Don’t think that spending the holiday season in a town that does Christmas “right” means that it has to be a snowy, chilly destination. Yes, Utah, Colorado, and Alaska have their fair share of festive Christmas destinations, but you can also have a magical and marvelous holiday in Honolulu, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Miami. No matter the temperature or the vibe, you’re sure to find Santa Claus, festive foods, and plenty of destination shopping in these 35 American towns that absolutely love and embrace the Christmas spirit.
Just south of Washington, D.C., Alexandria has something for everyone during the holiday season. Perhaps you’re an American history buff and want to meet Aladdin the Christmas Camel at George Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon. Perhaps you’re a little quirky and want to go watch a waterskiing Santa. Or perhaps you just want to take in the wondrous holiday lighting displays of King Street, which is full of thousands of twinkling lights. No matter your preference, you can enjoy any type of Christmas here.
The holiday season in Asheville, North Carolina, is led by Christmas at the Biltmore Estate. Here, one can enjoy 57 stunningly decorated Christmas trees and a candlelight stroll. If that isn’t charming enough for you, visit the Biltmore Village Dickens Festival with carriage rides, carolers, hot cocoa, cookies, and roasted chestnuts. If you’re looking for a different kind of house, check out the Omni Grove Park Inn’s National Gingerbread House competition, which is now in its 25th year.
‘Tis the season of Christmas lights, hot cocoa, and Santa Claus. Bernville is home to a Christmas Village that has embodied Christmas tradition for nearly 70 years. Visitors drive up and over to a hillside view of the entire village with lights reflecting on the lake. The winter wonderland offers a scenic walkthrough route with displays all along the path. Pictures with Santa, a covered bridge with mistletoe, and plenty of quaint shops will bring you Christmas joy at the village.
Courtesy of Bethlehem Museums and Sites
This town is named after the city of Jesus’ birth, so you know it has Christmas down pat. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, calls itself Christmas City, and it earns that right with one of the country’s top holiday markets with over 150 vendors. You can also take carriage rides through town, visit the ornately decorated the Holiday Putz Trail with miniature nativity scenes, and visit downtown, which is decorated for Christmas all year round.
Ozark Mountain Christmas Village is a great way to make your Christmas merry and bright. In addition to the village, the town of Branson now has a drive-through display of Christmas lights. The best part about this town is you can celebrate Christmas all throughout November and December, beating the bustle of holiday travel. For those hot chocolate lovers out there, say hello to gourmet. Sip a cup of your hot chocolate while your kids take selfies with Santa. Oh, and they have Clydesdale horses you can take photos with, too! Take pictures of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year parade. These are just some of the many scrapbook-worthy Christmas opportunities in this town.
Breckenridge may be best known for its ski resorts and brewery, but this town becomes a Victorian winter wonderland during the holidays. Downtown becomes illuminated during the first week of December with the annual Lighting of Breckenridge. But if you want something fun, funky, and fit to do, look no further than the Race of the Santas. Your Christmas season will be complete with the Victorian-inspired architecture, quaint downtown shops, carriage rides, and meet-and-greets with Santa himself.
St. Patrick’s Day may get all the attention in the Windy City, but visiting Chicago for Christmas is a must-do. The ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo feature ice sculptures and hot beverages in addition to the festive displays (and animals). Chicago also features and authentic German Christkindlmarket with handmade crafts, steins of beer, and plenty of Glühwein. Don’t forget to take in a few shows, including productions of A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.
Colorado has so many winter activities to offer like hitting slopes and seeing the snow-covered mountains, but Durango has amazing Christmas activities, too. There’s craft festivals, caroling, Christmas decorating, and even a ballet of the The Nutcracker. You can even take a train ride to the North Pole on the Polar Express. It’s a great getaway town for Christmas festivities.
Known as Michigan's Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth has far more to offer for Christmas than its holiday megastore Bronner’s, though that is an absolute must-do. Visitors to this German-inspired town can also have a meal with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Zehnder's Restaurant, visit the farmers market turned Chriskindlmarket, and take in the illuminating wonder of the Holiday Celebration and Candlewalk.
A town with its own holiday wine trail? Count us in! In addition to visiting the Christmas Wine Affair, no December in Fredericksburg would be complete without taking in the Light the Night Christmas Parade, visiting the towns 150-plus boutiques, and checking out the 30-foot-tall singing Christmas tree at the Pioneer Museum.
With an alpine aesthetic straight out of Bavaria itself, Helen, Georgia, is the perfect Christmastime destination despite its warm temperatures. Things kick off the day after Thanksgiving, when Santa and Mrs. Claus light up the town center. From there, look at beautiful Christmas trees decorated for a cause at the Festival of Trees auction, enjoy the annual Christmas parade, and visit the local holiday market, which features food, music, entertainment, and vendors selling German goods.
In Hershey, you can start celebrating Christmas in mid-November. Christmas Candy Lane is the town’s best way to celebrate Christmas. Hersheypark is a major attraction all year round, but Christmas floods the park from November 11 through the New Year. The trees are strung with lights that actually change color to the beat of Christmas music. Plus, children can meet Santa’s reindeer!
There’s no better way to spend Christmas in the sun than with a little Mele Kalikimaka. Honolulu allows townies to see Mr. and Mrs. Claus celebrating in the sand at the town’s display. Yearly shirts and ornaments are available to purchase. Honolulu also has great restaurants to go where you can have Christmas with Santa. The islands are a fantastic place to celebrate Christmas for those who hate the cold — seriously, who wouldn’t love a Hawaiian Christmas?
Traveling to Leavenworth, Washington, is worth it for the holiday lights alone. On select evenings, the town is illuminated with over half a million twinkling lights, which are synchronized to live music in the town square. During this nighttime spectacular, carolers stroll about the town, the smell of roasted chestnuts waft through the air, and Santa and Mrs. Claus meet with the merry revelers.
Yes, Los Angeles at Christmastime is right out of the movies. The Grove is illuminated with bright holiday lights and plenty of fake snow to bring that wintery feeling, even as temperatures sit in the 70s. Things kick off shortly after Thanksgiving with the Hollywood Christmas Parade down Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. If you’re feeling extra festive, head 45 minutes south to Disneyland for a theme park that has every inch covered in holiday décor and themed ride overlays.
Of course a town better known as “Christmas Town USA” goes all out for Christmas. This town clearly loves the holiday season and even has an official Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a festival. There’s a beautiful Christmas tree display reflecting lights around a pond. The town hosts an annual Yule log parade and ceremony, too. You can even order your own T-shirt to show your Christmas Town USA pride. They know how to make Christmas look cool.
You may not think of this South Florida city first when you think of Christmas, but that would be a mistake. Miami is full of holiday spirit. From early November to January every year, Santa’s Enchanted Forest opens in Miami. It calls itself “the world’s largest holiday theme park and carnival,” and it just may be. With over 100 rides, shows, and attractions, this park is truly a sight to see. They even have a surfing Santa! That alone is worth a trip to Miami, in our book.
Courtesy of Nevada City Chamber
Experience a true Victorian-style Christmas in Nevada City, California. The snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains provide a truly picturesque backdrop for Victorian singers, bagpipers, brass bands. Nevada City also features a live nativity scene to bring the true meaning of the holiday to the town square. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit with Santa Claus and take a carriage ride around town.
You may think that the French Quarter only gets rowdy for Mardi Gras, but you would be wrong. They also know how to throw an awesome Christmas celebration. Each year, City Park’s oak trees are illuminated with over half a million lights, the St. Louis Cathedral’s Christmas concert series features a slew of live musical acts playing holiday classics, and réveillon dinners give you a true definition of holiday indulgence. If that’s not enough merriment for you, take part in the annual Krewe of Jingle, which is half parade, half pub crawl, in true NOLA style.
What isn’t there to do in New York City at Christmastime? Whether you decide to take in a show from the Radio City Rockettes, marvel at the Rockefeller Christmas tree, or take part in one of Manhattan’s four massive holiday markets, the festive feeling never ends in New York. And don’t worry about feeling like a tourist; all the locals love looking at the department store windows, too.
You simply have to see the decorations at the Newport Mansions to believe how ornate they are. Thousands of poinsettias, evergreen trees, wreaths, and fresh flowers fill the rooms of The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House. The fresh fauna is more stunning than any Christmas card could ever show. If those displays aren’t enough for you, consider visiting downtown Newport for concerts, craft fairs, candlelight house tours, and more
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights is one of America’s most unique holiday traditions. Yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes all deck their decks with festive Christmas lights and sail around the harbor as over a million people take in the stunning light show.
It’s Christmas every day at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska, but when the holidays get close, this Northern town really kicks things into gear. You can visit Santa at his workshop to meet Ol’ Saint Nick and get a letter mailed to your loved ones directly from the jolly man himself. Additionally, you can take in the stunning ice sculptures at the North Pole Christmas In Ice Contest.
Santa’s house may be in Alaska, but his workshop is in North Pole, New York. The Yuletide Family Weekends in this charming winter wonderland feature live reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, carolers, a bake shop, and of course Santa himself. Don’t forget to make your own ornaments, see a special rendition of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and ride Santa’s steam train.
Christmastime in Ogden, Utah, kicks off right after Thanksgiving with the Electric Light Parade, featuring fabulous floats, talented performers, and (of course) Santa Claus. But the holiday revelry doesn’t end there! The Ogden Christmas Village features Santa’s Castle where you can meet the man himself, train rides on the Polar Express, and plenty of shops where you can get something for everyone on the nice list.
We have just three words for you to get you to Christmas in Orlando: Walt Disney World. Whether you visit Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, take in the sights of the stunning light displays at Hollywood Studios, or eat (and drink) around the world in a festive manner at Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays, you’ll have a happy holiday with Mickey Mouse (and Santa). If Disney isn’t your speed, check out the Christmas displays at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Sea World, or downtown Orlando.
features over 15 exhibits about the holiday season, including the first Christmas, a 1950s Christmas, and Santa’s Workshop. Unfortunately, if you want to check out this holiday attraction, you need to book some last minute December travel now. The National Christmas Center will be closing its doors for good in January 2018.
Before Sundance takes over, Park City, Utah, is a perfect place to spend Christmas. One week before Christmas Day, Santa descends from a ski slope during the Santa Comes Down Town Lift; it’s certainly one of the most unique ways the big man drops in to visit his fans. Then, on the 24th, Park City lights up with the Annual Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade, which is now in its 55th year. Santa also appears in town at the Deer Valley Resort on Christmas Eve to take photos with families and take any last-minute gift requests.
If you want an old-fashioned Christmas, then Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is your holiday destination. The Strawbery Banke Museum offers a candlelight stroll, which features vignettes of truly vintage Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. Throughout the season, The Music Hall hosts Irving Berlin’s White Christmas play. If you’re looking to enjoy the simpler things for Christmastime, the downtown Christmas lights are a must-see, and the gingerbread house contest at the Portsmouth Historical Society is simply joyful.
How can a town named after Santa Claus himself not go all out for Christmas? Named “America’s Christmas Hometown,” this town knows how to make sure you get to celebrate the holidays all throughout December. Enjoy a weekend away with your family at Lake Rudolf, or spend a few nights in Santa’s Lodge or even one of his cottages. This town has events every week in December, full of elves, Christmas lights, and roasting chestnuts. Santa Claus, Indiana has Christmas festivities galore.
Courtesy of Solvang Visitors Bureau
Inspired by its Danish roots, Solvang, California, goes all-out for Christmas. The city kicks things off with a free candlelight tour, where a costumed tour guide leads you to carolers singing traditional Christmas songs and beautifully lit holiday scenes. The city also hosts the Solvang Nativity Pageant, a holiday lights tour, and the Skål Stroll, where 16 wineries and breweries host holiday drinkers and teach them all about glogg.
Visit historic St. Augustine, Florida, for the Nights of Lights festival. Over 3 million lights dazzle downtown, and stores in the area stay open extra late to accommodate visitors and all of those last-minute holiday shoppers. You can even take in this spectacle in unique ways, with water tours, bed and breakfast packages, and a Segway guide.
The homes in Williamsburg’s historic area each feature one glowing candle in the windows, hearkening back to a tradition from the American Independence era. Bonfires illuminate the cobblestone streets of this district, giving the perfect wintery feel. If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, visit nearby Busch Gardens. Over 8 million Christmas lights make Busch Gardens Williamsburg the biggest holiday light display in the country. Don’t forget to have a visit with Rudolph and friends in between riding all the roller coasters!
With brutally cold temperatures, you’re likely to have a “White Christmas” in Woodstock. An annual Wassail Weekend is one of the best ways to celebrate the holiday. Main Street is full of small town restaurants and plenty of shops to check items off of your Christmas list. In this town, historic features are covered in Christmas décor. Holiday lights, wreaths, and snow are all over. There’s nothing like taking a tour of the town on a horse-drawn carriage at Christmastime.
Just 75 miles south of Cleveland, Zoar, Ohio, is another world. But this tiny town has one of the finest Christmas celebrations in the country. The town’s artisans (think blacksmiths and tinsmiths) decorate their businesses with garlands and wreaths, in the spirit of a true classic Christmas. The town has truly embraced the Christmas spirit, and features a craft show, musical entertainment, and a candlelight church service on Saturday nights.
And now that you know the 35 American towns that do Christmas right, see what towns around the world will guarantee you a white Christmas.