Places to Visit at Christmas Places to Visit at Christmas
Are you considering getting away from it all for Christmas this year? For some, this seems to fly in the face of tradition; for others, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Many families are finding that a vacation for the holidays gives them a chance to reconnect, relax, and actually enjoy their celebration.
If you are thinking of a holiday getaway this season, consider some of these ideas.
Walt Disney World, Orland, FL
Orlando offers gorgeous weather for visitors who hail from more northern climates. If you stay at Disney’s grand Floridian Resort, you room will overlook the Magic Kingdom and you can view a 4-story Christmas tree in the lobby. There are also animated displays and a huge gingerbread house to tour – in fact, many visitors spend much more time at the resort than at Disney. Epcot features “Holidays around the World” so that visitors can see how people in other places celebrate Christmas. And while you’re there, don’t forget the little town of Christmas, a few minutes’ drive east of Orlando, where you are able to post your Christmas cards with the “proper” postmark.
Billed as the Ozark Mountain Christmas, Branson’s celebration has been billed as a Top 100 Event in North America. No wonder – it lasts 2 full months, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. If shopping isn’t to your liking, (there are tons of outlets and boutiques) try the holiday shows with top-name musicians and comedians, holiday shows, and elaborate light displays. Branson’s Silver Dollar City theme park features over 4 million lights done up in the 1800s style, complete with strolling carolers wearing period costumes. If you haven’t had enough upon leaving the park, visit the 15-mile long Branson area Festival of Lights, and be sure to drive the Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN
The Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville area join together for a lengthy celebration of both Christmas and the season. Parades, fireworks, lights, and caroling make up the Smoky Mountain Winterfest from November through February. Take a trolley ride of Lights (a one-hour tour) through the arts and crafts area in downtown Gatlinburg, try a tractor-drawn hay wagon, or watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks show, complete with a ball drop. Visit during Wilderness Wildlife Week of Nature and learn about local flora, fauna, and wildlife. You can take short hikes or overnight adventures or take classes on photography and bird watching. Dollywood Theme Park in nearby Pigeon Forge features lights, strolling characters and carolers, shows, and special music throughout the season, including a stage show called Babes in Toyland, complete with puppets, acrobats, and 11-feet-tall toy soldiers. Try out one of the rustic lodges or stay in a mountain cabin to round out the family holiday.
Not really about the holiday season at all, Christmas Island is located in the Indian Ocean. It’s an Australian territory that has a heavy Chinese influence, and it is home to the Christmas Island National Park. Most of the Island is under formal protection, as there are unusual species of birds as well as several endangered populations. If your family is into isolated islands, flora and fauna, diving, or viewing a spectacular red crab migration, this might be the place for you. It will probably be raining in December, so this is a holiday place to visit if your family’s hectic schedules dictate that your getaway will have to take place a few months ahead of time.
New York City
If you love the hustle and bustle of the city, visit New York during the Christmas season. The holiday tradition there dates back to 1931, when the Rockefeller Center Plaza first lit its tree. That tree was less than 20 feet tall; this year, the tree is 84 feet tall and 48 feet wide. It is lit from approximately November 28 to January 6.
Those aren’t the only Christmas lights you’ll find aglow in NYC, though; the entire city seems to shine with lights. Take a walking tour to learn about the Jewish culture or explore other history in the city, or enjoy some famous ghost tales.
Window shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy’s seems to get better year after year. Don’t miss the Origami Holiday Tree, covered with 500 hand-created origami critters, located at the American Museum of Natural History. You’ll love the holiday dinosaurs flanking the doorways. Try ice skating or go see one of hundreds of shows and events.
New York City claims several “firsts” of Christmas:
- The first drawing of the red-cheeked Santa
- The home of Irving Berlin, composer of the song “White Christmas”
- The home of author O. Henry, creator of the story “Gift of the Magi”
- The letter that spawned the line “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Wherever you go, there will be plenty to entertain you this holiday season.