best places to visit in the usa during christmas

Best places to visit in the USA during Christmas

Last Updated on December 12, 2021

Dreaming of a winter wonderland, drinking hot cocoa and getting cozy by the fire while it’s snowing outside? Or maybe you want to experience celebrating Christmas on the beach, going home with a nice tan and sand in your pocket? Whichever side you pick, you’ll find there are plenty of magical places to visit in the USA during Christmas.

From snowy cities and ski resorts to sandy beaches and warm southern towns, the United States has a lot to offer when it come to celebrating the holidays. With winter festivals, Christmas-themed attractions, and magical Christmas lightings and decorations, you are in for a treat when visiting one of the places listed below.

Keep on reading to discover some of the best places to visit in the USA during Christmas as well as the best christmas towns!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on any links and make a purchase, I’ll get a small commission, at no cost to you

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio River Walk at Christmas

By Victoria from Texas Travel 365

One of the best Christmas destinations in the United States is San Antonio, Texas. You may not even consider Texas when you are thinking about “Christmas” but that would be very wrong.

Christmas in San Antonio is totally magical and you really shouldn’t miss it!

First, the San Antonio Riverwalk gets decked out to the nines with Christmas lights. You can stroll it, dine along it, take boat rides down the river, and more. They really do a fantastic job setting up the lights.

Next, you will want to check out the San Antonio Missions which are historical Spanish Missions. They are decorated for Christmas every year.

You can also go to Christmas Mass and a variety of other religious services throughout the holiday season.

Finally, while you are there, take a day trip out to some of the German towns in the Texas Hill Country which are decorated for Christmas, and have local festivities you can partake in as well!

When you are done exploring, check in to the Holiday Inn San Antonio Riverwalk which has amazing riverwalk views, and enjoy the festive spirit!

Savannah, Georgia

Forsyth Park Fountain At Christmas, Savannah, Georgia

By Victoria from Southern Trippers

Wondering where to spend Christmas in the USA? Look no further than Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah is amazing to visit any time of year, but it is truly one of the top places to celebrate Christmas In Georgia and shouldn’t be missed.

First, the historic downtown decorates to the nines. All of the historical houses put out their Christmas decorations in November and it is a real treat to walk around.

Next, check out one of the many restaurants in Savannah! The food in Savannah is amazing and there are some freaking epic vegan and vegetarian options. It is one of the best cities in the south for dietary restrictions and the food is just so good.

You will also want to visit Forsyth Park, like the Central Park of Savannah, for some pretty Christmas decor.

Finally, spend the night at the JW Mariott Plant Riverside which decorates for Christmas early November. This is one of the coolest hotels ever and you really won’t regret spending Christmas in Savannah!

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Zoo Lights

By Brodi from Our Offbeat Life

Chicago is an excellent city to visit during the Christmas season because there are so many things to do there. Starting with the Christmas parade on North Michigan Avenue the weekend before Thanksgiving each year, the Christmas season in Chicago lasts through the first week of January. While the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with school break tourists, the time between those two holidays is a bit less hectic. 

Each winter, Chicago schedules holiday trains on each of its lines (named by colors). These trains are totally converted to Christmas. From fake Christmas-themed advertisements and themed seat cushion fabric inside to fully wrapped cars and Santa with his reindeer outside, no detail is left untouched. The cost to ride these special, festive trains is exactly the same as riding the regular ones: $2.50 USD for riders 7+.

Right in the downtown Loop, the annual Christkindle market offers festive shopping, snacks, and beverages. This Christmas market is often called the most authentic holiday market outside Europe. The annual market mug is adorable and a collector’s item for many locals. Entry to the Bavaria-themed market is free, so go at an off time to avoid large crowds.

The Thompson Hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood is a good choice of places to stay. Its location is a short walk from public transit (including the train lines that run the Holiday Train, and many tourist attractions.

 

Vail, Colorado

Vail during the Christmas Holidays

By Meg from Fox in the Forest

World-famous for its fantastic winter sports, Vail is a picturesque Christmas town that simply knows how to do Christmas right. Picture twinkling lights lighting up every corner, a European-style Christmas market where you can find treats while drinking a glass (or two!) of mulled wine, and a calendar filled with fun holiday-themed activities to keep visitors lingering a while.

Aside from its mountain goodness and world-class winter sports, Vail is also home to some of the best things to do in Colorado besides ski during the holiday season. A must-see while in Vail is the annual Holidaze, a traditional tree-lighting ceremony where you’ll also get the chance to partake in fun activities and enjoy live entertainment.

Vail is famed for its luxury stays. The Manor Vail Lodge is an excellent choice for a secluded experience deep in the mountains. If you’re visiting on a budget, Cohabit in the nearby town of Avon is another great pick.

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth, Christmas destination in the US

By Ada from Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

Duluth, MN earns its nickname “Christmas City of the North.” Located on the western tip of Lake Superior, this northern Minnesota city is known for copious snowfall and a lot of holiday spirit.

As you drive into Duluth, you can’t miss the dazzling lights of Bentleyville in Bayfront Festival Park. Hailed as America’s largest walk-through Christmas light display, Bentleyville runs every evening for approximately five weeks starting in mid-November. The event’s free whenever you visit, but for the least crowded experience, visit on a weekday.

The first weekend in December, Duluth hosts the Duluth Winter Village at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. This outdoor event rounds up more than 40 local businesses making it easy to shop small and sample area restaurants. Carol singers, ice skating, and even diaper changing and nursing stations make the event very family-friendly.

The same weekend as the Winter Village, you can road trip up the North Shore about 20 miles to Knife River for Julebyen, a Scandinavian-inspired Christmas market.

All season long, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum offers Christmas City Express train rides to Lake Superior with carol singers and complimentary hot chocolate.

Definitely don’t miss a tour of the historic Glensheen Mansion all done in its Christmas finest. A self-guided evening candlelight tour offers a magical way to experience the mansion’s 25 Christmas trees. 

The Suites Hotel in Canal Park provides centrally located lodging with the convenience of a kitchenette, multiple bedrooms, and large living area paired with standard hotel amenities like a pool and complimentary breakfast.

Just remember, a winter visit to Duluth can feel a little like a trip to the North Pole, so make sure you all have plenty of warm clothing and brush up on your winter driving skills before you visit.

Miami, Florida

Miami Beach

By Trijit from Budget Travel Buff

Looking for the best place for a Christmas holiday where you can enjoy your Christmas as well as the beaches? Look no further than Miami, a vibrant city located in South Florida. You can not expect snow in Miami while visiting during the Christmas season, but that doesn’t stop you from celebrating the holidays with varieties of entertaining events with the whole family.

From enjoying the sunny sandy beaches to exploring the beautiful Christmas shops, decorated boats cruising down the local waterways, Christmas lights, and countless food stalls, Miami is one of the best Christmas vacations in Florida.

Head to Santa Claus’s Enchanted Forest, a holiday theme park in Miami. Whether you have a kid or not, you will love this place. Apart from the holiday light show, Christmas karaoke, tall Christmas tree, and holiday displays, you can enjoy magic shows, motocross events, a circus, and thrill rides.

After that, visit the 50 feet tall Christmas tree at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. The tree is decorated with festive lights the day after Thanksgiving and stays until January.

You should not miss the Winterfest Boat Parade celebrated in Fort Lauderdale. The whole place including the boats and sailboats is beautifully decorated with flowers and light. These boats travel a 12-mile route to Lake Santa Barbara. Tourists can view the parades from the downtown area.

South Beach is the best neighborhood to stay in Miami. I recommend staying in Hotel Impala, a boutique hotel that features comfortable accommodations, free WiFi, onsite restaurants in the Art Deco area in South Beach.

New York City, New York

christmas tree rockefeller center nyc

James Ian from Travel Collecting

NYC is one of the best places to visit in the USA during Christmas time because there are so many incredible things to do and see for the holidays.

A good place to start is Santaland in Macy’s flagship store on Herald Square. After visiting Santa Claus and his helpers, you can take a walking tour of the department store holiday windows. Other windows decorated for the holidays include Bergdorf’s and Saks Fifth Avenue

Saks also has a light show projected onto its façade that plays regularly throughout the holiday season. Directly opposite Saks is Rockefeller Center and the most famous Christmas tree in New York, the enormous live tree topped with a Swarovski crystal star. 

At the base of the Christmas tree is one of several ice-skating rinks in the city. Others include the iconic rink in Central Park and the one at the Holiday Village at Bryant Park. Skating surrounded by the towering building of NYC’s midtown is not to be missed.

The park also has a holiday market. You can spend hours wandering around all the stalls selling handmade crafts, artisanal treats, and more. Other holiday markets include the largest one in New York at Union Square and the smaller indoor market at Grand Central Terminal.

Grand Central is also home to a small holiday train show. There is an even larger annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. There is a re-creation of many of New York’s most famous landmarks, with model trains running around them. The Botanical Garden also has one of several light shows in the evenings. The biggest and best holiday light show, however, is the Winter Lantern Festival on Staten Island. There are dozens of enormous ‘lanterns’ in the shapes of animals, birds, and buildings that create a fantastical place to wander around. 

For more Christmas-themed lights, head to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, where an entire neighborhood is decorated with over-the-top lights and inflatables, each house trying to outdo its neighbors. It will boggle your mind!

Finally, you can’t go to NYC for Christmas without seeing at least one holiday show.  The most famous is the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, though the annual performances of Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet is a close second.

Tip: With so many things to do, it is worth planning out your Christmas events and getting tickets in advance. 

A great place to stay is the Bryant Park Hotel. The black and gold-topped building is an art-deco masterpiece, the location, and an easy walk to all the midtown Christmas spots make it hard to beat.

Denver, Colorado

Denver Christmas Market

By Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages

Denver is easily one of the best places to visit in the USA at Christmas time! Located in central Colorado and right at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is filled with Christmas festivities around the holiday season.

Some of the best things to do in Denver around the holiday season include visiting the Denver Milk Market, finding the giant tree on 16th Street, spending the day at the Christkindl Market, and taking a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to do a winter hike.

There are also tons of ice skating rinks across the city, including one right off 16th Street that’s impossible to miss. Children will particularly love visiting around the holidays because of all the light shows; in fact, the Festival of Lights is an absolute must-visit parade in the city!

Because Denver is such a big city, there are many different places to stay. However, definitely consider staying centrally when visiting in the winter because the city gets a lot of snow. You’ll be able to walk to a lot of the city’s festivities by staying at a place like the Westin Denver Downtown!

Saint Petersburg, Florida

By Destiny from Guided by Destiny

While Saint Petersburg, Florida may not give you the white Christmas most are used to, it does give you a lovely white sand Christmas! The list of things to do in St. Pete is really endless! But around the holidays, there are even more fun, magical activities!

Aside from enjoying walks on the beach and making all of your friends jealous with holiday photos of you on the beach, be sure to check out Enchant Christmas and Miracle at Mezzo.

Enchant Christmas is probably one of the most magical Christmas experiences you’ll have! It’s located inside Tropicana Field and is an enormous light maze. The entire place is decked out in Christmas lights and they also have ice skating, local food and craft vendors, and Santa!

Miracle at Mezzo is for adults. It’s a super fun and unique holiday cocktail pop-up bar. It serves up holiday cocktails in a festive setting. It’s impossible to not feel in the holiday spirit here!

Also, be sure to check out the St. Pete Pier! They have an ice skating rink for the first time ever this year, and tons of beautiful Christmas decorations.

If you’re wondering where to stay, Avalon is a great option. It’s affordable, in a great location, and the rooms are recently renovated!

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth WA

By Nicki from Early Traveler

On the edge of the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth, a charming Bavarian village in Washington State, offers holiday tourists all the festivities they can handle.

With the European style architecture, you will feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale without having to go abroad.

At Christmas time, Leavenworth transforms into a winter wonderland with white snow and streets glowing with lights. After the Christmas Lighting Festival, wander around the illuminated village and then head to the Christkindlmarkt where you can find shops with handmade unique crafts for gifts, or get a taste of the authentic Bavarian foods.

Since the town is surrounded by snow during the wintertime, sledding and skiing are on the top of the to do list. After, enjoy the village voices concert or the Nutcracker Museum.

Once the day comes to an end, the Pine River Ranch is the perfect place to stay. It features rustic-style suites with luxury amenities along with a complimentary gourmet breakfast delivered right to your door.

Charleston, South Carolina

Best places to visit in the USA during Christmas

By Natasha from Lost in the Carolinas

Charleston, South Carolina is one of the best places in the United States to spend Christmas. Sure you won’t have snowflakes or a white Christmas, but instead, you’ll get to enjoy a city steeped in history and decorated to the nines with Christmas decorations.

One of the best things to do in Charleston is to walk through Downtown Charleston and admire all the shops with their sparkling white lights and shiny red bows. The storefronts, restaurants, homes, boats, and churches are all adorned with festive garland, holiday lights, and all-around Christmas spirit.

A fun thing to do with the family is enjoying the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. After head to one of the bars in town for a spiked hot chocolate. Other activities include enjoying a candlelight tour of Drayton Hall, or, if you’re in town during the first week of December, partaking in the Charleston Holiday Parade!

Charleston is a busy place, and Christmas is a popular time to visit so make sure to book accommodation well in advance. One of the best places to stay is the Market Pavilion Hotel in the historic district.

Helen, Georgia

Helen during the holidays

By Cortney Edwards from Tin Can Living

The holidays are a great time to take a break from the daily routine and explore new places. If you’re looking for a destination that has it all, Helen is the perfect spot. Nestled in North Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest, this quaint mountain town features an abundance of family-friendly activities to enjoy during the holidays.

There are several events during the Christmas season that you won’t want to miss including the famous German market, Christkindlmarkt. This festive market features over 100 booths of local artisans, handmade items, and delicious German cuisine. You can also visit Santa Claus at his Christmas village located on the top of Waterfall Road where you’ll find photo opportunities with Mrs. Claus!

And what’s Christmas without a few lights to brighten up your evening? Helen is home to one of the largest light shows in Georgia, Wildlights. This magical wonderland features over three miles of holiday lights and dozens of animated displays that will take your breath away!

Let’s not forget about yummy food and treats. Your stomach will thank you after trying all the tasty goodies from local food vendors. Don’t miss out on a German or American meal, plus don’t forget to grab some famous southern cooking as well!

Be sure to stop and eat at the famous Bavarian Inn for a delicious meal featuring both traditional and holiday dishes. For a vegan-friendly dish, try the homemade soup at the Farmer’s Daughter.

If you’re a coffee-lover, try a cup of hot chocolate from The Famous Coffee Cafe where they serve up lattes and cappuccinos along with an assortment of other tasty beverages!

And what’s Christmas without some good old-fashioned cozy time? There are several great places to cuddle up with your special someone including the North Pole Express Train Ride, Santa’s Workshop, or even book yourself an overnight stay at one of Helen’s many cabins. The Cabins of Helen features over 100 charming and cozy cabins to stay in, all with a great view of the beautiful North Georgia Mountains!

With family-friendly activities for everyone and breathtaking views, we think it’s safe to say that Helen is truly one of the best places for a Christmas vacation in the US. Make plans today to visit this wonderful winter wonderland filled with magical winter activities.

No matter what you decide to do during your stay in Helen, be sure that it’s going to be a wonderful holiday filled with memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. Come see why so many people have fallen in love with this quaint mountain town!

Orange County, California

By Daria from the Discovery Nut

If you are looking to spend Christmas along the California Coast, there’s no better place than Orange County.
This part of California might not be the first place that comes to mind when most people think about traditional white Christmas with Santa and reindeers, however, Orange County offers a perfect alternative to more popular (and crowded) destinations in the region like Los Ángeles or San Diego. 

The area is home to many beachside and inland communities many of which put on fun events during the Christmas season. If you are in the area during the Christmas season, check local calendars as many towns organize their own festivities.

One of the most exciting Christmas-themed events in Orange County is the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, the largest in Southern California.

What’s special about it is that instead of the usual floating and matching people, you will see sailing boats, dinghies, yachts, and even kayaks decked out in holiday lights and decorations. This popular event takes place every year, however, make sure to check the website for the exact date and time.

The last Saturday prior to Thanksgiving you can also watch the entertaining Surfing Santa Competition during which Orange County surfers dressed up in Santa clothes and other Christmas characters ride the waves at Salt Creek Beach near the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel.

Whether you want to relax and enjoy the warm temperatures or participate in fun community events, Orange County offers an amazing Christmas atmosphere!

San Diego, California

Christmas in San Diego

By Maria from San Diego Explorer

While San Diego doesn’t offer the fairytale winter wonderland Christmas that many are dreaming of, there are still so many things to do for Christmas in San Diego that make for a fun and unique holiday experience. 

Here are a few things you can do:

Surfin Santa: Santa doesn’t come with a sleigh, but on a surfboard in this Southern California beach town. The sunny weather and swaying palm trees make for a unique photo op with Santa Clause.

Ice Skating on the Beach: The famous Hotel Del Coronado makes Christmas magic happen, when they put their ice rink up right on the beach. How often do you get the opportunity to go ice skating under palm trees while listening to the crashing of the waves? 

See the Christmas Lights: San Diego is beautifully decorated during the Holiday season. From public decorations to private houses, you will be mesmerized by the Christmas lights in San Diego. Another fun way to check out the Christmas lights is to go watch the San Diego Parade of Lights and December Nights in Balboa Park

Definitely add San Diego to your list of favorite Christmas destinations in the US. 

Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii

By Candice from CS Ginger

One of the best Christmas destinations in the US is Hawaii. The weather this time of year is really nice as you will avoid the rainy season with temperatures averaging in the upper 70s and low 80s. The warmest island in December is the Big Island.

The Big Island is a great place to spend your Christmas holiday. There are lots of fun things to do on the Big Island like snorkeling, hiking, spending time at the beach, and exploring Volcanoes National Park. The west side of the island is known for beautiful beaches and sunny weather. The east side of the island is known for its lush rainforest, waterfalls, and Volcanoes National Park.

There are also lots of fun Christmas festivities on the Big Island. Throughout the month there are parades, holiday markets, and more. The Keaau Christmas Parade is filled with parade floats as well as performances. You can even find snow on the Big Island at the summit of Mauna Kea. Another fun Hawaiian tradition is to attend a Christmas day luau.

There are lots of great places to see Christmas lights. Punalights has been putting up lights since 2008 and is a great place to see the lights and listen to Christmas music. On the eastern side of the island, you can see lights at the Kilauea Military Camp.  

The Royal Kona Resort is a great place to stay on the Big Island. It is a great place to head if you’re looking for some rest and rejuvenation. It is very family-friendly and close by lots of fun things to do in Kona. There are lots of onside amenities like a spa, gym, pool, tennis courts, and bar.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

wisconsin, Namekagon river in winter

By Paulina from Paulina on the Road

If you are looking for places to visit this holiday season for a jolly mood, Wisconsin Dells is what you should choose. The place turns into a fairy world during the holiday season. It has joy, colors, magic and all the positive Christmas vibes travelers look for. You will find a lot of things to do there.

Travelers can start with Christmas traditions along with exciting Wisconsin dells water park resort. The resort is decorated with Christmas lights all around that are sure to sparkle the eyes of visitors. Apart from that, the thrilling Christmas traditions at big venues offer the best experiences.

At Great Wolf Lodge, there is a magical celebration that includes the Snowland experience. There is also a storytime and traditional family dance party on holiday songs. The best part is that there is real snowfall in the lodge’s lobby.

Furthermore, there are a lot of things to do and places to see including the feature film at the Take Flight attraction at Wilderness resort. It is a whole experience of “The Polar Express” on the 65-foot screen. The visitors can feel the water wind and sound effects of the movie.

After that, head to Chula Vista Resort by taking a stroll in the winter wonderland. There is an indoor water park tunnel that is all decorated with lights pleasing to the eyes of adults and kids. Candy Cane Lane is no less than watching a fantasy world in front of the eyes. Additionally, Santa’s elves decorate the rooms of the guests with a beautiful Christmas tree and even offer sugar cookies and decorating supplies.

You may also choose to stay at Chula Vista Resort because of their wonderful Christmas-special services.

Tip: Wisconsin Dells in winter calls for must-have hot chocolate at Bella Goose Coffee cafe.

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