You don’t need to celebrate Christmas to appreciate the decorations, yummy treats and holiday spirit that the season brings. From jaw-dropping light displays and Insta-worthy scenes to colorful Christmas trees (purple and pink trees? Yes please!) and super creative gingerbread houses, towns across America go all out to shine every December. Since we love all things Christmas as much as the next ugly-sweater-wearing gal, we put together a list of 10 towns that celebrate so hard they deserve a spot on your seasonal bucket list. Scroll on to see what sets each place apart and why their festive spirits are absolutely contagious.
1. Woodstock, VT: Like something out of a Christmas card, one of Vermont’s most adorable towns lights up for all to see. The small town center becomes a hub for holiday activities with carolers, the town tree and a Yule log. Visitors can also scope out historic homes that are open to share heritage and cheer. This town might even put Stars Hollow to shame.
2. Asheville, NC: With the historic Vanderbilt mansion at its center, this charming Southern spot exudes glitz, glamour and lots of garland that extend to the well-known River Arts District. Just as fun as the sparkly lights and ribbons, everywhere you look is Asheville’s famous Santa — he actually comes down Chimney Rock for all to see while practicing for his Christmas Eve duties.
3. Durango, CO: Colorado can be extra beautiful when covered with a fresh blanket of powder, but it’s Durango’s historic railway that really adds to the magic come Christmastime. A Polar Express trip during the month of December is a special experience for kids, but it’s great for adults too. It makes special Christmas tree runs, helping people transport their festive fir back into town. Ahh-mazing.
4. Delray Beach, FL: Okay, okay, we admit it: Florida is one of the last places we’d expect to feel ultra-Chrismas-y. With us? Get ready to be wrong. One of the Sunshine State’s most-loved beach towns totally transforms itself from a cold-weather getaway to a seasonal haven with a 100-foot-tall tree in the center of Old School Square. Plus, the Christmas tree actually opens up to display holiday scenes and memorable toy trains whizzing around.
5. Santa Claus, IN: If America has a legit Christmas town, this might actually be it. Santa Claus (the town, though we bet Santa likes a good Christmas nightcap too) toasts to a ton of amazing traditions come December, which started back in 1920, when letters to Santa started arriving in masses. Add in Santa’s Land of Lights, which is a mile-long drive of twinkling lights, as well as the candy castle (yum!) and famous parade, and you’ve got yourself a new holiday bucket list destination.
6. Oxford, MS: Gingerbread house lovers: Take note. Oxford is home to some of the coolest, most creative versions of this classic Christmas treat you’ll EVER see, all on full display during Christmastime. Though you won’t find snow-capped roofs on the amazing works made by local volunteers, you will find one-of-a kind ornaments at the local holiday auction, a special annual event that benefits the college town’s arts programs. ‘Tis the season for giving, after all.
7. Fredericksburg, TX: Who knew that you could get a taste of German Christmas traditions with a trip to Texas? Fredericksburg, a cute country town, actually hosts a Christkindlesmarkt event in November to kick off six weeks of holiday festivities. From Nutcracker shows and charity galas to parades, carolers and even cookie decorating parties (we’re serious!), this place has it going ON.
8. Ogunquit, ME: Just north of the New Hampshire coast and the charming towns of Portsmouth, Kittery and York, Ogunquit’s Christmas by the Sea celebration is the epitome of what a northern Christmas should be like. The coastal town hosts bonfires and hayrides (brrr!) with a flurry of craft fairs featuring local artisans. You might be wise to snap up a fuzzy sweater, quilt or other cold weather essentials — especially if you plan to take part in the Polar Bear Plunge, a famous annual event that calls for jumping in the Atlantic Ocean.
9. Natchitoches, LA: Christmas lovers *need* to know about Natchitoches, because this Louisiana gem of a town starts prepping for celebrations as early as June. Yep, you read that right. This amazing place strings more than 300,000 lights along Cane River Lake to showcase their prideful heritage and heart for the holiday season. When in town for the Festival of Lights, you can also catch live performances, a dazzling firework display and several parades. Swoon.
10. Newport Beach, CA: Hit up Newport for the holidays and we bet you’ll use the hashtag #onaboat. Why? For more than 105 years the Orange County hotspot has been home to the country’s most gorgeous boat parade, which features everything from lit-up canoes to enormous, beautiful yachts. If you think this sounds like something you need to see in your lifetime, you’re right. Owners spend months (and heaps of cash) on their boat displays with hopes of winning prizes for originality, humor, animation and more. Finding a good viewing spot among the million viewers that turn out each year can be tough, but you have five nights to make it happen.
Where is your favorite place to celebrate the season? Show us your pics on Instagram @BritandCo!