If the plot of nearly every Christmas movie (like this one, this one, or this one) isn’t enough to convince you, sometimes spending the holidays at home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Consider this license to dodge the dinner squabbles and family dysfunction for a year and seek out one of these spots that are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.
1. North Pole, Alaska
If you’re the kind of person who feels like if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing to the 1,000th degree, look no further. From the 45-foot Santa that greets you on the way into town, to the Santa Claus House where children’s letters to the big guy are answered by volunteers, it’s basically like Buddy the Elf is mayor of this little Alaskan town outside of Fairbanks.
2. New York City
Everyone needs to see NYC at Christmastime at least once. Admire the tree in Rockefeller Center, indulge your inner kid by playing with all the coolest toys at FAO Schwartz, and stroll down 5th Avenue for the very best in window shopping.
It’s a season for childlike wonder, and no one gets that quite like the Mouse. Desserts, lights, shows … they even have snow on Main Street for crying out loud.
4. San Antonio
The famous River Walk gets the holiday treatment with lights, colors, and even carolers singing from boats. Add in all the shopping you could ask for in the El Mercado district plus average temperatures in the 60s, and you’ve got all the merriment and none of the cold-induced misery.
6. Branson, Missouri
We know what you’re thinking—when has Branson ever made anyone’s list of places to travel to? But hear us out. They’ve got thousands of lights. Nightly parades. More live music than you can shake a stick at. Plus, imagine your mom’s relief when she asks with trepidation what you’re getting into over the holidays and you tell her you’ll be in Missouri.
7. Christmas Town, North Carolina
Eleven months of the year it’s known as McAdenville, but come December this little town outside of Charlotte legally christens itself Christmas Town USA. With 450,000 lights and only 660 residents, that’s a ratio Clark Griswold would be proud of. Plus, free kettle corn and hot chocolate!
8. Nantucket, Massachusetts
The island might be an off-radar option outside of summer, but their take on Christmas is the stuff of your Dickens dreams. Hit up the Christmas Stroll that mingles shops and carolers with mulled wine and don’t miss the Whaling Museum’s display of more than 80 Christmas trees.
Cold and snow not really your thing? Leave the coat at home and practice your best Mele Kalikimaka on the Hawaiian Islands. Catch the boat parade on the Big Island or head to Maui to see the largest banyan tree in the U.S. (it covers nearly two acres!) draped in thousands of lights.
10. Washington, D.C.
There are the obvious stops like the National Tree at the White House, but there’s also the Downtown Holiday Market featuring hundreds of local artisans and a giant model train and tree courtesy of Norway—an annual gift demonstrating the country’s goodwill and friendship. You can also pop over to Mount Vernon for a Christmas-edition candlelight tour that ends with cookies and warm cider.
Where are you celebrating Christmas this year? Will you be with friends and family or on the road? Tell us your plans in the comments below!