10 Enchanting Places to Spend Your Holiday Vacation This Year

published Dec 4, 2023
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Christmas Market in Europe
Salzburg, Austria at the Hellbrunn Palace
Credit: DaveLongMedia

Many holiday traditions focus on time spent with family, baking cutout cookies for the neighbors, and feasting on foods that bring back generational memories. But that festive feeling doesn’t just take place inside the home — it continues elsewhere as families load the car to look at light displays and head to candlelight services. However, if you’re really up for an adventure this year, here are some Christmas vacation ideas to inspire you to take those holiday vibes on the road.

Whether you want to schedule a quick trip, fill in the gap between Christmas and New Year’s, or celebrate the holidays somewhere new, plenty of places around the globe are perfect for a yuletide trip. So grab your partner, family, or group of friends and head to one of these 10 Christmas vacation ideas to enjoy the holiday spirit in style — even if you go solo, you’ll have a fabulous time. 

1. McCall, Idaho

If your family cheers for snow, loves adventure, and wants a snow-filled getaway, McCall, Idaho, is the place to go. Try ice fishing, experience world-class skiing, snowmobile to and from natural hot springs, and soak in the outdoor beauty of this winter wonderland. McCall is almost guaranteed to have snow from previous storms or freshly falling precipitation.

Credit: Dr Tom Photography

2. Richmond, Virginia

If you’re looking for an eclectic holiday to satiate various tastes, find it in Richmond, Virginia. Nature-lovers can peruse the light displays at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens or get a taste of yesteryear by visiting historic Maymont decked out in its holiday finery. The city also has plenty of opportunities to check folks off your gift list at holiday markets, mainstream shopping malls, and nearby downtown Ashland. From the symphony to the ballet, Richmond hosts several performances to take your mind away with a live show. If you’re looking for a laugh, check out the tour of tacky lights, and drive to the most over-the-top displays in the area.

3. Noord, Aruba

Christmastime doesn’t have to mean being out in the frigid weather, and if wearing shorts and putting on sunscreen is your idea of a perfect winter, head to the Aruba Marriott Resort in Noord, Aruba. Although it’s possible to venture off-site, combine your need for relaxation with your love for festive flavors by heading to a truffle tasting and cooling off with a holiday-themed Popsicle. Kids can even join in the fun as they have breakfast with Santa and decorate an ornament to take home. Bonus: On New Year’s Eve, bid farewell to the old year as you ring in the new with oceanside views.

4. Sister Bay, Wisconsin

For a taste of Europe that doesn’t require a passport, head to Sister Bay, located in Wisconsin’s the idyllic Door Peninsula. Taste hot mulled glühwein and dine at a traditional Swedish julbord buffet. Shop market-stall-style at the annual Christkindlmarkt or purchase handmade gifts at one of the many artisan galleries. Outdoor adventure lovers can also try cross-country skiing or biking along paths leading to snow dunes and icy caves. While in town, notice the Scandinavian architecture and experience friluftsliv, aka the Swedish way of weaving the outdoors into daily life.

5. Reno, Nevada

The Reno/Tahoe area that straddles Nevada and California is perfect for those who want to combine outdoorsy Christmas vacation ideas with other festivities. First, pack or rent your ski gear and head to powder-filled places like Mount Rose or Northstar California, which also offers tubing and ice skating. Stroll the city streets or book a pedicab tour to view the light displays during Let It Glow, Reno. Early December also brings a favorite among adults: The annual Reno Santa Crawl, when 20,000 Santas roam the streets on a crawl where over 40 bars present their finest holiday concoctions. Reno is also known for its vintage shopping, so head to the boutiques to get gifts for all the quirky and fashionable folks on your list.

Credit: Juergen Sack

6. Central Europe

If you enjoy the season of giving, the ultimate way to feel it is by heading to the Christmas markets in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. If that sounds exciting yet daunting to plan, you’re right, which is why a bus tour with Trafalgar is a sensible way to peruse these European markets. Whether you gather the family or plan a girls’ trip, prepare to spend the day shopping and exploring sites without worrying about transportation or where you’ll stay for the night. It’s a clever combination of experiencing European towns and finding the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.

7. Orlando, Florida

Of course, you could head to Florida for the theme parks, but the city of Orlando offers so much more. Head to the Lake Nona area for a winter paradise filled with family-centric activities, and visit the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens to walk through carefully orchestrated light displays. Orlando has plenty of live performances, so buy tickets for a festive concert or show. There are also several shopping areas, such as the quaint Audubon Park Garden District, where you can visit the weekly night market or shop for sustainable gifts at Oh Eco.

Credit: Giorgia Basso

8. Galveston, Texas

If you’ve ever been to Texas in the summer, it can be unbearably hot, especially around the coast, so winter is the ideal time to visit Galveston. In early December, historic Strand Street, dubbed The Strand by locals, is transformed into a Dickens Christmas village filled with festivities, such as Victorian bed races and daily parades. Feel a sense of yuletide at Moody Gardens, which becomes a light-filled wonderland peppered with ice sculptures during December. Another highlight is the Galveston Train Museum’s holiday train ride, where kids and families can take a one-hour ride to the North Pole to visit Santa.

9. Los Cabos, Mexico

When you want to gather the entire family and recreate a homey holiday experience in another location, consider heading to Los Cabos, Mexico, and booking an entire villa via Blue Desert Cabo to have a holiday home away from home. Pack up the family and arrive to find your accommodations already decorated for Christmas. If you don’t want to cook, a private chef will prepare a delectable holiday meal so you can sit back and enjoy time with family. Los Cabos also has plenty of festive activities (such as a holiday boat regatta) to keep you busy when you’re not relaxing poolside at your villa. 

10. New Haven, Connecticut

Quintessential New England towns are often characterized by their quaint vibes, and downtown New Haven, Connecticut, encompasses this feeling perfectly. Nicknamed the Elm City, the town doesn’t skimp on holiday spirit. Be wowed as a professional carver turns 300-pound ice blocks into winter-themed creations. Shop as you listen to carolers roaming the streets while they wear traditional garments. And of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus are also on hand to tell stories to the little ones and pose for Christmas photo ops with the family.