The Best Winter Road Trips to Escape the Cold

Warm up your winter with these three road trips through America’s sunniest cities, including Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Las Vegas.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Ditch the snow on one of these three winter road trip routes, which take you through some of the country’s greatest natural wonders to three of the hottest warm-weather cities in the US: Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Las Vegas. 
Whether you’re itching for desert views, beach vibes, or just some good Cajun cooking, you’ll find your route to winter happiness on the road. 
Before you set out, make sure you’re prepared for any situation with roadside assistance and
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Are winter blues getting you down? Hit the road and chase the sunshine on the perfect winter road trips to escape the cold! Now that you’re ready to drive, check out these three routes for the ultimate winter road trip. 

Pacific Coast Highway

Chase the sun along California State Route 1, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). 

Key trip details

Distance: 317 miles
Driving time: 5 hours and 50 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 2 to 4 days

Start in Los Angeles

Before you hit the road, spend a day or two exploring the City of Angels in sunny

What to do in Los Angeles

  • The Nethercutt Collection ($$): Open Thursday-Saturday for self-guided tours, the
    Nethercutt Collection
    houses a one-of-a-kind collection of restored antique cars in an opulent Jazz Age grand salon. 
  • Runyon Canyon Park: Take a hike in the rambling hills of
    Runyon Canyon Park
    and catch an iconic view of the Hollywood sign. 

Where to eat in Los Angeles

  • Petite Peso ($$): Grab a longanisa breakfast burrito or an adobo rice bowl at
    Petite Peso
    , a hip Filipino takeout spot near Pershing Square. 
  • Q ($$$$): Splurge on upscale sushi at
    , a downtown LA location that offers an imaginative Edo-style omakase experience. 
  • Little Fluffy Head Cafe ($): Order a classic boba tea or a “fluffy” tea topped with a layer of decadent cream cheese foam at
    Little Fluffy Head Cafe
    in downtown LA. 

Where to stay in Los Angeles

  • The Prospect Hollywood: Each unique room at
    The Prospect Hollywood
    exudes Regency-style sophistication and glamor. Cost per night: from $212

Los Angeles to Big Sur

315 miles, 6.5 hours
Meet the Pacific Ocean face to face on the rugged cliffs and sunny beaches of Big Sur. 

What to do in Big Sur

Point Sur Lightstation, Big Sur
  • Pfieffer Beach: Whether you’re dipping your toes in the waves or watching the sunset over stunning rock formations, Pfeiffer Beach boasts some of California’s most spectacular natural beauty. 
  • Big Sur State Park: Hike through redwood forests and along oceanside cliffs in
    Big Sur State Park

Where to eat in Big Sur

  • Nepenthe ($$$): Sit down for dinner with a breathtaking view of the Pacific from upscale Californian eatery
    cliffside terrace.  
  • Big Sur Bakery ($$): Stop by
    Big Sur Bakery
    for rustic American comfort food. 

Where to stay in Big Sur

  • Tickle Pink Inn: A complimentary bottle of champagne on ice greets you at the
    Tickle Pink Inn
    , a luxury hotel perched on the rocky Pacific Coastline. Cost per night: from $263.
Pro Tip: Buy a dashcam to record your winter escape along the Pacific Coast Highway! 

Houston to New Orleans

Escape the cold on an indulgent winter road trip from Houston,
to New Orleans,

Key trip details

Distance: 348 miles
Driving time: 5 hours and 45 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 2 to 3 days

Start in Houston

Your road to the Big Easy starts in Texas’s Bayou City. Spend a day in Houston before you set out. Check out the city’s many museums and art exhibits—and don’t miss the birthplace of the fajita!

What to do in Houston

  • Space Center Houston ($$): Explore the galaxy at the
    official visitor center
    of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. 
  • Art Car Museum: The
    Art Car Museum
    , better known to locals as “Garage Mahal,” is a free museum with the country’s biggest exhibition of fine art cars. 
  • Cockrell Butterfly Center ($$): Spend an hour in a spectacular, glass-enclosed
    living butterfly habitat
    , complete with a 50-foot waterfall. 

Where to eat in Houston

  • The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation ($$): “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo invented the fajita in 1973, and
    The Original Ninfa’s
    is still serving them up.
  • Dish Society ($$): For a locally-sourced farm to table breakfast (or brunch!) with fresh Texas flavor, sit down at one of
    Dish Society’s
    five Houston locations. 

Where to stay in Houston

  • La Maison in Midtown: Stay close to the action at
    La Maison
    . This French-inspired getaway, which serves up hearty Southern breakfasts each morning, describes itself as “an urban bed and breakfast” in the heart of Houston. Cost per night: from $169.
Pro Tip: Check the schedule of Miller Outdoor Theatre for any free outdoor performances during your visit!
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Houston to New Orleans

348 miles, 5.5 hours On the other end of your winter road trip is New Orleans, the “City That Care Forgot.” Forget your cares in the French Quarter on this leg of the trip!

What to do in New Orleans

New Orleans, LA
  • Garden District: This gorgeous New Orleans neighborhood features tons of historic homes without the crowds of the French Quarter. Stroll down the boulevards on your own, or take a guided tour. 
  • New Orleans Pharmacy Museum ($$): Nestled in the Vieux Carre Historic District, this
    curious little museum
    is located in the nation’s first licensed apothecary.  

Where to eat in New Orleans

  • Domilise’s Po-Boy and Bar ($$): This unassuming
    counter-serve spot
    might just make the best po-boy in New Orleans. 
  • Saffron NOLA ($$$): Head to Magazine Street for a New Orleans twist on Indian fine dining at
    Saffron NOLA
    , which serves up curried seafood gumbo alongside classic upscale Indian fare. 
  • Loretta’s Pralines ($): The
    French Market
    is an unmissable outdoor shopping destination. Stop by Loretta Harrison’s market stall for the perfect Louisiana sweet. 

Where to stay in New Orleans

  • Bienville House: Enjoy Southern hospitality and Old World comfort at
    Bienville House
    , a boutique hotel in the heart of the French Quarter. Cost per night: from $139

Death Valley to Las Vegas

If you really want to leave the cold behind, hit the desert highway between Death Valley and Las Vegas for the ultimate winter getaway. 

Key trip details

Distance: 127 miles
Driving time: 1 hour and 57 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 1 to 2 days

Start in Death Valley State Park

Begin your winter road trip in the hottest place on Earth: Death Valley State Park in

What to do in Death Valley

Death Valley, California
  • Hike the trails: Winter is the best time to hike through Death Valley because the lower temperatures make it safe. Take the
    0.4-mile Harmony Borax Works paved loop
    to learn about the history of borax processing in Death Valley, or go for a more strenuous hike through
    Desolation Canyon
  • Eat at the Oasis ($$): Stop by the Oasis at Death Valley for breakfast or lunch at the
    Last Kind Words Saloon.
Pro Tip: Death Valley doesn’t have a lot of hotels nearby, so if you want to stay the night, consider camping in the park. 

Death Valley to Las Vegas

127 miles, 2 hours
Once you’ve soaked up the heat in Death Valley, head two hours east to your final destination in Sin City,

What to do in Las Vegas

  • The High Roller ($$): Take in the Las Vegas Strip in dazzling 360-degree style from the spacious glass cabins of the
    High Roller
    observation wheel. 
  • The Mob Museum ($$): Investigate the history of organized crime—and buy a jar of moonshine at an underground speakeasy—at the
    Mob Museum

Where to eat in Las Vegas

  • Fuku Burger ($$): Try Las Vegas’s best burger at
    Fuku Burger
    , a modern Japanese-American joint that started as a classic West Coast food truck. 
  • Spago by Wolfgang Puck ($$$): Head to
    at the Bellagio Hotel for legendary American fine dining that pairs bold California flavors with imaginative seasonal twists. 
  • é by José Andres ($$$$): You’ll need a reservation to try the avant-garde Spanish tasting menu at
    , tucked away in a secret dining space at the top of the Cosmopolitan Hotel. 

Where to stay in Las Vegas

  • Golden Nugget Las Vegas Hotel & Casino: The
    Golden Nugget
    is the quintessential Las Vegas casino hotel at a price that won’t break the bank. Cost per night: from $122

Why you need roadside assistance

The last thing you need on your winter road trip is car trouble throwing a wrench in your vacation. With roadside assistance from
, you’ll get access to emergency towing, lockout services, fuel delivery, and more—for less than $10! Don’t leave home without knowing you’re protected. 

Finding cheap car insurance

The best winter road trips are better with good insurance. While you’re booking your hotel and packing your bags, take two minutes to find a lower rate on your car insurance by downloading the
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