Exciting Holiday Destinations
With the holidays peeking around the corner, plenty of people abandon their stockings hung by the chimney with care for the gift of adventure, spending Christmas in destinations around the globe. Perhaps your family is seeking out holiday cheer in the most magical place on earth, or maybe a budget-conscious week under the Caribbean sun is more up your alley -- whatever jingles your bells, we've lined up holiday trips sure to satisfy. Grab your skis or sunblock, and, heck, your Mrs. Claus bikini too, and discover our top picks for most exciting holiday destinations.
Orlando, FL’s star attraction, Walt Disney World, creates more than its usual share of wonder during the Christmas season, making it one of the most popular holiday destinations for families. Holiday-centric events and activities abound, but the main shindig is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a ticketed event held from 7 p.m. to midnight on select nights in the Magic Kingdom that's chockfull of fireworks, the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, a special appearance by Santa Claus, live entertainment featuring your favorite Disney characters and complimentary cookies and hot cocoa.
Still, the Magic Kingdom's party isn't the only show in town: Epcot features the Holidays Around the World nightly candlelight processional and caroling choir, Animal Kingdom's daily parade includes a holiday theme, and millions of twinkling lights shine on the Streets of America at Disney's Hollywood Studios during the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Be prepared to face large crowds and higher prices during the peak time from Christmas to New Year’s, though travelers will be amply rewarded with Disney's seasonal charms.
Looking to completely escape the hubbub of the holidays? Try a budget-friendly beach vacation at the all-inclusive Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach in the Dominican Republic, where packages can include airfare, airport transfers, room, meals and certain alcoholic beverages. If you grow tired of lounging by one of the resort's 4 pools or under the shade of a palm tree on the white-sand beach, Viva also offers a number of activities included in your stay, such as introductory dive lessons, merengue and salsa dance classes, trapeze lessons, windsurfing and kayaking. Food is also ample; the resort's 6 restaurants include the international buffet at La Terraza, Mediterranean fare at the waterfront La Roca, and La Pizzeria, which doles out slices to hungry, late-night partiers.
Heading Down Under might not be folks' first thought when they plan to spend the holidays in a haven of Christmas cheer, but Sydney truly might be one of the most festive cities in the world. The added bonus? December in Australia is summertime. But don't be fooled by the 80-degree temperatures; Sydney spares no expense in creating a Christmas wonderland throughout the city.
Highlights include the dazzling holiday lights at Town Hall, choir performances in the streets across town, the enormous Christmas tree at Martin Place pedestrian mall, and Christmas on the Green in Hyde Park, where picnics, live music and an appearance by Santa delight youngsters and their parents. Still, the real party takes place on Christmas Day at Bondi Beach, where the Sunburnt Christmas party draws thousands of revelers to the shore's of the city's hottest beach. International DJs provide a soundtrack for a dance party, all-day beach barbecues and even a Miss Christmas Bikini contest.
New York isn't the only city that can throw a holiday extravaganza. Midwesterners already know Chicago gives any urban enclave a run for its money when it comes to dishing out oodles of Christmas cheer, and now tourists from across the globe are flocking to the Windy City come holiday season. The Christmas epicenter can be found at Daley Center Plaza's Christkindlmarket, a traditional German Christmas market filled with hundreds of vendors selling handmade ornaments and gifts, like cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers, as well as tasty German treats such as hot spiced wine and sausages and sauerkraut.
Other must-do holiday experiences include a trip to Macy's where visitors can first enjoy the opulent, animated window displays, then take in the wonder of the season with a meal under the towering 45-foot-tall Great Tree in the historic Walnut Room. Finally, make a trip to the ice rink in Millennium Park, or check out the Museum of Science and Industry's display of more than 50 decorated Christmas trees in the Christmas Around the World exhibit. If you're not on holiday overload by nightfall, take in the million-plus holiday lights gleaming along Chicago's Magnificent Mile -- magical.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
'Tis the season for ski buffs planning Christmas in Jackson Hole, WY. Visitors will get a double-dose of holiday joy at one of North America's most scenic ski destinations -- perfect powder plus a plethora of Christmas-themed events and attractions. The season kicks off at Jackson's Town Square Lighting Ceremony, where twinkling lights wrapped around trees and the square's elk antler arches are lit, Santa arrives via dogsled, Christmas carols are sung by the Jackson Hole Community Band and Jackson Hole Chorale, and cookies and hot chocolate help keep bellies full and warm.
The cozy spirit of the season is stoked at many events throughout December, including a Christmas ornament workshop, holiday chamber music concerts, a winter solstice bonfire and sleigh ride under the stars, and a Christmas Eve reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas at the village fire pit. For visitors sticking around ’til New Year’s, check out the annual torchlight parade and fireworks display at Snow King Resort, where participants ride to the top of the mountain and ski down holding flaming torches, in a brilliant display.