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Discover the Magic: 7 Must-Visit Holiday Hotspots Across the USA

5 min read

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, and what better way to experience it than by visiting some of the nation’s most magical holiday destinations? In this article, we highlight some of the places that we think show the spirit of the season. Whether you’re looking for a winter wonderland, a place to mail letters to Santa, or an adventure off the beaten track, there’s something for everyone on this list. So pack your bags and have a Christmas to remember.

1. Branson, Missouri

Branson Missouri Christmas Shopping Village

Known as the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World,” Branson transforms into a winter wonderland with live Christmas music shows, parades, and festive light displays. The Ozark Mountain Christmas Festival in historic downtown is not to be missed. Every weekend between November and January, visitors can partake in events like “Saturdays with Santa,” a scavenger hunt, a pizza party, and more.

If you’re looking for something a little different, consider a Christmas tour with Pink Jeep Tours. Guests enjoy a warm cup of wassail before setting off on a one-hour illuminated trek through a winter wonderland in the eponymous Pink Jeep. Traveling across Baird Mountain, visitors can feast their eyes on installations shone onto tree canopies and cliff faces before ending up at the base of one of the tallest nativity scenes in the state.

2. Durango, Colorado

Man looking out of train window on the historic steam engine train in Durango, Colorado

The Polar Express storybook and subsequent movie come alive each year on the historic steam train that’s been running on the Durango and Silverton narrow-gauge railway since 1896. Children of all ages can enjoy the immersive theatrical re-creation of the story of a boy’s Christmas Eve journey to collect Santa from the North Pole.

Pajamas are highly encouraged for this magical trip where you’ll listen to a reading of the storybook while sipping on hot chocolate and eating sweet treats. Upon arrival at Santa’s Workshop, get ready to enjoy a spectacular holiday light show set to music.

3. McAdenville, North Carolina

Man looking out of train window on the historic steam engine train in Durango, Colorado

No listicle of best holiday towns would be complete without a mention of “Christmas Town, USA.” Covering only one and a half square miles, this small town in North Carolina is home to 350 Christmas trees and is regularly rated as one of the “Ten Best Public Holiday Lights Displays” in the US. More than half a million visitors each year flock to McAdenville to delight in the seasonal offerings.

Before the tree-lighting ceremony, a winner is chosen from the local elementary school who will have the honor of pulling the big switch that turns on 500, 000 lights. In another seasonal tradition, the residents and visitors gather to watch the town’s children pull a giant yule log on a sled before setting it alight in the giant fireplace in the park. The lighting of the log is followed by the Christmas festival.

4. Sacramento, California

Christmas tree lit up in front of Sacramento Capitol

The California state capitol boasts a plethora of fun and festive holiday events. The Theater of Lights on the old Sacramento Waterfront features a live-action retelling of “The Night Before Christmas” with dazzling lights and sound effects. Downtown, the giant, seasonal outdoor ice rink is always a popular holiday destination.

If sampling delicious food is more your style, check out the Global Winter Wonderland. Along with cuisine from around the world, you’ll take in illuminated displays of landmarks from around the world and enjoy carnival rides. One newer event takes place at the local baseball stadium. At Enchant, you and your family can delight in a holiday light show featuring a Christmas-themed light maze, a 100-foot tree, and a village with artisan vendors and boutiques.

5. Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus in Indiana Christmas Parade

Would the town of Santa Claus be as festive if it had been allowed to keep its preferred name? The town began as “Santa Fee,” in the 1800s, but when the residents applied to have a post office installed, they were told there was already a town of that name in the state. As one story goes, it happened to be the Christmas season, so everyone thought it would be fun to name the new town after the famous North Pole resident.

Santa Claus is home to many holiday delights — as you would imagine. Certain streets are named after the three wise men and most of the town’s 2,500 residents live in Christmas Lake Village. Then there’s the post office. Around 1914, they started to receive children’s letters to Santa Claus, and the town, led by the postmaster, started replying. The post office now receives 20,000 letters a year, which a dedicated band of volunteers responds to — exemplifying the Christmas spirit for sure.

6. Solvang, California

Christmas trees and holiday decorations on the main street in Solvang, California

The uber-cute Danish town located on the central California coast hosts an annual holiday celebration known as “Julefest.” If you happen to be there on the first weekend in December, you’ll catch the tree lighting ceremony replete with dancing ballerinas, live music, and caroling.

Visitors to the “Danish Capital of America” can revel in Scandinavian holiday traditions, including a parade, candlelight tours, live music, and sparkling light displays while enjoying a much kinder climate than that of Northern Europe. Kids will love the “Nissel” or hunt for Danish Christmas Elves and, of course, no holiday trip would be complete without a trip to see the man himself.

7. Taos, New Mexico

Christmas tree at the Taos, New Mexico Historic Plaza

“Yuletide in Taos” has a magical ring to it and describes the unique New Mexican celebrations occurring throughout the holiday season in this part of the world. Candle-lit farolitos, or paper lanterns, line the streets in front of the old adobe homes and shops in town. Shop the holiday markets, get warm at the Bonfires on Bent Street, and ooh and ahh at the annual Yuletide tree lighting ceremony in between enjoying Taos’ legendary restaurant scene.

If you make your way to Taos Pueblo on Christmas Day, your trip will be worthwhile. You’ll be fortunate to watch the Pueblo dancers perform one of their traditional ritual dances, like the Deer, where they commune with the land and the community. Admission is free to witness this moving and deeply spiritual event.

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