The 10 Best Christmas Cities in the United States
If the festive atmosphere of the holidays makes you dream of a suitable getaway, the good news is that there is no shortage of charming Christmas towns in the United States.
From the North Pole in Alaska and Taos in New Mexico to Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and Duluth in Minnesota, the best Christmas spots have lights, decorations, and loads of Santa Clauses – and lots of strange and wonderful traditions of their own. They are without a doubt one of the best travel destinations this winter.
So pack your bags (and your Santa hat!) And head to one of those travel destinations that get the best time of the year going.
Tucked away on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state, this Barvari-style village enchants all year round, but turns into an alpine wonderland during the holidays. On three weekends in the run-up to Christmas, the village is illuminated with more than half a million lights and also offers Christmas singers and festival concerts, toboggan and horse-drawn sleigh rides, a Christmas market and visits from St. Nickolaus. There is also a Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum with over 5,000 objects.
North Pole, Alaska
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Just a short drive from Fairbanks, this year-round Christmas town is never more magical than December, when freshly fallen snow makes the town’s Santa Claus House – located on Santa Claus Drive, of course – like a scene from a winter wonderland. In addition to photo opportunities with the big red man himself and meet & greets with his reindeer team, the house has a Christmas shop with a lot of North Pole swag, even letters from Santa Claus, which can be sent with this important postmark.
Santa Claus, Ind.
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This little town east of Evansville has certainly earned its vacation faith: every year volunteers from the charitable organization Santa’s Elves and the Santa Claus Museum & Village mobilize to answer the thousands of letters to Santa that arrive at the local post office. The city also has tons of local attractions to offer, including Santa’s Candy Castle, the Santa Claus Christmas Shop, the Drive-Through Festival of Lights at Christmas Lake Village, and the enormous Christmas party at the Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum.
Also known as “Christmas City,” this eastern Pennsylvania city celebrates Christmas with more than 50 events across the city and popular pop-up markets and exhibitions. 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” exhibition. Across the city in the Southside Arts District, live concerts, comedy sets, and screenings of classic Christmas films add that extra dose of Christmas cheer.
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Always a worthwhile stopover on the way from Los Angeles to California’s Central Coast, this quaint Danish village pulls out all the stops at the annual Julefest. A full 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; Christmas lights tours in the Santa Ynez Valley and a city-wide, month-long hunt for mischievous Danish Christmas elves named Jule Nisse.
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 District. 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 house tours, carriage rides, and fireworks. The southern city’s Festival of Lights is rapidly approaching its centenary; this year is its 92nd edition.
Taos, New York
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From the torch-lit parades that take place on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve on the local ski hills to the annual Christmas Eve procession in the Taos Pueblo (where huge bonfires and lots of Luminara candles are lit and historical rifle salutes honor the procession of the Virgin Mary), one can for sure say that Taos celebrates Christmas in its own spirited way. Freshly covered in snow, the mud houses and shop windows of the region, all of which are dressed up for Christmas, are particularly enchanting.
Visit Duluth + Dave Schauer
This industrial town on the shores of Lake Superior has much of the legendary “Minnesota nice,” as demonstrated during the holidays by volunteers braving the freezing temperatures to hand out hot chocolate and other goodies on foot at the country’s largest Christmas 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 wrapped in Christmas lights and decorations – is another popular family-friendly offering.
The number one reason why millions of visitors take road trips to this small town in central Michigan annually? Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, also known as the world’s biggest Christmas sales. Open all year round with the exception of a few major holidays, Bronner’s is a shopping experience of epic proportions. The store is two to three times larger than typical wholesalers and has thousands of ornaments, hundreds of fairy lights and Christmas trees, and hundreds of figurines depicting both festive and religious Christmas scenes – and that’s just the beginning.
Located in the heart of Lancaster County, the Historic District of Strasburg celebrates the season by immersing itself in its locomotive roots. 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 gets in the mood for a holiday program that promises fun for children of all ages. For even more winter fun, consider making a detour to the Kitchen Kettle Village shopping and dining destination or the Dutch Wonderland amusement park.