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A photo of white manor housing the Woodstock Inn, covered in snow and Christmas lights
Photograph: Woodstock Inn

The 12 best Christmas towns in the USA

Jingle all the way to the best Christmas towns in the USA this holiday season

Written by
Emilee Lindner
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We know what you’re thinking: even the best Christmas towns in the USA have nothing on the North Pole, right? Think again. In a sprinkling of holiday-themed towns throughout the country, you can live out your cocoa-drinking, Santa-stalking, reindeer-romping, gift-gathering dreams.

Where are they, you ask? Luckily, you won't need to find the elusive (read: fictional) Polar Express to visit the lot. Christmas towns throughout the country range from Alaska’s North Pole (a real place, even though it's technically over a thousand miles away from the true geographic pole) to Southern California and even Texas. In these towns, holiday business is huge; you’ll find anything from trip-worthy Christmas markets to Polar Express-inspired train rides and over-the-top light displays, too.

Sure, these destinations might be a little too lit for the holiday Grinch. But the best Christmas towns in the USA are pure joy for pretty much everyone else—here’s where to find them.

RECOMMENDED: the best winter vacations in the USA

Best Christmas towns in the USA

North Pole, AK
Photograph: Shutterstock

North Pole, AK

You can visit Santa almost anywhere during the holiday season—even your local mall, if you must—but he accepts visitors all year long in North Pole, Alaska. Is this really where Santa lives, you ask? Not exactly, considering that it’s about 1,700 miles away from the real geographic North Pole. Nevertheless, you can’t knock the small city’s year-round spirit. Here, The Santa Claus House is the main attraction (where you can meet Santa and his reindeer) while the city itself leans into its name with candy cane-striped light posts and street names like Kris Kringle Drive, Snowman Lane, and Santa Claus Lane. Each year, the local post office receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa, and visitors can mail letters and postcards to friends and family with a North Pole postmark to make your holiday correspondence over the top.

Solvang, CA
Photograph: Shutterstock

Solvang, CA

Even without snow, this charming Danish-inspired city in southern California (less than an hour away from Santa Barbara) turns up the “hygge” for its annual Julefest. The month-long Christmas celebration includes a Julefest parade (complete with marching bands) and a proper Santa’s Village (where photos with Santa are totally free). A tree-lighting ceremony in early December kicks off the festivities with caroling, ballerinas, and the arrival of Santa himself, but you should aim to visit during the city-wide Christmas gnome hunt, inspired by the Nordic folklore surrounding nisse, otherwise known as Christmas elves (if you find any, you win a prize). And, if those holiday gnomes stoked your curiosity, you can also take a candlelight tour to learn about the city of Solvang and Danish yuletide traditions.

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Williamsburg, VA
Photograph: Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg, VA

Ever wondered how the first settlers celebrated Christmas? Take a step back in time at Colonial Williamsburg where holiday festivities turn back the clock. Although the early Americans didn’t have electric Christmas lights and inflatable reindeer, the living-history museum is decked out with traditional decor of the time like wreaths, candles, and fruit. Carolers and performers playing fife and drums serenade visitors with holiday tunes, and Father Christmas makes appearances in Merchants Square. But if you want to experience holiday joy that’s a bit more up to speed, head over to Busch Gardens Williamsburg as it transforms the park into a Christmas Town with over 10 million lights—you can stop into Santa’s Workshop between roller coaster rides.

Santa Claus, IN
Photograph: Spencer County Visitors Bureau

Santa Claus, IN

Judging by the name alone, you can tell this small Indiana town does not mess around when it comes to Christmas. From its Holiday World theme park (with rides like Rudolph’s Roundup and Reindeer Games) to Santa’s Candy Castle (a sweet shop featuring hard-to-find candies and homemade confections), the town of Santa Claus is Christmas-y all year long. The local post office receives thousands of letters from kids each year, and volunteer elves write back to each one (amounting to 51,000 replies in 2020). Once the Christmas season officially starts, expect even more holiday cheer with Christmas-themed fireworks, reindeer, and the Santa Claus Land of Lights—a 1.2-mile drive-through story told through Christmas lights.

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Corning, NY

It’s no surprise that a city nicknamed Corning (known as Crystal City) celebrates its connection with the glass industry during the holidays. The Corning Museum of Glass features a glass holiday feast of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, and green beans, plus a show-stopping Christmas tree composed of 2,000 glass ornaments that were created on-site (you can also create your own handmade glass ornament if you’re feeling crafty). Marching bands and adorned floats go through downtown during the city’s annual Parade of Lights, and Corning’s Sparkle event offers choral performances of holiday music and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Durango, CO
Photograph: Scott D W Smith / Courtesy of Purgatory Resort

Durango, CO

Looking for a winter sports getaway that doesn’t sacrifice holiday charm? Look no further than Durango, CO. Here, you can hit the slopes at Purgatory Mountain before stopping for apres ski at the slopeslide Powderhouse lodge. Or, if downhill’s not your speed, you can snowshoe, cross-country ski, or even take a dog sled tour while you're there. After a long day of sporty fun, head into town for a sleigh ride, or board The Polar Express to the “North Pole” for a holiday light show (Santa makes an appearance to hand out the first gifts of Christmas to the little ones).

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Stockbridge, MA
Photograph: Shutterstock

Stockbridge, MA

If you’re looking for an American Christmas straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, look no further than Stockbridge. Each year, the Massachusetts town steps back in time to recreate Rockwell’s Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, and its Main Street closes to traffic as it’s lined with vintage automobiles (you can even see the original painting at the local Norman Rockwell Museum). There’s also a holiday concert featuring over 100 carolers on the porch of the historic Red Lion Inn, if you’re feeling merry.

Editors note: Stockbridge’s festivities were canceled for 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns, but will hopefully return next year.

Essex, CT


Everyone wishes they could live in Stars Hollow, especially during the holidays. And while the Warner Bros. studio tour might be the next best thing, Essex is as close as it gets (IRL, at least) to the quaint Gilmore Girls hamlet. This little Connecticut town captures what everyone loves about Stars Hollow and Hallmark movies: see a festive Main Street during the town’s annual Holiday Stroll (think horse-and-carriage rides with Santa), take a ride on the Essex Steam Train’s North Pole Express, or visit the outrageously charming Griswold Inn (which offers total Dragonfly Inn vibes).

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Leavenworth, WA
Photograph: Shutterstock

Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth is truly a winter wonderland destination. Home to The Nutcracker Museum (where you’ll find over 7,000 festive figures), a reindeer farm that’s open year-round, and The Gingerbread Factory (which serves tasty treats even when it’s not technically gingerbread season), this place has all the holiday cheer you can handle. Near the holidays, Leavenworth gets even better with sleigh rides and Christkindlmarkdt, a German Christmas market, while every night from Thanksgiving to February the Bavarian-themed city center lights up with a breathtaking display (complete with more than a half-million of bulbs). If you’re still trying to get spooked this late in the year, there’s even a Krampusnacht, where a scary creature hands out gifts to those who’ve been good.

Woodstock, VT
Photograph: Woodstock Inn

Woodstock, VT

Step into a twinkly painting of historic inns, covered bridges, and charming holiday activities at Woodstock’s Wassail Weekend, a perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. In this quintessential Vermont destination, you can take a carriage ride around town, watch the Wassail parade, build a gingerbread house, go caroling on the green, or even skate with Santa himself. Head over to Billings Farm and see 19th-century holiday traditions—like candle dipping, snowshoe treks, and sleigh rides—and spend the night at Woodstock Inn, the picturesque hotel of your dreams.

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Grapevine, TX
Photograph: Shutterstock

Grapevine, TX

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that goes for Christmas celebrations, too. Grapevine, the self-proclaimed Christmas capital of Texas, boasts 40 days of holiday events. There’s a decorating contest for homes and businesses, a Christmas market, and two parades—one on land and one on a lake. Grapevine also has a North Pole Express train for families and a special wine train excursion for adults (yes, please). But if you’re craving a classic white Christmas experience, head over to Great Wolf Lodge waterpark’s Snowland experience for twinkling lights, hot cocoa, and indoor snow showers.

Kennebunkport, ME
Photograph: Christmas Prelude

Kennebunkport, ME

Kennebunkport, a perfect weekend getaway from Boston, puts a unique Maine twist on the holidays with their annual Christmas Prelude. Here, a lobster-trap Christmas tree and a homemade hat parade reel in the small-town charm while Santa even treks up and down the Kennebunk River on a lobster boat. The town also has traditional festivities, like a Bavarian Christmas market and candlelight caroling at the local monastery. Grab a cup of cocoa and hop aboard the Prelude Trolley or a lobster boat for a scenic ride—you won’t regret it.

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