Get out of town to get in the Christmas spirit this year by visiting one of these four great holiday vacation spots. From Santa visits to hot cocoa, penguin dance parties to fresh-baked cookies, these locales offer all you need for a holly jolly Christmas.
Santa Claus, Indiana
This small Hoosier town has nicknamed itself America’s Christmas Hometown and has plenty of Christmas-themed stores, activities and lodging to prove it. Throughout December, the town hosts thousands of visitors who drive through the Santa Claus Land of Lights, roast chestnuts on an open fire and meet the big man himself. The town’s draw is not just its name, but its dedication to the Christmas theme that spreads from street names to business names.
“Where else can you visit Santa’s Candy Castle and the only post office in the world with Santa’s name?” says Melissa Arnold, executive director of the Spencer County Visitors’ Bureau. “It’s just a fun experience for families with kids of all ages.”
Though the Christmas celebrations occur throughout the first three weekends of December, certain events, like the parade and craft show, only occur on one day, so families should plan ahead. Look for holiday lodging packages that include tickets to events.
For a cooler and likely snowier Christmas stop, check out New England’s own Santa’s Village, which has been operating since 1953. The drive alone is beautiful, through snowy forests and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Once you arrive at this Christmas-themed amusement park, you can enjoy family-friendly rides, a block party hosted by elves, festive shops and more. One step into the park and you’ll feel as if the North Pole has come a little further south.
“Such a happy, makes-you-feel-good kind of place!” recently wrote one Facebook reviewer.
Your little ones can pet Santa’s reindeer and meet Santa Claus at his home located within the park, where nearly one million lights light up the night. You can also enjoy multiple shows including story times and dance parties hosted by snow angels, penguins and elves.
The park is open on specific days nearly year round (including every day in the summer months). The Christmastime season runs weekends from Nov. 17 to Dec. 22.
What better place to spend the holiday than the chocolate capital of the United States? Hershey, Penn., is home to Hersheypark, an amusement park that goes all out for Christmas with its Christmas Candylane event, which is celebrating its 35th year. In addition to the rides, the park puts up more than 4 million lights, has special holiday entertainment and plenty of chances to meet Santa Claus — and his reindeer.
Holiday festivities are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning Nov. 16 and on evenings and weekends in December.
While you’re there, don’t miss the Hershey Story, a museum documenting how the chocolate bar came to be. You can participate in chocolate tastings, an interactive scavenger hunt and the Little Elves Workshop, where children can make a unique ornament using chocolate clay and icing. Also, across the street from Herseypark is Hersey Sweet Lights, where you can drive through two miles of wooded trails illuminated with holiday displays.
Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz, N.Y.
If you are looking for a very old-fashioned (think back to the 1800s) Christmas, take your family two hours north of New York City to Mohonk Mountain House. This historic, Victorian castle resort provides a beautiful backdrop for Christmas on Lake Mohonk in the Catskill Mountains.
“Mohonk in December is so magical!” says Elizabeth Benson, the revenue manager at the resort.
In this relaxed holiday atmosphere, your family can enjoy holiday décor (including a massive gingerbread North Pole), decorate cookies, watch Christmas movies, make crafts and visit with Santa. Take part in the first-ever Ugly Sweater weekends in December and wear your favorite ugly holiday themed sweater, or try ice mini-golf. On Dec. 9, check out the Hudson Valley Gingerbread House competition.
This location is a true getaway from the holiday hustle and bustle so you can enjoy Christmas as a family. Holiday celebrations occur from Dec. 7 through Dec. 31.
Ten other cities that go all out for the holidays:
North Pole, Alaska