United States of America Weather, climate and geography
Weather and climate
Best time to visit
The United States has varied weather conditions, and the best time to visit depends both upon the location and the season. Spring (March- May) and autumn (September-November) are generally cooler, more comfortable times to visit. The summer months (June-August) are generally hot regardless of the region, but winter temperatures (December-February) can vary substantially depending upon the part of the US you are visiting.
The southern part of the country tends to be warmer than the north. The general climate of the continental US is temperate, but keep in mind that Hawaii is tropical and Alaska is arctic. Many of the country's dependent territories, such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, are also tropical.
Summer is considered the peak tourist season throughout the country; other popular travel times are major American holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as Easter Week and the school holiday known as Spring Break. Certain destinations, such as New York, are perennial favourites and are busy year-round; even when the weather may not be pleasant, these destinations have particular attractions or experiences that always draw travellers.
In some parts of the country, travel services may be limited during the low or off-season, largely due to weather conditions.
As the US is a vast country with varying climates and four distinct seasons, packing clothing that allows you to layer for warmer and cooler conditions is recommended, especially if you plan to travel to different regions of the country. What you pack will largely depend upon the kinds of activities you plan to enjoy. Outdoor-lovers will need clothing and shoes that are appropriate for the terrain and the activities they have planned; visitors to cities will need a range of casual outfits and perhaps one smarter outfit for a night of fine dining or theatre.
Covering a large part of the North American continent, the USA shares borders with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The country has coasts on the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The State of Alaska, in the northwest corner of the US, is not part of the continental US; it is separated from the rest of the USA by Canada. Similarly, Hawaii is not part of the 'lower 48' states; it lies in the central Pacific Ocean.
The country's dependent territories are offshore and have distinct geographies of their own; the majority are islands. The third-largest country in the world (after the Russian Federation and Canada), the USA has an enormous diversity of geographical features, including mountains, plains, and coastal zones. Though there are many cities that are densely populated with more manmade features than natural ones, there are also vast rural areas that are far more sparsely populated. The climate ranges from subtropical to arctic, with a corresponding breadth of flora and fauna. For a more detailed description of each region's geographical characteristics, see the individual state sections.
Browse our Video Guides