50 Creative Ways to Celebrate Winter in All 50 States
December means holiday cheer, looking ahead to the magic of New Year’s Eve and that Mariah Carey song on repeat everywhere you turn. But it also means shorter days, longer nights, colder temperatures and a serious desire to hibernate until spring rolls around. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s a distinct feeling of celebration in the air this month. We’re sharing amazing, artful happenings in every US state, so no matter where you are or what your budget, you can make the most of this season of festivity and dodge the urge to hide under the covers.
Alabama: Gather ’round for the best holiday light display you’ve ever seen at the Galaxy of Lights display in Huntsville, Alabama. The displays run from November 26 until December 31, enough time for even the Grinch-iest among us to warm up to holiday cheer. (Photo via Huntsville Botanical Garden)
Alaska: The Anchorage International Film Festival, which takes place December 4-13, features some of the most talented and innovative films from promising filmmakers all over the world. Bundle up and snag extra popcorn before watching these flicks.
Arizona: Shop for the most creative holiday gifts and sample art and food from local and national artists at the Mesa Arts Festival, held December 12-13. (Photo via Mesa Arts Center)
Arkansas: Find special, handcrafted gifts for everyone on your list, win prizes and enjoy live music at the Arkansas Craft Guild 37th Annual Christmas Showcase, December 4-6.
California: Craft beer enthusiasts, rejoice! Brew Ho Ho, in Orange County, combines holiday antics with local brewers, makers and other vendors for a festive and fun experience. Get ready to be merry and boozy on December 5.
Colorado: Get a taste (and a glimpse and earful) of the time-honored German-meets-American holiday tradition at the Denver Christkindl Market (through December 23). Find handmade gifts and eat, drink and be merry.
Connecticut: See the official Christmastown Festival, December 5-6, in the town of Bethlehem. It’s a beloved tradition featuring all the usual suspects: caroling, tree lighting, good food and more arts and crafts vendors than you can count.
Delaware: Kiss fall goodbye and winter hello at Cider Fest, taking place December 5 and 12, with seasonal drinks and snacks, live music by the bonfire and everything you need to deck the halls this year.
Florida: You are cordially invited to the hottest happening on the Miami art scene. Visit Spectrum Miami, December 2-6, to see the best from established and emerging artists, including an international showcase-within-the-show. (Photo via Spectrum Miami)
Georgia: For the fourteenth year, the Rattling Gourd Arts Festival (December 5–6) will be featuring talented local artists and crafters, food vendors, musicians and more. They’re joining forces with the Victorian Christmas Window Walk, so double up on your holiday spirit and artful appreciation.
Hawaii: You’ll only see stunning sights at the annual Christmas Light Parade, presented by the Moloka’i Island Foundation. Follow the floats and island music on the parade route on December 5, ending with plenty of entertainment, food and contests for all.
Idaho: More than 150 local vendors and performers show up to the annual All I Want for Christmas Expo (December 4-5) in Idaho Falls. Pick up a unique gift for every one of your family and friends!
Illinois: Celebrating the 82nd anniversary of the end of prohibition, the Chicago History Museum is partying in style. The Last Speakeasy, on December 3, promises an old-fashioned damn good time.
Indiana: Your childhood favorite holiday movie comes to life in a way you’ve never experienced before. A Christmas Story Comes Home honors the town in Indiana that inspired the setting of the classic movie with displays and special events all season long.
Iowa: Meet the newest members to the music scene at an intimate performance on December 5, featuring 12 musicians, including a Grammy-nominated artist, at Little BIG Fest. It’s definitely not too cold to get down to your new favorite songs.
Kansas: Over 40 local creators are featured at this annual art show, Hello Art, taking place on December 6. Also featured: live music, hot cocoa and Bloody Marys.
Louisiana: For three Fridays in December, you can see your favorite holiday classics like Elf and Home Alone in a whole new light in downtown NOLA at Holiday Movies on the Mississippi.
Maine: The biggest lights festival to be seen is at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’s Gardens Aglow, through December 31. With music, festive food and drinks and sights just like a Winter Wonderland, you’ll think it’s the real thing. (Photo via Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens)
Maryland: Welcome newcomers to the Maryland art scene at A Foot in the Door on December 4, where small and affordable works are on display.
Massachusetts: It’s a story you know like you’ve never seen it before. This season’s Urban Nutcracker is all new in 2015, bringing more soul to the experience than ever before. (Photo via Urban Nutcracker)
Michigan: 100 artists are hand-selected for The Guild Holiday Art Fair at Eastern Michigan University on December 12 and 13. Find holiday entertainment and plenty of unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts for even the hardest people to shop for on your list.
Minnesota: Bet you didn’t think there were enough movies featuring snowmobiles to warrant a film festival, but Minnesota’s Snowfest on December 12 proves there definitely are.
Mississippi: Get special access to one-night-only art exhibits at the Mississippi Museum of Art’s Museum After Hours Spirit House Glass event on December 17. It includes an exclusive photography exhibit, live music, film screenings, food and cocktails and more.
Missouri: An annual tradition returns with WinterFest on December 4-6. You can expect a festival of arts packed with music, food, gifts to shop for and art to peruse.
Montana: Watch and listen as Montana artists and storytellers illuminate the night with their heartfelt personal stories at Tell Us Something Illumination/Revelation on December 8. Take your main squeeze or bring the sibs along for a night you’ll be sure to remember. (Photo via Tell Us Something)
Nebraska: Embrace your inner fangirl and get your geek on at Dork the Halls on December 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19. See art and performances inspired by Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Ghostbusters and other fan favorites, with a dash of holiday merriment thrown in.
Nevada: Take your December festivities back in time with Nevada’s throwback to the nineteenth-century way of life, Christmas in the Comstock, through December 30. It’s a holiday parade, one-of-a-kind gifts and other Victorian-themed fun all packed into one month-long event.
New Hampshire: Artists of Portsmouth give new life to the gingerbread house holiday at the 25th Annual Gingerbread House Contest, starting December 1. Vote for your favorite throughout the month and see the winner revealed on December 18.
New Jersey: Catch a horse and carriage ride, see scenes from The Nutcracker performed on stage and discover new shops and restaurants at Soul of the Season on December 12.
New Mexico: More than 150 light displays are featured at River of Lights, touted as the grandest walk-through holiday extravaganza in all of New Mexico. See unique sculptures and a synchronized show on various nights throughout the month.
New York: The Tree Lighting Ceremony Gala at Rockefeller Center is one of those can’t-miss events. At the 83rd annual ceremony on December 2, don’t miss musical performances and a buzzing atmosphere. (Photo via Rockefeller Center)
North Carolina: Kick off a season of events with the annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting Festival on December 5 at the Ipreo Raleigh Winterfest. Lace up your skates for the natural outdoor rink and see what other festive events take place through the month of December at Winterfest.
North Dakota: The North Dakota Museum of Art presents NDMOA Downtown! On December 8, you can expect a spotlight on impressive artists like Joshua James.
Ohio: See the city of Columbus light up right before your eyes at the Grand Illumination on December 4 at Bicentennial Park. Start the season with hundreds of lights on the Scioto Mile, a festive fundraiser and more.
Oklahoma: It’s a holiday parade unlike any other. Only at Keystone State Park can you see all sizes of boats decked out in lights parading down the river for the Christmas Boat Parade on December 5. (Photo via Oklahoma City Holiday River Parade)
Oregon: The 2015 Holiday Ale Festival is THE event for craft beer enthusiasts. On December 2-6, you can try more than 16 limited brews, enjoy a European-style brunch and find your new favorite draught.
Pennsylvania: Wine lovers, unite! A two-day tour of the Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail with A Heartland Christmas from December 5-6 will show you the best of Pennsylvania wineries and give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside, just in time for the holidays.
Rhode Island: The moon and meteors align this month for Rhode Islanders with an eye for astronomy. The Geminid Meteor Shower will be viewable the evenings of December 13 and 14 from the Frost Drew Observatory, where you’ll find everything you need to see this true festival of lights.
South Dakota: Meet emerging local and regional authors at the Black Hills Literary Gala on December 5 in Rapid City. The reading features voices in fiction, memoir and poetry. Enjoy food and desserts and support the contributors to the Black Hills Literary Journal.
Tennessee: The Music City Bowl hits the city of Nashville on December 30, but all week long you can find fun events like a battle of the bands, pregame concert, pep rally and more. (Photo via Music City Bowl)
Texas:Day for Night is a “visually immersive” music and visual arts festival taking over Houston. On December 19 and 20, you can see incredible artists like Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monae perform their biggest hits.
Utah: How about a glass of bubbly? Libations at the Leo: Bubbles combines food and drink in the most delightful way. Choose Champagne, sparkling wine, Prosecco or Cava and indulge with an expert chef and member of the Wine Academy of Utah.
Vermont: Celebrate the world and its billions of unique citizens at the Vermont International Festival from December 4-6. It’s an annual event featuring food, arts, crafts, music, exhibits and more, all honoring cultures around the globe.
Virginia: It’s Christmastime as Edgar Allen Poe would have lived it. On December 4, the Poe Museum presents The Poe Illumination, an educational and festive event that welcomes the holiday season in a very particular fashion. (Photo via The Poe Museum)
Washington: Ever wish you lived in a Charles Dickens novel? Well, maybe not, but here’s your chance anyway. The Dickens Festival (December 5) encourages Victorian garb for a packed event with plenty of entertainment and a costume contest for the daring.
West Virginia: Visit the oldest town in West Virginia for a historic celebration of A 21st Century Christmas Celebration in Sheperdstown, taking place all December long. See different daily agendas for history lessons, live music, a fun run, carriage rides and so much more.
Wisconsin: Sample a sip of everything Madison has to offer on the Brewers and Vintners Bus Tour on December 5, where you’ll be shuttled to local breweries and wineries for tours and tastings. (Photo via Hop Head Tours)
Wyoming: Kick off a season of ice skating and twinkling lights with the annual Grand Rapids Holiday Celebration: Tree Lighting + Skating Rink Opening on December 3.
What’s your favorite December event in your state? Share in the comments!