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October 24, 2023

Santa’s Festive 15: Best Christmas Towns In America

The Best of the Best of Christmas From Sea to Shining Sea

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Houses in alpine village of Leavenworth, WA decorated in December with Christmas lights.

iStockPhoto / Tashka

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in these 15 American destinations that truly embrace the holiday spirit. These towns go all out to create a festive and magical experience for hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents each year. From quaint Bavarian enclaves, to seaside cities, iconic metropolitan areas, and even the desert, here are just a few of the places in the U.S. that are Santa-certified and well-worth the trip this holiday season.

McAdenville, NC 

Christmas lights at the Town Hall in McAdenville, NC (also known as Christmas Town USA)
Christmas lights at the Town Hall in McAdenville, NC (also known as Christmas Town USA)
TownOfMcAdenville.org

Known as Christmas Town USA, McAdenville, NC is a small town just west of Charlotte that goes all out for Christmas. The entire community transforms into a red, green, and white winter wonderland overnight. Kicking off with a tree-lighting ceremony on December 1st, the entire month brings a legendary Christmas lights show, a yule log parade, and plenty of shopping, attracting over 600,000 visitors each year. Residents even change their address to a Christmas-themed name for the month of December!

Nevada City, CA 

Two couples in Victorian dress posing next to the “Welcome to Victorian Christmas” sign in Nevada City, CA
Two couples in Victorian dress posing next to the “Welcome to Victorian Christmas” sign in Nevada City, CA
Nevada City Chamber of Commerce

Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Nevada City comes alive during the annual Victorian Christmas Festival. The quaint downtown streets transform into a holiday wonderland, complete with period-appropriate decor, roving carolers and the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air. Families and friends stroll the sidewalks, indulge in tasty treats from local vendors, and enjoy festive activities like ice skating, carriage rides, and a living nativity scene. From the twinkling lights to the festive atmosphere, there's nothing quite like the Victorian Christmas Festival to usher in the holiday spirit. 

Natchitoches, LA

Holiday lights and fireworks during the Christmas festival in Natchitoches, LA.
Holiday lights and fireworks during the Christmas festival in Natchitoches, LA.
Natchitoches Historic District

The Natchitoches, LA Christmas festival is a truly enchanting experience. Known as the "City of Lights," Natchitoches comes to life with a dazzling Christmas light show and festive decorations throughout the holiday season. The Christmas festivities run for six weeks, beginning the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and ending on January 6th with the Epiphany. 

Visitors enjoy the "Christmas Festival of Lights," which includes a stunning lighted boat parade, marching bands, dance groups, and fireworks over the Cane River Lake. Visitors can also take a carriage ride through the historic district. The town square is transformed into a winter wonderland, with vendors selling delicious treats like hot cocoa and roasted chestnuts. The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Natchitoches, making it the perfect place to celebrate the holiday season. 

North Pole, NY

Snow-covered building covered in Christmas lights at Santa's Workshop in North Pole, NY
Snow-covered building covered in Christmas lights at Santa's Workshop in North Pole, NY
North Pole, NY

Every year (for 74 years), North Pole, NY, has come alive with Christmas festivities that fill the air with excitement and joy. Located in the Adirondacks of New York, this year-round theme park is a treat for the whole family and is the oldest continuously running theme park in the country. 

Visitors can explore Santa's Workshop, where elves are hard at work creating toys and spreading cheer. The town also hosts a variety of events throughout the season, such as the Village of Lights, roaring fire pits, ice-skating, cookie decorating, a trim the tree party and Christmas carol singing. You can even have dinner with Santa! It's a magical time in North Pole, NY, and the perfect place to celebrate the spirit of the season.

Frankenmuth, MI

Snow-covered Bavarian street lit with Christmas lights in Frankenmuth, MI.
Snow-covered Bavarian street lit with Christmas lights in Frankenmuth, MI.
Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce

Wilkommen to Michigan’s Little Bavaria! This Bavarian city in mid-Michigan is known as a town that celebrates Christmas all year long. But during the Christmas holidays, it’s teeming with events! From a driving lights tour, to a singing Christmas tree, shiny ice rink, and garland-adorned Bavarian architecture, the activities are endless in this quaint and friendly town! There are plenty of holiday-themed shops and activities, and visitors can even shop at the world's largest Christmas store, Bronner’s! It’s a must visit destination for family fun!

New York, NY

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree with lights at night with the New York City buildings behind.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree with lights at night with the New York City buildings behind.
RockefellerCenter.com

Start spreading the news: New York City is perhaps one of the most iconic Christmas destinations in the world. Showcased in TV shows and films for decades, there's something truly magical about spending Christmas in the Big Apple. From the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to the picturesque window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York City is decked out in festive splendor. 

Ice-skating in Central Park, taking in a Broadway show, or catching the Radio City Christmas Spectacular are just a few of the many seasonal activities available. And of course, who can resist the delicious holiday treats, from hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 to chestnuts roasting on street corners. With all its Christmas charm and endless activities, New York City is truly a must-visit destination during the holiday season. And be sure to stay for the legendary Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve!

Santa Claus, IN

Santa Claus Christmas Store in Santa Claus, IN.
Santa Claus Christmas Store in Santa Claus, IN.
Spencer County Visitors Bureau

Santa Claus, Indiana lives up to its name by hosting a month-long celebration of the man himself! Experience a candlelight event at the farm, cookie decorating, Christmas dinner with Santa, the Festival of Lights and the Santa Claus Christmas Parade! And for the adults who want something fancy to do, there’s the Beloved Farms Bourbon Ball. And it’s not Christmas without writing a letter to Santa at the Santa Claus Museum & Village in the town’s original post office! Santa’s elves will be on hand to help the little ones write the perfect letter!

Leavenworth, WA

A snow-covered street featuring Leavenworth, Washington’s Christmastown Village of Lights at night with buildings covered in Christmas Lights and Bavarian-styled buildings covered in Christmas decorations
A snow-covered street featuring Leavenworth, Washington’s Christmastown Village of Lights at night with buildings covered in Christmas Lights and Bavarian-styled buildings covered in Christmas decorations
Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce

The magical Christmastown Village of Lights in Leavenworth, Washington will have you saying, “Wow!” Truly a feast for the eyes, this  Bavarian-style winter wonderland is an undeniably festive place during the holiday season. From live entertainment featuring choirs, carolers and bands to photos with Santa, crafts for kids, and free gift wrapping stations, there is so much to explore in this central Washington town nestled in the Cascade mountains. And while you’re there, don’t miss the Santa costumes from around the world on display at the Festhalle!

Newport Beach, CA

A multi-level boat on the water in the Newport Beach Harbor covered in Christmas lights and decorations
A multi-level boat on the water in the Newport Beach Harbor covered in Christmas lights and decorations
Christmas Boat Parade

Newport Beach, California is the perfect Christmas destination due to its picturesque beaches and temperate weather that are ideal for winter getaways. With a range of holiday events and festivities that are hosted annually, Newport Beach offers endless fun and entertainment for visitors of all ages. 

You can catch the holiday spirit with the Christmas Boat Parade, where a parade of boats are dressed in their finest holiday decor and put on a breathtaking show along the Newport Harbor. Visitors can also explore Fashion Island's outdoor shopping plaza for all of their Christmas shopping needs. Take a stroll on Balboa Island to witness charming decorated homes and Christmas light displays. And let's not forget, the golden California sunsets along the beaches, where you can end your day with hot cocoa and s'mores around a cozy bonfire. Newport Beach offers the perfect mix of sun, sea, and holiday festivities that will make your Christmas a memorable one.

Park City, UT

Park City, UT at night, nestled between snow-covered mountains and lit with Christmas lights.
Park City, UT at night, nestled between snow-covered mountains and lit with Christmas lights.
Park City Chamber of Commerce

If you're looking for the perfect destination to celebrate the festive season, Park City, Utah, is definitely the place to go. From skiing on the snow-covered slopes to indulging in a variety of winter activities, Park City has it all. You can spend your days shopping on historic Main Street, enjoying a horse-drawn carriage ride, or admiring the stunning Christmas light displays. 

The holiday cheer can be felt all around town, and the events, including tree lightings, holiday markets, the Electric Parade, and the North Pole Express, make it all the more magical. Not to mention, Park City boasts a variety of high-end resorts and accommodations to help you get cozy during your stay. 

Portsmouth, NH

Float decorated with Santa’s sleigh and reindeer as part of Christmas lights parade in Portsmouth, NH.
Float decorated with Santa’s sleigh and reindeer as part of Christmas lights parade in Portsmouth, NH.
Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth Facebook page

Celebrating over 400 years of holiday traditions, Portsmouth, New Hampshire is definitely a magical and historical holiday destination. In what could easily be one of the cutest towns in the entire country, a Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth is one that won’t be forgotten. This charming coastal town, located on the banks of the Piscataqua River, comes alive during the festive season, with the iconic Strawbery Banke Museum beautifully decorated and lit up with festive lights. 

From horse-drawn carriage rides through the cobblestone streets to holiday shopping and an annual Gingerbread House contest, Portsmouth is the perfect Christmas destination for all. Visitors can warm themselves up with hot cocoa and eggnog while listening to carolers or ice skating at Puddle Dock Pond, adding to the winter magic.

Taos, NM

Beautiful holiday decorations at Taos, New Mexico Plaza with the famous La Fonda Hotel.
Beautiful holiday decorations at Taos, New Mexico Plaza with the famous La Fonda Hotel.
iStockPhoto / Jeff Black

There's no place like Taos, New Mexico to celebrate the holiday season! With its breathtaking scenery and vibrant culture, Yuletide in Taos offers a truly unique Christmas experience. You'll feel transported back in time as you stroll through the town's candle-lit farolitos that line the streets in front of the charming adobe shops and homes, decked out with twinkling lights and festive decorations. 

Take in a live performance of the famous Taos Pueblo Deer Dance, where local Native American performers share their rich cultural traditions with the community. And don't forget to hit the slopes for some world-class skiing, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and stunning vistas. Whether you're looking for outdoor adventure or cozy indoor activities and special Christmas events, Taos has it all – making it the perfect destination for an unforgettable Christmas getaway.

Solvang, CA

 Danish-style high street in Solvang, CA, lit with Christmas lights during Julefest.
 Danish-style high street in Solvang, CA, lit with Christmas lights during Julefest.
NBC Los Angeles

Time Magazine once called Solvang, CA one of the most “Christmassy towns in America.” And for good reason. A town so quaint it exudes Christmas cheer, this charming Danish-style town offers visitors a holiday atmosphere that's second to none. At the annual Solvang Julefest celebration, you'll have the opportunity to witness traditional Danish ceremonies, caroling, the Solvang Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, the Julefest Parade and horse-drawn carriage rides through the town's picturesque streets. A holiday trip to Solvang, California is guaranteed to be a magical and unforgettable experience.

Stockbridge, MA

Vintage cars parked on a snowy street in Stockbridge, MA, as they prepare to create the famous Norman Rockwell painting.
Vintage cars parked on a snowy street in Stockbridge, MA, as they prepare to create the famous Norman Rockwell painting.
Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce

Made famous by Norman Rockwell's "Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas," Stockbridge, Massachusetts is an enchanting and unforgettable Christmas destination. With its charming town center decorated in the most delightful holiday adornments and picturesque covered bridges, visitors are guaranteed an unforgettable holiday experience. Tourists will enjoy live performances, historic property tours, holiday markets, Winter lights, unique shops, restaurants and a Santa show. 

The highlight of the festivities caps the weekend off with the town reenacting the spirit of Norman Rockwell’s famous holiday scene, complete with vintage automobiles parked in the spots occupied in the painting. Stockbridge's Christmas atmosphere is the epitome of the holidays and a visit here guarantees a cozy and magical holiday experience that families will cherish forever.

Durango, CO

Twin girls and their mom watch a chef balance a stack of hot chocolate cups inside the Polar Express Train in Durango, CO.
Twin girls and their mom watch a chef balance a stack of hot chocolate cups inside the Polar Express Train in Durango, CO.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Want to take a ride on the Polar Express? Then head on over to Durango, Colorado, where your whole family can board a train ride inspired by the beloved children's book, with plenty of hot cocoa, cookies, and Santa sightings. 

Durango is a perfect Christmas destination, offering visitors a winter wonderland with unparalleled charm. As you wander through the quaint town, decorated with twinkling lights and evergreen wreaths, you'll feel transported to a simpler time. Whether you take a scenic train ride through the snow-dusted mountains or hit the slopes for a day of skiing or snowboarding, there's no shortage of festive activities to enjoy. The small shops and local eateries offer a unique shopping and dining experience, and the friendly locals welcome you with open arms. 

Don't miss the opportunity to see Durango transformed into a Christmas village, full of holiday spirit and good cheer. It's the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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