The winter holidays are coming! For some, the holidays come with Christmas cheer, family gatherings and cozy cuddles. For others, the winter months can be isolating and lonely. Our cure? Travel. What better way to change things up than by going somewhere new? You don’t have to stay at home and watch a Hallmark movie. Why not get out of town and experience the magic and cheer for yourself? This winter season, we’re bringing to you some of our favorite American towns to celebrate the holidays in. Between the mulled wine, Christmas carolers, winter markets and outdoor ice theaters, you’ll create memories that’ll last long after the snow melts away. The best part? These towns are all over the U.S. so you won’t have to fly across the country to get a taste of the special winter festivities.
There are five US towns we think are worthy of a special trip out for a holiday celebration. First up? Kennebunkport, Maine.
If you need a cozy town to celebrate the winter season, the Christmas Prelude celebration in Kennebunkport offers everything from classic tree-lighting ceremonies to a Christmas story reading from Santa Clause in a cozy cabin. The whole town comes together to make the magic come alive. You can take a trolley ride through a private heritage railroad or watch a coffee roasting demo with a vintage Germany coffee roaster.
For a little 21 fun, you’ll want to buy tickets for the Fire Ice event. It’s one of the biggest events of the holiday, featuring carved ice sculptures and drinks served from ice bars. Are you a dog lover? Show off your dog at the Pooch Parade, where doggos of all kind dress up in festive outfits and parade together.
Woodstock has a population of less than 5,000, so you already know you’re stepping into an intimate experience when you celebrate the holidays here. It’s the perfect place if you enjoy outdoor activities but also want the option to cozy up by the fire. You can go skiing on the Suicide Six ski mountain or hike up Mount Tom.
If you’re ready for something a little warmer, head to the Woodstock Inn. We’re not trying to tell you where to spend the night, but Woodstock Inn is where to spend at least part of the day. Each year, a giant gingerbread house is on display within the inn, and the whole place is decked in twinkling lights. You’ll want to curl up by the fire and sip the hot cocoa, it’s in the air here. There’s even a special parade for horses. Strutting around at the Equestrian Parade are all kinds of horses and their riders, dressed to the nines. Want some alone time after the festivities? You can take a walk through decorated homes open for tour or over the famous Tafstville covered bridge.
St. Augustine, Florida
Do you love to celebrate the winter holidays but dread the thought of the accompanying weather? You don’t have to brave the cold to celebrate the winter cheer. St. Augustine, the oldest city in Florida, throws a party for the whole city during the Nights of Lights. Million of lights cover the city, and you can ride a horse-drawn carriage through the streets or stroll on foot. The Holiday Regatta of Lights Boat Parade on December 9th brings a special St. Augustine-ian twist to the festivities as all kinds of boats float on by, bedazzled with lights. You can even book your own tour to admire the parade from a boat!
The magic doesn’t end there! The Nights of Pints were made for the craft beer lovers, and local breweries present the best of their batches for you to sip. You can also wander through historic 19th century houses on an exclusive once-a-year Christmas Tour of Homes. It’s only on December 8th, so plan accordingly!
A visit to Solvang is fun on any given day, thanks to the Danish influences on food, architecture, and culture. It’s especially magical during the winter holidays with Santa-worthy festivities. If you fear the cold, don’t worry. There’ll be no white Christmas here. Julefest Holiday spans a whole month, and the activities include free candlelight tours and music in the park. Saint Lucia Day is the latest addition on December 13 with a dedicated parade procession led by a group of women in white.
If you’re coming with children, they’ll love meeting Santa and Mrs. Clause at Santa’s Village. No children? Enjoy the Skal Wine and Stein Stroll, two days of wine and beer tasting. There’ll even be Glogg, a special Danish alcoholic drink similar to mulled wine. To ends the festival? The Tree Burning safety demonstration, with the supervision of the Santa Barbara Fire Department, marks the official end to Julefest.
The snow-covered slopes of Vail are perfect for an outdoor winter adventure. Activities like dog sledding and snow tubing are enjoyed by visitors and locals alike. There are even indoor and outdoor skating rinks to practice your flip jumps! For the less exertion-inclined, Vail doesn’t disappoint either. Kris Kringle Market has all kinds of trinkets and toys to bring back home as souvenirs or stocking stuffers. You won’t go hungry at the market: there’s homemade baked goodies, roasted nuts and other sweets.
One of our favorite highlights of wintertime in Vail is the Vail Winterfest Ice Theater, where films are projected onto an ice screen. Ice chairs are carved out for movie watchers, and holiday classics are played into the night until the ice screen melts. It goes without saying that you should pack an extra layer for this outing!
Carlos Chilin is General Manager at AirportParkingReservations.com. AirportParkingReservations.com serves travelers with airport parking options at more than 100 airports and cruise ports across the US and Canada.