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. Regardless of whether you're hitting the slopes or the sand, February in the U.S. is an exciting, event-packed month.
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," we look 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 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.
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.
|City||Average High||Average Low|
|New York City||43 F (6 C)||29 F (minus 2 C)|
|Los Angeles||69 F (21 C)||51 F (11 C)|
|Chicago||36 F (2 C)||26 F (-3 C)|
|Washington, D.C.||47 F (8 C)||27 F (-3 C)|
|Las Vegas||66 F (19 C)||33 F (1 C)|
|San Francisco||61 F (16 C)||48 F (9 C)|
|Honolulu||81 F (27 C)||65 F (18 C)|
|Miami||75 F (24 C)||64 F (18 C)|
|New Orleans||66 F (19 C)||47 F (8 C)|
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 common at higher elevations.
Milder temperatures are common in 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 above 60 degrees Fahrenheit is usually the norm for Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
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 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.
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 Superbowl isn't an actual holiday, but the game has become so ingrained in American culture that it might as well be.
- Black History Month (All of February): February 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 (February 2): This unique holiday has its origins in the German holiday of Candlemas. Today Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, is the home of “Punxsutawney Phil,” the official weather forecasting groundhog who emerges every February to give his prediction.
- Superbowl (First Sunday in February): One of America’s most iconic sporting events, the National Football League’s (NFL) Superbowl 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 Superbowl parties and tailgating events.
- Mardi Gras and the Beginning of Lent (As Early as February 3): Mardi Gras (Carnival) festivities are plentiful in the United States, but the largest celebration is held in New Orleans. 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, krewe parades, 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 officially celebrates the birthday of George Washington, although many views it as a day to honor all U.S. presidents. This long weekend is popular for traveling, and many Americans use it for a mini-vacation.
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.