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

Mardi Gras 2017
Erika Goldring / Getty Images

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 70-degree temperatures. Regardless of whether you're hitting the slopes or the sand, February in the U.S. is an exciting, event-packed month.

Read on for more information about visiting the U.S. in February, including the weather, what to pack, and can't-miss events.

United States Weather in February

In the United States, we begin the month of February with a very odd ritual that was first started here in the late 1800s by German settlers in Pennsylvania. On February 2, a day that we call "Groundhog Day," we look to see if a groundhog (hedgehog) 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 a furry animal says, February is a frigid month across most of the country. It is the last month of winter, after all. However, signs of spring do tend to emerge by the end of the month in most parts of the country.

The Northeast
Expect freezing temperatures in New England with snowfall and average lows and highs varying across the northern states like Maine and Vermont to the more southern states like Rhode Island. The region as a whole 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.

The Northwest and Middle America
The Midwest, Plains states, and the states of the Mid-Atlantic also tend to 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 common at higher elevations.

The Southeast and Southwest
For milder temperatures, head to the Southeast and Southwest regions. February is when the states of Florida and Arizona begin to host baseball spring training. Fans flock to stadiums in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Palm Beach, Florida for the sunny skies and first glimpses of their favorite teams. A temperate climate with temperatures in the upper 60s is usually the norm for Mardi Gras, the end-of-winter New Orleans carnival which generally falls during February.

Average February Temperatures for Major U.S. Cities

  • New York City: 32°F / 29°F (0°C / -2°C)
  • Los Angeles: 68°F / 50°F (20°C / 10°C)
  • Chicago: 33°F / 17°F (1°C / -8°C)
  • Washington, DC: 47°F / 26°F (8°C / -3°C)
  • Las Vegas: 63°F / 34°F (17°C / 2°C)
  • San Francisco: 66°F / 48°F (18°C / 8°C)
  • Hawaii: 80°F / 63°F (26°C / 17°C)
  • Grand Canyon: 45°F / 21°F (7°C / -6°C)
  • Florida: 74°F / 51°F (23°C / 11°C)*
  • New Orleans: 65°F / 46°F (18°C / 7°C)

What to Pack

It's hard to provide a standard packing list for the U.S. in February since there's so much regional weather variation. For example, if you're visiting Florida, where temperatures can be in the 70s, 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!

February Events in the United States

February may be the tail end of winter and a season when snow or chillier temperatures blanket much of the nation, but it has no shortage of celebrations. Here are the festivals and events that happen each February in the U.S. 

  • Black History Month (All of February): February was officially designated as Black History Month in 1976 by former President Gerald R. Ford. It is a month to celebrate the achievements and recognize the history of African-Americans.
  • Groundhog Day (February 2): This unique holiday has its origins in the German holiday of Candlemas. The tradition holds that if the hedgehog (or groundhog) emerges on February 2 and sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter will follow. Today Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) is the home of “Punxsutawney Phil” the official weather forecasting groundhog who emerges every February to give his prediction. Learn more about Groundhog Day.
  • Superbowl (First Sunday in February): America’s most-watched sporting event is the National Football League’s (NFL) Superbowl, which pits the year’s winners of the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) against one another. The Superbowl is typically held in a sunny location, such as Miami or Phoenix, and is accompanied by much fanfare, including press events, special days for fans, and tailgating events. 
  • Mardi Gras and the Beginning of Lent (As Early as February 3): Mardi Gras (Carnival) festivities are plentiful in the USA, but especially in New Orleans where the holiday originated. Parades and celebrations will start gearing up during the second week of February. Drinking is one of many Mardi Gras traditions, and it can get a little rowdy, but the city offers a “Family Gras” on the weekend before Mardi Gras. It is a great time to check out a more kid-friendly version of the fun and learn about the other traditions behind the event like King Cakes and costumes.
  • Valentine’s Day (February 14): While not an official holiday, Valentine’s Day is very popular in the United States. Couples spend the day exchanging cards, flowers, and glances over romantic dinners.
  • Presidents' Day (Third Monday of February) - An official federal holiday—which means that banks, stock markets, and government offices are closed—Presidents' Day celebrates (you guessed it!) all U.S. presidents. However, the holiday was originally conceived to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, who was born on Feb. 22, 1732. The day was first officially recognized in 1885. 

    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.