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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!

alabama christmasvia christmasincandyland.com

Andalusia, Alabama

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.

Christmas-lightsvia northpolealaska.com

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.

Christmas Carols on Prescott Courthouse PlazaCourtesy City of Prescott Arizona

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 arkansasvia eurekasprings.org

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.

solvang california christmasvia solvangusa.com

Solvang, California

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.

Landscape view of the streets in Vail, Colorado with the ski resort in the background during winter. Rosemary Woller/Shutterstock

Vail, Colorado

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.

mystic connecticut christmasvia mysticchamber.org

Mystic, Connecticut

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 30, 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 delawareTrudy Wilkerson/Shutterstock

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.

augustine florida christmasvia visitaugustine.com

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.

helen georgiaNicholas Lamontanaro/Shutterstock

Helen, Georgia

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.

honolulu hawaii christmasTheodore Trimmer/Shutterstock

Honolulu, Hawaii

Say “Mele Kalikimaka” (“Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian) to Santa when he arrives by outrigger canoe on Waikiki beach. Christmas in the Hawaiian capital is warm and wonderful—if non-traditional. Honor the heroes of Pearl Harbor while celebrating Hawaiian culture during the Waikiki Holiday Parade. Also not to be missed is Honolulu City Lights, illuminations and displays outside Honolulu Hale (City Hall) that include the 21-foot Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele (Mrs. Claus) statues, who dip their giant toes in the fountain. It kicks off with a tree lighting, block party, and electric light parade.

sun valley idahovia sunvalley.com

Sun Valley, Idaho

Enter the Winter Wonderland of ski resort Sun Valley with a snow and ice festival to melt even the most Scrooge-like heart. From Christmas concerts and holiday sweater parties to high tea and brunch with Santa for kids, the entire month of December is alive with seasonal activity. But the can’t-miss event is the Christmas Eve celebration, featuring a Skating in Winter Wonderland Ice Show, fireworks, and the Torchlight Parade, in which skiers holding torches glide down Dollar Mountain, creating a blaze of light.

galenavia visitgalena.org

Galena, Illinois

With its many 19th century buildings, bed and breakfasts, and antique shops, Galena is a cozy spot for an old-fashioned Christmas. Set among the snow-covered farmland of northern Illinois, the town’s charming Main Street gets all decked out for the season. The festivities begin with “Holiday Fire in the Sky,” a fireworks display over the Galena River, complete with hot cocoa and carolers. See 5,000 candles along streets, stairs, and sidewalks during the “Night of the Luminarios and Living Windows,” in which storefronts compete for the most Christmas-y displays. Music and entertainment events include The Generals Christmas Ball, featuring costumed performers portraying the nine Civil War generals from Galena, including Ulysses S. Grant.

santa claus indianavia santaclausind.org

Santa Claus, Indiana

Each December, the post office of this St. Nick-themed town receives 400,000 pieces of mail (compared to the normal 13,000 monthly) to be canceled with a special holiday picture postmark. Although some people drive hundreds of miles to get the postmark, you can actually mail a package of your holiday cards (with postage on them) from anywhere in the country to be canceled at the Santa Claus post office. But Christmas cards aren’t the only thing “America’s Christmas Hometown” is famous for: live reindeer, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, light displays, Santa statues around town, and of course the man himself are all part of the celebrations throughout the season. And no visit to Santa Claus would be complete without stops at Santa’s Candy Castle and the Santa Claus Museum and Village. Read sweet vintage letters to Santa from almost 100 years ago.

Valley JunctionDarren Brown/Courtesy Valley Junction

Valley Junction, Iowa

One of the best of Iowa’s many small-town Christmases happens in Valley Junction. For three Thursday evenings during the season, the historic railroad town in the West Des Moines area celebrates with Jingle in the Junction. The streets are lined with over 150,000 twinkling lights, and visitors can enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, Santa, and caroling. Shop for gifts in the 150 unique stores, antique shops, and other businesses downtown. Check out the most popular Christmas gift in every state.

lindsborgvia visitlindsborg.com

Lindsborg, Kansas

Known as “Little Sweden,” this town incorporates its Swedish heritage into the Christmas season. The St. Lucia Festival honors the legend of Lucia, who came to Scandinavia bearing light and food during a famine. Wearing white gowns with red sashes and crowns of lingonberry, young women parade with stjärngosse (star boys) to symbolize life during the dark winter solstice. Traditional Swedish services of Julotta (Christmas morning) and Annandag Jule (the day after Christmas), plus a Juletide concert, are also part of the unique festivities. Here’s why every book lover should steal Iceland’s Christmas tradition.

bardstownvia visitbardstown.com

Bardstown, Kentucky

Nicknamed “the most beautiful small town in America,” this old stagecoach stop gets into the holiday spirit with Southern style and hospitality. Light Up Bardstown starts the season with the illumination of Main Street and the town Christmas tree, along with music, refreshments, and “Christmas Corner,” which has balloons and face painting for kids. Throughout December, visit My Old Kentucky Home, an 1818 mansion said to have inspired the classic song, to see it decked for the holidays. Costumed performers sing the song as you view decorated rooms from colonial times to the Victorian era to the 1920s; they also act out “An Old Kentucky Christmas Carol,” based on Dickens’ classic tale. In addition, the mansion is part of Bardstown’s candlelit Christmas Tour of Homes. Seasonal events at the area’s bourbon distilleries add grownup celebration to Bardstown’s many holiday happenings.

Natchitochesvia NatchitochesChristmas.com

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Perhaps best known as the inspiration and filming location for Steel Magnolias, Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish) really gets into the Creole Christmas spirit. Although the holiday festival in the movie was actually filmed in August, the event is real, complete with fireworks, a Festival of Lights parade, and even Miss Merry Christmas, just like in the film. Now in its 92nd year, the month-long celebration features 300,000 lights and 100 set pieces, along with music, carriage rides, a holiday living history tour, and kids’ fest.

MaineArthur Villator/Shutterstock

Ogunquit, Maine

This quiet fishing village gets lively at holiday time with its annual Christmas by the Sea festival. In addition to dressing up the boutiques of downtown, the residents take to the beach to celebrate with a polar bear plunge, bonfire, caroling, and fireworks at Perkins Cove. In true Maine style, be sure to sample chowder at the Taste the Season event; wagon rides, tree lighting, musical performances, and a pajama party are also part of the fun.

AnnapolisSusan Walsh/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Annapolis, Maryland

The historic seaport looks picture-perfect at holiday time. See the lighting of trees—both at the City Dock and at the State House. Drive through Lights on the Bay in Sandy Point State Park to view illuminated displays along the Chesapeake Bay. Downtown shops will stay open for Midnight Madness so you can get your gift-giving on, and the Chocolate Binge Festival offers delectable treats along with music and entertainment. Hear the traditional gathering of the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra for the singing of Handel’s Messiah. Finally, the Eastport Yacht Club Light Parade features dozens of lit-up vessels sailing through the harbor.

stockbridgevia stockbridgechamber.com

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Step into a Norman Rockwell painting—literally—as this New England town recreates his famous 1967 artwork, “Main Street at Christmas.” The buildings are just as they were when Rockwell lived in the village, and classic automobiles are now brought in to make the holiday scene really come to life. Stroll through the town, enjoying seasonal activities like caroling, house tours, and readings of holiday stories. To see more of the artist’s work, visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in town.

frankenmuthvia frankenmuth.org

Frankenmuth, Michigan

True, this town is home to the world’s largest Christmas-themed store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. But that’s not the only reason Frankenmuth makes it onto our list. Settled by German immigrants, “Little Bavaria” looks like you’ve stepped right into a fairy tale—and is magical at holiday time. After kicking off with a Tannenbaum lighting and candle walk, experience a traditional German holiday with its Christkindlmarkt, Bavarian food, and German Christmas Songfest.

stillwatervia discoverstillwater.com

Stillwater, Minnesota

With some areas of Minnesota having a near 100-percent chance of a white Christmas, it’s hard to narrow down the best holiday-worthy town in the state. But Stillwater, the state’s historic birthplace near Minneapolis, has been called one of America’s most picturesque towns, and it’s especially enchanting at holiday time. This river village’s Hometown Holidays event runs throughout the season, with its many boutiques, restaurants, and other establishments luring visitors with wagonette rides and Victorian carolers. Then, come back after the New Year for January’s amazing Ice Castles event.

cantonvia cantontourism.com

Canton, Mississippi

Mississippi’s “City of Lights” comes alive during the holidays, when more than 200,000 twinkling lights illuminate the town’s historic Courthouse Square. The season’s events are especially magical for kids, with tons of activities aimed toward young ones including a new interactive Christmas Village. Children can roast marshmallows, make reindeer food for Christmas Eve, and even become “certified elves.” Character parades featuring princesses and superheroes run throughout the month, plus youngsters can enjoy horse and buggy rides, animated holiday displays, a carousel, and storytime with Mrs. Claus.

branson missourivia explorebranson.com

Branson, Missouri

Judy Garland might have sung “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the classic holiday flick Meet Me in St. Louis, but that city doesn’t claim top holiday honors for Missouri. Branson, “America’s Christmas Tree City,” celebrates all season long with light displays, live music shows, parades, and Branson Scenic Expressway’s Polar Express Train Ride through the Ozark Mountains, departing from the town’s 1906 train depot. Plus, the 1880s-themed park Silver Dollar City gets the holiday treatment for An Old Time Christmas festival. By the way, here’s the surprising history behind your favorite Christmas carols.

big forkvia bigfork.org

Bigfork, Montana

The mountains of Montana look even more magical at Christmastime. Thanks to the elves of Bigfork, “Montana’s Christmas Village” gets a holiday makeover featuring evergreen garlands strewn over the businesses of downtown. Come for winter activities like downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, and ice fishing, and stay for a holiday wine stroll and performances of The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, and other seasonal shows at Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.

minden nebraskavia mindenne.org

Minden, Nebraska

The traditions of “Nebraska’s Christmas City” began over a hundred years ago, when lights were strung to honor the arrival of the Civil War veterans’ organization Grand Army of the Republic. Today, city workers scale the courthouse dome using mountain climbing gear to hang the copper wires, many of which are over 50 years old. The unique celebration continues with The Light of the World Christmas pageant, written by town residents in 1946. Find out the history of favorite Christmas traditions.

virginia city nevadavia visitvirginiacitynv.com

Virginia City, Nevada

This Old West mining town encourages visitors to return to frontier times with its month-long Christmas on the Comstock Victorian-inspired celebration. Stroll through the decorated historic downtown, watch the holiday parade, and take the young ones for a visit with Father Christmas. Adults can enjoy the “Grinch Made Me Do It” saloon crawl. Seasonal entertainment at Piper’s Opera House includes the Comstock Cowboys’ Christmas in the Sierra and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

vintage christmas new hampshirevia vintagechristmasnh.org

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Complete with snowy scenes and covered bridges, New Hampshire’s villages offers the quintessential New England Christmas. But the best of the state’s holiday best may be the town of Portsmouth and its living history museum, Strawbery Banke. The town proper’s Vintage Christmas offers a gingerbread house decorating contest, holiday lights parade, musical shows, and beautifully decked out Market Square; while the waterfront museum features a Candlelight Stroll, outdoor ice-skating, decorated historic homes, and costumed holiday tavern dinners. These last-minute Christmas presents are perfect for a gift-giver in a bind.

cape mayvia capemaymac.org

Cape May, New Jersey

This Victorian seaside town gets even more Dickensian with its gaslights and garlands for the season. Take a trolley ride back in time to see the Christmas lights, hear Ghosts of Christmas Past tales, and jaunt along with Santa. Various holiday house tours let you see inside Cape May’s historic homes and inns, and visitors can also enjoy wine tastings and themed dinners in the town’s many restaurants. Check out these vintage photos of Christmases Past.

taos new mexicoJHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

Taos, New Mexico

Throughout the state, New Mexican towns follow the hundreds-of-years-old Spanish tradition of luminarias (also called farolitos), paper bags with candles inside that symbolically light the way through the streets. But nowhere is the practice more intriguing than the small town of Taos in the northern high desert. The blending of Hispanic, Western, and Native American cultures is evidenced in the month-long Yuletide celebrations with bonfires, Aztec dancers, procession of the Virgin Mary statue, rifle salutes, and Taos Pueblo ceremonial dance. Gather among the adobe buildings for good cheer and New Mexican eats like posole, green chile, and enchiladas.

seneca fallsvia therealbedfordfalls.com

Seneca Falls, New York

It’s really hard to beat New York City for Christmas spirit: home of the Rockefeller Center tree and the setting for tons of Christmas movies from Miracle on 34th Street to Elf. But if one New York town was to do it, it would be Seneca Falls, said to be the inspiration for Bedford Falls in the 1946 Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. All season long, you can marvel at the town’s similarities to the film, and even visit the identical steel bridge where George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) contemplates his life. If you’re lucky enough to visit during December’s It’s a Wonderful Life Festival, you can also meet former child actors from the movie, including Zuzu herself, Karolyn Grimes. Musical performances, film history, exhibits, drinks and dining events, and the live radio play Merry Christmas, George Bailey are also part of the holiday fun.

mcadenvillevia mcadenvillenc.com

McAdenville, North Carolina

One of the most famous Christmas towns in the state—and perhaps the country—McAdenville, aka “Christmas Town USA,” features 160 decorated homes and buildings, plus 265 evergreen trees illuminated with 500,000 colored lights. The town gets 600,000 visitors in December to see the lights by car and on foot, as some roads are closed off to traffic. One lucky elementary student is chosen to flip the switch at the start of the season; then the luminaries go on nightly throughout the month. Visitors can also enjoy the Yule Log Ceremony and Annual Christmas Town Festival. Find out why one North Carolina town’s featured Christmas decoration is a tractor.

queen elizabusvia dickensfestival.com

Garrison, North Dakota

For three weekends during the holiday season, the “Christmas Capital of North Dakota” transforms into a Victorian village with its Dickens Festival, now in its 25th year. Get dressed in your finest period gear (or a street urchin costume will do) for unique events like a fruitcake toss, quilt show, double-decker “Queen Elizabus” rides, top hat decorating, and English High Tea. The fun culminates in performances of the locally written play, Merry Christmas, Mr. Scrooge.

a christmas story housevia achristmasstoryhouse.com

Cleveland, Ohio

There are tons of holiday events going on in downtown Cleveland, but we suggest you visit the modest Tremont neighborhood. Why? It’s home to A Christmas Story House, the original home used in filming the classic 1983 movie. Restored by a superfan of the movie to match the interior sets (only the exterior of the house was used in filming), it’s now a near replica of Ralphie’s house. You can even stay overnight—or at the Bumpus House next door. Visit the museum across the street for more props, costumes, and memorabilia from the film. Then, head downtown for A Christmas Story stage performance at the Cleveland Playhouse and a peek at Public Square, where the Higbee’s department store building (where Ralphie first spots his Red Ryder BB Gun and later has a run-in with Santa) still stands. Find out more things we bet you never knew about A Christmas Story.

oklahoma cityvia visitokc.com

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

OKC steps into Christmas with its Downtown in December month-long celebration. See the gorgeous lights along historic Film Row and Automobile Alley. Free water taxi rides cruise along Bricktown Canal, also illuminated for the season. Outdoor ice-skating, snow tubing, holiday pop-up shops, a winter market, performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, and many more events are scheduled. Also check out Treefest at the Red Earth Art Center, in which 20 Native American tribes across the state create ornaments and other artwork that represents their tribal culture.

jacksonville oregonvia jacksonvilleoregon.com

Jacksonville, Oregon

This gold rush town rushes headfirst into the holiday season with its Victorian Christmas celebration. During December, Jacksonville’s National Historic District is draped in greenery and twinkling lights. Strolling carolers in vintage costumes lend their festive song while shoppers make their way among boutiques and antique stores. Jolly Holly Trolley rides and complimentary hot cider allow visitors to take in the seasonal beauty. Holiday tours of the 1873 Beekman House, home of a wealthy pioneer family, are also offered, along with tastings in the many wineries of southern Oregon’s wine country.

bethlehem christmas cityvia christmascity.org

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Nicknamed “Christmas City,” the official moniker for this town was designated as Bethlehem on Christmas Eve 1741. Even beyond its famous Christkindlmarkt, which features unique artisans, music, crafts, food, glassblowing, and ice sculpting, the town overflows with Christmas spirit. Take a Bethlehem by Night bus tour, a walking Christmas Stroll, and see the decorated Trees of Historic Bethlehem, set among four historic sites. Find out the things you never knew about the White House Christmas Tree.

newportCourtesy The Preservation Society of Newport County

Newport, Rhode Island

See how the Gilded Age’s upper crest celebrated the season when visiting the Newport mansions all dressed up for the holidays. Thousands of poinsettias, evergreens, and wreaths, plus 30 Christmas trees and holiday tables of china and silver, adorn The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House. View them in candlelight for Holiday Evenings with live music and refreshments; if you really want to go all out, attend the black-tie Holiday Dinner Dance. The experiential “Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff” has the audience moving with the dancers throughout the mansion, as if you’re part of the story. The charming town of Newport has many holiday events as well, with unique shops, festive fare at restaurants, open-air ice-skating, and Newport Harbor’s Illuminated Boat Parade, accompanied by Caribbean Christmas music on the steel pan. For more holiday glitz and glam, take a virtual tour of Buckingham Palace’s Christmas decorations.

Charlestonvia charlestoncvb.com

Charleston, South Carolina

Lowcountry Southern hospitality comes alive during the holidays when this stunning city becomes even more beautiful. Visit the illuminated display over the water at James Island County Park’s Holiday Festival of Lights. Learn about Charleston’s holiday history with visits to the city’s antebellum homes: Did you know the poinsettia is actually named for a Charlestonian, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought back the Flor de Noche Buena (“Christmas Eve flower”) from Mexico in the early 19th century? Then splurge for luxury at the French Quarter Inn, where you can snuggle up in the Christmas-themed Southern Sleigh Bell Suite. Here are more charming historic hotels that are beautifully decked out for the holidays.

sioux fallsvia visitsiouxfalls.com

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

A frozen waterfall illuminated by over 355,000 colored lights is the highlight of the Christmas season in Falls Park—a Winter Wonderland fit for Santa himself. But that’s not all the city has to offer: Downtown Sioux Falls also gets the holiday decorating treatment, and private residents join in on the fun with home light displays throughout the neighborhoods—check the map to find out where to see them. This is how much all those Christmas lights really raise your electric bill.

gatlinburgvia gatlinburg.com

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Have a Great Smoky Mountain Christmas at the gateway to the famous peaks’ national park. Spend the day skiing, then cuddle up in your cozy cabin. Walk down the Parkway, Gatlinburg’s main street, as strolling Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales costumed characters and performers tell stories and play an eclectic mix of Appalachia, Bluegrass, and Country music. Visitors can also take the Trolley Ride of Lights to see illuminations throughout the city and stop by the Great Smoky Christmas Arts and Crafts show for unique gifts.

the san antoniovia thesanantonioriverwalk.com

San Antonio, Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas—and that goes for the outlandish holiday celebration at the state’s official Christmas capital, Grapevine. But our pick is San Antonio for the unparalleled setting of its River Walk, decorated for the season with over 100,000 lights hung on the bald cypress trees that line the river. The season kicks off with a Holiday River Parade; then the River Walk is open (and free) nightly. On weekends, enjoy traditional Mexican lanterns lining the way for the Fiesta de las Luminarias.

ogdenvia visitogden.com

Ogden, Utah

You know a town is Christmas-worthy when a Hallmark holiday movie is filmed there. My Christmas Love (originally titled 12 Days) was partially shot on Historic 25th Street, in this former railway hub under the shadow of the awesome Wasatch Mountains. But the town is also known for its Christmas Village, around 60 tiny cottages fit for elves, modeled after Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. Visitors can marvel at the holiday displays and lights of each cottage as they wander through the downtown park while enjoying entertainment, concessions, and gift shopping. The grand opening of the season follows the Electric Light Parade. Here are more of the best Hallmark Christmas movies.

billings farmvia billingsfarm.org

Woodstock, Vermont

Covered bridges, rolling farmland, horse-drawn sleigh rides, charming country inns…Vermont and Christmas go hand-in-hand. Practically every town in this quaint state could make the list, but our top pick is Woodstock for its Wassail Weekend. It’s a feast for the senses with holiday lights, the sound of sleigh bells during the parade, decorated homes, and musical performances including a Celtic Holiday Concert. The celebrations continue throughout the month—visitors also can’t miss the festive Christmas at the Farm at the rural history museum Billings Farm, which still operational today.

williamsburgvia visitwilliamsburg.com

Williamsburg, Virginia

Historic Colonial Williamsburg observes Christmas as our forefathers did, with tours, stories, a Christmastide Ball, interactive exhibits among the decorated buildings, and performances at this living history museum. The Grand Illumination lights up the sky with fireworks displays; other illumination events feature candles, firing muskets, and fife and drums. For more old-fashioned holiday celebrations, visit other colonial towns in the Greater Williamsburg area including Jamestown and Yorktown; for modern revelries, check out Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town events.

leavenworthvia leavenworth.org

Leavenworth, Washington

This Bavarian-inspired town didn’t always look so Old World—it actually used to be more Old West. In the 1960s, after a long period of decline, the city planned a makeover influenced by the alpine landscape. Completing the overhaul, new festivals were created to draw visitors, and Leavenworth slowly grew into a must-see holiday destination. Every weekend, the “Village of Lights” features carolers, sledding, yummy treats, and holiday characters. Beautifully lit storefronts and musical performances at the gazebo complete the classic Christmas scene.

lewisburgvia visitlewisburgwv.com

Lewisburg, West Virginia

Named one of the “coolest small towns” in America, Lewisburg’s downtown is even more delightful decorated for Christmas, kicking off with November’s Holiday Festival. The town also has a thriving arts scene, so visitors can check out seasonal performances at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, as well as Carnegie Hall (one of only four venues established by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie that are still in use as a theater today; another is the one in New York City). Splurge with a stay down the road at The Greenbrier resort, where more Christmas revelry awaits.

cedarburghvia cedarburghchristmas.com

Cedarburg, Wisconsin

This cute village gets the twinkle lights treatment at holiday time, with specialty shops and eateries looking more inviting than ever. On Fridays, luminaries line the streets and shoppers can enjoy free trolley rides through town. Children of all ages can stop by the pint-sized “gingerbread” Santa’s Workshop, watch holiday films at the classic Rivoli Theatre movie house, and enjoy holiday-themed shows throughout the season at the Performing Arts Center.

jackson holevia jacksonholewy.com

Jackson, Wyoming

Where else can you take sleigh rides to see elk? This mountain town is surrounded by ski resorts, Grand Teton National Park, and the National Elk Refuge, where you can view the aforementioned animals. Downtown, thousands of lights will illuminate the famous elk antler arches, and Santa will appear throughout the month. The big man will also “drop in” from the aerial tram on Christmas Eve, and ski with youngsters Christmas Day. Resorts and hotels throughout the area also offer their own seasonal festivities as well. These are 20 of the best small towns in America for Christmas lights.

Tina Donvito
Tina Donvito is a regular contributor to RD.com’s Culture and Travel sections. She also writes about health and wellness, parenting, and pregnancy. Previously editor-in-chief of Twist magazine, Donvito has also written for Parade Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Parents Magazine online, among others. Here work was selected by author Elizabeth Gilbert to be included in the anthology Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir. She earned a BA in English and History from Rutgers University.