Christmas is just around the corner. And, since most people are longing for some travel and recharge time, going on a passport-free holiday vacation is the best way to enjoy the radiance of the season. But this year, instead of hopping on an airplane to travel internationally, you can go on a holiday staycation trip within your own city or set off to an exciting U.S. destination you’ve always wanted to go to. Either way, you’ll be in good hands. The options of places to spend Christmas are endless, as the country is home to a showcase of holiday getaways that offer seasonal treats, comfortable accommodation options, and plenty of activities for the whole family.
To help you with your holiday planning, we’ve rounded up the 10 best Christmas vacations in the U.S. Which one is your favorite?
Note: Make sure to double-check COVID 19 precautions, protocols, and operating hours before you visit any of these sites.
Best Christmas Vacation Ideas
Are you itching to escape the urban sprawl and enjoy the restorative benefits of being around nature? If so, a great Christmas vacation idea is to set off on a family trip to the wilderness. You can even rent a cozy cabin in the woods and have your own holiday celebration while enjoying the brisk air and sweeping forested views.
For families who are seeking the ultimate holiday experience, why not head over to Disney World with the kids during the Christmas season? This year, the park will host a showcase of entertainment experiences, light displays, and festive treats until December 30.
Filled with seasonal activities and an array of lights, New York is will surely light up your holiday spirit during your family vacation. The city becomes a magical wonderland during the holidays, hosting a range of iconic events such as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the European-style Christmas market at Bryant Park.
Best Christmas Vacations for Families
San Francisco, California
One of the things that makes San Francisco one of the best places to spend Christmas in the United States is the fact that it has a lot of kid-friendly activities. During this time of year, the city houses a panoply of festive lights and decorations, including the iconic 83 feet tall Macy’s “Great Tree”, which is decorated with more than 33,000 energy-efficient LED lights and 1,100 ornaments. This year, you can also take the little ones to Golden Gate Park, which will be transformed into a whimsical winter wonderland. In December, the park will become home to “Entwined”, an art installation that’s it’s themed around an enchanted forest with 2,000 LED lights. The installation is part of the Illuminate San Francisco Festival of Light, which will turn the city into a glittering paradise by spreading over 40 illuminated public artworks in 17 neighborhoods of San Francisco.
Aside from indulging in plenty of holiday activities, make sure you also tour around San Francisco and check some of the city’s top-rated attractions, including Chinatown, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Ghirardelli Square. Don’t forget to sight-see the Golden Gate Bridge, which is the most photographed spot in San Francisco, and one of the most Instagrammable places in the world.
San Diego, California
In case you have a bit more time, you can turn your Christmas vacation into a fun road-trip with your family by taking the Pacific Coast Highway to explore the cities along California’s coast. After a weekend in San Francisco, for instance, you can head south and either stop in Santa Barbara or go straight to San Diego. Offering a pleasant climate all year round, San Diego is the perfect getaway for families who want to escape the cold weather.
Aside from beaches, gardens, and parks, San Diego also displays a showcase of festive events during Christmas. From December 2 to December 30, visitors will be able to wander through 37 acres of illuminated plants and garden areas in the San Diego Botanical Garden. The event will also host a display of lighted animals, laser lighting, and fire pits for the whole family.
To provide locals and visitors with a safe holiday experience for locals and visitors, San Diego will host events that were adapted to ensure social distancing. The annual Enchanted Village at the Noah Homes, a nonprofit organization, will return this year as a drive-thru light tunnel. From your car, you’ll be able to wander through over 100,000-holiday lights, and interactive displays, and also have your photo with Santa taken at a safe distance!
While some events were called off this year due to the current situation, there will still be plenty of Christmas activities throughout Chicago. Until January 2021, the Lincoln Park Zoo will host a range of attractions, such as a candy cane lane, light tunnels, and even a hot chocolate and s’mores stand. To sight-see some more dazzling lights, head over to the Morton Arboretum’s annual tree lights display. This year, this event will return as a drive-in show, where visitors can pass through a two-mile stretch of colorful lights while listening to a musical soundtrack. Another must-go for a Christmas vacation in Chicago is the Great Tree at Macy’s Walnut Room restaurant.
There will be no ice skating at Millenium Park this week, but you can still go to Maggie Daley Park to have some fun while sliding on their Ice Skating Ribbon.
As the year begins to wind down, Washington, D.C, turns into a sparkly holiday destination that appeals to both couples and families with children. One of the most famed activities during Christmas it’s visiting the National Christmas Tree. This year, the tree displays a patriotic design, which includes red, white, and blue opaque lights, a handcrafted 3D gold star, and 18,000 LED lights.
When in Washington DC for your Christmas vacation, also go to the Downtown Holiday Market, an outdoor shopping village that will feature more than 70 exhibitors. Aside from doing your spot of shopping, you can also indulge in some live music concerts, and delicious heartwarming food, such as churros, barbeque, and doughnuts.
During your Christmas vacation in Washington DC, don’t forget to visit the renowned Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex.
New York City, New York
New York City during the Christmas season is a true sight to be seen. In fact, New York embraces the Christmas spirit like no other place in the United States. And what makes NY one of the best places to spend the holiday season is the fact that the city has something to offer everyone, from adults to children. For a flavor of the winter in NYC, you can start off your trip with some family-friendly activities, such as ice skating on Bryant Park, and checking out the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Once these are done, you can move on to other magical holiday activicties, such as visiting the New York Botanical Garden, which will host an outdoor experience this year. Named NYBG Glow, the event will fully illuminate the garden’s landscape with energy-efficient LED lights. There will also be a miniature train show, where visitors can watch little trains traversing a display of nearly 200 of the city’s landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
And, in case you’re in a true Christmas mood this year, there are more holiday activicties in New York for you and your family. So what about marveling at New York’s festive lights by going to the iconic Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Display? A tradition for more than 30 years, the light display spans over three avenues and several streets in Brooklyn, from 11th to 13th Avenues (also known as Dyker Heights Boulevard), and from 83rd to 86th Street in Dyker Heights. The houses located in this area get over-the-top decorated in the old-fashioned style, filled with dazzling lights, giant sleighs, inflatable Santa’s, Christmas trees, and more.
Feel like taking a quick break from all the Christmas-themed events? A great idea is to visit New York’s top-rated attractions. You can always go for a walk on Central Park and feel the brisk air or winter, wander around Chinatown for a dumpling-filled meal, or go visit the city’s museums.
Seattle might not be the first destination you consider when planning a holiday getaway. But we guarantee that you won’t regret it if you decide to spend Christmas in the city. Start your Seattle family vacation by going to the “Illuminate Your Holidays” at the Woodland Park Zoo. This immersive experience will take you through an exhibition of large scale animals and nature scape lanterns that represent wild places from around the world. The event will also host a brand-new lantern festival name WildLanterns.
After the dazzling experience at Woodland Park, go visit the famous Candy Cane Lane in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. Also known as the N.E. Park Road, the Candy Cane Lane consists of 23 houses decorated with lights, life-size moving objects, Christmas trees, and fake snow.
Craving some Christmas shopping spree? Then make your move to the Pike Place Market, an open-air market where you’ll find a slew of amazing handmade gifts for your family.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is one of the best Christmas vacations for an authentic holiday in the wilderness. Located between the Gros Ventre and Teton mountain ranges, Jackson Hole is well-known for being home to three major ski areas, and for being close to the Grand Teton National Park, and the Yellowstone National Park.
If hitting the slopes during winter is your family’s favorite holiday tradition, you can plan a ski trip and stay at a mountain resort. This year, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the Teton Village Association will have an array of Christmas activities, such as ski with Santa Claus, a snow sculpture building contest, and free ice skating on the Village Rink, among others.
And, when you’re not sleigh riding, nordic skiing, and snowboarding in Jackson Hole, you can celebrate the holidays by taking your family to Town Square, which gets filled with twinkling lights and Christmas decorations.
Seeking some cozy time curling up by the fireplace and binge-watching your favorite Christmas movies with your family? Then a great idea is to rent a cabin in the woods. You can throw your own Christmas dinner party and maintain your beloved holiday traditions while traveling.
Charleston, South Carolina
For some heartwarming Southern hospitality during the holidays, go to Charleston, South Carolina. Filled with historic homes, gorgeous piazzas, and award-winning restaurants, the city is guaranteed to provide you with a memorable Christmas experience, as it will host a range of swoon-worthy events this winter. Until 31 of December Charleston will host one of the most awaited shows of the year: the Holiday Festival Of Lights. Visitors will be able to marvel at two million lights while enjoying mouth-watering treats.
To level up your holiday season in Charleston, go to the Christmas Candlelight Tour, which will take you and your family to explore the beautifully decorated Boone Hall Plantation. If you feel like having even more fun with the kids, a great place to go is Theodora Park, the only small city park with holiday lights that look like jewels spread across the gardens.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Known for its Pueblo-style architecture and dramatic mountainous backdrop, this off the beaten path destination is one of the best places to spend your Christmas vacations in the U.S. Christmas in New Mexico is influenced by different cultures, including Spanish, Native American, Mexican and Anglo-American, which will allow you and your family to learn about other holiday traditions. In fact, many pueblos close to Santa Fe celebrate Christmas with traditional festivals, which usually feature typical dances and music.
Adrenaline enthusiasts can also benefit from spending Christmas in Santa Fe, as the city turns into a veritable wonderland for winter sports during the holiday season. There are several mountainous areas around Santa Fe where you can go skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and even sleigh-riding.
Walt Disney World, Orlando
Get ready to be spending the happiest time of the year in the happiest place on earth. After all, when it comes to having a wonderful time with your family, Walt Disney World never disappoints. And while the conditions are a bit different this year, Disney brings the holiday spirit to every park by offering a myriad of events. In Epcot, for instance, visitors will witness Santa Claus touring around the World Showcase in his horse-drawn sleigh, while wishing everyone a happy holiday season. Until December 31, guests will also be able to participate in the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays and visit the Holiday Kitchens around the world.
Magic Kingdom will feature colorful castle projections, a holiday trolley, and a philharmonic. To satisfy your cravings, you can indulge in some sweet and savory holiday treats, such as hot chocolate and cookies.
Wondering where to go for your holiday shopping? Well, Orlando has infinite options of outlets where you can find great deals and go hunting for Christmas presents for your family. With a wide range of things to see and do, Orlando is certainly one of the best Christmas family vacations in Florida.
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