Classic Destinations for an Old-Fashioned Christmas

Cape Cod Christmas

Sanghwan Kim/istockphoto

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Cape Cod Christmas
Sanghwan Kim/istockphoto

Holiday Road

What better way to celebrate the holidays than by finding a spot that evokes the nostalgia so many of us seek out at Christmastime, from sleigh rides to visits from Santa? There are little Christmas adventures to savor all over the country, so read on for some destinations serving up classic winter cheer.

Related: 18 Festive Cities with Epic Christmas Celebrations

Leavenworth, Washington Christmas
Mark Lee/istockphoto

Leavenworth, Washington

This charming Bavarian village will give you a "holiday in the Alps" vibe any time of year, but especially in December. Enjoy the traditional Christmas market, weekly carol festivals, and a legendarily large amount of lights strung around the city (in more typical years, 21 miles of them). Visitors should be able to do some sledding and follow it with some gluhwein (hot, spiced wine, with cocoa for the nondrinkers). The famed "flipping of the switch" on the town's Christmas lights has been changed — the lights are now on all week long.

Related: 18 Places to 'Travel Abroad' Without Leaving the Country

Jackson Hole, Wyoming Christmas
Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

A treat for history lovers year-round, Colonial Williamsburg really comes to life around the holidays. It traditionally has caroling by cheery, blazing fires, old-fashioned theater, and a celebratory fireworks display and gun salute. Any old-fashioned Christmas would be incomplete without drum and fife performances, so you can find them here. The events calendar is filled with music, dance, historical explorations, and guided walking tours. There's even a three-course holiday dinner at the King's Arms Tavern, but reservations are required. 

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Taos, New Mexico Christmas
Jeff Black/istockphoto

Taos, New Mexico

When you think "winter wonderland," Taos may not come immediately to mind — and alas, there's no snow. But from yuletide caroling and tree lighting in Taos Plaza and the annual holiday fiesta to the awe-inspiring Christmas Eve procession at Taos Pueblo, Taos is typically a hotbed of Christmas festivities. Traditional celebrations marry with uniquely New Mexican traditions for a truly special time. 

Related: 20 Holiday Markets to Visit Across America

christmas cape cod
Sanghwan Kim/istockphoto

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Looking for a side of New England charm with your Christmas cheer? Past years' holiday seasons on Cape Cod have seen decorated lighthouses, craft fairs, holiday parades, and even a chance to greet Santa as he lands by boat in Falmouth. This year's announced events includes Gardens Aglow, featuring nine miles of holiday lights, Polar Express rides, carols, a parade, and the Annual Glassblowers’ Christmas sale of hand-blown ornaments.

Related: 18 Spectacular Lighthouses to See Across America

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Christmas

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

O little town of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania)! Founded in 1741 on Christmas Eve, Bethlehem was given the nickname of "Christmas City, USA" in 1937 and shortly afterward posted a celebratory Christmas star on the nearby South Mountain. There's been a star every year since, which remains lit throughout the year. For Christmas, even more lights come out — including a display of more than a million of them in the Winter Light Spectacular at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. There's a German-inspired Christmas market downtown every weekend and special offerings at restaurants and breweries. This year you can meet St. Nick in person or have breakfast with him.

Related: 50 Best Christmas Light Displays in America

McAdenville, North Carolina Christmas

McAdenville, North Carolina

Otherwise known as "Christmas Town USA," McAdenville has a population of just around 650 yet draws about 600,000 visitors each year by basically transforming the entire town for the holidays. Should you plan a trip, a massive tree lighting ceremony and a Yule Log Parade and Ceremony are happening this year after last year's cancellation. 

Related: 50 Best Small Towns to Visit in Winter

North Pole, Alaska
Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas tree by Andrew Dallos (CC BY-NC-ND)

New York City

Is New York City a tiny yuletide hamlet? No. Does it offer iconic Christmas charm, as embodied by films such as "Elf," "Miracle on 34th Street," "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," and more? Absolutely. Between ice skating at Rockefeller Center, wandering down the decorated store windows on Fifth Avenue with hot chocolate in hand, and visiting the holiday markets around the city, it's a magical time. The Rockettes' "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" and many other traditions are happening this year.

Related: 18 Holiday Movie Locations You Must See

New Orleans Christmas

New Orleans

New Orleans knows how to celebrate, and Christmastime is no exception. Stop by City Park, which gets transformed into a winter wonderland with 42,000 lights. Check out the poinsettia tree, featuring 500 live plants. Events such as Christmas Eve's centuries-old tradition of bonfires on the levee and St. Louis Cathedral's free holiday concerts featuring some of the best musicians in the city are definitely the stuff for making Christmas memories. Wander down to Miracle on Fulton Street for its light shows, gigantic gingerbread displays, and festive drinks.

Related: 12 Places in the U.S. That Are Better Than Times Square for New Year's Eve

Prescott, AZ Christmas
Christmas Chicago


Another major city with equally major Christmas cheer. Need some mega Christmas cheer? Head to ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, decorated with 2.5 million bulbs (and take part in other zoo events) or see LightScape, the Chicago Botanic Gardens' lights display. Visit the 45-foot Great Tree at Millennium Park, head over to Navy Pier for ice skating, and see  the Joffrey Ballet's new “Nutcracker” at the Civic Opera House.

Related: 30 Cheap Destinations for Off-Season Travel

Midway, Utah Zermatt

Midway, Utah

Settled by the Swiss in the 18th century, Midway has a Zermatt Resort & Spa and European charm. Nestled by the Wasatch Mountains, it gets a reliable amount of snow that provides a handsome backdrop for Christmas draws such as ice castles, gingerbread house creation, candle dipping, and Räbelichtli, the old Swiss tradition of turning turnips into lanterns.

Related: Don't Ski or Snowboard? These 20 Winter Resorts are Still Great Getaways

yosemite winter

Yosemite Valley, California

Looking for a super traditional Christmas? In most years you can head to The Awahnee in Yosemite for the traditional Bracebridge dinners. The historic dining room transforms into a 17th century English manor with classic carols, music, and food. Tickets usually go fast, but thanks to coronavirus you have many months to prepare for the rush: The Bracebridge is canceled again in 2022.

Related: 20 Retro Luxury Travel Experiences