21 Best Christmas Towns in the USA
When the bright lights illuminate the city, evergreen trees sit in storefronts, and ornaments decorate street lamps, it can only mean one thing: Santa Claus is coming to town. The holiday season takes place over the last few weeks of the year and allows people to celebrate the end of the year and the start of the New Year. The end of the year means spending time with family, putting up Christmas decorations, and eating lots of food. The main attraction of the holiday season is Santa Claus going from house to house and dropping off Christmas presents, but it’s also a time when the best Christmas towns in the USA show their greatness.
The holiday season revolves around Christmas day on December 25th. It’s a public holiday celebrated religiously by Christians and culturally by non-Christians. In the Christian religion, Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. As told in the New Testament, Joseph and a pregnant Mary couldn’t get a room at the inn in Bethlehem. Also known as the Nativity of Jesus, Jesus was famously born in a stable instead.
Christmas is celebrated all over the globe in various countries, however, certain towns in the USA take it to the next level. Several cities around America transform into the most beautiful Christmas towns. These already stunning cities are like a scene out of a movie. They become the center of the holiday season. Let’s take a trip to the winter wonderlands across America.
21 Best Christmas Towns in the USA
1. Santa Claus, Indiana
In the late 1850s, Santa Fe, Indiana, attempted to establish its first post office. However, they had to pick a new name because Santa Fe, Indiana, already existed. After a few town meetings, the city agreed to rename it after the Christmas icon, Santa Claus. Thus, the ultimate Christmas city was born in Santa Claus, Indiana. Due to the town’s name, they receive thousands of “Dear Santa” letters yearly. Since 1914, a group of volunteers dubbed “Santa’s Elves” ensures that each child gets a reply from the big guy.
In the mid-1930s, the town created Santa Claus’s Candy Castle and Toy Village, located on North Kringle street. Not too long after, a 22-foot tall giant Santa statue also went up. Later, they built Holiday Land & Safari Surfin to add to the theme park. The town also features Frosty’s Fun Center, the Santa Claus Museum & village. Undoubtedly, Santa Claus, Indiana, is one of the best Christmas towns in the US.
2. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The City of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the Christmas capital of the world. The city is famous for its yearly Christmas celebrations. In fact, during the Great Depression, it took on the name “Christmas City, USA.” On Christmas Eve in 1741, bishop Nicolaus Zinzendorf named the town Bethlehem after the site of Jesus’s birth in The Bible.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is also the site of the first decorated Christmas tree in the United States. Later, the city placed a large wooden star on the top of South Mountain. Over the years, the star was repaired and replaced, but it remains to this day.
Present-day events include a massive outdoor skating rink at Steel Stacks and the German Christmas market, Christkindlmarkt, which features Belgian-inspired beer called Rude Elf. Stick around for New Year’s Eve to witness the yearly lowering of the 400-pound replica of a marshmallow candy. Few Christmas towns compare with Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
3. North Pole, Alaska
In the early 50s, Dahl and Gaske Development Company purchased a small town in Alaska and renamed it the North Pole. They hoped to attract a toy company to the city that could market toys from the North Pole. While their plan didn’t work out, North Pole, Alaska, is a quaint and festive Christmas town in the US.
The city is most famous for the iconic Santa Claus store featuring a 42-foot-tall fiberglass Santa statue. Inside the store, letters from children line the walls. If that wasn’t enough, domesticated reindeer live near the store.
The North Pole post office receives thousands of “Dear Santa” letters from children wishing to speak with jolly old Saint Nick each year. In addition to candy cane street lamps, the streets feature themed names such as Kris Kringle Drive and Mistletoe Lane.
4. McAdenville, North Carolina
Cities across North Carolina embrace the holiday season and embody the Christmas spirit. The masters of Christmas is a little suburb of Charlotte called McAdenville, North Carolina. The yearly tradition transforms the quaint little suburb into Christmas Town USA, featuring Christmas lights and other ornaments. Furthermore, the red, green, and white Christmas lights cover roughly 1.3 miles.
In addition to decorating the buildings, the town also includes 200 wreaths on city light poles, 375 lit Christmas trees, and an assortment of other ornaments. The festivities kick off with a special event where the elementary school kids turn on the Christmas lights by pulling the switch. Since 1956, Christmas Town USA has been one of North Carolina’s biggest tourist attractions, with over 600,000 vehicles visiting each year.
5. New York City, New York
With bright Christmas lights, decorations, and snowy weather, nothing compares with Christmas in New York. New York City is one of the most significant Christmas towns located on the East Coast. Known for its busy streets, New York transforms into a winter wonderland during the festive season.
In addition to a Santa Claus parade, the town features the Bryant Park Winter Village, various live Christmas shows, and iconic skating rinks. At the center of the city’s celebration is the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Plus, there’s no better place for Christmas shopping than New York.
6. Branson, Missouri
With 6.5 million Christmas lights, Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, might be the center of Christmas celebrations. The Christmas theme park is one of the main attractions of Branson during the holiday season. The park includes a holiday light parade featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other live entertainment shows. Plus, visitors of the park rave about the incredible eight-story high musical tree.
The entire city of Branson transforms into a Christmas wonderland. Also known as America’s Christmas tree city, the businesses put up more than 700 Christmas trees as far as the eye can see. While most trees are classic evergreen, some are made from bottles or Go Karts. Undoubtedly, Branson is one of the most famous Christmas towns in the world.
7. San Diego, California
Located in sunny Southern California, San Diego is the second largest city in the state. Despite the lack of snow and cold weather, the city still knows how to celebrate Christmas in style. The town covers itself in Christmas lights and other decorations turning it into a wonderland minus the winter. Thus, the city has all the same traditions as the rest of the world but with an added twist. Instead of arriving on a sleigh, Santa Claus arrives at Seaport village on a surfboard at Surfin’ Santa Arrival at the beach. The massive event also includes a Christmas parade, pictures with Santa, and live street performers.
Since 1978, the most significant event during Christmas time is the classic Holiday Bowl featuring the best NCAA Division I college football teams. However, that’s just the beginning. The city has numerous other exciting events, including the Holiday Market at Petco Park, the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, and the Sono Fest & Chili Cook-Off.
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8. New Orleans, Louisiana
Mardi Gras isn’t the only New Orleans celebration worth checking out. New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the top tourist attractions in the world. The city knows how to celebrate Christmas like no other place. It takes the holiday season to new heights with fantastic food and events for everyone to enjoy. For example, a breathtaking and magical light display illuminates the French Quarter. New Orleans also takes Christmas caroling to the next level with Jackson Square caroling, bringing the entire city together.
Furthermore, the city decorates the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to create the ultimate ice rink. For a city like New Orleans, that’s just the beginning of the celebrations. The annual Running of the Santas event features a pack of Santas running from Apres Lounge (The South Pole) to Generations Hall (The North Pole).
The city is famously known for its hauntings, thus the Krewe of Krampus parade featuring creepy and scary monsters. There is also the Miracle on Fulton Street winter wonderland, Holiday Concerts at St. Augustine Church, and Christmas Eve Bonfires. Don’t forget the abundance of clubs, shops, and restaurants to explore during your visit.
9. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
When it comes to Christmas in New England, few places are on par with Cape Cod, Massachusetts. During the summer months, tourists come from around the world to enjoy the relaxing town. However, Cape Cod is also one of the best Christmas cities in America. The quaint little city decorates every building and event with Christmas lights and ornaments from top to bottom. While Santa traditionally travels by sleigh, in Cape Cod, he arrives in the harbor on a boat at a massive city event.
The city doesn’t stop there with awesome events including the Falmouth Christmas Parade, the lighting of Pilgrim Monument, and a magical ride on Polar Express. Aside from the celebrations, Cape Cod is one of the best towns to go Christmas shopping. Furthermore, it’s also the perfect place for couples looking for a relaxing Christmas trip.
10. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is known for wild bachelor parties, awesome birthdays, and out-of-control bachelorettes. During Christmastime, Sin City transforms into Christmas City. With the warm weather, there are a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy. The famous Bellagio Fountain is a significant attraction all year long, but it becomes extra special during the holiday season.
Vegas doesn’t have an abundance of ice rinks, but they have indoor rinks with Christmas themes. The Cosmopolitan converts the Boulevard pool into an inner skating rink everyone will love. Plus, there’s Santa’s Shipwreck, Neon Museum, and the Spring Preserve Holiday Express to Santa’s village. Of course, we can’t forget all the amazing shopping the city affords.
11. St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida, is warm and sunny all year round. While it doesn’t turn into a winter wonderland, the Christmas spirit is strong in the well-known city. The warm weather makes it easier to enjoy the town’s bright Christmas lights and decorations. It’s full of fun and exciting events the whole family will enjoy. One of the highlights is the Night of Lights Festival, running for two months. The entire city lights up the streets and buildings with over 3 million Christmas lights.
Like many cities, it features a classic Christmas day parade. St. Augustine is also famous for the numerous tours that give people an up close and personal view of the bright Christmas lights. One of the main tours is the Holiday Ride on the Old Town Trolley tour, which takes families and loved ones up the city’s streets. Known for its famous bay, the Holiday Regatta of Lights is a boat tour featuring boats and ships decorated in Christmas lights and other ornaments. There’s also a long list of live Christmas shows, such as A Christmas Story at Limelight Theatre.
12. Los Angeles, California
It’s safe to say that Los Angeles is one of the best Christmas cities in America. The combination of warm weather, Hollywood, and the holidays is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas. With all the glitz and glamour, the Hollywood Christmas parade is a must for anyone in the area. With Disneyland covered in Christmas lights and decorations, Hollywood icons Mickey and Minnie star in Disneyland Christmas Fantasy.
One of the most popular traditions features downtown L.A. converted into an ice rink. Despite the lack of snow, the L.A. Zoo Lights extravaganza becomes a Christmas wonderland for everyone to enjoy. For the grumpier side of the holiday season, the Grinch hosts an event on Christmas Eve at the iconic Universal Studios, while the famous Six Flags Magic Fountain puts on an unforgettable lights show. Los Angeles is easily one of America’s best West Coast Christmas towns.
13. Park City, Utah
Surrounded by mountains, Park City, Utah, is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas. Anyone looking for a winter wonderland with Christmas lights, decorations, and Santa Claus needs to look no further than Park City. With the Christmas spirit in the air, Park City has numerous events throughout the town, including Snowfest, the Electric Parade, and the Ballet West Academy’s The Nutcracker. However, the events don’t stop there.
The Heber Valley Railroad converts into the North Pole Express for the last month of the year. Families can enjoy a 90-minute round trip featuring chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, with entertainment from Santa and his elves. Of course, no Christmas celebration is complete without the lighting of the Christmas tree. Park City turned the lighting of the tree into a significant event with fireworks, live music, and an autograph session with Santa. The highlight each year is the torchlight parade, with skiers leading the way for Santa as he journeys down the ski lift.
14. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is one of the best Christmas towns in America. While Portsmouth is a great place to visit during the summer, the holiday season is also worth checking out. The Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth festival is an awe-inspiring celebration featuring numerous events, such as The Candlelight Stroll. Presented by Strawbery Banke Museum, The Candlelight Stroll is a Christmas-themed tour of some of the city’s most historic locations.
Christmas in Portsmouth wouldn’t be the same without a trip to Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond. Plus, everyone in the town loves the annual Gingerbread House Contest. Portsmouth knows how to end the year with an epic New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night. It’s impossible to go wrong celebrating Christmas in Portsmouth.
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15. San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California, proves that not every city needs snow to become a Christmas wonderland. The holiday season begins in San Francisco the day before Thanksgiving with a free winter carnival. No city in the world does Christmas tree lighting like San Francisco. They’re so good that they have three tree lightings at Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, and Union Square. Speaking of Union Square, it’s also the best place to go skating and shopping.
After a long day of shopping and skating, enjoy the classic Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Fair or the iconic ballet Nutcracker. The Christmas celebration doesn’t end there in San Francisco. There’s also the Holiday Lights Boat Parade, the Holiday Train Ride, and Christmas with Walt at the Walt Disney Museum. There truly is no better place to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season.
16. Franklin, Tennessee
The classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol is one of the essentials of the holiday season. No city knows this better than the unassuming town of Franklin, Tennessee. A Christmas Carol tells the story of the cranky Ebenezer Scrooge, who receives visits from the ghosts of Christmas. A Christmas Carol and its plot play a vital role in Franklin’s grand Christmas celebrations. Each year, Franklin starts the holiday season off with Dickens of a Christmas.
With over 50,000 visitors packing the downtown area, Dickens of A Christmas features volunteers dressed up as characters from A Christmas Carol. In addition to Victorian-era food, the festival features dancing, music, and arts & crafts. It’s safe to say that Franklin, Tennessee, is the Dickens of Christmas celebrations.
17. Key West, Florida
In the US, some cities endure horrible winter snowstorms that make the holiday season quite tricky. Luckily for Key West, Florida, they have all the Christmas trappings without the terrible snow. Key West takes an unconventional approach to a hot and fun Christmas. The weather is so warm and sunny that visitors can go to the beach for an adventure.
Later, check out the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to get a closer look at Key West. Additionally, Duval street is party and shopping central, featuring a long list of excellent pubs and shops. If that’s not enough, Key West features the historic Lighthouse and Hemingway Museum.
18. Bardstown, Kentucky
There’s nothing like celebrating Christmas in a lovely small town like Bardstown, Kentucky. Each year, the residents and business owners come together to celebrate the Hanging of the Greens. The event climaxes with the town flipping on the switch and turning on all the lights in the city. The impressive Bardstown display is one of the highlights of the city.
The city boasts an ice skating rink at the Farmer’s Market Pavillion. The My Old Kentucky Dinner Train becomes the North Pole Express taking passengers on a magical ride through a Christmas wonderland. With an abundance of Christmas cheer, Bardstown, Kentucky, has a strong Christmas spirit that spreads throughout the town.
19. Newport Beach, California
Located in Orange County, California, Newport Beach stays hot all year, even during the Christmas celebrations. Of course, that doesn’t stop Newport Beach from transforming into a Christmas wonderland. The Sherman Library and Gardens host the Night of 1000 Lights featuring can-can dancers and French cabaret singers. Furthermore, local artists come together to sell items at the Creative Communal open-air holiday market.
The main highlight revolves around the annual Ring of Lights Competition. It features the Newport Beach Boat Parade, where yacht, sailboat, and powerboat owners decorate their vessels with Christmas lights and ornaments. Local businesses, yacht clubs, and waterfront homes also get in on the competition. The winner receives a prize and bragging rights, with visitors able to enjoy an exciting and dazzling light show.
20. Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Few cities know how to celebrate Christmas like Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Also known as the Hot Cocoa Capital of the World, the city’s celebrations revolve around the sweet beverage. The holiday season features a Hot Cocoa Crawl with desserts and gourmet hot chocolate at 30 coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. Plus, boutiques offer mini sweaters for mugs and gourmet marshmallows.
The Lighted Boat Parade is another highlight where sailboats and other vessels with Christmas lights put on a show for the town. Additionally, the stores compete in a decorating contest to determine who has the superior Christmas decorations.
21. Solvang, California
California doesn’t enjoy the snowy winters or intense snow storms of other states but still manages to have an immense Christmas spirit. It’s one of those states that can find Christmas cheer on the warmest days. With roughly 6,000 residents, the small town transforms into a winter wonderland in the blink of an eye. The city is famous for its European architecture, adding a little twist to the Christmas wonderland.
The historic Solvang Julefest runs from November to January, featuring candlelight tours and a Christmas parade. During this period the small town becomes a quaint Christmas village with Christmas trees and sparkling lights illuminating the town.
Danish settlers founded the city in 1911 and still influence the town. For example, Danish pastries and desserts are prominent at various events. Other notable activities include the Tree Lighting Ceremony and a Christmas Elf Scavenger Hunt. It all ends with one of the largest fire safety demonstrations with the annual Tree Burn. There’s no way to go wrong with Christmas in Solvang, California.
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