Tired of your classic holiday traditions? Maybe it’s time to mix it up this year and venture to a nearby town or an out-of-state destination, where the holidays are more than just a season of family reunions and gift-giving. From resorts and towns named after Christmas to special events held just for the Christmas season, we know exactly where your family needs to go — and what to do when you get there. Read our guide to the best places to spend Christmas in the U.S., including fun spots in California and New York.
Whether it’s an amusement park’s celebratory event, a handmade chocolate tour, or a meet-and-greet with Santa and Mrs. Claus you’re after, there’s so much to do while you’re at these holiday-centric locales. We encourage you to have the most bold, adventurous, and loving holiday season. In order to accomplish this, you need to spend Christmas at the following places. And please, please don’t forget to hit up the nearest Christkindlmarkt (more on that later!).
1 Andalusia, Alabama
Head down south this December for Andalusia’s Candyland, held throughout the month. It’s free of charge, but includes a small $3 fee for horse-drawn carriage rides. You can also go ice skating and hop on a train, among other activity options.
2 North Pole, Alaska
Go on a lookout for the real-life Santa Claus in the United States’ very own North Pole. The city in Alaska takes pride in its name, and you can visit the Santa Claus House any day of the year. There, you’ll see live reindeer, holiday gifts galore, and the world’s largest Santa statue. In the summer and holiday season, a real-life Santa stops by too.
3 Newport Beach, California
There might not be any snow, but trust that this California destination offers plenty of holiday spirit at the annual Christmas Boat Parade. Each year, you can stop by the bay to witness a series of boats decked out in holiday decor. Before you head out, fill your cup with cocoa and walk along Balboa Island, where you’ll see houses decorated immaculately for the holiday season.
4 Orlando, Florida
Is there anything more magical than spending Christmas at Disney World? Thankfully, one of our editors goes there almost every year, and told us all about the wonderment of Disney at Christmastime. Don’t miss out on dancing along to holiday tunes at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, eating plenty of chocolate at Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays, and trying to count one of the 596 small Christmas trees located all over the park.
5 Chicago, Illinois
We know Chicago has great hot dogs, but it’s also well-known for the Christkindlmarket, a German-style Christmas market. Since 1996, people have been venturing to the Windy City for tasty food, ornaments, and more.
6 Santa Claus, Indiana
With a name like Santa Claus, you know this city is ready to welcome you and your family at Christmas. One of the best places to spend Christmas this year is this Indiana town, which is nicknamed “America’s Christmas Hometown.” During the holidays, though, they have even more special events, like the Santa Claus Christmas Parade and Festival of Lights.
7 Nantucket, Massachusetts
During the first weekend of December, Nantucket goes all out to celebrate the Christmas season. A tradition that started in the early ’70s, the Christmas Stroll involves shopping at local stores, witnessing the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, and simply strolling to your heart’s content. Mark your calendars for December 6, 7, and 8 for this year’s festivities.
8 Branson, Missouri
There are light displays galore, as well as the massive event called An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City. But perhaps our favorite Branson holiday activity is hopping on the Polar Express, where you and your kids can witness the Chris Van Allsburg classic come to life.
9 Jackson, New Hampshire
Around Christmas, there’s no more apropos destination spot than the Christmas Farm Inn & Spa. You can enjoy skiing and other outdoor activities, and you must check out Santa’s Village. Another item on our list is to hop aboard a sleigh for The Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour, where you can taste test handmade chocolate.
10 New York, New York
We’ve seen it in movies and on Instagram, but there’s really no iconic spot that rivals the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza. After walking along Fifth Avenue and seeing all of the jaw-droppingly gorgeous store windows, head over to the plaza on December 4 to witness the tree-lighting ceremony.