It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to go on a festive holiday trip! Whether you’re returning to your family’s annual holiday traditions or looking for new and exciting ways to celebrate after a long year, there are a ton of unique options for a planning a magical and safe Christmas getaway full of festive cheer, beautiful scenery and fun holiday events. Some say there’s no place like home for the holidays — but what could be better than spending Christmas at a chocolate theme park, a ski resort or even a town called Santa Claus?
To help you have the most merry holiday season yet, we’ve rounded up some of the best places to spend Christmas in the U.S., from fun family resorts and towns named after Christmas itself to festive gatherings held just for the holiday season. Like last year, you’ll of course want to make sure you’re following safe travel guidelines — and luckily, plenty of destinations are still offering special holiday events focusing on outdoor activities such as drive-thru light displays, sleigh rides and more. So whether you’re looking for palm trees and sunny shores or want to cozy up in a snowy cabin, make sure to check out these festive family vacation spots for the best Christmas getaways in 2021.
New Orleans, Louisiana
You may first think of Mardi Gras when you think of New Orleans, but the Crescent City also pulls out all the stops during the holidays, too. After enjoying the city’s dazzling light displays and bonfires, be sure to check out Celebration in the Oaks, which is said to be one of the most spectacular holiday lights festival in the country.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston may be a great destination spot any time of the year, but it’s especially magical (and still warm!) around the holidays, when the city goes all out on the Christmas festivities. This year, you can enjoy the Holiday Festival of Lights from your car before strolling down the streets to shop, eat and marvel at the city’s historic mansions decked out for the holidays.
Taos, New Mexico
For those seeking a one-of-a-kind holiday experience, a must-go location is Taos, which offers a unique New Mexican spin on holiday traditions every year. The ski town celebrates the season with its annual Yuletide in Taos, which features holiday markets, bonfires and other ultra-festive events.
Looking for the ultimate winter getaway this Christmas? This beautiful ski resort town is a well-known haven for ski bunnies and travel enthusiasts, but it also holds plenty of Christmas activities during the holiday season, including an annual tree lighting, a fun-packed “12 Days of Aspen” event and holiday shows (like The Nutcracker) at the Opera House.
Jackson, New Hampshire
Around the holidays, there’s no more apropos destination spot than the Christmas Farm Inn & Spa. After enjoying skiing and plenty of other outdoor activities, be sure to hop aboard a sleigh ride for the festive Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour, where you can taste test handmade chocolate while enjoying the sights.
Head down south this December for Andalusia’s Candyland, the town’s ultra-festive holiday event held throughout the month. Admission is free of charge, but includes a small $4 fee for horse-drawn carriage rides. You can also enjoy the Snow Show, take photos with Santa, hop on the holiday train and more!
Leavenworth likens itself to a “swirling snow globe,” and you’ll definitely see why when you browse through photos of the Leavenworth Village of Lights. The Bavarian-style town has an annual tradition of hanging up beautiful Christmas lights downtown, and you’ll be able to take it all in this year (though there won’t be a big reveal at an official lighting festival as usual).
Santa Claus, Indiana
With a name like Santa Claus, you know this town is ready to welcome you and your family at Christmas. Nicknamed “America’s Christmas Hometown,” this city offers plenty of festivities for its annual three-weekend holiday celebration, including a Christmas-themed fireworks display and a drive-through light adventure called Santa Claus Land of Lights.
New York City, New York
Newport Beach, California
There might not be any snow, but trust that this California destination offers plenty of holiday spirit at the annual Christmas Boat Parade. Each year, you can stop by the bay to witness a series of boats decked out in holiday decor. Before you head out, fill your cup with cocoa and walk along Balboa Island, where you’ll see houses decorated immaculately for the holiday season.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole is breathtaking year-round, but we’re partial to the city’s Christmas celebrations and decorations. Not only does the historic Town Square light up every year for the holidays, there are also plenty of festive activities like horse-drawn sleigh rides, a Santa Claus “drop in” and more.
East Coasters, we highly recommend Koziar’s Christmas Village for all the holiday fun you’ll ever need. This countryside town boasts a Christmas Village unlike any other. You can also take a Winter Wonderland tour, which takes you to Santa’s Post Office, a toy shop and an old-fashioned bakery (to name a few).
North Pole, Alaska
Go on a lookout for the real-life Santa Claus in the United States’ very own North Pole. The city in Alaska takes pride in its name, and you can visit the Santa Claus House any day of the year. There, you’ll see live reindeer, holiday gifts galore and the world’s largest Santa statue. In the summer and holiday season, a real-life Santa stops by too!
McAdenville, North Carolina
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Get a taste of both American history and European Christmas celebrations in Alexandria, Virginia, a short drive south of Washington, D.C. You can enjoy the well-appointed row houses on King Street while Christmas shopping, then take a trip to nearby Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s historic home, for a candlelight tour and fireworks display. If you visit the weekend of December 3rd, you can take part in the town’s 50th Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade.
Experience the beauty of coastal Maine at the annual Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude, an incredibly New England celebration that takes place from December 2-12 this year. The schedule includes everything from Christmas markets and historic home tours to a literal lobster trap Christmas tree lighting.
St. Augustine, Florida
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas might seem unusual for the holidays, but nearly every resort and casino puts on amazing Christmas events for the whole family, including an immersive display the Bellagio Conservatory, ice skating on the roof of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and even Santa scuba-diving at Mandalay Bay. The whole Strip glitters with lights and decorations, too.
Park City, Utah
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