25 Best Christmas Getaways to Enjoy This Holiday Season
Whether you prefer to spend the holidays on snowy ski slopes or sunny shores, these Christmas getaway ideas are brimming with holiday cheer
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‘Tis the season to travel
Determining where you’ll book a Christmas getaway usually comes down to one question: White sand or white snow? Your travel motivator will either send you into a snow globe for ski days and fireside nights or to decorated palm trees and beachy sunsets, says Expedia travel expert Christie Hudson. “You’re either a ski bunny or a beach bum,” she says.
The southern half of the United States offers a number of warm-weather vacations perfect for holiday cheer, as do Mexico and many Caribbean islands. Destinations in Canada, New England and western mountain towns epitomize winter wonderlands—some are even bona fide Christmas towns in their own right, offering Christmas light shows, parades and other holiday activities for the season. Or you can go big and jet off to Europe for centuries-old Christmas markets and holiday traditions. Ready to book your Christmas getaway? Find out the best time to book a holiday flight, then pack your puffer—or flip-flops. Here’s where to go on winter break.
How we chose the best Christmas getaways
Our destination picks are based on expert recommendations and user reviews from travelers who’ve been there, with hotel suggestions based on affordability, star ratings and personal experiences at the property. We also chose locations based on Christmas activities, family friendliness, convenience and safety. To get the most out of your Christmas vacation, follow our holiday travel tips.
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Best for: Festive family fun
Canada’s answer to a Swiss Alps Christmas getaway offers way more for families than just skiing or snowboarding. Between a Santa Claus celebration of lights, where kids can visit Santa’s workshop to write letters to the man in red, and the hot chocolate trail, a route that families can follow to 20 local eateries serving up holiday-themed cocoa, this mountain town in Banff National Park has Christmas getaways perfected. Don’t miss the Banff Christmas Market, taking place over three weekends in November and December, which captures the romance of European holiday markets. And be sure to ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain to decorate cookies, watch holiday movies and grab a photo with Santa himself.
Check in to the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which has annual “Christmas at the Castle” programming from mid-November to January. Both the hotel’s exterior and interior transform into a winter wonderland with Christmas decorations and include an outdoor ice rink, decorated halls and a floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree. You can also eat and drink your way to merriment by visiting the Sugar Shack, eating inside Santa’s dining room and grabbing a drink at the Thirsty Reindeer Bar. Remember that, thanks to a favorable exchange rate, Americans visiting Canada basically get a 25% discount on everything from accommodations to activities and après ski.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Best for: Neurodiverse families
It’s not exactly beach weather during Christmas in this resort town, but it’s still a warm place to get away from frigid temperatures. It’s also an ideal time to see the Grand Strand lit up for the holidays. What’s more, this popular beach town (and neighboring Surfside Beach) are considered autism-friendly destinations, which means that staff at some of the restaurants and attractions, like the SkyWheel, have been trained in autism sensitivity and awareness.
Attend fantastic holiday stage shows, like the Carolina Opry Christmas Special (known as the “Christmas Show of the South”), one of Myrtle Beach’s best Christmas traditions. The stunning Brookgreen Gardens hosts Nights of a Thousand Candles, which features more than 2,700 hand-lit candles plus twinkling lights and live music set among the flowers and sculptures. You can also marvel at Winter Wonderland at the Beach, an event along the boardwalk with lights, shows, s’mores and more.
The oceanfront Dunes Village Resort is right in the heart of all the holiday happenings in Myrtle Beach. Plus, the hotel offers the only indoor water park in the area, so families can enjoy swimming even if the weather outside is too crisp to get in the ocean. And at about $110 per night around the holidays, the price can’t be beat.
Best for: Northern lights
Who needs holiday lights when you’ve got the aurora borealis? Iceland’s winter darkness increases your chance of seeing this solar phenomenon in a country that piles on winter charm like powder snow on a turf house (a traditional Icelandic dwelling). “The northern lights this year and into next year are going to be the brightest they’ve been in something like 30 years, so it’s a great time to go,” says Hudson. “It’s also the darkest time of the year, so it’s off-season in Iceland.”
The holiday season, called Yule, encompasses a month of cheer that includes Christmas traditions, parties, drinks and Christmas desserts and foods like smoked lamb and rice pudding. When you’re not merry-making or gazing heavenward, you can also explore ice caves, soak in natural hot springs or shop for gifts made from Icelandic wool.
Stay at Hotel Ranga near Hella for a Christmas getaway—it’s close to some of the country’s best waterfalls. The hotel offers a 13-course Christmas menu on the first three weekends in December and encourages guests to leave a shoe outside the door to see if the “Yule Lads” (mischievous trolls that are part of Icelandic holiday lore) will bring them a small present overnight. Hotel Ranga also has its own observatory for stargazing and northern lights viewing.
Best for: Skiing
If Vail’s European-style pedestrian village and heated cobblestone streets don’t win you over, the skiing will make you a believer. Colorado’s largest resort has 5,300 acres of terrain, and more than half is located on the south-facing backside, where seven alpine bowls beckon. Layer on the tree lighting in Vail Village, ice skating in Lionshead, the new Kringle Crossing (a miniature Santa’s village) and the annual 10th Mountain Legacy Parade, and you’ve got festive icing on Vail’s powdery cake.
“Vail’s not the cheapest place to stay, but you do get that cozy lodge feel, you get that luxurious time in Vail and you get to ski,” says Hudson. “It just seems like a pretty iconic place to spend the holiday.”
It’s hard to top the yuletide cheer at The Lodge at Vail, Vail’s original hotel that’s a short walk from Gondola One. Leave your planks with the lodge’s ski valet, then enjoy daily fresh cookies, hot mulled cider and samples of local 10th Mountain bourbon during après ski in the decked-out lobby. This year, you can also pose for photos inside the vintage gondola car that’s parked in the lobby—bring your retro ski ensembles, ugly Christmas sweaters or red Santa hats for props!
Québec City, Canada
Best for: A French holiday hack
Want a très Français holiday without leaving North America? Head to Québec City, ranked among the world’s top destinations to spend Christmas. This walled city is more than 400 years old and shines at Christmastime with trees and garlands decorating the cobblestone streets of Old Québec, guaranteed snow, holiday markets, Christmas activities like ice skating and tobogganing, and the magnificent Le Château Frontenac lit up like a real French castle. Oh, and everyone speaks French, so practice saying, “Joyeux noël!”
“We’ve been recommending Québec City as a great dupe for a European destination like Geneva,” says Hudson. “It’s also a much quicker flight from the East Coast, and it’s quite a bit cheaper than the Genevas of the world.”
Check in to historic Hôtel Clarendon, Québec City’s oldest hotel located in the heart of Old Québec. The hotel has modern, elegant rooms at affordable prices and offers a 20% discount on the base price of a room when you book for four nights or more.
Best for: A couples retreat
Celebrate Christmas the Caribbean way with traditional music and food. And what better place than the island where all those holiday spices—think nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice—come from? Plan to arrive in time for the Carriacou Parang Festival in mid-December to see a battle of the bands that includes local music incorporated with carols. Participants dress in bright hues, including the Christmas colors of red and green. 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.
This stunningly beautiful island has a number of luxurious hotels for a couple’s getaway during the holidays. Our pick is La Sagesse Hotel for its amazing beachfront location and affordability. Fall asleep in your room just steps from the water while listening to the sound of waves lapping on the shore.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Best for: An easy trip from the Pacific coast
Florida and the Caribbean have lovely beach destinations, but it can be a long flight for those located in the western part of the United States. Instead, try heading south of the border to Los Cabos, on the Pacific coast of Mexico at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, for a Feliz Navidad. The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) to Three Kings Day (Los Tres Reyes Magos on Jan. 6) is a monthlong seasonal festival—locals call it the Guadalupe-Reyes marathon. December is whale-watching season as well, so visitors can spot humpbacks and more. You’ll also find peak conditions for windsurfing, kiteboarding and kite surfing, if you’ve ever wanted to try a lesson. Fun fact: Did you know one of the biggest Christmas symbols, the poinsettia plant, is native to Mexico?
The surrounding rocks and cliffs give a sense of privacy to Solmar Resort, located in Land’s End, which is exactly what it sounds like—a wide beach at the tip of the peninsula, one of the most stunning spots in the area and only a short walk from the town of Cabo San Lucas. Smaller in size than the high rises of Cabo, this hotel has a relaxed Mexican vibe perfect for a chilled-out holiday.
New York City
Best for: A silver-screen Christmas
If you plan mini vacations based on movies or TV shows, you’re not alone. It’s a trend called “set-jetting,” and during the festive season, travelers take their cues from Christmas movies. “New York City popped into my mind as a great destination for the holidays because of Home Alone 2 (filmed in the Big Apple) or Elf, where you see Will Ferrell’s character taking a spin on ice skates at Rockefeller Center,” says Hudson.
Tack on shopping on Fifth Avenue, scoring tickets to a show and strolling through the twinkling lights in Central Park, and this iconic holiday destination earns a leading role.
Christmas at The Plaza, though pricey, is hard to beat. There’s holiday afternoon tea, regular visits from Santa, a champagne bar and a special Home Alone 2: Escape to New York package where guests can live out their Kevin fantasy.
Best for: Christmas in the Caribbean
Yes, you can capture the history and romance of continental holiday markets in a tropical destination for the ultimate Christmas getaway. Curaçao, one of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao), boasts gorgeous beaches, excellent snorkeling and scuba diving, and of course orange liqueur, aka Curaçao. The island is also part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and towns like adorable Willemstad—with cobblestone streets and bright storefronts along the Handelskade waterfront—bring to mind the canals of Amsterdam, but with tropical colors. Arrive in time for the Pietermaai Christmas Fair on Dec. 9, with gifts, food, drinks and live music, and be prepared to save money on this St. Maarten dupe.
“Curaçao is a little less known,” says Hudson. “It’s a little bit quieter, and the hotel rates are a lot more affordable in December vs. St. Maarten.”
Stay at the Pietermaai Boutique Hotel, a stylish property set inside an 18th-century Dutch colonial house. Relax beside one of two outdoor pools, or head to nearby Mambo Beach, one of the island’s prettiest stretches of sand, according to TripAdvisor.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Best for: Ancient ruins
Have a white Christmas—white sand, that is—along the gorgeous beaches of Riviera Maya on the Yucatán Peninsula. In Mexico, the Christmas Eve traditions of Noche Buena tend 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 Kings Day on Jan. 6. If you visit right before Christmas for the winter solstice at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, the play of light and shadow on the ancient pyramid is a sight to behold. Although it’s prime tourist season, the more, the merrier!
A stay at the family-friendly Occidental at Xcaret Destination is the perfect way to experience Mexican tradition—and at a reasonable price. Nestled among natural jungle gardens (with monkeys) and a private cove, the hotel is also next to the Xcaret eco-archaeological park, which features activities and exhibitions about the nature and culture of Mexico.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Best for: A southwestern holiday
In Santa Fe, an annual reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search to find shelter to birth Jesus, called Las Posadas, puts a memorable spin on a Christmas getaway. You’ll want to check out a winter Spanish market, Native American crafts and original art on offer at local shops and galleries. Make sure you’re in town on Christmas Eve for the Farolito Walk. Homes and businesses along Canyon Road and around historic neighborhoods light thousands of paper candle lanterns and place them on window sills, adobe walls and along sidewalks and walkways. The whole city glows.
“It’s a very unique place for the holidays,” says Hudson. “You can also go skiing there and then have a really delicious Mexican dinner or see a Flamenco show.”
Get snug at La Fonda on the Plaza, where guest rooms are warmed up with southwestern flair and include kiva fireplaces, Native American art and hand-painted headboards. The property also displays a life-size wooden nativity scene and a gingerbread replica of the adobe-style hotel in the lobby.
Best for: A southern experience
Steeped in southern charm, Savannah has to be one of the most beautiful cities to visit at Christmastime—despite the lack of snow. Take a trolley tour to see the lights and decorations of the historic buildings, visit the Davenport House for Yuletide Tours, go on a spooky ghosts-of-Christmas-past walking tour or simply wander through the city’s many decked-out squares and along River Street. Afterward, have a gourmet meal at one of the city’s many fine-dining restaurants, or settle in for a holiday tipple at an elegant cocktail bar.
Housed in an 1817 warehouse and in a great location, the River Street Inn immerses guests in Savannah’s history. You can get a sightseeing trolley right outside the hotel to view holiday decorations, and there are four restaurants in the building to enjoy all the seasonal fare.
Best for: Beach bars
In addition to its beautiful beaches, St. Kitts’s lively holiday atmosphere makes it perfect for Caribbean Christmas getaways. Along with its dual-island-nation partner Nevis, the country is unusual for celebrating its Carnival in late December and into early January, instead of the more traditional February. Combined with the Christmas season, the festival known as Sugar Mas creates an energetic and colorful atmosphere with parades, costumes, street performances and fun Christmas party themes. Of course, you could just spend your holiday limin’ (“hanging out,” in the local parlance) at the island’s many beach bars and seafood joints.
There is a ton to do at Marriott’s St. Kitts Beach Club. As if the gorgeous beaches weren’t enough, there are also three outdoor pools, a golf course, a spa and kids activities. Some rooms also offer full kitchens if you’re thinking about cooking your own Christmas feast. Travel earlier in December for member rate rewards.
Best for: A desert escape
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 70-plus-year tradition of light displays in the aptly named Winterhaven neighborhood. You’ll want to check out the illuminations at Reid Park Zoo, as well as those at Holiday Nights at the Tohono Chul gardens and art galleries, which are accompanied by performances by musicians and artists.
For an authentic southwestern vacation, stay at the historic Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, set among 34 peaceful acres and overlooking the desert hills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Retire to traditional adobe buildings after enjoying the pool or a horseback ride for one of the most unique Christmas getaways you’ll ever have.
Best for: A real European Christmas
Boasting Christmas markets and the spectacular Fêtes des Lumières (Festival of Lights), it’s hard to compete with Lyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for holiday cheer. Browse more than 100 wooden chalets selling candles, crafts and Christmas decorations, while warming up with mulled wine, at the month-long market at Place Carnot. It’s also worth considering Lyon for a pre-holiday trip to coincide with the lights festival, Dec. 7–10 this year.
“It’s a historic festival that’s been going on for several centuries,” explains Hudson. “They light up the city’s basilica, they have lights shows, everybody puts candles in their stained-glass windows. Then they have street fairs with food vendors.” (Try Lyon’s excellent sausages or cheeses for a savory snack, or the pink praline brioche for something sweet.)
When you’re not holiday cheersing, explore Lyon’s museums or hop on a cruise to admire its architecture from the Saône and the Rhône rivers. After a full day, retire to the Hôtel La Résidence, a boutique hotel in the town center that blends convenience and comfort with modern decor touches at a reasonable price.
Best for: Historic architecture
An island city off the coast of Texas, Galveston looks spectacular at the holidays when its Victorian buildings get decked out. Blending the old with the new, the giant modern pyramids of Moody Gardens overlooking Galveston Bay becomes a winter wonderland with the Festival of Lights, plus other holiday activities, including stage shows, train rides, pictures with Santa, fireside s’mores, holiday dinners and more. The town’s festivities begin in early December with Dickens on the Strand, a costumed Christmas festival that plays up the town’s Victorian architecture.
Stay right in the heart of the Christmas action at the affordable Moody Gardens Hotel, which offers free cancellations until shortly before your stay. With all the holiday attractions just steps away, the hotel itself also has tons to do, including a pool, a spa and kids activities.
St. Petersburg, Florida
Best for: U.S. beaches
The beaches of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, located on a peninsula jutting into Tampa Bay, have been rated the best in the country. It’s easy to see why: There are 35 miles of soft white sand and warm, blue-green water lining the coast along the Gulf of Mexico, with plenty of keys and barrier islands to explore. At Christmastime, visitors can enjoy the added attractions of boat parades, holiday light shows, seasonal cocktails and tastings, and Christmas movies in the park. But the biggest holiday event in the area is Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field, which features an amazing light maze, ice-skating trail, Christmas market, holiday goodies and visits with Santa.
Every type of accommodation is available for Christmas getaways in the St. Pete area, from high-rise resorts to kitschy motels. Check in to the 1950s-themed Plaza Beach Hotel for a comfortable stay right close to the sand.
Best for: Winter in a snow globe
Everyone’s heard of Whistler, but strike into the snowy heart of British Columbia and you’ll find a trove of ski resorts with fewer crowds, lower lift ticket and lodging prices, and charm straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Less than an hour’s drive from the Kelowna International Airport, with direct daily flights from Seattle, SilverStar Mountain Resort is nestled mid-mountain and anchored by a pedestrian-only Victorian-style village that twinkles with lights during the holidays. When you’re not skiing or snowboarding the mountain’s 3,200 acres of terrain, ice skate on a frozen pond, go tubing, take a sleigh ride or snowshoe on some of the resort’s multi-use trails.
Ski right in to your condo at the Snowbird Lodge, adjacent to the Summit Gondola and steps from shops and restaurants. Units feature full kitchens, gear storage and private hot tubs. You can cook your own Christmas dinner, or book a Paradise Camp Dinner Tour and ride a snow cat to a cabin on the resort’s backside for a three-course, lantern-lit meal marooned on the mountain.
Palm Springs, California
Best for: Spas
By December, the heat of summer in the desert has cooled to comfortable temperatures, making the Rat Pack–era retreat of Palm Springs a great option for a California Christmas. The season kicks off with a Festival of Lights parade, one of the best in the country, on Dec. 2. And all month long, you can enjoy holiday-themed cabaret performances at supper clubs, as well as amazing illuminations at WildLights at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. In addition to great art and restaurant scenes, Palm Springs is renowned for its spas and wellness retreats, so it’s the perfect place to truly unwind and enjoy a rejuvenating Christmas away.
Palm Springs offers many 1960s-era upscale motels that give off a midcentury vibe. Adults can stay at the reasonably priced Little Paradise Hotel for modern accommodations set around a heated saltwater pool. The rooms have jet showers and fireplaces too.
Best for: Adventure
The glorious twin peaks of the Pitons tower over the southern part of this island, giving a dramatic backdrop to one of the hottest destinations to visit this winter. In addition to its stunning beaches, St. Lucia offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of the island with jungle adventures including hiking, volcanic mud baths, horseback riding and zip-lining. The Christmas season starts early with the holiday of the island’s namesake, Saint Lucia Day, on Dec. 13, traditionally celebrated with a parade of lanterns, illuminations and fireworks. Many resorts offer a Christmas feast—be sure to try the local holiday spiced drink called sorrel. And if you hear a loud bang, don’t worry—it’s just “bursting bamboo,” a local tradition with a cannon made out of bamboo.
Wake up to a jaw-dropping view of the Pitons over the ocean right from your bed at the reasonably priced Green Fig Resort. You’ll feel like you’re in a treehouse set high over the town of Soufriere, but you’ll be just a five-minute walk to the beach. Enjoy hillside pools, as well as a restaurant featuring local seafood for your Christmas dinner.
San Diego, California
Best for: California beach vibes
Catch that surfer-dude ‘tude with a trip to laid-back San Diego for the holidays. Go on a Christmas tree scavenger hunt on the city’s Christmas Tree trail, with decorated arbors at famous landmarks and even right on the beach. Visit the famous San Diego Zoo—it’s even open on Christmas Day—for Jungle Bells, with holiday decorations, roaming entertainers and specialty treats. Of course, you could also just relax on San Diego’s beaches, fish, kayak or watch for gray whales, whose annual migration down the coast starts in December.
Many accommodations in San Diego are surprisingly not beachfront, so the affordable La Jolla Shores Hotel is a rare find. With the ocean just steps away, you can enjoy the best of your holiday in La Jolla, a small neighborhood just north of San Diego proper with a breathtaking coastline. Don’t forget to pack a beach read when you go!
Best for: A jolly old Christmas
Not only is London the setting for fan-favorite holiday movies like Last Christmas and Love Actually, it has Christmas markets and holiday light displays fit for royalty, says Hudson. Complete your Christmas shopping at the markets in Covent Garden, Leicester Square or Southbank Centre, then ride the London Eye for an aerial view of the glittering city. Be sure to stroll through London’s best holiday light displays, including the sparkling tunnels and bejeweled trees at Kew Gardens, the illuminated stars twinkling above Oxford Street, and Savile Row, where 5,000 bulbs will light up this heritage street.
After a day spent sightseeing, you’ll appreciate the modern, comfortable rooms inside the historic Hilton London Hyde Park, located next to one of the city’s iconic green spaces. You’ll be steps from Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, an annual, six-week festive celebration with rides and entertainment, not to mention within walking distance of Harrods for any last-minute shopping.
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Best for: A tropical family vacation
Just a short flight from Florida, the Bahamas is a popular family destination for its calm waters, warm weather and, of course, the Atlantis mega-resort. The aquatic activities are endless, from relaxing on white-sand beaches to snorkeling, swimming with marine creatures and taking boat excursions. Hotels and resorts offer Christmas and Hanukkah festivities and special dinners, and locals celebrate Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) with Junkanoo, a parade and festival of traditional costumes and music.
Atlantis has six hotels to choose from, and the most affordable is The Beach, for value-minded guests. But for families on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, there’s no better choice than The Royal, the iconic pink palace that’s right by all the best attractions, including the open-air marine park and water park.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Best for: Music
New Orleans heats up the season for a Cajun Christmas that’s not too hot and not too cold. In general, New Orleans is one of the best cities for live music, and throughout December, you can listen to holiday concerts in the historic St. Louis Cathedral and caroling in Jackson Square. You can also see the lights display at Celebration in the Oaks, tour decorated homes and hotel lobbies, and attend holiday cocktail tastings. In a centuries-old Christmas Eve tradition, bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River light the way for Papa Noel, as Santa is known locally.
Stay at the upscale International House Hotel, a surprisingly affordable property within walking distance of the French Quarter and many other attractions. With richly appointed rooms and a relaxed vibe, this hotel will make your holiday merry indeed. Save up to 20% when you arrive Sunday through Thursday. Since you’ll likely be posting a ton of pics from your trip on social media, make sure to bookmark these Christmas captions for the perfect sentiments.
Key West, Florida
Best for: Key lime pie
The southernmost point in the contiguous United States, colorful Key West has a definite Caribbean feel—even though you don’t have to leave the country to get there. Plus, there are tons of traditional Christmas activities to partake in during December’s monthlong holiday fest, including a Harbor Walk of Lights, Holiday Historic Inn Tours and a lighted boat parade. Visitors can also take a tour of the island’s Christmas decorations with the Conch Tour Train or Old Town Trolley. Although Key West’s beaches aren’t the best in Florida, there is spectacular snorkeling, diving and fishing offshore. And forget pumpkin pie for desert on Christmas—”conchs” (aka locals) know that Key lime pie is the way to go.
The new Gates Hotel Key West features comfy, beach-themed accommodations and a beautiful pool with live music, a bar and food trucks. A free shuttle conveniently transports guests downtown for all the Christmas festivities.
About the expert
- Christie Hudson is the resident travel expert and head of U.S. PR for Expedia. She’s a pro at turning travel data into tips and intel that help travelers get the most out of every trip.