The 11 Most Festive US Cities to Visit This Winter
The holidays are upon us, and while we may all be loyal to our particular hometown's traditions, there's no better time to hit the road to explore what else is available for revelers across the US. Whether you're interested in worshipping Nordic gods or worshipping tamales, we've discovered the most delightfully eccentric (not to mention festive) celebrations across the US. From visiting the North Pole in Nevada to riding the Polar Express in Kentucky, this list has some holiday magic for everyone. We searched coast to coast, from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the deserts of the Southwest, to round up the top cities to visit this holiday season. Read on for your guide to meeting Cowboy Santas and Kentucky reindeer. (Photo via Getty)
New York, New York: The Big Apple has iconic festivities like the Christmas tree lighting and ice skating at Rockefeller Center and the Times Square Ball Drop on New Year's Eve, so there is no shortage of holiday cheer to be found throughout the city. The Row NYC is located directly in the middle of the action and offers a Bloomingdale's Shop & Stay package for anyone who can't resist some high-end shopping. The Standard Plaza at the High Line turns into a winter wonderland with tinsel trees, colorful lights, and a Hot Cocoa Shack. Refinery Hotel has a Winter Spectacular Stay Package, where you can get a fresh Christmas tree delivered right to your room along with an assortment of decorations and room service (think hot chocolate, eggnog, and cookies & milk). And of course, classic hotels like the Plaza, Ritz Carlton, and Four Seasons all get decked out with extra merriment as well.
Honolulu, Hawaii: Who needs a White Christmas when you can say Aloha to a Blue Christmas in Hawaii, instead? The annual City of Lights Festival begins on December 1 in Honolulu, kicking off a month of festivities for visitors to enjoy (including an Electric Light Parade). Take photos with North Pole residents at Santa's Gingerbread House and the Enchanted Forest Display and finish off your celebrations with a holiday concert (which is always better outdoors). Stay at the Alohilani Resort to experience the seaside luxury of Waikiki Beach, and find out why snow isn't a prerequisite for getting into the holiday spirit. (Photo via Getty)
Skaneateles, New York: Head to the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York to experience the 25th anniversary "Dickens Christmas" in Skaneateles. The town transforms into 1842 in a full-scale recreation of the classic Christmas novel, featuring the World's Smallest Christmas Parade, horse-drawn carriages, caroling (with awards for the most spirited participants), and period costumes that you can borrow for free. And you can expect appearances from Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and Tiny Tim, of course. Best of all? The warm figgy pudding (necessary during upstate winters). (Photo via Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council)
West Palm Beach, Florida: Check out the winter wonderland downtown with the nightly Snowfall on The Square before visiting the Christmas-themed pop-up bar, Miracle on Rosemary and sampling the festive dishes (and enjoying the festive decor) at Galley, Hilton West Palm Beach’s signature restaurant. (Photo via Miracle on Rosemary)
Chicago, Illinois: Considering Chicago is the setting of one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time (Home Alone, duh), this was an obvious addition to our list. Go ice skating outdoors at The Peninsula Sky Rink, open from November 17 to the first week in March, before heading to the rooftop of the Godfrey Hotel to enjoy cocktails around a fire pit in your heated igloo. Visit the ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and check out the live music at Winter Wonderfest. Be sure to enjoy the 24-foot Christmas tree (above) and life-size gingerbread hotel at the Hilton Chicago as well while you're in town. It may be freezing while you're in the Windy City, but to quote another cinematic winter masterpiece (Frozen, of course): the cold never bothered you anyway. (Photo via Hilton Chicago)
Fort Worth, Texas: Visit Cowtown this holiday season for a cowboy Christmas. Start off with a trip to Candlelight Christmas in Ryan Place to check out the over-the-top decorations adorning some of the more over-the-top mansions you'll ever see (everything is bigger in Texas, after all). Then, check out the twinkling lights adorning the Modern Art Museum (pictured above) before heading to The Stockyards for a photo op with Cowboy Santa. Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose the holiday cheer. (Photo via Joseph Haubert)
Breckenridge, Colorado: Colorado is always a good choice for the holidays, and luckily for those of us who tend to procrastinate booking flights, the holiday season doesn't end in Breckenridge after December 31. Head to this Colorado ski town from January 9-12 to honor Ullr, the god of winter, at the 55th-annual Ullr Fest. Be prepared to witness more than 12,000 Ullr-worshipping revelers don Viking hats and parade down the streets. Float participants have been known to ski off jumps on Main Street or glide along town in a hot tub (the ultimate way to travel). Also on the schedule? Breaking the world's longest shotski record. All in the name of winter, of course. (Photo via Getty)
Reno, Nevada: Can't get enough of good old SantaCon? Then experience the largest Santa Pub Crawl in Reno, Nevada. Join 10,000 other Santas (and elves and reindeer, etc.) as they descend upon Midtown and Downtown Reno for beer and holiday cheer. Or, take a ride on the interactive Polar Express, and be transported to the North Pole in the comfort of your pajamas. Who says Santa can't spread holiday cheer in the desert? (Photo via 4kodiak/Getty)
New Orleans, Louisiana: NOLA is heaven to visit any time of year, though the plethora of festivities during the holidays makes December an especially appealing month. Experience the ice skating and carnival rides at the NOLA ChristmasFest, held at the New Orleans Convention Center from December 20-31, and sing carols in Jackson Square on the evening of December 16. Be sure to watch holiday movies outdoors along the Mississippi River with Movies on the Mississippi (hint: Elf is screening December 14). The Windsor Court Hotel, in addition to having a 19.5-foot Christmas tree with over 25,000 lights in the lobby, is offering a holiday suite adorned with its own Christmas tree with silver trimmings. Hilton New Orleans Riverside’s Holiday Special package offers travelers free parking, a themed Southern Spice holiday cocktail, and a donation made to the Children's Hospital of New Orleans. Plus, it's conveniently located right next to all the holiday festivities at Riverwalk’s Spanish Plaza. (Photo via Windsor Court Hotel)
Bowling Green, Kentucky: Bowling Green offers a taste of Christmas in the Country, where you can ride the Polar Express at the Historic Railpark & Train Museum. The quaint Southern town (only an hour north of Nashville) becomes even more charming in the wintertime, when the town center, Fountain Square Park, is adorned with tinsel and holiday lights. Visitors should spend time exploring the holiday scenes of Santa’s Lookout, a drive-through tour that runs through December 29. Also not to be missed? The Christmas shopping at the Mistletoe Market and the seasonal pies from the Pie Queen of Bowling Green at the Boyce General Store. (Photo via Getty)
Tucson, Arizona: If you're looking for some holiday cheer in the Southwest, look no further than Tucson, Arizona. Check out the ornately decorated holiday-themed vehicles at the 24th annual Downtown Parade of Lights in Tucson, Arizona, on December 15 and the WinterHaven Festival of Lights runs through December 26. Residents of this midtown neighborhood have been decorating their homes with ornate holiday lights for decades, and the spectacle can be explored via bus trolley, hayrides, group bike rides, or on foot. (Photo via Getty)
What are your favorite cities to visit during the holidays? Let us know @BritandCo.
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