The Best Christmas Vacation Destinations: From Historic Capitals to Magical Winter Wonderlands

2023-11-14 01:09:51 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Are you ready to make this holiday season truly unforgettable? Look no further! We have curated a list of the best Christmas vacation destinations that will transport you to enchanting winter wonderlands and fill your heart with joy. From the magical lights of Washington, D.C., to the snowy slopes of the Austrian Alps, these destinations offer a perfect blend of festive cheer and breathtaking beauty. Whether you're seeking a cozy retreat in the mountains or a lively city experience, join us on this captivating journey as we explore the most delightful places to create cherished memories this holiday season.

Washington, D.C.

Click here to view the full post on InstagramAmerica's capital, Washington, D.C., offers a captivating blend of history, shopping, and excellent dining options. Explore the rich historical sites and indulge in the city's vibrant atmosphere.

WHERE TO STAY: For a luxurious experience, consider staying at The Ritz-Carlton. This hotel not only provides easy access to the city's charm but also offers a range of luxurious amenities.


New York City

Click here to view the full post on InstagramDuring Christmas time, New York City becomes a magical destination. With endless options for celebrating the holiday season, including ice skating, window shopping at Bloomingdales, and attending the iconic Radio City Christmas Spectacular, it's no wonder why the Big Apple is a popular choice.

WHERE TO STAY: There are many great options, but The Peninsula stands out. This hotel goes above and beyond to create a festive ambiance, making your stay even more enchanting.


Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Click here to view the full post on InstagramBethlehem, known as the "Christmas City," takes its title seriously. The downtown area is beautifully adorned with festive decorations, embracing the spirit of the season. Don't be surprised if you come across a horse-drawn carriage ride while exploring the town.

WHERE TO STAY: Immerse yourself in the Christmas experience by staying at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem. Located in the heart of town, this hotel allows you to fully embrace the joy and merriment of Christmas.


Quebec City, Canada

Click here to view the full post on InstagramQuebec City offers a touch of magic throughout the year, but it becomes even more enchanting during Christmastime. Discover the city's fascinating history, admire the European architecture, and indulge in delicious delicacies.

WHERE TO STAY: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts provides an exceptional experience. With a warming pool, ski lifts, and a variety of restaurants, this resort offers everything you need for a delightful stay.


Germany (Munich)

Munich, Germany - December 18th, 2017: people and sales booth at the Christmas market in Munich, Germany. The Munich Christmas market takes place annually on the Marienplatz and the surrounding streets and is famous for its stalls selling arts and crafts. Directly on the Marienplatz, the old city hall forms the background.Getty ImagesGermany offers a unique Christmas market vacation experience that everyone will love. From urban Berlin to magical Munich and the Bavaria region, Germany has something special to offer in each destination. Indulge in traditional German holiday treats like Lebkuchen, Stollen, Marzipan, and Glühwein.

Where to stay in Munich: The Sofitel Munich Bayerpost hotel is the perfect choice. Located in the heart of the city, this hotel offers 339 rooms, a French restaurant, a spa, an indoor pool, and breathtaking views.

Switzerland (Zurich)

Panoramic view over Zurich's Christmas Market at the recently reconstructed public town squares Bellevue / Secheseläutenplatz right in front of the Opera house and next to the Zurich lake with the landmark Grossmunster cathedral in the distance.Getty ImagesSwitzerland is a truly special place to celebrate Christmas. With its spectacular landscape, friendly locals, and divine food, it offers a unique experience.

“Zurich is a spectacular winter wonderland destination with unique activities to explore from skiing, chocolate making, to breathtaking spa hotels,” said Mizrahi.

Where to stay in Zurich: The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz offers a unique hotel experience. Located near Zurich, this resort features Michelin-starred restaurants, a thermal spa, and stunning views of the Swiss Alps. Duncan Greenfield-Turk, chief travel designer at Global Travel Moments, also recommends Baur au Lac hotel and The Dolder Grand hotel as great options in Zurich.

Austria (The Alps & Vienna)

Tranquil snowy winter evening in idyllic Austrian village Hallstatt.Getty ImagesAustria's Alps provide a beautiful backdrop for a memorable Christmas vacation. The skiing opportunities are breathtaking, and there are options available for every budget. Enjoy delicious food and explore various activities, like horse-drawn carriage rides and evening events with bonfires and hot tubs.

(Pro tip: Consider combining Austria with a neighboring country like Germany or Switzerland to visit the fantastic Christmas markets and festivals happening during that time of year. You can even embark on a river cruise to make the most of your time).

While you're in Austria, make sure to spend a few days exploring Vienna, the fabulous capital.

Where to stay in Vienna: Experience a fabulous stay at The Ritz Carlton Vienna. Located in the heart of Vienna's cultural district, this hotel offers a luxurious experience with its spacious rooms, French restaurant, rooftop bar, spa, and indoor pool.

Where to stay in the Alps: After exploring Vienna, head to the mountains and stay at the Hotel Jagdhaus Monzabon in Lech, Austria. This hotel offers cozy and luxurious rooms, allowing you to enjoy the snowy Christmas atmosphere.

Finland (Lapland)

Aurora borealis (also known as northern or polar lights) beyond the Arctic Circle in winter Lapland.Getty ImagesIf you're looking for an adventure and a bucket list trip, Lapland, Finland, is the perfect choice. Experience a warm and beautiful Christmas celebration in one of the most remote spots in Europe, with a great chance of spotting the Northern Lights. Don't forget to visit Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus!

While in Lapland, try exciting activities such as dogsledding, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, reindeer safaris, ice fishing, and more.

Where to stay in Lapland: For a truly special experience, choose the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. Stay in their famous glass igloos and admire the Northern Lights right from the comfort of your own room. Surrounded by nature, this unique resort offers traditional wood chalets, a thermal spa, and the world's largest smoke sauna.

Czech Republic (Prague)

Prague, Czech Republic. Christmas Market in Stare Mesto (Old Square), Tyn Church, Bohemia.Getty ImagesThe Czech Republic offers wonderful Christmas markets with an Eastern European twist. Explore the fantastic castles and charming small towns, where you can immerse yourself in local traditions and cultural heritage.

Where to stay in Prague: Experience the amazing history of Prague by staying at the Augustine, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Prague. Located in the center of Prague's Lesser Town district, this hotel offers a unique blend of luxury and history. Converted from a 13th-century monastery, it has preserved its historic charm and offers special tours to explore the Augustinian monastery and a 13th-century library.

Scotland (Highlands & Edinburgh)

People browsing winter market stalls, just off Princes Street in Edinburgh's city centre during the run-up to Christmas and Hogmanay, the city's famous New Year's celebrations.Getty ImagesScotland is a truly festive destination during the holidays, with its vibrant festivals and Scottish spirit. Explore the Scottish highlands and lowlands and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere.

If you're visiting Scotland, spend time in the capital, Edinburgh, which is beautifully decorated for the holidays. Don't miss the famous Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens and the evening light trail at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Where to stay in Edinburgh: Enjoy a luxurious stay at The InterContinental Edinburgh The George. This five-star hotel is located just steps away from Edinburgh Castle and offers a range of amenities, including a restaurant specializing in Scottish beef and a Printing Press Bar.

Where to stay in the Scottish Highlands: If you're heading to the Isle of Skye, the Cuillin Hills Hotel is a great choice. Enjoy stunning mountain and sea views while staying in one of their cozy rooms.

Lake Tahoe

From charming mountain villages to luxury lakeside retreats, the region surrounding Lake Tahoe is the perfect holiday escape. Experience the beauty of snow-covered landscapes and enjoy various events, such as the Holiday Tree Lighting at the Heavenly Village and the launch party at Palisades Tahoe.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Click here to view the full post on InstagramIf you love skiing or snowboarding in stunning locations, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is the destination for you. Enjoy a wide range of holiday events for the whole family, including fireworks to welcome the new year. The downtown area is beautifully decorated, creating a festive atmosphere.

WHERE TO STAY: Consider staying at The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. This resort offers everything you need for a perfect mountain escape, with slopes, lodges, and stunning snowy landscapes. Whether you're traveling as a couple or with a group, the resort provides a variety of lodging options.


Big Sky, Montana

Click here to view the full post on InstagramBig Sky, Montana, offers a dream-like experience where you can feel like you're on top of the world. Enjoy the stunning beauty of the Rockies while engaging in activities like skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, and sledding.

WHERE TO STAY: For a snowy Christmas getaway, consider the Montage Big Sky. With its breathtaking views of white mountains, this resort provides a perfect winter retreat.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

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During the holidays, Santa Fe showcases its multicultural heritage with vibrant Christmas lights and the annual holiday party at the Palace of the Governors.

WHERE TO STAY: The historic La Fonda on the Plaza hotel is an excellent choice for immersing yourself in the Christmas spirit. Don't miss the tree lighting ceremony!


Hot Springs, Virginia

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Escape to the picturesque Shenandoah Valley for a simple yet stunning Christmas getaway. Hot Springs offers both natural beauty and a cozy atmosphere.

WHERE TO STAY: The Omni Homestead Resort is a top choice. Enjoy their festive decorations, s'mores, and guided tours.

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Charleston, South Carolina

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Prepare to be amazed by Charleston's annual Festival of Lights, which transforms the city into a winter wonderland. Don't forget to explore the beautiful nearby beaches!

WHERE TO STAY: Zero George hotel is a perfect blend of history and sophistication. Plus, its location is ideal for experiencing Charleston's Christmas activities.

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Savannah, Georgia

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Savannah is not just a summer destination—it's also a lovely place for a Christmas escape. Explore the city's architecture, historical sites, and natural beauty in pleasant winter temperatures.

WHERE TO STAY: Treat yourself to a stay at the Perry Lane Hotel. Enjoy unlimited champagne and a beautiful rustic location.


Cape May, New Jersey

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Whether you're a couple or a family, Cape May offers a delightful holiday experience. Don't miss the Christmas parade and the beautifully decorated historic homes and hotels.

WHERE TO STAY: Congress Hall is the perfect choice for your Cape May trip. Join their Christmas tree lighting and enjoy fun activities like gingerbread house making!


Woodstock, Vermont

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Experience the ultimate Christmas charm in Woodstock, Vermont. Festive horse rides, colorful street lighting, and charming Christmas shops will transport you to a Hallmark movie.

WHERE TO STAY: The Woodstock Inn & Resort is the obvious choice for accommodations. Located in the heart of Woodstock, it offers easy access to all the holiday festivities.


Adare, Ireland

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Visit the enchanting village of Adare, known as "Ireland's prettiest village." Enjoy the sight of quaint thatched cottages and explore Dublin, just a short commute away.

WHERE TO STAY: Indulge in a luxurious experience at the five-star Adare Manor. With its stunning location by a river and a charming village, it will make you feel like European royalty.

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Nashville, Tennessee

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Experience a honky-tonk holiday in Music City, Nashville. This Tennessee favorite goes all out with its festive decor and energetic atmosphere.

WHERE TO STAY: Enjoy the stunning views of the city's tree lighting from the Omni Nashville Hotel.


Beaver Creek, Colorado

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Head to Beaver Creek for world-class skiing, fine dining, and family-friendly activities. This ski town has something for everyone!

WHERE TO STAY: The Osprey provides the peace and quiet you need for a relaxing holiday. The breathtaking views will make you want to return year after year.


Las Vegas, Nevada

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In Las Vegas, the possibilities are endless for a fun-filled Christmas escape. Let your imagination run wild in this vibrant city.

WHERE TO STAY: ARIA Resort and Casino takes Christmas seriously with its festive displays.


Australia (Sydney)

Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge illuminated at duskGetty Images

"If you are looking for a warm Christmas, this will be a great destination. You still can enjoy Christmas decorations, Christmas lights and Santa, but also you can enjoy beach parties," said Natallia Khoshchynka, a travel expert at Protravel International, a Global Travel Collection affiliate. "Australia offers different levels of adventure and relaxation starting from urban getaways to remote retreats. It’s nice to celebrate Christmas and New Year in the country that celebrated it first with fantastic fireworks and Christmas Pudding."

While there are many spots in Australia that would make for an incredible Christmas vacation, many of our experts recommended the city of Sydney in particular.

"Sydney is one of the most fun and lively cities to travel to during the holidays, as the decor, energy and outback activities create an unforgettable trip with sunny comfortable temperatures, since it is their summer season during the holidays," said Shayna Mizrahi, travel expert at Vive Voyage, an affiliate of In The Know Experiences, a Global Travel Collection Company.

Where to stay in Sydney: Capella Hotel brings a nice mix between luxury and indigenous roots. It has a wonderful art collection throughout the hotel. Take advantage of complimentary events like historian-led storytelling sessions and guided market tours.


Aerial of Rendezvous Bay, Cove Bay Beach, AnguillaGetty Images

December through April offers the most ideal weather in Anguilla, with dry conditions and plenty of sun. It's the perfect time to visit this warm and inviting destination.

"Anguilla offers a very relaxed vibe with nearby island exploration by boat and snorkeling at various beaches. The island is also known for its amazing dining," said Linda Sergeant, travel advisor with Global Travel Collection.

Where to stay in Anguilla: If money isn't an object, consider the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla for an unforgettable Christmas trip. With its breathtaking views, luxurious villas, and fine cuisine, it's a true paradise.

St. Barts

St. Barts birds eye viewGetty Images/iStockphoto

"St. Barthelemy [St. Barts] in the Caribbean Islands is a consistent top choice for Christmas vacation. The stunning French island is an oasis full of incredible beaches, nightlife, gastronomy, and shopping that will check off every holiday wish list," said Mizrahi.

"So many of the islands have 'festivals' and special events during the holidays, so if you're looking to get away from cold weather, the Caribbean is the place for you! Sun and beaches, boating and water sports abound," added Metzger. "Because there are so many options, even with holiday pricing, you can still find something in your budget. Higher-end villas and resorts also offer extra amenities."

Where to stay in St. Barts: Rosewood Le Guanahani St Barth is a great option for a slow-paced vacation. Set on its own private peninsula, this resort offers a full-service experience with stunning ocean views, exquisite cuisine, and a range of amenities.

Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah

The festivities at the perennial ski resort favorite, Montage Deer Valley, begin over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy ornament decorating, a holiday bazaar, gingerbread house displays, and the annual tree lighting ceremony. In December, experience a Candy Land-inspired event and send your letters to Santa through their red mailbox. Don't miss the resort's reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, followed by a delicious prix-fixe dinner. On Christmas Day, indulge in a festive buffet and evening dinner to complete the holiday celebrations.

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Villa Roma, Catskills, New York

If you're looking to celebrate a snowy Christmas in the Catskills, one of the best options is Villa Roma. This all-inclusive resort, located just outside Callicoon, New York and east of the Delaware River, offers plenty of winter activities for the whole family. You can enjoy three slopes for skiing and snowboarding, two snow tube runs, and a ski school for beginners. After your fun on the slopes, unwind in the ski chalet with a hot beverage by the cozy fire. Make sure to check the resort's events calendar, as they often have special deals and packages for families during the holiday season.

Leavenworth, Washington

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We've saved the most magical location for last: Leavenworth, Washington. The beautiful lights, charming townspeople, and stunning architecture will make you feel like you're in a fairytale from the moment you arrive.

WHERE TO STAY: If you're wondering how a place like Posthotel exists, we won't question it either. This unique hotel feels like its own little town and offers an experience unlike any other.

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Josiah Soto is the assistant editor of news and social for The Pioneer Woman. He manages the website's social channels and writes engaging news and entertainment content on a daily basis.

North Pole, Alaska

If you're looking to venture even further north than North Pole, New York, then North Pole, Alaska might pique your interest. This small city in Alaska, with a population of about 2,700 people, fully embraces its name and the winter season. Even when it's sunny in July, Christmas decorations adorn the streets. When the snow falls, the city truly transforms into an Arctic wonderland. Don't miss the Santa Claus House, where you can find holiday ornaments and toys, as well as the various holiday bazaars. At Santa's Letters & Gifts, you can even receive personalized notes from Santa himself and "Good Girls and Boys Certificates.

Whether you're looking to be dazzled by city lights, immerse yourself in history and culture, or simply escape to a winter wonderland, there are plenty of unforgettable Christmas vacation destinations to choose from. From the enchanting streets of Quebec City and the majestic beauty of the Austrian Alps to the lively atmosphere of Nashville and the breathtaking landscapes of Lake Tahoe, the options are endless. So, this holiday season, don't settle for anything less than spectacular. Plan your trip to one of these incredible destinations and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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