Top Holiday Destinations

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Chicago near Navy Pier

I tend to hibernate in the winter. My favorite thing to do when it is cold outside is sit by my fireplace wrapped in a blanket, sipping hot cocoa and waiting for spring. My husband, who is from Staten Island, insists that Atlanta isn’t that cold. Being a native Floridian, I strongly disagree. But this is a great time of year to get out and enjoy your community – or to travel. December is the month where cities and towns across the country are dressed up in their finest duds – adorned with twinkling lights, wearing a light dusting of snow, evergreens and holly draped on doorways and on lamp posts – it’s a shame to miss such splendor. As much as your oversized chair and cashmere throw are calling to you, put on your coat and go enjoy a nearby winter wonderland!

Here in Atlanta, there are a couple of don’t-miss activities that help put the whole family in the Christmas spirit. Stone Mountain Park is beautiful this time of year. The Stone Mountain Christmas event includes a nightly parade, over two million lights, and a Snow Angel Palace. Combine it with tubing down Snow Mountain and you have a day filled with fun. We also enjoy a trip on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which is a train ride through the mountains complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

When I lived in Central Florida, I never understood why visitors would arrive all summer long but nobody ever visited in the winter. The weather is perfect – usually about 75 degrees this time of year – and there’s so much to see and do. Sure, near-80 degree temperatures don’t scream “Christmas season!” but there’s a lot of charm to twinkling lights wrapped up the long, skinny trunks of palm trees and Santa in board shorts and flip-flops, carrying a surfboard. Our favorite place to visit at Christmas was, of course, Disney World. The Very Merry Christmas Party is wonderful – snow on Main Street, a glittery parade, fireworks, and Cinderella’s Castle, decorated for the season.

Just once, I’d love to spend Christmas in New York – ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, shopping at FAO Schwartz, watching the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, marveling at the window displays along 5th Avenue … it’s the stuff movie classics are made of, and I want to experience my own miracle on 34th Street.

Travel and Leisure Magazine singled out Boston and Charleston as great places to spend the holidays. Charleston is beautiful, and the walking tours, the sleigh rides, the Holiday Pub Crawl, and the historic homes of this amazing city would be like stepping back into Christmas circa 1850 … how fun!

Boston is also rich in history. Who wouldn’t want to be taken on a tour of Boston’s Freedom Trail by a guide dressed in 19th century clothing, a la Dickenson, explaining Boston’s holiday traditions and the American Revolution? And Faneuil Hall at Christmas means shopping, street performers, and special events.

If you’re feeling artistic this year, St. Paul’s Winter Carnival features and ice carving competition, a puzzle contest, and a carnival featuring singers, dancers, and other performers. While you are in the area, head over to the Twin City Model Railroad Museum. If you love trains – or have a child that loves trains – or even if you don’t particularly care for trains – the Night Trains display is a must-see. A Christmas train covered in hundreds of lights passes through an amazing scene of lighted buildings and street cars.

Arguably the best place to spend the holidays would have to be Washington, DC. Begin with the Mount Vernon Candlelight Tour then visit the National Christmas Tree, a beautiful tree surrounded by 56 smaller trees – one for each state, the five territories, and the District of Columbia. Each tree is specially decorated by artists and volunteers who live in their tree’s state, territory, and DC.