Christmas is a magical time of year for everyone. Whether you are staying at home with the family or choosing to travel, you can do many different things for this celebration. If you're looking for a great spot to head to for Christmas and love the city life then places like New York, Vegas and Chicago all have something unique to do for visitors and locals alike.
Get away from winter for a moment and take the kids to Florida or California where the festive decor, special parades and fireworks by the Disney parks are worth watching during Christmas time. Christmas celebration in the United States is a special affair especially at the below mentioned places.
Let's take a look at some of the best places to spend Christmas in the USA to make your holiday season more merrier than ever!
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Since the movie "Home Alone" at the latest, New York City has become the perfect dream holiday destination for many at Christmas time. Anyone who strolls through the festively lit streets of the Big Apple and sees the toys and Christmas decorations in the shop windows will certainly quickly understand why New York is one of the best places to visit during Christmas in the USA.
One place that should be part of any New York itinerary during winter is the ice rink in front of Rockefeller Center. For years, this place has been one of the city's most popular winter activities. Even if you don't want to go ice skating yourself, this is a great place to watch the skaters with a warm drink in hand. For many, however, the real highlight at Rockefeller Center is not the ice rink, but the vast Christmas tree that is located here every year.
But you shouldn't miss the city's various Christmas markets either. With their festively decorated stalls, the NYC Christmas markets can keep up perfectly with Central Europe's typical markets.
Another highlight during the Christmas season is the Saks Fifth Avenue light show. Every afternoon after dark until late in the evening, a spectacular lighting event takes place here every 10 minutes. For many visitors and some of the city's locals, this light show is a real must-see every year.
With a bit of luck, you might even experience a bit of snow during your Christmas visit. Central Park, in particular, looks even more beautiful when it is covered in a thin layer of snow.
Contributed by Vicki from Vickiviaja
Accomodation: Where to stay in New York City
No matter what time of year you visit, there are lots of things to do in Vegas. But the entertainment capital of the world becomes even more of a fun destination during the holidays, with special events and shows, lights and decorations, and holiday menus at restaurants.
See snow falling (created Vegas style) in Town Square, a Vegas shopping center. Enjoy ornate and gorgeous Christmas decorations at the resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard, particularly at the Wynn, where a carousel and elegant holiday displays brighten the mood, and at the Bellagio, where the Conservatory is dressed in green and red, with polar bears, Santa's elves, and a choo-choo train making for a festive display.
Stroll the LINQ promenade, illuminated with holiday lights. You may run into carolers singing popular Christmas carols. Ride the LINQ High Roller to see the lights of Las Vegas from up high. Watch the Nutcracker Suite, a perennial holiday attraction, or catch a music show with holiday-themed music on tap. Take in the Bellagio fountains, where the water sways to holiday tunes.
And of course, it would not be holidays in Vegas without a great meal, so book a table at your favorite restaurant. There is so much to see and do in Las Vegas during the holidays: it really is one of the best Christmas vacations in the United States.
Contributed by Dhara from It's Not About the Miles
Accomodation: Where to stay in Las Vegas
Chicago is one of the most magical Christmas destinations in the US, as the holiday season features every type of event imaginable. From ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo to the German-style Christkindlmarket, Chicago doesn’t disappoint.
The holiday season kicks off right before Thanksgiving with the city’s annual Lights Festival along Michigan Avenue. Walt Disney World partners up with the city for a parade that gets the crowd in the holiday mood. With everything from surprise guests to thrilling performances, the parade ends with the lighting of the trees on Michigan Avenue to mark the beginning of the holidays.
Other not to miss events during the Chicago Christmas season include: Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry with over 60 trees displaying the customs of families around the world; Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier with giant slides, carnival rides, and ice skating; and Illumination at the Morton Arboretum with features a stroll through 50 acres of lighted trees while drinking hot cocoa and being serenaded by carolers.
Visiting the city during the holidays is truly something for a Chicago bucket list. Every town, restaurant, bar, and the venue has something special planned for the holiday season. Don’t miss an opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a city that goes all out for the holidays.
Contributed by Kirsten from Kids Are A Trip
Accomodation: Where to stay in Chicago
Disney World is a magical place to visit any time of year, but it is especially magical during the holiday season. Spending Christmas at Disney World is an unforgettable experience full of holiday shows, experiences, and spirit. Starting shortly after Halloween through New Year’s, all four parks and even the resorts are transformed into Christmas wonderlands. All it takes to experience the holiday magic is an admission ticket for the day!
Visiting the Magic Kingdom is obviously a high priority as guests can marvel at the giant Christmas tree, Main Street all decked out in holiday decor, and the dream lights covering Cinderella’s castle. However, the other parks have lots of holiday experiences too. Each Epcot country is decorated to reflect the cultural traditions, and holiday concerts are performed throughout the park.
Hollywood Studios also has a festive light show, and Animal Kingdom has some of the coolest nature-themed decorations imaginable. Even Disney Springs gets in the spirit with visits from Santa and all sorts of holiday desserts to try.
Staying at a Disney resort will enhance one’s holiday experience with the giant Christmas trees in the lobby and light sized gingerbread houses. Regardless, visiting Disney World for a day around the holidays or a week, one will be guaranteed a big dose of holiday magic.
Contributed by Amy from The Florida Travel Girl
Address: 1180 Seven Seas Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Christmas is a magical season in Lake Tahoe, which is a popular winter destination that straddles both California and Nevada. One of the top reasons to choose Lake Tahoe for Christmas is you can celebrate in two states on the same day, making it a holiday season to remember!
Lake Tahoe’s resorts not only offer great skiing and snowboarding, but they also put on activities and Christmas attractions. Lake Tahoe’s winter resorts come alive with Christmas cheer. From having breakfast with Santa to marveling at the expert ice carvers at work to watching fireworks, there are so many beautiful attractions in Lake Tahoe during the Christmas season.
There are live musical performances, homestyle Christmas dinners, and family fun on and off the slopes. Off slope activities in Lake Tahoe include gingerbread workshops, sleigh rides, and ice skating. Places to ski include Squaw Valley, NorthStar and Heavenly. What’s more, the scenery in Lake Tahoe in winter is straight out of a storybook, with twinkling Christmas lights, snow-capped mountains, and cozy fireplaces.
While the kids will most definitely love Christmas in Lake Tahoe, there’s plenty of fun for the grownups too. Join an après ski party, go on a Santa’s Pub Crawl or watch a screening of the ski movie. A memorable thing to do in Lake Tahoe for everyone is to dress up in a reindeer costume and go skiing with Santa.
Contributed by Christina from Travel 2 Next
Accomodation: Where to stay in Lake Tahoe
With its mild weather and well-deserved reputation for knowing how to throw an excellent celebration, there’s no doubt that New Orleans is one of the best places to spend Christmas in the United States!
New Orleans, of course, is no stranger to a party, whether that’s the legendary Mardi Gras celebration or a typical Saturday night in the French Quarter. It’s no surprise, then, that the city pulls out all the stops for Christmas, including specialty cocktails available from local establishments, carolers bringing extra Christmas spirit to Jackson Square, and Christmas lights decorating the already-lovely City Park.
It wouldn’t be New Orleans without some Christmas parades, either! Plan ahead, and you can enjoy the floats and music for yourselves.
The Roosevelt Hotel is known for being one of the best-decorated hotels in the city, so even if you don’t splurge on a room, be sure to stop by and check out their many Christmas trees!
With a few days in New Orleans, you’ll have time to experience the festive side of the city while also partaking in plenty of typical things to do in NOLA with a Christmas twist--after all, does anything say Christmas quite like a hot plate of beignets from one of the city’s legendary cafes?
Contributed by Kate from Our Escape Clause
Accomodation: Where to stay in New Orleans
There is no doubt that Hawaii is a destination that is worth visiting year-round. However, it is particularly appealing to visit Hawaii over the Christmas holidays while most people flock to snow-capped mountains. If you're looking to experience Christmas in warm weather, on the beach, under a palm tree, then the Big Island is the place for you!
In December, the weather on the Big Island is typically in the 80s and rain is minimal. This means you can spend all of your time outside enjoying the nice weather! Opting to visit Hawaii over the Christmas holiday will make you feel like you've traveled to an exotic country even though you're still in the USA!
The best thing about the Big Island is the size - after all, it is called the Big Island for a reason! There are truly so many wonderful things to do on the island that you will never get bored! For example, spend a day in Hilo exploring waterfalls and the Volcano National Park! Spend another day hiking down Pololu Valley to see black sand beaches! You can make tons of new family traditions while exploring the island.
Some resorts around the island decorate for the Christmas holiday and offer special meals for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Be sure to book those early in advance! If you're looking for a unique meal option, book a Hawaiian Luau for Christmas Eve! It will be an experience that you and your family will never forget.
Overall, visiting the Big Island of Hawaii over Christmas is a great way to escape the "winter season" for a few days and soak up the Hawaiian sun!
Contributed by Lisa from Wanderlust With Lisa
The city of Aspen in Colorado is truly one of the most magical places to spend Christmas in the USA! Aspen is not only a paradise for ski-lovers but offers events and activities for every kind of family.
Every year from around December 20 to 31, The Aspen Chamber of Commerce produces "12 Days of Aspen", a celebration with a ton of amazing events that turn the city into a magical Winter Wonderland. And the best part: a lot of those events are entirely free!
Some of the best things to do in Aspen during Christmastime include ice skating, snow-shoeing, holiday shopping, skiing, and of course, après-skiing Aspen style. That's right: Aspen takés après-ski (which literally means "after ski") super seriously. Almost every bar and restaurant in the city offers incredible après-ski specials that are sure to warm you up after a day in the snow.
For those that love Christmas lights, an event you can't miss is Aspen Meadow Nights, which promises to leave every visitor having felt all the warmness and love that only Christmas can offer. Also, the St. Regis Resort at Aspen provides its own tree lighting ceremony on December 16 with complimentary drinks, desserts, and of, course, a chance to sit on Santa’s lap and take a memorable picture!
Contributed by Cami from Travel Cami (www.travelcami.com)
Accomodation: Where to stay in Aspen
Also Read: Best Things To Do in Aspen
Boston, Massachusetts, is not only an excellent place for history and sports lovers but also to spend unforgettable days during the holiday season. The best places to visit to get the right feeling are the “Winter holiday markets”, which open in November and December in several places all over the city.
The markets are a great mix of the traditional European Christmas markets and English craft markets, where you can stock up on unique handmade gifts and enjoy a lot of pre-Christmas delicacies.
One of the most popular markets is the SoWa Winter Festival & Holiday Market in the trendy district of "South of Washington Street", where you can already find many galleries, design shops, and hip restaurants. More than 130 stalls have been set up here, and, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, pre-Christmas shopping is accompanied by Christmas chorals, an experience for the whole family.
You shouldn't miss the Holiday Pop Up Market or Snowport in the Seaport district. In Snowport, there is a great ice rink next to the sales stands. Other great spots in Boston are Harvard Square Holiday Fairs and the Christmas Craft Fair at Old South Church, where you can find great crafts or artworks.
Entry to all winter holiday markets in Boston is free. And the best thing is: In Massachusetts, it can get really cold in winter - the lucky wine tastes twice as good!
Contributed by Phil from Journication Travel Blog (www.journication.de/en/)
Accomodation: Where to stay in Boston
One of the most under-rated Christmas destinations in the US is Seattle, Washington. There are tons of Seattle Christmas events and activities that happen from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year's Day.
Every year, Pike Place Market holds its Magic in the Market event where visitors can take free outdoor photos with Santa and search for all the festive pig statues throughout the market. There’s also a big carousel in the middle of Westlake Park that's fun for kids and adults! And the Seattle Sheraton holds their annual Gingerbread Village, where the theme changes every year.
For light shows, Seattle hosts both Enchant and Lumaze lighting events that are absolutely stunning. And Woodland Park Zoo has a lighting event where they have giant lanterns in the shapes of many different animals.
Seattle is also home to the Pacific Northwest Ballet that produces Balanchine's The Nutcracker ballet performance every year. And the 5th Avenue Theatre and Seattle Children’s Theatre always have a holiday show that’s worth checking out.
But the best place to get into the Christmas spirit in Seattle is at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. They have their Teddy Bear Suite, where guests can take photos in a room filled with hundreds of adorable teddy bears. In the lobby, they have a Festival of Trees where people can marvel at themed-Christmas trees. And they have a life-size gingerbread house that people can walkthrough.
The city itself is usually all decorated with holiday lights and beautiful Christmas trees. Even the Space Needle has Christmas lights!
Plus, it's really easy to make a Seattle day trip to Mount Rainier or Leavenworth to get the snowy Christmas experience.
Contributed by Marcie from Marcie in Mommyland
Accomodation: Where to stay in Seattle
When it comes to the best places to spend Christmas in the US, Denver, CO, should make a spot on the list! Winter is a magical time in Denver, and especially around Christmas, the city comes alive with lights and holiday celebrations that are loved by residents and tourists alike.
When visiting Denver for Christmas, there are several activities you should add to your agenda. One of the most popular holiday attractions is the Denver Christkindl Market, and it typically runs the entire month leading up to Christmas. At this holiday-themed market, guests can enjoy an artisan marketplace, incredible live music in the beer garden, beverages (adult and otherwise), incredible food stalls serving a variety of options, and more.
Another cherished Christmas event is the Denver Parade of Lights, which is generally held at the beginning of December. This completely free event showcases over 40 brightly illuminated floats, giant inflated balloons, incredible marching bands, horses, and more. It’s an incredible Christmas event the whole family will love. And finally, make sure you plan to see some of the best Christmas light displays the city has to offer. Local favorites include Zoo Lights (at the Denver Zoo), Blossoms of Light (at the Denver Botanic Gardens), and the incredible display at the Denver City and County Building in Civic Center Park.
Curious about the best areas to stay in Denver during your Christmas vacation? Most of these attractions are located within, or nearby, downtown Denver. Staying in this area will help avoid the hassle of driving and needing to park (which can be difficult downtown).
Contributed by Kara from Destination Live Life
Accomodation: Where to stay in Denver
Philadelphia is one of the best US Destinations for Christmas. There are so many festive things to do in Philadelphia at Christmas, like visiting the local Christmas markets. Two of the city’s best Christmas markets are found in the shadow of Philadelphia’s iconic City Hall building. The first is located across the street in LOVE Park, where you’ll discover local crafters, designers, and artisans showcasing their crafts, ornaments, and gifts.
In Dilworth Park, the western annex of City Hall, you’ll find great Philadelphia food vendors selling the city’s classics like soft pretzels besides seasonal items like hot chocolate and mulled wine. Dilworth Park also features a small outdoor ice skating rink and a Winter Garden tent for refreshments. This market even overflows to the courtyard of City Hall, where children delight at the holiday carousel and holiday tree.
Down the street from City Hall is the Macy's Department Store on Market Street. This historic Philadelphia building is home to a thrilling holiday light show on the hour. Head to the third floor to be transported to the Dickens’ Christmas Village. There you’ll find an exquisite set of figurines depicting scenes from the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.
Another classic light display is located in Franklin Square. Here visitors will find the Electrical Spectacle, a Philadelphia holiday light show tradition. The vibrant park adjacent to Old City Philadelphia puts on an annual light display that rivals the best in the world.
You'll find the Philadelphia is a fantastic destination all year long, but it's simply magical during Christmas.
Contributed by Derek from Robe Trotting
Accomodation: Where to stay in Philadelphia
If you're looking for a US Christmas getaway where you can get the best of the city as well as a ski vacation, then you absolutely need to spend Christmas in Salt Lake City. Within 35 minutes of leaving the airport, you can be at some of the best skiing on earth, which makes your chance of having a white Christmas an absolute certainty.
If you’re hoping to avoid the ski crowds at Christmas, Solitude Resort is one of the best options, and it has its own base village where the kids can ski with Santa on Christmas day. The snow in Utah is legendary, so if you’re looking for some powder, there’s plenty to go around.
If you want a bit more action, staying in downtown Salt Lake is absolutely magical at Christmas. The Christmas lights at Temple Square are legendary, and you absolutely can’t miss the candy displays across the street at City Creek.
Ballet West's performance of The Nutcracker is a must-do, and while you’re there, be sure to sample the best hot chocolate ever at Hatch Family Chocolates. Downtown, you can get right into the Christmas spirit with the skating rink at the Gallivan Center, which makes the perfect date night or family outing.
Contributed by Jessica Averett from Skiing Kids
Accomodation: Where to stay in Salt Lake City
San Francisco, California, is absolutely a fantastic choice when you're deciding where to spend winter in California. For one, San Francisco at Christmas is never really too cold. The average daytime high is 58 ° Fahrenheit, and the average nightly low is just 47 ° Fahrenheit, with around 8 days of rain (usually light rain) in the month. So you get some really beautiful sunshine-filled days, but you also get cool, crisp nights that shout "winter". That means you can spend a lot of time outdoors doing cool things like going on a Bay harbor cruise or doing a day trip to Muir Woods.
Christmas in San Francisco is special because of the wonderful lights displays around the city, which are part of the Illuminate SF festival, which runs from Thanksgiving through New Years' Eve every year. Here, you can celebrate the holiday season with more than 40 installations by more than two dozen talented light artists. These range from light installations in different neighborhoods to even the famous Bay Lights light sculpture (now a permanent feature on the Bay Bridge) created by artist Leo Villareal. The City Hall is also lit up red and green with a Christmas tree in front.
The best place in the city to celebrate Christmas is Union Square. This is the heart of San Francisco's shopping district, and it's also where you'll see a giant Christmas tree all lit up and celebratory, as well as a massive ice rink, which is a great place to rent some skates and go to town.
If the malls and mainstream shops of Union Square don't suit your fancy for shopping, you can head to the hip boutiques of the Hayes Valley, which have more unique offerings.
Contributed by Allison Green from California Crossroads
Accomodation: Where to stay in San Francisco
Christmas lovers will love Frankenmuth, Michigan, for one reason: Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, one of the state's top attractions.
Bronner's, established in 1945, covers 27 acres and claims notoriety as the largest Christmas store in the world. Open 361 days a year; it’s closed for Christmas (of course), New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Bronner’s emphasizes ‘Christ’ in Christmas - and collect in collectibles. The store is massive, boasting more than 6,000 different ornaments, along with wreaths, advent calendars, garlands, lights, and exclusive Precious Moments Christmas-themed figurines. You get the idea.
If at least two-hours of shopping isn’t enough, take a car tour through the property’s one and a half mile long Christmas Lane winding past full-sized holiday vignettes like Santa, Snowmen, reindeer, and nativity scenes. Also, there is a Silent Night Memorial Chapel onsite, a full-sized replica of the Austrian church where the classic song was first sung in 1818.
Bronner's is an 8-minute drive from the heart of Frankenmuth, known as Little Bavaria. German-themed shops of food, cheese, clothing, and even cuckoo clocks, line downtown, and the central park hosts popular annual festivals, such as Dog Bowl, and the boarding dock for the Bavarian Belle Riverboat one-hour narrated historic tour on a 150-passenger vessel.
Contributed by Sherri Telenko from Dog Trotting
Accomodation: Where to stay in Frankenmuth
Texans wine, historical sites, and a cozy city center, Fredericksburg is a lovely German town in the heart of Texas Hill Country.
Anyone who wants to experience Christmas in Fredericksburg knows that even though this town is tiny, it has no shortage of beautiful places and festive things to do.
Kick-off your itinerary at the Marktplatz, where you can marvel at the traditional 26-foot-tall German Christmas Pyramid. It’s an incredible experience and exhibition for the whole family!
Right next to it, the 30-foot Christmas Tree shines its lights in the relatively warm nights of Texas, and it is an excellent photo op for your holiday shots.
Got thirsty? Then be sure to head over to one of the excellent wineries in town. Fredericksburg lies in the heart of the Texas Wine Country, and some venues offer festive wine tasting experiences and tours that are hard to say no to.
Take a break from all the walking around Fredericksburg and glide on at the ice skating rink at the main square. It’s a classic thing to do at Christmas and an excellent way to warm up too!
To top it all off, watch the traditional holiday celebration at the former president Lyndon B. Johnson’s estate, which includes a live nativity and Santa, of course!
In essence, the wine, activities, and history make Fredericksburg one of the best Christmas destinations in the USA!
Contributed by Bruna Venturinelli from Maps ‘N Bags
Accomodation: Where to stay in Fredericksburg
Colorado Springs is one of the best Christmas vacations in the United States. It has all the charm of a mountain town, Christmas cheer, and a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy. Don’t miss indulging in the town's festivities, particularly the Festival of Lights, and making your way outside the city center to enjoy the mountains.
The Festival of Lights takes place in December each year. It involves a series of cultural, artistic, and educational events that culminate in the Festival of Lights parade. All proceeds from the events go to a local NGO.
Outside of the parade, great light displays can be seen at Broadhotel where they light up Seven Falls or along the Colorado Springs Christmas Lights Drive. The drive is a two-hour event, which takes drivers past some of the most impressive local light displays. Each year is better than the last.
Outside of the city is Pikes Peak. This mountain is the tallest in the region and offers awe-inspiring views from the top. You can hike or take the Cog Train to the top throughout the year however, during the holiday season the Cog Train takes on a Christmas twist.
Time it right and you’ll be boarding and riding to the top of Pikes Peak with Santa and his elves. It is a great activity for families with little ones or for those young at heart.
Back in town, bundle up and hit one of the local ice rinks. Acacia Park is one of the most popular destinations for ice skating in Colorado Springs. There you can skate along to music and the rink is lit up in the evening. If you don’t have skates, rent them there and enjoy your Colorado Christmas.
Contributed by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
Accomodation: Where to stay in Colorado Springs
Williamsburg, Virginia, is one of the perfect Christmas trips in the US to get into the holiday spirit. The Historic Triangle area of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg holds various events in the month of December to celebrate the holiday season.
Some of these events include a tree lighting ceremony, cookies with Santa, a lighted boat parade, a Christmas market, an ice skating rink, holiday decorations all around, and even special presentations at Colonial Williamsburg, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, and the Jamestown Settlement showcasing colonial Christmas traditions. Colonial Williamsburg decorates the streets, houses, and workshops with wreaths, lights, and even carolers to sing.
At night, head over to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for one of the largest light displays in the world. Busch Gardens Christmas Town magically comes to life with holiday displays, a Christmas train ride, special performances, food, and even some of their classic rides.
If you're planning a visit to Williamsburg with kids during the holiday season, Busch Gardens Christmas Town is a must-see. From the historic areas to the modern sections, the entire Williamsburg area comes alive with the Christmas spirit during December. It truly is one of the best places to spend Christmas in the U.S.
Contributed by Margie DQ from DQ Family Travel
Accomodation: Where to stay in Williamsburg
San Diego is among the best places to go for a Christmas getaway in the US. If you are not a fan of cold, white Christmas and are looking to spend your holiday on a beach, then look no further than San Diego. The temperature in San Diego during Christmas time averages at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (around 20-degree Celsius), making it an ideal destination to spend the Christmas holidays.
You can spend your day watching the ‘Holiday bowl parade’ in Embarcadero where giant balloons float a one-mile route along with bands, or spot attired pets compete in various contest categories in ‘Pet parade’ at Gaslamp Archway, or visit the San Diego zoo at Balboa park that offers holiday-themed animal experiences and entertainment.
During nights, you can visit the South Bay neighborhood of Chula Vista for the famous ‘Christmas Circle’ light display or the ‘Jingle bell hill’ light display at Solomon Avenue. You could also be a part of the annual ‘Boat Parade’, where hordes of decorated boats cruise through the San Diego Bay as thousands of spectators watch from the shore.
Do not miss out on attending a huge festival named ‘December nights’, scheduled in San Diego at Balboa Park. You could also take your children for outdoor professional ice-skating demonstrations and fireworks held at Hotel del Coronado during your Christmas vacations to San Diego.
Contributed by Pooja Shah from Feels Like Life.
Accomodation: Where to stay in San Diego
Despite its desert setting, Phoenix is one of the best Christmas vacation destinations in the United States. Each year, the city looks magical with all of the Christmas lights. It's a lot easier to decorate and see the lights when it is warm!
Visiting Phoenix during Christmas time is the perfect time to visit. It is a great chance to get away from the cold and snow and enjoy some warmer weather. The average temperature in December ranges from 65-70 degrees during the day (and much colder overnight).
There are two light shows to see in Phoenix. The first is the Phoenix Zoo, which transforms the animal exhibits into a winter wonderland with a display of holiday lights that are fun for the whole family. The second is at Papago Park, where they line the paths with 8,000 luminaria bags. It makes for a romantic atmosphere.
Another great experience is to have breakfast with Santa at the Phoenician. The Phoenician is one of the best places to stay in Scottsdale. This is a holiday favorite where you can have brunch, decorate cookies, and have a photo with Santa.
Contributed by Nicole from American SW Obsessed
Accomodation: Where to stay in Phoenix
Moab, Utah, is typically a summer destination but experiencing it in winter is entirely different. You will not have to deal with crowds or the heat of the summer! Although, Christmas Day can be a little more crowded than the rest of the winter season.
During the winter, you practically have the entire town to yourself. The weather is cold, ranging from teens to 50 degrees. There are still plenty of things to do in Moab if you dress appropriately. Hiking in both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park is a great option. These parks are open year-round. Deadhorse State Park is open and has incredible views. Believe it or not, some people are still mountain biking!
Moab does get snow! It adds a beautiful contrast to the landscape making great snowtography opportunities. It really depends on the year if it will be a white Christmas or not. It also means that you need to be extra careful while hiking. Wearing good shoes and proper outerwear is going to really make or break your trip.
One of the biggest bonuses of going to Moab in the Winter is that you will be able to find great deals on lodging, which makes finding a perfect place to spend Christmas easy. Some businesses close during the winter, so keep that in mind as you plan a trip to Moab!
Contributed by Lisa from Planning Away
Accomodation: Where to stay in Moab
Located in southwest Missouri, Branson is the perfect place to spend Christmas in the US. Known for its stunning holiday decorations and dazzling light shows, the small town is even recognized as the Christmas Tree Capital of America. Driving through the city, you’ll see thousands of decorated Christmas trees on display.
No Christmas in Branson is complete without a visit to An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City amusement park. Running from November through December, kids and adults alike will enjoy wandering the park, admiring the 6.5 million lights, 8-story Christmas tree, and music productions. There is a nightly-parade featuring Rudolph, as well as a pop-up shop, Jingle Bell Junction, that sells a huge array of gorgeous Christmas decorations.
If you love Christmas lights, Branson is for you. First, check out Branson’s Lights of Joy - a one-mile-long drive-along path showcasing displays such as “12 Days of Christmas” and a Christmas tree forest. The Branson Zoo also puts on a 2-mile drive-by light show, as well as a live nativity petting zoo. Next, head to Candyland Courtyard at the zoo, where you can meet Santa, cozy up with some hot cocoa, and watch holiday movies.
Branson even transforms its Scenic Railway into ‘The Polar Express’, based on the popular children’s book. Locals and visitors alike love to hop on the train, meet Christmas characters, including Santa, and warm up with some hot cocoa. Regardless of how you decide to spend Christmas in Branson, Missouri, you won’t be disappointed. This small town goes above and beyond to create a festive atmosphere, with plenty of activities and traditions for all ages to enjoy.
Contributed by Natasha from the Great Ocean Road Collective.
Accomodation: Where to stay in Branson
Anchorage is the best place to celebrate Christmas in the US because Alaska is the best place to spend winter in the US. Snow starts falling as early as October, so it’s a guarantee that you’ll have a White Christmas if you come to Alaska. The only question is whether or not you’ll have fresh snow falling as you wake up to the smell of hot cocoa.
If you’re coming all the way to Anchorage, then you’ll surely want to spend a few days exploring the nearby glaciers and parks. Hatcher Pass is an adventure lover dream with groomed ski trails, backcountry skiing, a giant sledding hill, and the perfect red cabin to stay in a while chasing the northern lights. You can even see the northern lights from downtown in a good aurora storm, but you’ll have more fun renting a car, a cabin, or both and going on an Alaskan adventure.
Christmastime brings great skiing all over Alaska. There are miles and miles of cross country ski trails throughout Anchorage with downhill ski resorts for any skill level. Including Alyeska resort, ranked #2 snowiest resort in North America!
If that hasn’t convinced you to bring your family to Anchorage for Christmas, then there’s only one thing that will. The idea of driving your family to visit Santa at the North Pole surely will have you booking a flight today.
Contributed by Mike Still from Live Travel Teach
Accomodation: Where to stay in Anchorage
If the idea of a white and cold Christmas isn’t cutting it this year, why not gather the family for a green and tropical Christmas, and spend the holidays in paradise on Sanibel Island, Florida. This barrier island off the coast of Ft. Myers in Southwest Florida is the perfect low-key and laid-back island vibe, and Christmas time is a special time to visit.
Sanibel and its sister island of Captiva are quiet, natural, and family-friendly and offer a unique opportunity to enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas away from the crowds. Sanibel Island has beautiful beaches and hunting for seashells is one of the most popular things to do. Wildlife is also abundant, so exploring the island on foot, by bike, or by boat is the best way to see migratory birds, alligators, manatees and dolphins up close.
The Christmas season kicks off in early December with celebrations around the island. Both Sanibel and Captiva have local boat parades with boats of all sizes — small dinghies to luxury yachts — adorned with festive holiday lights. Santa Claus always makes an appearance too, though he may be driving a jet ski rather than a sleigh and wearing bright red board shorts.
The annual Sanibel and Captiva Luminary Festival is also perfect for getting into the holiday spirit. Follow the trail of luminaries, stopping along the way to enjoy the living nativity scene, live music, kid's activities, and palm trees adorned with lights.
This is also one of the best times of year to take a wildlife tour or shelling cruise as the cooler water and trade winds blow in more than the usual amount of shells.
If you’ve never spent Christmas in the tropics, maybe this is the year to change it up a bit, and southwest Florida is the perfect destination!
Contributed by Lori from Travlinmad
Accomodation: Where to stay in Sanibel Island
If there is one internationally recognized symbol of Christmas, even for those who don't celebrate the religious aspect of the holiday, that symbol is Santa. Santa, or jolly ol' Saint Nike, lives at the North Pole.
However, since it is a bit challenging for the average person to visit the actual geographical North Pole, the next best thing is to visit the town of North Pole, Alaska. Year-round, the town is set up to look like a holiday card, with candy cane striped light poles and red and green signposts.
Visitors can check out one of the reindeer farms or browse holiday decorations at Santa's workshop, one of the largest Christmas decor stores in the country! During Christmas, though, North Pole is exceptionally festive, as local residents volunteer to mail Christmas cards to children around the world, and Santa stops by this workshop to greet visitors. But if you happen to miss Mr. Claus, the world's largest Santa statue is right there at the North Pole!
There is also the annual winter festival, with ice slides, night lights, and artisan booths during Christmas. Or, if you're willing to head about twenty minutes out of town, some of the best things to do in Fairbanks in winter are going dog sledding then head inside one of the museums to warm up! Then, once the sun sets and you're all tuckered out for the day, pick an open clearing and grab a coffee to stay up and catch the Northern Lights as they dance across the sky.
Contributed by Kay from The Awkward Traveller
Accomodation: Where to stay in North Pole
If you are looking for a warm Christmas destination in the United States, Key West will be perfect for you! Located in the Florida Keys, Key West is one of the most unique towns in the world. December is one of the best months of the year to visit Key West. It's warm, sunny and more importantly, it's dry!
There are a lot of things you can do in Key West. The most popular site is Duval Street. That's where most bars and restaurants are located. It's a very cosmopolitan place where you will find Irish pubs next to Texan saloons for example. In the evening, make sure to head to Mallory Square for the sunset celebration. There is music, drinks, and of course, a stunning sunset to watch!
In terms of Christmas activities, you will be spoilt for choice! You will find a lot of Christmas lights in the historic town. You can even go on a trolley tour to discover them all! Another popular thing to do in Key West at Christmas is going to see the Nutcracker. The Key West production of this classic Christmas tale is iconic.
Finally, don't forget to go to the beach on Christmas day. Although it can get a bit busy, spending Christmas on the beach is a very unique experience. If you feel inspired, you can even try to make a sandman!
Contributed by Pauline from Beeloved City
Accomodation: Where to stay in Key West
If you are looking for some coolest places to go for Christmas vacations in the US, then make sure you check out the Christmas celebration in Milwaukee. Christmas is one of the magical times when the whole family comes together to celebrate a festival. Milwaukee is the right spot as it entertains tourists and residents with several activities to celebrate the season. In addition to this, you get to see an ornately decorated Pabst mansion, which gives you immense Christmas vibes in each room. Also, the whole estate is decorated with 20 Christmas trees.
Moreover, when it comes to grown-up Christmas attractions, Milwaukee’s holiday pops concert by Milwaukee symphony orchestra will leave you awestruck, along with theatre shows such as The Nutcracker, a Christmas Carol will keep you busy throughout your vacation. The city has got something special with its Cedarburg, Greendale, and Third ward neighborhood markets for ladies. You can even get outdoor gifts from Milwaukee’s traditional European-style outdoor markets, namely, the German Christmas Market in Oconomowoc.
This market houses more than 50 vendors, each selling you different types of handmade ornaments, products, foods, and homemade drinks. If you ask us, there is no better way to celebrate Christmas then a light and dessert tour, organized by the Milwaukee Food and City tours each year for tourists. The light festival takes place from 21st December to New Year’s eve. You can take a bus tour, which is a perfect mix of history, the city’s tradition, along with tasty treats that bring the light-hearted holiday spirit.
If you want to get active during your Christmas getaway, Milwaukee is only a stone's throw away from some of the best ski resorts in Wisconsin. It's a great way to burn all these Christmas calories.
Contributed by Paulina from Paulina on the Road
Accomodation: Where to stay in Milwaukee