For some, the perfect time for a memorable road trip is right after Thanksgiving when things tend to slow down at the office as many are away for the holidays. It also works if you are one of the many families with loved ones scattered throughout the country. For this group, a classic road trip at Christmas to a fun location makes sense.
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.
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 destination 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.
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.
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.
During the Christmas holidays, the city of St. Augustine lights up and becomes a festival of twinkling white lights as it hosts its annual Nights of Lights holiday display. Visitors and long-time residents alike are treated to a wonderland of lights adorning the ancient city, beginning at the Plaza de la Constitución, with its stunning holiday tree in the center and oaks strung with lights, and stretching out to illuminate all of St. Augustine’s historic district. From roof shingle to doorway entrance, the downtown buildings take on a glow of holiday cheer, with millions of twinkling white lights covering the historic sites, bed and breakfasts, museums, restaurants and shops of the nation’s oldest city.
The Nashville area, nothing says Christmas quite like a drive-through light show. The largest of its kind in Middle Tennessee, The Dancing Lights of Christmas features hundreds of thousands of LED bulbs, all synchronized to the music, which plays through your car radio. And while it’s not free, the show is well worth the $25 admission fee per car, so load up on hot cocoa and head out to Jennystone Park.
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.
We hope to see you on the road!