The 10 Best Cities for the Holidays

Author: Alecia Pirulis

New York City, NY, USA - December 1, 2016: People skating on the Rockefeller Center rink, with the Christmas tree in the background.

If you love this time of year – your apartment looks like a winter wonderland, you wear Christmas sweaters from now until New Year’s, you are the first to hand out gifts at holiday parties – then perhaps one of these locations is perfect for you – as a weekend getaway or even as a great place to rent your next apartment.

Here, the top ten cities guaranteed to make visions of sugar plums dance in your head:

1. New York, NY – This one goes without saying … Miracle on 34th Street, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, shopping on 5th avenue … a carriage ride through Central Park on a chilly evening. If you live anywhere near Manhattan, visit the city at least once during the holiday season – the Big Apple knows how to dress up and put on a show.

2. Asheville, NC – There are several reasons Asheville makes this list. First, it is home to the historic Grove Park Inn, a gorgeous place for a weekend getaway any time of year, but especially during the holidays. Nothing will bring out the kid in you like the National Gingerbread House Competition — the scent of gingerbread alone is worth the trip. The Inn also displays 80 decorated trees. Asheville is home to Biltmore, and Christmas at Biltmore is simply awe-inspiring. And finally – snow! Asheville is surrounded by snow-covered mountains, making this beautiful city sparkle (and it is fun – building snowmen, sledding, tubing, skiing – what’s not to love?).

3. Minneapolis, MN – This one is an easy choice for one reason: Mall of America. And it isn’t just the shopping. Mall of America’s events during the holiday season are fantastic, ranging from life-size gingerbread displays to an indoor ice castle. If you can find your way to the Mall of America, this should definitely top your to-do list.

4. Reno, NV – If curling up in an overstuffed chair next to a roaring fire at a rustic ski lodge with a steaming hot cup of cocoa after an exhilarating day on the slopes appeals to you, Reno is your city. The Reno/Lake Tahoe area is home to myriad ski resorts and is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve had the pleasure to see. Plus, they put on quite the light show – it’s the Biggest Little Christmas Light Show in Reno. Sip hot chocolate while enjoying 40 thousand lights dancing to music in the neighborhood of Tanea. You’ll need a chair – and a blanket!

5. Orlando, FL – Looking for warmth? Orlando’s average temperature in December is 73 degrees. But the reason Orlando makes the list is because of Disney World – this is the best time of year to visit the Magic Kingdom’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The parade, the snow on Main Street, the fireworks, and Cinderella’s Castle all lit up is a treat for kids of all ages.

6. Tacoma, WA –Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium’s event Zoolights puts Tacoma on my list of top cities for the holidays. Where else can you ride a camel and see displays of ice-skating puffins? This event also includes a scuba-diving Santa, zip-lining, and an antique carousel. The Zoo dazzles with over half a million lights, a 100-foot Giant Pacific Octopus light display, and more. While you’re there, head to Animal Avenue and say hello to the adorable meerkats and lemurs.

7. Milwaukee, WI – I chose Milwaukee mainly because of the Cedarburg Winter Festival. It takes place after the holiday season in February, but that just prolongs the fun. The Cedarburg Winter Festival includes an ice carving contest, a chili contest, a parade, the Ice-Burg Open Golf Tournament, and Cold Brews & Tunes – beer sampling, live music, and appetizers from local restaurants. The Winter Festival has been taking place for more than 40 years – and it is well worth a visit.

8. Cambridge, OH – This charming town located just east of Columbus transforms into a Victorian wonderland during the holiday season. The Dickens Victorian Village features 186 mannequins and 80 life-like scenes. The Guernsey County Courthouse Holiday Light Show alone is well worth the visit – thousands of lights dance with the music on this gorgeous city landmark, built in 1881.

9. Newport Beach, CA – For 104 years, Newport Beach has put on a fantastic, watery display. The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade features everything from kayaks and canoes to million-dollar yachts, all decorated for Christmas.  This spectacular, five-night parade has been called “one of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation” by the New York Times.

10. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – Named on Christmas Eve in 1741, Bethlehem’s history alone makes it a great holiday destination. But it isn’t just the name that puts Bethlehem on the list. Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem is a unique annual marketplace that has intrigued and delighted visitors for more than  20 years. The market lasts six weeks and features roughly 125 vendors who sell handmade works of art, amazing German and Austrian foods such as bratwurst and strudel, handcrafted jewelry, hand-knit clothing, and more. Travel and Leisure Magazine named this one of the top holiday markets in the world. The market also features music, events, and demonstrations.