The day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. People wake up at the crack of dawn (or even abandon the end of Thanksgiving dinner) to rummage through sales in an attempt to find the perfect Christmas gift for their loved ones. Christmas trees start being chopped down and wreaths are being hung from doors. Lights get strung across rooftops and the smell of freshly baked cookies fill entire homes as we prepare for the greatest time of the year.
Most of us have already decided on spending the holidays at home with our friends and families. However, if you have a family that likes to travel or are looking for a change of pace this Christmas, here are the top five places to visit over the holidays.
1. New York City
New York is filled with things to do over the holidays. From the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, to the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree there is no shortage of Christmas spirit in this city. Take an afternoon to go ice skating in Rockefeller Center, visit one of the many, many Santa Claus’, and just enjoy the winter wonderland that New York turns into during this time of the year. If you can manage to stay a little longer, you’ll even get the bonus of being able to watch the ball drop on New Year’s.
2. Zurich, Switzerland
The wintery town of Zurich, Switzerland is an excellent place to spend the holidays. Several Christmas markets take place throughout December, as well as Christmas and Nativity Scenes in the Swiss National Museum, the Circus Conelli, and a Santa Claus Parade (usually taking place at the end of November). In addition to these special Christmas activities, there is also no shortage of winter fun, such as climbing the Swiss Alps, enjoying some hot fondue, going ice skating, or relaxing at a spa.
3. Nevada City, California
Looking for a more unique Christmas experience? Then try spending some time in Nevada City. Every year this California town celebrates Christmas the Victorian way with horse-drawn carriage rides, authentic gas lamps, live entertainment, and delicious treats! Entertainment varies from a live nativity scene, to Victorian singers and bagpipers. Everyone who visits is encouraged to dress in Victorian attire to add to the atmosphere. While this tradition only takes place a total of five days in December, the city also offers some good skiing and snowboarding only 45 minutes away, and a historic downtown that is still reminiscent of the city's Gold Rush and Victorian past.
4. Santa Claus Village, Finland
Right on the Arctic Circle, in the small town of Lapland, Finland is a holiday attraction called Santa Claus Village. You can meet Santa Claus, write a letter with elves in the post office, and learn a little bit about Finnish Christmas traditions, as well as Christmas traditions around the world. There’s even a husky and reindeer farm nearby where visitors can take a sleigh ride through the forest or mush a team of huskies on a two-hour safari.
5. Santa Claus, Indiana
Dubbed “America’s Christmas Hometown”, the town of Santa Claus has many Christmas-themed things to do. There’s a Santa Claus post office, where children can sit down in antique desks and write letters to Santa, as well as a museum where visitors can learn about the town of Santa Claus’ history. For those of us with a sweet tooth, there is a Candy Castle filled with a variety of sweet treats, including handmade fudge, retro candy (that’s right wax lips, candy buttons, and wax bottles can all be found here), the newest novelty candy, and 33 different flavors of hot cocoa.
Towns all across the world put on special events to celebrate Christmas. From lighting a 94-foot tall Christmas tree in New York, to reindeer-drawn sleigh rides in Finland, each town finds a unique way to celebrate the holidays. There are so many places that burst with holiday spirit, so go grab a cup of hot cocoa and find your perfect holiday location.