The holiday season in the United States is a time of festive cheer, twinkling lights, and a sense of magic in the air. As Christmas approaches, cities and towns across the country transform into winter wonderlands, each with its unique traditions, celebrations, and attractions. In this article by Mohit Tandon from Burr Ridge, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the best places to visit during Christmas in the USA. From dazzling light displays to charming holiday markets, from iconic parades to historic towns, there’s a destination for everyone to experience the joy and wonder of the season.
1. New York City, New York : Best Places to visit in Christmas
The Big Apple truly lives up to its nickname during the holiday season. Firstly, New York City is famous for its extravagant celebrations, with the centerpiece being the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. This towering tree is adorned with thousands of lights and is a symbol of Christmas for people around the world.
New York City is also home to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the high-kicking Rockettes and a visit from Santa himself. The city’s department stores, including Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, decorate their windows with enchanting displays, making for a magical shopping experience.
Ice skating at the rinks in Central Park and Bryant Park, shopping for unique gifts at the Union Square Holiday Market, and exploring the Christmas markets in Columbus Circle and Grand Central Terminal are just a few of the many activities that make NYC an enchanting Christmas destination.
2. San Francisco, California : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Secondly, San Francisco, known for its stunning views and mild winter weather, offers a unique Christmas experience. One of the city’s most iconic holiday events is the lighting of the Ghirardelli Square Christmas tree, a charming tradition for both locals and visitors.
Don’t miss the San Francisco Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker” or the chance to ride the festively decorated Cable Cars. Union Square is transformed into a winter wonderland with an ice skating rink and a massive Christmas tree, making it an ideal place for holiday shopping and dining. The annual SantaCon pub crawl is another quirky San Francisco Christmas tradition.
3. Chicago, Illinois : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Chicago turns into a magical winter wonderland during the Christmas season, with its centerpiece being the Christkindlmarket, a traditional German Christmas market held in Daley Plaza. Here, you can shop for unique handcrafted ornaments, gifts, and enjoy traditional German food and mulled wine.
Another Chicago highlight is the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, a grand procession featuring Mickey Mouse as the grand marshal. Mohit Tandon from Burr ridge says that The city’s Millennium Park hosts ice skating and an enormous Christmas tree adorned with thousands of sparkling lights.
If you’re up for some adventure, the Polar Express Train Ride from Union Station to the “North Pole” offers a magical journey for the whole family.
4. Branson, Missouri : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Branson, Missouri, nestled in the Ozark Mountains, is famous for its charming and festive holiday atmosphere. The city boasts numerous live shows, and during the Christmas season, many of these performances transform into heartwarming holiday spectacles.
One of the highlights is Silver Dollar City, a theme park with over 6.5 million dazzling lights, holiday shows, and a festive atmosphere that’s sure to get you into the Christmas spirit. An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City is a one-of-a-kind experience, with a massive Christmas tree and the glowing “Christmas in Midtown” light spectacular.
5. Charleston, South Carolina : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Charleston, with its historic charm and mild winter weather, offers a unique Christmas experience. The historic downtown area is beautifully decorated for the holidays, with the iconic Rainbow Row houses adorned with festive lights.
One of the most cherished traditions is the Charleston Parade of Boats, where boats decorated with Christmas lights cruise through Charleston Harbor. Marion Square hosts a holiday market featuring local artisans, and you can explore the charming historic district while sipping on hot apple cider.
6. Leavenworth, Washington : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Leavenworth, Washington, transforms into a Bavarian-style village during the holiday season, offering a picturesque and festive Christmas experience. The entire town is adorned with twinkling lights, and the Bavarian-themed architecture adds to the enchanting atmosphere.
The annual Christmas Lighting Festival in Leavenworth is a must-see event. The town comes alive with carolers, sledding, and the grand lighting ceremony, where thousands of lights illuminate the town’s buildings and trees.
7. Asheville, North Carolina : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Asheville, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, offers a cozy and mountain-inspired Christmas experience. The Biltmore Estate, America’s largest privately-owned home, is the focal point of the holiday season. The estate is lavishly decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths, and thousands of twinkling lights.
Especially, The charming downtown area of Asheville is filled with boutique shops and art galleries, making it a great place for holiday shopping. The annual National Gingerbread House Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn is another delightful attraction, featuring incredible gingerbread creations.
8. Williamsburg, Virginia : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Williamsburg, Virginia, is a place where history and holiday traditions come together. Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum, celebrates Christmas with 18th-century charm and authenticity. The historic area is decorated with natural greenery, candles, and wreaths, creating a magical ambiance.
The Grand Illumination is a signature event, where fireworks light up the sky, and candles illuminate the streets. You can also enjoy a colonial-style feast and participate in traditional holiday activities like wreath-making and caroling.
9. Santa Claus, Indiana : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Nestled in the Hoosier National Forest, Santa Claus, Indiana, is a town that celebrates Christmas all year long. This charming town is home to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, a theme park that transforms into a winter wonderland during the Christmas season.
Santa Claus, Indiana, features attractions like Santa’s Candy Castle and the Santa Claus Christmas Store. You can even send your holiday cards from the Santa Claus Post Office for a unique postmark.
10. Natchitoches, Louisiana : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Natchitoches, Louisiana, boasts one of the oldest and most famous Christmas festivals in the United States. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival, known as the Festival of Lights, is a month-long celebration featuring millions of holiday lights, fireworks, and a grand parade.
The town’s historic district is adorned with thousands of lights, and the Cane River Lake is beautifully illuminated, creating a scenic and festive atmosphere.
11. Jackson, Wyoming : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Jackson, Wyoming, offers a snowy and picturesque Christmas experience against the backdrop of the stunning Teton Mountains. The town square features a grand lighting ceremony, where the antlers of the iconic elk antler arches are adorned with holiday lights.
You can enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides through the snow-covered landscapes and explore nearby national parks like Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Jackson’s cozy lodges and cabins provide the perfect winter retreat.
12. Taos, New Mexico : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Taos, New Mexico, combines the magic of Christmas with the vibrant traditions of the Southwest. The historic Taos Plaza is beautifully decorate with luminarias (paper lanterns) and farolitos (small bonfires) during the Christmas season.
The Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosts a traditional Christmas Eve procession called Las Posadas, reenacting the journey to Bethlehem. You can also explore the unique galleries and shops in the town.
13. Lancaster, Pennsylvania : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, offers a charming and traditional Christmas experience. The Amish Country celebrates the season with horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers, and festive holiday markets.
The Kitchen Kettle Village, a collection of shops and restaurants, is a delightful place to find unique gifts and savor traditional Pennsylvania Dutch treats. The “Miracle of Christmas” show at Sight & Sound Theatres is a captivating retelling of the biblical story.
14. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts, is famous for its historical charm, and during the holiday season, it offers a magical experience. The city’s official Christmas tree, gifted by Nova Scotia, is prominently displayed in Boston Common.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace hosts the Blink! holiday light and sound show, a spectacular display that illuminates the entire area. Ice skating on the Boston Common Frog Pond and holiday shopping along Newbury Street and at Quincy Market are cherished traditions.
15. Vail, Colorado : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Vail, Colorado, offers a picturesque Christmas experience against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The Vail Snow Days, a winter festival, features free concerts and activities for all ages.
Especially, Vail Village is beautifully decorated with lights, and the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony is a highlight. You can also enjoy skiing and snowboarding in this renowned winter destination.
16. Helen, Georgia : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Helen, Georgia, transforms into a Bavarian Alpine village during the holiday season, offering a charming and unique Christmas experience. The town is adorne with Christmas lights, and you can take a stroll through the charming streets while enjoying a cup of hot cocoa.
Helen hosts its annual Christkindlmarkt, a traditional German Christmas market, where you can find handcrafted gifts, decorations, and enjoy Bavarian music and food.
17. Park City, Utah : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Park City, Utah, is a winter wonderland during the Christmas season. The town’s Main Street is adorne with holiday lights, and the annual Electric Parade is a must-see event, featuring illuminated floats and holiday cheer.
Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain offer skiing and snowboarding, making it a great destination for winter sports enthusiasts. The town’s cozy lodges and resorts provide the perfect retreat after a day in the snow.
18. Newport Beach, California : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Newport Beach, California, offers a unique coastal Christmas experience. The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is one of the oldest and most celebrated holiday events in the country.
Boats adorned with holiday lights and decorations cruise through Newport Harbor, creating a dazzling spectacle. Surely, You can watch the parade from various vantage points along the harbor and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
19. Detroit, Michigan : Best Places to visit in Christmas
Detroit, Michigan, offers a delightful Christmas experience with its annual tree lighting ceremony in Campus Martius Park. The massive Christmas tree is adorne with thousands of lights and is the centerpiece of the city’s holiday celebrations.
The city’s historic Eastern Market transforms into a holiday market, featuring local artisans and a wide range of festive goods. Surely, The Detroit Zoo hosts the Wild Lights event, where you can enjoy an enchanting light display and holiday activities.
These are just a few of the incredible destinations to consider when planning a Christmas vacation in the USA. Each of these places offers a unique and memorable Christmas experience, from traditional celebrations to quirky and charming festivities.
The holiday season is a time for creating lasting memories with family and friends, and exploring these Christmas destinations will undoubtedly add a touch of magic to your celebrations. Whether you prefer a snowy mountain retreat, a coastal Christmas, or a traditional winter wonderland, the USA has something special to offer to make your holiday season unforgettable. So, pack your warmest winter gear and get ready to experience the joy and wonder of Christmas in these beautiful destinations across the country.