It's hard to be a Grinch during the most wonderful time of the year. Green and red lights turn on all over town, Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" plays loudly at every establishment and, depending on where you live, snow starts blanketing the streets.
Did you know that up to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold every year across the country? That's a lot of ornaments! But if you, like us, want to get even more into the Christmas spirit, we suggest visiting some of the best Christmas towns in America.
But what constitutes a Christmas town? Well, they go big on decorations, festivals and holiday traditions for the whole family, year over year. If you need to see some Christmas magic, these towns are just the ticket. Make your list and check it twice before reading more about the best Christmas towns from coast to coast.
Are you looking for a Christmas time machine? Williamsburg knows precisely how to highlight traditions from the 18th century within its holiday festivities. Hosted at the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, Christmastide invites visitors to learn more about how families celebrated Christmas during the American Revolution. The costumes are as elaborate as the lighting shows around town.
The small town of Leavenworth packs so much charm along its Bavarian-like streets. Germany's Alpine roads inspired the city, and it turns into Christmas magic every December.
Seasonal events in this charming town are aplenty, but save some time for the Christmas Lighting Festival. More than half a million lights turn on every weekend, from Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day. Santa will be in attendance, too, while you enjoy some hot drinks.
You may be familiar with Stockbridge from Norman Rockwell's painting of the village — the snowy New England town classically decorated for the holidays with a few antique cars and residents mingling. See the iconic painting come to life as locals recreate it every Christmas season on the first weekend of December.
After you experience the display, enjoy the holiday concerts, markets and light shows all along the main street. There's also an opportunity for holiday shopping at the many boutiques, galleries and shops along the street.
There's just something magical about seeing small-town streets decorated with beautiful sparkling lights at night. Woodstock hosts their holiday activities at the Billings Farm and transports you to 19th century Christmas with its decorations. The farmhouse is decorated authentically to the era and families can enjoy sleigh rides and horse-drawn carriages outside.
Woodstock also invites its residents to participate in Wassail, an event where historic homes are decorated to the nines and local shops open for a holiday tour.
Just outside the nation's capital, Alexandria's historic downtown area brings plenty of charm and spirit to the holidays. When Old Town Alexandria's decorations go up, it's hard not to see the magic of the season. The Scottish Christmas Parade occurs on the first weekend of December and has been a tradition for the last 50 years. The parade pays homage to the city's original founder and namesake, who was of Scottish descent.
A sea of tartans takes over the streets with pipes going off. Afterward, you can enjoy the festival's outdoor concerts, Scottish food and a tour of historic homes decorated for Christmas. The boat parade happens on the same weekend, when Alexandria's boat owners decorate their boats from top to bottom with twinkle lights to vie for first place.
Is it really Christmas without New York City's spirit? From "Home Alone" to the Macy's Christmas Day Parade, New York City is synonymous with Christmas. Bundle up and make your way to the Rockefeller Center to ice skate below its iconic Christmas tree. Later, grab tickets to see the Radio City's Rockettes and watch them kick up to every Christmas song.
Don't forget about holiday shopping, and take a walk along Fifth Avenue. All the storefronts flaunt their décor for the season, and of course, the big department stores have their beautiful displays up during this time.
About 90 minutes outside of Atlanta, Helen's Christmas Village is not a sight you should miss. The small town, modeled after an Alpine village in Germany, hosts a traditional German market. You'll find artisans, German food and lots of candied treats for the kids.
Later in December, you can attend the Festival of Trees and have Breakfast with Santa at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The popular event also opens up the Christmas trees up for bidding to benefit the local community. If you miss Santa there, you can meet up with him at the nearby Babyland General Hospital, a Cabbage Patch Kids toy store, where kids can see one of the dolls being "born."
Asheville doesn't just have one Christmas village for you to visit, but 12 villages for you to see via photo tour. Each town is decorated differently, so add Bryson City, Forest City and the others to your list. If you're a local, cut your own Fraser fir from one of the many tree farms like Banner Elk.
If you're looking for a more traditional experience, visit The Biltmore Estate to enjoy their lavish Christmas decorations. The many Christmas trees, 70-foot ceilings and the wines in stock will genuinely make your visit a magical one.
Snow falling, wreaths and Christmas lights set the tone in Bethlehem every holiday season. With only 75,000 residents, this small town hosted the first documented decorated Christmas tree in the country in 1747. Nicknamed "Christmas City, U.S.A.," Bethlehem lines the streets with little wooden huts for local craftsmen and artisans to sell their wares.
December in Bethlehem is full of Christmas spirit with festivals, shopping and the Historic Moravian district and Christkindlmarkt market.
Who says you need snow to enjoy the Christmas spirit? Carlsbad takes its Christmas parade to the water by creating more than 100 light displays to enjoy from the river. It's a different kind of Christmas parade, but a beautiful show nonetheless.
You can experience Christmas on the Pecos River by hopping in one of the 40-minute boat tours. Each of the displays has a fun theme, like Santa's Workshop or the Southwest and seen on backyards, boat docks and more.
Christmas is year-round at North Pole, a small town outside Fairbanks in Alaska. The candy cane street lights to the Christmas store and streets named after Christmas characters don't get more holiday-themed than this.
The Santa Claus House, now a Christmas store, originally started as a general store for North Pole. Now, more than 65 years later, a 42-foot Santa Claus welcomes you to the town, and inside the house, you can see all the letters to Santa decorate the walls.
Right near the Florida Panhandle, Andalusia is proof you don't need to be cold to experience Christmas. The town created a true winter wonderland called Christmas at Candyland and yes, it's as magical as you think. There's a snow show, horse-drawn carriage rides, tubing on snow tubes, ice skating, Santa photo ops and more.
Over in Springdale, not too far from Candyland, you can find a small village of playhouses for children to go in and play, including a fun gingerbread house.
You can spend a genuinely charming New England Christmas in Newport. First, pay a visit to some of the most luxurious mansions, decorated with festive details to highlight their architecture. The Breakers and the Elms are two of the main ones to tour during Christmas, and the grounds twinkle at night, making for a fun wander around the grounds.
Now in its 50th year, the Bowen's Wharf Christmas tree lighting is an iconic experience for the whole family as the 30-foot Norway spruce tree gets lit for the first time.
Like a holiday movie, Christmas at Snowmass offers plenty of fun — on and off the mountain. At Elk Camp, you can spend the night ice skating around the many holiday decorations or by the fire, staying toasty with s'mores. Nearby, at Santa's Village, you'll hear the carolers sing all of your favorite tunes of the season.
The lodge always cooks up a feast for locals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, an excellent end to a day spent on the Alpine Coaster or tubing in the snow.
Right off the coast of Southern California, Newport Beach is famous for its big waves, the beautiful Balboa Pier and its Christmas Boat Parade. Yes, really! For the past 112 years, Newport Beach has hosted a Christmas Boat Parade, where boaters annually decorate around 100 boats and float in the parade.
Simultaneously, the city organizes the Ring of Lights waterfront competition, so all the homes facing the water decorate their homes and compete for the top spot. They go all out with large light installations — it's truly a sight to be seen.
More than 3 million white twinkling lights go up every year in St. Augustine to signal the beginning of Christmas. The Historic District's 20 blocks host the Nights of Lights festival, where families gather and get into the Christmas spirit. While there's no cold weather per se, you can still enjoy the scenery via a trolley tour, so you don't miss any of the lights.
Don't miss the lights at Flagler College and the Lightner Museum as they're the most elaborate. If you're looking for the centerpiece Christmas tree, you can find it at the Plaza de la Constitución.
McAndenville's Yule Log Parade origin goes way back to the era right after World War II. Nicknamed "Christmas Town, U.S.A.," it's not too far from Charlotte. This suburb brings together the whole town every December for the Yule Log Parade led by the high school band.
Every resident takes decorating seriously and goes all out along the small town's streets. The downtown area usually sees a holiday 5K, a tree lighting ceremony and plenty of holiday cheer.
Known for its French Creole townhouses, Natchitoches is Louisiana's oldest city, and you can admire its historic architecture all along downtown. Along with history, the town takes Christmas seriously, as well. While it started as a one-day festival, now the six-week-long Natchitoches Christmas Festival starts the celebration by lighting more than 300,000 lights the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
There are fireworks, artists' markets, cookies with Santa, caroling, tours of historic homes decked out for the holidays and so much more scheduled over the six weeks of the holiday season.
If you're thinking of a warm Christmas, but you still want everything that comes with the season, Orlando and its many theme parks are a good bet for your family. You shouldn't miss Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, but Disney World offers other opportunities like the Frozen Holiday castle show, the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and more.
The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular and Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are sure to captivate both adults and children at Universal Orlando. There isn't a shortage of holiday activities around these parts, the hard part is choosing a few to do.
Did you know that 2.5 million lightbulbs go into Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo's holiday décor every year? It's a fun way to see the lights, layer up and drink some hot chocolate as you stroll around the zoo. At Macy's, the Great Tree goes up every holiday season in the Walnut Room, and you can admire it while you enjoy their famous chicken pot pie in store or for take out.
But if you want to go all out this Christmas season, don't miss the Morton Arboretum's tree light display, a one-mile walking path of festive lights and tunnels. It's a beautiful display of holiday spirit.
And now for our No. 5 on the list, Durango. This town makes our list thanks to it being the home of the Polar Express. Yes, we've all seen the movie and read the book. Families jump on board the Polar Express train and greet the characters they love so much. You also visit Santa's workshop on this round-trip to the North Pole.
The whole ride takes about an hour, and most families dress in Christmas pajamas for the full experience while on board the Christmas train. After you're done, the whole town turns into a one-stop holiday shop with markets, holiday meals and more.
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge brings a ton of holiday charm to the season. The community theater puts on "It's a Wonderful Life," and holds a parade and tree lighting ceremony.
You can navigate your way through the illuminated maze, see the Christmas lights, ice skate and do the last of your holiday shopping at the Christmas bazaar. It's a spectacle of holiday cheer that's best experienced with hot chocolate in hand.
Vail puts on a show every December for the holidays. The town's celebrations are a great reward after a full day on the slopes. Enjoy the usual tree lighting and fireworks paired with the Vail Village, a beautiful part of Vail that features shops, an ice skating rink, hot chocolate from local Yeti's Grind and more. Or, snuggle up in a cozy blanket while you hop on a horse-drawn ride.
The light-lined streets along with the snow-capped mountains give Vail a European feel that's unmatched for this season — a real holiday joy.
The name of this town says it all, welcome to Santa Claus. Named after the man himself, this town lives up to its name when it comes to Christmas celebrations. The Christmas parade goes through town, followed by a Christmas-themed fireworks display. There's also a one-mile drive inside Lake Rudolph Campground, where you can see the story of this very special reindeer told by LED light installations.
Santa's Candy Castle is also a popular spot for children as they can log-in and talk to Santa's elves about their letters to Santa. Santa even responds to some of them!
Christmas Wonderland is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Frankenmuth as it hosts the world's largest Christmas store, Bronner's Christmas Wonderland. Christmas indeed is celebrated all year round at this little Bavarian-inspired town. Grandpa's Tiny Farm even allows you to hang out with some of Santa's reindeer.
The 40-feet Christmas tree, complete with a musical show, and the festive streets bring so much holiday cheer. In December, enjoy the ChristKindlMarkt in town for last-minute shopping.
It's impossible to ignore the Christmas spirit once December kicks off. From picking up the most fragrant pine tree to drinking eggnog while wearing fuzzy socks, the bells of the holiday are just calling you.
If you're looking for a good road trip to fill you with all the holiday spirit, consider the best Christmas towns while planning your Santa-filled adventure.