150 Festive Destinations in the USA You Must Visit
The US is home to some of the most festive destinations in the world, where you can easily experience entire towns transformed into winter wonderlands with lights and decorations or even quirky destinations named after Christmas themes that appropriately deliver on their promise of festive cheer.
While you’re searching for the perfect festive destinations in the US to travel to this holiday season, here are the top places to check out in each state that will make this the best year yet for the holidays!
Extravagant light displays illuminate the Huntsville Botanical Gardens from all angles during the Galaxy of Lights festival, running from November 11th until January 1st. For the past quarter-century, these lush gardens have transformed into one of Alabama’s best lights displays where visitors can walk or drive through the artistic creations.
For the entire month of December, Courtsquare in Downtown Andalusia brings out festival locals and visitors of all ages to experience the assortment of holiday activities at Christmas in Candyland. With a giant Christmas tree as the centerpiece, the entire square is decorated with cottages and an ice skating rink. Kids can enjoy train rides while awaiting the family-friendly shows every weekend.
See your favorite characters from the classic Dickens Christmas story come to life in the streets of Tuscumbia as the town hosts its annual “It’s a Dickens Christmas, Ya’ll” festival. Free to attend, visitors can spend the day enjoying traditional carriage rides while sipping holiday tea before delighting in live music performances.
A trip to the North Pole will land you in Alaska’s most famous Christmas town. While it keeps up its holiday spirits year-round, Christmas is especially magical when the red and white buildings get decorated with holiday lights and the Santa Claus House hosts activities for kids to write letters to the big guy himself.
Warm-up from the cold inside the Juneau Centennial Hall for the annual Juneau Holiday Market held on the weekends. Browse the stalls of local vendors selling unique holiday items inspired by Native American arts and crafts, where you’ll find fantastic gifts for everyone on your “nice” list.
Talkeetna is known for keeping things weird, but wait until you join the locals for the annual Winterfest, where activities like relay races through the snow and the Wilderness Woman Contest always bring out crowds—no matter how cold it may be. Also, be sure to stop by Village Park for the annual tree lighting ceremony.
All aboard the Grand Canyon Railway Polar Express! Starting at Williams, AZ, this holiday-themed train ride takes you through towns illuminated with colorful lights before arriving at the “North Pole.” You’ll get to meet Santa and enjoy some of his favorite holiday treats while hearing classic Christmas Stories.
With over 100,000 attendees lining the streets of Phoenix every year, the Electric Light Parade never disappoints. Watch in amazement as large floats decorated with twinkling Christmas lights ride past, followed by holiday tunes played by marching bands whose uniforms and instruments also dawn the finest of holiday lights.
The Prescott Courthouse kicks off the holiday season in early December with a lighting festival that reveals the brilliant light display across more than 100 trees in the plaza. Billed as “Arizona’s Christmas City,” Prescott has many family-friendly activities throughout the month, including live musical performances and a holiday parade.
On December 5th, the Governor of Arkansas invites everyone to visit the Governor’s Mansion for the annual holiday open house. See the historical mansion transformed with elegant décor with a new theme every year highlighting the unique holiday characteristics of Arkansas. Mansion tours are free for everyone.
Visit Hot Springs, AR, to start the journey of the Trail of Holiday Lights. This town puts on a vibrant holiday light display where you’ll see creative designs on trees, homes, light poles, and more. Take a walk through town to admire the colorful lights every night for the entire holiday season.
Holiday traditions come alive at the Wonderland Christmas Tree Farm in Arkansas Benton County. Local families come to find and cut down the perfect tree for their homes, while couples enjoy doing photoshoots to send out as holiday greeting cards. Visit during the evening to walk amongst the trees with paths illuminated by lantern light.
The Christmas holiday season is the best time to visit Disneyland in California, where the theme park gets into the holiday spirit. In between enjoying the rides, guests can participate in events like the Christmas Parade, daily holiday parties, and cultural holiday traditions. You’ll even get to see your favorite Disney characters walking around the park dressed in their favorite holiday outfits.
With approximately five million lights decorating the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, it’s no wonder why USA Today ranks it as the “Best Public Lights Display.” Its annual Riverside Festival of Lights invites guests to immerse in the displays covering the site from top to bottom. Enjoy a carriage ride to see the lights and stick around for the fireworks show.
The historic Queen Mary ship welcomes the holiday season in a big way as one of Long Beach’s favorite festive destinations. This massive ship gets a holiday makeover with Christmas lights to provide the backdrop to ice skating and life-size ice sculpture viewing along the waterfront. The event runs from November 29th until January 1st.
Dress up in your finest Victorian-era outfit and join in on a night of Christmas caroling through Colorado Springs. The Old Colorado City Christmas Stroll follows a path through the historic part of town where you’ll encounter Dickens characters and plenty of holiday light displays. In addition, there are several accompanying events like Santa photos in Bancroft Park and Victorian-style dances.
Looking for the perfect holiday gifts? Visit the Denver Christkindlmarket in Downtown Denver. This German-style market invites small businesses to sell their finest artisan crafts, holiday treats, clothing, and more. It’s a festive holiday atmosphere complete with lights, Christmas music, and delightful scents filling the aisles.
Treat yourself to a bit of fun this holiday season at Santa’s Workshop. Set at the foot of Pikes Peak, this family-friendly amusement park brings the North Pole experience to you. Ride the Christmas-themed rides like the Peppermint Slide and train or explore Santa’s Village, where St. Nick awaits you to take photos.
Check out the 13th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival at the Sam Bridge Nursery as these festive animals gear up for the holiday season. Before they take flight with Santa on Christmas Eve, visitors get a chance to take pictures with real-life reindeer and even get to hang out with Santa in his workshop.
No New England holiday is complete without a drive through the Holiday Light Fantasia in Hartford. Goodwin Park becomes a magnificent light display with over 200 creative displays viewed by over 100,000 visitors every year. Watch as the animated displays showcase fun holiday themes for Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year.
The Torrington Christmas Village tradition has lasted since 1947 and continues to be one of the main events happening in the town. Christmas Village invites visitors to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus in their cozy, decorative home. Also, stop by the toy shop to see elves hard at work preparing for the holiday season.
Holly is one of the most iconic symbols of Christmas and the “Holly Capital of the World” makes sure to make Milton an exciting festive destination every time the holidays come around. Multiple venues around town participate in the Holly Festival celebrations filled with fresh holly, crafts, and more to celebrate the Christmas plant.
Hop in your car and go for a ride through Milton’s Winter Wonderfest, held every December. You’ll have the best window seat to a spectacular display of holiday lights stretching for a mile long. And if you want to make it even more festive, leave your car behind and ride in a hayride through the display.
To kick off the holiday season, Rehoboth Beach hosts its Christmas Parade, where this popular Delaware beach destination boasts one of the most spirited holiday celebrations in the state. Stand as a spectator to trophy-worth floats spewing snow, showcasing lights, and more. After the parade, walk along the Rehoboth Boardwalk to visit Santa’s House.
As if the “happiest place on Earth” couldn’t get any better, Christmas time ushers in a fresh wave of joy with the Walt Disney World Holiday Celebrations. Enjoy the park’s wintery makeover where holiday lights, décor, and Christmas cheer fill up the entire park.
See the creativity of Jacksonville’s residents at the Gingerbread House Extravaganza, where talented artists create elaborate gingerbread houses to support programs for kids. It’s hard to believe that these creations are completely edible. And if you’re feeling a bit of inspiration, you can also submit your own masterpiece to go on display.
It’s hard to deny the Christmas spirit when you visit a town named Christmas in Florida. This unlikely location for a Christmas town gives visitors exactly what they’re expecting with holiday decor everywhere you look. A tradition is sending holiday cards from the post office for a namesake postmark.
The Tybee Island Lighted Boat Parade gives visitors a waterfront spectacle to see colorful boats fully decorated in Christmas lights. Bringing true meaning to the term “float,” these vessels put on their best display in hopes of winning the annual award for the best boat light display.
The famous Stone Mountain, located right outside of Atlanta, becomes a popular festive destination that you can enjoy at the foot or mountain summit. Stone Mountain Park Christmas creates a light-filled village with over two-million lights set against the mountain backdrop. Or enjoy holiday-themed rides and other live events at the summit park.
If you’re impressed by the Atlanta Botanical Garden on a typical day, wait until you see what they do with the place on the Garden Lights, Holiday Nights event, running mid-November to mid-January. Unbelievable light displays create unique attractions like the Tunnel of Lights and Radiant Rainforests that provide a unique viewing experience.
Immerse into the local traditions at Christmas at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Honolulu. Guests are treated to live entertainment and fun activities for the entire family, from Keiki Train Rides to shopping in the Hukilau Marketplace. And the best part is that it’s free to the public!
Holiday lights and palm trees create a surreal Christmas environment for Kauai’s Festival of Lights where you can enjoy an amazing lights display under the warm Hawaiian night sky. Go for a walk through the Historic County Building Park, where themed trees like the Hokulea Aloha Tree and “Beautiful Kauai” tree are excellent for selfies. You might even get to see Santa in a Hawaiian-themed suit!
Hawaii delivers a special holiday tradition with Santa Comes to Town in Maui, where the big guy arrives in style on a traditional canoe. Visitors can line up on Wailea Beach to see the jolly fellow cruise onto shore and hang around for a few hours for pictures with everyone.
You can see the star decorating the top of the tallest living Christmas Tree from all around Coeur d’Alene, but only standing right next to it can you appreciate its massive height of 162-ft tall. Every year, this tree is decorated with 40,000 lights arranged in an animated light show that happens nightly throughout the holidays.
Twinkling reds, blues, yellows, greens, purples, and many other colors dazzle visitors as you take a stroll through Locomotive Park in Lewiston, ID. The Winter Spirit lights display offers an interactive viewing experience where you might even get to see dancing trees every night from November to January.
Lighted paths lead you through the Idaho Botanical Garden to see the annual Winter Garden aGlow display. Sip on a hot refreshment and cookies while going for a walk along the snow-covered paths where the unique flora dawns a colorful array of Christmas lights.
Take in the views of the ‘Windy City’ while gliding around the Millennium Park Ice Skating Rink. See your skating form reflected back at you as you skate past the famous Cloud Gate sculpture. And if it’s your first time, the rink offers free lessons every weekend!
The historic buildings surrounding Washington Square in Peoria provide the perfect setting for a holiday candlelight stroll. Grab a candle and join the crowds in the square for exciting events, carriage rides, and shopping in the specialty shops. There’s even a special visit from Santa.
Ice skating under the blanket of lights at the Navy Pier Winter Wonderfest is one of the most festive things to do in Chicago this holiday season. Don’t worry about the cold because this indoor festival provides lots of fun in a cozy setting to enjoy family-friendly activities, performances, and more.
Looking overboard with views of the Des Moines River Valley makes crossing over snowy tracks a heart-rushing experience that you’ll love for the holidays. Enjoy the Santa Express Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad with a fun polar express ride accompanied by Santa as you take part in family-fun activities on board.
Join local Urbandale families in Lions Park for the annual Light Up Urbandale, which starts the local holiday season. Spend a few hours enjoying the free activities like meeting Santa and taking pictures of reindeer. If you stick around till the evening, you’ll get to enjoy a reading of the classic story “The Night Before Christmas.”
The lights out front of Santa’s Castle in Storm Lake aren’t the only introduction of what makes this such a popular attraction to explore for the holidays. Step inside to be amazed by the largest display of animated elves in the US, numbering more than 100. There are also more than 60 individually decorated trees.
Join the Kansas City Ballet as they ring in the holiday season with live performances of The Nutcracker Ballet Show. See this classic Christmas tale come to life in a spectacular theater performance that consistently earns its standing ovation. It’s a holiday tradition that keeps getting better every year.
Downtown Topeka is the place to be as the Miracle on Kansas Avenue Parade rolls around every year. Now in its 26th edition, the floats are bigger, brighter, and attracting larger crowds to stroll the streets. As if the floats aren’t enough entertainment, storefronts take part in the celebration with decorations in attempts to win the Window Decorating Contest.
The Allen House, one of Frank Lloyd’s most famous architectural works, gets an entire Christmas makeover for the holidays as it opens its doors up to the public for self-guided tours. See the beautiful lights complement the house’s stunning architecture in an experience filled with music, holiday treats, and shopping in the gift shop.
Over four million lights twinkle overhead as you drive through the Lights Under Louisville display. Louisville’s underground passageways get illuminated for the holidays with a stunning collection of lights that extend for a scenic half-hour drive. Between the light tunnels and hundreds of individual displays, there’s plenty to see along the journey.
Experience the musical entertainment at Kentucky’s Country Music Capital during the Christmas in the Valley concert series hosted at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center. This series features incredible performances of live Christmas classics in front of audiences in the cozy barn-style theaters. Each show lasts from 1-2 hours.
If you thought that reindeer were just a fantasy animal heard in Christmas tales, then wait until you visit the Reindeer Farm in Bowling Green, KY. It’s one of the best places to get up close to these iconic holiday animals where you can pet reindeer and enjoy fun activities like Christmas movie screenings and visits from the jolly fellow on Santa Day.
Strings of lights hang overhead as attendees marvel at the festive decorations and activities during the Natchitoches Christmas Festival. This six-week-long festival provides plenty of time for families to enjoy the Festival of Lights parade, where you’ll get to see more than 300,000 lights and displays. Or stop by the Mistletoe Market to pick up fun Christmas gifts.
Cars are a major part of the culture in Logansport, and the Cajun Christmas Classic Car and Truck Show brings out the best of the best for the holidays. Sponsored by the Grammy Award-winning Don Henry, local car enthusiasts put on a holiday show of the best cars accompanied by Christmas lights, fireworks, and other festive activities.
The annual NOLA Christmas Festival arrives once again this year in all of its holiday fanfare that attracts locals and visitors to enjoy the various activities designed to keep you in the Christmas spirit during December. Enjoy ice skating under dazzling Christmas lights or go for a slippery ride down the ice slide. And there are plenty of Christmas trees and gingerbread houses providing the perfect holiday visuals.
Perched on Cape Neddick is one of New England’s most famous lighthouses, the Nubble Lighthouse, which gets even more picturesque thanks to the Christmas lights decorating it from top to bottom for the holidays. Come during the evenings to see Maine’s favorite lighthouse illuminated and accompanied by caroling and frequent Santa visits.
If you’re at all familiar with Maine’s lobster heritage, then you’ll immediately be drawn to its quirkiest attraction: the largest lobster trap tree in the world. Rockland puts to great use all of those unused lobster traps in a display that attracts many visitors every year for photos of the unusual sight.
The Kennebunkport community comes out in full holiday spirit every December to start the Christmas season with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, caroling, and more. Join in the fun at Dock Square, where crowds of people gleaming with holiday cheer attend the Christmas Prelude Celebration happening the first two weeks of December.
Views of the Baltimore skyline provide the perfect backdrop for the annual Inner Harbor Christmas Village. Experience a traditional German Christmas at this open-air market where you can find delicious German-inspired holiday treats, live music performances, and Christmas shopping with local vendors.
Six Flags America introduces brand new holiday themes from the end of November to early January, where park attendees get immersed in the winter wonderland. With trees decorated like candy canes in Candy Cane Lane and a recreation of the North Pole, the light display and holiday attractions are plenty to keep you entertained for an entire day in the park.
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch, and many of your other favorite Christmas characters come to life during the Ice! At Gaylord National festival held every year. The resort uses over two million pounds of ice to create larger-than-life sculptures and attractions that invite visitors to explore the distinct Christmas worlds of their favorite cartoons.
An infinity tunnel, reindeer leaping overhead, and enormous snowflakes are just a handful of the unique displays you see while driving through the Bright Nights at Forest Park. Since 1995, this drive-thru Christmas light display has recreated scenes from your favorite films and holiday themes in an exciting three-mile route.
Bundle up in preparation for the Nantucket Christmas Stroll, where crowds fill the streets of downtown Nantucket to celebrate the holidays in unison. The entire district features decorated trees and street-side ornaments, providing an ideal setting for Santa’s Village Marketplace, live shows, and holiday specials offered by the downtown shops.
See how the early pilgrims celebrated their first Christmas holidays in the new world at the Plimoth Plantation. This living museum experience recreates one of the first settlements where colonial families and Native Americans enjoyed Thanksgiving and Christmas activities together. Visitors can see live reenactments of the historical events that tell the story of early Christmas traditions in America.
Guaranteed, you’ve never seen a store quite like Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store. Expanding the size of 1.5-football fields, this massive shop holds hundreds of decorated Christmas trees, lighting the way to thousands of ornaments and other Christmas decorations fun to explore and purchase.
Christmas comes to life while exploring the Heritage Park in Taylor. Redesigned as a winter village for the holidays, Santa’s Magic Forest features hundreds of animatronic figures that create festive scenes and provide tons of entertainment as you walk through it. The good news is that Santa and Mrs. Claus are real and ready to meet you!
A carriage ride down Main Street while viewing the historical buildings of Greenfield Village might be one of the most joyful experiences you can have in Michigan for the holidays. Holiday Nights is a family tradition where lights, holiday treats, and even fireworks can make any evening in this theme park magical.
Experience the local charm of Minneapolis during the Holidazzle celebration that makes this major city feel like a quaint Christmas town. Loring Park hosts the festival where everyone is welcome to see the lights displays, local art exhibitions, and local food that truly makes the community special.
With more than four million lights decorating the nation’s largest free walk-through lighting display, the Bentleyville ‘Tour of Lights’ is the place to be when visiting Duluth. The Christmas tree centerpiece serves as a beacon of direction while navigating large displays, a tunnel of lights, and more.
The entire Como Park Zoo and conservatory is bursting with colors during the annual Holiday Flower Show. Green shrubs and bushes get accented with colorful poinsettias that line the pathways of the conservatory. You’ll get a chance to see the unique Orange Glow and Christmas Mouse poinsettias that appear specifically designed for the holidays.
Any other time of year, Oxford is one of Mississippi’s favorite college towns, but come Christmas season, it becomes a Christmas town with festive lights and activities filling the streets. Visit Oxford Square to see lights decorating the balconies of two-story buildings while delighting in the Christmas music filling the boutique shops along the strip to find the perfect gifts.
If you’re planning to catch the annual Christmas on the Water Boat Parade in Biloxi, the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor gives you one of the best viewpoints of the waterfront light show. Watch as boats float past, showcasing holiday lights and decorations where you’ll hear cheers from the crowd favorite. Be sure to stick around for the firework display at the end.
Belhaven University proves that lights aren’t the only way to decorate a Christmas tree. Its long-running outdoor winter concert arranges its choir to form the Singing Christmas Tree that sounds as good as it looks. The concert runs the first weekend in December, so you’ll have two opportunities to see the show.
Laurie, MO is the only place where you can see Santa digging for gold, Frosty the Snowman ice skating, and a Rudolph search party all in the same place. These are just a few scenes created during the Enchanted Village of Lights that has over 200 fun holiday-themed scenes to explore within the Hillbilly Fairgrounds.
Silver Dollar City gets a top-to-bottom makeover with more than 6.5-million Christmas lights that feature many themed holiday sections throughout the park. Check out the Joy on Town Square to marvel at the eight-story tall Christmas tree or attend the Broadway-style theater show for a night of live Christmas entertainment.
Branson is a famous Missouri destination thanks to its live shows and venues that all get into the holiday spirit with festive shows running from November to December. Thousands of guests attend the shows every year to enjoy hits like Dolly Parton’s Stampede and the Presleys’ Christmas Jubilee.
Ski the slopes of Whitefish Ski Resort, one of Montana’s top ski destinations, or join in the festivities at the foot of the mountain. This busy ski village brings the holidays to you with fun activities like a torchlight parade and a Christmas Stroll for everyone, all in the shadows of the massive Whitefish Mountain.
Crossing the decorated Swan River Bridge is a preview before arriving in Bigfork, whose alpine-style buildings receive a holiday uplift with lights and other Christmas décor. Celebrate the season in this Christmas town which starts with a holiday parade, leading into a month full of family-friendly activities like meeting Santa and holiday light home tours to see how the residents get into the holiday spirit.
Experience an Old-Fashioned Forest Service Christmas in Missoula, where the great outdoors are more than welcoming to the festive atmosphere during the holidays. It’s a chance to see Santa’s love for nature as he’s accompanied by Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl for campfire stories and singing.
As the sun sets over Nebraska City, it’s time to hop on the Arbor Day Farm trolley for an exciting ride through the local historic city district. The Trolley of Lights tour not only gives a holiday-themed ride complete with “The Polar Express” storytime but you’ll get taken around one of the most beautiful parts of town adorned with colorful Christmas lights.
Walking inside the Durham Museum in Omaha transports you to a world filled with amazing lights displays and holiday events. Enjoy the festive tunes of the holiday concerts scheduled throughout December while viewing the largest indoor Christmas tree. Attending the events in the museum is a popular local tradition that has become one of the most festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Nebraska.
Gering brings its local Wild, Wild West heritage to the Christmas traditions in a unique way to celebrate the holidays. Every first Saturday in December, the Legacy of the Plains Museum creates a unique experience that makes you feel like a cowboy enjoying marshmallows roasting around the bonfire, traditional haystack rides, and Pony Express mail sent directly to Santa.
Since there aren’t many Christmas trees growing naturally in the desert, Henderson has other ideas for the season with the Holiday Cactus Garden Lights. Cacti and other flora decorated with more than a million Christmas lights is the best alternative that always brings a smile to visitors’ faces–especially while tasting the “world’s best hot chocolate” during the visit.
The Bellagio Fountains Holiday Show takes the already fantastic water fountain show and gives it a Christmas theme. As one of the best things to do in Las Vegas for the holidays, watch as the dancing water fountains move to your favorite Christmas tunes. Visitors can watch the holiday-themed water show from December to January.
Families can now enjoy entertainment together in Reno at the Grant Theater Venue, which hosts the annual Holiday Dreams Live Show. Grab tickets to see the energy-packed show featuring your favorite holiday characters, a beautiful holiday-themed stage design, and plenty of surprises that keep you entertained throughout the entire performance.
Charmingfare Farm invites visitors to immerse into the Christmas holiday in a destination wholly transformed for the holidays. You’ll have plenty of excitement leading up to the holidays where sleigh rides through decorative Christmas scenes, feeding reindeer, and treats served by Mrs. Clause are more than enough to keep busy until Christmas day.
The sea of Santa suits gathering at the starting line means that it’s time for the annual Santa Claus Shuffle to begin. So, join the ranks of jolly locals for a three-mile trek through Manchester, where you’ll get to enjoy a few of Santa’s favorite treats picked up along the route.
The snowy streets of Portsmouth create the perfect New England Christmas in a town boasting lights, events, and other holiday-themed activities. Holiday tours are available through town, where you’ll get to sightsee some of the best decorations. The entire month of December hosts family-friendly events like the Gingerbread House Contest and a Candlelight Stroll through the Strawbery Banke Museum.
The Holiday Adventure at Liberty Science Center is the only place where kids will enjoy learning during their Christmas break. Try your hand at solving the Snowman Riddle Scavenger Hunt game, or show off your best moves at the Holiday Dance Part Experiment.
Dicken’s Days in Clinton brings this popular holiday story to life as the town recreates the Victorian-style Christmas atmosphere. You’ll be transported to a new era while enjoying traditional carriage rides through the town and see plenty of characters dressed in their finest Victorian Christmas outfits.
Every evening during the holiday season, tons of people gather on the bridge and banks of Lake Meone to admire Christmas trees as you’ve never seen before. The Smithville Holiday Light Show On The Lake showcases more than 120 unique Christmas Trees designed from 50,000 lights that dance in the water to festive music.
Bold colors of art and crafts fill the stalls of the Spanish Market Artist Winter Show. Hosted every year in Santa Fe, this market introduces artful creations of 70 local artists that showcase their Spanish heritage through artwork. Visitors can purchase artwork and meet the artists.
Locals in Santa Fe reenact one of the most important religious holiday stories on Joseph and Mary searching for a place to stay in Bethlehem by parading through the Palace Courtyard for the nine-day festival. It’s the perfect opportunity to taste New Mexico’s state cookie, the bizcochito, and hot cider that warms you up in the cool night.
Sail the Pecos River in Carlsbad, where the locals put on a spectacular waterfront light show. Christmas on the Pecos is a holiday tradition to take a 40-min holiday boat tour past residential houses decorated with millions of Christmas lights and displays. Be sure to have your camera ready to take photos of your favorites!
Take a holiday vacation to Upstate New York to the Catskills to discover the world-class skiing resorts at Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain. And when you need a break from the slopes, head into one of the top ski towns in the country with ice skating, winter ziplining, and other activities that keep you busy all season.
The frigid New York City winters can’t keep locals and tourists from celebrating the holidays with famous events like the Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. See one of the most iconic Christmas Trees in the world light up the plaza, which also offers ice skating throughout the season.
The North Pole is closer than you think, especially when you visit New York for the holidays. North Pole, NY is an actual town that lets you enjoy thrilling rides at a holiday-themed amusement park, sending letters to Santa from the post office, and even seeing Santa prep for a night of delivering gifts in his workshop.
The Biltmore Mansion in Asheville looks like something out of a fairytale. The magic of Christmas falls upon the mansion every holiday season as it features over 100 fully-decorated Christmas trees and more than 100,000 lights. The mansion invites visitors to be a guest at the home for an elegant festive celebration topped off with live music.
Experience a cultural celebration in Cary at the Booth Amphitheatre for the Chinese Lantern Festival. Tickets are valid from November 19-January 9th to see over 20 creative displays of dragons, swans, and more illuminated with bright LEDs. Each year introduces new displays, so there’s always a surprise when you visit the annual festival!
The locals have embraced McAdenville’s title of ‘Christmas Town USA’ by delivering a Christmas town experience unlike other places in the country. The lighting festival draws crowds of hundreds of thousands of people to explore the 1.3-mile route full of stunning light displays that feel like walking through a winter wonderland.
Fans of A Christmas Carol can live out their favorite Christmas traditions during the Dickens Village Festival in Garrison. Held for three weekends in December, this small town hosts a major festival inviting everyone to attend the live entertainment shows, shop local vendors, and go for a light-filled tour through town in a double-decker bus.
The holiday season means that you can look forward to seeing the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train rolling through town. However, this isn’t your usual polar express train experience. Instead, the decorative train puts on a light show with decorative railcars and staged performances as it passes through town.
Holiday traditions get created at the 15-acre Rheault Farm every year. Tour Santa’s Village for daily activities all season, including meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus, decorating holiday cookies, and making your very own Christmas Gnome. The holiday fun is free and open to the public!
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Christmas season in Cleveland officially starts with the Winter Fest celebration! Kick-off the holidays in Public Square for this one-day event where live music fills the air. Crowds enjoy pop-up holiday shopping, ice skating, and a firework show to accompany the Christmas lights lighting up downtown.
You’ll be plenty warm in your car as you drive through the WonderLight’s Christmas display at Hartford Fairgrounds. This drive-through light show extends on a two-mile route filled with colorful light tunnels and Christmas-themed displays that come alive to programmed music.
Tour “America’s largest indoor Christmas entertainment attraction” set up year-round in Castle Noel. This large venue space is decorated with all-things Christmas with an enchanted forest filled with lights, slides that wind through artificial snow, and displays originally featured in NYC Saks Fifth Avenue windows. You’ll even spot characters like Santa and the Grinch hanging around.
Visiting Guthrie’s Territorial Christmas Celebration feels like stepping into the past during the most festive time of year. Ride through the historical streets in a candlelit trolley or browse the decorative store windows. And you’re sure to see lots of carolers dressed in their finest 20th-century Victorian costumes as they go around town.
Whether you choose to take a leisure boat ride down the canal beneath the twinkling Bricktown lights or you decide to go for a traditional horse-drawn carriage ride through the snowy streets, Christmas time in Downtown Oklahoma City is always one of the most festive things to do in Oklahoma.
You’ll easily forget that you’re indoors while browsing the aisles of North Pole City. Recognized as the largest Christmas Store in Oklahoma, this shopping experience is filled with festive cheer as you walk past tons of decorated trees. Bring the kids along to meet Santa or go for an indoor train ride around the store.
Put the pedal to the metal as you drive through the Portland International Raceway Winter Wonderland. More than 250 different light displays illuminate the famed race track that offers a drive-through experience open to the public. It even has designated days for riding bikes or walking through the attraction.
Delight yourself in an Oregon heritage tradition as you watch boats of all shapes and sizes cruising along the port for the Christmas Ship Parade. Now in its 67th year, the crowds continue to line the banks of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers to see the show featuring over 50 decorated boats.
The Taft Dock is one of the newest attractions in Lincoln City and hopes to keep visitors coming to it year-round with events like Deck the Dock. Go for a stroll on the renovated pier with beautiful lights extending along the entire waterfront. Join Santa and Mrs. Claus on December 2nd for the official lighting ceremony.
A Longwood Christmas should be at the top of your list when you visit Kennett Square this holiday season. The stunning indoor garden landscape introduces a holiday theme of Fire and Ice that creates contrasting decorations and is illuminated with hundreds of thousands of lights.
Indiana, PA looks like a scene from your favorite holiday Hallmark movie as it gears up to celebrate the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival. The town celebrates its hometown hero and star of the famous film, Jimmy Stewart, in a citywide festival with a parade and, of course, screenings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
This immersive 65-foot Christmas tree stands as the centerpiece at the Rink at PPG Place. Families can enjoy ice skating around the tree or simply take in the views of one of Pittsburgh’s most stunning holiday sights.
You’ll feel like a special invited guest to a gilded age Christmas while taking home tours during the Holidays at the Newport Mansions event. Opulent mansions like The Breakers and The Elms are decked out from the inside to the outside with elaborate décor, a famous 15-ft “poinsettia tree,” and festive Christmas lights arranged through the gardens.
Water Street on Block Island becomes the go-to destination for Christmas shopping this holiday season. You can easily spend a few hours wandering in and out of these quaint shops looking for amazing holiday deals and enjoying locally-made cider and hot chocolate. And don’t forget to snap selfies in front of the famous lobster pot tree.
Smith’s Castle is one of the most famous buildings in North Kingstown that brings all of the festive cheer that you could want during the holidays. From December 4th – 5th, families can visit the site to enjoy activities like gingerbread cookie decorating, storytime, and live music performances.
For over 30 years, Hollywild has been the main draw for visitors to Spartanburg to witness the Holiday Lights Safari. But, animals aren’t the only thing that you’ll see during this drive-thru safari experience, as the entire park gets decorated with over 300,000 Christmas lights and displays for the holidays.
Tickets go fast to attend the Carolina Opry Christmas Special in Myrtle Beach. This holiday show features a talented cast performing various musical numbers on a stage decorated with enough Christmas Decorations to fill up an entire town. The audience is guaranteed to dance, laugh, and sing along in this annual multi-show.
Jazz up the holidays with the Holiday Swing show playing at the Charleston Music Hall. Get ready for an evening of Christmas songs sprinkled with a bit of jazz flavor as you enjoy classics performed by the Charleston Jazz Orchestra.
The Capitol Building in Pierre welcomes the public to celebrate the holidays with an open house. Christmas at the Capitol will be one of the most festive things to do this year as the building shows off almost 100 uniquely decorated Christmas trees in its grand halls. If you happen to visit on the weekend, you’ll be delighted by carolers singing holiday tunes.
Evening in the Winter Wonderland at Falls Park gives you a new appreciation for its iconic waterfalls. Walk through the park’s decorated trees and light displays before arriving at the waterfalls to see them illuminated with colorful holiday colors.
The Strawbale Winery Twilight Flight delivers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for couples looking for a unique activity this holiday season. The day starts with hor d’oeuvres and a wine tasting of locally-made spirits from the winery before climbing aboard a helicopter to take an aerial light tour of Renner.
Gatlinburg is the premier destination for the Smoky Mountain Winterfest. Colorful Christmas lights line the parkway as you arrive in town just in time for the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade or a self-guided Trolley Ride of Lights tour to see just how festive the locals can get for the holidays.
The first sign of snow means that it’s the perfect time to stop by the Holiday Open House Historic Rock Castle. Located in Hendersonville, this historic home is a beautiful sight during the holidays, with a snow-capped roof and lush garland struck along the fences. The home offers free tours that might even be accompanied by St. Nicolas himself.
There’s never a dull moment in Chattanooga during the holidays. The entire city gets festive as more than a dozen local attractions participate in the annual Holiday Trail of Lights to see the unique decorations at each site. Be sure to keep an eye out for Santa while exploring town!
Dallas becomes a cultural hub for more than 50,000 festive visitors excited about the Kwanzaa holiday. For a weekend in December, KwanzaaFest delivers family fun for the holidays with a 5K run, shopping vendors, and enjoying a free celebration of Kwanzaa traditions.
The famous San Antonio Riverwalk invites visitors to experience it like no other time of year. Trees overhanging the district are draped in more than 100,000 lights in preparation for the annual Holiday Lights on the River Walk. Go for a stroll on either side of the river walk to admire the festive lights kicking off at the Ameson River Theater before attending the ford Holiday River Parade.
Menorahs decorate the front of boats for the Chanukah on the River celebration. Ranking among Texas’ largest Jewish events, this religious holiday tradition brings out over a thousand attendees to cruise in the river walk boat parade and enjoy live music.
Equipped with a laundry list of elves to find around town, Gardner Village turns into an entire search party for the annual Elf Scavenger Hunt. Santa’s workshop isn’t the only place where elves like to hang out, as these whimsical characters can be found in the salon, getting a haircut, and other fun displays set up in town.
Be careful not to drool too much in the cool night air as you check out the candy window displays during the Light the Night event in South Jordan. It’s hard to believe that these window displays are made entirely of treats designed in fun scenes like holiday characters and even the iconic leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.”
Toymaking isn’t the only thing that Santa will be supervising this holiday season. Kids will enjoy the Santa’s Art Shop event at the Springville Museum of Art, where they’ll feel like elves crafting fun holiday-themed art projects alongside the jolly fellow.
Stepping inside the Billings Farm farmhouse in Woodstock feels like going inside a cozy 19th century home where the stocks hanging over the warm fireplace and twinkling Christmas tree will always put you in the holiday spirit. When you make it to the end of the house tour, visitors can make their own ornaments to take home as souvenirs.
Middlebury is where you’ll want to be when visiting Vermont for the holidays. The entire city shows its holiday cheer with events happening all month long. Join your favorite holiday characters for breakfast or show your charitable drive for the annual toy drive. And thanks to local artist Ashley Wolf, you can explore the town in search of her hidden Christmas ornaments for a cash prize at the end.
St. Albans shows off its agricultural heritage for the annual Holiday Tractor Parade. Pick up your cup of complimentary hot chocolate and head to Main Street as you cheer on tractors colorfully decorated with Christmas lights and other displays. Santa will surely be in attendance!
Bright holiday lights illuminate the night hour of the clock tower as visitors walk beneath sparkling Christmas lights and wreaths decorating the Busch Gardens Christmas Town. Over 10 million lights decorate this popular theme park as one of the largest displays on the continent!
Grab tickets to enter the Winter Village at Cameron Run to take part in this spectacular lights festival. There are plenty of photo opportunities while strolling through the village, where every tree and pathway get dressed up in decorative Christmas light fashion. In addition, the village offers activities like ice skating and also concession stands for belly-warming treats.
Experience how the nation’s first president celebrated one of the first Christmas holidays. Mount Vernon is George Washington’s former home that opens up to visitors to learn about the 18th-century holiday traditions and offers a candlelight tour of the historic district.
Leavenworth is one of the most famous Christmas towns in the US. This quaint Bavarian village in Washington comes to life during the winter season with a half-million lights decorating every building in sight. For the season, it hosts live holiday entertainment, meeting Santa, and singing Christmas carols throughout the village.
Set in a plaza that once hosted the World Fair, the Seattle Winterfest is a month-long celebration of the Christmas holiday. Christmas lights decorating the famous Space Needle light up the night as the event-filled campus hosts attendees to see creative ice sculptures, ride on the Winter train, and delight in live performances.
Christmas shopping has never been easier, thanks to the annual Custer’s Christmas Arts and Crafts Show. Step inside the Spokane Fair & Expo Center, where you’ll find aisles of vendors selling their finest handicrafts, artwork, jewelry, home goods, and specialty foods like gourmet chocolate and artisan cheese that taste like the holidays.
The first weekend in December rings in all of the festive celebrations for the Olde Tyme Christmas. Go for a ride on a horse-drawn wagon through Harpers Ferry to get a lay of the land before exploring the local shops attended by employees in period costumes. Save time to check out the weekend musical events performed in St. Peter’s Church.
Time travel to a period of the early days of Christmas during the 18th century at Fort Randolph in Point Pleasant. Free for everyone, the Christmas on the Frontier event features costumed actors reenacting a historic Christmas before giving the audience an immersive experience with shopping in the fort’s trading post.
Locals and visitors all wait in anticipation every year for the Way-Back weekend hosted at the Heritage Farm right outside of Huntington. Immerse yourself in the traditional holiday celebrations at this preserved Appalachian village, where the entire family can get hands-on with soap-making and blacksmithing while waiting for Santa to arrive in town!
Decorate your two-wheeler and join in the fleet of over 1,000 cyclists all dressed as Santa for Milwaukee’s Santa Cycle Rampage. The bike route runs for 5.5-miles that even kids can take part in. It’s quite a sight that’s just as fun regardless of if you’re participating in the marathon or just spectating.
It’s sure to snow over the holidays at the Wisconsin Dells Christmas Mountain Village, which makes this holiday-themed resort even more festive this season. Cozy up inside the cabin-style resort and enjoy winter activities like skiing or attending the Winter Carnival held every year.
Hear voices bouncing beautifully against the cavern walls inside the Cave of the Mounds. Caroling in the Cave is an unusual underground holiday concert that takes advantage of the unique acoustics inside the cave. The concert is scheduled for December 3rd – 4th and features a local choir.
Santa makes quite the entrance into Jackson Hole while hanging from the aerial tram lift just in time for the town’s Holiday Fun in the Hole event. As one of Wyoming’s best Christmas Towns, it’s a destination that doesn’t disappoint with lights illuminating the town square and a ski torchlight parade, all set against the backdrop of the Teton Mountains.
The Cody Trolley Light Tour takes visitors through the most festive neighborhoods of a town named after the famous Buffalo Bill. Sip on hot chocolate while admiring the Christmas light decorations and displays that light up the town for the holidays.
Christmas is celebrated worldwide, but you won’t need an around-the-world ticket to experience it. The 1000 Faces of Santa Exhibit in Cheyenne features an astonishing collection of Santa Claus toys and statues from around the world. You can see all of the different ways cultures depict this famous holiday character.
Not into the festive destinations? Check out our list of 150 unique attractions in the USA instead!