Christmas is undoubtedly one of the most magical times of the year. Spending time with family and loved ones is a central part of the holiday season, and many people choose their Christmas vacations to escape the stresses of their everyday lives. December is full of holidays that are celebrated all across the globe and especially in the US.
Whether traveling to a snowy winter wonderland or simply lounging by the pool at a sunny resort, people use their Christmas vacations as an opportunity to kick back and recharge before the new year begins. Below, we’ll explore ten great places you can visit in the U.S. that are buzzing with Christmas cheer.
Magical Ideas for Christmas Vacations
1. McAdenville, North Carolina
Also known as Christmas Town USA, McAdenville, NC, turns into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. Each year, starting on December 1st and continuing throughout the month, local shops and businesses put up holiday decorations ranging from glittering lights to handmade ornaments. In addition, people gather together in the town square to participate in live music performances and other festive events.
Perhaps the most unique feature of McAdenville’s holiday celebrations is its tradition of “lighting up.” Every evening at dusk, all 600+ Christmas trees in town are illuminated with colorful lights that reflect in the frozen ponds and streams.
2. Leavenworth, Washington
Every December, the quaint town of Leavenworth, Washington, comes alive with Christmas cheer. Known for its charming German-inspired architecture and festive holiday atmosphere, Leavenworth is a beloved family destination. Its snowy mountain backdrop and picturesque rivers make it a winter wonderland at Christmastime.
You can spend time strolling through town, admire elaborate displays of Christmas lights, or participate in traditional holiday activities like caroling or ice skating. In addition, there are plenty of festive events held throughout the season, from concerts and plays to parades and craft fairs.
3. Santa Claus, Indiana
Each year, thousands of people head to the small town of Santa Claus, Indiana, to celebrate Christmas. Famous for its festive atmosphere and unique holiday offerings, Santa Claus is an excellent destination for Christmas vacations. In addition to a wide range of shops and restaurants that cater specifically to Christmas, the town also hosts various special events throughout the season. This includes parades, light shows, live performances, and appearances by Santa himself.
You can have breakfast or dinner with Santa, take a magical train ride to his workshop, and even meet Clara, the reindeer! So if you want to indulge in all things Christmas or want to experience a bit of old-school charm, there are plenty of reasons to visit the delightful winter wonderland of Santa Claus, Indiana!
4. Branson, Missouri
The town of Branson, Missouri, is known for its festive holiday spirit. Located in the heart of the Ozarks, this bustling town comes to life each winter with events and activities to celebrate the holiday season. Whether you’re interested in checking out festive decorations and holiday light shows or crave a snow-covered hill for some downhill tubing, Branson offers plenty of fun and exciting activities for the entire family.
Some of the most popular attractions include: 1) Santa’s Workshop, where you can enjoy a charming retelling of Santa’s story with rides and entertainment for kids; 2) Skate Country, which features two large indoor rinks; 3) The Polar Express Experience at the Snow Cap Mine Train, which brings the beloved children’s book to life with festive decorations, hot cocoa, and an enchanting train ride through an imaginary winter wonderland.
5. North Pole, Alaska
Christmas is a magical time in North Pole, Alaska. This small town is situated just a few miles from the northernmost tip of the United States and has become renowned for its festive holiday atmosphere.
Thousands of tourists travel to this charming Arctic town yearly to experience its unparalleled holiday cheer. There’s something special about celebrating Christmas at the North Pole, whether browsing the quaint shops along Santa Claus Lane or enjoying a cup of hot cocoa at Mrs. Claus’ Cafe.
The one thing that truly sets this town apart is its incredible decorations. Year-round residents collaborate with local artists to create dazzling displays of lights and festive ornaments, transforming the narrow streets into a breathtaking winter wonderland. So if you’re looking for a unique place for your Christmas vacations, consider taking a trip to North Pole, Alaska!
6. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Every December, the city of Bethlehem is filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas. Glittering lights embellish the quaint shops and historic churches along Main Street. At the same time, carolers in colorful holiday outfits stroll through the cobblestone plazas, bringing a festive spirit to this charming Pennsylvania town.
The heart of Christmas in Bethlehem is undoubtedly the marketplace at Christkindlmarkt, where vendors sell handcrafted ornaments, delicate desserts, and other traditional holiday gifts. Whether browsing for unique presents or simply enjoying a steaming mug of hot chocolate on a chilly winter night, visitors to Christkindlmarkt are sure to feel transported by the warmth and cheer of this beloved local tradition.
7. Park City, Utah
Every winter, Park City, Utah, is a go-to destination for those looking to celebrate the holiday season. This charming ski town is brightened with twinkling lights and festive decorations, making it a magical place to get in the Christmas spirit. Whether you are browsing the local shops or enjoying a horse-drawn carriage ride through town, there is no shortage of festive activities.
But what truly makes Park City special is its proximity to beautiful natural landscapes and ski resorts. This charming mountain town is famous for its world-class ski resorts, with plenty of slopes perfect for downhill skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. If you’re more of a winter adventurer than a skier, Park City also offers plenty of opportunities for ice climbing, snowmobiling, and other cold-weather activities.
8. New York City, New York
Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year in New York City. From iconic sights like Times Square to delightful holiday traditions like late-night shopping and window displays, New York City is an exciting place for your Christmas vacation. The lights, decorations, and festivities capture the season’s spirit and attract tourists from all over the globe.
One of the most popular things to do is visit Rockefeller Center, home of the iconic Christmas tree. You can marvel at the dazzling lights and decorations, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, or enjoy some hot chocolate and shop for unique holiday gifts.
Another great option is to visit one of the many festive markets, like the Grand Central Holiday Fair or Union Square Holiday Market, where you can browse local crafts and artisanal goodies. And, of course, no trip to New York City during Christmastime would be complete without seeing a show on Broadway. Check out winter-themed productions like The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, and Elf, perfectly suited for this special time of year.
9. Chicago, Illinois
The streets of Chicago, Illinois, are enlivened with festivities and cheer during the holiday season. There is always something going on in this vibrant city during the holidays, from the tall windows at Christkindlmarket to the twinkling lights along Michigan Avenue.
One of the most popular spots for holiday shopping is Magnificent Mile, an area along North Michigan Avenue known for its high-end retail stores and charming Christmas decorations. Another option is to visit Millennium Park, where you can enjoy ice skating on Lake Michigan under the twinkling lights of the city skyline.
Other popular activities include taking a horse-drawn carriage ride downtown, attending a carol concert at one of Chicago‘s many churches, or simply visiting some of the city’s historic neighborhoods to admire their beautiful Christmas displays.
10. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is a bustling city at any time of the year, but its energy is unmatched during the holiday season. Thanks to the city’s warm and sunny climate, you can spend Christmas enjoying all of your favorite holiday traditions under the bright Nevada sun. Las Vegas is an exciting place to spend Christmas vacations, from festive holiday markets and caroling concerts to ice-skating rinks and Santa’s workshops.
Check out one of the many Christmas light displays around the city, like the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village or Winter Wonderland at Enchant Christmas. These events typically feature festive decorations, food and drink vendors, and live performances from local artists.
Another fun activity during the holidays in Vegas is taking a trip to one of the area’s world-class resorts. Many offer special holiday shows and concerts featuring well-known performers and other festive activities for adults and kids. So whether you plan on seeing the bright lights of the Vegas strip or watching the world-famous Bellagio Fountain show, make time for all the fantastic holiday events that make this time of year truly magical.
Start Planning Your Christmas Vacations
There are many fantastic options for Christmas vacations in the United States. Some of the most popular destinations include picturesque ski towns, bustling cities, and charming small towns. No matter your preferred style or type of holiday season activity, there are sure to be countless delightful opportunities for you to enjoy in the US this winter!
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.
Alex Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! She's a proud Virginia native who has also founded the Explore Coastal Virginia website. Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.