The 15 Best U.S. Cities to Spend Christmas In

A visit to one of these destinations is sure to make you feel festive.

family shopping Christmas presents
Updated May 28, 2024
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Few times of year are more memorable than the Christmas season when chilly temps and winter smells get us into the holiday spirit.

It’s also when we participate in all of our annual traditions, such as decorating the tree, stringing lights up on the house, and sipping eggnog by the fire.

If you’re traveling this year for the best Christmas ever while looking for ways to beat inflation, here are some cities in the U.S. that go all out with decor, events, shopping, and more.

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New York City, New York

Luciano Mortula-LGM/Adobe Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center

This iconic destination is at the top of our list as it’s the true OG of Christmas.

Visit the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller center and go ice skating, stop in and shop at FAO Schwartz, or enjoy Christmas dining in one of the largest and most diverse culinary scenes in the U.S.

With endless events and accommodation options, you can’t go wrong with NYC for Christmas.

Chicago, Illinois

BradleyWarren/Adobe big city river lights at night

If you’re looking to celebrate Christmas in the Midwest, then Chicago is the destination for you.

Start with a visit to the authentic German Christmas market, Christkindlmarket. Then head to the zoo or botanical garden, which are both lit up at night.

You can also visit several Christmas trees around the snowy city, including the main deal at Millennium Park.

There are plenty of festive events and exhibits throughout Chicago to keep you entertained all December long.

Seattle, Washington

Jesse Pannoni/Adobe Seattle city skyline

Seattle may not get freezing cold winter weather, but the jewel of the Pacific Northwest knows how to do Christmas.

Pike Place becomes a shopping wonderland, while Bellevue Square becomes Snowflake Lane, replete with fake snow. There are also tons of shows and events to take in.

Don’t miss out on the Winter Beer Festival at Magnuson Park or running with the Santas for SantaCon — some of the most fun adult events of the season.

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Boston, Massachusetts

EvgeniiAnd/Adobe Christmas decorations in Boston

Chilly New England naturally lends itself to the holiday season, with Boston taking the lead.

Catch a kid’s sing-along Holiday Pops concert and see the tree lighting at either Boston Commons or Copley Square. Performances like the Kendall Square Ice Show are also a draw.

The Urban Nutcracker provides a fresh take on dance, and the Black Nativity makes the Christmas season more inclusive.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

andreykr/Adobe Philadelphia skyline at night

The main Christmas event in Philly is arguably the Christmas Village, which takes over LOVE Park and City Hall throughout the season – complete with fun rides and mulled wine.

There are also countless lighting events, Christmas shows, and parades for folks of all ages.

Don’t forget to go skating at the RiverRink Winterfest on the Delaware Riverfront, visit the Dicken’s Village, and see the Macy’s Christmas Light Show narrated by Julie Andrews.

Las Vegas, Nevada

vichie81/Adobe aerial Las Vegas at night

It might not be cold in sunny Las Vegas, but you’ll find everything else there during the Christmas season, from shows to displays to ice skating – yes, really.

You can catch an immersive version of “The Nutcracker,” find holiday splendor at The Bellagio Conservatory, or lose yourself at the Ethel M Chocolate Factory.

So, if your Christmas doesn’t have to be white, you know where to go.

Aspen, Colorado

Kevin Ruck/Adobe Vail Colorado

For a more traditional Christmas vibe, Aspen is the winter wonderland you’re looking for.

Here winter sports like skating and skiing are king if being outdoors is your favorite Christmas present. The community also comes together for 12 Days of Aspen, an event perfect for families with kids.

There are also plenty of restaurants, caroling events, tree and candle lightings, walking tours, and religious services for revelers.

Nashville, Tennessee

f11photo/Adobe nashville, tennessee downtown skyline at twilight

Where do people who love music spend Christmas? The Music City, of course.

Nashville’s signature event is Christmas at Gaylord Opryland, which features live performances, ice sculptures and activities (including ice tubing), and a huge lighting display.

Other holiday displays, skating, shopping, and events are never in short supply in Nashville, as well as alcohol-infused events for beverage enthusiasts.

New Orleans, Louisiana

f11photo/Adobe pubs and bars with neon lights in the French Quarter New Orleans

New Orleans may be especially popular during Halloween, but Christmas in this magical city is sure to enchant as well.

Festive live music and holiday parades abound in the Big Easy. You can also go caroling by candlelight in Jackson Square, enjoy a bonfire on the levee, and play fun ice sports at the convention center.

Of course, you absolutely must enjoy the cuisine in New Orleans during Christmas, which is world-class.

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Asheville, North Carolina

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Asheville North Carolina USA

If time in the mountains is more up your alley, head to Asheville for Christmas at the famed Biltmore Estate. This tradition is over 100 years old and features all of the trappings of the perfect holiday.

You can also check out the National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn, as well as ample Christmas shopping (including local artists and makers), lighting events, and more.

Charleston, South Carolina

f11photo/Adobe Sun set in Charleston

Enjoy Christmas with a Southern flavor in Charleston, where you can stay in suites all decked out for the festivities.

The main attraction is the city’s Festival of Lights, which runs from the end of November through December. Indulge in hot cocoa, gaze at twinkling lights, and watch as the kids enjoy rides and treats.

Charleston is rich with history, so work in tours along with your Christmas itinerary.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Santa Fe New Mexico USA

Christmas in the desert? You bet as Santa Fe knows how to make it memorable and unique.

Enjoy winter sports like skiing in the mountains by day, and walking streets lit by farolitos (paper bags filled with sand and a candle) in the evening on the way to excellent dining.

As for Christmas shopping, local indigenous artists have a lot to offer.

If you’re observant, you may enjoy attending mass at the St. Francis Cathedral while you’re in town.

Orlando, Florida

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Orlando Florida USA downtown skyline at Eola Lake

Calling all theme park fans! What sounds better than spending Christmas at Disney World, where there’s seemingly no end to the fun and festivities?

The park transforms for the holidays, but still has iconic events like fireworks at Cinderella’s Castle nightly. Just be prepared for the crowds.

Nearby Disney Springs is also a great option for holiday activities, with lots of shops for browsing and restaurants for dining.

Anaheim, California

Wirestock/Adobe Statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse located in Disneyland California

Prefer the west coast for theme park holiday fun? Disneyland has you covered with all of the Christmas magic you could hope for.

The park also aims to make the festivities inclusive, which is ideal for families seeking diverse holiday activities.

Similar to Disney Springs, Disneyland also has holiday-themed events in the Downtown Disney District.

North Pole, Alaska

evenfh/Adobe Denali in Alaska

For those of you who want to be as close to Santa Claus as possible, there’s no better option than Christmas in North Pole, Alaska.

It’s Christmas 365 days a year there, where you’ll find Santa’s Workshop open for visitation and photo opportunities with the jolly man himself.

Fans of pristine nature will also love the area, as ample outdoor space is wild and ripe for exploration.

Bottom line

lazyllama/Adobe Madison Square Park

Traveling for the holidays can make them feel extra special, especially if you go to a place where they go all out on the magic.

That’s why these 15 cities are ideal destinations, each offering something unique and special. Using one of these top travel credit cards can also add to the magic of your special trip.

Even if you can’t travel this year, however, you are sure to find a host of Christmas activities in your own backyard. So, no matter where you are, you can make epic holiday memories.

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Cat Lafuente

Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.