When traveling with kids, parents are always looking to explore the most magical places in the world! This is especially true during the holidays. Parents will adore watching tiny faces light up while meandering light festivals, meeting Santa, or riding a one-horse open sleigh. In New York City, enjoy iconic Christmas traditions like ice skating in Central Park. Or, head to Breckenridge, Colorado to hit the slopes. Looking for a little heat in your Christmas? Choose Taos, New Mexico for a unique twist on the holiday season! Families can spend the 12 days of Christmas in one of the most magical Christmas towns in the United States using this list compiled from our Facebook group, Families Who Love to Travel. No matter which destination you choose, enjoy the most wonderful time of the year by making memories in these 12 Magical Christmas Towns in the U.S. for Families.
New York City, NY
If you’ve ever watched a Hallmark movie, you know how magical Christmas in New York City can be. And trust us, it’s worth the hype! NYC offers iconic Christmas traditions like ice skating in Bryant Park and taking family pictures in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Or, you can check out the Rockettes at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Musical Hall. Explore one of the most magical Christmas towns for families by visiting Santa at Macy’s Santaland. Afterward, meander 5th Avenue along Macy’s to enjoy their special holiday window displays. If you’re traveling with littles, be sure to check out the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. Then, check out a Broadway show like Elf, the musical. If you’re looking for a seasonal church service while in NYC, check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Finally, families can also find traditional Christmas markets throughout the city!
Please note: The the 2020 production of the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please find further information here. As a reminder, some of the activities on this list may also be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
What Our Families Say
“NYC!! The vibe is like nothing I’ve seen. The bell ringers all dress up, sing, and dance. The scenes in the windows are a work of art. The lights on the buildings that flash to the tune of Christmas music. There are tons and tons of people, but they are all pleasant. Rockefeller Center, of course, is amazing. I could go on and on. This was by far my favorite vacation.”– Angela
Designed as a replica of a German village, Frankenmuth, Michigan offers the “World’s Largest Christmas Store”, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Bronner’s has been “making spirits bright” since 1945. Here, families will find a stunning array of Christmas decorations like ornaments, trees, and lights. In fact, Bronners offers more than 6,000 ornaments! You’re sure to find a special one to commemorate your visit to one of the most magical Christmas towns for families in the United States. Plus, Frankenmuth celebrates Christmas all year round – which means you can even celebrate Christmas in July here! After visiting Bronner’s, take a horse-drawn carriage ride around town. Then, head to Crossroads Village, where kids will love riding the decorated train! Next, wander the Christkindlmarkt for traditional holiday treasures and gifts. Within the cozy, heated tents, snack on baked goods, or sip hot chocolate. Finally, enjoy a European-inspired family meal at The Station 100!
Each winter, this Bavarian-style city in Washington becomes the “Village of Lights”. Kids will be amazed by the sparkling Christmas lights around every corner of Leavenworth. In fact, there are over 50,000 lights used in the city’s magical display! Wander charming streets while marveling at old-world charm and classic German timber accents throughout this magical Christmas town for families. Then, enjoy the snow by exploring the nearby mountains and trails, where you can go downhill and Nordic skiing. Or, treat the kids to the unique experience of dog sledding! Bundle up and feel the cool air on your face as you race behind sled dogs down a wintery path. Afterward, enjoy a mug of hot cocoa while on a horse-drawn sleigh. Families can also go snow tubing, ice skating, and snowshoeing while visiting with their kids. No matter what winter activities you’re looking for, you’ll find them in Leavenworth!
What Our Families Say
“Leavenworth is a quintessential Christmas town in every way. Authentic Bavarian Christmas village and downtown, the mountains and mountain pass roads are something out of Whoville, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and Christmas lights for days!”– Angela Scolaro
Families on the East Coast will love taking a holiday getaway with kids to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Start your adventure at Live Advent Calendar, the only one of its kind in the country. This special show is sure to be a magical occasion for families! Then, visit the German-style Christmas stalls along Main Street. Here, you’ll find unique gifts and stocking stuffers for everyone on your list! Plus, kids can snack on holiday-inspired treats while you shop. Afterward, complete any remaining shopping at the local Christkindlmarkt. If you’re looking for a unique holiday experience, embark on one of the local Christmas tours offered by the museums and historic sites in town. You can even take a Christmas stroll with a certified guide outfitted in a 1700s-era Moravian dress! Afterward, rest your feet while you explore the city by horse-drawn carriage. Finally, don’t miss the city’s iconic Christmas on the plaza.
Next on our list of magical Christmas towns for families, is Midwest favorite, Chicago, Illinois. Families will littles can find dazzling holiday lights while meeting the animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Then, get into the holiday spirit at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. Every year, this family-friendly festival delights Christmas lovers of all ages with colorful light displays and performances by kid-favorites, like Mickey and Minnie Mouse. If you’re looking for outdoor ice-skating, Millennial Park even offers a chance to skate near The Bean! If you time it right, you can also hear Caroling at the Cloud Gate while in the area. Plus, don’t miss the Christkindlmarket held every season in Daley Plaza. Here, you can eat, drink, and be merry, while exploring one of the largest Christmas markets in the United States. Kids will love the Christmas Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry!
What Our Families Say
“The lights festival and parade along the Magnificent Mile, street musicians playing Christmas songs, the holiday displays in the Macy’s windows on State Street…The Christkindlmarket, set up in Daley Plaza, is a wonderland of lights and tastes and smells. The giant Christmas tree is a beautiful backdrop, and the air almost tastes like hot mulled wine and spiced nuts...The Museum of Science and Industry has an incredible display of Christmas trees from around the world. For some reason, there is something extra gratifying about bustling through the busy, chilly downtown streets and stepping into a deliciously warm shop or restaurant during a Chicago winter, and driving along Lakeshore Drive, Lake Michigan is beautifully cold and icy, while the city’s skyline is dressed up with red and green lit skyscrapers.”– Erica Hayen
Are you looking for a magical Christmas town where the whole city participates in decorating? Then, Branson, Missouri is a must for your next holiday family vacation! Find live shows, shopping, dazzling light displays, and more in this Midwest city. Nearby, Silver Dollar City, an amusement park, offers 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, live holiday shows, and a holiday parade that is sure to put everyone in a festive mood. From Branson, take in the snow-capped Ozark Mountains aboard the Polar Express. Enjoy a visit from Santa, as well as other live reenactments, while taking this scenic ride. Branson also offers self-driving Christmas light tours, like the Let There Be Lights drive, which are ideal for families concerned about COVID-19. Then, take a 3-hour drive to enjoy another holiday favorite, St. Charles, Missouri. Here, you’ll find magical parades filled with music, lights, and actors in Yuletide garb.
What Our Families Say
“The lights display at Silver Dollar City outdoes Disney!!! Lots of other drive-thru light displays, a holiday parade, and a large tree, and a nice water show on the landing. The Santa breakfast on the Branson Belle is also lots of fun for kids.”– Jacie Steinkamp Tubbs
Families looking for a warm-weather holiday getaway with kids will love Grapevine, Texas! The Christmas Capital of Texas offers a number of holiday favorites for families. In fact, they offer 40 days of Christmas events! In Grapevine, you’ll find dazzling Christmas light displays, huge decorations, and much more. Firstly, go on an Elf Adventure, where your family can explore historic Grapevine. Kids can even decorate a special wooden train at this event. Then, get your seasonal jammies ready and take the North Pole Express. Presented by the local Great Wolf Lodge, this magical ride will make your kiddo’s Christmas dreams come true. Afterward, shop along the historic Main Street for unique gifts and stocking stuffers. Finally, don’t miss a show at the Historic Palace Theater. Find everything from holiday concerts to iconic Christmas films there. You won’t want to miss It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen!
“Grapevine is the Christmas Capitol of Texas – and for good reason. The perfect evening can be spent walking through their charming and historic downtown, admiring the fantastic light displays, catching a classic Christmas movie at the Historic Palace Theater, or taking a holiday train ride. Grapevine truly offers something for everyone from the kids to the grandchildren and anyone in between.”– Stephanie Joyce
Freeport, Maine is next on our list of magical Christmas towns for families! This New England city is the home of L.L. Bean and hosts the Sparkle Celebration each year. Find decorating contests, a holiday market, and more family-friendly events here. The Sparkle Market offers a variety of specialty gifts and wares for holiday shoppers. Plus, be on the lookout for the Stealth Elf, who surprises jolly shoppers with gift cards to local businesses. Then, L.L. Bean also offers its annual Northern Lights Celebration. Wander Discovery Forest, which features 600 locally sourced trees decorated with twinkling lights. Kids will adore visiting Santa and his reindeer! You can also take a horse-drawn wagon ride to see holiday displays around Main Street. Afterward, head to L.L. Bean’s flagship store, which offers a magical model train display. Train lovers will delight in the display, modeled after charming New England towns.
“Freeport provides such a magical Christmas experience to share with your kids, it brings you back to exactly how you may have pictured the North Pole to look like during your own childhood! Walking on the brick sidewalks through the downtown Christmas lights, or through the tall pines wrapped in lights at L. L. Bean and stopping in the warming huts really make you feel you are visiting a winter wonderland!”– Stephanie Joyce
What better place for a holiday family vacation than Christmas Town USA! Entering their 65th year, McAdenville, North Carolina has been celebrating Christmas in style for generations. Spread cheer while enjoying the Christmas tree lighting ceremony or the yule log ceremony. Afterward, take a scenic drive around town enjoying neighborhoods lit with gleaming lights and holiday spirit. Christmas Town Lake is a must with tiny travelers! Seeing twinkling lights sparkling on the lake is truly mesmerizing. Then, complete your shopping list at local shops like Thomas Kinkade Studios. Once you’ve finished shopping, stop at Floyd and Blackies Bakery for some treats! Nearby, Asheville also hosts a number of festive events, including Christmas at the Biltmore Estate. It’s worth noting that McAdenvill is only scheduling about 25% of its typical events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families interested in the full Christmas Town USA experience should consider future years.
If you’re looking for a holiday getaway with kids in the mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a great option! Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg offers the perfect backdrop for a cozy Christmas vacation. You’ll find seasonal events from Thanksgiving to the New Year, including the Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show, Festival of Trees, and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks show – to name a few! Kids will love seeing the festive floats during the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. During the parade, families will also enjoy dancers, marching bands, and jolly characters in costume. Keep your eyes peeled for Mr. and Mrs. Clause! Then, cap off the holiday season with fireworks at the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks show. This stunning display of colors is choreographed to special music. Kids will look on with awe as the night sky becomes its own festival of lights!
What Our Families Say
“It’s hard to explain why I love Gatlinburg at Christmas. Or is it at Christmas that I love at Gatlinburg? Funny, because out of all of the holidays we celebrate, Christmas has always been my least favorite …. Until one year I decided not to stress the cooking and cleaning and presents. Instead, I decided to pack up the family and rent a cabin and celebrate with PRESENCE. Driving into Gatlinburg that Christmas Eve, I finally FELT Christmas. Restoring my spirit and filling my heart with reminders of what really matters during this season, is why I find it so magical there.”– Tonya Bobanya
True holiday magic will be found in Breckenridge, Colorado, next on our list of magical Christmas towns for families! Tucked into the Rocky Mountains, families will find snow-capped mountains and trees, in addition to festive sights and sounds. Breckinridge hosts a series of yuletide events all season long, starting with their holiday kick-off event Santas. Kids will be captivated by the hundreds of Santas racing down Main Street. Afterward, find some milk and cookies to enjoy during the official tree lighting ceremony! Or, try Ullr Fest. This Nordic-inspired event is perfect for little Vikings and features an enormous bonfire. Get outdoors and enjoy nordic skiing, dog sledding, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Finally, families can find seasonal church services, theater and musical productions, and other family-friendly events that will fill you with cheer. No matter what fills your holiday itinerary in Breckenridge, you’re sure to find time to unwind and connect!
In New Mexico, you’ll find a yuletide treasure in Taos! Spend the most magical time of the year celebrating in a truly unique way. Here, families will be enchanted by Yuletide in Taos. Kids will be mesmerized by gently falling snow on the iconic candle-lit farolitos that line streets in front of historic adobe shops and residences. Check the calendar before you book your vacation, as there are a number of festive events to choose from. The CAV Taos Holiday Market Arts and Crafts Fair feature local artists selling their pottery, jewelry, food, and more. Or, check out the Twirl Aglow Party, where kids can share their Christmas wishes with Santa while making holiday crafts in a truly magical setting. Then, the Annual Yuletide Caroling and Tree Lighting are not to be missed! This event officially kicks off the Christmas season in Taos and is sure to impress your family.
What Our Families Say
“Taos, NM hands down. The oldest Indian Pueblo in the country hosts a massive Christmas gathering which is unlike any other you might see in the big city. You can hit the slopes beforehand and the day after – and the Bavarian restaurant on the mountain is wonderful and has a fantastic Christmas meal. Highly recommended for anyone who loves to ski!”– Michelle Kelner
Happy Magical Travels!
We are sure you found a perfect holiday getaway with kids within the 12 Magical Christmas Towns in the U.S. for Families! From Maine to New Mexico, families will love treating their kids to a holiday family vacation. There is no better gift than time together! Create new holiday traditions by exploring snow or sun this Christmas. Whether you are looking for a quick road trip or a cross-country adventure, we know you’ll focus on the most important part – creating life-long family memories together!
Thank You to Our Community!
A special thank you to the Families Love Travel Facebook community for helping compile this list of the 12 Magical Christmas Towns in the U.S. for Families! As always, this article would not have been as magical or as insightful without their collective travel wisdom. They are a group of amazing families who love adventure and exploring through travel. Are you looking to take a holiday getaway with kids? Join the Facebook community and the Instagram community (@families.love.travel) to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer, whether by air, train, or RV. It’s also a safe place to ask questions and gather travel-related information specific to families.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the activities on this list may also be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.