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12 Fun Christmas Vacation Ideas in North America

By: Swena Kalra

Edited By: Scott Sidders

Updated on November 6, 2023

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The holiday season is always a special time of year, and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to get away and create lasting memories with loved ones.

Whether you're looking for something close by or further away, there are plenty of top vacation ideas that can make your Christmas extra special this year. From snow-capped mountain tops to tropical beaches, these destinations offer something for everyone.

So if you're wondering where to go on your next break, read on for our top vacation ideas for Christmas!

1. Skiing in Colorado

skiers rocket down a groomed trail on Ajax Mountain at Aspen Colorado

Christmas time in Colorado is a magical experience, especially for those who love to ski. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the picturesque resorts and towns, there's something for everyone when it comes to skiing in Colorado during the holiday season.

The snow-capped peaks of the Rockies provide some of the best skiing in the country, with plenty of runs for all levels of skiers. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, you'll find something to enjoy on your ski trip to Colorado. The resorts are well-equipped with modern amenities and offer a variety of activities for everyone in the family.

For those looking for a more traditional Christmas experience, there are plenty of charming towns and villages that offer festive decorations and holiday cheer. Many resorts also host special events such as Christmas caroling, sleigh rides, and other holiday festivities.

When it comes to skiing in Colorado during Christmas time, there are several great options available. Aspen Snowmass is one of the most popular destinations for winter sports enthusiasts due to its excellent slopes and terrain parks. Grand Targhee is another great choice if you're looking for a more relaxed atmosphere with plenty of powdery snow. Keystone is also known for its family-friendly environment and wide range of activities suitable for all ages.


2. Celebrate Christmas in New York City

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City

From the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree to the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, there are so many ways to celebrate the holiday season in this vibrant city. Whether you're looking for festive activities or just want to soak up the holiday spirit, NYC has something for everyone and that's also why we have this entire post dedicated to NYC hotspots here.

One of the most popular activities during Christmas in NYC is ice skating at Wollman Rink. Located in Central Park, this outdoor rink offers breathtaking views of Manhattan and provides a unique way to enjoy some winter fun. Afterward, take a stroll through Central Park and admire its picturesque scenery, from snow-covered trees to frozen lakes.

For those who love shopping, Fifth Avenue is a must-visit destination during Christmas time. The area is filled with festive window displays and decorations that make it feel like a winter wonderland. You can also find great deals on gifts for your loved ones at nearby stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's Herald Square.

If you're looking for an unforgettable experience, check out Dyker Heights Holiday Lights or ONEDERLAND at One World Observatory. Dyker Heights is known for its extravagant light displays that draw crowds from all over the world each year. Meanwhile, ONEDERLAND offers stunning views of NYC from 1,250 feet above ground level and features interactive exhibits that will delight kids of all ages.

Finally, don't miss out on seeing the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes perform their annual show! This iconic performance features dazzling costumes and choreography that will leave you feeling full of holiday cheer.

3. Enjoy Disney World in Florida

Walt Disney World arch gate on the road in Orlando, Florida, USA

With festive décor, limited-time treats, and magical entertainment, it's no wonder that Disney World is considered an ultimate holiday destination.

At the Magic Kingdom, there is an abundance of activities to enjoy during Christmas. From the stunning Christmas parade featuring your favorite Disney characters to the spectacular fireworks display every night, there's something for everyone. Don't miss out on classic rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion—go for the Genie+ (replacement for the FastPass) to make the most of your time.

While the Magic Kingdom is a must-visit during the holiday season, don't forget to explore the other parks as well. Each park has its unique holiday offerings, like Epcot's International Festival of the Holidays and Hollywood Studios' Sunset Seasons Greetings.

Make sure to take in the sights of the beautifully decorated custom trees, which can be up to 70 feet tall, and the hundreds of smaller trees scattered throughout the parks. The holiday season at Disney World typically begins in mid-November and goes through December 31st, so there's plenty of time to experience the magic.

4. Visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Grand canyon in the winter

This iconic natural wonder draws millions of visitors each year and for good reason. With its steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River and uplands, the Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring sight that is sure to be a highlight of any trip.

Christmas is a magical time to visit the Grand Canyon. The canyon is transformed into a winter wonderland, with snow-capped peaks and frozen streams creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere. Make sure to bundle up and bring your camera, as the winter scenery is a sight you won't want to miss.

While visiting the Grand Canyon, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Take a guided tour to learn about the history and geology of the canyon, hike one of the many trails, or enjoy a scenic drive along the rim. For the more adventurous, consider taking a helicopter or hot air balloon ride for a bird's eye view of the Grand Canyon.

When it comes to accommodations, there are plenty of options to choose from. Stay in one of the many hotels or lodges available within the park or venture out to one of the nearby towns, such as Williams or Flagstaff, for more options.

5. Go on a Cruise to the Caribbean

People on the beach with a cruise liner in the background at Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic

The Caribbean is a perfect destination for a winter getaway, with warm temperatures, sunny beaches, and crystal-clear waters awaiting you. A cruise to the Caribbean will take you to some of the most beautiful islands, each with its own unique charm and culture.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian, and MSC Cruises offer a range of Caribbean options, ensuring that there is something for everyone. You can choose from 3-8 day cruises, depending on your preference and time availability. Prices start as low as $290 for a 3-night Nassau & Bimini cruise with beautiful stops at Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata, and Curtis Bay.

Imagine spending Christmas in the Caribbean, enjoying beautiful sunsets, eating delicious food, and sipping tropical cocktails. From the lively streets of Jamaica to the warm sands of Aruba, there is an itinerary for every kind of traveler.

You can also enjoy onboard activities such as swimming pools, spas, casinos, and Broadway-style performances. And if you're traveling with your family, the kids can enjoy specialized activities like swimming pools and kids clubs, so parents can enjoy some alone time while onboard.

6. Head to Hawaii

Waikiki Beach Honolulu Hawaii Skyline

Escape the winter blues and head to the palm-fringed coasts of Maui, the Big Island, or Oahu to create unforgettable memories with your loved ones.

Imagine lounging on the beautiful beaches, sipping Mai Tais, and soaking up the serene island atmosphere. The best part? The traditional festive season activities get a Hawaiian twist, making for unique experiences and the ultimate holiday getaway.

At Waikiki Beach, you'll find a beautiful blend of traditional holiday customs and Hawaiian culture. Take part in exciting activities such as watching hula shows, local shopping, and viewing stunning Christmas trees adorned with tropical decor. If you're feeling adventurous, try snorkeling, paddleboarding, or surfing, all right here on the beautiful Waikiki coastline.

For those who want to experience something different, join the Kailua-Kona Christmas parade on Big Island, which showcases festive floats, marching bands, and more. Or catch the spectacular Honolulu City Lights display on Oahu, where the streets come alive with dazzling light decorations and nightly live music events.

But that's not all - whale watching season runs from December through March, so visitors can witness these majestic creatures up close and personal during their holiday escape. And don't forget to indulge in a Hawaiian feast, where the tantalizing cuisine offers a fusion of flavors from East and West.

With year-round warm weather, stunning tropical scenery, and cheerful festive events, Hawaii is the perfect destination for a Christmas vacation. And with so much to do, you'll leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and with unforgettable memories to last a lifetime.

7. Go on a Road Trip from Las Vegas

Valley of Fire road, Nevada, USA

The Southwest is known for its scenic drives, stunning landscapes, and quirky roadside attractions that will make your road trip unforgettable.

Start your adventure with the perfect 10-day Southwest road trip itinerary. Begin your journey in Las Vegas and drive through the Valley of Fire to reach Zion National Park, where you can hike and witness breathtaking views. Continue your drive to Bryce Canyon National Park and witness the largest collection of hoodoos in the world, rocks sculpted by wind and water over time.

As Christmas approaches, make a stop at the Grand Canyon and experience a winter wonderland as mentioned above. You can also take a guided tour to witness the beauty of Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon known for its picturesque colors and beams of light.

On your way back, stop by Sedona and experience the famous Red Rock Country. This town has a vibrant art scene, local shops, and amazing hiking trails. Wrap up your trip in Phoenix, where you can enjoy warm weather and explore the city's museums, botanical gardens, and cosmopolitan downtown.

You can cover the distance at your own pace and choose from the many fun outdoor activities and tourist destinations along the way. Make sure to bring your favorite Christmas playlist and enjoy the road trip with your loved ones.

8. Visit Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone geyser sightseeing in winter

With its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and natural wonders, Yellowstone is an ideal vacation destination any time of the year. However, visiting Yellowstone during Christmas adds an extra touch of magic and beauty to this already incredible park.

Take a stroll through the winter wonderland of Yellowstone and witness the park's stunning scenery covered in glistening snow. The famous Old Faithful geyser, steaming hot springs, and bubbling mud pots all take on a new life during the winter months. And, while the crowds are thin in the winter, some traditions continue. Christmas Eve candlelight services at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge create a memorable holiday experience for all to enjoy.

Yellowstone National Park Lodge's Winter Packages offer a range of opportunities for visitors to customize their winter vacation. Enjoy a guided snowmobile or snow coach tour, go skiing or snowshoeing, or just relax by the fire in one of the park's cozy lodges. With over 2.2 million acres of wilderness to explore, there is something for everyone in Yellowstone.

If you're concerned about the cold, don't be, the park provides a range of indoor activities, including educational programs about the park's geology and wildlife, as well as ranger-led snowshoeing excursions. Plus, nothing beats the fresh mountain air and breathtaking vistas that surround you.

9. Take a Tour of Historic Philadelphia

Park with snow in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

During Christmas time, the city is transformed into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and plenty of fun events.

One of the highlights of a holiday trip to Philadelphia is visiting the iconic historic sites that the city is famous for. Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed in 1776, is a must-see. Visitors can take a guided tour of the building and learn about the significance of this historic moment in American history. The nearby Liberty Bell is another iconic symbol of America's independence, and seeing it up close is truly breathtaking.

For those interested in the history of the American Revolution, a visit to the Betsy Ross House is a must. This is where the famous seamstress is said to have sewn the first American flag, and visitors can take a tour of her home and see where this historic moment took place.

But it's not all history in Philadelphia during Christmas time. The city also hosts plenty of fun events and activities for visitors to enjoy. The Christmas Village in Love Park is a festive outdoor market featuring more than 80 vendors selling handmade crafts and delicious holiday treats. The Franklin Square Holiday Festival also offers a fun-filled family experience with a winter beer garden and dazzling light show.

When visiting Philadelphia during the holiday season, be sure to book your accommodations in advance. Some of the top hotels in the city, such as the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, offer holiday packages and special events for guests. And of course, be sure to indulge in some of Philadelphia's famous cuisine, such as cheesesteaks and soft pretzels.

Don't forget to purchase tickets ahead of time for popular attractions like Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House. And for the best photo ops, head to the historic district early in the morning before the crowds arrive.

People having fun ice skating at ice rink in downtown Chicago

Chicago is a city that truly comes to life during the winter season, and there is no better time to experience its magic than during the Christmas holidays. The entire city is decked out in festive decorations, with fairy lights and ornaments adorning the streets and buildings, creating a magical atmosphere that fills the air with excitement and anticipation.

As you walk down Michigan Avenue, the main shopping district, you will hear Christmas music and carolers serenading passersby with their soulful voices. Local cafes and bakeries are also in on the festivities, filling the air with the aroma of gingerbread and hot cocoa.

One of the highlights of the Chicago Christmas experience is the world-renowned Christkindlmarket. This traditional German-style market takes place in the heart of the city and offers visitors a unique opportunity to shop for unique gifts, enjoy delicious festive treats, and immerse themselves in the holiday spirit.

Another must-visit location is the iconic Millennium Park ice-skating rink. With a stunning view of the city skyline as the backdrop, the rink is the perfect place to channel your inner child and indulge in some winter fun.

If you're in the mood for some outdoor adventure, head to Lincoln Park for some thrilling sledding, or take a stroll along the Lakefront trail which offers fantastic views of the city and Lake Michigan.

Of course, the Christmas festivities in Chicago don't stop there. The city offers a myriad of holiday events and activities that are perfect for all ages. From festive theater productions to holiday shows, light festivals, and candlelight concerts, there is always something to keep you entertained during your visit.

11. Enjoy the Coastal Views of Oregon

Heceta head lighthouse and coastline of Oregon in winter

The Oregon Coast's wild beauty, with its rocky cliffs, vast beaches, and dramatic shoreline, is a dreamy Christmas escape from the city's chaos. The region's seclusion adds serenity to the festive season. As soon as you step onto the coast, the salty ocean air fills your lungs, and any worries drift away.

The coastal towns come to life with extra sparkle and merriment during Christmas. You can immerse yourself in the local communities' Christmas traditions and even take some bits of the coast's magic back home with you. The cheerful Christmas bazaars and holiday light shows will leave you in awe.

For a unique winter experience, plan your visit during Whale Watching Week. Gray whales migrate to the south during this time, providing the perfect opportunity to witness a magnificent spectacle. The region also boasts fantastic outdoor activities such as hiking or biking the trails and exploring the tide pools, making it an ideal destination for adventure seekers.

The local seafood and farm-to-table cuisine are exceptional, with numerous seafood shacks and fine-dining options. Indulge in the seafood delicacies unique to the Oregon coast, and the farm-fresh produce will add more flavor to your culinary journey.

Venturing further south towards the Southern Oregon coast will reward you with isolated beaches, rugged cliffs with breathtaking views of the Pacific, and quaint seaside towns that look nothing short of a Christmas postcard.

As you explore the Oregon coast, make sure to visit some of the 17 charming towns along the 363 miles of coastline, each with its vibe and charisma.

12. Take a Trip to Gorgeous San Diego

December nights at Balboa Park in San Diego

As the holiday season approaches, San Diego becomes a charming and festive place filled with events and attractions to delight visitors from all over the world.

One of the top attractions in San Diego is the world-famous San Diego Zoo, filled with incredible animals and beautiful landscapes. During the holidays, the zoo transforms into a winter wonderland with Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo, where guests can enjoy food, drinks, music, and the zoo's holiday décor.

Another must-visit is Balboa Park, which is home to over 15 museums and cultural centers, as well as beautiful gardens and outdoor spaces. The park takes on an enchanting feel during the holidays, with the annual Balboa Park December Nights festival featuring holiday lights, festive music, and delicious food.

San Diego offers unique holiday-themed events for visitors, like the nightly snowfall at the Village Walk at Eastlake, where guests can experience the beauty of snow in San Diego. Other amazing Christmas events include the Surfin' Santa Arrival, the La Jolla Christmas Parade, Petco Park's holiday market, and many more.

San Diego has a range of accommodations to suit every budget, from budget-friendly options to luxurious high-end hotels that offer an unparalleled San Diego experience. Popular places to stay include the iconic Hotel del Coronado, with its stunning oceanfront location and grand Victorian architecture, and the luxurious Pendry San Diego, which boasts a rooftop pool and panoramic city views.

During the Christmas season, the city is alive with holiday lights and decorations. Visitors can enjoy exploring the unique customs and traditions of San Diego, such as the Christmas boats at the Parade of Lights or the festive Old Globe Theatre productions.

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, so why not make it extra special by taking an amazing vacation? From the snow-capped mountains in Colorado to the sandy beaches of Hawaii, there is something for everyone.

Whether you're looking for adventure or relaxation, these top vacation ideas for Christmas will surely provide a memorable experience that you will remember. So don't wait any longer - start planning your holiday getaway today!

With all the beauty this season has to offer, spending some quality time with loved ones during this festive season can be made even more enjoyable if done right. We wish you all the best on your adventure, have fun, and Happy Holidays!

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