Our last post highlighted the best places in Europe to spend Christmas, so this time we’re keeping in stateside and sharing our picks for the 10 best cities for Christmas in the United States. From snowy cities to cities that have never seen snow, the US has a great variety of unique destinations to spend the holidays. Whether you’re in shorts and surrounded by palm trees or bundled up to brave the negative temperatures, all of these cities know how to do Christmas right.
10 best cities to spend Christmas in the US
New York City, NY
With ice skating at Rockefeller Center, enormous Christmas trees, and a variety of Christmas markets and specialty show, there’s something perfect about the holidays in the Big Apple. Be sure to get tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or go classic with a showing of the Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet. There’s a reason TV shows and movies love using New York City as a backdrop for the holiday – it’s where all your dreams come true! Rumor has it that the real Santa may not be on 34th Street, but actually on 5th Ave at the Plaza Hotel!
Cape May, NJ
Escape the giant crowds and have a more intimate Christmas at the magical seaside community of Cape May. The town goes all out for the holiday and with such a dedication to their Victorian roots, you’re sure to find plenty of Christmas traditions and Victorian-themed events to enjoy. Listen to the carolers, pop into the well-preserved homes and B&Bs, enjoy fantastic food festivals, and hear ghostly tales and learn how Christmas celebrations and traditions have evolved over the years.
Spend the holiday in the nation’s capital and enjoy the festive events, hip bars serving up wam drinks, and just enjoy the delightful ambiance that the holiday season brings to DC. View the National Christmas Tree, the US Capitol Christmas Tree, and then head into Georgetown for a glittering display of lights and holiday decor. Shop the holiday market for fun gifts or goodies while in town and if you can, catch a showing of the Nutcracker with the Washington Ballet.
Head off to the North Pole (AKA Fairbanks) and enjoy the ultimate white Christmas in Alaska! You might even time your trip perfectly to catch the Aurora Borealis – a gift from Mother Nature in itself! Fairbanks and other cities in Alaska use their cold weather to their advantage by hosting ice sculpting contests or exhibits, and make it a bit festive with Christmas markets and festivals. While Santa travels with his reindeer, you should definitely book a dog sledding experience when there.
So, you may not have a white Christmas here – unless you count the white sand – but Orlando is definitely a top pick for Christmas. The theme parks go all out in terms of decorating and celebrating the holiday season and what better place to spend the most wonderful time of the year than at the Most Magical Place on Earth? Like Kevin McCallister’s mom said, decorate a palm tree if you need something extra festive, but with all the lights, parades, and decor already in the city, you probably won’t need it.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco may not get the snow, but they definitely get the chill in the air that’s right for the season and they definitely know how to welcome Christmas with stunning light displays and fun holiday-themed events. Go ice skating at Union Square, see the holiday lights, check out the fun at Fisherman’s Wharf, and watch a performance of the Nutcracker with the San Francisco Ballet. There are so many things to do in San Francisco year-round and Christmas is no exception.
Yup, I’m putting our own city on the map! Denver is fantastic for the holidays as we have a Christmas market, ice skating rink on the 16th Street Mall, and festive light displays at the Denver Botanic Gardens and fun events at the Denver Zoo! Check out Union Station all lit up for the holidays, with a great big tree outside and inside, get a cool cocktail at the Terminal Bar, and simply soak up the festive atmosphere. Plus, our great location makes it easy to get out of the city and up to the mountains for some world-class skiing. Also, Colorado is home to NORAD, Santa’s tracking system.
Most think of Branson as the ideal place in the Midwest for family fun in the summer, but the resort town definitely doesn’t hold back when it comes to Christmas. The celebration, Ozark Mountain Christmas, draws big crowds to check out the festive decor and amazing live shows. You can hop on the Polar Express and enjoy a fun train ride or stroll through the twinkling light display at Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas.
See the holiday light up the night on the Magnificent Mile, get some unique souvenirs or yummy treats at the Christkindlmarket, and then go ice skating at Millenium Park when you spend the holiday in the Windy City. Pack some thick Christmas sweaters at the city’s nickname definitely rings true in the winter, but I just like to use it as an excuse to get another hot chocolate with Baileys! Go view the Christmas tree in Daley Plaza, or learn about international celebrations at the Museum of Science and Industry with the Annual Christmas Around the World Exhibit.
Christmas Town USA, NC
The other 11 months of the year this town is called McAdenville, but come December the lights go up, the trees decorated, and the town becomes Christmas Town USA. Grab a hot cup of cocoa and wander the streets where you can see more than 450,000 lights and more than one Christmas tree for every day of the year – the town is known to have about 375 of them. It doesn’t get anymore Christmas crazy than this town just outside of Charlotte.
What’s your favorite city in the US for Christmas? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook!