A Destination Christmas: The 10 Best Places to Celebrate the Holidays (Instead of at Your In-Laws)

published Nov 2, 2016
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(Image credit: Albert Pego)

Sometimes, there’s no beating being home for the holidays: quality time with family and old friends, cozying up into your childhood digs, and, of course, mom’s cooking. But over the years, the downsides of family get-togethers start to become more apparent: being volunteered as the party babysitter, steering your Aunt Marlene away from the eggnog, biting into a bad batch of grandma’s gingerbread cookies… you get the picture.

So this year, before you book a flight back home, consider jetting off somewhere where you can spend your hard-earned time off really truly relaxing. Here are 10 destinations that will make for a Christmas worth remembering (without the family drama).

Quebec City, Canada

Old Quebec glistens like a glass ornament at Christmastime, when snow dusts the pedestrian streets like a scene out of a Charles Dickens’ novel. In true European style, the French Canadian city also hosts a German-style Christmas market—it’s like getting around the world in one go.

(Image credit: The World in HDR)

Aspen, Colorado

Snow-dusted pine trees, powdery mountains, and sweeping mountain views—this Rocky Mountain town is the quintessential depiction of a cozy winter escape. If it’s just the two of you, spend the days skiing and then cozy up by the fire, but families should take note of the kid-friendly 12 Days of Aspen events.

(Image credit: Boyloso)

Reykjavik, Iceland

Craving a chilly getaway but not much cash to work with? Iceland’s breathtaking, cliff-lined winterscape (which only entertains four hours of daylight this time of year) will certainly check off all the boxes. Not to mention how romantic it is: Just imagine viewing the shimmering Northern Lights while enjoying a dip in a geothermal pool (basically nature’s hot tub). Sold yet? Budget airlines like Wow Air fly from the states to the city for a song.

(Image credit: LMspencer)

Edinburgh, Scotland

With its quaint, classic architecture, Edinburgh is a storybook city that, once blanketed with snow, becomes an irresistible backdrop for a merry Christmas. And then there’s the almost two-month-long spectacular program of performances, attractions, and events lined up for the annual Edinburgh’s Christmas event.

(Image credit: Sean Nel)

Nuremberg, Germany

Christmastime in Europe is famous for its Christmas markets, so why not spend the holidays in the home of the original one? Gingerbread, mulled wine, and wurst are some of the edible draws of Nuremberg, but a strict rule of craftsmanship ensures that all the goods here are top-quality—nothing plastic or mass-produced to be found. Pro tip: Bring an extra suitcase.

(Image credit: ChameleonsEye)

Queenstown, New Zealand

If you’re really trying to get away from it all, pack your bags for New Zealand. Since it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, a Kiwi Christmas consists of beach days, water activities (like paragliding!), and BBQs. Merry Christmas, indeed!

(Image credit: Bill Perry)

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The picturesque town of San Miguel de Allende is a gem of colonial architecture that looks all the more stunning when it sparkles with lights and fireworks around the holidays. The warm, fruity, brandy-based ponche cocktail will warm your soul just as much—pair it with the festive sweet bread rosca de reyes.

(Image credit: Marcela Novotna)

Rovaniemi, Finland

Dreaming of spending Christmas north of the Arctic Circle? The city of Rovaniemi in Lapland, which calls itself “the official hometown of Santa Claus,” is about as close as you’re going to get to Santa’s workshop. Here, kids can bake cookies with Mrs. Claus, enroll in Elf School, and pen their wish lists.

(Image credit: Iakov Filimonov)

Barcelona, Spain

In the boisterous Catalonian city, the lighthearted holiday season culminates on Epiphany, January 6. The three wise men arrive on January 4th, dressed in ornate robes, and are welcomed with fireworks—it’s a party you won’t want to miss.

(Image credit: Ingus Kruklitis)

Honolulu, Hawaii

There’s are many reasons the Obamas head back to Oahu each year for the holidays, and the pristine beaches, turquoise seas, and lush green mountains are certainly some of them. (Plus, there’s the “Winter White House” which us civilians can rent, too.) Hawaii’s generous hospitality will surely make you feel at home, even if you’re sprawled on Waikiki Beach this December 25. Mele Kalikimaka!