The holiday season has long been my favourite time of the year to travel. Fifteen years ago we started giving our family the gift of travel for Christmas and we had travelled every Christmas break since until 2020. We’re planning to stay home this year for the first time in many years so instead I’m dreaming about where we can go when holiday travel is safe again.
These 10 fun and festive places are on my bucket list of Christmas travel destinations. I have previously visited a couple of them during the holiday season and plan to again while the others have been on my wish list for some time. If you’re looking for the best Christmas getaway then you can’t go wrong with any one of these!
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1. London, England
We have visited London with kids several times but I have been dreaming of travelling to the city during the holiday season for years. I have read quite a few Christmas books set in London so I can easily imagine myself strolling through the city visiting the Christmas markets, admiring the lights and holiday displays, enjoying an afternoon tea and skating (or watching the skaters) outdoors at Somerset House.
A visit to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London to see Hogwarts in the Snow would likely be on the itinerary as well and, of course, at least a couple of West End shows!
Check out Visit London’s list of 101 Christmas things to do in London
2. Vienna, Austria
We visited Vienna on a spring break trip to Europe a couple of years ago and I decided then that it must be one of the most beautiful places to spend Christmas in Europe. I can imagine strolling Vienna’s grand streets to admire the glittering lights, shopping at the city’s traditional Christmas markets while sipping mulled wine (glühwein) and eating roasted chestnuts and then warming up in a cozy cafe with a coffee and slice of Sacher-Torte.
Posing for Christmas photos at Belvedere Palace and Schönbrunn Palace and enjoying an advent concert at St. Stephen’s Cathedral would round out the perfect European Christmas holiday.
3. New York City, USA
Having visited New York City during the holiday season several times, I can honestly say that it’s one of my favourite times of year in the city despite the crowds. There’s a festive spirit and seasonal magic that’s in the air in New York at Christmas that just makes it all the more beautiful!
Walking the streets of Manhattan to admire the holiday windows, taking photos with the famous Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree, browsing the Christmas market stalls in Bryant Park, and attending a performance of the Rockette’s Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall – there’s nothing quite like NYC during the holidays!
4. Banff & Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
A Christmas escape to Banff and/or Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies is ideal for anyone who is dreaming of a white Christmas. Holiday activities in the snowy mountains include shopping in Banff Village, horse-drawn sleigh rides, hitting the slopes, dog sled tours and skating on picture-postcard Lake Louise.
A Christmas getaway to this winter wonderland should be on your bucket list whether or not you ski – there’s plenty to keep you busy and enjoying a true Canadian winter outdoors!
Check out Banff & Lake Louise Tourism for information on Christmas in Banff National Park
5. Finnish Lapland
if you have kids or if you’re young at heart then a visit to Santa Claus Village in Finnish Lapland should be on your Christmas travel wish list. Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi near the Arctic Circle is open every day of the year but a visit during the holiday season is extra special.
In addition to meeting Santa Claus himself, you can also enjoy a variety of fun winter activities in the region including Northern Lights safaris, reindeer rides, and dog sledding.
Learn more at the Santa Claus Village website
6. European Christmas Market River Cruise
Visiting European Christmas markets has been on my wish list for a very long time and a river cruise seems like the ideal way to explore a few on one trip. On a Christmas market cruise you can visit several charming traditional markets and enjoy the lights and decorations, tasty freshly baked holiday treats, strolling carolers and shopping for unique ornaments and gifts before heading back to the ship to partake in onboard festivities.
The hardest part for me would be choosing among the various Christmas itineraries that include cruises along the Elbe, the Rhine or the Danube with stops in Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, France and Switzerland. Perhaps I’ll have to check this vacation off my Christmas bucket list more than once!
7. Québec City, Canada
Do you love the idea of a European Christmas but think it’s too far to travel for the holidays? Well you can get that old world charm in Québec City which is one of the most magical places in the world to visit during the Christmas season.
There will almost certainly be snow in the air or on the ground as you stroll Rue du Petit Champlain in Old Québec enjoying the festive atmosphere in what could easily be the setting of a Hallmark Christmas movie.
If you’re looking for some active things to do then the Place d’Youville rink by the Saint-Jean gate to the walled old town is one of the most beautiful places you will ever skate and the Dufferin Terrace slide by Château Frontenac is both thrilling and unforgettable. Book a room at the château for your getaway and you will feel like a Christmas princess!
Check out Québec City’s Christmas Guide for more information
8. Christmas in Hawaii
Although I can appreciate the beauty of a fresh snowfall, the idea of escaping the cold for a Christmas beach holiday definitely appeals to me! We visited Hawaii on our summer vacation several years ago and the islands are at the top of my wish list for a Christmas beach getaway.
There are a variety of festive events taking place during the holiday season but it’s the thought of building sand castles at the beach instead of shoveling snow in the driveway that makes Hawaii a dream Christmas getaway for me!
9. Disney World, Florida
It’s true that Disney World is very crowded during the holiday season but it’s also one of the most magical times of the year for families to visit. Disney goes all out for the holidays decorating the resort hotels (including an incredible 16 foot tall gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian) and transforming the parks into winter wonderlands. It even snows on Main Street U.S.A.!
Christmas parades and entertainment, characters attired in holiday costumes and festive treats make a vacation at Disney World a Christmas dream come true.
10. Edinburgh for New Year’s
If you’re looking for a unique way to ring in the new year then visit Edinburgh for Christmas and stay for the Hogmanay celebration. Hogmanay, which has origins in the Vikings’ late December celebrations of the winter solstice, is now a three day event that includes a torchlight parade down the Royal Mile, a massive street party and midnight fireworks on the castle ramparts. You’ll not find a New Year’s celebration like it anywhere else in the world!
Read Hogmanay & New Year in Scotland on the Visit Scotland website to learn more about this unique celebration
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