6 Best Places to Visit for Christmas

Old and New San Juan, Puerto Rico
••• Peter Johansky / Getty Images
  • 01 of 07

    Christmas Travel

    Christmas Tree in Orlando, Florida
    ••• Moment Open/Getty Images

    "Home for the Holidays" is a familiar refrain during December. But for a growing segment of Americans and international travelers, Christmas time has become a popular time to travel.

    For some, it is easiest to take time off of work in the period between Christmas and New Year's, since things tend to slow down at the office as many are away from the holidays. Also, many families lived scattered throughout the country, so Christmas holiday in a fun location makes sense. In some cases, traveling during Christmas can also be affordable if you know where to look for travel deals.

    Here are some of the most popular places in the U.S. to visit during Christmas. Some of these destinations are the usual suspects—New York City, Chicago—while others may surprise you. Use this information to plan your own Christmas travels or simply to get in the Christmas or travel spirit.

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  • 02 of 07

    New York City

    Christmas decorations and Radio City at night
    ••• Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

    If you can swing it, a trip to New York City at Christmas is well worth it at least once in your lifetime. New York City makes it onto every best destinations list here on USA Travel, but it is especially gorgeous during the holidays with all the lights and the snow, making it a favorite destination for many Christmas travelers.

    New York is famous for shopping, so it's a great place to find unique gifts as well as find everything on your own wish list. New York City also boasts many holiday traditions, such as the holiday-themed windows at New York's famed department stores. There is the giant pine Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the lighting of which is celebrated with a special ceremony and musical performances. Another attraction that brings scores of tourists to New York City during the holidays is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a Broadway-style show put on by the famous, high-kicking Rockettes at the even-more-famous Radio City Music Hall. Or go see the...MORE Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet. You can see the man dubbed to be the 'real ​Santa' at the Plaza Hotel.

    This is just a sampling of the many amazing activities and events going on during Christmas in New York City.

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  • 03 of 07

    Chicago

    The annual Christkindlmarket Chicago in Daley Plaza.
    ••• The annual Christkindlmarket Chicago in Daley Plaza. Jon Hicks / Getty Images

    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, such as viewing the millions of lights on the Magnificent Mile and enjoying Chicago's German heritage at the popular Christkindlmarkt, a German Christmas market filled with holiday crafts, traditional wooden toys, and German food and drink. Like New York City, Chicago also has a giant Christmas tree, which is set up in Daley Plaza and inaugurated each year with much fanfare. Also check out the Annual Christmas Around the World Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.

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  • 04 of 07

    Colorado

    Christmas Tree in front of Capitol in Chicago
    ••• Christmas Tree in front of Capitol in Chicago. Alex Wong/Getty Images

    A ski holiday at Christmastime makes sense for a lot of travelers, as snowy slopes and cozy chalets evoke the sights of the holidays. One of the most popular places to go for skiing in the United States is Colorado, which is home to the chic resort towns of Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat Springs. You can celebrate at Victorian Christmas at the Breckenridge ski resort. Santa trackers will also know that Colorado is home to NORAD, the governmental agency that tracks Santa's gift giving course on Christmas Eve. Not sure where to stay? You can find family-friendly ski deals and discounts on places to stay with our guide on how to save money on a ski trip. Or have an urban Christmas in Denver and see the Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo, let the kids ride the Holiday Carousel, and sip high tea at the Brown Palace.

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  • 05 of 07

    Florida

    Disney World Christmas Parade in Florida
    ••• Mark Ashman/Disney via Getty Images

    Florida is an obvious choice for the holidays. Most of the state enjoys mild temperatures, even in December, making it ideal for those who want their white Christmases to be made of sand and not snow. In addition to beach destinations, Christmas travelers to Florida also like to 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.

    Or check out Christmas in Miami, where the holidays have a more Latin flavor. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, you can find boat parades and festive light displays in many cities throughout the state, such as the Night of Lights in St. Augustine.

    Another great reason to visit Florida at Christmas is to visit Christmas, a little town near Orlando that has become a favorite place to get one's holiday mail postmarked.

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  • 06 of 07

    Puerto Rico

    Old and New San Juan, Puerto Rico
    ••• Peter Johansky / Getty Images

    Why go to Puerto Rico during Christmas? Besides the fact that you'll enjoy a break from the cold weather up north and actually catch a tan while everyone else gets paler, Puerto Rico is a very special place to spend the holidays. Puerto Rico has its own set of Christmas traditions, ranging from decorations and storytelling to wonderful, 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. 

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  • 07 of 07

    Alaska

    Aurora Borealis Over a Christmas Landscape in Alaska
    ••• walkadog / Flickr

    You have to be really committed to the idea of a cold, white Christmas to want to head to Alaska for the holidays. But for some people, Alaska is the North Pole. In fact, 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). The Santa Claus House also writes letters back to kids, indeed a very exciting prospect for a child still moved by stories of Saint Nick. Wintertime is also prime time for catching the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, in Alaska.

    There are a number of Christmas festivals and events in Alaska, including Christmas-themed ice art sculptures. Adventurous types can even try dog sledding. Indeed, if you can handle the chill and snow, Alaska provides a picture-perfect place for spending Christmas.