When you think of Christmas, you probably imagine twinkling lights, decorated fir trees, and festive dinners in the comfort of home. But what about sea and sand? Or historical sites and medieval markets? If you’re ready to shake up your Christmas traditions and are looking for some unique Christmas vacation ideas for your family, we can help. From domestic Christmas holiday destinations in the USA like New Orleans, Taos, and Nantucket, to international destinations like Copenhagen and Banff, here are 9 vacation ideas for this year’s Christmas with the family.
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1. Cooperstown, New York
Looking for some unique Christmas vacation ideas for the family? How about experiencing Christmas like it was in the 1800s? Cooperstown, New York, may be famous for its Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but this gorgeous village is also home to the Farmers’ Museum which is all about 19th-century farm life. The museum has a hand-carved carousel and live craft demonstrations, and at Christmas, they have a traditional Candlelight Evening. Go on a horse-pulled wagon ride or sip wassail made with local cider over bonfires. Top off your Cooperstown Christmas with the family by going sledding down Lakefront Park or enjoying the Winter Carnival.
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2. Banff National Park, Canada
If your Christmas vacation ideas are all about snowy magic, look no further than Banff. This scenic area of Canada becomes a winter wonderland at Christmas, with snowy peaks and icy blue lakes. Go ice skating or play ice hockey at Lake Louise. Or try skiing, snowshoeing or sleigh rides around the national park.
Don’t forget to stop by the Ice Bar for some mulled wine or hot chocolate for the kids… You can even make a special local treat out of maple syrup and snow. There are few Christmas holiday destinations more beautiful than Banff and you’re sure to get some gorgeous family photos you’ll cherish forever.
GET INSPIRED BY: Spectacular Canadian Rockies
3. Nantucket, Massachusetts
With sandy beaches and wharves, this little island off Cape Cod is famed as a summer destination. But fewer people know it’s also a unique Christmas holiday destination. In Nantucket, Santa doesn’t arrive on a sleigh pulled by reindeer… He arrives by boat! During the Christmas Stroll weekend, you can meet Santa at the wharf as he arrives by Coast Guard boat. Next up is a parade down the cobblestones of Main Street with carolers and more. And don’t forget to check out the Whaling Musem’s Festival of Trees, with beautiful Christmas trees designed by local artists.
GET INSPIRED BY: Boston, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
When you think of New Orleans, you probably imagine the colourful parades of Mardis Gras. But did you know that NOLA is also fantastic for Christmas family travel? It’s all about music and food in New Orleans, with plenty of events all over town. Go on a riverboat carolling cruise and enjoy the carolling in Jackson Square. Watch the dazzling parades and stop by a jazz-gospel concert in St. Louis Cathedral.
Marvel at the festive street cars, indulge in a mouthwatering Southern Christmas feast, or warm-up at the Christmas Eve bonfires on the Mississippi River. Whatever you do, NOLA is sure to serve up one of your most unique Christmas vacations yet.
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5. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is an incredible city for Christmas with the family, with medieval streets and old-world Christmas traditions. You can’t miss the Tivoli Gardens where you’ll get a true Danish Christmas experience from snow-covered fir trees and real reindeer to glittering Christmas lights and decorated wooden houses. You’ll also find magical markets selling handmade toys, decorations and festive food and drink, along with fun rides for the kids and visits with Santa.
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Once you’ve explored the Tivoli Gardens, venture out across the rest of Copenhagen. You’ll find a Renaissance-themed market at Kronborg Castle, a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale-themed market, and many more Christmas wonders.
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6. Leavenworth, Washington
If you can’t make it to Europe for your Christmas with the family, don’t worry… You can still experience a slice of Germany in the Bavarian city of Leavenworth. This gorgeous Alpine-style town is set in the Cascade Mountains, around two hours from Seattle. You’ll feel like you’ve arrived in old-world Germany at Christmas, with a traditional Christkindlmarkt, live music and concerts, and the Christmas Lighting Festival. There’s also the Village of Lights with over 500,000 lights illuminating the town from November to February.
Don’t forget the Nutcracker Museum where you’ll find thousands of nutcrackers, some hundreds of years old. There’s plenty of delicious food on offer too, with alpine buildings serving traditional German food and beer and wineries nearby the city. Stay until January, and you’ll also get to enjoy the Bavarian Ice Festival. With endless festive treasures to explore, Leavenworth promises a Christmas you’ll never forget.
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7. Hawaii, USA
If you’re looking for really unique Christmas vacation ideas for your family, why not swap the snow for sand in Hawaii? In this island paradise, you’ll find palm trees instead of fir trees covered in lights, sand sculptures instead of snowmen, surfing instead of ice skating, and Santa arrives on a canoe, not a sleigh!
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While Christmas is a little different in Hawaii, you’ll still find all the classic Christmas traditions like the 50-foot Christmas tree in Honolulu, or the concert at the Hawaii Theatre where the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra performs Christmas songs with a Hawaiian twist. Even better – December is the start of the whale watching season in Hawaii. You can spot North Pacific humpback whales migrating to the warmer waters of Hawaii to give birth to their young. What a way to spend Christmas!
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8. Williamsburg, Virginia
History and Christmas go hand-in-hand with this unique Christmas vacation idea. Colonial Williamsburg is an 18th-century American community, thought to be the world’s largest living history museum. You’ll get to see how the locals celebrated Christmas hundreds of years ago as you explore the museums and enjoy the interactive events and demonstrations.
While you’re in Williamsburg, stop by the Busch Gardens where you’ll find a Christmas train, a reindeer wonderland, and one of the largest light displays in the country. You can even catch a show or go ice skating at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion. Christmas with the family just got a whole lot more fun!
GET INSPIRED BY: Historic Highlights
9. Taos, New Mexico
Christmas in Taos lasts for weeks with a festive celebration known as Yuletide in Taos. The festivities offer up a unique blend of the city’s cultures and families love the events like the Tree Lighting ceremony, Yuletide carolling, and the Lighting of Ledoux.
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There’s also a beautiful Christmas Eve procession at Taos Pueblo where you’ll see the Process of the Virgin, plus bonfires and rifle salutes. Head to the nearby city of Santa Fe and you’ll even find some excellent ski resorts for the snow bunnies in your family.
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Do you have any unique Christmas vacation ideas? Let us know in the comments below!