I know it’s still October but it’s not too early to start planning a trip to visit one of the BEST Christmas towns! You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re quaint and cute and full of Christmas decorations starting in mid to late November. Just to get you started with planning, here are a few of the Ultimate Christmas Towns in America!
Leavenworth is a great place to visit any time of year but when Christmas rolls around, they pull out all the stops!
Leavenworth is located in the Cascade Mountains so snow abounds during the holiday season. The Bavarian architecture of the town is outstanding and suggestive of being in the middle of the Bavarian Alps, Germany. Interestingly, the town was named Icicle up until the late 1800s, according to the town’s website. There is still an Icicle Amtrack station there!
If you HATE Black Friday shopping with the crowds, head up to Leavenworth for the Thanksgiving weekend Christkindlmarkt. It runs from Friday through Sunday and you kind find all kinds of unique gifts to give your favorite people. Click here to go to the Christkindlmarkt website.
Then there is the Christmas Lighting Festival. The Christmas lights come on Thanksgiving weekend and remain through Valentine’s Day. They do turn the lights off on the first three Fridays of December. But don’t despair, they come right back on Saturday and Sunday for the Lighting Ceremonies. This is a really BIG deal! There are 21 MILES of lights in this Bavarian village!!!
If you go, be sure to layer your clothing. The website says the temps can hover around zero degrees this time of year!
Williamsburg, Virginia is home to Colonial Williamsburg, and Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. Each has its own special holiday events. I’m going to highlight a few of these for you.
If you’ve never been to Colonial Williamsburg, a Christmas visit is PERFECT for your first trip. This is the BIGGEST living history museum in the world! You’ll love all the period decorations around the historic site. There are workshops you can attend, a Governor’s Christmas Ball, and of course, you’ll love the taverns all decorated for the holidays.
There’s a guided Christmas Decorations Walking Tour that requires a separate ticket, as some events do. It takes you around the streets of the historic site viewing the natural decorations of the period. This will give you a fantastic way to find out where everything is so you’ll know where other events are held.
Perhaps you would enjoy a Holiday Tea with Charles Dickens or an Evening with Charles Dickens at the Williamsburg Inn. Your tea or dinner will be a delight as the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens gives a spirited one-man retelling of “A Christmas Carol.”
One event that you will NOT want to miss is The Grand Illumination fireworks on December 8 and other offerings that begin the holiday season in old Colonial Williamsburg. At the link above, you can buy a premium seat for the fireworks and music. However, you don’t need to buy these in order to enjoy the music on the various stages and throughout the historic site. You may want to grab a ticket for a Grand Illumination meal at one of the pubs or taverns though.
There are plenty of events that come with admission to Colonial Williamsburg. Just a few of these are Super Happy Fishmastide, Seasonal Offerings at the Raleigh Tavern, and A Christmas Remembered. These are performances by the exceptionally talented actors and musicians portraying residents of the colonial period. On the last three Saturdays of December between 5:30-6:00 PM, you can listen to music and firing muskets during the Illumination of the Palace Green takes place.
There are so many different activities and events taking place from the weekend before Christmas through the weekend after Christmas that there is no way to list them all. There is truly something for everyone at Colonial Williamsburg.
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
If you are a holiday light fanatic, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is THE place for you! There are over 10 MILLION lights throughout this theme park.
There are all kinds of activities to participate in if walking and gazing at the lights isn’t enough for you. There’s the Traditions Tree Maze, Winter Traditions, and plenty of dining experiences and traditional Christmas shows. If you have grandchildren along, they’ll enjoy taking a ride on the Christmas Town Express and taking photos with Santa or Rudolph and his Friends.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is known locally as the “City of Lights” and as a former resident of this lovely town, I can attest that the name absolutely fits at Christmas time! The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is celebrating its 93rd year in 2019!
Natchitoches has a beautiful main street called Front Street. This street “fronts” the Cane River Lake. Let me explain. The Cane River Lake looks like a regular river running through town. However, it has no current since both ends are closed off. So, it’s actually a lake that looks like a river. This creates the loveliest appearance of a river through the middle of town and the perfect place to host a Christmas festival!
There are over 300,000 lights and more than 100 set pieces along the Cane in the area of Front Street. The lights are turned on Saturday, November 23, but first, they are heralded by fireworks! The lights remain through January 6, 2020.
The BIG Christmas festival day is always the first Saturday in December. There is a parade, live music on the riverbank, shopping along the street, and plenty of food and drinks at the many booths down on the riverbank. Over 100,000 people come to Natchitoches to take part in the festivities which culminate in a huge fireworks display synchronized with music. And finally, when the fireworks show comes to a close, the switch is flipped and ALL of the lights along the riverbank, on the bridges, and in the streets come on at once to the cheers of the thousands gathered there. Click here to take a look at the entire schedule from November through January 6.
If you prefer your lights without a crowd of thousands, you can see them any night through January 6. And there are smaller fireworks displays every Saturday night. Make a day of shopping in all of the wonderful shops, have dinner in one of the amazing restaurants, and then soak up the delicious ambiance of the Christmas lights and joy of the season.
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York
Okay, I know Dyker Heights isn’t a separate “town” but a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York instead. But this is no ordinary neighborhood! Dyker Heights is full of very competitive folks each trying to outdo the others with their Christmas decorations. This has resulted in an absolutely over the top extravaganza of holiday lights and life-sized Santas, sleighs, and other Christmas figures. Time Out New York has a great guide to the lights in Dyker Heights and here’s the link.
The houses in this neighborhood are gorgeous, to begin with, and simply out of this world when decorated with all of the lights! The best light displays are on 83rd to 86th Streets between 11th and 13th Avenue.
The best time to see the most dazzling displays is mid-December through January 1. Some houses are decorated as early as Thanksgiving but your best bet is to wait until a little later to get the full effect! Lights are usually on nightly from 5-9 PM.
Now, how to get there can be tricky. If you’re from out of town, you’ll probably want to book a bus tour since you don’t know the area. The recommended bus tour is A Slice of Brooklyn. Book early since they sell out fast! If you’re local, just know that if you take the subway, there’s still a twenty-minute walk just to get to the area with the best lights. A taxi may be your best bet.
Be sure to bundle up warmly because the weather can be VERY COLD and this is a walking tour after all!
St. Augustine, Florida
If you live in a cold climate, you’ve probably never experienced Christmas lights without a heavy coat. Here in St. Augustine though you’ll stroll through the historic district gazing at the 3 million or so lights with only a sweater or light jacket at night. The weather is delightful (think temps 65 and up at night) and the lights are just as dazzling as they are in the coldest of regions.
Nights of Lights runs from November 23, 2019 – January 31, 2020. On November 23, Light Up Night begins with the lighting of 3 million white lights in a 20-block area of the historic district. Buildings and trees galore are lit up all at once with these tiny white lights. This is the 26th anniversary of the tradition here in St. Augustine. However, it traces its origin to the Spanish tradition of placing a white candle in the windows of homes during the holidays to symbolize making room for Mary and Joseph.
There are a number of ways to see this spectacular display of lights. First, there’s a trolley tour available. In fact, there are several trolley tour companies that you can book a ride with to see all of the best displays. Then, there’s the Bridge of Lions where you can walk out on the sidewalks to see the lights along the bay and their reflections on the water. Of course, there’s also a water tour you can take that places you on a boat in the middle of the water. Or, you can simply start at the Plaza de la Constitución where the Christmas tree is located and stroll along the streets and pedestrian walkways, with a cup of hot cider or chocolate. And finally, I’m told that one of the BEST views of the lights is from the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse! You can see the whole historic district from high above there.
Weekends can get pretty crowded so if you want a little more space to enjoy gazing at the lights, try to schedule your visit for a night during the week. Perhaps you can make a reservation at a local restaurant and then go on your tour. Or you could have a drink on the bayfront, stroll around the historic district, and then have a quiet dinner at a restaurant close to the Plaza or on the water before returning home. Whichever way you choose to see the Nights of Lights, you are going to LOVE it!
The Wrap Up
Well, I’ve given you several great places to get in the Christmas spirit, see holiday lights, and participate in local holiday events. But these are just a few of the BEST Christmas towns in America. Which town is your favorite “Christmas Town?” Just click the envelope in the sidebar to email me and let me know which one is your favorite and why? I’d love to hear from you!
I would absolutely LOVE to give you my FREE Travel Planner so you can start planning YOUR trip to see all the holiday lights you desire. Just go to the box at the bottom of this page and sign up to receive my emails AND the FREE planner!
If you want to read more about holiday travel just click the links below to see more of my posts! Happy reading!
- Natchitoches Christmas Festival, Louisiana
- Now is the Time to Plan Your Holiday Travel
- Ultimate Gift Guide for Travelers
- Empty Nester Holiday Planning Tips
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