Best Christmas destinations in the U.S.
Destination: United States

Best places to visit during Christmas in the U.S.

Discover our favorite places to spend Christmas in the United States, and check out our tips on what to do and where to stay.

There’s something truly enchanting about spending Christmas in the United States. From coast to coast, the country lights up with festive cheer, heartwarming traditions, and a sense of unity that makes the holiday season feel truly special. Whether you’re a local or an international visitor, the U.S. offers a wide array of activities and destinations to make your Christmas unforgettable. In this post, we’ll explore some of the top things to do in the U.S. for Christmas.

New York City

Christmas in New York City
Christmas house decoration lights display in the suburban Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights, in New York City
With its iconic decorations and holiday spirit, New York City is a Christmas lover’s dream. Here, you can visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, ice skate at Wollman Rink, and enjoy Fifth Avenue’s famous holiday window displays. Don’t forget to catch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. And if you’re in town on Christmas Eve, head to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a magical Midnight Mass.

Christmas in New York is enchanting, offering many activities that capture the holiday spirit in a bustling, magical metropolis. One must-do activity is visiting the iconic Rockefeller Center, where the dazzling Christmas tree, adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, takes center stage. Skating on the renowned ice rink beneath it is a tradition that locals and tourists cherish.

Fifth Avenue is a shopper’s paradise for those seeking gifts and holiday cheer. The department stores along this iconic street, such as Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, showcase extravagant window displays that are works of art in themselves. Strolling past them is a cherished pastime; inside, you can find unique gifts for your loved ones.

Central Park becomes a winter wonderland during the holiday season, offering ice skating at Wollman Rink and horse-drawn carriage rides through its snow-covered paths. Nearby, Bryant Park hosts a bustling holiday market with artisanal gifts and a beautifully illuminated ice skating rink. Broadway theaters add a festive touch to their performances with Christmas-themed shows and dazzling productions that infuse the holiday spirit into classic tales. From “The Nutcracker” to “A Christmas Carol,” there’s a show for every taste.

Exploring the city’s neighborhoods, you’ll encounter charming holiday markets like the Union Square and Columbus Circle Holiday Market, offering unique, handcrafted goods and delectable treats. And, of course, the city’s streets come alive with the harmonious sounds of carolers, and the scent of roasted chestnuts fills the air, creating an unforgettable atmosphere. No matter how you choose to celebrate, Christmas in New York City is a breathtaking experience that promises lasting memories and a touch of magic.

Book Hampton Inn Ridgefield Park

Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Christmas Store in Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Christmas Store in Santa Claus, Indiana

For a truly unique Christmas experience, visit Santa Claus, Indiana. This charming town lives up to its name with Christmas-themed attractions year-round, but it’s especially magical during the holiday season. Santa Claus Village, Santa’s Candy Castle, and the Santa Claus Museum are just some places to explore.

Visiting Santa Claus, Indiana, during Christmas is like stepping into a holiday storybook. The town lives up to its name and offers many festive activities for the whole family.

One of the most beloved attractions in Santa Claus is the Santa Claus Christmas Store, a massive holiday-themed emporium where you can find ornaments, decorations, and unique gifts. It’s a place where the Christmas spirit is tangible year-round, but it truly shines during the holiday season. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari amusement park transforms into “Holiday World’s Happy Halloween Weekends,” offering holiday-themed rides, shows, and an enchanting walk-through Christmas light display. The whole family can enjoy the whimsical atmosphere and thrilling rides with a festive twist.

The Santa Claus Land of Lights is another must-see attraction, featuring a stunning drive-through light show that tells the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a magical experience that captivates both young and old. Don’t miss the Santa Claus Museum & Village, where you can learn about the town’s history and send a letter to Santa. In December, the village is adorned with holiday decorations, creating a picturesque winter wonderland.

For a unique experience, the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration includes various events, including chestnut roasting, caroling, and photo opportunities with Santa Claus. The Parade of Lights is a highlight, featuring beautifully decorated floats that wind through the town’s charming streets. Santa Claus, Indiana’s charm and warmth make it a remarkable destination for Christmas enthusiasts. Whether you’re shopping for the perfect ornament or immersing yourself in holiday cheer, this town is a Christmas lover’s paradise.

Book Ramada by Wyndham Michigan City.

Chicago, Illinois

Christmas in Chicago, Illinois
Old Town Square in Prague with the Astronomical Clock in the foreground and Church of Our Lady before Týn with Christmas tree
Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, inspired by the German tradition, is a must-visit for anyone looking for a traditional European Christmas experience. This open-air market has handmade gifts, delicious food, and a festive atmosphere. Also, don’t miss the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, a dazzling parade along Michigan Avenue.

Christmas in Chicago offers a dazzling array of festive activities that capture the holiday spirit. The city comes alive with a magical glow, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy during this particular season.

One of Chicago’s most iconic holiday traditions is the Christkindlmarket, a German-inspired open-air market in Daley Plaza. It features charming stalls selling handcrafted ornaments, delicious German treats, and unique gifts. The twinkling lights and the towering Christmas tree in the city’s heart enhance the atmosphere.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is another spectacular event that kicks off the holiday season with a grand parade, lighting of over one million lights, and fireworks over the Chicago River. It’s a cherished tradition that draws crowds from near and far. Visiting Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is a favorite pastime, where you can glide along the ice with the city’s skyline as your backdrop. Nearby, The Bean (Cloud Gate) sculpture is adorned with a giant Christmas wreath, adding a festive touch to this iconic attraction.

For a touch of holiday history, visiting the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit is necessary. The exhibition features a stunning display of over 50 Christmas trees, each decorated to represent a different culture’s holiday traditions. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s performances of Handel’s “Messiah” and the Joffrey Ballet’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” are annual traditions that bring classical and dance enthusiasts together for an unforgettable holiday experience.

Chicago’s neighborhoods also shine with their unique holiday charm, featuring neighborhood holiday markets, parades, and events. The Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights is a beloved family attraction, transforming the zoo into a winter wonderland with millions of sparkling lights. In short, Chicago offers many Christmas activities that make the holiday season truly magical. Whether you’re strolling through holiday markets, taking in the city’s iconic lights, or enjoying a world-class performance, the Windy City knows how to celebrate Christmas in style.

Book Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Chicago North Shore.

Leavenworth, Washington

Christmas in Leavenworth, Washington
Houses decorated for Christmas in Alpine Village in Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, a picturesque Bavarian-style village, becomes a winter wonderland during the holiday season. The town is renowned for its authentic Christmas markets, sleigh rides, and stunning Christmas lighting festival. The Cascade Mountains surrounding Leavenworth provide a beautiful backdrop for your holiday festivities.

Leavenworth, Washington, is a picture-perfect destination for a charming and festive Christmas experience. Nestled in the Cascade Mountains, this Bavarian-themed village becomes a winter wonderland during the holiday season, offering various activities that warm the heart and capture the magic of Christmas.

The town’s streets are adorned with twinkling lights and decorations, transforming Leavenworth into a quaint Bavarian Christmas village straight out of a storybook. Strolling through the charming village center is an experience, with shops and storefronts selling unique gifts, holiday treats, and handcrafted ornaments.

A highlight of Christmas in Leavenworth is the Lighting Festival, a series of weekends leading up to Christmas when the entire town comes together for a grand lighting ceremony. Thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the village, and the sound of carolers fills the air. It’s a magical spectacle that draws visitors from all around.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Leavenworth offers various winter activities, including sleigh rides through snow-covered landscapes and cross-country skiing along the picturesque trails of Icicle River. The surrounding mountains provide ample opportunities for snowshoeing and even dog sledding adventures. Families can visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, where you can meet real reindeer and even Santa himself. It’s a unique opportunity for children and adults alike to get up close with these magical creatures.

Leavenworth’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting Parade features festive floats, marching bands, and Santa’s grand entrance. It’s a delightful event that truly kicks off the holiday season. With cozy lodges, Bavarian cuisine, and a postcard-perfect backdrop of snow-covered mountains, Leavenworth, Washington, is an enchanting destination to create lasting Christmas memories and experience the season’s true spirit.

Book Der Ritterhof Inn.

San Francisco, California

Christmas in San Francisco, California
San Francisco City Hall illuminated by Christmas lights
San Francisco offers a unique Christmas experience if you prefer a milder winter. The city’s Union Square hosts an ice skating rink surrounded by shops and holiday decorations. A short trip across the bay to Sausalito offers views of the beautifully lit boats during the annual Parade of Lights.

Christmas in San Francisco uniquely blends holiday traditions and West Coast charm. The city’s mild winter weather creates a festive atmosphere for various activities celebrating the season.
One of the most iconic San Francisco holiday events is the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in Union Square. The towering tree is adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, creating a captivating display that draws visitors and locals alike. The square also hosts an ice skating rink, surrounded by boutique shops and delightful cafes.

The San Francisco Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” performance at the War Memorial Opera House is a beloved tradition, capturing the season’s magic through exquisite dance and enchanting set designs. Pier 39, a popular waterfront destination, transforms into a winter wonderland during the holidays. The pier features festive decorations, a Christmas tree, and a nightly Tree Lighting Celebration. Additionally, visitors can enjoy shopping, dining, and the chance to spot sea lions basking in the sun.

For a unique twist on holiday lights, the Illuminate SF Festival of Light showcases various light art installations throughout the city, turning San Francisco into an open-air gallery of dazzling displays.

The annual SantaCon event brings hundreds of Santas, elves, and reindeer-clad participants to the streets, spreading cheer and merriment as they visit bars and engage in festive antics. Ghirardelli Square, a historic chocolate factory turned shopping and dining destination, is a delightful spot to indulge in holiday treats and hot cocoa. The square often hosts special events and activities during the Christmas season.

San Francisco’s neighborhoods, such as Castro and Noe Valley, get into the holiday spirit with festive decorations and events like the Castro Christmas Tree Lighting and the Noe Valley Holiday Walk. With its unique blend of urban sophistication and holiday charm, San Francisco offers a unique Christmas experience that will enchant visitors of all ages.

Book The Embassy Hotel.

Disneyland, California & Walt Disney World, Florida

Christmas in Orlando, Florida
Christmas tree in Lake Eola in Orlando, Florida
Head to Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida for a dose of magic. Both parks go all out for the holidays, with special parades, light displays, and seasonal treats. It’s a fantastic option for families and Disney enthusiasts.

Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida are iconic destinations that become even more magical during Christmas. These renowned theme parks offer many festive activities that cater to visitors of all ages, creating a holiday experience like no other.

At Disneyland in California, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is transformed into a stunning winter wonderland with shimmering lights and snow-capped turrets. The park features special holiday-themed parades, such as the “A Christmas Fantasy Parade,” and fireworks shows that light up the night sky with a festive flair.

Walt Disney World in Florida boasts the enchanting Cinderella Castle adorned with over 300,000 shimmering lights during its “Cinderella’s Holiday Wish” show. The park hosts the “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party,” an exclusive event with holiday-themed attractions, parades, and character meet-and-greets. Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World offer seasonal overlays for popular rides. For example, the “It’s a Small World” attraction has decorations and a holiday soundtrack. The Haunted Mansion becomes the “Haunted Mansion Holiday,” featuring a unique Nightmare Before Christmas theme.

Epcot at Walt Disney World celebrates the “International Festival of the Holidays” with holiday kitchens serving up international seasonal treats and the Candlelight Processional, a moving retelling of the Christmas story narrated by a celebrity guest. Visitors can meet Santa Claus at both parks and enjoy character meet-and-greets with beloved Disney characters dressed in their holiday best.

The Disney Springs shopping and dining district at Walt Disney World offers many gift options and festive decorations, making it a great place to shop for unique holiday presents. The holiday magic at Disneyland and Walt Disney World extends to their resorts, with elaborate decorations, gingerbread displays, and seasonal dining experiences.

In summary, a visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World during the Christmas season is a truly magical experience, where the enchantment of Disney merges with the warmth and wonder of the holidays, creating cherished memories for families and friends alike.

Book hotels near Disneyland, California.
Book hotels near Walt Disney World, Florida.

Looking for the best places to spend Christmas in the US?

No matter where you spend your Christmas in the USA, the country offers diverse experiences, from traditional and historic to modern and magical. The common thread that ties them all together is the spirit of joy and togetherness that defines the holiday season. So, pack your winter coat, prepare your wish list, and get ready to create cherished memories in the land of the free during the most beautiful time of the year. Merry Christmas!


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