10 of the coziest Christmas towns in America

These ten festive cities – like Leavenworth, Washington (pictured here) – make excellent vacation spots this winter. (iStock)

If the festive feel of the holidays makes you dream of a getaway, the good news is that there is no shortage of extremely charming Christmas towns dotted across the United States.

From the North Pole in Alaska and Taos in New Mexico to Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and Duluth, Minnesota, the best Christmas spots have lights, decorations, and Santas galore – plus lots of weird and wonderful traditions of their own. They are without a doubt some of the best places to visit this winter.

So pack your bags (and your Santa hat!) And head to one of those destinations that will bring cheers to the most beautiful time of the year.

Leavenworth, Wash.

Tucked away on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, this Barvarian-style village is charming in all seasons, but turns into an alpine wonderland during the holidays. On three weekends before Christmas, the village is illuminated with more than half a million lights and also offers Christmas carols and holiday concerts, toboggan and sleigh rides, a Christmas market and visits to St. Nickolaus. There is also a Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum with over 5,000 objects.

MAN RUINS CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL by screaming that there is no Santa in children

North Pole, Alaska

This year-round Christmas town is just a short drive from Fairbanks and is never more magical than December, when freshly fallen snow makes the town’s Santa Claus House – located on Santa Claus Drive, of course – look like a scene from a winter wonderland. In addition to photo opportunities with the big red man himself and meetings and greetings with his reindeer team, the house has a Christmas shop with lots of North Pole loot and even letters from Santa Claus, which can be sent with this important postmark.

Santa Claus, Ind.

This little town east of Evansville undoubtedly deserves its vacation: every year volunteers from the nonprofit Santa’s Elves and the Santa Claus Museum & Village mobilize to answer the thousands of letters addressed to Santa and arriving at the local post office . The city also has a fair share of local attractions, including Santa’s Candy Castle, the Santa Claus Christmas Store, the Drive-Through Festival of Lights at Christmas Lake Village, and the enormous Christmas party at the Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum.

Bethlehem, Penn.

Also known as “Christmas City,” this eastern Pennsylvania city celebrates Christmas with more than 50 events across town and hugely popular pop-up markets and exhibits. The top attractions include one of the largest Christmas markets in the country with more than 100 exhibitors and the annual “Trees of Historic Bethlehem” shop window. Throughout the city in the Southside Arts District, live concerts, comedy sets and screenings of classic Christmas films add extra Christmas cheer.

Solvang, California

This quaint Danish village is always a worthwhile stopover on the way from Los Angeles to California’s central coast. A busy calendar of events includes: a Christmas parade; Candlelight and carol tours; Live Christmas concerts in the park as well as other holiday concerts in town; Holiday Lights tours in the Santa Ynez Valley and a city-wide, month-long hunt for mischievous Danish Christmas elves named Jule Nisse.

Natchitoches, La.

Christmas takes on a Creole twist in this small, historic town: Natchitoches is home to Louisana’s oldest general store, the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile, and all of downtown is a registered national historic landmark. More than 300,000 lights and 100 set pieces illuminate the city and the banks of the Cane River. Other celebrations include parades and live performances, historic home tours, carriage rides, and fireworks. The southern city’s festival of lights is quickly approaching its centenary. This year the 92nd edition takes place.


Taos, NM

From the torch parades that took place on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve on the local ski hills to the annual Christmas Eve procession in Taos Pueblo (where massive bonfires and lots of Luminara candles are lit, and historical gun salutes honor the procession of the Virgin Mary) It’s safe to say that Taos celebrates Christmas in its own spirited way. The region’s adobe shops and window displays, all messed up on their loveliest vacation, are especially charming when they’re freshly covered in snow dust.

Duluth, Minn.

This industrial town on the shores of Lake Superior has much of the legendary “Minnesota nice” to offer, as demonstrated by vacation volunteers braving the freezing temperatures to hand out hot chocolate and other goodies on foot at the country’s biggest light show. The headliner is a 12-story Christmas tree that is lit with more than 150,000 light bulbs. The city’s Christmas City Express – a vintage train with Christmas lights and decorations – is another popular family-friendly offering.

Frankenmuth, me.

The number one reason millions of visitors take trips to this small town in central Michigan every year? Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, also known as the largest Christmas shop in the world. Bronner’s is open year round, with the exception of a few major holidays. It’s a retail experience of epic proportions. The store is two to three times the size of your typical big box retailer and has thousands of ornaments, hundreds of light and Christmas trees, and hundreds of figurines depicting both festive and religious Christmas scenes – and that’s just the beginning.

Strasburg, Penn.

Located in the heart of Lancaster County, historic Strasburg is celebrating the season by delving into the roots of its locomotives. Nicknamed “Train Town USA”, the area is home to both the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Strasburg Rail Road, which is converted into Santa’s Paradise Express every December. Meanwhile, the museum is launching vacation programs that are fun for kids of all ages. For even more winter fun, consider stopping off at Kitchen Kettle Village shopping and dining or the Dutch Wonderland amusement park.

This story was originally published in the New York Post.

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