Whether you are seeking a snowy wonderland, Santa’s workshop, holiday markets, or an experience that brings a beloved Christmas story to life, you’ll find something on this list that will surround your family in Christmas spirit.
Give your loved ones a gift that’ll last a lifetime in the memories of a family Christmas trip. Who knows, you just might stumble upon a tradition that’ll last a lifetime.
The Top 18 USA Christmas Destinations for Families
What I cherish most about Christmastime is seeing reflections of holiday magic in my children’s’ wonder-filled eyes.-Catherine, Postcard Narrative
Bring The Polar Express to Life – Ossowo, Michigan
Get up close and personal with the steam engine that inspired the art in “The Polar Express” and was later used in the making of the movie! From Thanksgiving until Christmas, the Steam Railroading Institute takes passengers round trip to “The North Pole” which is a Christmas themed city 90 minutes away.
So grab your pajamas, climb aboard The North Pole Express, and savor every moment. Your kids will no doubt be astonished as they experience a favorite holiday story come to life!
Less than an hour from Ossowo, you’ll find another unique Christmas destination in Frankenmuth. Bronner’s is the World’s Largest Christmas Store! When you’re done perusing the 50,000 trims and gifts at Bronner’s, dash across the street to meet two Reindeer at Grandpa Tiny’s Farm.
Ride a horse drawn carriage and watch the 7-minute light show on their downtown Christmas tree with 23,000 lights. If you didn’t fulfill your gift list at Bronner’s, you’ll also stumble upon a traditional German ChristKindlMarkt.
A Light Display Like No Other – St. Augustine, Florida
Contributed by Jenny of Traveling Party of Four
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people travel to St. Augustine, Florida, to enjoy the holiday with their families — the lights, the decorations, and the music make everyone feel like a kid again.
The St. Augustine Christmas Light Display begins in late November and runs through January. Over three million lights blanket the city with the spirit of Christmas. The magical light display has been a tradition for more than 60 years now, boasting one of Florida’s most famous holiday attractions and attracting up to 200,000 visitors from all over the world.
The restaurants and shops stay open late for the festivities. In addition, there are trolleys and train tours to transport you around the city — learn a little history, sings Christmas songs, and take advantage of the most remarkable photo ops on the bay or in front of the giant Christmas tree in the plaza.
The entire family will love this enchanting experience. Florida in winter is the perfect time of the year to enjoy beautiful weather and the architecture and history of America’s oldest city.
Magic of the Happiest Place on Earth – Orlando, Florida
Contributed by Mary of LifeFullofLight.com
Walt Disney World is known as one of the happiest and most magical places on Earth, and it’s even more so at Christmas time!
All 4 Disney parks are decorated with gorgeous trees, lights, and other décor. Characters like Mickey and Minnie have special holiday costumes.
And don’t even get me started on the food! Disney has holiday treats at many of its restaurants. Epcot even has a Festival of the Holidays that includes holiday cuisine from around the world and a Candlelight Processional.
Finish out a day at Magic Kingdom with the Very Merriest After Hours. Exclusive tickets to this event include Christmas-themed snacks and the chance to watch a magical Christmas parade and fireworks!
Shop Authentic Christmas Markets & More – Chicago, Illinois
Contributed by Mary of Bucket List Places
Lights, shopping, and memorable experiences await in Chicago around Christmastime. Travel can be expensive during the holidays – a bus ticket from Indianapolis to Chicago is at its highest average price in December – but it is worth it to treat the family to the wonders of Chicago’s holiday season.
Your kids’ eyes will light up with the magical illuminations at ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, or the Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is the perfect place to wrap up last-minute shopping while ogling fantastic lights and window displays in Chicago’s biggest stores.
Don’t miss the Christkindlmarket, an authentic German Christmas market, in Daley Plaza. It is free to enter, and you can meet local vendors while sipping hot chocolate and munching on traditional German treats. See if your little ones can catch a glimpse of the market’s Christkind, an angel who delivers gifts to children in Germany.
If you're looking for gifts to share with travelers young and old, check out our curated shop packed with products travel lovers of all ages will adore!
Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas – Branson, Missouri
Contributed by Monica of A Planner at Heart
Silver Dollar City amusement park is one of the most popular things to do in Branson, Missouri, for a reason! From November 6th to December 30th, the park is transformed into a merry and bright place to celebrate the holiday season. Their award-winning Old Time Christmas festival has been named America’s Best Theme Park holiday event for four years running by USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Poll.
With over 6 million lights, live shows, decorated amusement park rides, 60 shops, and a chance to talk to Santa at his cottage, there’s something for parents and kids alike. In a town dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World, it’s not a surprise that the holiday shows offered during Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival will knock your socks off! So whether you see the classic A Dicken’s Christmas Carol with a Broadway-style production or the brand new half a million-dollar show Home for Christmas, your price of admission offers so much holiday cheer!
Christmas in the Park, WinterFest at California’s Great America – San Jose, California
Contributed by Rasika of Bae Area and Beyond
Spending Christmas this year in the Bay Area? There are two Christmas attractions you must do with your family: Christmas in the Park and WinterFest at California’s Great America.
Happening in downtown San Jose, Christmas in the Park is an entertaining tradition full of sparkling lights, Christmas music and more! This is a one-of-a-kind winter wonderland since you’ll also get to see a line of trees decorated by school students, community organizations and businesses in San Jose! We visited with family in 2019 and 2020. In 2019, it was a free walk-thru event but in 2020, it was a drive-thru event that was priced around $20. Whether you walk or drive through, it was an unforgettable experience for us!
Another attraction is the WinterFest at California’s Great America. Set inside the amusement park, you can ice-skate, watch live musicals, and more – totaling to more than 60 different Christmas attractions.
Christmas Lighting Festival – Leavenworth, Washington
Contributed by Debbie of WorldAdventurists.com
Christmastime in the American Bavarian-theme town of Leavenworth, Washington is full of magic. Boasting half a million Christmas lights, it feels like you have stepped right into the North Pole. Plus, if you visit during the snowfall, the magic multiplies.
Visit the Leavenworth reindeer farm to see Santa’s reindeer relaxing after flying practice, visit St. Nikolas, listen to carolers, and watch the lighting ceremonies. Go sledding on the hill under the Christmas lights, or reserve an afternoon sleigh ride. Wander the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, to see over 7,000 nutcrackers from more than 50 countries.
Indulge in a variety of German treats, like Glühwein (hot mulled wine, adults only), pretzels, Bratwurst, and a meal at Andreas Keller. Enjoy fresh picture-perfect gingerbread.
The Christmas festival is extremely popular; hotels along the main strip can sell out a year in advance. If rooms are not available, you can also stay in nearby Wenatchee, a half-hour drive from Leavenworth.
Balboa Park December Nights – San Diego, California
Contributed by Katie Restrepo of Family Travel Folio
Held the first Friday and Saturday of December each year since 1978, Balboa Park December Nights is a holiday tradition you do not want to miss. Balboa Park is a beautiful area of gardens, museums, and theaters right outside of downtown San Diego and next to the San Diego Zoo.
Be sure to get there early as parking fills up fast.Try food from various food trucks and taste dishes from around the world at the International Cottages. Check out the nativity scenes surrounding the Organ Pavillion, and stay to enjoy holiday themed song and dance from various cultures. You can even get your photo taken with Santa!
Focused on food, dancing, music, and family fun this event has something for all ages. Many of the museums host free admission between 5pm-9pm each day during December Nights, and the event itself is free to attend.
German Christkindl Market – Denver, Colorado
Contributed by Danielle of Danielle Outdoors
If you’re looking for a magical Christmas destination with your family, Denver is the place for you! Winter activities in Denver include picking up a souvenir and a hot German pretzel at the Downtown German Christkindl Market, eating in an Igloo in Historic Larimer Square, admiring the changing colors of the Mile High Tree in the center of downtown, or taking a wintery day trip to the mountains. I highly suggest spending a day in Colorado Springs driving up Pike’s Peak and walking through the Garden of the Gods Park. You can also drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park and make snow angels in the forest.
It is nippy here, as temperatures in December top off in the 40s, so be sure to pack your cute and cozy outfits for this trip.
Are you convinced yet? Read More: The Best 4-Day Itinerary to Denver Colorado in the Winter
Festive Alpine Escape – Vail, Colorado
Contributed by Meg of Fox in the Forest
Vail may be known for its world-class winter sports, but there’s so much more to do in this quintessential alpine town in Colorado once the holiday season arrives!
Aside from all its mountain goodness and architecture that will make you feel as though you’ve been transported into the heart of the Austrian Alps, this incredibly beautiful spot in Colorado comes to life with twinkling lights galore, a Christmas Market that will have you drooling every step you take, and the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony, where you’ll be able to take part in a myriad of festive-themed activities to get you to take the magic of the holiday season to a whole new level!
A Capital Christmas – Washington D.C.
Contributed by Terri of FemaleSoloTrek.com
Washington DC’s Capitol Christmas tree will delight every child (and parent) who gets to visit the Nation’s Capital in December. Typically, the annual lighting on the West Lawn occurs in early December. Each year a different state is chosen to “gift” the Christmas tree. Plan to arrive at dusk (after 5 pm) when the tree is shimmering. Your children will think it is magical. But you also should bring them onto the lawn so they can see the Christmas ornaments up close. Typically, there are over 10,000 handmade ornaments. Also not to be missed is the holiday decorations at the U.S. Botanic Gardens which is located across the street from the U.S. Capitol. Large fir trees are strung with colored lights that bathe the sidewalk in pastel shades of lavender, blue and pink. This is a free holiday light show for families!
A Spectacular Christmas – New York City
Contributed by Sydney of A World in Reach
There are few destinations in the world that are more magical than New York City at Christmastime.
The holiday season in NYC begins at the conclusion of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with Santa’s arrival. Then, the city quickly turns into a holiday wonderland. Each year, the famous Christmas tree is lit on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, The famous Rink at Rockefeller Center typically opens just before Thanksgiving – ice skating with a view of the Christmas Tree should definitely be on your NYC bucket list!
There are several Christmas Markets throughout the city, and one of the best is the one at Bryant Park. Make sure to spend a day sipping mulled wine and shopping for Christmas presents before enjoying an evening at the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. Also, don’t miss a walk along Fifth Avenue to admire the ornate window displays.
No matter how you spend your time, spending Christmas in NYC is a magical experience you won’t soon forget!
Looking for more Christmas Desintations in the USA?
North Pole, Alaska is full of holiday cheer year round. At Christmastime, they put on quite the spectacle with fireworks carols, Santa Claus, and the crowning of a Christmas King and Queen.
Linvilla Orchards, Pennsylvania transforms a garden center in to a Christmas wonderland. Shop Christmas Bakery, Plants, Trees (or cut your own), and gifts. Let the kids interact with the Barnyard animals.
Helen, Georgia hosts Christmas Spectacular with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop.
Bowling Green, Kentucky features Twinkle at the Track: a drive-thru holiday light show at the NCM Motorsports Park with over 1 million lights!
Gaylord Hotels’ Christmas Spirit – This hotel group goes all out offering everything from ice skating to gingerbread house making.
Santa’s Wonderland at Cabela’s – Free photo with Santa! (Includes one print and you can take as many on your own device as you want.) Afterwards, the kids can work on a Christmas craft in the ‘workshop’ area.