Cape Cod Christmas
Sanghwan Kim/istockphoto

15 Classic Destinations for an Old-Fashioned Christmas

View Slideshow
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.

Note: As many holiday celebrations have been postponed or reconfigured due to the pandemic, be sure to double-check the status of events before heading out.

Related: 18 Festive Cities with Epic Christmas Celebrations

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.

Related: 50 Best Christmas Light Displays in America

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. In 2020, the events calendar is filled with music, dance, historical explorations, and intimate guided walking tours through the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

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, though it's not clear what the 2020 season holds.

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 9 miles of holiday lights, Polar Express rides, carols, a parade, and the 11th Annual Glassblowers’ Christmas sale of hand-blown ornaments.

Related: 18 Spectacular Lighthouses to See Across 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, know that holiday lights will be scaled back in 2020, and a massive tree lighting ceremony and a Yule Log Parade and Ceremony are canceled. Less traditional, but fun for the physically fit, is the yearly Christmas Town 5K — which this year is a far less fun virtual version.

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. You won't be seeing The Rockettes' "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" this year, but many other traditions are intact so far for 2020.

Related: 18 Holiday Movie Locations You Must See

Aspen, CO
Jonathan Ross/istockphoto

Aspen, Colorado

When Christmas comes, Aspen's winter charm multiplies exponentially. As you stroll Cooper Avenue and the surrounding area, you may enjoy cookie exchanges, meet-and-greets with elves, or even public s'mores roasting. Expect to run into carolers and find splendid holiday menus at restaurants such as the Ajax Tavern … all subject to change to comply with state and county public health orders, of course.

Related: 32 Places Travelers Can Celebrate the Holidays Away From Home

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. Outdoor events such as Christmas Eve's centuries-old tradition of bonfires on the levee are intact; St. Louis Cathedral's free holiday concerts, featuring some of the best musicians in the city, are virtual for 2020. And it's still unclear if you can 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

Prescott, Arizona

Prescott was named Arizona's official Christmas City in 1989 and remains known for its Christmas lightings, trees, parades, and celebrations featuring ornament making, cookie decorating, and hot cider. It's a winter wonderland, sans snow — and there's cause for optimism that the wonderland remains for 2020, as the Annual Christmas Parade kicks off Dec. 5.

Related: The 40 Best Places in America to Travel Back in Time

Christmas Chicago


Another major city with equally major Christmas cheer. Need some mega Christmas cheer? Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo, decorated with 2.5 million bulbs (and take part in other zoo events) and drive through the Morton Arboretum's annual tree lights display. Visit the 45-foot Great Tree at Macy's Walnut Room, head over to Maggie Daley Park for ice skating, and see scenes from the Joffrey Ballet's famed “Nutcracker” projected 25 stories tall on the side of the Merchandise Mart.

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 — but as of mid-November, no Christmas activities had been formally scheduled.

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

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. Though you can't expect handbell renditions of favorite Christmas songs, the traditional Christmas market, or weekly carol festivals, there's still expected to be a legendarily large amount of lights strung around the city (in more typical years, 21 miles of them). Visitors should still be able to do some sledding and follow it with some gluhwein (hot, spiced wine, with cocoa for the nondrinkers). But its famed Christmas Lighting Festival has been canceled for 2020.

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

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 for 2020.

Related: 20 Retro Luxury Travel Experiences