From Internet Sources
Town squares lit with strings of sparkling lights. Christmas carolers in bonnets and tails. Horse-drawn carriages and snowcapped roofs.
If you want a holiday experience straight out of It’s a Wonderful Life, then you need to find an American celebration this year.
From Alaska to Florida and nearly everywhere in between, hundreds of cities, towns and villages are perfect for the holidays.
Here is some of the more interesting Christmas big and small locales you may want to consider visiting:
McAdensville, N. C.
McAdenville, a small town about 20 minutes outside of Charlotte, gets so into the Christmas spirit each December that they change the name of their village to Christmas Town USA. More than 600,000 people visit Christmas Town USA to gawk at the 450,000 lights that decorate this hamlet. Over 375 trees light a route perfect for a winter stroll through the McAdenville’s downtown. One of the favorite vantage spots is at the nearby lake, where 33 trees line its perimeter, reflecting peacefully in the water. It’s hard to miss the town’s fountain, featuring a jet of water that is propelled up 75 feet, lit with vibrant colors every 10 seconds.
Insider Tip: Christmas Town USA hands out free hot chocolate and kettle corn for the first 1,000 in attendance each night.
Koziar’s Christmas Village, Bernville, Pa.
Imagined as a true one-stop Christmas destination,Koziar’s Christmas Village has been a tradition since 1948. A regional hotspot for families, this popular Christmas town packs crowds in to gaze at the million-plus light displays, visit the small cottage dioramas and shops, as well as meet face to face with Mr. Claus. Look out for the several scenes depicting Christmas Beneath the Sea, Christmas in the Jungle, and Christmas in Other Lands, housed in former chicken coops.
Insider Tip: Just 20 minutes southeast of Bernville isJudy’s on Cherry, a cozy restaurant serving New American favorites. Be sure to try the hearth-fired pizzas, notably the Exotic Mushroom Pizza with porcinis, shitakes, and oyster fungi, fontina cheese, and truffle oil.
Ogden Utah’s Christmas Village
Northern Utah’s Ogden, one of the country’s great railway hubs, welcomes in the holiday season each year with their downtown Christmas Village. A winter wonderland is staged in the middle of town as miniature cottages pop-up, modeled after Santa’s North Pole Village. Each of the 59 elf-sized cottages has its own theme including The Elf Workshop, The Grinch, and Santa’s Castle—a cottage where children can visit with Santa himself. Rides on the free Polar Express Train are a favorite, as the locomotive passes through a glow-in-the-dark tunnel painted with holiday flourishes.
Insider Tip: Be sure to take time to explore Union Station, the former train depot that served as a major hub for transcontinental rail service. The station has been retrofitted into three museums featuring trains, firearms, and automobiles.
St. Augustine, Florida
You can traverse the cobblestoned streets and beautiful squares of the country’s oldest city any time, but the holidays make this historical Florida spot glow. Its annual Nights of Lights festivities, which run well into the New Year, bring Christmas splendor to every inch of St. Augustine. Inspired by the Spanish tradition of lighting a single white candle in each home’s window, the event sees the town’s landmarks illuminated with countless lights and candles that make the nearby bay reflect spectacularly. Explore the sites on foot, on a bicycle, in a pedicab, or in the cheery Old Town Trolley. I love St. Augustine as there are a few pet friendly hotels here. I often find them by using Pets Welcome – which brings up all local hotels that advertise themselves as “pet friendly”.
Nevada City Victorian Christmas
About an hour northeast of Sacramento, the historic and quaint Nevada City (population: 3,068) takes great pride in their annual Victorian Christmas festival. A former Gold Rush town, Nevada City now is noted for its many historic buildings, mountainous surroundings, and bygone picturesque downtown. The Christmas season in Nevada City has been described by its Chamber of Commerce as “a genuine Christmas card come to life” as the city transforms into a winter wonderland complete with twinkling white lights, authentic gas lamps, and carolers dressed in Victorian apparel. Festival attendees are encouraged to dress in period attire, complete with feathers, scarves, and top hats.
Insider Tip: Make sure you stop by My Favorite Thingsin downtown Nevada City, where gorgeous Christmas décor and artisan local crafts fill a cozy boutique space.
Branson, Mo.’s Ozark Mountain Christmas
Known as the Ozark Mountain Christmas, Branson doesn’t mess around when it comes to Christmas spirit. Branson transforms overnight as the city puts on its best and brightest Christmas flare. The historic downtown shopping center on Main Street has street lights wrapped in evergreen garland with lights flickering on the trees along the way. Known as the Live Music Show Capital of the World, Branson is home to fan favorite events such as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, where the arena performance is adapted to incorporate snow, evergreens, and traditional holiday music.
Insider Tip: Visiting Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas festival is a must for its 5 million holiday lights and over 1,000 decorated Christmas trees. For the opportunity to ride some of the park’s world-class roller coasters, be sure to check out the Silver Dollar City’s handy weather guide that clearly outlines the policies for running each coaster.
This small Vermont town, with its picturesque river and colonial New England architecture, is a great getaway year-round, but winter really makes Woodstock sing. In fact, singing is at the very heart of its holiday celebrations: During Wassail Weekend, visitors descend on the village for wagon and sleigh rides, a holiday craft fair, and performances by local theater and singing troupes as they parade through town. Find everything from a swinging gypsy-jazz concert to a stirring sing-along of Handel’s Messiah. At night, the town’s cozy Woodstock Inn & Resort and its lounge-side fireplace makes for a great home base.
Historic Zoar, Ohio, Village
The tiny town of Zoar, Ohio (population 169), about 40 miles south of Akron, offers an old-fashioned Christmas with its many historic landmarks and homes, all artfully decorated with evergreen garland finishes. Marvel at the chance to visit fully operating blacksmith and tinsmith shops, where local artisans produce crafts and goods the old fashioned way. The Historic Zoar Village offers walking tours that trace the history of the town, which gives the opportunity to observe the many buildings decorated for Christmas in nineteenth-century style. The excursion concludes at the Zoar United Church of Christ, where Christmas carols are played on the chapel’s original organ.
Insider Tip: Head about 20 minutes north to Canton, Ohio for Canton’s Classic Car Museum, a true automobile haven with 45 antiques and rare classic cars are on display. They even have a 1911 Model T Ford!
Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake Christmas
In between Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago and an hour away from Milwaukee sits Elkhart Lake, a getaway town known for its summertime racetrack. Come winter, Elkhart Lake shifts it focus to an all-out Christmas-time celebration, complete with its famous Old World Christmas Market. Modeled after the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, the market features a hundred vendors from the region selling crafts, art, and the traditional schnitzel, sauerbraten and potato pancakes. For something truly unique, stop by the Wade House, a local resort for mid-nineteenth-century Christmas celebrations, including a horse-drawn decorated carriage through the woods. It’s like stepping directly into “Jingle Bells.”
Insider Tip: The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, a destination luxury family resort, ushers in Christmas in grand style complete with horse-drawn hay wagon rides, hot cocoa, and Christmas caroling. And for those staying through Christmas, your kids will wake up Christmas morning to their own stocking of goodies, compliments of the resort… er, Santa.
Santa Claus, Indiana
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus—in Indiana, that is. With a population of just about 2,500, the town of Santa Claus goes (understandably) all out for Christmas, with a three-weekend celebration. Guests can roast chestnuts on an open fire at Santa’s Candy Castle, tuck into untold amounts of the namesake dessert at the International Fruitcake-Eating Competition, or embark on a drive through an LED-light adventure that tells the glittering story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In this Christmas-crazy town, the options are endless.
Genesee, N. Y., Country Village
The Gensee Country Village brings yuletide to the hinterland with its annual Christmas celebrations. Travel back to 1849, the year New York declared Christmas, Independence Day, and New Years Day state holidays, as tour guides take you through the village streets. Live music, dancing, and tree lighting are part of the experience as you join your guide in visiting the homes of the residents to inform them of the news that Christmas has just been declared an official holiday.
Insider Tip: Head up to Rochester, about 25 minutes north of Mumford, to stop by Café Cibon where special winter cocktails have been created to help escape the cold. Go for the Grand Slam, a holiday favorite with its charcoal bourbon, maple whiskey, cardamom simple syrup, and egg white.
Charlottesville, Va.’s Historic Downtown Mall
Charlottesville’s vibrant community bands together to deliver an incredible presentation of holiday lights and festivities throughout the historic town, home of Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall, a walkway that serves as the cultural hub of the city, transforms into a winterscape complete with a holiday market. Featuring 90 local vendors of holiday crafts and goods, this is a prime place to pick up unique gifts for loved ones on your list. While in Charlottesville, make sure to visit James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier estate, where Christmas is celebrated in nineteenth-century style, complete with candlelight tours of the estate, live holiday music, and children’s crafts.
Insider Tip: Stop by Java Java on the pedestrian mall for some delicious hot cocoa to warm your hands as you meander through the holiday boutiques and once your finished head on over to The Shebeen well known for best restaurant Charlottesville.
Skaneateles, New York
Nestled in the picturesque Finger Lakes is the town of Skaneateles, where every year, a Dickens festival lets visitors step way, way back in time. Guests can interact with a cast of 50 Dickensian characters, from Tiny Tim to the Ghost of Christmas Past, as they stroll through the village (and nibble on free roasted chestnuts). Horse-drawn-carriage rides, live caroling, and a bagpiper or two add to the cheery festivities. Didn’t pack your own Victorian costume? Visitors are welcome to borrow some in town.
In the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, among Amish farms and snowy rolling hills, sits Lancaster, a festive town of 60,000 that flings open its doors for the holidays. Visitors come from all over for events through New Year’s Day, such as breakfast with Santa, horse-drawn-carriage rides, and a unique tree-lighting ceremony with tuba accompaniment. Carolers accompany shoppers at Lancaster Central Market, the nation’s oldest farmers’ market. Best of all, most of these events are free or low-cost—yay for more Christmas spending money!
If all you want for Christmas is Denmark, then Solvang is your place in the sun. (Literally—this small town is in California.) The Danish village celebrates the holiday season in unique style. Some 150 boutiques, decked out in traditional Christmas decor, sell everything from Danish clogs to high-quality toys to porcelain and lace. Beyond its unique shopping opportunities, there is Solvang’s Julefest (pronounced “Yule-fest”), which kicks off with a parade of dancers, vintage cars, and horse-drawn carriages, while a live nativity pageant brings to life the Christmas story. Oh, and there’s a winery walk for grown-ups.
Greenville, South Carolina
The foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are home to Greenville, a town with a thriving arts-and-music scene plus plenty of holiday spirit. See it all dolled up during holiday events with true small-town flair. The St. Francis Foundation’s Festival of Trees presents a hundred sparkling Christmas trees to explore around town, while the Roper Mountain Holiday Lights drive offers some 72 glittering displays along its route. But our pick is an open-air ice-skating rink in Greenville’s charming, Christmas-light-strewn downtown.