The Best US Christmas Destinations: From Historic Boston to Enchanting Natchitoches
Looking for the ultimate festive getaway? Look no further! We've curated a list of the best US Christmas destinations that will have you singing carols and sipping hot cocoa in no time. From the charming streets of Boston, Massachusetts to the vibrant holiday scene in New Orleans, Louisiana, we've got you covered. Explore picturesque towns, experience winter wonderlands, and indulge in holiday cheer across the country. Get ready to be enchanted by these festive gems as we take you on a merry journey through the best US Christmas destinations.
Boston is one of the most enchanting destinations to visit for Christmas vacations in the USA. The historic brownstone buildings are adorned with twinkling lights, while velvet bows and evergreen branches decorate the street lamps. Live holiday music fills the air, creating a festive atmosphere. Experience the magic of Christmas illuminations in downtown Boston! A must-do activity during the Christmas season is exploring the charming boutiques along Charles Street in Beacon Hill. Here, you can find unique gifts, toys, chocolates, and more. Don't forget to visit Rouvalis Flowers, a beloved flower shop known for its seasonal arrangements featuring evergreen boughs, holly, and poinsettias. Just a short distance from Beacon Hill is Boston Common, where you can enjoy ice skating on the Frog Pond. After dark, take a stroll through the Common and admire the beautifully lit Christmas tree, a tradition that has been upheld for over 80 years. Another highlight is the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Boston Public Garden, dressed in adorable knit scarves and hats during this time of year. On the Seaport side of Boston, you'll find the Holiday Market at Snowport, a local adaptation of European Christmas markets. Explore the booths of numerous vendors selling everything from outerwear to Christmas ornaments and seasonal treats.
Where to stay: For a truly memorable stay, book a room at the historic Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, which has been welcoming guests since 1855. During Christmas time, the hotel hosts dramatic readings of the beloved Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Recommended by Amanda of My Vintage Map
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
David J. Murray/Clear Eye Photo
Portsmouth, a waterfront New England town with a rich history dating back to the 1600s, exudes a festive atmosphere during the winter season. Explore the 10-acre time capsule of the Strawbery Banke Museum, where you can skate at the open-air Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond or take a walk along candle-lit paths to admire decorated homes from centuries past. In New Hampshire, you can indulge in tax-free shopping, making it the perfect opportunity to stock up on classic toys and children's books in Portsmouth.
Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May, a Jersey Shore town boasting charming Victorian architecture, embraces the holiday season with a touch of Dickensian flair. Take a stroll along the Washington Street Mall adorned with garlands and festive lights while you shop. Don't miss out on The Original Fudge Kitchen, where you can find delightful fudge and saltwater taffy gift boxes. Stay at Congress Hall, especially if you're traveling with kids, as the hotel transforms its Grand Lawn into a seaside winter wonderland with various festive activities.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
While Atlantic City may be synonymous with casinos and boardwalks, it surprises visitors with its lively holiday spirit. Festivities include the annual tree lighting at The Quarter at Tropicana shopping center and the Atlantic City Holiday Bazaar at the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University.
Seneca Falls, New York
Seneca Falls is renowned as the inspiration behind the town of Bedford Falls depicted in the classic holiday film It's a Wonderful Life. Every year, the town hosts the It's a Wonderful Life Festival, a three-day celebration in early December. Immerse yourself in the world of Bedford Falls as the entire town transforms to evoke its charm. The festival features special guests, movie screenings, and exclusive presentations that offer behind-the-scenes insights into the legendary production. Make sure to visit the town's Bridge Street Bridge, known as the "It's a Wonderful Life Bridge," decorated with mementos left by locals and visitors. Throughout December, the town hosts holiday brunches, Christmas caroling, and festive pop-up events.
Newport, Rhode Island
Escape the flashy neon lights of modern Christmas displays and relish in the candlelit ambiance of classy Newport. Only white lights are encouraged in this elegant town, evoking an old-fashioned charm. Delve into the Gilded Age architectural icons by joining tours of the Mansions of Newport, such as The Breakers, The Elms, and The Marbles, all lavishly adorned with splendid trees, fine china, and decorations. Take advantage of the lighter crowds to savor the most sought-after dining establishments, such as The Dining Room at Castle Hill Inn.
Bethlehem, also known as "Christmas City USA," is a must-visit destination in December. The city bathes its streets in a warm glow by placing candles in every window, a cherished local tradition. Delight in the festive light displays, dazzling Christmas trees, and abundant yuletide decor that immerse you in holiday cheer. The city's highlight is its two holiday markets: Christmas Huts on Main, inspired by the German tradition of Weihnachtsmarkt, where artisans offer handmade jewelry, treats, and gifts, and Christkindlmarkt, an indoor extravaganza featuring thousands of artisan goods, live performances, and even ice skating. Additionally, the Live Advent Calendar at the historic 1810 Goundie House offers daily activities ranging from musical acts to crafts and giveaways throughout December.
Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, is a top destination for a Christmas vacation. With daytime temperatures in the low to mid 40s, bundle up and enjoy the beauty of the city. The main attraction is the National Christmas Tree exhibit located just south of the White House. Since 1923, the annual tradition of lighting the tree by the President of the USA takes place here. Marvel at the live Colorado blue spruce, standing over 30 feet tall and adorned with ornaments crafted by artists from around the country. Surrounding the National Christmas Tree, numerous trees representing U.S. states and territories illuminate the area, creating a truly festive spectacle. Continue soaking up the holiday spirit at the Downtown Holiday Market, where dozens of vendors offer arts, crafts, and gifts. Visit the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden ice skating rink, experience the magical ZooLights at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, and explore the CityCenter DC with its captivating ice sculptures, lights, and decor. Immerse yourself in the arts by watching a performance of A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre or being captivated by Handel's Messiah at the National Cathedral. Don't miss the enchanting evening walking tour at Mount Vernon, the former estate of George Washington, where illuminations add a special touch to the Christmas season.
Where to stay: For a memorable stay, choose The Watergate Hotel, offering a rooftop bar with magnificent views of the Potomac River and unique winter igloos.
Williamsburg, a small town known for its pastoral charm, culinary delights, and family-friendly attractions, transforms into a magical destination during December. Snow blankets the cobblestone streets, and wreaths adorn every corner. Explore the town's main street while admiring the array of buildings showcasing 18th and 19th-century architectural styles, which become even more picturesque when covered in snow. Indulge in the festivities by visiting local boutiques, fine dining restaurants, the Christmas Market, and the town's breweries and wineries. Make sure to experience the seasonal events at Colonial Williamsburg, including the Mistletoe Market, Yule Log Celebration, and the iconic Grand Illumination ceremony. Visit the Busch Gardens Christmas Town, where the theme park is transformed with special ice shows, visits from Santa Claus, and a stunning display of 10 million lights.
Charlottesville provides a peaceful atmosphere during the holidays as college students prepare for finals before returning home. Take part in the Lighting of the Lawn tradition on the University of Virginia campus, which usually takes place in early December. Another festive activity is the gingerbread display competition at the Ronald McDonald House.
Nantucket's Christmas Stroll is the town's flagship holiday event, originating in the 1970s to provide a local shopping experience during the festive season. On the first weekend in December, downtown Nantucket comes alive with dozens of Christmas trees, wine and cocktail tastings, and guided walking tours. Explore Murray's Toggery Shop, known for Nantucket reds, and Jessica Hicks, a boutique by a local jewelry designer. Don't miss the annual Festival of Trees at the Whaling Museum, showcasing uniquely decorated Christmas trees contributed by the community.
Woodstock is a truly magical destination to visit during Christmas time. The town's holiday decorations enhance its already picturesque charm. Take a leisurely stroll along the main street, admiring the stunning architecture dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The iconic covered bridges, such as the Middle Covered Bridge and Taftsville Covered Bridge, are among Vermont's most beautiful covered bridges and deserve a visit. Woodstock offers various festive events, including the Wassail Weekend at the Billings Farm, a dairy farm and museum, which captures the historic New England Christmas charm. Enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides, sleigh rides, fire pits, and Christmas movie nights to fully embrace the holiday spirit.
Where to stay: For a memorable Christmas stay, choose the Woodstock Inn & Resort, a classic New England hotel located on the Village Green. Don't miss their Christmas buffet.
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Leavenworth, a town nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, transforms into a magical destination during Christmas. Its downtown area is adorned with over half a million Christmas lights, creating a breathtaking sight. The charm of Leavenworth lies in its Bavarian architecture, which can be found throughout the town, even in unexpected places like the gas station and Starbucks. The town's decision to embrace this style was a gamble that paid off immensely. Despite not having any Germanic roots, Leavenworth attracts more than 200,000 visitors every year to its Christmas festivities. From the weekend after Thanksgiving until Christmas, the town becomes a snowy wonderland. Carolers sing on the streets, chestnuts are roasted over open fires, and you may even encounter Santa himself. In addition to the festive atmosphere, Leavenworth offers wineries with cozy fireplaces, delicious food like sausages with sauerkraut, and the Nutcracker Museum, which showcases an impressive collection of 7,000 nutcrackers. If you want to fully enjoy Leavenworth's winter wonderland, there are also nearby snowshoeing and Nordic ski trails to explore. For accommodations, consider booking a stay at the Bavarian Lodge, where you can relax in outdoor tubs while taking in the scenic views of the Cascade Mountains.
San Francisco, California
There's something truly enchanting about spending Christmas in San Francisco. The city comes alive with holiday magic, and one of the must-visit spots is San Francisco City Hall, illuminating the night with red and green lights. Union Square is home to a towering Christmas tree, adorned with 1,000 ornaments and 33,000 LED lights. Right beside the tree, you can also enjoy ice skating. For a unique shopping experience, Macy's showcases adoptable pets in their window displays, partnering with local animal care organizations. Another highlight is the life-sized Gingerbread House at the Fairmont Hotel, made with real gingerbread bricks, candy, and even ice cream. To warm up, visit Ghirardelli Square for specialty holiday drinks. San Diego Bay Parade of Lights offers a festive boat parade through the bay. San Diego is also known for its warm weather, making it a perfect destination for those seeking a sunny Christmas getaway. The city offers numerous family-friendly activities, such as exploring the beaches, visiting Balboa Park's Christmas light festival, and indulging in delicious hidden food spots. For accommodations, The Westin St. Francis is a great choice, located right on Union Square and in the heart of all the holiday festivities.
Healdsburg, a charming town in Sonoma County, California, is known for its excellent restaurants and wineries. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful vineyards and wines at Flowers Vineyards and Winery, Aperture Cellars, and Faust in nearby Napa. After a day of wine tasting, retreat to Montage Healdsburg, where you can relax and immerse yourself in the holiday spirit. The hotel features charming holiday decor, Christmas trees, and cozy fireplaces.
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Escape to South Walton in Florida for a peaceful Christmas celebration. With its white-sand beaches and pleasant temperatures in the 60s, you can enjoy the beauty of the Gulf Coast practically to yourself. The Annual Holiday Market at The Artists Warehouse is the perfect place to find unique gifts. Kitchen Garden Books and Antiques also offers unusual and interesting finds. Santa Rosa Beach provides a serene setting for a memorable Christmas.
San Diego, California
For a warm-weather holiday, San Diego, California, is the ideal destination. With its year-round pleasant climate, you can enjoy all kinds of wonderful family-friendly activities. Explore the beautiful beaches and catch some incredible waves, even if you're a beginner. La Jolla Cove offers stunning coastal scenery, with hundreds of sea lions and seals sunbathing on the rocks. Balboa Park becomes a winter wonderland with its Christmas lights and the annual December Nights festival. Don't miss the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, when illuminated and decorated boats create a spectacular parade. San Diego also boasts a vibrant food scene, with delicious spots to satisfy your taste buds. Pendry San Diego, located in the Gaslamp Quarter, provides a cool Christmas getaway, complete with festive decorations and events for kids.
Laguna Beach, California
While Southern California may not have a white Christmas, Laguna Beach offers its own unique charm. The town hosts the Sawdust Winter Fantasy, an arts and crafts festival that spans several weekends in November and December. The Montage Laguna Beach hotel provides a luxurious stay with holiday programming and easy access to the beautiful Christmas Cove beach.
Solvang, known as "the most Christmassy town in the USA," offers a sensory treat for visitors during the holidays. This Danish-themed town celebrates Julefest throughout December. Located in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a delightful vacation destination on its own or combined with other charming towns in the region. Explore downtown Solvang's windmills, Danish architecture, and festive shops dressed up for Christmas. The town boasts numerous authentic Danish bakeries where you can indulge in holiday-themed sweet treats. Take part in the hunt for hidden nisse (elves) scattered throughout downtown. Solvang is also a haven for unique Christmas ornaments, decor, and gifts. Hotel Corque provides comfortable accommodations in downtown Solvang, with some rooms offering views of the lit-up Solvang Village after dark.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina, is a top Christmas destination in the United States. The iconic Biltmore Estate takes center stage during the holiday season. The grand house and grounds are adorned with over 100,000 lights and 100 Christmas trees, including a large tree raised by Santa in the estate's banquet hall. Candlelight Christmas Evenings allow visitors to explore the manor while enjoying live music and taking in the beauty of the walled gardens and observatory. The estate also features a winery where you can savor a glass of wine under illuminated trees. Biltmore Village and Asheville offer ample shopping opportunities, including holiday markets and the Winter Lights show at the North Carolina Arboretum. The Omni Grove Park Inn hosts the National Gingerbread Competition, displaying incredible gingerbread creations. For a truly magical experience, consider booking a stay at the Biltmore Estate.
Beaufort, North Carolina
While Beaufort, North Carolina, may not have snow, its mild climate allows for a unique Christmas celebration on the water. You can enjoy kayaking or join a boat tour along Taylor's Creek, surrounded by the town's picturesque beauty. The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, a boat parade adorned with twinkling lights, is a major event that takes place on the first weekend of December. Beaufort provides a charming and peaceful setting for a waterfront Christmas celebration.
Celebrate Christmas, Southern style, by visiting Atlanta for the holiday season! Atlanta is one of the top destinations in the United States to experience the festive Christmas atmosphere. In Atlanta, you can immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of twinkling lights, explore a vibrant arts and culture scene, and indulge in some of the most unique culinary delights in the country.
When you visit Atlanta, make sure to catch a show. The city offers a variety of seasonal productions, including the famous Atlanta Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker, holiday shows by the renowned Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the classic A Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theatre, which is a must-see.
If you're in the mood for a spectacular light show, Stone Mountain, Lake Lanier, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden are all worth exploring. These attractions transform into mesmerizing winter wonderlands with magnificent lighting displays. Don't miss the opportunity to go tubing, take a stroll through a holiday light garden, and enjoy outdoor concerts at these locations.
Atlanta is also known for its fantastic seasonal pop-up bars. The Miracle bar is a local favorite, offering unique cocktails and extravagant decor that fully embrace the holiday spirit. Ponce City Market is another must-visit spot with its themed holiday bar and cozy igloos. For a tiki-inspired Christmas experience, head to Sippin' Santa.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Christmas time is the perfect season to visit New Orleans. This incredible city is always worth exploring, but during the holidays, it becomes even more enchanting with its festive decorations.
Marvel at the magical Christmas lights in New Orleans.
If you're looking to escape the cold, New Orleans offers mild winters along the US Gulf Coast, making it an ideal winter destination. The city's beautiful architecture and rich history will captivate history enthusiasts. And for food lovers, New Orleans is a paradise with its diverse and delightful culinary traditions.
During December, temperatures in New Orleans typically range from the mid-40s to mid-60s Fahrenheit. While the weather is generally pleasant, occasional cold fronts can surprise visitors, so it's advisable to pack some warm clothing.
Don't miss the elaborate holiday decorations at the Roosevelt Hotel, where the lobby transforms into a winter wonderland with stunning light displays. While you're there, enjoy a drink at the Sazerac Bar and indulge in festive cocktails or classic New Orleans favorites like the Sazerac.
Take a leisurely stroll through the Garden District to admire the beautifully decorated historic homes. This neighborhood, known for its exquisite architecture, becomes even more charming during the Christmas season.
Another unique Christmas tradition in the region is the lighting of bonfires on the levee. This Cajun tradition involves setting up rows of bonfires along the levees of the Mississippi River. On Christmas Eve, these bonfires are lit to guide Papa Noel on his journey. Although the bonfires are not in the city of New Orleans itself, a short drive to St. James Parish allows you to witness this magical spectacle.
Make sure to experience Reveillon dinner, a French tradition that still thrives today. Many restaurants in New Orleans offer special Reveillon menus on Christmas Eve. Keep an eye out for these menus and make a reservation to enjoy a celebratory meal.
Where to stay: Consider booking a stay at the luxurious Windsor Court Hotel, located close to the French Quarter. The hotel lobby is adorned with fabulous holiday decorations, including a majestic Christmas tree, twinkling lights, and beautiful poinsettias.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is a fantastic destination to visit in Texas year-round, but it becomes especially delightful during Christmas. With daytime temperatures in the mid-60s and a festive holiday atmosphere, San Antonio offers an extra special experience for a Christmas getaway.
The iconic San Antonio Riverwalk is a must-see attraction that truly shines during the holiday season. Adorned with thousands of twinkling lights and enchanting holiday decor, the Riverwalk is a magical place to explore.
Experience the charm of the San Antonio Riverwalk during Christmas.
Take a boat ride along the Riverwalk, where the illuminated boats add to the festive ambiance. Explore the shops along the Riverwalk to find unique holiday gifts, ornaments, and arts and crafts.
Since the Riverwalk is lined with excellent restaurants, be sure to enjoy a meal or two while immersed in the holiday decor and atmosphere.
For a unique Christmas experience, visit the Natural Bridge Caverns, where live choirs sing Christmas carols in the underground caverns. The caverns are adorned with Christmas trees and lights, adding to the enchantment.
Lightscape at the San Antonio Botanical Garden is another incredible holiday event in the city. This one-mile illuminated path showcases stunning light displays that are exclusive to Texas. While exploring the gardens, you can also savor seasonal food and beverages.
If you're traveling with kids, a visit to the Texas Transportation Museum for Santa’s Railroad Wonderland is a must. Kids can ride a decorated train and journey to "the North Pole" to meet Santa Claus.
When in San Antonio, don't miss the opportunity to indulge in the local culinary delights, especially the traditional tamales that are popular during the Christmas season.
Where to stay: Consider staying at The Crockett Hotel, a historic hotel located close to The Alamo and the Riverwalk. This convenient location allows for easy access to sightseeing, shopping, and dining in the city.
Cleveland is an underrated gem among US travel destinations. It boasts beautiful historic buildings, intriguing attractions, and delectable cuisine, all without the steep price tag of a big city. Moreover, Cleveland offers a plethora of holiday events that cater to all kinds of travelers.
Attending a holiday concert is a fantastic way to embrace the Christmas spirit, and Cleveland is the ideal place for it. The city's Severance Hall, an art deco masterpiece, is home to the world-class Cleveland Orchestra.
If you're in town in late November, kick off the holiday season by participating in the Winterfest kickoff. This exciting annual event features live concerts, a pop-up market, and culminates in a dazzling fireworks show.
If you miss the November festivities, don't worry, as Christmas celebrations in Cleveland continue through February.
Other special events include winter lights displays at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Festival of Trees at the gorgeous Allen Theatre, and an igloo village at Merwin's Wharf, providing a unique and intimate dining experience.
While in Cleveland, don't forget to explore the city's attractions beyond the holiday events. The Logan Theater, a vintage movie theater built in 1915, is a hidden gem in Logan Square. Pay a visit to Gaslight Coffee Roasters for a delicious espresso drink in their cozy and rustic cafe.
Where to stay: Immerse yourself in the Bavarian charm of downtown Frankenmuth by staying at the Bavarian Inn Lodge.
Christmas is an extraordinary time to visit Chicago, as the city truly embraces the holiday spirit. Everywhere you turn, you'll encounter festive decorations, beautiful lights, and a wide array of indoor and outdoor public events.
Experience the magic of Christmas in Chicago.
Chicago's Christmas spirit is palpable, so bundle up in your warmest coat and boots and explore the city. The iconic Navy Pier is a must-visit destination for families, offering an indoor ice rink, a light garden, and a gift market. Kids can even take photos with Santa Claus.
If the weather permits, head to the outdoor skating rink and free zoo at Lincoln Park. It's a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the winter scenery while indulging in some holiday fun.
For a cultural experience, make your way to the Art Institute of Chicago, a renowned art museum housed in a beautiful building that originated after the Great Fire of 1871. It's an excellent place to appreciate art and escape the winter chill.
While in Chicago, treat yourself to local culinary delights. Don't miss the chance to try a classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza from Pequod's or a delicious hot dog from Portillo's.
Make a stop at The Logan Theater in Logan Square, a vintage movie theater that dates back to 1915. Afterwards, visit Gaslight Coffee Roasters for a cozy and warm atmosphere where you can enjoy a great espresso drink and take a break from the post-vacation blues.
Where to stay: For an unforgettable holiday-themed vacation in Chicago, consider booking a stay at The Peninsula Chicago. This upscale hotel is located along the prestigious Magnificent Mile and offers luxurious accommodations and enchanting holiday decorations.
Michigan is a magical Christmas destination that should be on your radar, especially for family vacations. Two cities in particular, Frankenmuth and Owosso, are perfect for celebrating a White Christmas.
Don't miss the gigantic Christmas store, Bronners, in Frankenmuth!
Owosso is home to the steam engine that inspired the sights and sounds of "The Polar Express" movie.
For a magical Christmas experience with kids, treat them to a themed train ride to the "North Pole." This enchanting journey includes hot chocolate served by car hosts, a conductor who punches tickets, and even the exciting presence of the elusive hobo. Upon arrival at a small town transformed into the North Pole, children can meet Santa, build toys at Santa's Workshop, and enjoy magic shows, among other activities.
Afterwards, head to Frankenmuth, a charming city located less than an hour away. Though the city has become more popular, its allure is still traditionally discovered through word of mouth rather than extensive online coverage. Downtown Frankenmuth comes alive with sparkling lights and glowing trees, creating a festive atmosphere inspired by German holiday traditions and warm hospitality.
No visit to Frankenmuth is complete without a stop at Bronners, the largest Christmas store in the world. Spanning 5 acres and offering 50,000 products, Bronners is a paradise for Christmas enthusiasts.
Where to stay: Immerse yourself in the authentic Bavarian charm of Frankenmuth by booking a stay at the Bavarian Inn Lodge, located in the heart of downtown.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
For an East Coast mountain getaway during the holidays, Pigeon Forge in Tennessee is the perfect destination. Known as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, this charming town may cover just a small area, but it exudes a unique southern charm that is hard to find elsewhere.
Experience the charm of Pigeon Forge during the Christmas season.
Pigeon Forge offers a wide range of activities during Christmas. The towering Great Smoky Mountain Wheel stands at 200 feet tall and provides breathtaking aerial views of the surrounding mountains. During Christmas, it is adorned with vibrant red and green colors to celebrate the festive season.
Dollywood, the local amusement park, showcases over five million Christmas lights as part of its annual Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration. The event features holiday shows, beloved theme park rides, and a Christmas-themed menu that will surely delight visitors.
If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, Pigeon Forge offers its own Christmas lights drive experience. You can stay in your car and drive through town, witnessing over twenty different lighted scenes scattered throughout the area, all completely free of charge.
When it's time to eat, you can enjoy Christmas dinner shows that have become popular attractions in Pigeon Forge. Christmas at Dolly Parton's Stampede offers a horse-themed stunt show along with a four-course meal. Alternatively, you can visit the Hatfield & McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Feud, where two rival families entertain with singing, dancing, and comedic stunts.
Where to stay: For a complete holiday-themed vacation, stay at the Inn at Christmas Place, the only Christmas-themed hotel in Pigeon Forge.
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming
If you're searching for one of the finest destinations in the western United States to celebrate Christmas, look no further than Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This town transforms into a magical winter wonderland and is the ideal place to spend the holiday season.
Jackson Hole is truly a snowy paradise during Christmas time PC: BeaUTAHful World
You can reach Jackson Hole by flying directly into the airport (airport code: JAC), which happens to be the only airport in the United States located within a national park (Grand Teton National Park).
If flying into Jackson Hole is too complex or expensive, another option is to fly into Salt Lake City and drive for approximately 4.5 hours.
One of the main attractions of visiting Jackson Hole, Wyoming during Christmas is the opportunity for downhill skiing. Most people associate skiing with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR), which is the most popular choice.
JHMR is included in both the Mountain Collective Pass and the IKON pass, but reservations are required. Apart from JHMR, there are two other smaller ski areas available.
If you're not into downhill skiing, don't worry as there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the winter.
The close proximity of Jackson Hole to Grand Teton National Park provides ample opportunities for outdoor exploration. If you love the outdoors, you can go hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing in the national park or surrounding area.
If you're concerned about the cold but still want to experience the park, you can also take a scenic drive.
Looking for something a little more adventurous? Consider booking a snowmobiling trip. There are various places where you can go snowmobiling, including deeper into the national park on the unplowed roads and to local hot springs. Bookings are even available on Christmas Day.
Where to stay: If you plan on skiing at JHMR, the ideal place to stay is Continuum Hotel, located at the base of the slopes in Teton Village. This hotel offers an outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi, which will surely enhance your stay.
Suggested by Andrea of BeaUTAHful World
For outdoor enthusiasts, Vail, Colorado, offers a multitude of attractions. While you may have a difficult time choosing between Aspen and Vail, we selected Vail for this list due to its vibrant atmosphere and reputation as one of the best Christmas destinations in the US!
With numerous improvements made to Vail Ski Resort in recent years, this already world-class facility has become even better. The slopes are perfectly groomed and offer a wide range of terrain options. From scenic glades on the mountain to the extensive Back Bowls and the backcountry of Blue Sky Basin, skiers will find paradise here.
The town's shops and restaurants are adorned with holiday decorations, and you can reserve the perfect Christmas dinner right in the village. If the excitement and activities become overwhelming, take some time to relax at one of the many spas and resorts throughout Vail.
Breckenridge comes alive during the holidays as ski season reaches its peak. This resort town offers both excitement and serenity. Throughout December, there are festivities galore, from the lighting of the tree to the Race of the Santas, a half-mile footrace featuring runners in festive costumes. You'll also fall in love with the charming après-ski options in Breckenridge, such as the house-made beers at Breckenridge Brewery or the martinis and flights at Base Nine Bar.
The combination of luxury living and small-town allure makes Aspen, Colorado one of the most delightful towns in the Rocky Mountains, especially during the holiday season. While strolling along Cooper Avenue, you may stumble upon cookie exchanges, public s'mores roasts, or meet-and-greets with Santa's elves. Get into the holiday spirit at Aspen's treasured hotels — the lobby of the Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection often hosts carolers, while Ajax Tavern and Element 47 at The Little Nell serve marvelous holiday meals. For a birds-eye view of the magnificent decorations, book one of the Sky Residences at W Aspen and enjoy a private rooftop lounge overlooking the breathtaking mountain scenery.
Ryan Bonneau/Telluride Tourism Board
Telluride is a delightfully unconventional town that truly shines during this time of year. The highlight is the Ski Tree, an actual tree made entirely of old skis. It is illuminated during the annual tree lighting ceremony, accompanied by a bonfire made of more old and broken skis. Any season is perfect to experience the vibrant nightlife in Telluride. Get a cocktail at the Timber Room in Madeline Hotel and Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection and visit the Historic Bar in the New Sheridan Hotel, which has maintained its mahogany-paneled look since 1895.
Prescott boasts a charming downtown area, a white-columned courthouse, and a small-town atmosphere that has earned it the nickname "Arizona's Christmas City."
With its quaint streets and Victorian homes reminiscent of "It's A Wonderful Life," Prescott truly embodies the holiday spirit.
Explore Prescott's old-fashioned downtown, which is lined with historic buildings, independent bookstores, antique shops, and quirky boutiques adorned with fairy lights. It's the perfect place to find unique Christmas gifts.
Experience the beautifully decorated courthouse in Prescott! PC: Experience Prescott
Stop for a delicious lunch at the historic Whiskey Row, lined with saloons straight out of the Wild West. Indulge in some caramel popcorn or handmade chocolate as you browse the shops. A leisurely stroll down this historic street is definitely one of the best things to do in Prescott.
Head to the tree-lined courthouse plaza to experience small-town American life. The plaza is adorned with twinkling lights, and a magnificent tree in front of the courthouse adds to the festive atmosphere.
The Christmas Lights Parade is a must-see for families, with live music, caroling, and a reading of "The Night Before Christmas."
The Annual Christmas Parade and Courthouse Lighting is a spectacular event held on the first Saturday of December that brings the local community together. Colorful floats and holiday cheer delight visitors.
Don't miss The World's Largest Gingerbread Village event, featuring hundreds of handcrafted gingerbread creations on display in a sugary village. The sweet smell is delightful, making it a perfect wintertime getaway!
Where to stay: For a touch of historic charm, check into the Hassayampa Inn. Known as the Grand Dame of Prescott, this inn was built in 1927 and features a beautifully restored lobby from the 1920s, along with modern amenities.
Suggested by Dee of Vanilla Papers
Park City, Utah
If you dream of a white Christmas, one of the best places to spend Christmas in the USA is Park City, Utah.
Beautiful Park City PC: The Minivan Bucket List
For skiers and snowboarders, Park City holds a special place in their hearts, as it hosted several events during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
You can still visit the Utah Olympic Park and witness athletes training or even take a ride down the bobsled track yourself, if you're feeling adventurous!
Christmas is an especially magical time to visit Park City, as it offers a wide range of holiday festivities. From Snowfest at Park City Mountain, where Santa arrives via ski lift, to the torchlight parade and the New Year's Eve fireworks show, there's something for everyone.
Park City's Main Street is adorned with giant snow globes and holiday decorations, making it a popular destination for après-ski bars, restaurants, art galleries, and holiday entertainment.
If you're traveling with kids, they'll love riding the North Pole Express on the nearby Heber Valley Railroad.
If you've never been to Park City, now is the perfect time to add it to your Utah bucket list!
Where to stay: For a ski-in/ski-out experience and a full-service spa, look no further than The Condos at Canyons Resort by White Pine. After a day of outdoor adventures, relax in the comfort of your spacious unit.
Suggested by JJ Haglund of The Minivan Bucket List
Sun Valley, Idaho
With its snow-capped mountains and log cabin homes, Sun Valley, Idaho embodies the essence of a winter wonderland.
Sun Valley became America's first destination ski resort when Swiss developers recognized its resemblance to the alpine villages they grew up visiting.
Sun Valley is a paradise for skiers!
The town remains a favorite destination for snow sport enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels.
Beyond skiing and snowboarding, Sun Valley offers a wealth of other winter activities.
Take a trip to Smiley Creek, just outside town, and enjoy snowmobiling or fat-biking in the woods. Join a local outfitter for a thrilling paragliding experience over the majestic Sawtooth Mountains. Or rent a pair of skates and enjoy ice skating on one of the largest natural rinks in the country.
Each year, Sun Valley hosts an annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, caroling at the library, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and a European-style open-air winter market.
On Christmas Eve, families gather on the slopes to watch the Ice Show & Torch Parade, where hundreds of skiers descend carrying torches, culminating in a spectacular fireworks show.
Where to stay: To experience the full splendor of Sun Valley during the Christmas season, book a stay at the iconic Sun Valley Lodge. This historic lodge, adorned with garlands and twinkling lights, offers a truly memorable experience.
Suggested by Rose of Rose Campau
We hope you enjoyed this roundup of the best places to visit for Christmas in the USA. Which destination will you choose for your Christmas vacation?
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Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada, celebrates Christmas in style, with extravagant holiday decor and even snowfall on demand. It's the perfect place to spend Christmas in the USA, with daytime temperatures in the low 60s Fahrenheit that are perfect for walking around. Many Vegas resorts are decked out with holiday-themed decorations during Christmas, so make sure to take the time to explore the resorts along the famous Strip. One of the best displays can be found at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, where you'll be enchanted by the poinsettias, candy canes, lights, and meticulously-created holiday scenes. The display changes each year, so if you visit Vegas over Christmas, you'll always have a new and thrilling experience.
Christmas display at the Bellagio Conservatory
Don't miss the elegant holiday decor at The Venetian and The Wynn, which are both truly breathtaking. The Bellagio fountain show is another wonderful and free experience, where you can sip on hot chocolate and watch the mesmerizing dance of water and light set to holiday-themed music. The LINQ promenade also offers a tall Christmas tree, lots of shopping, and seasonal food and drink. Make sure to take a ride on the High Roller, the giant observation wheel, to watch the light show set to holiday music. Love ice skating? Head to the ice rink at The Cosmopolitan, considered one of the best in the US. And for more family fun, check out the lights at the Ethel M's Chocolate Factory Holiday Cactus Garden or enjoy the made-to-order snow and holiday train at the Springs Preserve. And of course, indulge in the great food that Las Vegas has to offer, with holiday menus at many Vegas restaurants and holiday-inspired dishes at Las Vegas buffets.
Where to stay: To be close to all the sights, shows, shopping, and dining, book a stay at one of the resorts along the Strip. The Bellagio, with its fountain view rooms, or The Venetian are excellent choices. And if you have a few days, consider adding some day trips from Vegas to your itinerary, or visit one of the nearby national parks perfect for winter visits.
Orlando, Florida, is another one of the best places to spend Christmas in the USA. With mild winter weather and the best theme parks in the world, Orlando is a perfect destination. The most magical place on Earth, Walt Disney World, is a must-visit during the Christmas season. All the parks at Walt Disney World are beautifully decorated for the holidays, with Cinderella's Castle lighting up with holiday projections and special events like Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and the International Festival of the Holidays at EPCOT. Universal Orlando Resort is another great option, with experiences like Grinchmas in Seuss Landing and Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's famous balloons. And don't miss the opportunity to visit Hogwarts Castle at Christmas time for a magical experience. Downtown Orlando also gets in the holiday spirit, with a tall Christmas tree and lots of festive decor along the shore of Lake Eola.
Where to stay: For an amazing stay in Orlando, choose the Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. This resort is set in a peaceful nature preserve, yet still close to the theme parks.
St. Augustine, Florida, may not have snow, but it definitely feels like a winter wonderland during Christmas time. In addition to its historic landmarks and natural attractions, St. Augustine offers a host of spectacular activities during the holiday season. From mid-November to the end of January, the historic district of downtown St. Augustine is filled with millions of sparkling white lights for the Night of Lights festivities. There are parades, live nativities, Christmas markets, and glittering boat regattas that immerse you in the Christmas spirit. Explore the history of the Oldest City in the US by visiting Castillo de San Marco and the Colonial Quarter, where you can experience life from the 18th century. Don't miss the spectacular views of the city from the St. Augustine Lighthouse, especially at night. And the Maritime Museum hosts Luminary Night and Lighthouse Illuminations, where you can enjoy themed Christmas trees on the property. Take a stroll through the lit-up historic district or enjoy the lights from the Old Town Trolley or a boat tour.
Where to stay: Experience the Christmas celebrations in St. Augustine by staying at the St. George Inn, located in the heart of the historic district.
Helen, Georgia, is an incredibly unique Bavarian-style village that becomes even more enchanting during Christmas. The entire village is built in Bavarian style, creating a fairy tale-like atmosphere. Take a ride on the Georgia Mountain Coaster to enjoy the Christmas lights covering the town at night. Helen offers incredible Christmas events throughout the season, including the annual lighting of the village the day after Thanksgiving. The Christkindlmarkt is another highlight, with streets lined with stalls selling local goods, Christmas decor, and handmade gifts. The Christmas Parade, usually held in mid-December, features local performers and unveils Santa Claus. And while in Helen, make sure to appreciate the beautiful mountains and nature around you by going for a hike up Mount Yonah or visiting nearby waterfalls.
Where to stay: For the best place to stay in Helen, rent a room at the Valhalla Resort Hotel, just a few minutes outside of downtown.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a great destination for a Christmas getaway. While it's the low season, there are still plenty of sights and events to enjoy. Brookgreen Gardens has its annual display of hand-lit candles, creating a magical atmosphere. Ripley's Aquarium also hosts the Festival of Trees, adding to the holiday spirit. The Carolina Opry Theater is worth a visit for its beautiful decorations and for experiencing "The Christmas Show of the South," a beloved tradition.
Ogunquit, Maine, offers a different kind of Christmas getaway. It's a beach town that transforms into a calm and festive destination during the holiday season. Enjoy lower prices and the Christmas by the Sea festival, which includes a bonfire on the beach and visits with Santa. Take advantage of the proximity to the Kittery Outlets and Freeport for some Christmas shopping. And don't miss browsing the Harbor Candy Shop for unique local gifts.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a waterfront New England town with a rich history. In December, immerse yourself in the holiday spirit by exploring the Strawbery Banke Museum. Take part in the open-air Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond or walk along paths lit by candle lanterns to see decorated homes from centuries past. And make sure to take advantage of tax-free shopping statewide for some Christmas shopping.
North Pole, Alaska
Although not located at the magnetic north pole, the city of North Pole, Alaska, embraces the Christmas spirit wholeheartedly. The Santa Claus House is the main attraction, with its sprawling Christmas store full of toys and holiday decor. You can even find Santa roaming the aisles. Enjoy the possibility of catching the Northern Lights during your stay and explore the snow-blanketed landscape with activities like hiking and ice fishing.
Nantucket's Christmas Stroll is the highlight of the holiday season on the island. This tradition started in the 1970s and includes shopping downtown amidst numerous Christmas trees, wine and cocktail tastings, and organized walking tours. Don't miss the chance to pick up some gifts at Murray's Toggery Shop or Jessica Hicks. And visit the Whaling Museum for their annual Festival of Trees, where you can see uniquely decorated Christmas trees.
Saint Croix, US Virgin Islands
There's no better place than the Caribbean islands to spend Christmas, and Saint Croix is no exception. The St. Croix Crucian Christmas Carnival is one of the largest events on the island, with parades, art fairs, local cuisine, and more. Enjoy the rich history and culture of St. Croix during this festive time. And take advantage of the perfect weather for outdoor celebrations and excursions, such as visiting the beautiful Buck Island National Reef National Monument or hiking the Carambola Trumbull Trail to natural tide pools.
Where to stay: For a wonderful stay in St. Croix, check out the Sand Castle on the Beach, located right in Frederiksted near all the Christmas activities.
One of the most captivating destinations to celebrate Christmas in the United States is Oahu, Hawaii. Here, you can embrace a unique twist on beloved holiday traditions, such as Christmas carols. It's not uncommon to come across Santa Claus donning an Aloha shirt or even catching some waves while surfing in the ocean!
Honolulu City Lights is an experience not to be missed during Christmas on Oahu!
Moreover, Oahu is one of the rare places where you can celebrate Christmas while wearing your swimsuit. There are numerousWaikiki Christmas activities to enjoy, including visiting Santa, exploring the Waikiki Christmas Store, and admiring the Sheraton Waikiki Sand Sculptures.
Ala Moana Center, the world's largest outdoor shopping mall, offers an abundance of holiday entertainment, a Santa village, and enticing Christmas shopping deals. However, the highlight of the season is the enchanting Honolulu City Lights. This month-long event is filled with thousands of lights, captivating performances, and extravagant Christmas decorations.
Additionally, the Waikiki Christmas Trolley is a delightful way to explore Honolulu and witness breathtaking light displays. While many restaurants offer fancy Christmas dinners, a memorable option is booking tickets for the Rock-a-Hula Christmas Luau, one of Waikiki's grandest shows, featuring various ticket packages to celebrate the season in style.
All major resorts and hotels in Oahu go above and beyond to create a festive atmosphere for the holiday season.
Where to stay: For an exceptional Christmas experience on Oahu, consider staying at The Moana Surfrider. They offer breakfast with Santa Claus and an afternoon Christmas-themed tea. The resort also showcases incredible Hawaiian Christmas decorations!
Suggested by Marcie of Hawaii Travel with Kids
Known as the Christmas Capital of Texas, the charming town of Grapevine comes alive during the holiday season, offering a multitude of family-friendly events for all ages.
Explore the city with the Grapevine Christmas Passport, a delightful way to discover everything Grapevine has to offer during this festive time. The passport will take you to various locations throughout historic Grapevine, where you can create lasting memories and bring home handmade souvenirs.
A unique experience not to be missed is the North Pole Express. Step aboard a beautifully restored 1925 train carriage and enjoy delectable holiday treats while being entertained by a special show. The train will transport you to the enchanting Christmas Village Forest, where the little ones can see where Santa Claus resides.
For a romantic date-night experience, treat yourself to the Christmas Wine Train. Grapevine offers a plethora of tasting rooms and exceptional restaurants that serve flavorful Texan cuisine with a unique twist.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is a top-notch destination to visit in Texas throughout the year, but it becomes even more enchanting during the Christmas season, with daytime temperatures in the comfortable mid-60s and a festive holiday atmosphere.
San Antonio's iconic Riverwalk is truly captivating during the holidays, adorned with thousands of sparkling lights and magical holiday decorations. The Riverwalk boasts luminarias, Mexican Christmas lanterns, that line the pathways and create a mesmerizing ambiance.
The San Antonio Riverwalk shines bright during Christmas.
Take a boat ride along the illuminated waterways and explore shops offering holiday gifts, ornaments, and unique arts and crafts. With an array of exceptional restaurants lining the Riverwalk, savoring a meal amidst the festive decor is a must.
For a distinctive Christmas experience, head to the Natural Bridge Caverns, where live choirs fill the underground cavern with beautiful Christmas carols during the holiday season. The addition of Christmas trees and lights adds to the festive atmosphere.
Lightscape at the San Antonio Botanical Garden is a relatively new but awe-inspiring holiday event in the city. Immerse yourself in the magic as you stroll along a one-mile illuminated path showcasing dazzling light displays unique to Texas. Indulge in seasonal food and drink offerings to enhance your experience.
If you're traveling with children, make sure to visit the Texas Transportation Museum for Santa's Railroad Wonderland, where kids can hop aboard a decorated train and embark on a journey to "the North Pole" to meet Santa Claus.
Don't miss the opportunity to savor traditional tamales, a San Antonio holiday delicacy!
Where to stay: Consider the historic Crockett Hotel, conveniently located near The Alamo and the Riverwalk. This location ensures easy access to sightseeing, shopping, and dining.
Suggested by us
Natchitoches, pronounced "nack-a-dish" and named after its indigenous people, is one of Louisiana's oldest settlements. During the holiday season, the entire city gleams with impressive displays, and every weekend from Thanksgiving through Christmas offers family-friendly festivities. However, the highlight of it all is undeniably the boat parade, where string lights and fireworks create a captivating reflection on the Cane River.
With so many incredible options to choose from, it's hard to pick just one best Christmas destination in the US. Whether you find yourself strolling through the historical streets of Boston or enjoying the sunny beaches of Santa Rosa, there's a destination to suit all tastes and preferences. From the charming small towns of New England to the bustling cities of the South, the US offers a wide array of festivities and traditions that will make your Christmas unforgettable. So grab your loved ones, pack your bags, and get ready to create cherished holiday memories in one of these incredible destinations.
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