If you’re the type who dreams all year of sipping hot cocoa under a cozy blanket while watching some Hallmark Christmas movies as a fire dances in the fireplace and lights twinkle on the Christmas tree (you know who you are!), this one’s for you. We’re rounding up the best Christmas towns in the world to take you on the cheeriest virtual vacation ever. Give it a scroll and it will give you all the merry and bright feels (and maybe even soothe some of your holiday stress).
Some of these places look like they were plucked right out of your coziest Christmas season dreams, with fairytale landscapes, snow-peaked mountains, and charming village scenes. Others conjure the joyful hustle-bustle of the holiday season in a major city, places with world-famous Christmas trees that tower over lively urban plazas where groups of ice skaters glide and twirl. (Looking at you, New York City and London!) Some of these towns have idyllic Christmas festivals and celebrations. Some even draw inspiration for their names from ol’ St. Nick himself: Santa Claus, Indiana and North Pole, Alaska.
So grab a tray of homemade Christmas cookies, kick your feet up under that cozy blanket, and take a virtual trip to the 45 best Christmas towns on the planet. (Word of warning: If you’re planning to head out to any of these magical places in person, do your due diligence first as some holiday events have been canceled or modified during the pandemic.)
This quaint town is the subject of the 1967 Norman Rockwell painting "Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas).” The town hosts an annual festival at which it re-creates the magical look, with vintage cars lining the main street, and decorated homes available for the public to tour.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Nestled within Colorado Springs is a Christmas-theme amusement park called The North Pole. Situated 7,500 feet above sea level at the foot of Pikes Peak, the park offers sweeping views of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. Here there are two dozen restored vintage rides including the Polar Express train. Plus, there’s an annual festival of lights and a slate of winter events.
This small New England destination brings enormous merriment at Christmas time. For four decades, it’s hosted the Christmas Prelude, an 11-day-long event that’s as traditional as it is local in flavor. Think: a signature Christmas tree made of lobster traps, and Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving by lobster boat.
This Lehigh Valley town dates back to the 1700s. Every year, it hosts the Christkindlmarkt, a German-inspired Christmas market, with live Christmas music, ice carving and glassblowing demonstrations, and artisans offering their wares.
Las Vegas, Nevada
If you never thought of Sin City as a Christmas destination, it’s worth another look. Las Vegas has an over-the-top approach to everything, and its Christmas displays — including the seasonal display at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens — are larger than life.
North Pole, Alaska
It doesn't get more Christmasy than visiting a town named after Santa Claus' home. Though this North Pole isn't the same as the mythical home of jolly ol' Saint Nick, it is filled with Christmas spirit, live reindeer, a mayor named Santa, and candy cane street lamps.
It may not bring you a white Christmas, but Austin is every bit the festive holiday city. It’s home to the Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, which displays a whopping 2 million lights and 90 trees.
Branson is proud of its nickname: America’s Christmas Tree City. It’s home to An Old Time Christmas festival, with live Christmas shows, 1,000 decorated trees, an eight-story Christmas tree tricked out with special effects, and the Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade.
This town, right smack in the middle of California wine country, celebrates Christmas all December long with its Julefest. The Danish-style celebration features a number of holiday experiences, like the Christmas Market Light Show, Tree-Lighting Ceremony, Julefest parade, and candlelight tours.
Natchitoches, named after a Native American tribe, has been home to one of the oldest community-based holiday celebrations in the country since 1927. It began as a one-day festival and evolved into a six-week-long celebration that begins the Sunday before Thanksgiving and ends on Jan. 6. Fireworks, a Christmas parade, the annual gala, and Santa Claus' house are only a few of the fun things to do in this small town in northern Louisiana.
Santa Claus, Indiana
Santa Claus, Indiana, personally dubbed America's Christmas Hometown, is a dream. When a local postmaster began promoting the town in the late 1920s, children's letters to Santa began pouring in and still do to this day. Each year, countless letters are answered by volunteers, a.k.a. Santa's Elves. Aside from the typical Christmas activities like a parade and light show, Santa Claus is also home to a holiday-themed amusement park, making it the ideal trip for the whole family.
New York, New York
Granted, New York City isn't exactly a town, but Christmas in the City is one of the most beautiful times of the year. From the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony, to the light show up and down 5th Ave., to the multiple ice skating rinks throughout the city, as well as the annual holiday markets, there's something for everyone.
Once a former logging town along the Chattahoochee River, Helen has reinvented itself as a Bavarian town that turns into a beautiful Christmas wonderland during the holidays. Its German architecture and holiday market makes for the most breathtaking scenery that will transport you to a small German town in seconds. And, of course, you can't have a Christmas town without a tree lighting ceremony, parade, and countless adorable boutiques.
Sweet Bavarian towns make for the best Christmas spots because everything about them gives off major holiday vibes. With its gorgeous Christmas lights, reindeer farm, sleigh rides, sledding, and almost guaranteed snowfall, Leavenworth is easily one of the best Christmas towns in the country.
Apart from winter sports like skiing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding, Durango, Colorado, has a long list of Christmas activities that'll keep everyone entertained. The town's Polar Express takes you to the North Pole where Santa himself gives every kid aboard a personal gift. Another train in the town takes you to a farm where you can cut down your own Christmas tree and bring it back into town with you.
Taos, New Mexico
Celebrating the Yuletide in Taos is a must-do for history buffs and Christmas-lovers alike. The small town in New Mexico holds typical tree-lighting ceremonies, concerts, and craft fairs, but come Dec. 24 it's a whole new ballgame. Taos Pueblo, the Native American settlement outside of town, hosts a procession complete with massive bonfires, rifle salutes from the settlement's rooftops, and luminarias (small paper lanterns).
Newport Beach, California
Every year, the residents of Newport Beach and its surrounding areas fittingly takes their Christmas celebrations to the water. Over 100 boats — ranging from yachts to canoes — are decorated with countless Christmas lights. They sail around Newport Harbor for five nights, and at the end of the celebration, prizes are given to the best boats on the harbor.
Nantucket is a premier destination for the summer, but it has some fun Christmas activities during its off-season, too. The town hosts its annual Christmas Stroll the first weekend of December. The Stroll's founders began the event in an effort to encourage their fellow residents to shop local, instead of heading to Cape Cod for big stores. During the weekend, hundreds of decorates Christmas trees line downtown streets, carolers sing in costume, and Santa arrives at the wharves via Coast Guard Cutter.
St. Augustine, Florida
Florida's island weather may make it seem like the least Christmasy place in the country, but that's where St. Augustine's Night of Lights comes in. From the ground to the rooftops, Night of Lights features millions of tiny white bulbs that light up approximately 20 city blocks in St. Augustine's Historic District every night from mid-November until the end of January. And that's not all. The town fills the rest of its days and nights with countless Christmas activities.
Lahaska is home to Peddler's Village, an adorable little place that turns into a Winter Wonderland every year for the holidays. The town hosts a Gingerbread Decorating Competition, displaying more than 70 creative entries from mid-November until early January. On the weekends, folks can take part in an outdoor walking mystery called "Elf on the Stealth" where families, led by Mrs. Claus, search the village for Shelfie the Elf.
Alesandra is a digital travel and lifestyle journalist based in Los Angeles whose work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Prevention, Insider, Glamour, Shondaland, AFAR, Parents, TODAY and countless other online and print outlets. Alesandra has a masters degree in journalism with an emphasis on cultural reporting and criticism from NYU, and a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley. An avid traveler, she trots the globe with her husband and their twins.
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