches, Tampa has some great activities to offer for the whole family. Our tips:
Busch Gardens: Tampa’s huge theme park features intriguing wildlife with more than 2000 animals from around the world, huge roller coasters, live shows, restaurants, and games. Spend a full day at Busch Gardens. Ticket reservations (mobile voucher or printed): Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Ticket & Multi-Park Options
Florida Aquarium: The Florida Aquarium is located on the southeastern edge of downtown Tampa. It’s truly fascinating and has a huge collection of marine life, with 14,000 animals, including stingrays, moray eels, and turtles. Consider 2-3 hours for your visit. If you plan to visit when it’s busier on a weekend or around the holidays, get a skip-the-line ticket: The Florida Aquarium Skip-the-Line Entrance
Sarasota is a city on Florida’s Gulf Coast south of Tampa that was originally the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
Early Morning: It tends to be foggy and chilly in the morning hours in winter. Chilly enough to need a jacket or sweater on most days.
Sarasota is a vibrant place with plenty of great things to do. From the white sandy beaches to golfing and shopping or nightlife activities.
The Mote Marine Laboratory, which is ideal for small children, and the historical Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are two of Sarasota’s main attractions.
Tours by bike or bus are a fantastic way to experience the city, but you can also do it on your own.
- Ringling Museum: Perfect for a windy afternoon in the winter season.
Tip: To discover the main attractions as well as the hidden neighborhoods, book a Sarasota sightseeing tour. It covers the historic downtown neighborhoods of Gillespie Park, Burns Court, Laurel Park, St. Armands Circle, and the Rosemary Design District.
In winter, the Everglades are warm, with an average high of 76-78°F (24.4-26°C) and an average low of 62-65°F (16.6-18°C). Winter brings the driest months of the year, and humidity levels rarely rise about 71%. There are more options for tours and sightseeing during the winter season.
Please read our complete Everglades guide and find out why winter is a fantastic season to visit.
Mosquitoes are very uncommon in winter, making your visit a lot more pleasant. There is a higher chance to see wildlife this time of year, due to low waters and less rainfall.
December offers various tours and experiences related to the Everglades. However, there are higher crowds during this time. Too many people at once cause wildlife to hide, so try and go in the mornings if possible when it is less crowded.
In the winter, the average temperature in Miami is 74-76°F (23.3-24.4°C). This is a great month to visit as it’s one of the warmest cities in the state in winter, perfect for visitors wanting to escape the winter weather.
Crowds: Due to popularity, warm temperatures/waters, snowbirds, and holidays expect to see high crowds in Miami in December. It’s not super busy the rest of the season, but keep in mind that Miami has a steady number of tourists throughout the entire year due to its southern location and popularity.
Activities: Keep in mind that there is more to experience than Miami Beach and South Beach. Our tips:
- Everglades National Park: Airboat Tour and Wildlife Show (starts in Gator Park)
- Miami: 45-Minute Sightseeing Speedboat Tour (mobile tickets): A thrilling ride through Miami with the best sights
- Miami: South Beach 30-Minute Plane Tour: Experience amazing views of South Miami with a terrific pilot
- Miami: City Cruise to Millionaire’s Homes & Venetian Islands (our tip!)
The Florida Keys is truly one of the best places to visit when exploring Florida, regardless of the season.
In the winter the average water temperature for the Keys is 75-77°F (23.8-25°C), and it is the warmest beach with the best beach temperatures during wintertime.
The Florida Keys cater to various types of travelers and there is something for everyone. This area is great for sportsmen, beach lovers, foodies, and history buffs of all ages.
Activities around the Keys
- Key West: The best ‘all around’ beach in winter and one of our favorites in all of Florida. It’s warm and ideal for living the island life at its best!
- Key Largo: Famous for being the Dive Capital of the world and being the site for the biggest artificial reef. Make sure to visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during your visit.
- Dry Tortugas National Park: The most southern National Park in the country, is the perfect place to learn about history. Take a tour to the island and learn about legends of sunken treasures, pirates, and ghostly civil war stories. Divers will also love this place because it has some of the least disturbed reefs in the whole country.
- Snorkeling: There are countless world-class snorkeling spots all over the Florida Keys. You can take boat tours to various locations, or just walk right in the water and explore at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
- Seven Mile Bridge: This is amongst the longest bridges in the world, connecting the Florida Keys islands. It was also featured in various television dramas such as Burn Notice. Drive down over the water for some of the most spectacular views of a lifetime!
- Bahia Honda State Park: Bahia Honda State Park offers visitors an award-winning beach, a historic bridge, snorkeling tours, kayak adventures, and the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.Keep in mind, this park will close if it gets too crowded, to protect the environment and assure visitors enjoy their time. The park is open daily from 8:00 am until sunset.