On our last visit to New York, we left just as they were starting to put up the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Now that we live in NYC this year, we’re determined to have the full holiday experience.
With the holidays around the corner, most of us think of visiting home, but it can be one of the most magical times to visit other cities too. Whether you make it a family trip, or explore on your own, here are 15 best places to spend Christmas in USA.
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Last Updated: September 14, 2019 First Published: Dec 7, 2015
15 Best Places to Spend Christmas in USA
2. Christmas Town USA, North Carolina
When: Lighting ceremony is on Nov 30, 2018 at 5pm-6pm. Lights stay until Dec 26, Hours are M-F 5:30pm to 9:30pm, Sat and Sun 5:30pm – 11pm.
Right outside of Charlotte, NC, this town is known as McAdenville most of the year, but each December, they change the name to Christmas Town USA. There are over 375 trees, 450,000 lights, and they hand out free hot chocolate and kettle corn to the first 1,000 attendees each night!
It’s free to view the Christmas lights since it’s literally the entire town.
Note: Prepare yourself for a lot of traffic.
What better way to spend Christmas than with the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. This tree just south of the White House has been lit every year since 1923. Surrounding the tree are 56 smaller trees representing the 50 states, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia.
4. Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City has their own giant tree, millions of lights fill the Magnificent Mile, and there’s a German Christmas market filled with everything you can think of.
photo: Choose Chicago
Can’t Miss Spots: Lake Eola Park Tree Lighting Ceremony, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
What to Eat: Cork & Fork, Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa, Seito Sushi
Where to Stay: Four Seasons at Disney (luxury), Floridays Resort (mid-range), Orlando International Resort Club (mid-range)
Enjoy the mild winters in Orlando and visit one of the most magical places on earth! It’s no wonder that it also makes one of the best places to spend Christmas in the US. Disney World gives their parks an extra dose of cheer during the holidays, and it doesn’t hurt that you can visit the beach in just a couple of hours.
The city that is always full of lights gets even brighter during the holiday season. Each hotel does its own take on the season. Don’t forget to stop by Bellagio’s botanical gardens. They have the best decorations on the Strip.
Did you know you can spend Christmas at the North Pole without leaving the United States? Thousands of letters are sent to the Santa Claus House every year, and they even write back. You may even be able to catch the Aurora Borealis!
8. Vail, Colorado
Get a guaranteed white Christmas by visiting this ski town. They get so excited about the fresh powder that they celebrate with live concerts during Snowdaze.
9. Nantucket, Massachusetts
The annual Christmas Stroll is a special event where you can shop amidst dozens of decorated Christmas trees, do a wine tasting, enjoy carolers, or partake in home tours. If trees are your thing, be sure to check out the Whaling Museum where there are 80 decorated trees.
10. Beaufort, South Carolina
You can typically still kayak or go boating until January so the holidays are a great time to visit. Be sure to check when the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla is so you can enjoy all the twinkling lights on the water too!
11. Carmel by the Sea, California
This quaint coastal town is perfect for any wine lover. Enjoy the lights, walk along the beach, and stop into any of the dozens of spots to do a wine tasting.
12. Park City, Utah
This ski town starts it celebration in late November with its Electric Parade where they light up everything! Enjoy the slopes, walk through town, and if you’re around on Christmas Eve, keep your eye out for Santa. He spends the day skiing the slope the leads a parade down the PayDay trail.
13. Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg is full of history. Visit Jamestown to celebrate the holidays like the colonists, or if you’re looking for something more up-to-date, Busch Gardens has its very own Christmas Town.
14. La Jolla in San Diego, California
Celebrate the holiday season in a wetsuit surfing the waves, enjoying farm-to-table food, or shopping at the high-end and beachy shops in La Jolla. Don’t forget to check out the annual Christmas parade too!
Our favorite thing to do is to ice skate near the beach at Hotel del Coronado.
15. Branson, Missouri
The historic downtown shopping center is the place to be during the holiday season in Branson. The Branson Scenic Railway is transformed into the Polar Express. And since it’s known as the Live Music Show Capital of the World, there is plenty to keep you busy!
Map of Best Christmas Destinations
More Places to Spend Christmas in USA
- Andalusia, Alabama
- Annapolis, Maryland *
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Aspen, Colorado
- Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Bardstown, Kentucky *
- Beaufort, North Carolina
- Bernville, Pennsylvania *
- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
- Breckenridge, Colorado
- Cape May, New Jersey
- Charlottesville, Virginia *
- Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Corning, New York
- Delray Beach, Florida
- Durango, Colorado *
- Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
- Frankenmuth, Michigan *
- Fredericksburg, Texas
- Grapevine, Texas
- Gulf Shores, Alabama
- Healdsburg, California
- Helen, Georgia
- Jackson, Wyoming
- Kirtland, Ohio
- Laguna Beach, California
- Leavenworth, Washington
- Lewisburg, West Virginia *
- Mumford, New York
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina *
- Naples, Florida
- Natchitoches, Louisiana *
- Nevada City, California
- Newport, Rhode Island
- Newport Beach, California
- Ogden, Utah
- Ogunquit, Maine **
- Oxford, Mississippi
- Paradise, Pennsylvania
- Paso Robles, California
- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
- Pine Mountain, Georgia
- Portland, Maine
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire
- Prescott, Arizona
- Red Wing, Minnesota *
- Santa Claus, Indiana *
- Sierra Madre, California *
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Skaneateles, New York
- Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
- Solvang, California *
- Sonoma, California
- Taos, New Mexico
- Thomasville, Georgia
- Telluride, Colorado
- Woodstock, Vermont **
- Zoar, Ohio *
Don't Forget to Pack These
Have you spent any time in any of these cities during the holiday season? What did you think? Did you feel more of the Christmas spirit? Does your city belong on here? Show us how your hometown does Christmas. Would love to see photos (you can link them in the comments section below).
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in NYC.