Christmas is coming! Which means now is your chance to escape the winter or embrace the snow. If you’re ready to leave behind Christmas in the burbs this year and head out somewhere really special, Erin Holmes of Explore With Erin has you covered. Having celebrated Christmases all over the world, here are her picks for the best Christmas destinations.
I love Christmas. I love presents and family and friends and all the food. But sometimes Christmas can be overwhelming. Sometimes there is just so much to do and so much to plan that somewhere along the way Christmas lost a little bit of its magic.
So one year the kids and I up and left. We jumped on board a Christmas cruise and spent Christmas day in the middle of the ocean in the South Pacific somewhere. It was magical.
So we decided to hit up some other magical destinations. I wanted to share some of the better Christmases I’ve celebrated. And I even managed to rope in some travel-savvy friends to find out their best Christmas destinations, too.
If you haven’t read my previous article about Christmas in Finland …. then do it. In 67 countries, my daughter still claims Rovaniemi as her favorite destination.
And they do Christmas there. After all its home to the real Santa.
One hour past Helsinki is Rovaniemi, where you can stay in the Santa Claus Hotel and visit any number of themed attractions like Santa’s Holiday Village or Santa’s Park.
But better yet, get up close with elves in the enchanted Finish forest or ride a husky sled through the dense trees or feed the adorable reindeer. For a more grown-up adventure, jump on a snowmobile to chase the Northern Lights.
You’ll not be disappointed with a visit to Rovaniemi, it’s like walking into a Christmas snow globe. Everything breathes Christmas and you can’t help but feel jolly. Just like the big red man himself.
Stayed: Santa’s Hotel Santa Claus. Walking distance to most attractions and restaurants. And certainly, the best name for a Christmas stay away from home.
Favorite Activity: Husky sledding through the Finish Forest.
New York, USA
New York is so magical, I’ve celebrated Christmas twice there. And I want to go again. The decorations, the atmosphere, the number of things to do, see, touch, eat. You can ice skate at Central Park. Or watch the sparkling lights from the top of the Rock where the gigantic Christmas tree is. Eat $1 pizza while watching window shopping at Macy’s. The list is endless.
Stayed: Homewood Suites by Hilton New York Midtown Manhattan Times Square-South. Big enough for the whole family and walking distance to Times Square.
Favorite activity: The Ride. By far the best fun I had in New York when it’s snowing and cold outside. Ride around in a sideways bus and watch street performers interact, dance and sing as you see the best sights of New York.
Karon Warren of This Girl Travels swears by Christmas in Grapevine, Texas.
“It overflows with decorations, activities, and events for the holidays. In fact, this small city hosts 1,400 Christmas events in 40 days, everything from light shows and caroling in the park to holiday movie nights and the Christmas wine train on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.”
Stayed: “Gaylord Texan in Grapevine. Lots of onsite activities, including ICE! ICE! is a walk-through winter wonderland of vignettes and characters carved from ice. Themes rotate, but my event was based on “Frosty the Snowman.”
“I loved making my own souvenir Christmas ornament at Vento Glass Blowing Studio. What a cool memento for my Christmas tree!”
My first London Christmas was in 2000. I had just turned 20. I had never seen snow. But how magical was London in the winter. Giant department stores filled with decorations. Streets lined with lights. Harrod’s big teddies sporting Santa hats. It was a Christmas I’d never forget.
Stayed: The Athenaeum. I have never forgotten this hotel. They ruined me with their magnificent 5-star service. From the friendly hello of the helpful doorman to the wait staff in the restaurant, everything was flawless. For outstanding service, pure luxury and social media savvy-ness, The Athenaeum delivers.
Natural History Museum. All the museums in London are free. This makes a fantastic day out and even adults will love viewing the dinosaurs, life-size blue whale or other exhibits.
“I went to my very first European Christmas markets and tasted my first Gluhwein. I highly recommend the Budapest Christmas market as well as the Central market of Pest. On our morning Vienna bus tour, we saw the sights of the city and a few of the sixteen Christmas markets. We walked around the historic city, St. Stephen’s Church and explored the largest Christmas market.”
Stayed: “I sailed on the Danube River to see dozens of Christmas markets with Viking Cruises. My home for the voyage was the Viking Atla from Budapest to Nurenberg. I absolutely loved that the floors of the bathroom were heated! It felt amazing on chilly mornings!”
Favorite Activity: “My favorite thing on the ship was learning to make Apple Strudel and then getting to taste it warm with vanilla ice cream. One day, we went to an incredible gingerbread shop. There were so many holiday tastes and so many ornaments to buy! I loved sailing during the holidays.”
Credit: We Said Go Travel
Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories
Can you imagine anything better than celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem? Bethlehem is a Palestinian town, a few minutes south of Jerusalem that each year holds a major festival in Manger Square. Live performances, historic locations, food, decorations. If you are looking for a truly unforgettable experience, Bethlehem will not disappoint.
Stayed: Abraham Hostels in Jerusalem. So much more than a hostel, it’s a community.
Hard to choose. Visit all 3 on the same day — Church of the Nativity, the Milk Grotto, and the Shepherd’s Fields.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, wherever you choose to celebrate!
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