The Best Christmas Town in Every State
From festivals and twinkling lights to snow-covered rooftops and giant Christmas trees, these towns really get into the holiday spirit. Experience the best the season has to offer with our top picks from coast to coast!
Who says it never snows in the South? This small Alabamian city with a name like a fairy-tale country transforms its main square to “Christmas in Candyland,” complete with snow-making machines each December. Attractions include snow tubing, outdoor ice-skating, play cottages, light shows, mini-train rides, an inflatable “Arctic” maze, music, hot chocolate, and of course, visits with Santa. When traveling for the holidays, this is the best day to book your Christmas flight, according to experts.
North Pole, Alaska
OK, so it might not be the actual North Pole, but this town named after Santa’s Arctic abode sure enjoys playing up its namesake. The entire city stays dressed up for Christmas all year, but the holidays are an especially magical time. North Pole’s “Christmas in Ice” festival features ice carvings, ice slides, and an ice maze. The Santa Claus House is like one big giant Christmas shop, plus a reindeer farm and a giant statue of Santa himself. Travel down streets with names like Snowman Lane, Holiday Road, and Saint Nicholas Drive; then be sure to mail your Christmas cards from the local post office to get that North Pole postmark.
Courtesy City of Prescott Arizona
“Arizona’s Christmas City” earns its nickname with tons of events to celebrate the season in this western gem of a town. The Courthouse Lighting, preceded by the annual Christmas parade, illuminates the gorgeous historic building as well as over a hundred trees in the main square. Other events include a musical showcase, a Frontier Christmas celebration with treats and hot cider at Sharlot Hall Museum, and a huge Gingerbread Village. Find out the tricks for a picture-perfect gingerbread house.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
This historic Ozark mountain village celebrates Christmas the old-fashioned way. Its charming downtown shopping district offers unique boutiques, art galleries, and craft shops for one-of-a-kind gifts. Events include the Christmas Parade of Lights, a candlelight tour of Victorian homes decked out with seasonal decorations, and holiday concerts. Dress as St. Nick for the annual “Night of 1000 Santas” scavenger hunt. The 1886 Crescent Hotel gets into the holiday spirit with Christmas at the Crescent, featuring a Christmas Tree Forest of lit-up arbors on its 15-acre grounds, Brunch with Santa, holiday ghost stories, and more.
Visiting this captivating town north of Santa Barbara at holiday time will have you thinking you’ve been transported to the Old World. Founded by settlers from Denmark, the village features architecture (including a windmill!), restaurants, and goodies that are distinctively Danish. In December, Solvang goes all-out for its Julefest, featuring downtown candlelit caroling tours, nativity pageant, wine and beer tours, live music programs, parade, and tree lighting. The festival also takes visitors on a Holiday Lights Tour through the Santa Ynez Valley to see the best-illuminated homes and on a “Nisse adventure” scavenger hunt to find these Danish gnome-like creatures throughout the downtown. Here are more Christmas traditions to steal from around the world.
With its mountain villages covered by fresh blankets of snow, Colorado has more than its share of Christmas towns, from Aspen, Breckinridge, and Telluride to Durango and Ouray. But our top pick is the ski town of Vail, with tons of events to celebrate the season. Vail Snow Days is a four-day festival of live music and even a bonfire; Vail Holidays presents two weeks of activities including a skating festival featuring Olympic and U.S. National skaters, a “holiday sweater” run, tree lighting, lantern walk, Victorian carolers, and an outdoor “ice theater” that projects movies while viewers sit on thrones of ice.
The historic seaport of Mystic isn’t just a summer destination—it’s an exciting place to spend Christmas in Connecticut. See the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, this year on November 24, which ends with Santa arriving via tugboat. The Mystic Seaport Museum offers Lantern Light Tours, which is actually a progressive play: Actors in Victorian dress and the audience move from historic location to location, guided by lanterns, and participate in dancing and a visit from St. Nick himself. The shops and restaurants of Olde Mistick Village offer the Festival of Lights, featuring thousands of luminaries and live entertainment. Mystic Aquarium also gets in on the fun with gingerbread house decorating, visits with Santa and Rudolph, and more holiday-themed events throughout December. Here are more festive events around the country to get you in the Christmas spirit.
New Castle, Delaware
This colonial village really gets into The Spirit of Christmas, a town-wide celebration that includes music events, food, and tours of private homes, churches, and museums. Visitors can also enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas party at Fezziwig’s Ball, a Victorian Tea, caroling, and costumed Dickens characters performing A Christmas Carol throughout town.
St. Augustine, Florida
You may not get snow, but you will witness the jaw-dropping sight of the Nights of Lights‘ three million white bulbs illuminating the city. Based on the Spanish practice of lighting a candle in the window for Christmas, the annual display has become a tradition of its own. See the lights from a trolley or horse-drawn carriage, or take to the water and view them by boat. Plane and helicopter rides let you see the spectacle from above. Entertainment, shopping, and other seasonal community activities round out the festivities.
Pretend you’re in the Alps instead of Appalachia in this adorable German-influenced town. As if it doesn’t look storybook enough, in December it becomes a holiday paradise with its Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas market, with unique gifts, yummy food, entertainment, and candied treats. Plus, the holiday Christmas parade has Santa arriving on a Bavarian sleigh, and the Festival of Trees showcases beautifully decorated arbors. Read about where to find the best Christmas market in every state.