The holiday season brings joy and magic everywhere around the United States. From the biggest cities to the smallest towns, you can find the holiday spirit anywhere you look come December.
But while you can find Christmas anywhere in the country, a few American towns have really gone the extra mile in making the Christmas season a part of their identity. From twinkling lights to ice skating, from sleigh rides to beautiful tree lighting ceremonies, these towns can immerse you in a true winter wonderland.
So if you’re up for a road trip this holiday season, here are seven must-see Christmas towns across the USA that you can check out for a holiday experience like no other.1. Newport, Rhode Island
The seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island, is no stranger to holiday magic. As a popular destination for the rich and famous in the 19th Century, Newport maintains a strong Victorian flavor that really comes out when the holidays roll around each December. Beginning in 1972, the city of Newport consolidated its numerous Christmas traditions into a two-week-long Christmas in Newport festival.
During the festival, Newport’s gorgeous Victorian architecture and city streets are decked out in what seems like a million lights shining in the crisp New England winter air, while the famous Newport mansions are adorned in traditional Christmas decorations.
Over the course of the two-week festival, you can find ample Christmas concerts, lantern-lit tours, and even Newport’s largest gingerbread house displayed at the city’s Marriott hotel.
In the season’s spirit of giving, the Christmas in Newport festival also raises thousands of dollars for charity. Each of the festival’s events is either free or benefits a specific charitable cause. So, if you head out to Newport for the holidays, you can enjoy the Christmas spirit while helping others at the same time.2. Branson, Missouri
The city of Branson, Missouri, offers family-friendly entertainment year-round through its abundant theaters, live shows, and attractions. But it’s during the Christmas season that the city’s spirit really begins to shine. Branson residents decorate the city with over 100 Christmas trees featuring diverse and beautiful ornaments ranging from the traditional to the unique. The city also offers drive-through light displays, snow tubing, and holiday-themed live shows.
You can also find more unique attractions found only in Branson. The showboat Branson Belle offers once-in-a-lifetime Christmas cruises featuring Christmas activities, holiday food, and even visits from Santa Claus himself.
If you’re a fan of trains, you can also check out the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express, which provides families with a fun trip from Branson all the way to the North Pole to pay a visit to Santa’s workshop.3. North Pole, Alaska
If you’re going on a trip this Christmas season, you might as well go all out. The appropriately-named city of North Pole, Alaska, more than lives up to its name when it comes to making holiday memories for you and your family.
The city is famous for its Christmas decor that it proudly displays year-round. This makes it an ideal destination if you’re craving a bit of Christmas spirit in July. But, of course, the actual Christmas season brings the town to life.
Located near the Alaskan city of Fairbanks, North Pole is not quite at the actual north pole. But lying just 140 miles south of the Arctic circle, it’s about as close to Santa’s workshop as you are likely to get. Plus, you can take the opportunity to visit Santa himself without even leaving the town! The city’s Santa Claus House is a massive Christmas-themed store that displays hundreds of childrens’ letters to Santa all over its walls.
You can shop for unique Christmas gifts, toys, and decorations and get your picture taken in front of the humongous Santa Claus statue out front. After the sun sets, you can sit outside and enjoy the winter air. You might even glimpse the northern lights if the skies are clear enough.
4. Santa Claus, Indiana
Sticking with Christmas-themed towns, Santa Claus, Indiana, offers a Christmas-themed getaway all year round. The town’s centerpiece is its Santa Claus Museum, a family-friendly destination featuring exhibits dedicated to its namesake.
In addition to its museum, the town of Santa Claus also features Christmas-themed bed and breakfast resorts, campgrounds, hotels, restaurants, and even a Christmas-themed amusement park via the town’s Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari.
During the Christmas season, visitors to the town can also tour evocative displays of Christmas lights, sample a wide variety of Christmas treats, including actual chestnuts roasted on an open fire, and take a ride on Santa’s own train for even more holiday-themed fun!
5. Roanoke, Virginia
Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in southwest Virginia, the city of Roanoke offers an unmatched seasonal spirit come Christmas time. For those looking to spend their holiday season in Roanoke, the centerpiece of the holiday festivities is undoubtedly the town’s famous Dickens of a Christmas festival, the region’s largest holiday celebration.
The festival offers visitors a fun Christmas-themed parade, tree-lighting ceremonies, and even a pet costume contest courtesy of the Roanoke Valley SPCA.
Roanoke is famous year-round for the massive neon star displayed prominently on a nearby mountain, but many people don’t realize that this star was originally displayed as a Christmas decoration.
As such, Roanoke follows this tradition during the holiday season with an unmatched collection of fantastic Christmas light displays all across the city. Visitors to the city can also immerse themselves in numerous holiday concerts, including performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The town is full of abundant holiday markets featuring homemade Christmas crafts, seasonal snacks, and thoughtful gifts to get friends and family.6. Leavenworth, Washington
The city of Leavenworth, Washington, is a memorable destination for visitors year-round. After all, Leavenworth is modeled on a traditional Bavarian village, offering unique architecture and decor that are not found in many other places in the United States today.
But Leavenworth’s traditional Bavarian spirit really shines during the holiday season. Beginning in December, the city of Leavenworth transforms into Christmastown, with an abundance of gorgeous holiday lights, decorations, and Christmas trees galore. In fact, visitors to Leavenworth during the Christmas season might think that they stepped back in time to a small German village, complete with snow-capped alpine mountains across the horizon.
While simply walking through the beautiful lights and traditional architecture is certainly worth the visit, the town also offers fun holiday concerts, activities, and a Christmas bazaar to really bring the Christmas spirit home. Visitors can meet Santa Claus and other Christmas characters, try homemade gingerbread and hot chocolate, and listen to Christmas-themed musical offerings ranging from classical to jazz and RnB.
Leavenworth’s Christmastown festivities also include ample activities for kids, ranging from children’s workshop stations to holiday-themed storytimes to picture opportunities with Santa Claus. Visitors can also take advantage of the town’s prime location in the Cascade Mountains with numerous fun winter activities. You can find opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and even holiday-themed sleigh rides.
7. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Finally, no Christmas-themed road trip would be complete without a visit to one of the most appropriately-named Christmas cities of all. Each year, the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, lives up to its name by transforming into the aptly-named “Christmastown, USA.”
Visitors to this historic city in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley can find beautiful, German-style holiday markets offering gifts and handmade crafts that reflect the region’s European heritage. You can find hand-knit sweaters, radiant glass ornaments, and warm sweets and beverages to counteract the cold December air.
One of the most popular Christmas draws in Bethlehem is its unique “trees of historic Bethlehem” displays, in which 28 fully decorated Christmas trees are displayed across the town’s historical sites. The town also offers holiday-themed carriage rides across the region’s historical locations, walking tours, and the country’s only live advent calendar.
Once you’ve built up an appetite from all of the holiday tours and shopping, you can fill your stomach with delicious food from one of the city’s top-notch restaurants. Not only that, but you can indulge in wine from one of the many local vineyards or sample some “Christmas spirits” from a regional distillery.
For those visitors too young to drink alcohol, Bethlehem also offers storytime with Santa Claus and a wassail party for the whole family.