9 Towns You Need to Visit If You Love Christmas
If just the thought of Christmas makes you feel holly jolly, these holiday locations are definitely worth putting on your bucket list. From elaborate light displays to horse-drawn carriage rides, these towns really have it all.
While Santa Claus won’t be coming to town for a few more months, you can get a head start on this year’s holiday travel by planning a trip to one of these iconic Christmas towns. Whether you’re looking to plan a romantic winter getaway or a festive road trip the whole family can enjoy, we’ve rounded up the best holiday destinations in the country. These locations are home to some of the nation's biggest light displays, tourist attractions, and largest holiday festivals in the country.
Visit Santa’s house, take a holiday train ride through a display of 10 million Christmas lights, or try to score a spot as an extra in a Hallmark movie set in a quiet Georgia town. These are the nine most festive holiday towns in the country.
This small Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains is beautiful year-round, but should definitely top your travel bucket list during the Christmas season. The mountain town will make you feel like you’ve been transported directly into the German countryside and is home to four major holiday festivals. Visit the Leavenworth Village of Lights to see a breathtaking display of 500,000 twinkling lights, and check out the annual Christkindlmarkt celebration, a classic German street market where you’ll find gluhwein, traditional German food, and handmade gifts. Head to the Nutcracker Museum after a day of skiing, sledding, or tubing down the snowy mountainside.
When to visit: The light display starts on Thanksgiving night and runs through Valentine’s Day weekend, and Christkindlmarkt runs from November 29 through December 1.
North Pole, AK
While a trip to the actual North Pole might not be covered by your travel agency, you can find a similar experience right here in the United States. The town of North Pole in central Alaska is decorated for Christmas year-round and is home to attractions like the famous Santa Claus House and the World’s Largest Santa, who stands a smidge under 50 feet tall. While you’re there, you can also plan to pet a few reindeer and take a sled ride down Kris Kringle Drive. This is a can’t-miss destination for anyone who really loves Christmas.
When to visit: All of the town’s attractions are open year-round, so there’s never a bad time to visit. However, Santa makes special appearances throughout the year, so check the schedule before planning your trip.
When you think of Colonial Williamsburg, images of 17th-century apothecaries and statues of George Washington likely come to mind, but the town undergoes a dramatic transformation each Christmas. On average, there are more than 2,500 wreaths decorate the historic area and 10 million lights can be seen on display at the Busch Gardens Christmas Town. Not even Clark W. Griswold could have dreamed of a holiday light display this big! The display at Busch Gardens does cost admission, but the rest of the town's iconic decorations are free to see.
When to visit: This year’s schedule begins November 16 and runs select nights through December 31.
Each winter, the entire town of Woodstock, Vermont, turns into a winter wonderland for the annual Wassail Weekend, the city’s main celebration. See the annual holiday house tour, walk through holiday craft markets, and make plans to grab breakfast with Santa. You can also catch live music performances and family-friendly holiday films like Home Alone and Love, Actually at the Town Hall Theatre.
When to visit: The Wassail Weekend is scheduled for December 13-15 this year.
If you’ve ever planned a Hallmark movie marathon, you really do need to plan a visit to Dahlonega, GA. The small town is quaint and beautiful, especially during the holidays—so it’s no surprise that multiple Hallmark movies (like Christmas in Homestead) have been filmed there. While you’re waiting to be featured as an extra, catch the old-fashioned parade or attend the annual tree-lighting ceremony.
When to visit: While any day of winter is a good time to visit Dahlonega, Santa makes appearances every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Located in the heart of New York’s Hudson Valley, the town of Rhinebeck is home to one of the biggest Christmas celebrations in the country. Sinterklaas is a Dutch celebration that was brought to New York by the town’s founders in the 1600s. Each year, local children are transformed into queens and kings and honored as “bringers of the light” in the annual parade, pageant, and other community events.
When to visit: The festival is celebrated on the first Saturday of December every year.
Santa Claus, IN
It’s no surprise that Santa Claus, IN has been dubbed America’s Christmas Hometown. Home to the Santa Claus Candy Castle, the Christmas Lake Village Festival of Lights, and a 3-week Santa Claus Christmas Celebration, there’s no shortage of holiday cheer here! It’s also home to one of the most popular government buildings in the country: The Santa Claus, IN, Post Office receives over 400,000 pieces of mail each December, from individuals wanting their letters and holiday packages marked with the town’s signature Santa Claus stamp.
When to visit: You can have mail postmarked at the post office year-round, but the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration runs the first three weekends in December.
Make your list and check it twice, because you can knock out all your holiday shopping in one place this year. Frankenmuth, MI is home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, otherwise known as the largest Christmas store in the world. When you’ve finished your shopping spree, check out the town’s year-round free light display and get your fill of cookies at a place called Christmas Town USA.
When to visit: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is open year-round, and the town has more than 50,000 strings of lights which are lit 365 days a year—which means there’s never a bad time to get in the spirit!
This quaint southern town is known as the setting of Steel Magnolias, but Natchitoches is also one of the best places to celebrate the season. Their free six-week holiday festival has been running for more than 90 years and is truly a Christmas-lovers dream. At the downtown festival, you can spot more than 300,000 Christmas lights and catch a firework show overlooking the Cane River Lake. Locals will tell you to pick up an eggnog daiquiri or chow down on one of the town’s famous meat pies. If you need to coordinate lodging for your stay, book a room at the Steel Magnolia House, which now operates as a bed and breakfast.
When to visit: While you can book a stay at the Steel Magnolia House year-round depending on availability, we recommend visiting Natchitoches during the holiday festival which will start November 23 and run through January 6.