Spend any time in the USA around the Christmas holiday, and you’ll quickly see that Americans love their holiday lights and decorations. However, if you’re looking for places in the country where the decor gets especially festive, visit these towns and cities representing the best of Christmas.
While almost every season lets New York City shine in its own right, Christmas time in the Big Apple is spectacular. From the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which can measure up to 100ft (30m), to the light-festooned promenades of Brooklyn, the City That Never Sleeps glitters particularly brightly during the holidays.
While Chicago pulls out all the usual big-city stops for the holidays, decking buildings in tinsel and lights, its Christkindlmarket is what makes it extra special. Held in Daley Plaza and modeled after legendary German Christmas fairs, the market sells everything from sausages to Christmas ornaments and receives more than 1m visitors per year.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes Christmas decorations. Each December, colorful and exuberant displays line the river that runs through the city. Other attractions also get in on the festive spirit, with SeaWorld San Antonio stringing up 9m lights alone.
The best Christmas displays in Nashville are at Gaylord Opryland – a hotel near the famed country music hall, the Grand Ole Opry – where more than 3m lights deck the halls. Head downtown to see the neon signs of honky-tonk bars mingle with the holiday trimmings.
Virginia Beach is a unique Christmas locale in America; the city lines the boardwalk and beaches with Christmas lights and decorations. In winter, it’s also whale-watching season, so if you’re lucky, you might spot one along with your holiday light show.
If you think it’s hard to decorate for Christmas without veering into tacky territory, the town of Richmond, Virginia, is the place for you at the holidays. Every year, it has a Tacky Lights Tour, in which residents compete to outdo each other in garish Christmas light displays. Grab a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which provides a list of the top homes to drive by every year.
The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden pulls out all the stops for Christmas. With more than 12mi (19km) of extension cords and millions of bulbs, the gardens come to life in the River of Lights, with more than 600 sculptures. For something completely different, stroll through downtown, where streets are lined in traditional New Mexican holiday fashion, with votive candles inside paper bags.
If you’re looking for somewhere to kick off the festive holiday season, Kansas City is a safe bet. On Thanksgiving night, the Country Club Plaza holds a fireworks show before a switch is flipped, turning on the magnificent holiday lights. Also, helicopter tours are available to experience the magic of the lights from an entirely new perspective.
In the Ozark Mountains near Branson, Missouri, Silver Dollar City is an amusement park that hosts the lively Old Time Christmas festival each December. It has more than 1,000 decorated trees and 6.5m lights, along with parades every night.
To get to the best Christmas lights in Las Vegas, you’ll need to leave the Strip and head down to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There, you’ll find Glittering Lights, a 2.5mi (4km) course you can drive through to see more than 600 holiday displays decked out with lights. Alternatively, of course, visit the over-the-top Bellagio Hotel & Casino for an over-the-top Christmas tree.
As you might expect, the North Pole goes all out for Christmas. The small Alaska town hosts a Christmas in Ice festival every night for six weeks each winter, and almost everything is decorated to celebrate its most famous resident.