America’s 50 most charming small towns for the holidays
America’s 50 most charming small towns for the holidays
Hoping to bask in some small-town charm this holiday season? Whether you’re looking for a quiet winter wonderland or a sunny beach, you’ll find the perfect place to celebrate on our list of 50 of America’s best small towns for the holidays.
1 – Vail, Colorado
If you have your heart set on a white Christmas, book a stay in Vail, Colorado, which typically gets snow around the holidays. There’s lots of winter fun to be had in this mountain town: in addition to skiing and snowboarding, you can take a sleigh ride, go ice skating, and shop and dine in festive Vail Village.
2 – Leavenworth, Washington
Take a scenic drive through the Cascades on your way to Leavenworth, Washington, a Bavarian-style village that twinkles with over half a million lights during the Christmas Lighting Festival.
3 – Skaneateles, New York
Skaneateles, in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, presents an annual Dickens Christmas festival, in which performers dressed as Charles Dickens and his characters interact with residents and visitors around town.
4 – Woodstock, Vermont
There’s no shortage of holiday cheer in Woodstock, in the Green Mountains of Vermont. A seasonal highlight is the Wassail Weekend, but it’s also worth making a trip just to unwind in the beautiful countryside.
5 – York, Maine
Escape the hectic pace of the holiday season in the city and relax in the coastal town of York, Maine, home to the iconic Nubble Lighthouse. Don’t miss the Festival of Lights, which includes an evening parade and the lighting of the village square.
6 – Nantucket, Massachusetts
A popular summertime destination, Nantucket is just as lovely in the colder months. The annual Christmas Stroll is sure to put you in a festive mood, with the downtown streets full of Christmas trees, carolers, and shoppers.
7 – St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine dates back to the 16th century, making it a fascinating destination any time of year, and the city feels especially magical during the holiday season, when buildings of the historic district are lit up as part of the Night of Lights festival.
8 – Williamsburg, Virginia
History buffs will love spending the holidays in Williamsburg, Virginia, which hosts a Colonial Christmas at the Jamestown Settlement every day in December.
9 – Tombstone, Arizona
For a unique holiday experience, head to Tombstone, Arizona, which bills itself as “the most authentic Western town left in the United States.” Visit an old silver mine, tour the town in a stagecoach, and attend the annual Christmas Light Parade.
10 – North Pole, Alaska
North Pole is a year-round Christmas town just 20 minutes from Fairbanks, Alaska. Take the kids to meet Santa Claus and his reindeer and play at Christmas in Ice, a winter activity park with slides, a maze, and ice sculptures.
11 – McAdenville, North Carolina
McAdenville, North Carolina is also known as Christmas Town, U.S.A., and it’s impossible not to be impressed by the houses decked out in wreaths and colorful lights all over the city.
12 – Ouray, Colorado
The “Switzerland of America,” Ouray is a truly striking Colorado mountain town that promises a fun-filled holiday season, with activities happening every weekend during the seven-week-long WinterFest.
13 – Solvang, California
The California town of Solvang shows off its Danish roots with its Scandinavian architecture, and with Julefest, a month-long holiday celebration featuring a tree lighting, live music, candlelight tours, and more.
14 – Park City, Utah
Hit the slopes, indulge at fantastic restaurants, and cozy up by the fire in this postcard-perfect mountain town. There’s something for everyone in Park City, Utah, with two year-round resorts and an abundance of winter sports offerings.
15 – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Visit Myrtle Beach during the winter holidays, and you won’t have to deal with the summer crowds. The town hosts a variety of holiday-themed events in December, and you won’t have to trudge through deep snow to enjoy them!
16 – Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis really shines at this time of year, with snowy streets, sparkling trees, and an array of events—including Midnight Madness shopping and the Chocolate Binge Festival—all contributing to an infectious holiday cheer.
17 – Mystic, Connecticut
Soak up the festive atmosphere in the beautiful seaside town of Mystic, Connecticut, which hosts a tree lighting, a parade, and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
18 – Jackson, Wyoming
If you’d like to spend your holidays in a small town surrounded by breathtaking mountains, rivers, and glacial lakes, Jackson, Wyoming fits the bill! Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park are both easily accessible from the Jackson Hole area.
19 – Helen, Georgia
You might be surprised to learn that the state of Georgia is home to a Bavarian-style village, complete with an annual Christkindlmarkt where you can shop for gifts, decorations, and sweet treats. The town of Helen (population: 430) is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
20 – Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, Idaho is an excellent choice for a fun family holiday. After a day of skiing, enjoy the festive atmosphere in town at events such as the Sun Valley Nutcracker on Ice Show and the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade.
21 – Frankenmuth, Michigan
Visit “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” for a holiday with a traditional German feel. No trip to Frankenmuth is complete without a stop at Bronner’s, which claims to be the world’s largest Christmas store.
22 – Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, New York
Sleepy Hollow is known as a Halloween destination due to its association with Washington Irving’s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but the charming historic buildings that dot the Hudson River make it an idyllic place to spend the winter holidays, too. Catch a performance of “Mr. Dickens Tells A Christmas Carol” in neighboring Tarrytown.
23 – Sitka, Alaska
You’ll be awestruck by the beauty of Sitka, Alaska, a small town surrounded by mountains and rainforest. Celebrate Sitka’s Russian heritage during Russian Christmas in early January.
24 – Galena, Illinois
Visit Galena, Illinois to see grand Civil War-era homes and tour historic inns decorated for the holidays as part of the Mistletoe Stroll Holiday House Tour.
25 – Dahlonega, Georgia
Dahlonega, Georgia is a picturesque little town in the wine country of the North Georgia mountains. A month-long Christmas celebration kicks off with the lighting of the town square on November 24 and continues with caroling, wine sampling, and live entertainment until after New Year’s.
Image: Facebook: Visit Dahlonega, Georgia
26 – Santa Claus, Indiana
Not surprisingly, Christmas is a big deal in Santa Claus, Indiana. The many holiday-themed activities and shops include the Santa Claus Museum and Village, Santa’s Candy Castle, and Frosty’s Fun Center.
Image: Santa Claus, Indiana
27 – Lititz, Pennsylvania
Lititz is part of the idyllic Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and has a number of quaint boutiques along its downtown streets. Spend the evening strolling through Lititz Springs Park and admiring the Community Christmas Tree.
28 – Chimayó, New Mexico
The tiny village of Chimayó in northern New Mexico is home to the Santuario de Chimayó, a small adobe church where miraculous healings are believed to have occurred. Blanketed in snow and covered in Christmas lights, the church is especially beautiful at this time of year.
29 – Asheville, North Carolina
If you’re near Asheville, North Carolina this holiday season, it’s worth making a trip to the North Carolina Arboretum, where thousands of colored LED lights transform the landscape into a dazzling holiday wonderland.
Image: Explore Asheville
30 – Nevada City, California
Visit the historic Gold Rush town of Nevada City, California during the holidays to enjoy Victorian Christmas, a street festival with savory treats and music from strolling minstrels and carolers.
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31 – Jefferson City, Missouri
Jefferson City, Missouri has been called “the most beautiful small town in America,” and the holidays are a great time to visit, with the many festive events including caroling, a parade, and candlelight tours of the Governor’s Mansion.
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32 – Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana goes all out for the holidays: the town is decorated with over 300,000 lights, and there is live entertainment along the riverbank every evening from late November to early January.
33 – Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May, New Jersey is a seaside resort town, and is equally beautiful in summer and winter. Get a glimpse inside the lovely historic homes during the Christmas Candlelight House Tours, and shop for gifts during Hospitality Night on the Washington Street Mall.
34 – Livingston, Montana
Spend your holidays surrounded by Montana’s stunning landscape in Livingston, a distinctively Western town just outside of Yellowstone National Park.
35 – Stowe, Vermont
Stowe, in northern Vermont, is unquestionably one of America’s most picturesque towns during the holiday season—and you’ll never run out of things to do. Spend the day skiing, or sample local craft brews.
36 – Portland, Maine
Admire the iconic Maine scenery in the wintertime and get into the holiday spirit with Portland’s many festive events, including the Magic of Christmas concert at the Merrill Auditorium.
37 – Branford, Connecticut
Book a stay in Branford and stroll around the shoreline area of Stony Creek before tucking into some award-winning seafood dishes.
38 – Port Townsend, Washington
The charming town of Port Townsend, Washington gets into the holiday spirit with festive window displays and a visit from Santa in December.
39 – Red River, New Mexico
Winter sports enthusiasts will have a blast spending the holidays in Red River, New Mexico, which offers a wealth of activities including skiing, snowmobiling, and tubing.
Image: Town of Red River
40 – Newport Beach, California
Head to Newport Beach, California for the impressive Christmas Boat Parade, in which yachts and other boats decorated with colored lights sail along the harbor.
Image: Visit Newport Beach
41 – Ithaca, New York
Ithaca, New York is home to Cornell University, whose campus is especially lovely when blanketed with a fresh dusting of snow.
42 – Breckenridge, Colorado
Breckenridge is not only a gorgeous place to spend the holidays, it’s also unrivaled in its variety of winter activities and events.
43 – Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Spend the holidays in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for lots of great shopping, museums, and restaurants, then take a drive around Lancaster County to admire the quaint covered bridges.
44 – Paia, Hawaii
If you’d rather catch some sun and waves this holiday season, head to Paia, Hawaii, a little surf town with lots of colorful storefronts, galleries, and cafés.
45 – Cambridge, Ohio
A trip to Cambridge, Ohio is in order for fans of A Christmas Carol: the town sets up a Dickens Victorian Village complete with life-sized mannequins in period attire.
46 – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, nicknamed the Christmas City, is known for its annual Christkindlmarkt and for Moravian Bethlehem, a National Historic Landmark district that is home to the oldest bookstore in America and colonial houses and churches that will transport you back to the eighteenth century.
47 – Prineville, Oregon
Located in central Oregon’s beautiful Crook County, next to the Ochoco Mountains, Prineville is the ideal spot for a pleasant holiday stroll. Enjoy a hot chocolate, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, and admire the light display at the Christmas in the Pines event.
48 – Wheeling, West Virginia
Head to Oglebay Park in Wheeling, Virginia, for impressive displays at the Festival of Lights and family fun at Santa’s Reindeer Training School.
49 – Wind Point, Wisconsin
Wind Point Lighthouse, the 108-foot-tall landmark of this Wisconsin village, is especially picturesque in winter. Take a stroll on the grounds along frozen Lake Michigan, then warm up over dinner in neighboring Racine.
50 – Portsmouth, New Hampshire
You’ll find plenty of old New England charm in Portsmouth, settled in 1623 along the Piscataqua River. The city boasts numerous historical landmarks and hosts Vintage Christmas, a month-long celebration of the holiday season.
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