Named Ozark Mountain Christmas, this Missouri town doesn’t take the holiday season lightly. Celebrations run from the beginning of November through New Year’s Day and include live music, a Christmas parade, and a living nativity. But for epic lighting, head to Silver Dollar City, an amusement park decorated with over five million lights. The park puts on a Christmas light parade each evening as floats covered in lights make their way down the street. The five-story Christmas tree, decorated with 400 ornaments and more than 350,000 lights, is choreographed to dance to music.
Inner Harbor is the place to be if you find yourself in Baltimore during December. The Christmas Village, a European market modeled after the Christkindlmarket in Germany, features over 50 vendors selling authentic European food, ornaments, and arts and crafts. Walk around the magically decorated market, warm up with a cup of hot cider, or shop for loved ones. And don’t miss the neighborhood light display along the Holly Jolly Trolley Tour, which departs twice nightly from Thursday through Sunday.
New Orleans, Louisiana
In New Orleans, festive parties and celebrations are ingrained in the culture. At City Park, the Celebration in the Oaks – a month-long light show – is one of the most awe-inspiring displays in America, with massive live oak trees and Spanish moss illuminated by hundreds of thousands of colorful lights. And should you need more holiday cheer, there’s caroling in Jackson Square, live concerts, holiday dinners, and tours of the most festively decorated houses in town.
New York City, New York
Everyone knows the Christmas display at Rockefeller Center is beyond extraordinary. Thousands of visitors from near and far travel to see this spectacle, gathering around a 70-foot-tall spruce tree as it’s illuminated for the first time. This long-standing tradition and symbol of the holiday season is watched by millions across the globe. Dyker Heights, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, also puts on crazy holiday light displays, while 5th Avenue is known for its window displays. A visit to the Union Square Holiday Market is a must for first-timers, but the American Museum of Natural History – boasting a massive tree decorated with 800 hand-made origami models – is also worthwhile.
Seattle is packed with holiday festivities. There are several places to see light displays, including Bellevue Garden d’Lights, Candy Cane Lane, Clam Lights, and Woodland Park Zoo. But there are also lavishly decorated Christmas trees on display at the Festival of Trees. There’s even a gingerbread village at the Sheraton, a holiday parade, and a tree lighting ceremony at Westlake Center Plaza (followed by the lighting of the 161-foot-tall star on the top of Macy’s and fireworks). Pacific Place hosts an indoor snow shower, and Seattle Center has ice sculpting, ice skating, live music, and miniature trains.
To kick off the holiday season, Atlanta hosts a tree lighting ceremony at Lenox Square, followed by fireworks. There are also several holiday concerts, a parade, and Christmas performances. For light extravaganzas, head to the Atlanta Botanical Garden where more than one million lights illuminate the natural surroundings, while Callaway Gardens is decorated with eight million lights. Other holiday lights can be seen at the Lighting of Atlantic Station, Festival of the SEAson at Georgia Aquarium, A Stone Mountain Christmas, Holiday in Lights at Centennial Olympic Park, and Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier Islands.