Are you looking for the best places to celebrate Christmas in the US? This guide has everything that you need to know for the holiday season.
As the carols remind us, Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. With loved ones around, thoughtful gifts galore, and just an overall air of warmth and coziness, there’s really no question of why this season has earned that title.
While most people opt to celebrate this holiday in their homes, there are many wonderful places to celebrate Christmas in the US. And while your mind may conjure up images of snowflakes and hot chocolate, there are also US Christmas destinations filled with sand and sunshine. In other words, there are tons of amazing places to celebrate Christmas in the US – which will you choose?
When Do People Celebrate Christmas in the US?
Globally, there are a few different days when Christmas is celebrated. Parts of the Middle East and Russia celebrate Christmas on January 7. Many countries, including France and Germany, begin their Christmas celebrations all the way at the beginning of December before the excitement culminates on December 25.
In the US in particular, Christmas is celebrated on December 25. But Christmas Eve – which is December 24 – is also quite a big deal. Depending on your family’s own personal traditions, Christmas Eve might be more exciting than Christmas itself.
How Do People Celebrate Christmas in the US?
Christmas in the US is typically marked by Christmas trees, tons of colorful twinkle lights, lots of gifts, and time with loved ones. You won’t be hard-pressed to find a family that embraces Christmas traditions like baking Christmas cookies or watching their favorite holiday movie every year.
For those who practice Christianity, many attend Christmas services. After all, Christmas was originally meant to commemorate the birth of Jesus. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for people to lay out nativity scenes and attend Christmas church services.
And we simply can’t forget visits with Santa. In just about every mall across the country, Santa Claus makes an appearance each December. And tons of kids line up to take a picture with him and tell him what they hope to get for Christmas that year. If the little ones don’t get a chance to see Santa Claus in person (or even if they do), they often write letters to him and mail it to his home in the North Pole.
9 of the Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in the US
New York City, New York
If the many Christmas movies are anything to go off of, New York is definitely one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in the US. Pretty much all of the Christmas classics, including Elf, Scrooged, and Home Alone, are set in New York. So why not head to the Big Apple and follow in Kevin McAllister’s footsteps?
New York is filled with Christmas events, decorations, and treats. Do some ice skating at the Central Park Winter Jam, grab a steaming mug of chocolatey goodness from Jacques Torres Hot Chocolate, and stare in awe at the decked-out Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza.
If you’re looking for more of an outdoorsy Christmas destination in the US, Durango may be the one for you. This Colorado city situated in the Rocky Mountains is a prime skiing location, but it also has snowboarding, snowmobiling, and dogsledding. In other words, this is the place to celebrate Christmas in the US if you’re a bit of an adventure seeker.
And while many of Durango’s activities might seem winter-themed rather than Christmas themed, this town also has a train ride based on The Polar Express! So hop aboard, sip hot chocolate, sing carols at the top of your lungs – all on your way to pick up Santa Claus from the North Pole! After all, he has to deliver presents to the children of Durango, Colorado too!
North Pole, Alaska
When thinking of Christmas and everything associated with it, most people think of Santa Claus. And where does Santa Claus live? The North Pole.
While the real North Pole isn’t an easy Christmas vacation destination, you can visit North Pole, Alaska instead. 1,700 miles from the actual North Pole, this Alaskan town is a fantastic substitute filled with Christmas cheer.
With a name like North Pole, the locals have gone all out to create a festive atmosphere. Even before you get to any of the designated activities, the magic begins with live reindeer strolling around the ton and candy cane lights lining Candy Cane Lane.
Then, there are the slew of amazing activities. Take pictures with stunning ice sculptures, stare in awe at the largest Santa Claus statue in the world, and pay a visit to the “official” home of jolly old St. Nick himself. You really can’t get much closer to the spirit of Christmas magic than this.
McAdenville, North Carolina
North Carolina is home to many wonderful places to celebrate Christmas in the US, but none are more Christmassy than McAdenville, North Carolina – also known as Christmas Town USA.
In order to be worthy of its nickname of Christmas Town USA, the people of McAdenville have banded together to make this town the best place to celebrate Christmas in the US. And they’ve done their job well. Over 500,000 people choose to spend their Christmas in McAdenville each year.
Christmas Town USA has tons of wonderful holiday-themed activities, including ones you’ve never even dreamed of before! Visitors have the opportunity wander through the hundreds of gorgeous Christmas trees, watch the Annual Yule Log Paradise and Festival, and participate in the Christmas Town 5K race.
Taos, New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico is one of the most original Christmas destinations in the US. While most of the places on this list wholeheartedly embrace American Christmas traditions, Taos adds in some Latin American Christmas traditions as well.
While traditionally known for its historic adobe buildings, these structures are decked out in holiday décor and filled with Christmas spirit. Take part in traditional Aztec dancing on Bent Street, ski down the slopes at one of the many Taos ski resorts, and watch the reenactment of the birth of Jesus known as Las Posadas.
Santa Claus, Indiana
Rivalling North Pole, Alaska for the town with the most Christmassy name is Santa Claus, Indiana. And while the Alaskan town may have tons of holiday cheer to boast about, Santa Claus, Indiana spreads the Christmas spirit in a different way.
Every year, children all around the world write letters to Santa Claus. In these letters, they ask for all of the things that they would like to get as their Christmas gifts that year. Many of these little ones slip their letters into their mailboxes with the belief that it’ll end up in Santa’s mailbox. Unfortunately, for a long time, the US postal service simply didn’t have anywhere to deliver these heartfelt letters, and the kids’ letters just got tossed aside. So the town of Santa Claus stepped up to the challenge.
Now, the vast majority of the letters addressed to Santa Claus end up in Santa Claus, Indiana. And then the kind volunteers in this Midwestern town respond to each and every one of the kids – under the guise of being one of Santa’s elves, of course. If you decide to visit Santa Claus, Indiana this year for Christmas, consider volunteering as one of these elves. You’ll be sure to put smiles on tons of kids’ faces.
The United States has its fair share of towns with Christmas names. In addition to North Pole, Alaska and Santa Claus, Indiana, there’s also Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Strangely enough, although the name of the town harkens back to the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s holiday festivities don’t revolve around the religious aspect of the holiday. Rather, you’ll get just as many Christmas lights and Santa Claus visits as you would in any other Christmas destination in the United States.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s holiday celebrations actually take some inspiration from European traditions. This little New England town boasts one of the best Christmas markets in America, Christkindmarkt. While these garland-filled, peppermint-smelling markets originated in Europe, a few have made their way to the US. While there, you can shop through dozens of holiday-themed stalls, buy a few German-imported ornaments, and even take part in a Christmas-themed cooking class with St. Nick.
The main reason that Orlando made it onto this list of the best places to celebrate Christmas in the US is because of Walt Disney World. Combining the most wonderful time of year with the happiest place on earth just sounds like a recipe for magic.
Of course, Disney being Disney, there are many ways to celebrate Christmas at this world-renowned theme park. Take part in the extremely popular Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, stroll through the dozens of trees at the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail, and savor Christmas foods from across the globe at the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays.
Of course, while the festivities at Walt Disney World are a huge reason to visit Orlando for Christmas, there are other holiday-themed activities in this Florida city. Listen to live music, devour great food from food trucks, and gape in awe at the thousands of lights at the Lake Eola Tree Lighting. Experience what Christmas would be like at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Or maybe go for a calmer, more relaxing Christmas experience at Bok Tower Gardens.
Las Vegas, Nevada
With its dozens of hotels, hundreds of shows, and thousands of slot machines, it’s already pretty obvious that Las Vegas goes all out for everything it puts its mind to. Despite the fact that Las Vegas is situated in a desert rather than a snow-filled landscape, Christmas is no exception.
Each of the towering hotels along The Strip plays its part in the Christmas festivities. Watch the Bellagio fountains dance along to Carol of the Bells, gape at the 15-foot gingerbread house at the ARIA Resort & Casino, take part in Santa Claus scuba diving at Mandalay Bay, and transport yourself to another world in the Wynn’s Winter Wonderland. There’s no shortage of holiday-themed things to do at this amazing Christmas destination in the US.
What other places to celebrate Christmas in the US should be on this list? Or what is your most memorable Christmas vacation destination in the US? Let me know in the comments below!
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