Christmas is such a magical season and you can add even more magic if you take the family on vacation. Even though there is nothing quite like cozying up at home during the holiday season, there are a few destinations that I promise you they’re worth traveling for. If you’re considering jetting off with the kids, you’ve got to experience the festive magical fun of these movie-like Christmas family vacation destinations in the U.S.
From alpine towns that will make you feel as though you’re celebrating Christmas in the German Alps to an Alaskan town that’s literally called the North Pole, here are 9 destinations in the United States that are full of holiday cheer.
9 Festive Christmas Family Vacation Getaways in the United States
When you’re planning a Christmas vacation, make sure you start looking into booking the spring prior to the season. Some of these destinations book up very early because they’ve grown in popularity over the years – especially as holiday movies become a hot trend. Go all in and book earlier rather than later!
Dreaming of a Christmas in the German Alps but not quite sure you can make it this season?
Leavenworth is a tiny town in the captivating Cascade Mountains that’s famed for its Bavarian roots, which are still visible every step you take. Think half-timbered buildings lining the streets, restaurants serving German beer, and Christmas markets that will make you forget you’re in the United States at all!
They’re also known for traditional Christmas cookies, homemade fudge and unforgettable streusel. Imagine all of your senses coming alive as you can taste, see, smell, hear and touch everything about the holidays.
Come December, Leavenworth puts on a light show (it’s dubbed the Village of Lights for all the right reasons) and becomes a haven for those in search of a truly magical Christmas season. Day and night, you’ll stumble across roasting Chesnut stands, gingerbread house competitions, advent calendar contests, and oh-so-much more. All backdropped by millions of twinkling lights, of course!
Kids will love the Christmas story time that’s offered every holiday season at Festhalle and families can enjoy the regional ski resorts that are located around the city.
Asheville, North Carolina
Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville in North Carolina will give you major storybook vibes during the holiday season. During Christmastime, Biltmore, the historic Vanderbilt mansion, becomes the star of the show as it dresses up in garlands, ribbons, glimmering lights, and dozens of lavishly decorated trees.
Aside from the dumbfounding beauty of Biltmore, other Christmas musts in this extraordinary mountain town include watching Santa rappelling down Chimney Rock (yes, it’s a thing!), taking part in the gingerbread house competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn, and going in search of the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley that makes its way through Asheville’s downtown.
If you’re going to splurge a bit for the season, treat your family to a suite at the Omni Grove Park Inn. These suites are great for families to spread out a bit and parents can have a bit of privacy when it’s time to rest. Families can also enjoy chef created Christmas dinners at their signature dining locations.
With Christmas markets bookmarked in every locals’ calendars and an endless array of fun seasonal events, Denver is the perfect city escape to unwrap the magic of the holiday season.
A must in your Denver Christmas bucket list is a visit to its major Christmas markets: The Denver Christkindl Market will transport you into a town deep in Bavaria (or at least your mind will get tricked into it).
Another fun outing? The “I Love Christmas Movies” experience just outside the city at the Gaylord Rockies Resort, where you can binge-watching classics like Elf and the Polar Express to get your holiday vibes on in no time! Pack some matching Christmas pj’s for the family, and get ready for hot cocoa with a movie.
North Pole, Alaska
Yes – there’s a town called the North Pole in Alaska and as inconceivable as it might sound, its mayor is actually called Santa Claus.
While it’s not technically located in the real North Pole, this quaint Alaskan town is the perfect place to go if you want to get super extra this year. Yep, we’re talking light poles shaped like candy canes lining a street called Santa Claus Lane, a 42-foot-high statue towering over the village, walls covered with children’s letters to Santa from all over the world, and a sprawling store with endless isles filled with ornaments and toys.
Put simply, it doesn’t get any more Christmas-y than it does in North Pole, and the town’s residents make sure the spirit stays on year-round. Kids will love the wildlife viewing opportunities in the North Pole parks, too.
Yep, there’s a town in Pennsylvania called Bethlehem and while it’s far, far away from the real one, this quaint location sure does know how to celebrate Christmas. From its German-inspired Christmas City Village to its traditional Christmas market, there’s no shortage of ways to make a Christmas in Bethlehem the most magical yet.
Take the kids Christmas shopping at the Historic Moravian Shopping District in Bethlemen, Pennsylvania or visit some of the local historic museums.
The entire city of Thomasville transforms into a Victorian Christmas town every December. A full emersion experience, you’ll see and feel the festive vibes of Thomasville. During the weekends, you can see carolers and venders dressed in traditional victorian garb.
There’s a tree lighting, annual sip and shop event and family movie nights. You can plan to dress up in victorian clothes and join the fun. There are plenty of name-brand accommodations for families to pick from that offer suites and pet-friendly options.
New York, New York
New York City is a classic but one that absolutely needs to be on every Christmas destinations list for all the right reasons. Put in simple words, you haven’t really experienced a metropolitan Christmas until you’ve done it through New York City’s gleaming lens.
Explore snowy Central Park on a carriage ride, go ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and drink some festive-inspired cocktails at the Winter Village at Bryant Park to get a taste of what Christmas in New York is all about! Is it a cliché Christmas family vacation? Maybe, but who the hell cares!
A Christmas in New York City, with reservations for all of the bucket-list activities, requires at least a year of planning ahead. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for instance, starts planning for the following year right after Thanksgiving.
Home to Bentleyville, the most magical light display in the entire world, Duluth in Minnesota becomes host to an enormous array of holiday offerings and events that will have you feeling as though you’re walking inside a real-life snow globe!
For the ultimate winter wonderland experience, hop on a scenic train journey along Lake Superior and check out the vibrant Christmas Village in front of the Glensheen Mansion, where you’ll find locally-made goodies to bring back home (or gorge on right on the spot!).
For even more holiday cheer, head over to the Fairlawn Mansion on a Tuesday, when the mansion opens its door and visitors can pop by to explore its halls – all while being surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights.
Named the #1 Christmas city in the United States – Helen, Georgia is a little secret just north of Atlanta. It’s a German Bravarian town that’s surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. For a spectacular nighttime experience, don’t miss the Annual Lighting of the Village in Edelweis. Helen’s annual Christkindlmarkt is the perfect place to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts.
Find unique Christmas gifts with German flair, sample pastries and raise a pint to the most wonderful time of the year all while making your holidays brighter with a weekend or week-long getaway.
No matter if you go BIG in NYC or you pick a small quaint town, you can’t go wrong with these festive Christmas family vacation destinations that kids of all ages can enjoy. Your family will feel like you’ve walked into a movie set. Everyone should do a holiday getaway at least once in their lifetime.