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Pick 5 | Places to Get in the Holiday Spirit

Photo: ExploreBranson.com

Christmas in Branson. Photo: ExploreBranson.com

Some say there’s no place like home for the holidays; others prefer to pack their bags and head out of town knowing that Santa will still find their chimney. If you are one of the latter, you are not alone – Christmas vacations are an increasingly popular trend. And whether you want to go walking in a winter wonderland or are looking for Christmas time in the city, these destinations are sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

1. Orlando, Florida
If you like your holiday destinations cold and snowy, look elsewhere. Orlando’s average December high is in the mid-70s, perfect weather to explore the theme parks. The Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, and SeaWorld® are decked out during the season and feature holiday parades, shows, lights, and visits with Santa. Outside the theme parks, the village of Winter Park celebrates the season with a boat parade, movies in the park, ice skating, and more.

Don’t miss:
On select nights, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party transforms Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The separate ticket for admission gives visitors access to a special parade, fireworks, “snow” falling on Main Street, and hot chocolate and cookies.

2. Branson, Missouri
Branson draws tourists near and far for its annual Branson Area Festival of Lights. Considered the live entertainment capital of the world, over a hundred of the town’s shows offer holiday productions. The Lights Drive-Through is a mile-long path illuminated with more than 175 displays. The Annual Adoration Parade down historic downtown Branson features more than 50 bands and floats and cowboys herding cattle decked in holiday finery. The fountain at Winter Wonder Landing at the waterfront shoots fire and water as visitors shop, dine and take in millions of Christmas lights. For a more intimate experience, snuggle with your sweetie on a horse-drawn carriage through the Ozark Mountain hills.

Don’t miss:
Theme park Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas celebrates the season right with over five million dazzling lights, a thousand decorated trees, a holiday light parade, two Broadway-style productions and a five-Story Christmas tree.

Christmas at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy Michael Daddino via Flickr.

Christmas at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy Michael Daddino via Flickr.

3 .New York City, New York
Christmas in New York is on many a bucket list and it’s easy to see why. From the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, from ice skating at Bryant Park’s Winter Village to shopping along Fifth Avenue, there is much to do throughout the city. No trip is complete without a photo in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Thirsty? Try the hot chocolate at Max Brenner in Union Square.

Don’t miss:
FAO Schwartz is the oldest and largest toy store in New York. Each morning, toy soldiers play a fanfare and a red carpet is rolled out to welcome shoppers. They’ll even give private tours before the store opens.

Salt Lake Temple. Image courtesy Zechariah Judy via Flickr.

Salt Lake Temple. Image courtesy Zechariah Judy via Flickr.

4. Salt Lake City, Utah
There are countless places to ski across the country, and the slopes around Salt Lake City are among the best. There are eight resorts all within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake, including Park City, Deer Valley, Canyons Resort, and Alta. Each has its own vibe, so pick one that fits your skiing style. Don’t ski? You can always enjoy the snowcapped mountains, gorgeous scenery, and cozy lodges.

Don’t miss:
Celebrate the holidays at the Salt Lake Festival of Lights, a celebration of events and activities throughout the city. Colorful Christmas lights, musical performances, and a three-day, family-friendly New Year’s Eve party make this a not-to-be-missed event.

Washington DC's National Christmas Tree. Image courtesy JulieLG via Flickr.

Washington DC’s National Christmas Tree. Image courtesy JulieLG via Flickr.

5. Washington, DC
Each year, the National Christmas Tree is placed on the Ellipse, a grassy area south of the White House. The tree is lit during a special concert and remains a symbol of peace throughout the season. The Pathway of Peace, 56 smaller decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, surrounds the National Christmas Tree. Volunteer musical ensembles and choirs perform nightly. If you’ve been good this year, visit Santa’s Workshop.

Don’t miss: Washington Harbour Ice Rink is larger than New York City’s Rockefeller Center rink which means plenty of skating fun. Georgetown’s idyllic fountain is transformed into a sheet of ice that especially shines at night when twinkling white snowflakes light up and the rink is bathed in light. It’s even open Christmas Day.

Are you planning on traveling this holiday season? What Christmas destinations did we miss?