Special Report

The Most Festive Christmas Cities in the US

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Thanksgiving is over so we can officially start obsessing about Christmas. The festive feel this time of year has many people wishing for a quick celebratory getaway where Christmas spirit is everywhere.

The good news is that there are plenty of big cities as well as small towns and villages in the country where locals, mesmerized by Christmas, have turned them into charming holiday playgrounds that kids – and adults – will love. Many have some unique traditions of their own.

Every place on the list – from a snowy wonderland in the Pacific Northwest down to sunny Alabama – offers many enchanting Christmas experiences – from craft fairs and reindeer sleigh rides to winter safaris and fire dances.

From wine country to beach towns, you may have never even heard of some of the places on this list, at least not in any Christmas fun capacity. But some of these hidden gems attract thousands of visitors every year from the U.S. and all over the world

Already feeling like the only thing that can make this time of year more magical is taking a trip with your family?

Click here for the most festive Christmas cities in America.

Source: Courtesy of Christmas in Candyland via christmasincandyland.com

Andalusia, Alabama

Alabama is not your typical winter wonderland, but Andalusia’s Candyland has put the city on the map of the most fun places to celebrate Christmas. The city’s courthouse square is filled with snow (yes, thanks to snow machines) and the schedule is packed — a Christmas parade, concerts, carols, ice skating, meeting Elsa from “Frozen,” horse drawn carriage rides…Candyland is open every weekend in December and admission is free.


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North Pole, Alaska

Alaska’s North Pole is nowhere near the North Pole where Santa lives with his elves, but it ranks right at the top of cool places to be during the holidays. The small town’s motto, after all, is “Where the spirit of Christmas lives year round.” Santa Claus House is the place to be for toys, cookies, and decorations. Kids will enjoy meeting live reindeer.

Solvang, California

Solvang is an example of how you don’t need snow to celebrate Christmas in style. The small city that is about 30 miles from Santa Barbara was founded by Danish farmers. The “Little Denmark,” as it’s sometimes called, goes all out for Christmas. There are free candlelight tours, carolers singing, gorgeous holiday scenes, a Nativity Pageant, and probably many people’s favorite, the Skål Stroll, where wineries and breweries teach visitors about glogg, the Scandinvian version of mulled wine.

Source: Courtesy of Colorado Railroad Museum / coloradorailroadmuseum.org

Durango, Colorado

Durango loves this holiday so much, residents celebrate Christmas for the entire month of December. This winter wonderland, with real snow this time of year, is a skiers’ heaven. One of the best Christmas traditions in the city is the ride on the Polar Express train — all the way to the North Pole. Enjoy another Christmas-themed train ride — the Cascade Canyon Train. You can cut your own Christmas tree and have it transported back to Durango on the steam train.


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St. Augustine, Florida

If you’re more interested in Christmas lights than a snowy wonderland, the historic small town of St. Augustine may be just the place. The annual Night of Lights event is the highlight of the season. The spectacular decorations light up buildings, trees, bushes, and lamp posts at night from Nov. 23, 2019 to Feb. 2, 2020.

Santa Claus, Indiana

When a town changes its name from Santa Fee to Santa Claus, you know it most likely goes crazy come Christmas time. Santa Claus, Indiana, is known for its post office where thousands of people go every year to write Santa a letter to get the “one-and-only Santa Claus Postmark from the only post office with the Santa Claus name.” Special events during the three-weekend celebration include a Christmas parade, crafts show, and a lights festival.


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Annapolis, Maryland

Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis, doesn’t disappoint during the holiday season. Its signature event, Lights on the Bay, is a 2-mile car ride along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. You will see more than 70 holiday displays. The show runs between 5 and 10 pm until Jan. 1, 2020. Other activities to enjoy include the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade, candlelight strolls, and Midnight Madness Holiday Shopping downtown.

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Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket, a popular summer destination, proves that a beach town can still throw a Christmas party to remember. The town’s annual Christmas Stroll is one of the highlights of the holiday season. The main street is closed for all kinds of events — this year’s stroll runs from Dec. 6 to 8. Christmas trees are everywhere to brighten up your mood. Bring your ugliest Christmas sweater — there is a competition.

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Frankenmuth, Michigan

Frankenmuth is Michigan’s Little Bavaria. It’s a small town but it’s home to the world’s largest Christmas store (at least this is how Bronner’s describe itself). Here you will find a replica of Austria’s famous Silent Night Chapel (the place where it was first sung in 1818). You can have breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Zehnder’s Restaurant. The whole town glows with twinkling lights around the holiday.



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Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York

Christmas in New York is perhaps on many people’s bucket lists. Between Times Square and Rockefeller Center, the city certainly has a lot to offer. But one of its most famous Christmas attractions is the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights. Residents are known to go overboard decorating their homes and yards. And every year there is an unofficial rivalry going on to see who will present the most lavish light displays.

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Asheville, North Carolina

The Polar Express Train stops at Asheville, too. Enjoy a trip to the North Pole on it. The most popular attraction in the city around Christmas time is perhaps the Arboretum. The Winter Lights event there, which ends on Jan. 4, 2020, is a must-see. Another iconic attraction is the Biltmore Estate, known as America’s largest home. This probably makes the Christmas display there the biggest in the country.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

You can’t expect a mediocre Christmas in a city named after the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem in Pennsylvania calls itself Christmas City and features handmade works from more than 150 craftsmen, live music, ice carving, and even glassblowing workshops. You can also experience live-in igloos at the nationally renowned Christmas market.


Source: Lonna Allen / Getty Images

Fredericksburg, Texas

As its name may suggest, Fredericksburg has German roots. It offers a fun combination of German Christmas traditions with famous Southern hospitality. The Christmas Pyramid, popular in Germany, in the Marktplatz is a prime attraction. The Pioneer Museum’s Kinderfest teaches kids about Christmas customs from all over the world.

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Park City, Utah

Park City is known as one of the best skiing destinations in the country. It becomes a lot more than that around Christmas as holiday lights go up all over the city. Even Santa comes to visit on his sleigh covered with Christmas lights. Join him later for the annual Traditional Torchlight Parade, where about 100 people ski down the mountain with flares. The city’s Snowfest, which runs between Dec. 20 and Jan. 5, offers a lot more fun and entertainment.


Source: mobil'homme / flickr

Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock often makes the lists of the most beautiful towns in the country. Locals may feel they have a reputation to uphold this time of the year because the town turns into a place straight out of a postcard, with the state’s famous winter landscapes as a backdrop. Woodstock is known for its annual Wassail Weekend. It’s a weekend full of fun events like parades, concerts, craft fairs, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and a family-style Wassail Feast.

Alexandria, Virginia

The historic town of Alexandria has several unique holiday traditions. Its parade of water-skiing Santa and other Christmas characters is among the most popular. The Scottish Christmas Walk Parade, which celebrates Alexandria’s heritage, has been around for nearly half a century. Other attractions include fireworks choreographed to holiday music and a meeting with Aladdin, the Christmas Camel, at Mount Vernon.

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Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth’s Christmas Lighting Festival offers live musical performances, a meet and greet with St. Nickolaus, a Christmas characters march, tubing and sleigh rides, and more fun. More than 500,000 twinkling lights decorate the Bavarian-style town center. The city’s location, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, makes it a playground heaven.


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Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson is a ski destination; it’s home to three ski areas. (Its most famous attraction is perhaps the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.) So it’s no surprise to see the city turn into a snowy wonderland — a white Christmas is pretty much guaranteed — decorated with holiday lights everywhere. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge or go on a winter wildlife safari in famous Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks.

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