The “most wonderful time of the year” is quickly approaching, and even though holiday celebrations might look different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, you can still find the festive spirit in destinations across the United States and the world. The best Christmas vacations offer cheerful decorations and festive events that capture the holiday spirit, all set against the backdrop of a beautiful destination. And with many ideal holiday destinations located across the country, you’re never further than a road trip from a perfect December vacation.
Wondering where you can actually travel for Christmas in 2021? From sunny shores to winter wonderland ski resorts, these are the best places to spend Christmas this year. While some destinations and hotels have released their holiday plans, these are subject to change due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, so be sure to check before planning your trip.
New York, New York
There’s truly nothing like Christmas in New York City. Seeing the city decorated with twinkling lights and impressive trees as you shop for last-minute gifts or sip hot cocoa is really an experience everyone should have at least once in their life. Beloved holiday traditions, like the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes and holiday markets, are back for the 2021 season, so it might be the perfect time to spend Christmas in the city.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Hit the slopes and enjoy the ultimate winter wonderland experience at Beaver Creek in Colorado. The season offers festive activities the whole family will enjoy — check the resort’s calendar for a full lineup of holiday events. Stay just 26 feet away from the closest chairlift at The Osprey at Beaver Creek, A RockResort, which offers luxurious accommodations and an outdoor heated pool, or book one of just 60 rooms at The Pines Lodge, A RockResort, which boasts incredible views and ski-in/ski-out access. Beaver Creek opens for the winter season on November 24 with updated health and safety procedures.
Highlands, North Carolina
If you’re looking for a charming, small-town Christmas experience that feels like it’s straight out of a Hallmark movie, head to Highlands, North Carolina, this holiday season. This picturesque town is located in the southern Appalachian Mountains, within the Nantahala National Forest, so it’s the perfect place for a cosy escape. Old Edwards Inn and Spa and Half-Mile Farm (favourite hotels among Travel + Leisure readers) offer plenty of holiday cheer with festive decor and cosy accommodations.
If you won’t have a chance to wander the charming streets of London or Munich this winter, you can get that European feel in the United States of America. Solvang is a small city in California’s Santa Ynez Valley that was founded by a group of Danes in the early 1900s. They created this adorable Danish community, now known for its Danish businesses and European architecture. Solvang typically hosts Julefest each holiday season, complete with festive events and decor — check the website for updates about this year’s celebrations. You can also choose to stay in one of the city’s beautiful boutique hotels, like The Landsby or the Winston.
A popular ski destination among East Coasters, Stowe is within driving distance of several major northeastern cities. The ski season here is slated to start on November 19, so this is an ideal place to go if you’re looking for a white Christmas (and plenty of outdoor activities). Stay at The Lodge at Spruce Peak for beautiful mountain views and the only ski-in/ski-out access in town. You can find updated information about COVID-19 measures on the Stowe website.
Head to the USA’s capital this December for the perfect combination of holiday cheer and interesting activities the whole family will enjoy. There are so many incredible things to do in DC, and many of these activities are free, so you can save for some last-minute Christmas shopping. Head to one of the renowned Smithsonian museums to escape the cold weather, bundle up and visit the National Zoo, or walk along the National Mall and enjoy the holiday decorations (hot cocoa in hand, of course). When it comes to accommodations, opt to stay at The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown for easy access to the city’s most charming neighbourhood.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is a great place to visit at any time of year. In fact, it was ranked the number two city in the United States in T+L’s 2021 World’s Best Awards. Loved for its culture, food scene, and picturesque setting, the city typically also hosts a number of holiday events throughout December, although these are subject to change due to the pandemic. You can even find nearby winter sports at Ski Santa Fe — the tentative dates for the 2021-2022 season are November 25 to April 3. As for a hotel, stay at the nearby Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, which offers a range of festive amenities, or spend the night on the historic Santa Fe Plaza when you book a room at La Fonda on the Plaza.
London, United Kingdom
There’s just something magical about spending the holidays in London. Between the glittering lights, holiday markets themed pop-up bars, and ice skating outside the Natural History Museum, the city really comes alive during the holiday season. Stay at The Lanesborough, London for a truly festive experience — the luxurious hotel has beautiful holiday decorations, a festive afternoon tea in collaboration with popular Peggy Porschen, and even private, in-suite shopping from Harvey Nichols.
Why not spend the holidays in Santa Claus’s hometown? Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, is home to Santa Claus Village and SantaPark, where you’ll find the man himself plus reindeer and more festive activities. During the winter, the arctic landscapes are covered in snow, and you’ll even have a chance to spot the northern lights. There are several hotels with famous glass igloos accommodations, offering stunning views of the northern lights from your own room.
Source: Travel and Leisure India