The Best Holiday Travel Destination in Each State

The Best Holiday Travel Destinations

From small towns in the Heartland that have been taking part in holiday traditions for decades to metropolises full of seasonal theater productions and holiday markets to coastal destinations that put a nautical twist on the season, the best holiday destinations in the USA are full of whimsical wonder. Click through the slideshow to see each state's best holiday destination.

Alabama: Birmingham

The state's biggest city is hands down its best destination to embrace the magic of the season. Birmingham's iconic Vulcan Park will celebrate with an event called Magical Nights this year that will feature holiday lights, music, hot chocolate and visits from Santa. The city will also play host to the 5th Annual Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl on December 10 and receive a visit from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on December 15. In addition, the Alabama Ballet is one of only a small handful of ballets officially authorized to perform George Balanchine's The Nutcracker in 2022.

Alaska: North Pole

Take a short drive from Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway and you'll find yourself in the town of North Pole, which is easily one of the coolest places to be in the entire country in December-in more ways than one. The highlight of any trip is The Santa Claus House, which sells ornaments, decorations and other seasonal goodies and is home to a massive statue of Santa outside. This beloved store has been putting smiles on faces for 70 years and it's at its best this time of year.

Arizona: Flagstaff

The closest you'll get to the North Pole in The Grand Canyon State, head up to Flagstaff for wintry weather and a host of fun things to do around the holidays. Do some skiing at the Arizona Snowbowl and attend the Holiday Parade of Lights (December 10) before making the short drive over to Williams to take a journey on the Grand Canyon Railway's sensational Polar Express train.

Arkansas: Eureka Springs

The town looks like a Christmas card brought to life all year round and when the holiday season rolls around and the nights get chilly, Eureka Springs pulls out all the stops. The month starts with the lighthearted Parade of Lights (December 2) procession and Candlelight Tour of Homes (December 3) and continues the fun with events like Living Windows (December 11)-where downtown merchants have actors performing live Christmas scenes in their windows. This is to say nothing of the nearly-nightly holiday events that are set to take place in December at the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel.

California: Solvang

The "Danish Capital of America" ensures that every December is one to remember with its much-loved annual JuleFest. There will be live music and a lights show in Solvang Park all holiday season long and a myriad of fun events like the Julefest Parade (December 3), candlelight tours (select nights), Artisanal Night Market (December 7) and a performance by Danish Dancers (December 17). Regardless of what's happening when you visit, you'll be surrounded by the warm & cozy Scandinavian feeling known as hygge.

Colorado: Breckenridge

This mountain town is always easy on the eyes, but during the Holidays, Breck boasts the type of wintry backdrop usually only reserved for Hallmark movies and Christmas commercials. The big day is December 3, as that's when the town's remarkable lights are turned on, but only after the annual Holiday Dog Parade and the Running of the Santas. The 59th annual Ullr Fest-a legendary annual party dedicated to the Norse god of snow in order to procure a winter full of powder-takes over the town on December 8-10 and The Breckenridge Backstage Theatre will be performing A Christmas Story all month long, too. (December 7-30).

Connecticut: New Haven

Not only is this city known for its dazzling Christmas tree in New Haven Green-one of the most beloved in the state-December will feature free carriage rides and roaming bands of merry carolers. After you've spent some quality time outside in the winter temperatures, make for one of the city's fine "apizza" restaurants to try some of the nation's finest pies.

Delaware: Lewes

This coastal town is one of the East Coast's loveliest hidden gems and during the holidays the town bubbles over with the warmth of the season. The town kicks things off with the 90th Annual Lewes Christmas Parade on December 3 and keeps up the festive spirit all month long, with its cute stores and eateries being the perfect places to grab some gifts and soak up a little pre-holiday indulging. Just outside of town, you'll find Winter WonderFEST, a drive-through holiday lights spectacular open all month long.

Florida: St. Augustine

The entire town of St. Augustine will once again be illuminated by the light of thousands of enchanting bulbs during the Nights of Lights celebration, which lasts until January. In addition, this always-atmospheric destination will play host to a Christmas Parade-complete with floats and marching bands-on December 3, the Holiday Regatta of Lights on December 10 and the lovely Las Posadas illuminations event on December 17.

Georgia: Dahlonega

The holiday season just feels jollier when you're in the hills and this town is arguably the Peach State's prettiest mountain outpost. Dahlonega will glow under a sensational display of lights all month long while the Festival of the Trees displays in Hancock Park will begin on December 3 and run the rest of the month. This is just the start of the festive proceedings, as weekends in December will also see Carriage Rides on select nights, a Christmas Market (December 2-3 & 9-10), a Cookie Walk (December 10-11), and a 5K Reindeer Dash (December 17).

Hawai'i: Honolulu

In addition to the fact that Santa is expected to arrive on the beach by canoe once again in 2022-wishing all "Mele Kalikimaka" along the way-the city will also play host to an impressive lights display at Aloha Stadium called Aloha Land and the seasonal Honolulu City Lights. And there's no need to fly back to the mainland until 2023 because the New Year's Eve fireworks over Waikiki Beach are legendary.

Idaho: Coeur d'Alene

Home to the USA's largest holiday lights display on water and plenty of pretty wintry weather, Coeur d'Alene is the hub of the holidays in the Gem State. The display features over a million bulbs and it is the centerpiece of events throughout the season that include carolers and Christmas shows. The best way to experience the lights? From the lake on one of the ever-popular Journey to the North Pole cruises.

Illinois: Chicago

Ice skating at Millennium Park and on the ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, staying warm with a mulled wine at Christkindlmarket Chicago, shopping for gifts on Michigan Avenue and strolling under the stunning lights at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and Lincoln Park Zoo. Yes, The Windy City has all you need to simply have a wonderful holiday season.

Indiana: Santa Claus

With a name like that, it was always a shoo-in, wasn't it? In addition to the general thrill of passing the "Welcome to Santa Claus" sign, this town buzzes all December long with the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration filling up the calendar with fun things to do. Paramount on the list is the Christmas Parade (December 10) and the opportunity to send a letter to the big man himself from the town post office.

Iowa: Wyoming

The town may not be named after Kris Kringle, but Wyoming has managed to pick up the nickname "Christmas City" for its steadfast dedication to celebrating the holidays. The annual Christmas City Celebration will take place on December 4, but no matter when you visit you'll be treated to a canopy of lights and a merry & bright atmosphere.

Kansas: WaKeeney

Known as the "Christmas City of the High Plains", WaKeeney rolls out the red carpet for the season with an impressive tree nestled under a canopy of dreamy blue lights in the middle of the town. Take a walk under the lights with a hot chocolate at any point during December and you'll be immediately enveloped by the spirit of the season.

Kentucky: Louisville

Once again, the 'Ville will be the Bluegrass State's best holiday destination. Lights Under Louisville-the world's only underground lights display-is back at Mega Cavern, Fête De Noël winter festival will take place again in Paristown-featuring lots of festive cheer and the city's only legit outdoor ice rink-and the Gardens Aglimmer event will take over the Waterfront Botanical Gardens. Last but not least, the Louisville Ballet will perform The Brown-Forman Nutcracker on select dates through December 23.

Louisiana: New Orleans

From the family-focused Holiday Parade (December 3) to the Caroling in Jackson Square event (December 18), New Orleans will be a special place in December. You'll spot decorations and bows all over the handsome city-with the city's famous street cars even sporting their holiday finest-and if you are in town on Christmas Eve, you're in for a real treat as bonfires on the local levees will light up the night sky for Papa Noel, which is the historical nickname for Santa Claus in Cajun Country.

Maine: Kennebunkport

This handsome harbor town is the home of one of the nation's most beloved December events: The Christmas Prelude (December 1-11). From the tree lighting ceremonies and Santa arriving on a lobster boat at the start of the festival to the fireworks and Pooch Parade towards the end, the Prelude is the perfect way to start the holidays. Rest assured, a visit later in December will be just as dreamy as dustings of snow are commonplace and the dreamy decorations stay up all month long.

Maryland: Baltimore

Glide along the impressive Inner Harnnor ice rink before warming up with a mulled wine at the German Christmas market-inspired Christmas Village. Then, head over to "Miracle on 34th Street" in the Hampden neighborhood, which is one of the nation's best community lights displays (make sure to keep an eye out for the hubcap Christmas tree!). Indeed, Charm City is charming this time of year.

Massachusetts: Stockbridge

Not many towns can say they actually inspired a holiday painting, but such is the Christmassy charm of this town that it was immortalized by Norman Rockwell's Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas. The weekend of December 2-4 will see a host of holiday happenings including a concert of carols and a re-creation of the famous painting, but the alluring atmosphere of the town and its cozy bed & breakfasts can be experienced all month long.

Michigan: Frankenmuth

Home to the excellent ChristKindlMarkt, Bronner's-the world's largest Christmas store-and an around fairytale feel complete with Bavarian architecture, twinkling lights, and a singing Christmas tree, Frankenmuth is your best bet in Michigan for maximizing those holiday vibes.

Minnesota: The Twin Cities

Head to Holidazzle (Fridays through Sundays through December 18) in Minneapolis for family-friendly fun, warming food & drink and lots of festive cheer. Then make your way over to St. Paul for the GLOW Holiday Festival, where you'll be able to experience a magical ambiance complete with a million lights and an enchanted forest among many other attractions. Or, if it's just too chilly outside, make for the Mall of America to do some holiday shopping and take in their Festival of Trees.

Mississippi: Canton

The cute small town of Canton will once again come alive with over 100,000 sparkling lights in and around its historic town square, creating a scene straight out of a made-for-TV movie (Christmas in Canton, perhaps?). The lights stay on all month and there will also be a festive roster of fun things to do during their Christmas Festival, which will run from 5-9 pm each evening through December 23.

Missouri: Kansas City

You haven't truly experienced a Show-Me State holiday until you've strolled under the Country Club Plaza Lights in Kansas City after a day of ticking items off your shopping list at this unique outdoor mall inspired by the architecture of Seville, Spain. Then, take a spin on the Crown Center Ice Rink before heading to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts for a festive performance of The Nutcracker or a holiday show from the Kansas City Symphony.

Montana: Big Sky

Big Sky turns into a winter wonderland every year around this time, and a weekend (or more) spent tucked up in a rustic cabin with the fire crackling away may have you rethinking ever taking part in the holiday rush ever again. In town, the weekend of December 9-11 sees the return of the town's annual Christmas Stroll, with family-friendly fun and lots of holiday revelry.

Nebraska: Minden

Nebraska's Christmas City pulls out all the stops each December, with decorations aplenty and a moving outdoor performance of their Christmas pageant called The Light of the World, which culminates with the turning on of their sensational lights display. The pageant will take place the first two Sundays in December, but the spirit of the season-and 12,000 bulbs-will radiate all month long.

Nevada: Lake Tahoe

You're almost guaranteed a "White December" at Tahoe, and in Heavenly Village on the south shore, the entire month will feel like Christmas morning with a long roster of fun events like holiday concerts, food & drink stalls and even an appearance from Kris Kringle himself.

New Hampshire: Portsmouth

Home to the cherished December tradition called Vintage Christmas and a holiday card-perfect streetscape, Portsmouth is the place to get into the spirit on the Seacoast. Stroll past the town's impressive Christmas tree, take a candlelight stroll at the Strawberry Banke Museum to learn all about Christmases of days gone by, or take in a carol concert at Market Square. Either way, you'll probably leave town discussing next December's return trip.

New Jersey: Cape May

If you were ever curious if the charm of Cape May takes the winter off, one visit in December will set you straight and send you straight into a Dickens novel. In fact, once you see the Victorian homes of this seaside town decked out with bows and twinkling lights, you might just start belting out carols yourself. The Winter Wonderland Walk at the Emil Physick Estate and the festive trolley rides are two other great reasons to visit.

New Mexico: Santa Fe

You haven't truly experienced the magic of a Southwest Christmas until you've spent part of your holiday season in Santa Fe. In addition to a host of concerts and festive gatherings, the city will host two of the region's most enthralling holiday traditions in Las Posadas-a recreation of Mary & Joseph's quest for a room at the inn-on December 11 and the Canyon Road Farolito Walk-an enchanting procession that passes thousands of homemade lanterns- on Christmas Eve. And if that's not enough, the city can also be used as a base to do some skiing on the local slopes.

New York: New York City

Was there ever any doubt about this one? The setting for scores of holiday movies, commercials and songs, the Big Apple shines brightest in December. Window shop on Fifth Avenue, ice skate at Rockefeller Center or Central Park's Wollman Rink, watch the Rockettes perform their Christmas Spectacular or sip mulled wine at the Bryant Park Holiday Village. Or just stay at the Plaza Hotel and ride around in limos eating pizza like Kevin in Home Alone 2.

North Carolina: McAdenville

They're not messing around when they call themselves "Christmas Town U.S.A.", because, well, they've gone and trademarked it and everything. The entire month of December is a holiday dream come true in McAdenville, as you'll witness spectacular Christmas lights in public spaces and on over a hundred private residences in town in addition to a host of fun events like the Tree Lighting (December 1) and Yule Log Ceremony (December 15).

North Dakota: Fargo

There may be a few cold winds blowing in December, but it's hard to feel frigid in Fargo this time of year with all the warm holiday vibes floating around town. The month starts off with the annual Holiday Lights Parade on December 3 and then continues with events like the Holiday Nights at Red River Zoo, Holipalooza at West Acres Mall and the Season of Light show at the MSUM Planetarium.

Ohio: Cleveland

Winterland (formerly Winterfest) will once again bring smiles to the faces of Clevelanders and visitors alike all season long with an ice rink, holiday village, tree lighting and a series of pop-up bars all over the city. After you've explored the magical atmosphere downtown, head over to the Tremont neighborhood to take a tour of the A Christmas Story House to walk in the footsteps of Ralphie, his old man and the Bumpus hounds.

Oklahoma: Guthrie

The Sooner State's Christmas Capital will once again welcome the season with style during its Territorial Christmas celebration. Throughout the month, you'll be able to watch or take part in Victorian Strolls and living window displays and admire the spectacularly lit Territorial tree-a symbol of the season in this historic town. Stay in one of the bed & breakfasts, which are rich in character and often sport their very own seasonal decorations.

Oregon: Portland

There are certainly some cute Oregon small towns that are perfect for escaping the holiday rush for a few nights, but Portland's holiday schedule makes it a must-visit. Not only will The Grotto's Christmas Festival of Lights-the largest holiday choral festival in the world-run all month long, but the city will also see lighted boat parades, ZooLights at the zoo, the Silverton Christmas market and Benson Hotel's beloved gingerbread display.

Pennsylvania: Bethlehem

They go by the name "Christmas City" and Bethlehem more than lives up to its moniker. Visit the nationally recognized and long-running Christkindlmarkt (select dates through December 18), go ice skating at the SteelStacks, and feel free to blurt the lines to classic movies during the Holiday Quote-Along Series. If you visit towards the end of the month, you'll be able to see a giant PEEP candy chick drop on New Year's Eve.

Rhode Island: Newport

The Gilded Age beauty is at its best in December, as its grand mansions turn into gleaming houses filled with holiday spirit and its Chrismas in Newport festival takes over the city. Events throughout the month include tree lightings, carol services and a front door decorating contest-and this is to say nothing of the idyllic bulbs strung all over town meant to emulate candlelight.

South Carolina: Aiken

This Palmetto State holiday paradise will start December out with its beloved Night of 1000 Lights on December 1-an event that sees bulbs and luminaries line the city's streets-and see the Festival of Trees kick off on December 2. The town will also host two parades and The Christmas in Hopelands lights display (running December 10-22) to help make your December merry and bright.

South Dakota: Sioux Falls

Each holiday season, the city's namesake cascades and its surrounding park are the setting for a gorgeous lights display called Winter Wonderland at Falls Park. This event features over a million twinkling bulbs, dozens of wreaths, hundreds of decorated trees and color-changing lights that make the falls (often covered in snow and ice) even more fetching than usual-and the perfect place for making December memories.

Tennessee: Pigeon Forge

Home to a host of holiday shows like the Christmas Show at Country Tonite and a Winterfest celebration that will once again feature millions of sparkling lights, Pigeon Forge is one of the finest places in the nation to spend a December night. After you've experienced the seasonal fun in the town itself, make for Dollywood for the ultimate December experience: A Smoky Mountain Christmas, which will once again distill all the most magical moments of a holiday in the Smokies into one family-friendly package.

Texas: Grapevine

Each and every day in December will feature a unique event in Grapevine, the Christmas Capital of Texas, which hosts over 1,400 events over the festive season. In addition to a sensational town lights display, just a few of the highlights of the season include the North Pole Express train experience, holiday movies & events at the Historic Palace Theatre, an ice skating rink and a Merry & Bright Drone Show.

Utah: Salt Lake City

The state capital is also the center of Utah's holiday offerings. Make for This is The Place Heritage Park December 1-3 to be surrounded by the atmosphere of a German Christmas Market, which will feature authentic European delicacies and dozens of stalls selling gifts. Then, do some ice skating at Gallivan Center before strolling through Temple Square to admire the atmospheric Christmas lights.

Vermont: Woodstock

This quintessentially New England town is known all over the nation for its Wassail Weekend (December 9-11), an event that bubbles over with wintry fun by way of a festive parade, yule log & memory tree lighting ceremony, carol concerts and much more. Visit later in the month to enjoy the afterglow of this tremendous seasonal event and to experience the vintage Christmas events at Billings Farm.

Virginia: Williamsburg

Not only will Colonial Williamsburg be decorated in bows, candles and the spirit of Christmases past, but Busch Gardens' Christmas Town will also delight visitors all month long. The theme park will be home to over ten million lights, a series of uplifting shows, and delicious seasonal food in addition to offering the opportunity to ride many of the park's best rides.

Washington: Seattle

The Emerald City is the place to be in the state of Washington in order to be transported to a state of holiday bliss. Winterfest at Seattle Center will run the entire month, featuring a series of concerts, family-friendly events and illuminations while other highlights of the December calendar include the Festival of Trees at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel and performances of the George Balanchine's The Nutcracker by the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

West Virginia: Harpers Ferry

Nestled in an especially scenic spot at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, Harpers Ferry is always easy on the eyes, but if you catch it with a dusting of snow, then you'll feel like you've been swept into a snowglobe. Things get even better during the Old Tyme Christmas (December 2-4 & December 10-11) event, when its quaint streets bubble over with festive fun and the sound of music and the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee

The Badger State's biggest city has the most buzz this December. A small sampling of the reasons it's a great place to visit this year include the performances of A Christmas Carol at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater (through December 24), Black Nativity at the Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall (December 8-11), Christmas in the Ward (December 2) and the Jingle Bus Tours-a guided journey around the city's best Christmas lights which runs through December 30.

Wyoming: Cheyenne

Cheyenne is one of the West's best destinations all year-round, but it positively glows come December. Take one of the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley Holiday Lights Tour (December 9 - January 1) to cruise around town in heated comfort while admiring the city's twinkling Christmas lights then make sure to stop by the Historic Governor's Mansion for the TInsel Through Time event (through December 24), which features Christmas trees trimmed with decorations from different historical eras. Then, stop by the Nagle Warren Mansion for Dickens Holiday Tea (select dates through December 23)-where guests are treated to an afternoon tea with a backdrop of holiday music and Victorian decorations.

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These destinations always bring joy in December.

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Scott Hartbeck

Scott Hartbeck

Born and raised in the USA but now based in the UK, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in...

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