I'm a French grad student staying in the US for an exchange program and I'm trying to find interesting ideas for road trips this winter—I'll have about a month of vacation from approx. Dec 15 to Jan 15, so this is the right time for me to explore the country. Too bad it's going to be winter though... I have plenty of ideas but I'm not quite sure about some of them because I'm afraid they might not be worth visiting in the winter, and that's why I'm writing this post. Basically, I'll have opportunities to travel this winter but also in May-June so if some places that I'd like to go to are not worth it in the winter I could wait until the summer.
Let me explain a little bit so you know what I mean by "not worth it". I don't mind if the weather is not at its best, I went on a road trip in Dec of 2011 to Vegas and the National Parks of Nevada, Arizona, Utah and then California (Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches, Yosemite etc...) and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. It was cold for sure but the parks were still accessible by car and I didn't feel the winter made the parks less enjoyable in any way, the snow actually made them look really beautiful. The only exception here might be Yosemite which had rather bare plants and trees at this time of year.
Now, I don't know about all the natural parks in the US. One idea I had for this winter was to go to Yellowstone but I've heard that the majority of roads were closed and that you had to use snow shuttles to get around, and then snowshoes to go hiking etc... Now, that's something I wouldn't really like, because I'll be travelling on a budget and I'm not willing to pay for shuttles and the equipment needed to explore the park, and I'm not a big fan of winter activities like skiing or snowshoeing. At least that's not what I want to get out of my vacation.
Another idea I had for this winter was to explore the Seattle area: first of all Seattle, Portland and maybe Vancouver, plus the natural riches of the area: Snowqualmie falls, Mt Rainier, the Olympic Peninsula... I'm not worried about the cities, but are those natural places (plus any other interesting natural attractions in the area that I forgot to mention or don't know about) nice to visit in the winter? By which I mean, are they accessible and is the nature still beautiful at this time of year? Or would it be a better idea to go there in May or June?
If it turns out that Yellowstone and Seattle would be better in the summer, then I'd have to find other ideas for road-trips for this winter... I was thinking of visiting Savannah and Charleston, visiting Texas (I was thinking of going through Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio but I don't know too much about those cities, maybe some of them aren't that interesting), or taking a road-trip in the Southwest, around Phoenix and Tucson and maybe New Mexico. Another idea would be to go to Hawaii even though flight tickets would be more expensive (around $600). I also thought Florida could be a good idea but I don't know what's interesting to see there.
Also, I've already visited Louisiana and coastal California quite extensively so I'm not considering going there this winter, and I currently live in St Louis. I'm mostly interested in urban cultural activities and architecture, and natural scenic landscapes in general: I like desert, sea, forest and mountain landscapes.
Feel free to give me your opinion about all this, it would be greatly appreciated!