"Home for the Holidays" is a familiar refrain during December but for a growing segment of Americans and international travelers, Christmas time is a popular time to get away. For adventurers eager to ditch the local scene during the holidays, there are many great choices to venture across the USA, from urban wonders, to balmy beaches, and the great outdoors.
New York City
New York City lands on every best destinations list, but it is especially gorgeous during the holidays with all the lights and the snow, making it a favorite destination for many Christmas travelers.
Manhattan is famous for shopping, and the ideal place to find unique gifts as well as find everything on your own wish list. The metropolis boasts many annual traditions, such as the holiday-themed windows at New York's famed department stores and the giant spruce Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center,
Live performances abound during the holidays in NYC. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a Broadway-style show put on by the famous, high-kicking Rockettes at the even-more-famous Radio City Music Hall. Each year the New York City Ballet puts on a venerated version of the classic Nutcracker, while for the child in all of us, the man dubbed to be the "real Santa" awaits at Macy's.
The Windy City certainly has the brisk weather conditions to deliver a White Christmas—or at least a very, very cold one. However, tourists go to Chicago for Christmas for its big-city activities: View the millions of lights on the Magnificent Mile or enjoy Chicago's German heritage at the famous Christkindlmarket a German Christmas market filled with holiday crafts, traditional wooden toys, plus food and drink.
Chicago also has a giant Christmas tree, which is set up in Millennium Park and inaugurated each year with much fanfare. To marry science with spirit, check out the Annual Christmas Around the World Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.
A ski holiday at Christmastime offers snowy slopes and cozy chalets for a fun and relaxing getaway. Many of the most popular places to go for skiing in the United States are in Colorado, home to several chic resort towns. Celebrate a Victorian Christmas at the Breckenridge ski resort or join the jet set in Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat Springs.
For families, an urban Christmas in Denver may be the right fit. A great holiday attraction is the Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo, where the kids can ride the Holiday Carousel, and sip high tea at the Brown Palace. Lastly, Santa trackers will know that Colorado is home to NORAD, the governmental agency that tracks Santa's gift-giving route on Christmas Eve.
Even in December, most of Florida enjoys mild temperatures making the state ideal for a white Christmas comprised of sand and not snow. In addition to beach destinations, travelers can visit Walt Disney World, which is decked out in true, over-the-top Disney style. Take the kids to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party or to see Epcot's Candlelight Processional.
For holidays with a Latin flavor, head to Christmas in Miami. In the weeks leading up to December 25th, there are boat parades and festive light displays in many cities across the state, such as the Night of Lights in St. Augustine.
Another great reason to visit Florida is to literally visit Christmas, a little town near Orlando that has become a favorite place for people to mail out gifts with a unique postmark.
Why go to Puerto Rico during Christmas? Besides the fact that it provides a nice break from cold weather, Puerto Rico is a very special place to spend the holidays as Puerto Rico has its own set of Christmas traditions, ranging from decorations and storytelling to wonderful food.
While the Christmas season in Puerto Rico can begin as early as November, Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, is Puerto Rico's most anticipated holiday event. If you want to be part of the world's longest holiday season, which starts in November and ends in February, Puerto Rico is where you need to go.
For jet-setters really committed to the idea of a cold, white Christmas, Alaska is the place for the holidays.
There are a number of Christmas festivals and events in Alaska, including Christmas-themed ice art sculptures. Adventurous types can even try dog sledding. Winter is also the prime time for catching the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, that streak across the skies over the state.
For families with small children, Alaska might be the next best thing to visiting the North Pole. Since 1952, thousands of children who have written to Santa with their Christmas wishes have sent their letters to the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska near Fairbanks.