If the idea of another Christmas at Grandma’s fills you with boredom rather than merriment, consider this: not every holiday season has to be defined by chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Yankee Swap and six feet of snow outside. And traveling for Christmas doesn’t necessarily have to mean traveling home for Christmas. If you feel like your holiday traditions are as stale as last year’s sugar cookies, spending Christmas somewhere unusual is a surefire where to make a memory that’ll last long after all of the presents are unwrapped. Here are our top choices for an unforgettable Yuletide getaway:
The words “German Christmas” and “Texas” might not sound like they go together, but in this hill country town, they make as much sense as ordering another strudel does. Located just far enough outside of Austin to make you forget about the big city hustle and bustle, Fredericksburg is a charming holiday destination where you can experience an authentic German Christmas with just a dash of Texas spirit. Picture this: putting on your cowboy boots and two-stepping down to the German Marktplatz to browse shops, art galleries and see a 26 foot tall wooden Christmas pyramid. Besides being known for its German traditions, Fredericksburg is also famous for its location right in the heart of Texas wine country. You can visit more than 20 nearby wineries or take part in the Christmas Wine Affair, which offers special tours and tastings. Other Fredericksburg Christmas highlights include horse drawn carriage rides through the hill country, ice skating and an annual tour of the town’s historic residences. We’re not sure whether to say “Merry Weihnachten” or “Merry Christmas, ya’ll,” so we’ll just say we’ll see you there!
Wickford, Rhode Island
While it’s true that no place feels like Christmas as much as New England does, here’s a fresh spin on an old classic. Rather than spending Christmas tucked away in a snowy countryside town, head east for a seaside holiday in Wickford. The small village in the town of North Kingstown is situated on the Narragansett Bay, which serves as a lovely backdrop for 18th century harbor homes and a Christmas feast of fresh, local seafood. Wickford’s annual Festival of Lights includes all of the standard holiday celebrations like a tree lighting and carolers in costume with one very special twist. Every day, during the holiday celebrations, the community gathers at the the town dock to welcome Santa as he arrives by boat. Once he’s on land, he’s available for hayride tours, where you can take in the the historic waterfront district while dropping hints about your Christmas wish list. If you’d like to count yourself amongst a small group of people who can say that they’ve stood in the fog on the Atlantic coast and watched Santa appear in a boat on the horizon, Wickford is the Christmas destination you’ve been dreaming of.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
Warming your feet by a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night is nice, but do you know what’s better? Soaking in hot springs in a ghost town turned luxury resort. Enter Dunton Hot Springs, a place so incredible it has to be seen to be believed, so you might as well see it this Christmas. Located in southwestern Colorado near the ski town of Telluride, the Dunton Hot Springs are nestled in a former mining town amongst snow-capped mountains. The resort offers logs cabins that look rustic on the outside and feel luxury on the inside. There’s access to horseback riding, helicopter skiing (yes, you read that right), snowshoeing and on-site yoga, pilates and spa treatments. The saloon serves fine dining cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients like Colorado lamb and mushrooms from the nearby forest. And as for the hot springs, you can take a soak in the restored 19th century bathhouse, choose a cabin with private hot springs or head outside and soak under the starlight, just like the miners who once called Dunton home used to do.
Christmas lights look a lot different when they’re strung up on a cactus instead of a tree—but don’t take our word for it. Find out for yourself by heading to Tucson this holiday season. The mild weather offers a nice break for those used to spending a part of Christmas morning shoveling snow, and the desert sunsets are especially breathtaking in the winter. Get in the holiday spirit but strolling through Tucson's annual winter street fair, which hosts more than 200 booths where you can browse local art while enjoying southwestern cuisine and live entertainment. When you’re done shopping, head to Tohono Chul Park or the Tucson Botanical Gardens to see palm trees and cacti decked out in Christmas lights. Cap off the day by taking in a performance of the Nutcracker, where the classic ballet is reimagined to include the Sonoran desert. After seeing the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing amongst coyotes and cacti, you’ll have a hard time picturing the show any other way.
West Palm Beach, Florida
Come on, you know you’ve always wanted to ditch the usual Christmas gathering and head somewhere tropical. West Palm Beach is where you should go. Located in southern Florida with easy access to all of Miami’s wild nightlife and sizzling Cajun food, West Palm Beach is known for offering the resources of a big city with the feel of a small town. The downtown area has shopping, dining, an antique row and local events. Of course, if you choose to spend your entire trip snorkeling, fishing, jet skiing, scuba diving or just lounging on the beach, we don’t blame you. The 70 degree weather and sun drenched shoreline is so inviting you might end up spending Christmas day sunbathing. Just be sure to drag yourself off your towel at least once so you can see West Palm Beach’s 30 foot, 600 ton Christmas tree made entirely out of sand (named Sandi, naturally). And if you ever start to miss the snow, head to CityPlace, an outdoor shopping mall that features iceless skating, live music and man-made snowfall without that pesky winter weather. It’s nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Millions of tourists flock to Yellowstone National Park every summer but the amount of people who enter the park during the months of December through February account for less than 3% of the park’s annual visitation numbers. You might not think of Yellowstone National Park as a “best kept secret,” but when it comes to holiday destinations, that’s exactly what it is. Yellowstone’s Snow Lodge, is located deep within the park, just steps away from the regularly erupting Old Faithful, a sight few people get to witness come December. During the winter season, it’s only accessible via a snowcoach, a special vehicle that will guide you through the park, alongside wolf tracks, herds of bison and steaming geysers that rise up from the snow banks. Once situated at Snow Lodge, you can take day trips to frozen waterfalls, rent cross country skis and photograph colorful thermal features that look surreal against the frozen landscape. Temperatures during the harsh Yellowstone winter season plummet into the single digits, but the memories of seeing a true winter wonderland will warm your heart for years to come.