The world always gets sprinkled with a little extra magic, a little more nostalgia, for the holidays. It’s tangible in the air around us. Some places, though, kick this feeling into high gear. And we’ve got the cutest, best Christmas towns to show you!
We’re looking at 51 quaint towns (think Star’s Hollow of Gilmore Girls fame, which might explain why the popular series had no less than seven Christmas episodes) that celebrate big. “I smell snow,” said Lorelai Gilmore, and even though some places have to manufacture the snow, it does truly add to the overall mood.
We have located some of the very best, the most magical, Christmas towns around the world. Maybe you’ll find one nearby, or for those places that go beyond the travel budget, the internet provides some great armchair opportunities guaranteed to help you catch the Christmas spirit.
As the song tells us, “it’s Christmastime in the city,” but these 51 towns, and even a few neighborhoods, are turning up pretty cute too.
51 Best Christmas Towns
1. Leavenworth, Washington
This Bavarian mountain town, nestled in the Cascade Mountains, will not disappoint. Check out the Village of Lights with a choir, nutcracker museum, sleigh rides, a reindeer farm and more.
2. McAdenville, North Carolina
It’s called Christmastown USA for a reason. As seen on Good Morning, America, McAdenville features hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights. Start your tour in the historic downtown, but then drive all around town, because the residents participate in the lights too. Every home is decorated for the holidays.
3. Santa Claus, Indiana
Maybe this should go without saying, but visiting a town called “Santa Claus” makes a whole lot of sense in December (or year-round, if you please). There’s a Santa Claus Museum, a Christmas Store and Santa’s Candy Castle.
4. Reykjavik, Iceland
It’s very close to the North Pole, so it’s a worthwhile place to visit this time of year. Harpa Concert Hall is hosting 35 holiday concerts and there are also Christmas markets (such as Yule Town), the magnificent Oslo Tree and an entire Christmas village downtown.
5. Burbank, California
Speaking of Gilmore Girls, the opening shot that appears while the theme song plays is actually South Royalton, Vermont. Otherwise, you’ll have to visit Warner Brothers studios in Burbank to tour Stars Hollow. You can actually do this during their “Holidays Made Here” event.
6. Frankenmuth, Michigan
This Bavarian town is one of several that celebrates Christmas year-round. It’s especially festive at Christmastime, though, with a light tour, a singing Christmas tree and an ice rink.
7. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Tucked away in the Smokey Mountains, you’re likely to have mild winter weather. You’ll have quite a selection of Christmas shows to choose from, in addition to the winter wonderland Dolly Parton puts on at Dollywood.
8. Natchitoches, Louisiana
From their official website, “since 1927, we are home to one of the oldest community-based holiday celebrations in the country.” While there, you’ll see hundreds of thousands of lights and more than 100 set pieces all along the Cane River.
9. Noel, Missouri
Yes, you can visit “Christmas City.” More commonly, though, thousands of people send their holiday cards and letters to this small town in southern Missouri to get a Christmas postmark. You have your choice—red or green.
10. Fuheis, Jordan
Okay, most of us aren’t traveling to Jordan for the holidays. Still, its annual festive is a glorious celebration, with Santa parading the streets and Christmas tunes playing that feature bells, drums and bagpipes. And good news, you can visit via Facebook.
11. Branson, Missouri
This tourist town goes all out for Christmas, as one would expect. Catch one of the many holiday shows, drive along Christmas Tree Trail, visit Silver Dollar City or ride the Polar Express. There’s more than you can do in a day.
12. Solvang, California
This tiny village, aka the Danish Capital of America, is located in Santa Barbara County wine country. Their month-long celebration, Julefest, has holiday parades, musical performances, and a light show synced with music. There’s also a “Nativity Spectacular” production to tell the story of Christmas.
13. Granbury, Texas
A parade, carriage rides and a large nativity display are just a few of the traditional things you can do in this town, known for its Texas-sized hospitality. One unique offering is the Candlelight Tour, a weekend event where some historic homes and businesses open their doors to the public, helping to tell the story of the town.
14. Grapevine, Texas
We all know everything’s bigger in Texas, and Grapevine is known for having the largest holiday parade in the state. Located just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, it’s recognized as the Christmas Capital of Texas. Altogether, they offer 1,400 holiday events in 40 days. Wow.
15. Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York
Most of the year, Dyker Heights is a quiet residential neighborhood deep in Brooklyn. Some years ago now, the residents decided to become a holiday destination, and today, thousands of people come to check out the decorated homes.
16. North Pole, New York
Of all the places on our list, this town in New York is one of your best chances of actually seeing snow when you visit. One of its main attractions is Santa’s Workshop, one of the oldest amusement parks in the country.
17. Bozeman, Montana
Each year, Bozeman transforms its downtown into a Winter Wonderland. Guests walk or drive under thousands of hanging lights. From there, do some shopping at the Holiday Market Jubilee. Hurry though, the large shopping extravaganza only lasts one day.
18. Williamsburg, Virginia
Fireworks at Christmas? The Grand Illumination, a fireworks show, is one of Williamsburg’s biggest attractions. There are also beautiful lights strung all around town. Following an 18th-century tradition, there’s the lighting of cressets (large, metal baskets that hang from a frame and have a handle) along Duke of Gloucester Street.
19. Mystic, Connecticut
Where Santa arrives by tugboat, and there’s a lighted boat parade. Magical indeed. Stop by Olde Mistick Village—an open-air village—for a little shopping too.
20. Bardstown, Kentucky
Some say it should be the North Pole of Kentucky, as this small town normally known for its bourbon tasting (there are 11 distilleries in the area) and history, turns into a magical Christmas village. Mr. and Mrs. Claus oversee the lighting of the official Christmas tree, but the light extravaganza includes the must-see My Old Kentucky Home as well.
21. Andalusia, Alabama
Christmas in Candyland has become an annual tradition. Activities around the square include Christmas cottages, snow globes, carriage rides and more. The beautiful Springdale estate has a polar bear snow tubing hill, a winter skating rink, train rides and the Candyland stage.
22. Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, England
(Read in your best British accent:) Enjoy some shopping and eating at the local festive fayre, including afternoon tea, then take a festive winter walk along one of many trails in the area.
23. Rochester, Michigan
There’s a Big Bright Light Show downtown, with more than a million bright lights. Stop by Kris Kringle Market while you’re there—an open-air Christmas market in the style of those in Europe.
24. Paris, France
I know! When my friend mentioned the enchanting and elaborate window displays filing up the huge, street-side windows, I moved Paris in December up on my bucket list.
25. Rothenburg, Germany
This medieval, walled city high above the Tauber River has offered Reiterlesmarkt, a Christmas Market, for 500 years. Yes, there’s a museum so you can learn even more—after you’ve done a little shopping.
26. Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland
You don’t have to save this one for Christmas, as it’s open year-round. Santa Claus Village is located in the Arctic Circle, which you can actually walk across. They’ve got plenty of animals to see—reindeer, Huskies and other animals who live at Elf’s Farmyard. This “home of Santa Claus” offers great virtual experiences.
(scroll to keep reading)
27. Drobak, Norway
This small fishing town near Oslo is known as the Christmas town in Norway. There’s a Christmas shop, Julehuset (the Christmas house), and letters often end up in Drobak from Europe similar to how they end up in Santa Claus, Indiana in the United States.
28. St. Augustine, Florida
Reportedly, this town offers a show like no other. Their Night of Lights holiday display features millions of dazzling, white lights from the sidewalks to the rooftops, over the Bridge of Lions, and trail through approximately 20 city blocks.
29. Christmas, Florida
Need we say more? This town in the greater Orlando area goes all out for the holidays. The post office has a mail slot for Santa. There’s a year-round display of a Christmas tree, accompanied by a Santa Claus statue, a red sleigh and reindeer, and a nativity scene.
30. New Ulm, Minnesota
Since 1925, this town has been decorated with natural evergreen wreaths, boughs and trees. In addition to shopping in the locally owned downtown stores, visit Mendel Christmas Village at the Brown County History Museum.
31. Bernville, Pennsylvania
Koziar’s Christmas Village in Bernville is a park-and-walk vintage Christmas lights extravaganza. The walkway is well-lit and paved, allowing patrons in wheelchairs, or those pushing strollers, the full experience as well. Take an unguided tour through town, which usually takes 60-90 minutes.
32. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Here is Pennsylvania’s Christmas City, founded by a Moravian community. It’s known for having the first documented Christmas tree in America. Christkindlmarkt lets you shop in holiday-themed wooden huts, before visiting the historic Moravian museum.
33. Dahlonega, Georgia
This Blue Ridge Mountain town and its Christmas cuteness might be just what we need this year. This town extends its celebrations into mid-January too, so take note of that.
34. Helen, Georgia
Another Blue Ridge Mountain town, this one has a decidedly German influence. In addition to many traditional holiday activities, Santa photo ops, holiday shopping and seeing the lights, you can ride the Georgia Mountain Coaster, weather permitting. That’s right, ride a roller coast in December!
35. Rock Hill, South Carolina
Christmasville transforms into a storybook town this time of year. They get their inspiration for days gone by from their own adopted son, Vernon Grant, children’s illustrator and artist of the famed Kellogg’s Rice Krispies’ Snap! Crackle! and Pop!
36. Santa’s Village, New Hampshire
This park, located in Jefferson, NH, is open year-round but becomes a real winter wonderland in December. Please note, advanced tickets are required, as the number of guests is limited. Here are a few of the rides available (weather permitting): Skyway Sleigh Monorail, Santa’s Express Train and Great Humbug Adventure.
37. Owego, New York
This town lies along the Susquehanna River in the Finger Lakes region, and dons lights starting from Court Street Bridge, through downtown. The local news radio station, WEBO, even offers a countdown to Santa turning on the Christmas lights each year.
38. North Pole, Alaska
Located about 15 minutes from Fairbanks, this Christmas town remains open all year long. Visit Santa Claus House, check out the ice sculptures and watch the fireworks. The local post office receives more than 400,000 pieces of mail each year, addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska.”
39. Bellevue, Washington
The town’s botanical gardens really shine with their “Garden D’Lights” event, with over half a million sparkling lights forming whimsical shapes such as plants, birds, animals and cascading waterfalls. Go ice skating downtown, or attend a gingerbread house workshop.
40. Carmel, Indiana
Visit their authentic German Christmas market, which has been voted the #1 German-themed market in the country. You can ride through town, rather than walk, by jumping off and on the free holiday trolley. The Heritage Society also hosts an Inns of Distinction Tour, a holiday show and tell for the finest inns and hotels in Carmel.
41. Ogden, Utah
Visit Christmas Village in downtown Ogden, where the streets are actually designed to look like the North Pole. Local businesses construct about 70 decorated cottages along the path, including Santa’s Castle.
42. Cape May, New Jersey
This town gets another vote for the Victorian look made famous by Charles Dickens. There’s a trolley to take you around to local house tours, Congress Hall (America’s oldest seaside resort), and shopping at Washington Street Mall.
43. Taos, New Mexico
Wait until closer to Christmas and visit the annual Folk pop-up store, shop for handmade crafts and gifts from local artists, or simply stroll along the streets lined with paper lanterns (called farolitos or luminarias). On December 24, nearby Taos Pueblo has a Christmas Eve Procession, with large bonfire displays lighting the ceremony.
44. Franklin, Tennessee
The Franktown Festival of Lights offers more than a mile of dazzling illumination. The Factory, a unique indoor shopping center, features more than 40 decorated, real Christmas trees. Finally, mingle downtown with the likes of Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim Cratchit and even Ebenezer Scrooge himself at Middle Tennessee’s largest Christmas festival—Dickens of a Christmas. They do interact with you—so be prepared.
45. San Antonio, Texas
Start by visiting the giant Christmas tree on display at The Alamo. Then grab some food or do some people-watching along the infamous River Walk, which is magical at night, lit up with festive lights for the holidays.
46. Prescott, Arizona
This town is recognized as Arizona’s Christmas City, with a Christmas procession and light show at the courthouse. At the Prescott Resort and Conference Center, visitors can view a large gingerbread village display. Top it all off with a horse-drawn carriage ride through town.
47. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
There’s plenty of gorgeous lighting and shops downtown, but Eureka Springs is perhaps best known for the Great Passion Play theater grounds. The illuminated destination features more than 300 Christmas trees on the way to a 66-foot Christ of the Ozarks statue, plus dozens of nativity scenes.
48. Vail, Colorado
Christmas in the Rocky Mountains—it already sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? The town’s Christmas tree can be found at Vail Village at the Children’s Fountain. Ice skating or riding a horse-drawn sleigh among the Swiss-inspired architecture, with the mountains for a backdrop, says “Happy Holidays” in a way all its own.
49. Stockbridge, Massachusetts
This town channels its inner Normal Rockwell as its main attraction. In fact, the “Home For Christmas” painting features an unmistakable image of Stockbridge’s Main Street decorated for the holidays. One event includes an antique car show, really taking visitors back in time.
50. New Castle, Delaware
Their annual Spirit of Christmas event promises old-fashioned fun, offering historic house tours, sing-alongs with street carolers, and taking in the holiday lights. Performers even take to the street for a street-theater production of A Christmas Carol.
51. Newport, Oregon
Maybe a boat parade and holiday light cruises are more your style, and in that case, Newport’s Yaquina Bay has you covered. While you’re there, check out the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Sea of Lights—Scuba Santa dives in the exhibits, presenting some unique photo ops.