The 15 Best Places to Travel at Christmas

by Samantha Ballenger

Christmas is the most wonderful time of year for so many people; it is also one of the best times to travel. We agree there is no place like home for the holidays. However, if you are looking for a new family tradition or need a quick getaway, Christmas is the perfect excuse. 

We came up with the 15 best places to travel at Christmas throughout the U.S. that offer festive cheer and new and exciting ways to celebrate the season. Including warm and cold weather destinations, light festivals, and more. 

Do you have a favorite place to celebrate the Christmas season?

COURTESY: The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

It’s no secret that we love New Orleans, and we also think fall is the perfect time to visit. However, if you want to see New Orleans decked out in Christmas lights and hotels dripping with decorations, you don’t want to miss New Orleans at Christmas. With unique traditions like the Reveillon dinners, which began as the dinner families would enjoy after midnight Christmas Eve mass.

One of the Christmas season highlights is bonfires on the levee, built to guide Papa Noel, AKA Santa Clause. You can’t miss the Celebration in the Oaks in City Park, 25 acres of displays and 600-year-old oak trees covered in Spanish moss and decked out in lights. Check out the Hip Hop version of The Nutcracker at Saenger theater or take the family for Teddy Bear Tea at the Roosevelt hotel. Countless celebrations and traditions make New Orleans one of the best places to travel at Christmas time.

Where to Stay

For the full Christmas experience, stay at the Roosevelt Hotel, known for its over-the-top Christmas decor featuring Burch trees and over 60,000 lights. Or stay at the world-famous Hotel Monteleone, known for its Carousel Bar and festive decorations. 

Charleston, South Carolina

Known for its charm, Charleston is especially charming during the holiday season. Historic homes are decked out in historically accurate decorations, and the downtown area dazzles with twinkling lights. The holiday season brings fewer crowds and plenty of ways to celebrate the season. Enjoy the holiday lights festival at Santas Village and Winter Wonderland. Drive through the festival, or get out and walk around to see the displays up close. Take a walking tour of Charleston and get an up-close view of some of the historic private homes and gardens. Or take a carriage ride in a specially decorated carriage driven by one of Santa’s elves. 

Where to Stay

Decked out in Classic Christmas style, The French Quarter Inn is storybook perfect during the holidays. Book the Sleigh Bell Suite for the ultimate Christmas experience. Enjoy fresh baked cookies, bourbon spiced egg nog under the twinkling lights of your own Christmas tree beside the crackling fireplace. If you have ever had the pleasure of staying at a Belmond hotel, you know how special they are. The Belmond Charleston Place is no different, offering stellar service and its Festive Moments package that includes in-room decorations and professional family photos. 

Tribune Building

Chicago, Illinois

If you are up for a chilly adventure, Chicago is a must-visit during the holiday season. The city is bustling with magic and excitement. Take a stroll through Christkindlmarket featuring local vendors selling handcrafted goods. Visit Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo illuminated with over 2.5 million lights, including displays set to music. If your favorite thing about the holidays is the lights, you won’t want to miss Lightscape at the Botanic Gardens in nearby Glencoe. Ice skate at Millennium Park or nearby Maggie Daley Park at the Ice Skating Ribbon. Visit the Science and Industry Museum for Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights, which celebrates holiday traditions from around the world. It wouldn’t be a visit to the Windy City without shopping on the Magnificent Mile or catching a show like ‘Twas the Night Before by Cirque Du Soleil or The Nutcracker.

Where to Stay

For classic holiday decor, stay at the Drake Hotel. Make sure to enjoy their Holiday Tea service with Carolers. For a cozy holiday escape, try the Hotel Zachary in Wrigleyville. With its minimal holiday decor and comfortable atmosphere, it will feel like you stepped into a well-decorated home for the holidays.

Taos, New Mexico

One of the best places to travel for Christmas for its Uniqueness is Taos, New Mexico. Home to a world-class ski resort, Taos Ski Valley, and a world heritage site, Christmas in Taos is a unique blend of ancient tradition and modern art. Taos offers a uniquely New Mexican spin on the holiday season. Bonfires on Bent Street has Aztec dancers kick off the event. Don’t miss the annual Fiesta at Millicent Rogers Museum. See the candle-lit farolitos or luminaries which line the snow-dusted streets in front of old adobe shops and homes. Yuletide in Taos encapsulates the entire holiday season and offers the best of unique traditions in the mountains of New Mexico.

Where to Stay

For an Alpine experience mixed with luxury and tradition, The Blake offers cozy guest rooms perfect for relaxing after a long day of skiing. The Palacio De Marquesa offers eight unique rooms perfect for resting after celebrating Yuletide in Taos.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole attracts people from around the world all year long. However, the holiday season brings dazzling Christmas decorations and Christmas celebrations that add to the city’s charm. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the protected National Elk Refuge for a special treat. Your guide will tell you all about the elk herd while you get an up-close experience with unforgettable views. Experience the holiday art bazaar, The Twelve Days of Christmas at The Wort Hotel, and celebrations at the Targhee Resort.

Where to Stay

Stay at The Wort Hotel for The Twelve Days of Christmas to enjoy Gingerbread house making, Wine pairings, and cookie decorating, and so much more.

Old San Juan

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is one of the best places to travel at Christmas if you love a long Christmas season. Lasting from the last week in November until Mid January. One of the unique traditions is Parrandas, the Puerto Rican version of Christmas Carols. Family and friends gather in front of houses late at night to sing Christmas songs. Puerto Rico offers countless ways to celebrate the holiday season, from Nochebuena, a day of family gathering, and three kings day.

Where to Stay

Stay at the Hotel El Convento, a former Convent and classically charming if you are staying in San Juan.

If you want ideas on what to do while not celebrating all of the Christmas traditions, check out these activities.

Disney Magic Kingdom

Orlando, Florida

While Orlando is popular to visit year-round, Christmas offers a unique way to celebrate. Mickey mouse and the gang are dressed to impress in their winter Santa-inspired suits. Visit Universal studios for The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live How the Grinch Stole Christmas show. Visit Disney’s Epcot for Christmas around the world. Shop at one of 15 marketplaces showcasing items from around the world. The Magic Kingdom offers dazzling fireworks all year round; however, they are extra special during the holiday season.

Where to Stay

Classic Christmas decorations, a lifesize gingerbread house, and a gigantic Christmas tree are all staples at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. With its rustic ambiance and ample decorations, The Wilderness Lodge doesn’t disappoint. Wherever you choose, Disney is one of the best places to travel for Christmas.

COURTESY: Aspen Snowmass

Aspen, Colorado

For obvious reasons, Aspen makes the list of the best places to travel for Christmas. Aspen is for you if you believe Christmas should include snow, mountains, and a heavily decorated downtown. Well known for its skiing, and extravagance Aspen celebrates Christmas just as over the top. Celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with Santa, crafts, shopping, concerts, and more.

Where to Stay

The St. Regis offers beautiful holiday decor and kid-focused activities if you are traveling with family. Try Hotel Jerome, Aspen’s oldest resort, for a mix of elegance and history. Hotel Jerome also celebrates the season with Theater Aspen’s limited run of Holiday Cabaret, starring the best of Broadway in Aspen.

North Pole, Alaska

What kid or child at heart wouldn’t love to visit the North Pole? For a memory that will last a lifetime, visiting North Pole Alaska would be a treat everyone can enjoy. Keep an eye out for the real-life Santa Clause while visiting the Santa Claus House. You will see live reindeer, Christmas gifts, and the world’s largest Santa statue.

Where to Stay

Stay at Hotel North Pole, that way you can tell everyone you stayed at the North Pole!

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is a special place to visit any time of year. Holiday lights and strolls under the ancient Spanish moss-covered oak trees will get you in the spirit. Take the trolley cars, tour historic homes, and dine at excellent restaurants. Rock around the Christmas tree with local choirs and dance groups. Shop at local boutiques for gifts with southern flair, then head to the Savannah Christmas market at Plant Riverside.

Where to Stay

Stay at River Street Inn if you want to feel like you stepped are in A Christmas Carol. Centrally located near restaurants and shops and dramatically decorated for the season. Book the Ballastone Inn, a Historic Bed, and Breakfast if Christmas wonderland is more your speed.

Austin Trail of Lights

Austin, Texas

You might not think of Austin when you think of the best place to travel for Christmas. However, the Austin trail of lights will quickly have you reconsidering. Drive through more than 2 million lights, 70 displays and tunnels, and 90 lighted trees. Shop at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, where over 200 artists offer their work for sale. Don’t miss one of the pop-up bars, such as The Eleanor, which is transformed into Miracle on 5th street.

Where to Stay

Stay at The Driscoll for classic decorations and Victorian holiday teas. At the same time, Hotel Van Zandt celebrates with its pop-up bar at Geraldine’s.

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth is quite literally a snowglobe. The city hosts Village of Lights: Christmastown, the annual tradition of celebrating Christmas decked out in lights and holiday traditions. The Bavarian-style town celebrates the holidays with festive carolers, entertainment, letters to Santa, and so much more. Check out the gingerbread house exhibition on your way to take photos with Frosty the Snowman.

Where to Stay

Staying at a Bed and Breakfast in Leavenworth will give you the most authentic experience. Stay at Run of the River Inn & Refuge for a rustic, cozy retreat.

Park City, Utah

If skiing is a must for your list of best places to travel for Christmas, Park City will be at the top. Known as one of the best places for skiing in the country with its powdery snow, Park City also goes all out for the holiday season. Take a walk along Snow Globe Trail, where you will find life-sized snow globes along Park Cities main street. Motion sensors activate the flurries delighting adults and kids alike. Don’t miss the electric light parade where vehicles are decorated and paraded down Main street. From Christkindlemarket to breakfast with Santa at Gardner Village, you won’t run out of activities during your stay.

Where to Stay

Salt Lake is the perfect place to book a vacation rental property. Many homes come fully decorated for Christmas and offer the ideal place to relax after a long day of skiing or sightseeing. The Grand America Hotel is a 5-star hotel with over-the-top holiday decorations if you want luxury. The holiday window stroll features unique handcrafted window displays that everyone will love. You won’t want to miss their lifesize gingerbread house or breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree

New York, New York

We’ve seen New York City at Christmas for years in movies and television shows. What better time to experience all that NYC offers than at Christmas time. It doesn’t get any more iconic than the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. Don’t miss the window displays at department stores like Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman, and the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. Visit Bryant Park Winter Village, the largest Christmas market in NYC, where you can ice skate, shop, and eat.

Christmas lights are everywhere, too many to see in one visit. However, you can book the Dyker Heights Christmas lights bus tour to see the famously decorated Brooklyn neighborhood. If you want the inside scoop on where to see the best lights, this article, NYC Christmas lights: Everything You Need to Know by Loving New York, will tell you where to go.

Where to Stay

Take your pick of hotels in New York. Extravagant and luxurious to budget-friendly, you won’t be disappointed in your choices. Some of the best decorations in the city will be at the hotels. Lotte New York Palace has a 30-foot tree in its courtyard and is centrally located to all the best attractions. The Plaza Hotel has fantastic decorations and is a must for any ‘Home Alone 2’ fan. The Four Seasons and The Peninsula offer classic decorations and luxury. For a unique experience, book a stay at The Standard East Village, where they have heated Yurts.

Gaylord Opryland

Nashville, Tennessee

Christmas time in Nashville has all the iconic things you expect but with holiday flair. A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland is a must during your visit. With over 3 million lights and acres of decorations, you are sure to get into the holiday spirit. Race your family at the ice tubing track after decorating gingerbread. Later in the evening, head out for a bar hop along Broadway and jam out to Christmas music.

Where to Stay

Book a stay at Hotel Bobby and head up to the Rooftop Lounge for Camp Bobby. A collection of Igloos, bonfires, and Ice skating make Camp Bobby the perfect backdrop for your Nashville Christmas adventure.

Do you have any plans to travel for the holidays? What are your suggestions for the best places to travel for Christmas?

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