Christmas is a magical time of year, with lights, special events such as Santa villages, and of course, traditions old and new. Some places in the United States make Christmas even more magical!
While there are many options to choose from, our travel experts have done the hard work for you. Let us be your guide!
The 20 Best Places to Visit during Christmas in the USA
All holidays are special, but there is nothing quite like Christmas. There are beautiful lights, decorations, and Christmas trees everywhere, turning even an ordinary street into a magical wonderland.
Special Christmas villages, pageants, and even Santa visits add a dash of magic to mundane events. It’s enough to make both kids and adults feel a little uplifted. Many places in the United States make Christmas even more special.
Big cities put on countless special events for the holiday. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like small-town charm around the holidays to enjoy Christmas at a slower pace.
If you’re torn about where to spend your holiday vacation, here is our guide to the best Christmas destinations in the country. From traditional delights to twists on the meaning of Christmas, there is something for everyone.
1. New York City, New York
There is no more magical place to spend Christmas than New York City! Spend holidays in the city visiting sites from all your favorite holiday movies, such as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Check out the famous window displays along Fifth Avenue and the tree at Rockefeller Center. New York City is always full of things to do, but it comes even more alive during the holiday season.
Check out the ice skating rinks in Bryant Park and Central Park (Bryant Park even has its own Christmas village). Of course, no visit to New York during Christmas is complete without seeing the Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
2. Vail, Colorado
The ski town of Vail, Colorado, has one of the best Christmas celebrations in the nation. Check out the Christmas tree lighting and the beautiful lights.
The best time to come is towards the end of the season so you can ring in the New Year at one of the many posh ski resorts. Of course, Vail is also a great place to go if you want to guarantee a white Christmas, as ski season starts early in the Rocky Mountains.
3. McAdenville, North Carolina
Many places in the United States are beautiful during Christmas, but only one changes its name to “Christmas Town USA.” This small town in North Carolina comes alive during the Christmas season with thousands of lights and several hundred trees!
Visit McAdenville and stroll through the town, admiring the decorations and enjoying the kettle corn and hot chocolate (free for the first 1,000 visitors nightly). Try to time your visit to see the Yule Log Parade and Ceremony!
4. Orlando, Florida
Christmas is a magical time of year, and Disney is a company that produces magic, so it makes sense that a visit to Disney World during Christmas is the most magical thing of all! Visit Orlando and you can spend Christmas at the theme parks.
All the theme parks host special events for Christmas, such as a parade in Disney World and the International Festival of the Holidays at Epcot. Plus, the weather is warm enough that you can lounge by the beach.
5. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Most people associate New England with the quintessential, traditional American Christmas. Nowhere is this more visible than Nantucket, which turns into a Victorian wonderland around the Christmas season.
Nantucket Noel, as the Christmas festivities here are called, includes a Christmas Stroll with Santa, Santa Village, and carolers who look as if they stepped straight out of a movie. There are also more humorous elements, such as an ugly sweater contest.
6. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
If you don’t like snow and cold for your Christmas, then Carmel-by-the-Sea is the perfect place to go. This Californian beach town has the perfect laid-back Christmas atmosphere, with just enough chill for you to feel the spirit but not enough to get frostbite.
Take in the twinkling lights and gorgeous Christmas tree by the sea. Carmel-by-the-Sea is in wine country, so as a present to yourself, go wine tasting.
7. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina, is the perfect place to go for an elegant Christmas. A highlight of the town is Christmas at the Biltmore Estate, which goes all out with excessive yet tasteful decorations, fitting for the largest privately owned house in the country.
Besides the Biltmore Estate, check out the Holly Jolly Trolley, a special holiday tour, the lights in the town itself, and even an annual gingerbread house competition.
8. North Pole, Alaska
For kids, the best place to visit during Christmas is probably the residence of the jolly old elf himself. North Pole, Alaska, really makes you feel as if you are visiting Santa’s home and workshop.
The whole town is decorated to fit the theme. You can visit Santa Claus Lane, which is home to the Santa Claus House, hang out with real reindeer, and stay in a log cabin of your very own.
9. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is another great destination for a guaranteed white Christmas, especially if you are looking for a classy, adult way to spend the holidays.
The resorts and businesses in town put on plenty of fun events during the annual 12 Days of Aspen festival, including shows at the local Opera House (few ski towns can boast their own opera house).
Of course, a main draw of Aspen is the beauty, and there is no sight quite like the lights of the town twinkling against the snowy mountains.
10. Branson, Missouri
Branson, Missouri, may not be as famous as some of the other places on this list, but it has plenty to attract visitors, especially during the holiday season. Some people call it a more family-friendly holiday-themed Las Vegas!
Be sure to check out the Polar Express, a transformed local train, which will take you through the bright lights and holiday activities of the town, and the local amusement park, Silver Dollar City.
11. Chicago, Illinois
During Christmas, the normally tough big city of Chicago shows its soft side. If you can brave the freezing December weather, there are plenty of things to do in Chicago.
Visit an authentic Christmas market at Christkindlmarket without having to go to Europe, check out the many lights and Christmas trees, and visit the many events put together just for the season.
12. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The ski town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is even more magical during Christmas. Check out the many Christmas decorations, including a bedecked elk antler sculpture.
Jackson Hole is also the perfect place to get your fill of winter activities since the slopes are perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding.
13. Park City, Utah
Park City is where Santa skis into town — literally! If you time your visit right, you can check out the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade, where Santa comes into town accompanied by a flock of skiers.
Even if you don’t come during the parade, you can check out the Christmas lights, beautiful boutiques perfect for shopping for gifts, and of course, plenty of winter activities on the slopes.
14. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is probably not the first destination that pops into mind when you think about a wholesome holiday getaway, but Sin City is a great destination for Christmas.
The different casinos and resorts go all out for decorations and themed activities. The whole Strip is impressive during the holidays, but highlights include the conservatory at The Bellagio and skating at The Cosmopolitan.
15. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Bethlehem lives up to its name as a Christmas-centric destination in the United States. The charming small town in Pennsylvania has a lot of Old World charm thanks to its historic German immigrant population.
Check out the Christmas markets, including the Christkindlmarkt, shop for holiday gifts for everyone on your lift, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of a small-town Christmas.
16. Charleston, South Carolina
For a warm Christmas, both in terms of weather and hospitality, Charleston in South Carolina is the perfect destination. The beautiful mansions and historic city center are even prettier during the Holiday Festival of Lights when the whole town is decorated for Christmas.
Besides checking out the decorations, be on the lookout for special holiday events such as kid-friendly shows and the Holiday Parade of Boats.
17. Newport Beach, California
Newport Beach is another great place for a warm-weather Christmas. Check out the decorations in this beautiful, upscale beach town, especially along Balboa Island.
Newport Beach doesn’t confine its holiday spirit just to the land. Be sure to check out the Christmas Boat Parade, an annual event full of holiday spirit.
18. Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg is another excellent destination to catch a Christmas with historic flair. The colonial-era city center is decked out for Christmas with beautiful decorations with a charming old-fashioned twist.
You can learn about historical Christmas celebrations in Williamsburg and nearby Jamestown or stick to the present day with some of the many holiday-themed events or a visit to the Busch Gardens theme park.
19. Leavenworth, Washington
You don’t have to visit Germany to have a traditional Bavarian Christmas — the town of Leavenworth in Washington’s Cascade mountains replicates the experience for you.
Check out the over 500,000 lights that decorate the town, illuminating German-style houses and buildings.
Leavenworth goes all out when planning its holiday events, so check out giveaways, go caroling, or visit themed set-ups such as the Nutcracker Museum.
20. Kennebunkport, Maine
For small-town charm and plenty of winter cheer, there is no better place to visit around Christmas than Kennebunkport in Maine.
Visit during the Christmas Prelude, an 11-day-long festival celebrating all things Christmas and small-town New England. Highlights include a lobster trap Christmas tree, Santa visits, and markets.
For more Maine charm during the holidays, check out nearby Ogunquit, a charming small town that used to be an artist’s colony. Ogunquit’s annual Christmas by the Sea festival even features a beach bonfire.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your Christmas getaway in the United States. A lot of the places on this list are very popular among other tourists looking to take a special trip for Christmas, so expect crowds and plenty of traffic.
Book accommodations ahead of time so that you aren’t scrambling to find a place to stay at the last minute. Make sure that you have plenty of patience, as getting stressed will only affect your holiday enjoyment!
Some of the places on this list get bitterly cold in December, so research the weather ahead of time. Many Christmas-themed activities are outside, so wear layers or even hand and foot warmers if you get cold.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions you might want to have answered before planning your Christmas vacation:
Where is the best place in the USA to spend Christmas?
If you like a big-city Christmas getaway, then New York City is probably the best place to spend the holidays. If you prefer a Christmas with more small-town charm, check out McAdenville in North Carolina or Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.
What is the most Christmassy place in America?
A few towns in the U.S. take the Christmas spirit to an extreme. The most Christmassy places are the ones with Christmas in the name, such as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, McAdenville or “Christmas Town, USA,” and North Pole, Alaska. Santa Claus in Indiana also deserves an honorable mention.
Which city is most beautiful during Christmas?
All cities are more beautiful during Christmas, but Charleston, South Carolina, deserves a special mention thanks to the combination of its beautiful architecture and decorations.
What town is known as Christmas Town USA?
You won’t find Christmas Town, USA, on any map, and that’s because 11 months out of the year, its name is McAdenville. McAdenville is a small suburb of Charlotte that comes alive during Christmas.
Where is the most magical Christmas town?
Many towns claim to be the most magical around Christmas, but some of the bests are the ones in the mountains, such as the Rocky Mountain ski towns of Aspen and Vail or Washington’s Leavenworth.
So Where Should You Visit during Christmas in the USA?
Christmas is a great time to travel. From lit-up big cities such as New York City and Chicago to charming small towns that come alive during the season, such as Kennebunkport, there are so many beautiful things to see. Happy travels!