Planning Christmas vacations with your family or friends can be overwhelming. With so many destinations to choose from, how do you know which one is the best place to go? Not only do you want to find somewhere that is festive and fun, but also a place that has all the amenities you need for a relaxing holiday.
Looking for something traditional? Consider visiting one of the many charming small towns throughout the United States and pretend you’re in a Hallmark movie. Want a more unique trip, or feeling a little more adventurous? There are plenty of unique destinations that offer exciting activities and holiday festivities.
If you’re still unsure where to go this Christmas, we’ve compiled a list of the best destinations for Christmas vacations in the United States. Whether you’re looking for a White Christmas, or want to escape the cold and head to somewhere warm and sunny, we’ve got you covered.
So put on your Santa hat and get ready to explore some amazing places this Christmas!
Best Destinations for Christmas Vacations in the United States
1. New York City, New York
There’s no place like New York City for a festive Christmas break! The Big Apple comes alive during the holidays, with sparkling lights and decorations adorning every street corner.
I’ve visited the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree every year for as long as I can remember, and skating at the base of 30 Rock is always a good time. If you love Christmas light displays, watch the synchronized lights at Macy’s, or head to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn to see world-famous light displays.
If you’ve never seen the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, put it on your list! The show features the Rockettes and is a blast for the whole family. While I prefer ice skating at Rockefeller Center, there are also rinks in Central Park. You can rent skates and take to the ice – and wonder where all the ducks go when the pond freezes over.
If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to visit Santa at Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. FAQ Schwartz is a great spot, too, and you can jump around the “Big” piano! Holiday window displays line every street, and you’ll want to visit Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and other NYC shopping staples.
We haven’t forgotten the classic NYC attractions and activities that are a hit all year round, like a visit to The Empire State Building. Want to see more of the city? Pick up the New York Pass and choose from more than 100 NYC attractions, or opt for the New York City PASS for a similarly stellar deal. Both of these New York tourist passes give you access to some of the city’s top attractions, like the Empire State Building Observatory and the American Museum of Natural History, at a discounted rate.
See Related: Where to Stay in New York City: Best Areas for Families
2. Breckenridge, Colorado
Those wishing for a true winter wonderland should head to Breckenridge, Colorado for some fun Christmas festivities. This charming mountain town comes alive during the holidays, with twinkling lights and decorations on every street.
One of the best ways to take in the holiday sights is by taking a ride on the Breckenridge Gondola. The gondola cars are decorated with festive lights, and you’ll get stunning views of the town and its surroundings. For those wanting a bit more adventure, test out your ski skills on the slopes at Breckenridge Resort.
If you don’t ski, there is still a lot to do on the ground in Breckenridge. Stroll down Main Street to do some holiday shopping, or take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow for a truly magical experience.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the outdoor skating rink in Town Square! You can rent skates and take to the ice to test your skills. After a day of exploring, cozy up with a cup of hot chocolate or take part in one of the many holiday-themed events happening around town.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Colorado & Places to Visit
3. North Pole, Alaska
Who knew that you could actually visit the North Pole? Well, technically it’s not the North Pole, but the town of North Pole, Alaska comes pretty close! This festive destination is decked out in holiday cheer year-round, with Christmas lights and decorations everywhere you look.
One of the best ways to take in the sights is by going on a walking tour of the city. The city is home to many iconic Christmas landmarks and is exactly what you would picture when thinking of Christmas in Alaska.
Other can’t-miss activities include visiting Running Reindeer Ranch, where you can feed and pet real reindeer, and taking a stroll down Santa Claus Lane, a street lined with adorable houses decorated for the holidays.
Be sure to also check out the town’s Santa Claus House, a Christmas-themed gift shop that’s been around since 1952. With its massive selection of holiday decorations and gifts, it’s a great place to find presents for loved ones (or yourself!). Also located at the Santa Claus House is Santa’s workshop, where you can meet the man himself.
You can even go dog sledding with a sled team of Alaskan Huskies. These are sport dogs bred from a mix of northern (husky and malamute) breeds and sportier (labrador, greyhound, etc) breeds. Depending on when you visit, you might be able to see the Northern Lights from here! No matter what you do during your visit, you’re sure to get into the Christmas spirit at North Pole, Alaska.
See Related: Tips & Things to Know Before Going to Alaska
4. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is a great place to spend Christmas, with lots of festive activities and attractions to enjoy. Start your vacation by visiting the city’s iconic Christkindlmarket, an outdoor holiday market featuring German-style Christmas gifts and decorations.
For a kid-friendly experience straight out of a storybook, take a ride on the Chicago Polar Express Train. The train takes you on a journey to “the North Pole” (actually just a small town outside of Chicago), where you’ll meet Santa and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies.
Want to brave the Windy City’s great outdoors? Head to Millennium Park to go ice skating, or take a stroll through the winter wonderland that is Maggie Daley Park. And don’t forget about the city’s world-famous Christmas lights display on Michigan Avenue!
When you need a break from all the holiday fun, head to one of Chicago museums, like the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art or the Immersive Van Gogh Experience. December is also a great time to take in a show at one of the city’s renowned theatres, like the Goodman Theatre or the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Need to figure out where to stay in Chicago? There are plenty of options, both in the downtown area near all the action and in quieter neighborhoods like Lake View or Lincoln Park. Some top Chicago hotel choices include the Palmer House Hilton and the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park.
See Related: Best Day Trips From Chicago, Illinois
5. Washington, D.C.
What better way to get into the holiday spirit than by visiting our nation’s capital? Washington, D.C. is filled with festive attractions and activities to enjoy during the Christmas season.
Many of the city’s landmarks, like the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, are decorated with beautiful Christmas lights. A guided Washington, DC highlights tour is one of the best ways to see it all.
Make time to see both the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Christmas Tree at the Ellipse. These beautiful and towering trees are decorated with lights and really shine bright in a city that represents the entire country.
You can also visit some of the city’s famous Christmas markets, like Union Market or Eastern Market. These bustling markets are filled with holiday-themed crafts, decorations, and yummy treats. It’s a great way to support local businesses and get into the holiday spirit.
Need to burn some energy? Go ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink or visit one of D.C.’s many museums, like the Smithsonian National Museum of American History or the African American Museum.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Washington D.C. By Train
6. Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish, Montana, isn’t the first thing anyone thinks of when it comes to planning Christmas vacations, but it’s certainly a town that belongs on the list. Whitefish is a charming and scenic small town that offers many festive activities to enjoy during the holidays, particularly if your family likes spending time outdoors.
Start your vacation by watching the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade, which takes place at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. This fun event includes fireworks and live music and you’ll get to see Santa, his elves, and Whitefish employees ski down the mountain blazing their path with handheld torches. This event takes place just after sunset, so grab your egg nog and bundle up for a magical night under the stars.
While you’re in town, be sure to go Nordic skiing at Glacier Nordic Center or take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through Whitefish Lake. Whitefish Mountian Resort is a great place to ski or board, and they offer lessons if you’ve never tried it before.
Another must-do activity during Christmas time in Whitefish is going to Whitefish Lake for some ice fishing. Outfitters will accommodate anyone from experienced anglers or to those casting for the first time.
For some Christmas shopping, head to the Village at Whitefish. This quaint outdoor shopping center is filled with charming local boutiques and shops where you can find unique gifts for your friends and family.
.For a relaxing Christmas getaway, book a stay at Grouse Mountain Lodge and indulge in the beautiful mountain views from your balcony. Heading to Whitefish? Be sure to bundle up!
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Livingston, Montana
7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is a historic city that really comes alive in the wintertime, particularly around the holidays.
A visit to Philadelphia’s famous Christmas Village is a must while here during the holidays. Located in Love Park, this quaint outdoor market features over 150 vendors selling all sorts of holiday gifts and treats, including handcrafted steins, ornaments, and other traditional German Christmas goodies. There’s also a “Made in Philadelphia” market in Dilworth Park near City Hall. Both of these places are easy to get to using PATCO or SEPTA train lines, but parking in Center City can be tough, so plan ahead.
Another highlight of Christmas in Philly is the Macy’s Christmas light show at Macy’s Center City. This impressive light display features more than 100,000 LED lights choreographed to festive holiday music. Macy’s is also home to the Dickens Village, an old-fashioned display that takes you into the land of Ebeneezer Scrooge.
For more holiday lights, walk down to see the “Miracle on 13th Street” display, the lights on Boathouse Row, or the decorations on Jeweler’s Row. If you’ve got a car, head to Peddler’s Village in New Hope, Pennsylvania or Smithville Village in south Jersey. Both are historic areas of shops and restaurants that really take the holidays seriously.
You can walk down to Old City and take a horse-drawn carriage ride, where you’ll learn about history and take in the sights. You’ll pass the city’s most famous attractions, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Center, and the Museum of American Revolution.
Philly is an extraordinary place to visit any time of year, but the holiday season here is definitely extra special.
See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit
8. Los Angeles, California
Thanks to SoCal’s warm, sunny weather and an endless array of fun holiday activities, Los Angeles is the perfect destination for a Christmas getaway.
One of the most magical things to do in LA during the holidays is visiting Griffith Park and watching their annual Holiday Lights Train. This delightful nighttime event features an unforgettable ride through a dazzling display of over 2 million lights. Bring your hot chocolate and snuggle up with your loved ones as you enjoy the holiday cheer.
Another must-visit attraction in LA during Christmastime is Universal Studios Hollywood’s Grinchmas celebration. This fun, family-friendly event features live performances of Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday story, as well as fun activities like Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Fun Town and Whobilation.
If you want to get out and explore the many neighborhoods of LA during your trip, why not take a stroll down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills? This upscale shopping district is the perfect place to find some amazing holiday gifts and treats.
This Hollywood sightseeing celebrity homes tour is a popular activity for those interested in pop culture. And don’t forget to look up – you may even spot a celebrity or two! With its warm weather, beautiful beaches, world-class restaurants, and endless entertainment options, Los Angeles truly is the ultimate Christmas destination for those who want to escape the winter blues.
When it comes to where to stay, you can’t go wrong with the city’s most popular hotels, like the Beverly Hilton, The Ritz-Carlton, or Le Parc Suite Hotel.
See Related: The Ultimate Weekend in Los Angeles Itinerary
9. Detroit, Michigan
Looking for a fun, festive, and frigid Christmas getaway in the United States? Look no further than Detroit, Michigan! This charming city is bursting with holiday cheer and offers plenty of exciting activities to enjoy during your stay.
One of the highlights of a trip to Detroit during Christmastime is the Winter Blast festival. This annual event features ice skating, sledding, bonfires, and delicious hot food to keep you warm. And don’t miss the spectacular fireworks show on Saturday nights – it’s truly a sight to behold!
Another can’t-miss attraction in Detroit during the holidays is the Parade of Lights. This popular Christmas parade features floats decked out with twinkling lights and holiday decorations, as well as live performances by local marching bands. It’s the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit!
The Detroit Zoo also hosts its own version of the Parade of Lights, where you can watch a menagerie of animals light up the night with their own festive decorations.
And after exploring all that Detroit has to offer, why not treat yourself to some delicious local cuisine? Some must-try restaurants in this vibrant city include Slows Bar BQ for classic barbecue, Pegasus Taverna for authentic Greek food, and Detroit Institute of Bagels for a fresh-baked bagel made from scratch.
With its festive attractions, delicious food, and charming neighborhoods, Detroit is the perfect place for a Christmas getaway.
See Related: Things to Do in Michigan & Best Places to Visit
10. Leavenworth, Washington
Another hidden gem on the list of best Christmas getaways is Leavenworth, Washington. Located just a few hours from Seattle and Portland in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Leavenworth boasts all of the hallmarks of a classic Christmas town – from quaint shops and cozy cafes to twinkling lights and bustling Christmas markets.
One of the best ways to kick off your Christmas getaway in Leavenworth is by attending the town’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. This festive event features live music and performances, as well as an appearance from Santa Claus himself.
Want to see something that’s sure to both impress and intrigue? Visit the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum. Here, you’ll find over 9,000 unique nutcrackers from all over the world (50 different countries to be exact!). Nearby, Icicle Village Resort offers a free sample of their famous hot spiced wine – it’s the perfect way to warm up after a day of exploring!
The famous Leavenworth Christmas Market is a beloved local tradition that features over 150 artisan booths selling unique handcrafted items, including jewelry, home decor, and handmade clothing, so put that on your list, too. Whether you’re searching for a special gift for a loved one or just want to do some holiday shopping for yourself, the Leavenworth Christmas Market is the perfect destination.
Lots of Christmas traditions can be traced back to Germany, so be sure to try some traditional German Engelwein wine and hearty Bavarian fare while you’re in Leavenworth.
See Related: Best Things to do in West Seattle, Washington
11. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
For a blast from the past this Christmas, head to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. A living museum that transports visitors back to the 18th century, Colonial Williamsburg is the perfect place to spend the holidays if you feel like stepping back in time.
Wander through the charming cobblestone streets and shop for souvenirs at authentic 18th-century shops, or head over to the Governor’s Palace to see the extravagant decorations adorning this grand building.
And don’t miss Colonial Williamsburg’s annual holiday parade, which winds its way through the streets of the city and includes performances by actors in colonial garb and dozens of themed floats!
Colonial Williamsburg is also home to the Governor’s Palace yuletide tour, one of the must-see holiday traditions in this charming city. Take a guided tour of the palace to learn all about how 19th-century Americans celebrated Christmas during this time period, and explore the beautifully decorated rooms with their elaborate seasonal displays.
This quaint town is a great choice for Christmas vacations for families, couples, and solo travelers alike – it’s the kind of unique holiday getaway that impresses everyone.
See Related: Best Beaches in Virginia to Visit
12. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
For a truly magical Christmas experience, it’s hard to top Bethlehem… Pennsylvania, that is! Located just an hour from Philadelphia and two hours from New York City, Bethlehem was named after the town in Palestine that is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ and has been named one of the “20 Most Beautiful Towns in America” by Forbes Magazine.
Bethlehem is home to dozens of charming historic buildings and museums, as well as a number of popular annual Christmas events that are fun for the whole family. One of these is Christkindlmarkt, an outdoor European-style holiday market that features over 150 vendors selling unique handcrafted items.
Mark your calendar for the First Night Christmas Parade, a dazzling nighttime procession that winds its way through town accompanied by live music and festive floats.
Honestly, half the fun is being able to say you spent Christmas in Bethlehem, so add this one to your list if you’re local and want to enjoy a charming small town.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit
13. Boston, Massachusetts
The city comes alive with holiday cheer, thanks to its many festive events and attractions. One of the most popular things to do in Boston during the holidays is to take a ride on the Swan Boats in the Public Garden. This famous attraction is a beloved Boston tradition and offers visitors a charming holiday-themed ride around the park during Christmastime – but be sure to bring hot chocolate and bundle up!
Despite the oftentimes brutal weather, Boston’s Reindeer Run in December is a really fun way to spend a morning. This annual 5k fun run features costumed “reindeer” and “elves” and is a great way to get your family into the holiday spirit.
The annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Boston Common is a huge event in one of the city’s most popular gathering spots. The event typically takes place during the first week of December and includes live music performances, as well as a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The holiday magic that fills the atmosphere in Boston during the Christmas season is simply unmatched. It is truly one of the best Christmas vacations you can plan.
See Related: Best Boston Tours | Food, Walking, and Sightseeing
14. Yosemite National Park
Can you imagine a more magical Christmas destination than Yosemite National Park? Located in Northern California, this stunning national park is home to cascading waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, and miles of hiking trails – not to mention dozens of incredible outdoor activities that are perfect for the whole family.
Visitors can celebrate the holidays at a number of festive events during their stay, including the annual Yosemite Winter Festival, which includes fun events like ice skating, sledding, storytelling, and snowshoe tours.
Additionally, visitors can take a ride on the historic Wawona Stable Stagecoach and spend an evening watching old Christmas movies under the stars. For an out-of-the-ordinary Yosemite experience, head to Ahwahnee Lodge for the annual Bracebridge Dinner Show.
This spectacular medieval-inspired feast, which is held in the grand dining room of this historic hotel, features a holiday meal like no other and is not to be missed! The elegant hall, medieval feast, and live musical performances are sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the park, or go on a guided winter group tour to see the park covered in a blanket of fresh powder.
Be sure to check the National Park Website for road closures, and if you’re coming from the Eastern side of the Sierra, don’t count on Tioga Pass being open that late in the year.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Northern California
15. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson, Wyoming is the most magical winter town in America, if you like spending time in the cold air. This charming mountain town offers visitors a unique holiday experience that’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Located close to the majestic Teton Range, the Jackson Hole valley is a scenic winter wonderland, making it the perfect destination for a holiday trip.
Visitors can go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing throughout Grand Teton National Park, though some seasonal road closures can make it hard to get around the park on four wheels. The valley is a skier’s paradise, too, with Snow King Mountain, Grand Targhee, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort all nearby.
During the holiday season, one of the most popular activities in Jackson Hole is taking a horse-drawn sleigh or wagon ride through town. Sip on hot cocoa while you take in stunning views of Grand Teton National Park and the stunning winter landscape.
Jackson Hole is the perfect destination for a magical Christmas getaway for groups or families.
See Related: Best Things To Do in Cody, Wyoming
16. Monument Valley, Arizona
For those that aren’t a fan of the cold weather and snow, a Christmas vacation in Monument Valley may be just what you’re looking for.
Located on the border of Arizona and Utah, this iconic desert landscape offers visitors an unforgettable mix of stunning red rock formations and wide-open skies that are truly breathtaking.
Visitors can spend their days exploring the many stunning trails within Monument Valley National Park on a guided landmark tour or enjoying a number of outdoor activities like rock climbing and horseback riding.
But perhaps the best way to experience this iconic destination is by taking a guided tour through the park. During your visit, you’ll get to see unforgettable sights like Eagle’s Nest Butte, Totem Pole, The Mittens, and many more!
Located just a short two-hour drive from Monument Valley lies Antelope Canyon, one of the most stunning slot canyons in the world. With its rich red rock walls and mesmerizing patterns, this incredible natural landmark is a must-see for anyone visiting Arizona during the holiday season.
Kayenta Monument Valley Hotel is a great choice of hotel for those looking to stay near the action. Located just 5 miles from the entrance to Monument Valley, the hotel offers guests easy access to all the best attractions in town.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Jerome, Arizona
17. Solvang, California
Solvang is a quaint little town in California that’s perfect for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and truly experience a traditional Christmas.
Founded by Danish immigrants, Solvang is home to many charming shops and restaurants that are reminiscent of those found in old-world Denmark. A walk through this town is like taking a trip across the pond.
While visiting Solvang, be sure to check out the Danish Windmill and Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Here you’ll find an assortment of beautiful antiques and historical artifacts that showcase the unique Danish heritage of this charming town.
For families visiting the city, a visit to Ostrichland USA is a must! Here you can get up close and personal with a variety of exotic birds and even feed the ostriches.
The best part about visiting Solvang during the holidays is being able to experience all the city has to offer at Christmas time – the Winterfest Parade, Festival of Trees, and Solvang JuleFest make this a picture-perfect spot for a holiday vacation.
In December, you’ll find an array of festive decorations and light displays, as well as a number of fun holiday happenings like ice skating, strolling carolers, and even live reindeer! Solvang is one of the best Christmas vacations to take for those who want a unique, small-town experience.
Spend a night or two at the Hotel Corque for a truly unforgettable holiday getaway. Choose to stay in a charming hotel room or migrate to one of the beautifully decorated and spacious suites, this historic landmark is the perfect place to experience Solvang at its best.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Auburn, California
18. San Antonio, Texas
Believe it or not, the holiday season is one of the best times to visit San Antonio, Texas! This charming city comes alive during the holidays with its festive decorations and incredible Christmas light displays.
One of the most popular destinations in San Antonio is the River Walk, a winding network of canals lined with restaurants, bars, and shops. During Christmastime, the River Walk is decorated with thousands of twinkling holiday lights and festive decorations, making it the perfect place for a romantic stroll or family gathering.
The two best places to see the lights include the Arneson River Theatre stretch and near the famous Aztec Theatre. Another must-see spot during your visit to San Antonio is the famous Alamo, an iconic location that played an essential role in Texas’ independence from Mexico.
This historic landmark also features a number of fun holiday events and activities, including an annual living nativity scene and even real reindeer! Who knew you could find reindeer in Texas?
With its charming Spanish colonial architecture, festive decorations, and endless selection of Christmas events and activities, there’s no better place to celebrate the holidays than in Texas’ most beloved city!
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