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The 6 Best Destinations In America to Visit for Christmas

+1 970-453-5000

“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. 

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New York City

SolStock / Getty Images Address 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111, USA

Phone +1 212-588-8601

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.

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Chicago

Jon Hicks / Getty Images Address 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602, USA

Phone +1 312-603-2526

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.

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Colorado

darekm101/ Getty Images

Address 1599 Ski Hill Rd, Breckenridge, CO 80424, USA

Phone +1 970-453-5000

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.

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Florida

Mark Ashman/Disney via Getty Images Address 200 Epcot Center Dr, Orlando, FL 32821, USA

Phone +1 407-824-4321

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.

Continue to 5 of 6 below.

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Puerto Rico

Peter Johansky / Getty Images Address Puerto Rico

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.

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Alaska

walkadog / Flickr

Address 101 St Nicholas Dr, North Pole, AK 99705-7695, USA

Phone +1 907-488-2200

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

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Guide to the Grenadines: an island for every traveler

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Barbados

Long the domain of savvy sailors and fly-in millionaires, the spectacular Grenadines also offer plenty for the independent traveler – you don’t need your own boat to fully explore the magnificent archipelago. Spanning the nations of St Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada, the island chain offers a wide variety of authentic Caribbean experiences where nature is never far from the spotlight.

Features - Bequia_Grenadines_cs_web-e787d4af5900 A view of the bay at Port Elizabeth on Bequia © Westend61 / Getty Images

Bequia 

The most visited of the Grenadines and rightly so, beautiful Bequia is the quintessential slow-paced Caribbean island that really does have it all. Visitors can swim, dive or hike through dazzling natural beauty by day and then soak up the tropical atmosphere in the evening, sipping cocktails or tucking into a gourmet meal on a panoramic terrace.

Among its many draw cards are Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay, two wonderful stretches of sand backed by lush greenery, just a short hike from the capital Port Elizabeth.

As the second largest island in the chain, Bequia offers plenty of attractions for nature lovers. There are good drift dives along the leeward side of the north of the island while the remote hilly north of the island affords ample opportunity for exploration; climb some of the imposing forested peaks for fine views of St Vincent and other Grenadine islands.

Getting there: Visiting Bequia is a breeze thanks to its efficient regular fast ferry service linking it with Kingstown on St Vincent Island. SVG Air has flights from the airport on the south of the island to Kingstown, Barbados and St Lucia.

Mustique 

Best for: Kicking it with rock stars

Mysterious Mustique, home to rock stars and the uber wealthy, is the island that fomented the image of the Grenadines as playground for the rich and famous.

The private island has some of the priciest accommodations in the region – if you have the bank balance, you can crash at the Balinese themed villa built by David Bowie. But you don’t need to be rolling in it to visit – day trips on yachts from Bequia allow visitors to get a taste of Mustique’s manicured lawns and pure tropical perfection. Visitors can lie about on pristine beaches and take a drink at iconic Basil’s Bar overlooking the main harbor – you never know who might be at the next table.

Getting there: There are no public ferry services to Mustique. Travelers can visit on a day sailing cruise from Bequia; a recommended boat is the elegant Caribbean schooner Friendship Rose. Visitors with accommodation can find regular flights from Barbados, Kingstown, Grenada and Saint Lucia with Mustique Airways.

Tobago Cays 

Uninhabited and protected as a marine park, the gorgeous Tobago Cays are the highlight of any trip to the Grenadines. Surrounded by an impressive barrier reef, they offer some of the best snorkeling in all of the Caribbean with warm, shallow waters filled with hard corals that are alive with marine life, including a thriving population of marine turtles.

The beauty of the cays is no secret among travelers, but they rarely feel overrun thanks to their remote location and lack of development. A day trip here is a thoroughly relaxing experience with bouts of snorkeling, swimming and lazing on the sands interrupted only by freshly caught seafood meals.

Getting There: There is no public transportation to the Tobago Cays, but it’s possible to charter a small boat for a day trip from any one of the populated Grenadine islands; Mayreau is the cheapest departure point, followed by Union Island. To see the cays in style, book a sailing tour from Union Island on the pirate ship Scaramouche.

Features - Sailing, Tobago Cays, Saint Vincent, Caribbean The Tobago Cayes offer up crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling © Norbert Eisele-Hein / Getty Images

Mayreau 

Best for: Relaxing beaches, bar hopping

Tiny Mayreau may not have a hospital, school or any police, but the glorious lack of development doesn’t stop the small population of locals from having a good time. Mayreau is famed locally for its hard partying. In fact, those that work on the boats swear that Mayreau’s weekly beer order far eclipses that of far larger neighbor Union Island.

Apart from bar hopping, there are plenty of other reasons to pay a visit. The island is part of the Tobago Cays marine park and boasts spectacular beaches. Long a secret amongst yachties in the know, Salt Whistle Bay on the northern tip of the island is one of the most perfect bays in the Grenadines: a full horseshoe-shaped crescent of brilliant white sand lined with coconut palms that looks almost too good to be true. It’s a fantastic place to swim.

The undeveloped nature of Mayreau means there are plenty of rarely visited smaller bays to discover, and the small size of the island means you’re never too far from home (or cold beers) once you tire of exploration.

Getting there: Some southern Grenadines ferry services, including the MV Barracuda, call at Mayreau on the Kingstown-Union Island run. Alternatively, a school boat runs between Clifton on Union Island and Mayreau every weekday morning and afternoon. There’s no airstrip on Mayreau.

Features - Caribbean, Antilles, Lesser Antilles, Grenadines, Mayreau, Twassante Bay, seaside cafe at beach Enjoy a seaside cocktail on Mayreau © Westend61 / Getty Images

Canouan 

Best for: Private beaches, snorkeling

A tale of two islands – Canouan is a peculiar place that, in some ways, shows the perils of tourism development. Once a normal Grenadine paradise, more than half of the island was sold off by the SVG government to private investors for a mega resort project leaving local residents bunched up in the village on the southern reaches of the isle without access to some of Canouan’s loveliest spots. Of course if you’re staying in the resort, you will enjoy access to absolutely stunning beaches with first class snorkeling and zero crowds.

While many of the nicest beaches are within the resort boundaries, there is also fine snorkeling and some lovely sands to the south and east of the village of Charlestown, although infrastructure on the island is limited for independent visitors.

Getting there: Canouan is accessible by ferry services running between Kingstown on St Vincent and Union Island (try the MV Barracuda or MV Gem Star). There are flights to Kingstown and Union Island – a five-minute hop over the channel – with SVG Air.

Union Island 

Best for: Kiteboarding, meeting locals

An outpost at the far southern end of the St Vincent Grenadines and across an international border, mountainous Union Island has traditionally been off the radar for many visitors but has recently been discovered by a new wave of adventurous independent travelers.

With a couple of laid back villages and no major resorts, it’s one of the best islands for visitors to mix it up with locals. The main street in Clifton is lined with little cafes and restaurants, and it’s a fun place to relax in the evening after sun-soaked adventures.

As a true Grenadine, Union is not without its share of astonishing natural beauty. Big Sand on the west side of the island is a wonderful crescent of powdery white fronted by brilliant turquoise sea and framed by jungle covered bluffs. The waters to the east of the airport runway on the north side of the island offer some of the best kiteboarding in the archipelago.

Getting there: Union is the last stop on the southern Grenadines ferry routes from Kingstown, and both the MV Gem Star and MV Barracuda spend the night here. The small local airport receives regular flights from Kingstown as well as less frequent services from Grenada, St Lucia and Barbados. Bookings can be made through SVG Air.

Features - Union Island, Clifton A fruit shop in Clifton, Union Island © Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

Carriacou 

Home to the Grenadines’ most vibrant carnival as well as one of its leading music festivals, Carriacou is the archipelago’s largest island and also its most cultured. Sure, it has the requisite first class beaches – Paradise Beach on the west side of the island very much lives up to its name, while secluded Anse La Roche is a delightful cove surrounded by bush with coral reefs just offshore – but there’s also plenty going on once the sun goes down.

Carnival in Carriacou is a raucous affair involving oil-covered bodies dancing in the street until the early hours. But Carriacou Carnival’s biggest claim to fame is the intriguing Pierrot or ‘Shakespeare Mas’, where pairs of costumed men recite verses from the bard and bash each other with sticks if they fluff their lines.

Other cultural showpieces include the Big Drum Dance – an ancestral dance performed on special occasions and accompanied by plenty of rum – and the Carriacou Maroon and String Band festival, a full on celebration of drumming, dancing and smoked foods.

Getting there: Carriacou is one of the easiest islands in the Grenadines to visit thanks to the regular fast ferry service run by Osprey Lines from St Georges on Grenada, which has good international air links.

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