Open your purse strings at the twinkling Christmas markets in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: Alamy)
Whether it’s baking Christmas cookies as a family or grabbing hot chocolate with your friends after some Black Friday shopping, we all have our holiday traditions. But isn’t variety the spice of life? Make some new traditions this holiday season by traveling to a new destination. Here’s some of the best places to go for a Christmas vacation, regardless of if you want to stay close to home or travel far away.
Planes & Trains Away
Where You’re Going: Vienna, Austria
What You’re Doing: Few things are as magical as Vienna in the wintertime. If you’re visiting around the holidays, be sure to swing by the Christmas Markets, offered throughout the month of December. Check out the Alt Wiener Weihnachtsmarkt at Freyung and pick up some Christmas décor for friends back home. If your favorite part of Christmas is the sounds of the season, you’re in luck. Plan on visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral for one of their Advent concert series. Not only is it a great way to appreciate the sounds of Christmas, but you can explore the city’s unique architecture too.
What You’re Eating: After a concert at St. Stephen’s, head just a block west to Café Hawelka. Spend some time exploring the café’s décor from the early 1900s as you enjoy your Buchtein – a yeast bun filled with jam.
Where You’re Going: Bruges, Belgium
What You’re Doing: Sure, Bruges has Christmas markets and holiday décor decorating the city’s buildings – but this town takes the Christmas appreciation to a whole new level. They have fully dedicated stores, like the Christmas Grotto, perfect for holiday gifts for family back home. The Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, located in Station Square, lets visitors immerse themselves into a land of enchantment. Past themes for the competition included “Harry Potter”/”The Lord of the Rings” as well as the movie “Frozen”. Get ready for a chilling good time!
Where You’re Eating: Think of Belgium and think of chocolate? You’re not alone. Plan on visiting The Old Chocolate House for a taste of traditional, handmade Belgian chocolates made with fresh cream and 100 percent cacao butter.
Close to Home
Where You’re Going: Mackinac Island, Michigan
What You’re Doing: Ranked as one of the Top Ten Christmas Towns in America by HGTV, you’d better believe Mackinac Island is like stepping inside a snow globe. Every year, Mackinac Island hosts an annual Christmas celebration in the beginning of December. Enjoy the magnificent Christmas tree lighting, holiday goodies, hay rides and caroling.
Where You’re Eating: Santa isn’t the only one who deserves some sweet treats around the holidays! Swing by The Original Murdick’s Fudge shop – serving delicious fudge, brittle, caramel and toffee candies since 1887. Choose from 22 handcrafted fudge flavors including Traverse City Black Cherry, Double Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt and Butter Pecan.
Where You’re Going: North Pole, Alaska
What You’re Doing: No matter your age, there’s a certain enchantment when you step off the plane and realize you’ve touched down in the North Pole. Plan on visiting the Santa Claus House, a staple of the town that once served as a local grocery store. You can’t miss it – just look for the 42 foot tall Santa Claus statue outside the building and reindeer that welcome visitors. Want to spread Christmas cheer to friends and family back home? The Santa Claus sends letters to children from none other than Kris Kringle himself.
Where You’re Eating: Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Elf’s Den Restaurant serves up hearty food to warm you up on cold Alaskan nights. Try the reindeer sausage hoagie or the almond-crusted beef.