The 16 Best Destinations to Visit for a Warm Christmas
Put away the snow boots! These festive spots offer Christmas cheer without the freezing temperatures.
NOLA heats up the season for a Cajun Christmas that’s not too hot, not too cold. Throughout December, check out free Christmas New Orleans Style concerts in the historic St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square; then join the carolers in the square for a massive singalong the Sunday before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, a centuries-old tradition of bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River light the way for Papa Noel, as Santa is known locally. Check out more warm weather destinations for a sunny Christmas.
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It’s summer in the southern hemisphere, so for Australians, Christmas means balmy weather and beach days. You’ll probably catch locals surfing in Santa hats, playing backyard cricket, and heading out for Christmas Eve “prawn runs.” Sydney gets especially decked for the holidays, with illuminated decorations throughout downtown, musical events, and even Christmas “lunch” (the main holiday meal) at STUDIO Sydney Tower with a view of the harbor. And like the English, Aussies celebrate Boxing Day, December 26, with more opportunities for street parties and barbecues.
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Where else can you surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon? With its mild climate and mountains not far away, L.A. is the best of both worlds. Skate in an outdoor rink on a sunny day, enjoy holiday events at Disneyland and Universal Studios, witness the splendor of the nightly Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, and see Las Posadas, a traditional presentation of the journey of Mary and Joseph on the nine nights leading up to Christmas. Then, stick around for the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. Find out the best Christmas town in every state in the United States.
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The historic town of Old San Juan looks even more magical dressed up for Christmas with lights, decorations, and nativity scenes. Puerto Ricans go all-out for their long holiday season, with celebrations from right after Thanksgiving all the way to Three Kings Day on January 6, and even extending to San Sebastian Street Festival (“SanSe”) in mid-January. Experience parades, traditional food, and a lively version of caroling called “parrandas.” Here are more Christmas traditions to steal from around the world.
With highs near 80 degrees in December, this gorgeous town on the Sunshine State’s Paradise Coast offers a respite from winter weather—plus, fun holiday attractions. The shopping and dining destination Venetian Village presents its Holiday on the Bay celebration on weekends including Christmas Eve, with Santa, carolers in Dickens costumes, musical and dance performances, and even a snow show. The shopping district of Third Street South also offers weekly seasonal entertainment with its Third Street Thursdays. And don’t miss holiday lights on the tropical plants of the Naples Botanical Gardens. For more Florida Christmastime travel, read about how to spend the holidays in Disney World—while beating the crowds.
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December is actually one of the best months of the year to visit Hong Kong, with comfortable temperatures, low humidity, and not much rain. Plus, as a former British colony, the vibrant city really gets into the Christmas spirit. See the normally sparkling skyline look even more brilliant with the nightly Symphony of Lights multimedia show over Victoria Harbor, part of the city’s annual holiday festival. And although Christmas is a national holiday, shops and restaurants are frequently open. Read about the best ways to survive holiday travel.
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A desert oasis awaits visitors to Tucson in December, without the scorching heat of the summer months and hardly any rain. Plus, the city goes all out with its Winterhaven Festival of Lights, a 69-year-old tradition of light displays in the Winterhaven neighborhood. Also, check out the illuminations at Reid Park Zoo, and the huge Christmas tree, Mexican hot chocolate, “snow,” and entertainment at La Encantada’s Enchanted Snowfall. Here are more of the old-fashioned Christmas towns you should visit.
Like much of Latin America, this historic walled city is big into Christmas. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Cartagena‘s colonial buildings and cobbled streets look particularly magical lit up for the holidays. Visitors will find a festive atmosphere on Christmas Eve, with people out celebrating, eating at restaurants, and attending midnight mass in awe-inspiring churches. But be warned: It will be hot in the city, so be sure to spend time at the beach and in the Caribbean Sea as well—Cartagena is a spectacular diving destination.
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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
It’s not exactly beach weather in this resort town, but it’s still a warm place to get away from frigid temperatures—as well see all of the area’s attractions along the Grand Strand lit up for the holidays. Attend fantastic holiday shows like The Carolina Opry Christmas Special, called “The Christmas Show of the South.” The stunning Brookgreen Gardens has Nights of a Thousand Candles, featuring 4,500 hand-lit candles plus twinkling lights set among the flowers and sculptures. Stroll along Holidays on the Boardwalk for more festive lights and live music. Find out more hotels that offer unbeatable holiday discounts.
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Cape Town, South Africa
From the mountains to the beach, this diverse city offers an exciting holiday experience. Check out the lights on historic Adderley Street, then visit one of the many Christmas markets. Have a delectable Christmas lunch at a picturesque wine estate outside the city. And even though it’s summer in South Africa, you can even visit a penguin colony. What’s more Christmas-y than that?
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Celebrate Christmas the Caribbean way with traditional music and food. Get to the “Spice Island” in time for the Carriacou Parang Festival the weekend before Christmas to see a battle of the bands that includes local music incorporated with carols. Sample black cake, a dark concoction that’s like fruit cake but with a whole lot of rum. Then, of course, take a swim in Grenada’s warm, turquoise waters on Christmas Day to complete the island experience. Every holiday traveler should memorize these holiday travel tips.
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This mountainous paradise off the Atlantic coast of Africa stays warm year-round, perfect for hikers exploring the rugged terrain, or divers and boaters venturing off the coast. But the island’s main city of Funchal also knows how to get decked out for Christmas, with illumination displays along the streets and holiday events throughout the month. December 23 is Market Night, perfect for last-minute Christmas shopping, topped off with a festive music celebration. Toast the season with the island’s namesake wine.
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The Hawaiian way to celebrate the holiday has its own unique twist on Maui, like the famous banyan tree in Lahaina that gets wrapped in Christmas lights. Santa appears at various places on the island by outrigger canoe on Christmas Eve. Then, celebrate with a Hawaiian Christmas Day luau on the beach. During your trip, book a whale watching excursion, as the humpback whales begin their annual migration in December. Remember to greet those you meet with Mele Kalikimaka, the Hawaiian translation of “Merry Christmas.” Find out the best and worst airports for holiday travel.
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Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Have a white Christmas—white sand Christmas, that is—along the gorgeous beaches of the Riviera Maya in Mexican’s Yucatan Peninsula. In Mexico, Christmas Eve, “Noche Buena,” tends to be a bigger deal than Christmas Day, so get ready for a huge feast and festivities into the early hours. Plus, Mexicans extend the holiday season with celebrations all the way to Three King’s Day on January 6. Although it’s prime tourist season, the more the merrier!
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South Padre Island, Texas
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Temperatures are generally comfortable on SPI in December, making this Lone Star State retreat just right for a quiet holiday getaway. New this year, check out the Holiday Sand Castle Village full of seasonal sand sculptures through mid-December. Because most visitors to the island rent a condo, you can arrive in time to decorate and cook your own Christmas dinner, then take a post-meal stroll on the miles of gorgeous beach. Find out more best-ever off-season travel destinations.
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St. Kitts, and its dual-island nation partner Nevis, are unusual for celebrating their Carnival in December instead of the more traditional February. Combining with the Christmas season, “Sugar Mas,” as the festival is known, creates an energetic and colorful atmosphere of parades, costumes, and street performances. On the day after Christmas, J’ouvert (pronounced “Joo-vay”) continues the fun with a big street party. In addition to its beautiful beaches, St. Kitts’s rollicking holiday celebrations makes it the perfect Caribbean Christmas destination. Check out more sunny islands you can book for Christmas.
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