See the Photos: 10 of the Prettiest Christmas Towns in America
While Santa Claus won’t be coming to town for a few more months, you can get an early dose of Christmas cheer by looking through photos of some of the country's most iconic Christmas towns. These locations are home to some of the nation's biggest light displays, tourist attractions, and largest holiday festivals in the country. And while normally we'd be making holiday travel plans to see these winter wonderlands, the safety precautions around the ongoing pandemic mean we likely won't be visiting any of these destinations in person this year.
Luckily, we’ve rounded up the best holiday destinations in the country including stunning photos from each of the towns. So snuggle up in your favorite cozy blanket and take a virtual holiday road trip from the comfort of your own couch. See Santa’s house, check out a display of 10 million Christmas lights, or see the real-life Georgia town where many of our favorite Hallmark movies take place. These are the ten most festive holiday towns in the country.
If you’ve ever planned a Hallmark movie marathon, you really need to see Dahlonega, Georgia. The small town is quaint and beautiful, especially during the holidays—so it’s no surprise that multiple Hallmark movies (such as 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 if you're local: While any day of winter is picturesque in Dahlonega, Santa makes special appearances every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Make your list and check it twice, because you can knock out all your holiday shopping in one place this year. Frankenmuth, Michigan, is home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, otherwise known as the largest Christmas store in the world. When you’ve finished your shopping spree (wearing a mask, of course!), 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 if you're local: 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!
Greenville, South Carolina, is home to some of the nation's most festive holiday attractions. Skate on a mini replica of Rockefeller Center, then take a walking tour through the annual Festival of Trees competition. Plus, Santa's sleigh (a converted 1993 Ford Aerostar) takes a trip down Main Street each year as children line the streets and wave. This year will look different with social distancing precautions in place, but the festival will go on as planned for the locals. Plus, you can get all your Christmas shopping done in one place (and skip the crowds at the mall!) at the Christmas Essentials Market.
When to visit if you're local: While the town is decorated for Christmas all season long, the Festival of Trees runs throughout the month of December.
This small Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains is beautiful year-round, but should definitely top your travel bucket list during a normal 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. Traditionally, out-of-town guests could check out the Leavenworth Village of Lights to see a breathtaking display of 500,000 twinkling lights, or see the annual Christkindlmarkt celebration, a classic German street market where can learn all about gluhwein, traditional German food, and handmade gifts. The events have been canceled for 2020 to encourage social distancing and proper safety protocols.
When to visit if you're local: The Village of Lights and Christkindlmarkt events are canceled this year, but the town will be decorated for Christmas all season long, so plan a family walk or drive through the area to see the best lights.
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 if you're local: The Natchitoches holiday festival dates have not yet been announced for 2020. Organizers are monitoring the spread of the pandemic and will update the website with details as they become available.
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 if you're local: All of the town’s attractions are open year-round, so there’s never a bad time to see the sights. However, Santa makes special appearances throughout the year, so check the schedule before planning your outing.
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 if you're local: The festival is celebrated on the first Saturday of December every year.
Santa Claus, IN
It’s no surprise that Santa Claus, Indiana, 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, Indiana, 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 if you're local: You can have mail postmarked at the post office year-round, but the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration runs the first three weekends in December.
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 requires a cost admission, but the rest of the town's iconic decorations are free to see.
When to visit if you're local: This year’s Busch Gardens event begins November 14 and runs select nights through January 4.
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 if you're local: The Wassail Weekend is scheduled for December 11-13 this year. The event is outdoors, but participants are encouraged to practice social distancing and wear face masks.