There are few things that compare to the joy of the holiday season. Whether it’s decorating gingerbread houses, marathoning holiday movies, cozying up in front of the fireplace, covering every inch of your house in decorations, or surrounding yourself with loved ones, this is truly the happiest time of the year. And while celebrating the season will undoubtedly look differently this year, nothing will get you into the holiday spirit like pictures of the Best Christmas Towns in the country.
From towns that look like they were ripped right out of fairytales to a place literally called Santa Claus, Indiana, these joyful and triumphant holiday towns are just what you need to feel merry and bright. The following pictures will transport you to the North Pole (or more realistically, Europe) and make you feel like you’re starring in your very own Hallmark Christmas movie. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some towns have had to cancel or alter their events to take the proper precautions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy them in all their pictured, cheery glory.
1) North Pole, Alaska
It doesn’t get more Christmasy than visiting a town named after Santa Claus’ home. Though this North Pole isn’t the same as the mythical home of jolly ol’ Saint Nick, it is filled with Christmas spirit, live reindeer, a mayor named Santa, and candy cane street lamps.
2) Solvang, California
This town, right smack in the middle of California wine country, celebrates Christmas all December long with its Julefest. The Danish-style celebration features a number of holiday experiences, like the Christmas Market Light Show, Tree-Lighting Ceremony, Julefest parade, and candlelight tours.
3) Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches, named after a Native American tribe, has been home to one of the oldest community-based holiday celebrations in the country since 1927. It began as a one-day festival and evolved into a six-week-long celebration that begins the Sunday before Thanksgiving and ends on Jan. 6. Fireworks, a Christmas parade, the annual gala, and Santa Claus’ house are only a few of the fun things to do in this small town in northern Louisiana.
4) Santa Claus, Indiana
Santa Claus, Indiana, personally dubbed America’s Christmas Hometown, is a dream. When a local postmaster began promoting the town in the late 1920s, children’s letters to Santa began pouring in and still do to this day. Each year, countless letters are answered by volunteers, a.k.a. Santa’s Elves. Aside from the typical Christmas activities like a parade and light show, Santa Claus is also home to a holiday-themed amusement park, making it the ideal trip for the whole family.
5) New York, New York
Granted, New York City isn’t exactly a town, but Christmas in the City is one of the most beautiful times of the year. From the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony, to the light show up and down 5th Ave., to the multiple ice skating rinks throughout the city, as well as the annual holiday markets, there’s something for everyone.
6) Helen, Georgia
Once a former logging town along the Chattahoochee River, Helen has reinvented itself as a Bavarian town that turns into a beautiful Christmas wonderland during the holidays. Its German architecture and holiday market makes for the most breathtaking scenery that will transport you to a small German town in seconds. And, of course, you can’t have a Christmas town without a tree lighting ceremony, parade, and countless adorable boutiques.
7) Leavenworth, Washington
Sweet Bavarian towns make for the best Christmas spots because everything about them gives off major holiday vibes. With its gorgeous Christmas lights, reindeer farm, sleigh rides, sledding, and almost guaranteed snowfall, Leavenworth is easily one of the best Christmas towns in the country.
8) Durango, Colorado
Apart from winter sports like skiing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding, Durango, Colorado, has a long list of Christmas activities that’ll keep everyone entertained. The town’s Polar Express takes you to the North Pole where Santa himself gives every kid aboard a personal gift. Another train in the town takes you to a farm where you can cut down your own Christmas tree and bring it back into town with you.
9) Taos, New Mexico
Celebrating the Yuletide in Taos is a must-do for history buffs and Christmas-lovers alike. The small town in New Mexico holds typical tree-lighting ceremonies, concerts, and craft fairs, but come Dec. 24 it’s a whole new ballgame. Taos Pueblo, the Native American settlement outside of town, hosts a procession complete with massive bonfires, rifle salutes from the settlement’s rooftops, and luminarias (small paper lanterns).
10) Newport Beach, California
Every year, the residents of Newport Beach and its surrounding areas fittingly takes their Christmas celebrations to the water. Over 100 boats — ranging from yachts to canoes — are decorated with countless Christmas lights. They sail around Newport Harbor for five nights, and at the end of the celebration, prizes are given to the best boats on the harbor.
11) Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket is a premier destination for the summer, but it has some fun Christmas activities during its off-season, too. The town hosts its annual Christmas Stroll the first weekend of December. The Stroll’s founders began the event in an effort to encourage their fellow residents to shop local, instead of heading to Cape Cod for big stores. During the weekend, hundreds of decorates Christmas trees line downtown streets, carolers sing in costume, and Santa arrives at the wharves via Coast Guard Cutter.
12) St. Augustine, Florida
Florida’s island weather may make it seem like the least Christmasy place in the country, but that’s where St. Augustine’s Night of Lights comes in. From the ground to the rooftops, Night of Lights features millions of tiny white bulbs that light up approximately 20 city blocks in St. Augustine’s Historic District every night from mid-November until the end of January. And that’s not all. The town fills the rest of its days and nights with countless Christmas activities.
13) Lahaska, Pennsylvania
Lahaska is home to Peddler’s Village, an adorable little place that turns into a Winter Wonderland every year for the holidays. The town hosts a Gingerbread Decorating Competition, displaying more than 70 creative entries from mid-November until early January. On the weekends, folks can take part in an outdoor walking mystery called “Elf on the Stealth” where families, led by Mrs. Claus, search the village for Shelfie the Elf.
14) Alexandria, Virginia
This small, old-school town lies on the waterfront just a few minutes outside of Washington D.C. Alexandria’s Old Town is like a real-life Charles Dickens village that makes you feel like you’re in Europe. Christmas at Mount Vernon, Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run, and holiday markets are just a few ways the town celebrates Christmas, as well as its Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend and Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights.
15) Ann Arbor, Michgan
Ann Arbor may not look like a cute Bavarian town, but that doesn’t mean it can’t celebrate Christmas like one, complete with free outdoor markets and German food fairs. Not to mention, the city also has lantern parades, smore’s roasting, and live music. But perhaps, its most popular event is the annual “Sing Along with Santa,” which is exactly what it sounds like — caroling presented by the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, featuring Santa himself.
16) Vail, Colorado
Vail, Colorado, is one of the most gorgeous winter escapes. The town’s charming architecture and cobblestone streets look like they were ripped out of a fairytale and placed at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Every year, the Christmas celebrations begin with Vail Snow Days — two nights of free concerts, after-dark parties, and more. Then, spanning the second half of December, comes Vail Holidays, which consists of the town’s Christmas tree lighting, fireworks, lantern walks, and even New Years’ Eve torch-lit skiing.
17) McAdenville, North Carolina
The small town outside of Charlotte remains quiet throughout most of the year, but as the holidays near, it transforms into Christmas Town U.S.A. This year marks the town’s 64th Christmas celebration that includes over 250 lit-up Christmas trees, seasonal music playing nightly from McAden Mills Bell Tower, and 160 homes uniquely decorated by the homeowner, just to name a few.
18) Woodstock, Vermont
Not only is Woodstock a picturesque town year-round, it’s absolutely breathtaking during the holiday season. Every year, in mid-December, Woodstock holds its Wassail Weekend, complete with caroling, twinkling lights, historic decorated homes, and unique local shops filled with gifts for everyone.. You can take wagon rides throughout the town and see the next-level holiday decorations at Billings Farm.
19) Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth, a.k.a. Michigan’s Little Bavaria, is home to holiday spirit all year long, partially due to the fact that you can find the world’s largest Christmas store nestled on Christmas Lane. (Yes! That’s an actual street in the town.) Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland has 50,000 trims and gifts, 300 decorated trees, and 6,000 styles of personalized ornaments that make it Christmas every day in Frankenmuth. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city, and head back to Bronner’s at night for a half-mile holiday display lined by 100,000 twinkling lights.
20) Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish kicks off its holiday celebrations at the beginning of December with the town’s Christmas Stroll. Its residents come out to Central Ave., smack in the middle of downtown, for caroling, eating, and drinking. You’ll see fire dancers perform, hear a local music school’s students sing, and go Turkey Bowling with the Winter Carnival Royalty.
21) Boothbay, Maine
Against glistening waters and rocky shores, Boothbay makes for the coziest Winter Wonderland. Boothbay Lights is one of midcoast Maine’s signature holiday events; it covers the town’s shops, restaurants, and hotels in thousands of lights. But that’s not all. Boothbay also hosts its Gardens Aglow event, Festival of Trees, Gingerbread Spectacular, North Pole Express, and Lighted Boat Parade.
22) Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg’s numerous historical and Christmasy events make it another great place for history buffs to visit this holiday season. The Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown host Christmastide, an exhibit that recalls 17th- and 18th-century winter and holiday traditions through special programs. Consider taking a trip to Colonial Williamsburg for its Christmas traditions, like listening to Fife and Drum corps make their way down Duke of Gloucester Street. And you can always visit Busch Gardens, the Virginia-themed amusement park that turns into a Christmas town during the holidays.
23) Duluth, Minnesota
From Christmas parades through downtown to unparalleled light displays, Duluth is an ideal place to spend the holidays. The Minnesota town kicks off the celebrations with its Christmas City of the North parade the Friday before Thanksgiving. There’s the Christmas City Express, a vintage train wrapped in holiday lights that takes the passengers for a ride along the North Shore. And you can’t miss Bentleyville’s Tour of Lights, which brings lighted tunnels and pathways that lead visitors throughout all of the themed displays.
24) Park City, Utah
Park City is nothing short of a Christmas wonderland. Nestled at the foot of the mountains, the town will make anyone feel like they’re living in a fantasy world. Perhaps the most spectacularly unique Christmas event is the 23-minute sleigh ride up nearly 2,000 feet to The Viking Yurt for a Nordic fine dining adventure that lasts for 4 hours and comes with a six-course meal. And, of course, you have countless holiday markets, sleigh rides, and a torchlight parade on Christmas Eve, in which skiers and snowboarders lead Santa down the mountains and into town.
25) Bernville, Pennsylvania
Driving on the dark unlit country road, you may think you’re in the wrong place, but just over the last hill, you’ll find yourself transported to the Christmas house of your dreams. William Koziar began creating Koziar’s Christmas Village in 1948, which has since become a Christmas spectacular. Every inch of the Koziar property is lit up — from the barn to lakes, walkways, trees, fences, and buildings. Sip on a cup of hot cocoa, check out the stunning lights, and enjoy Christmas music from around the world as you marvel at the Koziar family’s creation.
26) Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville may be home to the famous Biltmore Estate, but there’s more to the North Carolina city than the Vanderbilt mansion, especially during the holidays. (Though watching Santa practice his chimney-climbing skills on the mansion’s 315-foot Chimney Rock is iconic.) Head over to The Omni Grove Park Inn for the National Gingerbread House Competition or the N.C. Arboretum’s after-dark for its Winter Lights display. You can even let the Old World Dickens in the Village Festival transport you to the author’s days and A Christmas Carol.
27) Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
You don’t need to go somewhere with snowfall or below-freezing weather to experience a Christmas town. Myrtle Beach holds countless holiday activities and shows that make for an incredibly fun (and relatively warm) trip. One of it’s more popular events is the Night of a Thousand Candles, where you can see Brookgreen Gardens come to life with the soft glow of almost 3,000 hand-lit candles and countless twinkling lights. Walk through the gardens with your winter drink of choice while listening to Christmas music and carolers singing. You can even catch a couple holiday shows while you’re in town.
28) Grapevine, Texas
Grapevine, a.k.a the Christmas Capital of Texas, hosts 1,400 events in 40 days throughout the holiday season, making it second-best only to the actual North Pole. At Christmastime, Grapevine’s vintage railroad becomes the North Pole Express, which entertains passengers with caroling elves, Santa’s Frosty Chocolate Snow Milk, an appearance by Mrs. Claus, and a stroll through the North Pole Forest, complete with a Broadway-style show. Adults can hop aboard the Christmas Wine Train for red and white wines from Texas wineries and hors d’oeuvres. You can also catch Grapevine’s lighting ceremonies, live music, fireworks, festive foods, boat parade, and even a few photo ops with live reindeer.
29) Orlando, Florida
Few places compare to Disney World during the holidays. Once Halloween passes, Disney World slowly starts to transform into a Christmas wonderland. Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas every year, which celebrates the season with countless lights, festive decor, (fake) snow, unparalleled holiday entertainment, and so much more.
30) Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Visiting Jackson Hole gives you a chance to experience what it’s actually like to ride in a “one-horse open sleigh” but with, err, two horses. The National Elk Refuge has sleigh rides through the sanctuary where you’ll get to see thousands of elk, and maybe some bison, sheep, deer, antelopes, coyotes, and wolves. You can also watch the town square come to life with thousands of sparkling lights and see Santa drop in multiple times throughout December. Bonus: If your family celebrates Hanukkah, the town also hosts menorah lightings during the holiday season.
31) Prescott, Arizona
Prescott’s holiday celebrations center around Courthouse Plaza, where thousands of lights illuminate Yavapai County Courthouse’s stunning columns and over 100 trees in the plaza. Dubbed the Christmas City of Arizona, Prescott holds holiday entertainment shows, gingerbread cookie decorating parties, and a small Christmas market called the Stocking Stuffer Bazaar, just to name a few.
32) Winters, California
The small California town sits just outside of Sacramento and holds its annual Tractor Parade in early December. Farmers decorate their tractors in holiday lights and drive them down Main Street. After the parade, the city’s board of directors and Santa join together to light the town Christmas tree and kick off the holiday season in the most traditional way.
33) Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton isn’t just a college town, its many fun Christmas activities make it a great, less common place to celebrate the holidays. Not only can you watch Scrooge: The Musical, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and The Nutcracker, but you can also take part in the country’s largest revolutionary fair and catch the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony. The little ones can attend a gingerbread house workshop or make their own wreath, and you can visit Terhune Orchards, one of New Jersey’s finest wineries. It’s fun for everyone!
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