February in the United States: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Mardi Gras
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The United States' incredible geographic and climatic diversity is on full display in February. While the month is still the dead of winter for much of the country, there are a few places where you can lounge on the beach in warm temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). Regardless of whether you're hitting the slopes or the sand, February in the U.S. is an exciting, event-packed month.

Lower Waterford, Vermont
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United States Weather in February

In the United States, the month of February begins with a very odd ritual started in the late 1800s by German settlers in Pennsylvania. On February 2, or "Groundhog Day," the country looks to see if a groundhog sees his shadow. If he sees the shadow, the legend holds, then winter weather will last another six weeks (roughly until the first day of spring). However, if the groundhog does not see his shadow, then spring weather will come sooner. 

No matter what the furry animal sees or does not see, February is a frigid month across most of the country. However, the northern parts of the U.S. tend to take the brunt of winter's wrath. You can expect freezing temperatures in New England with snowfall and average lows and highs varying across the northern states and heavy snowfalls in the Midwest. The Northeast is known for sporadic temperature changes and out-of-the-blue storms, so be sure to check the local weather channels before heading off on a trip.

City Average High Average Low
New York City 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) 29 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2 degrees Celsius)
Los Angeles 69 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) 51 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius)
Chicago 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) 26 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 3 degrees Celsius)
Washington, D.C. 47 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) 27 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 3 degrees Celsius)
Las Vegas 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius) 33 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius)
San Francisco 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius)
Honolulu 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius)
Miami 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius)
New Orleans 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius) 47 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius)             

The Midwest, Plains states, and the states of the Mid-Atlantic also tend to be very cold. Winter is typically the rainy season in the Northwest. Cities such as Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, will see cloudy skies and rainy days throughout much of the month. Snow is only common at higher elevations.

The Southeast and Southwest regions enjoy milder temperatures in February. This time of year is when the states of Florida and Arizona begin to host baseball spring training seasons and fans flock to stadiums in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Palm Beach, Florida, for the sunny skies and first glimpses of their favorite teams. However, the most exciting February event is New Orleans' Mardi Gras, where many can enjoy the outdoors thanks to temperatures that typically stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius).

Rocky Mountain National Park's Dream Lake
Brad McGinley Photography / Getty Images

What to Pack

There's no standard packing list that can encompass all of the U.S. in February since there's so much regional weather variation. For example, if you're visiting Florida, where temperatures can rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll pack differently than you would for colder climates such as New England or the Rocky Mountains. Your best bet is always to pack layers and be prepared for changes in the weather forecast no matter where you go. If you'll be traveling between states with wildly different February climates, consider investing in an ultra-packable down jacket that won't take up much space in your suitcase, but can be ready to go when you need to face the cold.

February Events in the United States

February may be the tail end of winter, but there are still plenty of celebrations happening across the country. Presidents Day is a federal holiday, so many people take advantage of the long weekend by taking a trip either to the mountains or somewhere warm. The Super Bowl isn't an actual holiday, but the game has become so ingrained in American culture that it might as well be.

  • Black History MonthFebruary was officially designated as Black History Month in 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford. It is a month to celebrate the achievements and recognize the history of African Americans, and many cities across the country host special events and exhibitions.
  • Groundhog Day: This unique holiday takes place every year on February 2 in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. Punxsutawney is the home of “Punxsutawney Phil,” the official weather forecasting groundhog who emerges every February to give his prediction.
  • Super Bowl: Always taking place on the first Sunday of February, the National Football League’s (NFL) Super Bowl pits the year’s best teams against one another in a final game that is one of the most-watched events of the years. The location changes every year, but you'll find fanfare anywhere you go in the U.S. no matter which city's teams are playing.
  • Mardi Gras: There are many Mardi Gras festivities in the U.S., but the largest celebration is held in New Orleans. Parades will start gearing up during the second week of February. The city also offers a “Family Gras” on the weekend before Mardi Gras if you're looking for an alcohol-free and kid-friendly event.
  • Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day falls every year on February 14 and is a very popular holiday in the United States. Couples spend the day exchanging cards, flowers, and glances over romantic dinners.
  • Presidents Day: The third Monday of February is an official federal holiday, which means that banks and government offices are closed. Presidents Day officially celebrates the birthday of George Washington, although many view it as a day to honor all U.S. presidents. This holiday popular for traveling, and many Americans are likely to use the three-day weekend to take a mini-vacation.
A beautiful sunrise at Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, California
Rachid Dahnoun / Getty Images

February Travel Tips

  • The long Presidents Day weekend near the end of the month is a favorite time to plan a vacation to a skiing and snowboarding resort. Destinations in the West’s Rocky Mountains, like Snowmass, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe, California, are high enough up that they are reasonably safe bets for great snow throughout the month.
  • Schools across the country typically have a break directly before or after Presidents Day, so it becomes a busy time for travel. If you are thinking of heading out that weekend, make sure to plan well in advance.
  • When flying around the U.S. in February, snowstorms can lead to delayed and canceled flights around the country, even if you're not traveling through the affected area. Keep your eye on countrywide weather reports before your trip and try to give yourself extra time in your schedule to offset any potential delays.
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