Helen, Georgia
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The Most Christmas-y Towns in All 50 States

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Helen, Georgia
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Flooded With Yuletide Spirit

There's far more to Christmas than shopping for and wrapping presents to put under the tree. For those who want to get out and explore, there are cities and towns in every state that truly know how to celebrate the season, rolling out over-the-top lighting displays, sleigh rides, holiday concerts, festivals, carolers, boat parades, and more. Granted, things might look a bit differently this year given the pandemic, but the communities that follow are doing their best to make the 2020 holiday season merry and bright. 

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: From Santa Claus to Mistletoe — 20 Towns With Festive Names

gadsden alabama
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Gadsden, Alabama

It's hard to beat a place that hosts a Christmas display that involves millions of lights. Each year the Christmas at the Falls event in Gadsden's Noccalula Falls Park becomes Christmas central. The over-the-top light display can be viewed via walking trails or a train ride, which will be disinfected between each trip. This year there will be a socially distanced Santa to visit and concessions, too. 

The Santa Claus House, North Pole, Alaska
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North Pole, Alaska

This town's name alone makes it worth a visit during the holidays. Located outside Fairbanks, North Pole is known for its candy-cane signposts and Santa Claus house complete with a white-bearded resident in a red suit and a team of reindeer. Visitors can mail cards and letters from the Santa Claus House stamped with a genuine North Pole postmark. For 2020, face masks are required, the event planners are asking all participants to observe social distancing, and children will not be able to sit on Santa's lap. 

Yavapai Courthouse Christmas Lights 2012 - 4
Yavapai Courthouse Christmas Lights 2012 - 4 by dagnyg (CC BY-NC-ND)

Prescott, Arizona

Designated Arizona's official Christmas City in 1989, Prescott is known for its annual lighting of the Courthouse Plaza and the many trees dotting the picturesque area. There's also a Christmas parade that includes floats, horses, bands, and Santa Claus himself. Both the parade and the plaza lighting take place Dec. 5. Later the same evening, don't miss the annual Frontier Christmas at Sharlot Hall Museum, where luminarias, hand-made decorations, fresh-baked cookies, and hot cider greet visitors. Admission is $5.

Rogers, Arkansas
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Rogers, Arkansas

 Though the annual Christmas parade has been suspended this year (in favor of a safer, virtual alternative), all of downtown Rogers is decorated with lights and glowing decor during the holiday season, and there will be a downtown Holiday Market on four consecutive Saturdays — Nov. 21 and 28 and Dec. 5 and 12. Finally, the town's Arkansas Public Theaterwill be showing mostly holiday-themed movies beginning mid-November through Dec. 18. Masks are required. 

Solvang, California
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Solvang, California

A small town founded by Danish immigrants, Solvang is known for its European, fairytale atmosphere, says travel blogger Jessica Norah of Independent Travel Cats. Come December, the charming small town celebrates Julefest, an event that typically includes light displays, markets, and much more. While the town has not yet announced its 2020 plans, the website has noted that "Julefest will be happening in some capacity this holiday season." Sign up at the link above to be notified as soon as details are released. 

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

Breckenridge, Colorado
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Breckenridge, Colorado

While larger gatherings like the Race of the Santas and official lighting countdown have been postponed until next year, Breckenridge will still transform into a "sparkling  snow globe scene" with more than 13,000 feet of holiday lights. More to expect this year? A community "decked out in Santa suits, a festival of trees creating a winter wonderland, and animations aimed to surprise and delight." Find the full event schedule here, including a Handmade Holiday Market. 

Reindeer Eating
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Greenwich, Connecticut

This town near the state's southwestern shoreline will be hosting its free 12th annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival this year Nov. 27-Dec. 22. Though Santa won't be there this year, visitors can still visit reindeer, pick out a Christmas tree at Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses, and shop for gifts in the town's local retail boutiques.

Milton, Delaware
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Milton, Delaware

Christmas WonderFest has been going on for a few years, but this year it's not only changing venues but is going to be "an entirely stay-in-your-car experience." Held at the 18-acre Hudson Fields, the Nov. 21-Dec. 31 event will include a mile-plus light show experience with an interactive scavenger hunt culminating in a drive-through journey to Santa's Workshop. Individual cars with one to seven passengers will be charged $20 or $25 depending on the day. 

Fernandina, Amelia Island, Florida
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Fernandina, Amelia Island, Florida

For those who don't need snow to have the perfect Christmas, there's Fernandina on Amelia Island. While the holidays will look a bit different this year due to the pandemic, the town is still promising "plenty of holiday cheer and merriment with reimagined event." The Christmas activities include an annual holiday home tour Dec. 4-5 during which historic downtown homes are decorated for the season and opened to the public, a St. Nick Meet & Greet, and horse and carriage rides. 

Helen, Georgia
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Helen, Georgia

The charm of Bavaria can be found in Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Helen is a small town that was designed to look as if it was airlifted straight from Germany, and come winter, the community is even more picturesque. The holiday season here includes the Lighting of the Village in downtown, which is led by Santa and Mrs. Claus on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That weekend and the next, there's the Christkindlmarkt, a German tradition where the center of town is filled with booths that offer specialty gift items, decorations, savory food, drinks and candied treats. 

Related: 20 Holiday Markets to Visit Across America

Honolulu
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Honolulu

While there may not be any snow, there's plenty of Christmas spirit in Hawaii. Cities and towns throughout the islands turn into festive holiday wonderlands come November and December by hosting parades, tree lightings, and more. One of the most notable places, though not exactly a town, is Honolulu. Due to the pandemic, all large-gathering events have been suspended in 2020, but the city will celebrate with multiple drive-by and online events, all of which can be found here

Coeur d' Alene, Idaho from Tubbs Hill
Coeur d' Alene, Idaho from Tubbs Hill by D.Taylor in Idaho (CC BY)

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Not only is a white Christmas a sure bet in the picturesque lakeside community of Coeur d'Alene, there's also a variety of holiday activities to make for a memorable visit. The season begins Thanksgiving weekend with a Holiday Market and Holiday Light Show & Parade, which involves turning on a staggering 1.5 million lights that decorate downtown and the waterfront. After this memorable event, there are a number of holiday events staged by the Coeur d’Alene Resort, including a spectacular light show, holiday lake cruises, and more. 

Galena, Illinois
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Galena, Illinois

With its idyllic, garland-lined Main Street and charming bed and breakfasts, Galena is a slice of pure Americana, particularly at Christmas. The season kicks off with a tree-lighting ceremony on Nov. 28, followed by the Dec. 4-5 Festival of Trees, which showcases displays of one-of-a-kind holiday trees, wreaths, and other items created by local artists and organizations. Though some traditional events have been canceled in 2020, many other activities continue throughout the season. 

Related: 50 Best Small Towns to Visit in Winter

Santa Claus, Indiana
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Santa Claus, Indiana

Who can pass up a town named after the big man in red? Home to the only post office in the world with Santa's name, this small town in southern Indiana is full of holiday offerings. But things will look a bit different this year. For instance, instead of a parade, the town will host a Christmas-themed fireworks display on Saturday, Dec. 12. Other events that will be taking place include the Santa Claus Land of Lights at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort, Santa's Candy Castle's Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, and more. 

Christmas City
Christmas City by Phil Roeder (CC BY)

Wyoming, Iowa

A tiny town known for its big holiday spirit, Wyoming is affectionately referred to locally as "The Christmas City." That's because each year Christmas lights bathe all of Wyoming's Main Street in such spectacular color that the glow can be seen from miles away. For the past 90 years, Wyoming has been creating a Christmas canopy of lights over the road. In addition to more than 2,500 lights, there's also about 40 decorated trees lining the street. The mesmerizing display attracts visitors from far and wide. 

Always Christmas 2
Always Christmas 2 by Duncan Rawlinson - Duncan.co (CC BY-NC)

WaKeeney, Kansas

Since about 1950, the town of WaKeeney has had the title "Christmas City of the High Plains." Each November, the town transforms into a holiday wonderland that lights up the prairie skies from Thanksgiving until New Year's. The spectacle includes a 35-foot tree under a canopy of blue lights in the middle of downtown. A 4-square-block area around the tree is draped with fresh greenery, handcrafted wreaths, bows, bells, and more lights. The annual tradition is considered the largest Christmas tree and lighting display between Kansas City and Denver.

Bowling Green, Kentucky
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Bowling Green, Kentucky

Each year, Bowling Green's Fountain Square Park transforms into a glittering Christmas scene. The spectacle includes the Downtown Lights Up event on Dec. 4, when thousands of twinkling lights are turned on in the park. The city's Christmas spirit can also be witnessed via a variety of events including Wendy's Twinkle at the Track at the NCM Motorsports Park and, new this year, a reindeer farm. Finally, the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center and Orchestra Kentucky are presenting several movies and live performances this season from Nov. 27 through Dec. 31. Click here for details on all these events and more. 

DSC03291
DSC03291 by nsuengineer06 (CC BY-NC-ND)

Natchitoches, Louisiana

A tiny town of just 18,000 people, Natchitoches puts on an impressive holiday presentation. Starting Nov. 21, visitors will be greeted by more than 300,000 lights and more than 100 displays that are turned on every night at dusk until Jan. 6. The annual Christmas Festival, described as the top holiday event in Louisiana, won't have a parade this year but does include live music, arts, crafts, a fireworks show choreographed to holiday music, and a holiday tour of homes. 

Kennebunkport, Maine
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Kennebunkport, Maine

An idyllic, tiny seaside town that's popular in the summer, Kennebunkport actually sees its largest tourism boost in December during the annual holiday festivities, known as the Christmas Prelude. Each year, the historic downtown district, Dock Square, is decked out in holiday lights and decorations. While many of the events will be virtual this year, including the Dec. 5 Hat Parade, caroling at the monastery, and Santa's lobster boat arrival, other events will be live. These include a Christmas Market, trolley rides at the Seashore Trolley Museum, drive-through visits with Santa, a French hot chocolate bar, and many more. 

Frederick, Maryland
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Frederick, Maryland

Frederick's charming downtown with its historic architecture becomes an almost magical holiday wonderland as Christmas approaches each year. Shop windows are decorated with twinkling lights, and there are carolers on many corners. While the schedule has been pared down for 2020, events include a Kris Kringle Procession and a Festival of Lights. 

Nantucket Holiday Stroll - Nantucket
Nantucket Holiday Stroll - Nantucket by Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism (CC BY-ND)

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket is a lovely community no matter what time of year you visit, but the holiday season really packs on the charm. While this year will look different, with many events either canceled or celebrated virtually, a community tree and storefront decorating contest guarantees that the town will still look like a Christmas wonderland all season long. 

Frankenmuth, Michigan
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Frankenmuth, Michigan

This tiny town (population about 5,000) is steeped in Bavarian tradition, and it has the architecture to prove it. It also boasts the world’s largest Christmas store. This year, events include a Christkindlmarkt Nov. 27-29 and a Dec. 19 Christmastown 5K Fun Run and Walk. 

Stillwater, Minnesota
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Stillwater, Minnesota

This charming town northeast of Minneapolis has plenty planned for 2020. On Nov. 21 and 28, check out Winter Fest @ The Vines, which will include mulled wine, music, holiday shopping, and more. Then, Dec. 3-27, the local Zephyr Theatre will present a stage adaptation of "It's a Wonderful Life." Other events will include holiday teas, both live and virtual, Victorian caroling, a Christkindlmarkt, and much more. Find the full schedule of events, including details on the above, here

The Reindeers' Christmas Tea
The Reindeers' Christmas Tea by Shawn Rossi (CC BY-NC-ND)

Canton, Mississippi

With its historic courthouse square (a National Register Landmark) decorated in more than 200,000 lights and its Canton Christmas Festival (Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 4-23), Canton is another community that becomes picture perfect each holiday season. Known as the "City of Lights," the highlight of the season is the festival, which includes old-fashioned carousel rides, animated displays, and more.

Branson, Missouri
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Branson, Missouri

Branson is another community that transforms each winter with miles of drive-through light displays and decorations in nearly every shop door. One of the most popular seasonal offerings is An Old Time Christmas (Nov. 7-Dec. 30) at Silver Dollar City, during which the theme park becomes a Christmas wonderland with 6.5 million lights and 80 themed Christmas trees. While the park typically attracts throngs of visitors during the holiday season with its variety of events, this year reservations will be required in order to facilitate social distancing. 

Bigfork, Montana
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Bigfork, Montana

Known as the state's "Christmas Village," Bigfork kicks off the holiday season on Nov. 21 with an Elves Decorating Day during which local volunteers power the town's "magical transformation." In December, the Bigfork Playhouse Children's Theatre will present "A Touch of Christmas" and "Elf the Musical." 

The Christmas City - Minden, NE
The Christmas City - Minden, NE by Tim O'Brien (CC BY-NC)

Minden, Nebraska

Minden is known as Nebraska's "Christmas City." The name can be traced back to 1915 when the local light commissioner decorated the courthouse dome. To this day, lights continue to decorate the dome each Christmas and can be seen for miles. The community also hosts a popular Christmas pageant known as "The Light of the World," which will be virtual this year. Other events include the Nov. 27 Parade of Lights, which will be a drive-by event for 2020, and a Christmas City 5K walk/run on Dec. 5.

Las Vegas
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Las Vegas

While Las Vegas is hardly a small town, it's certainly a place that knows how to get into the Christmas spirit. In fact, Sin City goes all out for the holiday. Santas can be spotted all over downtown, and cacti are decorated like Christmas trees. Among the top activities is exploring the winter display at the Bellagio's Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which are decorated with more than 34,000 poinsettias, azaleas, cyclamen, and mums, as well as a 14-foot snow tunnel. You can also go ice skating at the Cosmopolitan, the city's only outdoor rink; this year, masks are required and social distancing and limited capacity will be enforced.

Related: 36 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Las Vegas

Portsmouth, New Hampshire
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Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth hosts a month-long celebration of the season known as Vintage Christmas. One of the most notable events during the month is a candlelight stroll through history at the Strawbery Banke Museum. Participants walk along candlelit dirt lanes amid glowing historic homes featuring costumed players. The city also hosts an annual gingerbread house contest and outdoor ice skating, also at the museum.

Cape May, New Jersey
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Cape May, New Jersey

The Victorian seaside town of Cape May becomes a Dickens-era village each year for the holidays, decorated with garlands of green and twinkling gaslights. Among the many Christmas-themed activities are candlelight house tours throughout the month, Ghosts of Christmas Past trolley rides, breakfasts with Santa, and also Santa trolley rides.

Angel Fire, New Mexico
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Angel Fire, New Mexico

This northern New Mexico village, about 40 minutes east of Taos, has lots going on during the holidays this year, starting with a community holiday lighting on Dec. 3. After that, there's a Dec. 5 Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest as well as a Torchlight Parade and Fireworks on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. In between, you can get some snowy runs in at the Angel Fire Resort, widely considered to have some of the best slopes in the state. 

Port Jefferson, New York
Port Jefferson, New York by Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA)

Port Jefferson, New York

Another community that normally offers up its best Dickensian impression each holiday season, Port Jefferson's annual Charles Dickens Festival has been canceled for 2020. However, there will be plenty of other holiday festivities, including a bell choir, tree lighting, and cookie decorating on Dec. 5; horse and carriage rides on Dec. 12 and 19; and ice skating on the harbor throughout the month.

McAdenville Lights 001
McAdenville Lights 001 by M Fletcher (CC BY-NC-ND)

McAdenville, North Carolina

A community that's also known as "Christmas Town USA," McAdenville, just outside of Charlotte, is famous for its over-the-top light display. The tradition dates back nearly six decades and involves decorating over 250 trees and nearly all the homes in the town in red, white, and green lights. Though there will be no tree lighting ceremony or parade this year, and the annual 5K will be virtual, the town will still be aglow nightly from Dec. 1-26 with holiday lights in common areas and on homes.

sleigh ride
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Fargo, North Dakota

Although annual events like the Christkindlmarkt and Holiday Lights Parade have been canceled in 2020, there is still plenty going on in this east North Dakota town for the holiday season, including carriage rides along Broadway and Holiday Nights at the Red River Zoo. Two other highlights? Christmas on the Prairie, a pioneer village transformed for the season with model trains, blacksmith demonstrations, and horse-drawn wagon rides; and Unsilent Night, an evening of caroling that starts at the town's Island Park Gazebo. Both events take place on Dec. 5. 

cambridge, Ohio USA courthouse
cambridge, Ohio USA courthouse by Paula R. Lively (CC BY)

Cambridge, Ohio

If you haven't yet gotten your fill of Charles Dickens Christmas scenes, Cambridge is yet another option to consider, says Norah of Independent Travel Cats. From Nov. 1 through Jan. 1, the small town in southeastern Ohio turns into Victorian England with more than 90 scenes and 150 figures from the era. Each evening there are light shows at Cambridge's historic courthouse using thousands of pulsating lights synchronized to holiday music. The show involves 36 animated light displays and 15,000 lights outlining the building, which dates back to 1881.

Sulphur, Oklahoma
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Sulphur, Oklahoma

Sulphur is home to numerous Christmas traditions beginning with Opening Night on the Plaza (Nov. 28), during which all the downtown businesses kick off the season by turning on their outdoor light displays. Classic Christmas at The Artesian Hotel, meanwhile, offers a month-long celebration of the season that includes carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, and — new for 2020 — "special Santa and Mrs. Claus sing-alongs, messages and personal visits via Zoom."

Jacksonville, Oregon
Dominique M./Yelp

Jacksonville, Oregon

A historic community that got its start as a gold rush town, Jacksonville is decorated in red bows and twinkling lights for the holiday season. And like many other places around the country, the town hosts a Victorian, Dickens-themed celebration for the holidays. Though events such as the tree lighting and toy drive will be virtual and drive-through, respectively, there will be live events such as strolling carolers and horse-drawn carriage rides on weekends between Dec. 5-20. 

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
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Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Yet another community known as "Christmas City," Bethlehem hosts one of the top holiday markets in the country. The city's Christkindlmarkt, which dates back more than 25 years, includes handmade works by more than 150 artisans, Christmas music, ice-carving and glass-blowing demonstrations, and breakfast with St. Nicholas. The market runs on weekends until Dec. 6. Please note that masks are required this year. 

Newport, Rhode Island
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Newport, Rhode Island

It's hard to beat the holiday spectacle of Newport, home to Gilded Age mansions built by some of this country's wealthiest citizens. Among the celebrations here is Christmas in Newport, a month-long event that involves using clear bulbs to illuminate the harbor and wharves, the restored colonials of the Point and Historic Hill neighborhoods, and the Victorian splendor of Bellevue Avenue. Christmas at the Newport Mansions meanwhile showcases three of the finest mansions decked out in Yuletide finery.

Christmas Lights in a city
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Columbia, South Carolina

Founded in 1786, Columbia was one of the premier Southern cities in the 1800s, known for its fine homes and luxurious gardens. Today it is known for its historic holiday celebrations, which include holiday crafts and tours of historic homes that are decorated for the season. Also happening this year? Movies in the Garden, featuring socially distanced pods from which to watch "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation" on Dec. 4 and Virtual Happy Hour Holiday Cocktails on Dec. 17. 

Ice Skating
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Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City decks the halls like few other places. Each holiday season, the Main Street Square area is filled by an outdoor skating rink, a huge Christmas tree, and more. Held in conjunction with Small Business Saturday, the festivities kick off on Nov. 28 with the Holiday Celebration and Winter Market during which the Christmas tree is lit. The Festival of Lights Parade brings floats decorated with thousands of lights through the downtown area on the same day, attracting thousands of spectators. There’s also an hour-long 1880 Train Holiday Express that runs through Dec. 27, as well as numerous other events. 

Franklin, Tennessee
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Franklin, Tennessee

With the historic town's Victorian architecture serving as a backdrop, Franklin celebrates Christmas in full style from Nov. 28-Dec. 31. This year the event is coined Holiday Magic on Main, and will feature pop-up appearances by musicians, dancers and characters who fill the streets. Also on the schedule are a virtual Christmas tree lighting and holiday window decorating contest. As always, the event will kick off with lighting of the iconic "Noel" sign atop Main Street's White Building the Friday after Thanksgiving. 

Grapevine, Texas
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Grapevine, Texas

Just how many capitals of Christmas can there be? Grapevine is known as the Christmas capital of Texas thanks to its hosting more than 1,400 holiday events. Among the top activities here is the Grapevine Vintage Railroad's North Pole Express. During the ride, Santa's helpers sing traditional Christmas music. Before the trip is over, Mrs. Claus makes an appearance to give each child a silver "We Believe" Santa bell. For those not hopping on the train, downtown Grapevine is blanketed with millions of lights and enormous decorations.

Christmas Villiage - Ogden, UT
Christmas Villiage - Ogden, UT by Joe Barney (CC BY)

Ogden, Utah

Magic is in the air each year in Ogden, which decorates its downtown with a Christmas Village. The winter wonderland includes Christmas lights at every turn and cottages modeled after Santa's village at the North Pole. The village remains on display Thanksgiving through Jan. 1.

Woodstock, Vermont
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Woodstock, Vermont

This town of just 3,000 located on the edge of the Green Mountains is famous for its holiday spirit. The entire town is decorated with wreaths, garlands, and lights each year. Among the top seasonal activities is Wassail Weekend, which will actually take place over two weekends in 2020, on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12. Though it will include "more socially distanced events" than in previous years, visitors can expect twinkling lights, decorated historic homes, unique shopping, wagon rides, and more. 

Alexandria, Virginia
Coast-to-Coast/istockphoto

Alexandria, Virginia

Just minutes from Washington, D.C., Alexandria offers a bit of nostalgic wonder during the holiday season. Known for its twinkling trees along brick-lined streets, visitors stroll under a canopy of sparkling lights on King Street. Alexandria has been named one of America's "Top Holiday Towns" by USA Today and a "Top 10 Christmas Town" by HGTV. While the annual Scottish Christmas Walk has been canceled this year, visitors can find solace in Ice & Lights: the Winter village at Cameron Run, an event taking place from Nov. 20-Jan. 3 featuring tons of twinkling lights, a Winter Village, ice skating, and more. 

Leavenworth, Washington
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Leavenworth, Washington

It's hard to beat a place that has been named "America's Ultimate Holiday Town" by the A&E channel and "The Most Christmassy Place in America" by the Travel Channel. Leavenworth's usual Christkindlmarkt and Lighting Festival have been canceled due to the pandemic, but this Bavarian-style village with a population of about 1,900 will still transform itself this year with more than a half-million lights strung throughout the town. 

Shepherdstown, West Virginia
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Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Known as a place that transforms into a winter wonderland, Shepherdstown's holiday offerings have been canceled in 2020, but the town promises that it "will still be decorated for the holiday and lots of shops and restaurants will be open." There will also be a Holiday Handmade Market held at the War Memorial Building on the weekends starting after Thanksgiving and through Dec. 20.  

hanging christmas lights
SUNG YOON JO/istockphoto

Hayward, Wisconsin

Downtown Hayward is famous for its annual light display, known as A Lure of Lights. The dazzling light display is turned on every evening at dusk from Nov. 27 through Dec. 19. There are also sleigh rides, an ugly sweater 5K run/walk, and hot-chocolate crawls during the season.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming

A region famous for being home to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole also knows how to celebrate Christmas in high style. The annual lighting of the town's charming, old main square is Nov. 27. Other seasonal events in this winter wonderland include sleigh rides at the National Elk Refuge just outside of town starting Dec. 14 and Santa on the town square, nightly through Christmas Eve.