Not every American town celebrates the Christmas season the same way. Some places go all out with lights, decorations, meet-and-greet Santas, cider and more — and those are some of the very best places to visit once the calendar turns over to December. You want to go someplace festive, possibly with snow!
The Active Times has searched for the best American towns to visit during the Christmas season so you don’t have to spend your time wondering where to go. We have narrowed it down to the 20 best. Some of these towns are little places with unique Christmas traditions, while some are bigger towns that take on a more general holiday approach. Either way, you’re destined to find hot cocoa, carolers, and presents galore wherever you roam.
These towns are all over America, not just on the snowy East Coast. We’ve found towns where you can get your Christmas spirit on in New Mexico, California, Missouri, Washington, and more. So, if you’re planning on traveling during the holiday season and want to hit up towns full of Christmas cheer, consider stopping at any of the 20 best American towns to visit during the Christmas season.
The holiday season in Asheville, North Carolina, is led by Christmas at the Biltmore Estate. Here, one can enjoy 57 stunningly decorated Christmas trees and a candlelight stroll. If that isn’t charming enough for you, visit the Biltmore Village Dickens Festival with carriage rides, carolers, hot cocoa, cookies, and roasted chestnuts. If you’re looking for a different kind of house, check out the Omni Grove Park Inn’s National Gingerbread House competition, which is now in its 25th year.
‘Tis the season of Christmas lights, hot cocoa, and Santa Claus. Bernville is home to a Christmas Village that has embodied Christmas tradition for nearly 70 years. Visitors drive up and over to a hillside view of the entire village with lights reflecting on the lake. The winter wonderland offers a scenic walkthrough route with displays all along the path. Pictures with Santa, a covered bridge with mistletoe, and plenty of quaint shops will bring you Christmas joy at the village.
This town is named after the city of Jesus’ birth, so you know it has Christmas down pat. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, calls itself Christmas City, and it earns that right with one of the country’s top holiday markets with over 150 vendors. You can also take carriage rides through town, visit the ornately decorated the Holiday Putz Trail with miniature nativity scenes, and visit downtown, which is decorated for Christmas all year round.
Ozark Mountain Christmas Village is a great way to make your Christmas merry and bright. In addition to the village, the town of Branson now has a drive-through display of Christmas lights. The best part about this town is you can celebrate Christmas all throughout November and December, beating the bustle of holiday travel. For those hot chocolate lovers out there, say hello to gourmet. Sip a cup of your hot chocolate while your kids take selfies with Santa. Oh, and they have Clydesdale horses you can take photos with, too! Take pictures of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year parade. These are just some of the many scrapbook-worthy Christmas opportunities in this town.
Dyker Heights in Brooklyn is known for its Christmas lights. The neighborhood puts up tens of thousands of lights, and is one of Brooklyn’s most popular winter attractions. According to Time Out, the decorating begins the weekend after Thanksgiving. The lights cover the neighborhood from 11th to 13th Avenues and from 83rd to 86th streets. If you don’t feel like leading yourself around, there is even a tour you can take.
Yes, Chicago is typically known for its St. Patrick’s Day festivities. However, Christmas in Chicago is an absolute must. From the ZooLights in the Lincoln Park Zoo to a German-style Christkindlmarket with handmade crafts, steins of beer, and plenty of glühwein in the Loop and newly in Wrigleyville to T-Box a Christmas-themed pub crawl, Chicago has Christmas spirit! The second city is second to none when there's snow falling softly on the ground and Christmas trees lighting up the front windows of apartments all around.
Corning holds its annual Sparkle Festival during Christmastime, and according to the town’s website it’s like stepping inside a Norman Rockwell holiday painting. The city has carolers, candy shops, horse and wagon rides, and even Santa’s reindeer.
Colorado has many winter activities to offer, like hitting slopes and seeing the snow-covered mountains, but Durango has amazing Christmas activities, too. There are craft festivals, caroling, Christmas decorating, and even a ballet of the “The Nutcracker.” You can even take a train ride to the North Pole on the Polar Express. It’s a great getaway town for Christmas festivities.
Known as Michigan's Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth has far more to offer for Christmas than its holiday megastore Bronner’s, though that is an absolute must-do. Visitors to this German-inspired town can also have a meal with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Zehnder's Restaurant, visit the farmers market-turned-Chriskindlmarkt, and take in the illuminating wonder of the Holiday Celebration and Candlewalk.
With an alpine aesthetic straight out of Bavaria itself, Helen, Georgia, is the perfect Christmastime destination despite its warm temperatures. Things kick off the day after Thanksgiving, when Santa and Mrs. Claus light up the town center. From there, look at beautiful Christmas trees decorated for a cause at the Festival of Trees auction, enjoy the annual Christmas parade, and visit the local holiday market, which features food, music, entertainment, and vendors selling German goods.
It will be hard to find a more festive town than Jackson Hole during the holiday season. This winter wonderland is decked out in Christmas lights and decorations and packed with people who want to ski, snowboard, dog sled, and more. Your Christmas is guaranteed to be white, as Jackson Hole receives an average of 400 inches of snow every year. Doesn’t that sound cozy?
Traveling to Leavenworth, Washington, is worth it for the holiday lights alone. On select evenings, the town is illuminated with over half a million twinkling lights, which are synchronized to live music in the town square. During this nighttime spectacular, carolers stroll about the town, the smell of roasted chestnuts waft through the air, and Santa and Mrs. Claus meet with the merry revelers.
Of course a town better known as “Christmas Town USA” goes all out for Christmas. This town clearly loves the holiday season and even has an official Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a festival. There’s a beautiful Christmas tree display reflecting lights around a pond. The town hosts an annual Yule log parade and ceremony, too. You can even order your own T-shirt to show your Christmas Town USA pride. They know how to make Christmas look cool.
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights is one of America’s most unique holiday traditions. This warm California town features yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes decked out with festive Christmas lights and sail around the harbor as over a million people take in the stunning light show.
This quaint Maine town throws a Christmas By The Sea celebration every year. You can take pictures with hand-painted snowmen, get your gifts wrapped for free, enjoy holiday music sung by different community groups, see a tree lighting, visit Santa, or shop for that special someone!
How can a town named after Santa Claus himself not go all out for Christmas? Named “America’s Christmas Hometown,” this town knows how to make sure you get to celebrate the holidays all throughout December. Enjoy a weekend away with your family at Lake Rudolf, or spend a few nights in Santa’s Lodge or even one of his cottages. This town has events every week in December, full of elves, Christmas lights and roasting chestnuts. Santa Claus, Indiana has Christmas festivities galore.
Inspired by its Danish roots, Solvang, California, goes all-out for Christmas. The city kicks things off with a free candlelight tour, where a costumed tour guide leads you to carolers singing traditional Christmas songs and beautifully lit holiday scenes. The city also hosts the Solvang Nativity Pageant, a holiday lights tour, and the Skål Stroll, where 16 wineries and breweries host holiday drinkers and teach them all about glogg.
Christmas comes to the southwest in Taos with a monthlong festival of holiday celebrations. Aside from twinkling lights and Christmas trees, the town also engages in Mexican and Indigenous Peoples Christmas and wintertime celebrations including a holiday fiesta, a Mexican religious festival called Las Posadas, and a Native American ceremonial dance called the Matachinas Dance.
One of Williamsburg’s Christmas traditions is putting a single glowing candle in your window, hearkening back to a tradition from the American Independence era. Bonfires illuminate the cobblestone streets of this district, giving the perfect wintery feel. If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, visit nearby Busch Gardens. Over 8 million Christmas lights make Busch Gardens Williamsburg the biggest holiday light display in the country. Don’t forget to have a visit with Rudolph and friends in between riding all the roller coasters!
You're destined to enjoy a “White Christmas” in Woodstock thanks to its snowy winter temps. An annual Wassail Weekend is one of the best ways to celebrate the holiday. In this town, historic features are covered in Christmas décor. Holiday lights, wreaths, and snow are all over. Take in the sights and sounds of Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage. Woodstick is full of small town restaurants and plenty of shops to check items off of your Christmas list.
More from The Active Times