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Do you enjoy the festivities that Christmas brings? Beyond the shopping and presents, there’s lots of Christmas spirit to enjoy in every state across America. Even in small towns or places that never see snow, you’ll find plenty of holiday magic, from boat parades to dazzling light displays. It doesn’t matter where you live, one of these towns is sure to be nearby as we’ve listed the most festive places to visit in every state, from a snowy Bavarian town in the Pacific Northwest to balmy Florida and everywhere in between.
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Andalusia’s downtown is transformed into what’s been called something out of a Hallmark movie during the holidays, with its main square becoming “Christmas in Candyland.” Despite its southern location, there’s even snow, thanks to a snow-making machine. In the town square is a towering Christmas tree where Santa Claus makes an appearance every Saturday, and there are attractions like light shows, outdoor ice skating, snow tubing, miniature train rides, hot chocolate and holiday music.
While it may not actually be the North Pole, in this Alaskan town located near Fairbanks, it’s Christmas all year. During the holidays it’s extra special – every December the North Pole Christmas In Ice contest attracts ice sculptors from across the globe, while the Winter Festival offers a variety of activities, fireworks and the crowning of the King and Queen of North Pole. It’s considered one of the world’s most popular Christmas towns.
Prescott is known as Arizona’s Christmas City, with a Christmas parade featuring floats, pets and Santa, followed by the courthouse lighting kicking everything off in early December each year. Enjoy Wildlights and Animal Sights at the Heritage Park Zoo, a gingerbread village display, the Sharlot Hall Museum Annual Frontier Christmas for a nostalgic trip back in time to the holidays in the 1800s, and much more.
Eureka Springs is a beautiful small town filled with Victorian homes and buildings. Every December, it’s transformed into a Victorian Christmas village making it even more stunning, starting with the Christmas Parade of Lights. There are holiday concerts, tours of the most magnificently restored homes that will be lavishly decorated for the season, caroling, a Christmas market and much more. Crescent Hotel & Spa is one hotel that goes all out with cheery decor and holiday events, such as Christmas concerts and an ice skating rink.
Located midway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, the small historic town of Nevada City looks as if it came straight from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel at Christmas. There are lots of holiday lights, glowing gas lamps, carriage rides, Christmas carolers, bagpipers, and vendors selling all sorts of items while donning period costumes.
One of the best Christmas towns in Colorado, Georgetown is a former mining town just an hour west of Denver in the Rockies, famous for its Christmas shops that can be enjoyed throughout the year, but during the holidays, it’s a magical wonderland. The annual Historic Georgetown Christmas Market sells unique, hard-to-find gifts, there’s an annual tree lighting, visits with Santa, vintage carriage rides, chestnuts roasting and a bonfire for gathering while sipping hot chocolate.
In the historic district of Ivoryton, one of three villages in Essex, residents come together to create an enchanting Christmas village. There are some 400,000 lights that dance to choreographed music, listened to on a local radio station, a petting zoo, appearances by Santa and the annual tree lighting of the largest Christmas tree in the entire state.
Delaware’s most charming Christmas town comes thanks to the hard work of the New Castle Historical Society which aims to preserve its colonial history. The annual Spirit of Christmas event held over the second weekend of December includes a tree lighting, caroling, musical performances and historic house tours.
While snow is unlikely, St. Augustine is a beautiful place to spend Christmas in Florida, with three million white bulbs during the Nights of Lights illuminating the city throughout the holiday season. It’s based on the Spanish practice of lighting a candle in the window for Christmas and can be seen while riding a horse-drawn carriage, a trolley, by boat from the water or even from above with a flightseeing trip via helicopter or plane.
One of the most festive towns in Georgia, Albany is famous for its Christmas parade with a different theme every year, although Santa is always invited. There are endless holiday lights, a Christmas train, holiday workshops, music, a community Christmas market and even reindeer games.
Enjoy warm temperatures, tropical scenery and holiday cheer in Honolulu, with Santa arriving by outrigger canoe on Waikiki Beach. While it may not be traditional, it’s a lot of fun to enjoy the festivities and Hawaiian culture during the Waikiki Holiday Parade. Honolulu City Lights features beautiful displays and illuminations right outside City Hall (Honolulu Hale) that begins with a tree lighting, block party, and the electric light parade.
Coeur d’Alene is a beautiful town that’s even more stunning in winter, with a white Christmas practically guaranteed. It’s famous for its Christmas tree, the world’s tallest living Christmas tree at 162 feet, and it also hosts a show with 1.5 million lights, and night cruises to the North Pole where you can watch a holiday theater production and visit Santa’s workshop. Stay at The Coeur d’Alene Resort for a front-row seat to the Holiday Light Show, which features a fleet of merry cruise boats as well as the biggest on-the-water holiday light display in America.
The historic town of Woodstock is well-known for its Groundhog Day festivities, but it’s also quite festive for Christmas. Enjoy a picturesque Victorian Christmas setting, with strolling carolers, holiday lights, carriage rides and often, performances of “The Nutcracker Ballet” on the Opera House stage. Join in on the Annual Christmas Tree Walk, Lighting of the Square and Christmas parade.
A town with the name of Santa Claus is a no-brainer at Christmas. This small town of only around 2,500 puts on a nearly month-long celebration which includes Christmas-themed fireworks, live reindeer, an LED-light display that tells the story of Rudolph, breakfast with Santa, Santa’s Candy Castle where you can roast chestnuts over an open fire, and more!
Keokuk goes all out during the holiday season with its City of Christmas at Rand Park. It started in 1989 with a nativity scene, Santa’s workshop, Santa’s barn with reindeer and elves and an international Christmas display. Today it includes nearly 100 displays and a million lights, which can be enjoyed from late November through late December every weekday evening until 10 p.m., weekends until midnight and until 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The town of Atchison hosts an annual Christmas tree lighting that begins with Santa arriving in spectacular fashion. There’s also a Christmas parade, horse-drawn sleigh rides, a Mr. & Miss Winter Wonderland pageant, and special activities for the kids like a coloring contest.
Bardstown has been called America’s most beautiful small town, and it’s especially stunning during the holiday season, starting with Light Up Bardstown. Main Street and the town’s Christmas tree is illuminated, while the kids enjoy face painting in Christmas Corner. Throughout the month of December, the 1818 mansion known as My Old Kentucky Home, is beautifully decked out while costumed performers sing the famous song while visitors tour themed rooms.
Natchitoches hosts one of the country’s longest-running holiday celebrations, dating all the way back to 1927. While it started as a one-day event, today it’s a six-week-long event that brings over 300,000 lights and 100 famous set pieces which can be seen in the movie “Steel Magnolias”, which was produced here in 1989. The Louisiana city honors the holiday and its Creole heritage with parades, fireworks, carriage rides, historic home tours, a children’s festival, a 5K race and live performances.
In Kennebunkport, you can watch Santa Claus arrive by lobster boat during the annual Christmas Prelude, and there are many other festivities hosted throughout the holiday season. One of the best places to celebrate Christmas in New England, the town is picture-perfect, especially with holiday lights and a dusting of snow, ideal for photo-ops, while seashore holiday trolley rides, wine tasting and lobster bakes are hosted too.
The 18th-century historic district of Annapolis offers candlelit strolls and guided tours during the holidays, while the whole city is decked out with evergreen garlands and beautiful decor. Along the harbor, you’ll see the reflections of illuminated trees sparkling in the water. A lighted boat parade takes place on the second Saturday of December every year, with boat owners showing off their holiday light decorations in the harbor.
For a magical winter wonderland kind of holiday experience, the Berkshires is famously ideal, with many charming small towns and classic red barns covered with snow, but Taunton may be the very best. It puts on the Lighting of the Green & Lights On Festival that’s been called the top display presentation in all of southern New England. In early December there are many opening night festivities, including fireworks, but the enchanting holiday scenes can be enjoyed throughout the month.
Known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth is an old-world German town that’s home to the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It can be enjoyed year-round but it’s especially impressive during the holidays, as is the entire village which is lavishly decorated from the lamposts to storefronts. There are visits with Santa, carolers, holiday home tours, Christmas concerts and more.
Just about every resident in Red Wing comes out for the town’s Holiday Stroll event that begins with a pancake breakfast and includes everything from parades, live penguins and baby reindeer to sleigh rides, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday tunes and a live Nativity scene.
During the holidays, Canton, Mississippi’s 200,000 sparkling lights illuminate the historic Courthouse Square. There are animated holiday displays and lots of activities for the kids. They can enjoy an interactive Christmas village with the chance to become a “certified elf,” roast marshmallows and make reindeer food, ensuring Santa’s team will be fueled for their journey. Enjoy horse and buggy rides, a carousel, and storytime with Mrs. Claus too.
There is practically an endless list of Christmas events in Branson every year, from the month-long Ozark Mountain Christmas Festival with parades, lights shows and festive music to the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express Train Ride that rolls through the Ozark Mountains. The 1880s-themed park Silver Dollar City will be all decked out, hosting its An Old Time Christmas festival too.
Bigfork is considered to be Montana’s ultimate Christmas village, with the community going all out to celebrate the holidays. Snow is practically a given, and there will be plenty of lights, a special holiday wine stroll and performances of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker” at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and s’mores and hot drinks in front of a campfire are just a few of the other activities.
Minden hosts Nebraska’s Christmas City, with traditions that started more than a century ago when lights were hung to honor the arrival of the Civil War veterans’ organization Grand Army of the Republic. The courthouse dome continues to be lit today with city workers scaling it using mountain climbing gear. The town hosts the Christmas Traditions Festival to kick off the season at the end of November with a lighted parade, children’s carnival, photos with Santa and the crowning of Miss Christmas City.
Virginia City is a town that looks like it’s still stuck in the Wild West, complete with wooden sidewalks and period buildings. Throughout the month of December, it offers a Victorian-inspired celebration known as Christmas on the Comstock. Enjoy the decor, watch the parade and let the kids visit Father Christmas. The adults can enjoy the “Grinch Made Me Do It” saloon crawl.
For a White Christmas in New England, Jackson is hard to beat. It offers small-town charms and a classic covered bridge along with a variety of holiday events. You can enjoy sleigh rides and take the annual self-guided Inn-to-Inn Cookie Tour for a glimpse of a dozen local inns, with a signature cookie served at each one. Festivities begin with the Traditionally Yours festival around Thanksgiving weekend and continue throughout the holiday season.
Cape May is a Victorian seaside town that looks like it’s out of a Dickens novel during the holiday season, complete with garlands and gaslamps. You can listen to the Ghost of Christmas Past tales, ride the trolley back in time to check out the holiday lights, and take holiday house tours too.
The former mining town of Madrid is home to just 300 but it’s filled with Christmas spirit, a tradition that dates back nearly a century. During the pre-war times, morale was low and to boost it, miners pitched in their change throughout the year so when the holidays rolled around, it all went into making it a spectacular event. Today, thousands come from all around to see the dazzling display and reminder of Madrid’s perseverance.
This charming town in the Finger Lakes region hosts the annual Dickens Festival, complete with characters from “A Christmas Carol” like Tiny Tim, all in Victorian costume. You can even watch a mini-performance of the famous novella. There’s a parade, horse-drawn carriage rides, a live bagpiper, and all sorts of refreshments too.
McAdenville is one of the country’s most festive during the holidays – it’s even been called “Christmas Town U.S.A.” Every year the residents turn this small town into a spectacular holiday scene with more than a half-million red, gree and white lights stretching for 1.3 miles. The over-the-top lighting tradition has been taking place since 1956, and it all starts with a special lighting ceremony when a local elementary school student pulls the big switch.
North Dakota’s “Christmas Capital” is transformed into a Victorian village every year for three weekends over the holiday season. It hosts the Dickens Festival, with many attending wearing period attire to take part in a variety unique events. There’s top hat decorating, rides in a double-decker “Queen Elizabus” and a fruitcake toss, along with English high tea, a quilt show and a performance of “Merry Christmas, Mr. Scrooge,” a play that was locally written.
Medina is famous for hosting the largest indoor Christmas museum, Castle Noel, which offers Christmas year-round, but December is the very best time for a visit. You’ll see props from dozens of Christmas films, like Santa’s Chimney Squeeze and you can even ride the Ralphie slide from “A Christmas Story.” The town hosts many events starting with the Candelight Walk with a tree lighting, photos with Santa and more, followed by a holiday parade and other events.
In Muskogee, the Castle of Muskogee will be transformed into a magical place with a massive drive-through light display. You can ride Christmas ponies, hop on a train that rolls through the village or even onto Cletus the Camel, stepping into the shoes of a Wiseman. Honor Heights Park is also illuminated with more than 1.2 million lights.
Hood River hosts Hood River Holidays, a month-long celebration with a tree lighting and parade. It also offers one of Oregon’s most popular holiday attractions, a ride on the Mount Hood Christmas train, with elves that walk through the aisles handing out treats, singing songs and helping Santa hand out gifts.
Nicknamed “Christmas City,” Bethlehem is, not surprisingly, one of the country’s top places to celebrate the holidays. Visitors can browse or buy at Christkindlmarkt, a market with pop-up German shops that sell artisan goods like wooden toys and treats, enjoy the holiday lights on historic buildings and beautifully decorated trees, and take the Bethlehem by Night bus tour.
Newport hosts many holiday events, including the Illuminated Boat Parade accompanied by Caribbean Christmas music on the steel paou, but the top reason to come is to see the stunning Gilded Age mansions all decked out. While they’re lavish anytime, during the holidays there will be thousands of poinsettias, evergreens, wreaths, Christmas trees and tables filled with elegant china and silver, at The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House. The Holiday Evenings event offers the chance to view them under candlelight with live music and refreshments.
Aiken is gorgeous during the holidays, with its events kicking off on Thanksgiving morning with the annual Blessing of the Hounds in Hitchcock Woods. Afterward, visitors can take in the Night of a Thousand Candles, stroll the thousands of lights at Hopeland Gardens, and enjoy carriage rides.
With the Victorian-era buildings in Deadwood illuminated for the holidays, coupled with at least a dusting of snow, this Old West town is truly magical. In early December there will be a Christmas tree lighting in Outlaw Square and a guest appearance by Santa.
Gatlinburg does it up right for the holidays with a Trolley Ride of Lights that will bring you around to see the many holiday light displays. Just a few of the other events include the Festival of Trees, Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales, the Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show, and the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. Just a short drive away, Pigeon Forge offers a host of fun Christmas events too.
One of the most charming Christmas towns in Texas, Wimberley hosts a tree lighting and the Holiday Trail of Lights, which begins on the Saturday following Thanksgiving and ends on New Year’s Eve. The 8-acre walk-through display includes a Yule Log where you can roast hot dogs and marshmallows, providing a fun family evening.
Ogden, Utah is so enchanting during the holidays that it served as the film setting for “My Christmas Love.” The town hosts a Christmas Village in its downtown park modeled after Santa’s workshop, with 60 tiny cottages just right for elves. While wandering through, visitors can enjoy dazzling lights and displays, entertainment, food and drink, and shop for gifts too. It starts over Thanksgiving, with the grand opening followed by an Electric Light Parade.
One of the country’s most postcard-perfect towns, historic Woodstock offers a quintessential Vermont Christmas, with the fragrance of pine needles in the air and the ground almost always covered with at least a light dusting of snow. It hosts many holiday events, with Wassail Weekend one of the most popular. The 19th-century Norse culture tradition includes a parade with more than 50 horses and riders in period dress. Enjoy a magical sleigh ride too.
Alexandria is often named among the world’s most magical Christmas towns. Stepping into the historic old town you’ll feel as if you were transported into a real-life Dickens Village. The long list of holiday events begins with the annual Tree Lighting in front of City Hall, musical performances and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus. That’s followed by the annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend & Parade, and the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights.
Located at the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is a Bavarian village that becomes a virtual snow globe of Christmas magic over the holidays. Enjoy the Christmas Lighting Festival with old fashioned caroling, Christmas characters and twinkling holiday lights. Every Friday throughout December, St. Nikolas welcomes children with song and fruit too.
Ripon hosts the annual Dickens of a Christmas which includes numerous events over the first weekend of December. There will be a spectacular “Living Windows” display downtown, visits with Santa & Mrs. Claus, live reindeer, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a Dickens Holiday Parade that kicks it all off on Friday evening.
Wyoming’s top Christmas town is like taking a step back in time to the Wild West, and at Christmas, it’s sure to be a stunning wonderland with snow, twinkling holiday lights and decor. You can enjoy a sleigh ride at the National Elk Refuge and world-class snow sports like skiing and boarding at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. In fact, if you’re at the resort on Christmas Eve you can watch Santa drop in at the base of the Aerial Tram. On Christmas Day, kids can even get out on the slopes with the man himself.