Town squares lit with strings of sparkling lights. Christmas carolers in bonnets and tails. Horse-drawn carriages and snowcapped roofs.
If you want a holiday experience straight out of It’s a Wonderful Life, then you need to find a small-town celebration this year. From California to Washington and nearly everywhere in between, these towns and villages are perfect for the holidays
Plenty of towns across America deck the halls for Christmas, but what do you do when strings of fairy lights, candy canes, and Christmas trees just aren’t enough? How about bringing in the tubas, illuminated boat parades, and a rappelling Santa Claus, for starters
McAdenville, North Carolina
The map might say McAdenville, but to locals, this place is known as Christmas Town USA. For the past 63 years, this Charlotte suburb has put on an impressive holiday display, with 265 evergreen trees covered in 500,000 lights, plus more than 160 decorated houses. The best part? You can view everything for free.
This renowned ski town is transformed into a beautiful Victorian-style Christmas town during the holidays. It kicks off with the lightening of Breckenridge on the first weekend in December and throughout the holidays visitors can enjoy carriage rides, lots of shopping oppertunities, and the chance to feel as you’ve stepped into an old fashioned holiday painting
Back in 1948, William M. Koziar began decorating his home in Bernville for the viewing pleasure of his family. Now, Koziar’s Christmas Village is one of the top attractions in the state of Pennsylvania, and boasts both indoor and outdoor displays.
On any day of the year, this Bavarian village gives off an Alpine holiday air. But during snowy December, visitors are met with 21 miles of lights along the homes and fences, and can also anticipate handbell concerts, a lively Christkindlmarkt, harp music, and a weekly festival with carolers, Gluhwein, and
Each year, this Missouri city hosts the Ozark Mountain Christmas festival, a month-long extravaganza with festive music, light shows, and plenty of parades. You can even hop aboard the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express Train Ride and feel like you’re in a scene from the classic movie. Don’t forget the hot chocolate!
For bucolic landscapes and easy winter weekend getaways consider Stockbridge in the Berkshires. Festive lights dispalys and jingling wreaths give the area a holiday sheen, and the annual Stokbrigdge main street at Christmas spectacle in December with caroling, a concert, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Vermont is one of the best places in the U.S. to celebrate Christmas, with the ground typically covered with at least a light dusting of snow and the scent of pine needles wafting through the air. In the historic town of Woodstock, the city really does the holiday up right with its Wassail Weekend, a pre-Christmas festival with 19th century Norse culture traditions. It includes a parade featuring over 50 horses and riders donning holiday costumes and period dress, along with wagon and sleigh rides as well as a 19th century Christmas celebration at the Billings Farm & Museum.
Known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth’s European heritage is on full display during the Christmas season. Some of the town’s charming holiday highlights include a traditional Christkindlmarkt, a holiday home tour hosted by the Frankenmuth Women’s Club, whimsical light displays, and Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland — the world’s largest Christmas store.
Sierra Madre, Carlifornia
Where do Southern Californians go to get the Christmas spirit? Sierra Madre, a foothills town just a few miles east of Pasadena, imports snow from the San Bernadino Mountains every year to build a big snowman in the town’s central square, Kersting Court, until the balmy local temperatures send him downstream. There’s still plenty to see, with the town’s houses and businesses decorated for the season, a life-size nativity scene, and a 154-tree-long Christmas Tree Lane.
Taos, New Mexico
In the days leading up to the holidays, Taos holds tree-lightings, concerts, and crafts fairs like many other towns, but on Christmas Eve, the game changes. A religious procession in ancient Taos Pueblo, the Native American settlement outside town, includes bonfires, luminarias, and historic gun salute, and can make the most jaded Scrooge feel holiday magic stir.
You’re virtually guaranteed a white Christmas in Jackson, where skiers and snowboarders sashay through bountiful powder on the slopes. The famous elk antlers on town square’s four corners light up with thousands of LED lights, along with surrounding trees and shops throughout the picturesque town. You can take a real-life horse-drawn sleigh ride at the nearby National Elk Refuge, enjoy the annual showing of “Snowed in for Christmas” at the Jackson Hole Playhouse, and anticipate Santa’s arrival as he rappels out of a tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Ogunquit is the Native American word for “beautiful place by the sea,” and there’s no doubt this charming seaside village is at its most beautiful decked out in all its Christmas trimmings. The annual Christmas By the Sea takes place in early December, featuring old-fashioned hayrides, bonfires, caroling, tree lighting, and a live manger scene. There’s the polar plunge on Ogunquit Beach, followed by a parade that kicks off in Perkins Cove and heads toward Main Beach. And don’t forget to sample some of the season’s best clam chowder, because what would Christmas be without chowder?
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York
Most of the year, this suburban Brooklyn neighborhood is just another suburban neighborhood. But come the holidays, countless homes explode in lights and decorations in what many claim to be the best Christmas display in America. It started in 1984 with a single house (belonging to Lucy and Angelo Spata on 84th Street), soon turning into a friendly competition that exploded. And boy, did it explode. Today, thousands of gawkers flock to the neighborhood to take in the dazzling displays. Police even cordon off streets to make viewing easier. Some houses are stately and elegant, other runs amok with an entire village of Santas, Rudolph, snowmen, nutcrackers, even Elsa and Olaf from the movie Frozen. Carousels whirl, animatronic carolers sing, statuesque dancers twirl to piped-in Christmas carols. You never know what to expect, though they all surely have one thing in common: Crazy electric bills.
It may not snow much in Georgia, but this little town in the state’s northern mountains is about as serious about Christmas as you can get. Charmed by its southern hospitality and quaint architecture, several Hallmark Christmas movies even have been filmed here. Festivities begin the last weekend in November with an over-the-top tree lighting ceremony of the town square, with storefronts draped in sparkling lights. Santa arrives the first Saturday in December at the hometown parade, and he stays, of course, through the holidays. You’ve got carolers in period costumes, carriage rides, wine tastings, and holiday performances. And hey, the chance to be an extra in a Hallmark movie.
Santa Claus, Indiana
With a name like Santa Claus, how could this not be on the list? Funny enough, back in the 1850s the town wanted to be called Santa Fe, but that name was taken. So Santa Claus it was. No big deal, until kids started sending letters here to Santa. And in 1910, the town postmaster, James Martin, began answering them. Long story short, this Indiana town is now the self-proclaimed official Christmas hometown, with volunteers answering children’s letters to Santa that arrive from around the world—some 400,000 of them, each hand-canceled with a special Santa Claus Holiday Postmark. Its three-weekend festivities have expanded far and beyond letter-writing, including a parade, a candy castle, a Christmas store, a Christmas museum, and nine miles of themed residential light displays in Christmas Lake Village.
We wish you a lovely time for the upcoming holidays
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