While many travelers might go home for the holidays, a number of others plan getaways, either to escape the cold or to embrace it. If you’re looking for some inspiration to pack a suitcase and head out in search of holiday cheer, we’ve picked a handful of the best holiday destinations across North America that are perfect for a December vacation.
The vibrant red poinsettia has become a symbol of Christmas, but did you know the flower is actually an export of Mexico? Thousands of blooms are sold throughout Mexico City, which offers its own kind of cheer during the holiday season.
The celebrations kick off on the third Saturday in November, when the Christmas tree in the Liverpool Insurgentes mall is lit. After that, decorations adorn houses, shops, and the historic buildings of the city. You can shop the Christmas markets, go ice skating in the pop-up rink in the zocalo, and see the poinsettias in Xochimilco.
Williamsburg might be a destination full of history, but during the winter season, it becomes a Christmas wonderland.
The town, home to iconic living history museum Colonial Williamsburg, is full of Christmas spirit with carolers roaming its cobbled streets, while the nearby Busch Gardens theme park strings more than eight million lights across its grounds—an Instagram-worthy sight. Plus, the College of William and Mary, one of the oldest universities in America, glows with its own lights and Christmas trees.
Manhattan might get most of the Christmas season glory, with its famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, ice-skating rink, and opulent window displays lining Fifth Avenue, but in-the-know holiday travelers head to Brooklyn for the real show.
Residents in the Dyker Heights neighborhood decorate their homes with over-the-top decorations and tens of thousands of lights each December, drawing crowds from around the world.
Victoria, British Columbia
Often overlooked for neighboring Vancouver, the city of Victoria is an underrated gem in the Pacific Northwest. During the holiday season, the capital city hosts a wave of immersive events like parades, a seasonal market, and even haunted Christmas-themed tours.
Of course, you won’t have a hard time finding an ice-skating rink to cap off your winter celebrations—this is Canada, after all.
Frankenmuth feels as if it was plucked straight from Germany—in “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” you’ll find streets lined with charming Bavarian-style architecture, historic breweries, and locals that greet you with “Wilkommen” more often than they do “Hello”—and seems to celebrate the holidays year-round.
Pop by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, branded as the largest Christmas store in the world, and the small museum dedicated to antique ornaments—both of which are open through the seasons. During the holidays specifically, the farmers market is transformed into a traditional Christkindlmarkt—perfect for picking up those last-minute souvenirs.
San Diego, CA
Thoughts of the holidays might typically conjure images of snow-dusted evergreen trees, but there’s something wonderful about celebrating in gloriously warm weather.
Head to sunny San Diego for a Californian take on the Christmas season, where you can stroll through the well-decorated San Diego Botanic Garden. During its Garden of Lights event, sledding and horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, food trucks, and mulled wine are accompanied by nightly live entertainment—be it jazz or blues.
Also in December, you can also catch the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, where locals sail their luxuriously decorated, well-lit boats around town.
Jackson Hole, WY
Looking for a ski break? Celebrate the holidays in tony Jackson Hole. While all the halls will be decked, it’s the great outdoors that draws in most visitors.
Consider taking a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge or going on a dog-sledding adventure along the area’s wooded trails. When you’re ready to get warm indoors, catch the annual Christmas show at the Jackson Hole Playhouse.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
If your idea of a holiday getaway involves the beach, head south to San Juan, where you can enjoy surf and sand with a side of city culture. Christmas is an important holiday to many Puerto Ricans, so you’ll find plenty of decorations (especially in the old town) and events that last from the end of November into January.
If you want to extend the holiday season, visit on January 6th—Three Kings Day—when a large celebration takes over the city.
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