Where to Go for the Holidays in 2018
While many travelers go home for the holidays, a number of us Jetsetters plan Christmas getaways, either to escape the cold or to embrace it. If you’re looking for some inspiration to pack a suitcase and head out, we’ve got eight great places across North America that are perfect for a holiday escape. Here's where to travel in December.
Stefanie is a New York–based writer and editor covering travel, architecture and design, art, science, history, and more. She's worked on staff at Architectural Digest, ARTnews, and Oyster.com, and has contributed to Condé Nast Traveler, Popular Science, History.com, and Mental Floss, among others.
San Diego, CA
Thoughts of the holidays might typically conjure images of snow-dusted evergreen trees, but there’s something wonderful about celebrating in gloriously warm weather. Head to sunny San Diego for a Californian take on the Christmas season, where you can stroll through the well-decorated San Diego Botanic Garden. During its Garden of Lights event (December 1–23 and 26–30), sledding and horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, food trucks, and mulled wine are accompanied by nightly live entertainment—be it jazz or blues. On December 9 and 16 this year, you can also catch the 47th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, where locals sail their luxuriously decorated, well-lit boats around town. For a real retreat, book a stay at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, a 265-acre country-club-esque resort with a sprawling day spa, championship golf course, and three pools located on the edge of the city.
The vibrant red poinsettia has become a symbol of Christmas, but did you know the flower is actually an export of Mexico? Thousands of blooms are sold throughout Mexico City, which offers its own kind of cheer during the holiday season. The celebrations kick off on the third Saturday in November, when the Christmas tree in Liverpool Insurgentes is lit. After that, decorations adorn houses, shops, and the historic buildings of the city. You can shop the Christmas markets, go ice skating in the pop-up rink in the zocalo, and see the poinsettias in Xochimilco. One of our favorite hotels in Mexico City is Distrito Capital, a sleek property with mid-century modern decor and views of the Popocatépetl Volcano.
Jackson Hole, WY
Looking for a ski break? Celebrate the holidays in tony Jackson Hole. While all the halls will be decked, it’s the great outdoors that draws in most visitors. Consider taking a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge or going on a dog-sledding adventure along the area's wooded trails. When you’re ready to get warm indoors, catch the annual Christmas show at the Jackson Hole Playhouse. We’d recommend the Wort Hotel, a 55-room Victorian-style property, if you want to stay in town; for a more traditional lodge experience, Spring Creek Ranch delivers with rustic cabin studios and mountain houses on a 1,000-acre wildlife sanctuary overlooking the Grand Tetons.
Victoria, British Columbia
Often overlooked for neighboring Vancouver, the city of Victoria is an underrated gem in the Pacific Northwest. During the holiday season, the capital city hosts a wave of immersive events like parades, a seasonal market, and even haunted Christmas-themed tours. Of course, you won't have a hard time finding an ice-skating rink to cap off your winter celebrations—this is Canada, after all. To get even further into the holiday spirit, book a stay at the Fairmont Empress, the city's grand dame that hosts a number of its own festive events including fireside s'mores, stories with Mrs. Claus, and a themed afternoon tea.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
If your idea of a holiday getaway involves the beach, head south to San Juan, where you can enjoy surf and sand with a side of city culture. Christmas is an important holiday to many Puerto Ricans, so you’ll find plenty of decorations (especially in the old town) and events that last from the end of November into January. If you want to extend the holiday season, visit on January 6th—Three Kings Day—when a large celebration takes over the city. As for where to stay, channel the city's history by booking a night at Hotel El Convento, a former nunnery right in Old San Juan.
Manhattan might get most of the Christmas season glory, with its famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, ice-skating rink, and opulent window displays lining Fifth Avenue, but in-the-know holiday travelers head to Brooklyn for the real show. Residents in the Dyker Heights neighborhood decorate their homes with over-the-top decorations and tens of thousands of lights each December, drawing crowds from around the world. After taking it all in, warm up at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, a trendy spot in DUMBO whose best rooms overlook downtown Manhattan's own twinkling lights.
Williamsburg might be a destination full of history, but during the winter season, it becomes a Christmas wonderland. The town, home to iconic living history museum Colonial Williamsburg, is full of Christmas spirit with carolers roaming its cobbled streets, while the nearby Busch Gardens theme park strings more than eight million lights across its grounds—an Instagram-worthy sight. Plus, the College of William and Mary, one of the oldest universities in America, glows with its own lights and Christmas trees. To be in the heart of it all, stay at the Williamsburg Lodge, Autograph Collection, which offers an indoor pool, large spa, and free shuttle around the city's outskirts just five minutes' walk from the Historic District.
Frankenmuth feels as if it was plucked straight from Germany—in "Michigan's Little Bavaria," you'll find streets lined with charming Bavarian-style architecture, historic breweries, and locals that greet you with "Wilkommen" more often than they do "Hello"—and seems to celebrate the holidays year-round. Pop by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, branded as the largest Christmas store in the world, and the small museum dedicated to antique ornaments—both of which are open through the seasons. During the holidays specifically, the farmers market is transformed into a traditional Christkindlmarkt—perfect for picking up those last-minute souvenirs before retreating to The Bavarian Inn Lodge, just a short walk from Main Street.
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