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Since the United States spans thousands of miles, there is always a good time to visit. If you don't like the weather in one part of the country, you can simply go elsewhere. Nearly every climate known to man exists here, each with its own local quirks.
HOTTER THAN A VOLCANO IN HELL
If it's hot weather you're looking for, you've come to the right place: late spring through to early autumn, temperatures can get quite hot throughout the entire United States and there are parts that never fully cool down. America's climate is overall classified as temperate, . but there are parts that never really get much below 15 Celsius even in winter. The hottest temperature ever recorded was in California's Death Valley, at 134°F (58°C) in 1913, but even today that area can have scorching temperatures approaching the 40°C mark and most visitors to the area are advised to bring their own water supply as the chances of it actually raining in that valley are about the same as a frog growing wings; temperatures just below that mark are also found in the canyons that surround the Colorado River including the Grand Canyon, so be prepared for a scorcher. Similar temperatures are found in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Southern California when Mother Nature really gets going, so it is no surprise that swimming pools are extremely popular in this area of the nation for just that reason.
Texas is a prime example of a land that can really bring the heat, and it does it at least five ways to next Tuesday: this state is roughly the size of France and is thus big enough that it has both dry heat, wet heat, and everything in between. The western and remote southern sections of the state near the border with Mexico are mostly arid and smoking hot desert lands, especially in summer where temperatures spike to temperatures well above 100° F (38 °C) and rain is very rare. In the areas surrounding Houston, however, the air is humid and wet-it is lesser known that East Texas and its environs are actually bayou country and when the July heat comes the subtropical air coming from the Gulf and the heat from Mexico has an added kick punctuated by afternoon lightning storms and the occasional alligator making his presence known (this is also true of neighboring Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.) Austin, the capital, looks beautiful when all the prairie flowers bloom in April but the weather has a bit of a bite to it when ambient temperatures are about 78°F (25°C) and the people celebrating Eeyore's Birthday Party down in Pease Park are sweating in their beers as they beat drums and dance around a giant statue of Eeyore dressed as the Statue of Liberty (the motto of the city is "Keep Austin Weird," so you must understand these people are doing their civic duty.) The good news for Texans is that the state also has miles of coastline that stays warm from spring through autumn, rarely dipping below 70° F (21°C). Many a modern cowboy gets his kicks in speedboats heading for South Padre Island where the sun is bright, the women serve margaritas, and there is a nice spot to jump in the water with a wave of a ten-gallon hat and a sigh of long anticipated relief.
Margaret Mitchell and William Faulkner liked to expound upon the glory of the South, with giant southern live oaks draped in Spanish moss and women in petticoats who blanched at the thought of using a swear more risque than "fiddle dee dee," but modern Southern women will tell you that they have long since burned the petticoats and frocks in effigy-it is just too hot to wear that horrible Victorian death trap in summer and even people who work at historic sites like the battlefield for Bull Run often take breaks to cool off in air conditioning or with a cold glass of iced tea (the Confederate uniform from the Civil War was a lighter color than the Union navy blue, but both were made of wool-there are records of soldiers dying from heatstroke and most Southerners have no desire to relive it, even for the sake of accuracy.) Cities like Baltimore, Washington DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, New Orleans, Charleston, and Memphis each get very hot and buggy in the summer, with a summer temperature easily reaching the 80° F mark by mid-June and the humid air making visitors feel each and every one of those degrees.
This is an area of the country whose plant life not only means magnolia trees, honeysuckle vines, and peach blossoms, but also venus fly traps, trumpet pitchers, and saw palmettoes (none of which can survive farther north than North Carolina and all of which are generally swamp plants. They need it hot and wet.) Air conditioners are very popular here even in schools, where no child has ever been proven to be able to pay attention to his work when his body is melting like the Wicked Witch of the West (many Southern schools start in August, not September, and even then the heat hasn't subsided yet.) The Appalachians usually have temperatures that are up to 20 degrees cooler on the Farenheit scale but even then heading down to the lake or creek is preferred as the drop in temperature doesn't dissuade mosquitoes. When the weather finally does cool off, snow is incredibly rare and if it does come it is very light; the only two cities mentioned here that might get any significant snowfall is Baltimore and DC. (In fact, in 2011 North Carolina had its first big snowfall in over twenty five years: the locals were getting out of their cars to take pictures in part because relatives in other areas of the nation might never believe them.)
For tropical weather, there are five main candidates: the Marianas, Puerto Rico, Southern Florida, the Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. Hawaii is so warm that it is the one state in the entire union that is better at growing pineapples, mangoes, and coconuts than it is at growing apples, peaches, and blueberries. The Land of Aloha is the birthplace and favorite relaxation spot of the sitting president and its location on the map means waves of great height come off the Pacific and crash against the shore: here was the birthplace of surfing and year round it is a surfer's paradise (President Obama himself has been spotted by locals at least boogie boarding with his daughters each Christmas.) In higher altitutudes, like Mount Wai'ale'ale on Kaua'i, rainfall is high and rare orchids dot the trail to get up the mountain; natural rainforests still exist in the lesser tramped areas of the islands. The tip of Florida has a more urbanized flavor with a decidedly Caribbean accent, especially near Miami and Fort Lauderdale: by day the powdered white sand beaches are filled with hipsters, gay men looking for romance, retirees looking to putter around, and pickup volleyball games; the restaurants are filled with Creole food and people snacking on Cuban sandwiches. By night the city lives la vida loca with Americans grinding to the Latin beat with salsa dancing señoritas and slick talking Jamaican immigrants dropping mad rhymes in clubs; outdoor bars serve up mojitos like water. Temperatures here never dip below 75°F (23°C) and as a result the city gives off steam in more than one way.
The Florida Keys and the Virgin Islands have a much slower pace and also have white sand beaches. For those familiar with Ernest Hemingway, Key West was his favorite old haunt and smoking on a Cuban cigar while fishing off a boat for marlins is a fun way to pass the time. The waters surrounding St. John's and St. Croix are a beautiful turquoise paradise comprised of colorful coral reefs that are part of a huge protected underwater nature preserve and the islands themselves abut British territories that are a short boat ride away for those with a passport. (It is believed that the area near St. John's was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.)
ICE ICE BABY
Cooler/colder weather can be found in the northern states, especially during the winter months (December through March) when you will likely experience crisp cool air and the occasional snowstorm depending on where you are.
Alaska is cold for most of the year. It is nice during the summer when temperatures are in the 60s (16°C) but the days are very long owing to Alaska being so close to the Arctic Circle; 24 hours shall pass without the sun going down. During the rest of the year, the typical forecast is very snowy, bitterly cold (temperatures rival Siberian winters) and more often than not it is dark outside. Daylight hours are very few if they come at all, and it is up here where the most remote areas of the United States exist, and large swathes of its wilderness are totally untouched. Polar bears are a common sight in many areas and dog sleds are a common way to get around in areas where there are no roads.
Much further south, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, St. Paul, and Detroit all sit on the southern end of the Great Lakes. Because of their geographic location (in winter they literally sit right under arctic winds that come down from Canada via the Jet Stream) like clockwork they get a dumping of the white stuff and have to be on guard for it starting sometime around November. Accumulations of snow during winter can easily reach 2 ft. (61 centimeters) in a single sitting and Minnesota in particular, on the Western edge of the Great Lakes, is one of the few states in the Union where one may literally have to climb out a second story window to land on his front porch come Christmas. Meanwhile, the flat prairie states between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains are no slouches for snow either, but it isn't the snow that makes the weather more extreme than other places: the wind kicks up hard and fast and so it is best for most living here to just sit in their homes warm and snug next to the fireplace, knitting a pair of mittens and waiting for spring to arrive.
The upper Rocky Mountain states rarely get very warm and from satellite images it is evident that snow is around in higher elevations year round: some of the mountains are even covered by glaciers. Spruce and conifer trees along with icy lakes are the rule rather than the exception in this area of the world and towns that dot this mountain chain are some of the least populated in the nation. In winter temperatures are well below freezing on the Celsius scale and the snow pack doesn't melt until late April in places like the Grand Tetons. It is difficult terrain to pass for trucks that have to go over these mountains owing to icy conditions when the winter comes, so many take other longer but safer routes. Skiing is popular in this part of the country owing to the big mountains, powdery surfaces, and the occasional appearance of the well heeled or famous-there is a reason that Robert Redford picked this area of the world for the Sundance Film Festival. Mountain climbers and hikers are a common sight here after the worst of the snowfall has passed, but foreign visitors are advised to remember that this trip will be nothing like the Alps: the trails are not the old, well worn roads set down by Romans and can be treacherous for those without experience, and civilization is farther away (it isn't like you can pop into the next town over by hiking a mile or two on a spur of the trail.) Furthermore, this area of the nation is well known for having beasties that can do damage to the unwary hiker. In more recent years it has become more common to hear something other than the snap of a camera in the cold winter air: particularly away from places like Vail or Denver, you might hear the eery cry of a wolf pack as the cold air whistles past you at night.
New England gets a decent bit of snow in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and upstate New York where arctic winds blow off Quebec and don't stop blowing until March. This is actually the area of the world where snowboarding was invented and to this day folks pile in their cars in winter from Boston and New York City to points farther north where they can get on their boards and do a decent "pop tart"; come Christmas many from both sides of the United States/Canada border show up to spend time in the lodges up in the mountains for a good time singing carols and skiing on the trails through woodland that Robert Frost waxed lyrical about. Snowfall is heavier the farther away one gets from the coast, but this doesn't mean that the temperature near the ocean is mild by any means: the salty sea air can make any uncovered skin feel raw and dry. It goes right through you in January and Boston Harbor itself is known to freeze up because it is simply so very cold outside that even salt water can't stay liquid. (Snowy owls, a creature of the tundra, are known migrants to coastal Maine and Massachusetts from December until about late February.) Nobody goes on the beaches of Martha's Vineyard in winter (they are usually packed with people in summer) because the wind is deafening and it takes a good half hour to warm up after just ten minutes of standing on the shore. When coastal New England does get snowfall, there is a danger of the weather becoming violent as the wind whips up the sea and conditions get treacherous enough that children are usually told not to come to school because the roads get too icy and powerlines can go out. In weather like that, locals usually just put a pot roast on the stove, an extra log in the fireplace, and wait for it to pass rather than attempting to get in their cars as it is just not worth the effort.
The autumn weather in New England is cool and crisp with a touch of dampness, but this is not the reason people make another earlier trip from the cities to visit the small, very old towns up in the hills. The trees explode in a riot of colors, every hue of gold and scarlet and electric orange. This process is started by the difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures changing in September and ending by early November. This is what this climate is most famous for, and this is what attracts leaf peepers year after year.
New York City, just like Boston, is hot and sticky in summer and the streets are teeming with people around five o'clock making a beeline for the subways-men and women just want to get home so they can change out of their work clothes into something much more comfortable. Those that don't have air conditioning in their homes often practically camp out with their kids at municipal pools or crack open a fire hydrant just to get hosed off; still more go to Coney Island or Rockaways where the sea water is warm and the sun gives you a tan. In emergency situations, like the blackout of 2003 which took place during a heat wave, families with children and the elderly were told to go to municipal buildings which had their own generators to cool off as high rise buildings don't do well in heat. However, when winter comes, it pulls no punches either. It is not uncommon for New York City to get hit with a blizzard and not unheard of for one powerful enough to shut down all three airports that serve it (it all depends on how fast accumulation is coming and visibility.) The weather gets cold just before Thanksgiving and won't let up until the spring rains come; if you are a visitor from Europe, and a blizzard is predicted to hit the city hard, it means you might have trouble getting home because New York is a coastal city, meaning its weather is influenced heavily by ocean winds-if the wind kicks up, it makes it very hard for planes to fly because it is unbalancing and also makes it very hard for the pilots to see. To the immediate north, the Hudson River fills up with chunks of ice by mid-December and the ice skating rinks open up all around the Lower Hudson Valley; many of these don't need any extra help from the pipes underneath as it has already hit 32°F (0°C). To the west in the State of New Jersey, the rivers are known to freeze up all the way over the Delaware towards Philadelphia and have done so since olden days: every known account of George Washington's surprise attack on Hessian troops in 1776 show a nearly frozen Delaware River & a bitterly cold winter that British soldiers were largely unprepared for in occupied New York City.
Strolling through Central Park is not the most comfortable way to spend your time, but when Christmas comes the city puts on its finest display of twinkling lights and decks itself in holly and pine roping. Should it snow on Christmas there shall be few people who care as it means taking out the little ones to the park to go sledding.....and maybe getting a postcard from that cousin in Hawaii decorating his palm tree. Cafes and delis will be selling plenty of hot coffees and cocoa to make the weather just that more bearable as it literally is like holding a hot water bottle in your hands while you march those few blocks to the subway, banishing the numbness.