Decadent December: What's Hot This Month

It's the most wonderful time of the year -- one for over-indulgence and holiday cheer! Prepare for the caloric onslaught of your favorite Christmas cookies, as well as the blinding lights.

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National Christmas Tree
National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree

Looking for ideas on where to travel in December? Kick off the month with a tour of the National Christmas Tree. Located on the White House’s South Lawn, a towering 40-foot evergreen spruce has been a seasonal fixture of the nation’s capital since 1923. 960 1280

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San Antonio River Walk

San Antonio River Walk

Keep the Christmas spirit going in San Antonio. Every December, more than a mile of the San Antonio River Walk comes alive with over 100 underwater lights, as well as LED rope lighting crossing from one side of the river to the other. 960 1280

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Hobbit Tour

Hobbit Tour

Hobbit fans, rejoice! With this month's release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Tolkien fans have a reason to follow the Hobbit trail to New Zealand. Besides being a great time to visit (December is the start of New Zealand’s summer season), the country has a Hobbit movie set tour on upper North Island. 960 1280

Jeff Hitchcock, flickr  

Ice Fishing, Colorado Style

Ice Fishing, Colorado Style

This December, put Colorado on your outdoors adventure map: Colorado's robust winters lure ice-fishing enthusiasts to gear up and head out for the thrill of the catch. Prime spots include Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a 1,550- acre reservoir, about 100 miles west of Denver. 960 1280

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Caribbean Cruise: Early December

Caribbean Cruise: Early December

For an impromptu December getaway, set sail for the Caribbean. The first 2 weeks of December are your best bet for bargain prices on cruises and hotels, before fares rise come Christmas and New Year’s. Combine your warm winter escape with cool events, like the Bahamas International Film Festival. 960 1280

Royal Caribbean International  

San Francisco Ballet's The Nutcracker

San Francisco Ballet's The Nutcracker

The holiday season wouldn’t be quite the same without catching a performance of The Nutcracker. We suggest heading to the City by the Bay to see the sparkling 2-act ballet performed by the San Francisco Ballet, which first introduced Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece to American audiences in 1944. 960 1280

Erik Tomasson  

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating

For the quintessential NYC Christmas experience, take a whirl on the ice at Rockefeller Center. The world-famous ice-skating rink at the famed commercial complex, in the heart of Manhattan, has been a fixture of Rockefeller Center since 1936. 960 1280

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Stonehenge Winter Solstice

Stonehenge Winter Solstice

Take in the winter solstice at Stonehenge. Every year, more than 5,000 people gather at the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, to mark the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. And good news in 2013: Visitors can explore a new visitor center close to the ancient site that's set to open this month. 960 1280

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Santa Claus House in North Pole

Santa Claus House in North Pole

Just where does Santa Claus live? North Pole, AK, of course. Head to this small, wintery city in the heart of Alaska to see Santa Claus House: A storefront, built in the early 1950s, it’s the spot from which the Original Letter From Santa is mailed out, proclaiming the bearer to be “on Santa’s Good List.” 960 1280

Rosie Rosenberger, flickr  

Hit the Slopes

Hit the Slopes

Hit the slopes this month at North America’s most popular ski resort. In addition to being home to more groomed terrain than any other resort in the world, Vail, CO, boasts the country’s largest ski school for all skill levels. For the more seasoned skier, head to Jackson Hole, where over 90% of the trails fall into intermediate to expert categories. 960 1280

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NOLA Christmas Bonfires

NOLA Christmas Bonfires

Add a little spice to the holiday season with a trip to The Big Easy. Come Christmas Eve, dozens of bonfires light up along the Mississippi River levee to make way for Papa Noel, as locals in bayou country call Santa. Arrive by 7 p.m. to watch the fiery feu de joie (“fires of joy”)! 960 1280

Douglas and Charlene Guilliams of Baton Rouge, LA: A Father and Daughter Photography Team  

Christmas Village in Philadelphia

Christmas Village in Philadelphia

Come December, the City of Brotherly Love transforms itself into a Christmas Village. This annual holiday market in Philadelphia’s LOVE Park features traditional German Christmas market items, displayed by more than 60 vendors in decorated booths and tents. Get your fill of holiday goodies like gingerbread cookies and mulled wine. 960 1280

Christmas Village in Philadelphia  

Chicago's Polar Adventure Days

Chicago's Polar Adventure Days

Learn dog sledding in … Chicago? Yep, for outdoor winter adventure, head to the Windy City’s Northerly Island, site of the 9th annual Polar Adventure Days. Beginning in early December, the family-friendly event includes a toddler zone with outdoor “ice fishing,” an REI winter activity station and a dog-sledding demo with huskies. 960 1280

Chicago's Polar Adventure Days  

World Bodypainting Festival
World Bodypainting Festival

World Bodypainting Festival

Since 1998, Carinthia, Austria, has hosted the colorful World Bodypainting Festival. Artists from more than 40 different nations do their best to stun, entertain and win the title of “World’s Best Bodypainter.” In addition to workshops and demos, the 3-day festival also includes music concerts, a Runway & Body Art Fashion Show and fireworks synchronized to music. 960 1280

Mathias Kniepeiss/Getty Images  

Queenstown Winter Festival

Queenstown Winter Festival

More than 45,000 people flock to Queenstown, New Zealand, for perhaps the biggest winter celebration in the southern hemisphere -- the Queenstown Winter Festival. Since 1975, this gold mining camp, turned sophisticated city, comes alive during balmy, but cool temps (44°F - 46°F) in June. The 10-day celebration of winter has more than 75 events, including ski races, ski jumping, colorful parades and exhibitions. 960 1280

Reuters  

Gay Pride Month

Gay Pride Month

June is Gay Pride Month. Make a trip out of the annual LGBT celebration and travel to World Gay Pride, held in a different location every year like Rome, London and Toronto. Head to San Francisco for the largest Pride festival and parade in the US, or save your money and pack your bags for Sao Paulo, which hosts the largest Gay Pride celebration in the world. 960 1280

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Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic

Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic

Soar to new heights in California’s beautiful Wine Country. The Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic draws thousands of people to this 2-day event in Windsor, CA. On Saturday and Sunday, set your alarm clock early to make sure you’re awake to catch approximately 30 colorful balloons launch around 6:30am. 960 1280

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Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago is the place to visit in June, especially if you’re a fan of the blues. The Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues music festival in the world. During 3 days, more than 500,000 people converge on Grant Park to hear well-renown performers like B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, KoKo Taylor and Otis Rush (pictured) perform on the festival’s 5 stages. 960 1280

by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images  

Dragon Boat Races

Dragon Boat Races

Visit Hong Kong to experience the excitement of the Duanwu Festival, celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. The Festival includes dragon boat races in Aberdeen -- one of the first places to host these races in Hong Kong. Fishermen believe that rowing dragon boats during the Duanwu Festival will bring them luck. 960 1280

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Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

From indie rock to reggae, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, TN, draws thousands of fans to hear notable acts like Bob Dylan, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Tool, The Beach Boys and The White Stripes. During this 4-day music festival, bands, rappers, musicians and singers perform from around noon until 4am or later at Great Stage Park, which is located on a 700-acre farm. 960 1280

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic  

Midsummer Festival

Midsummer Festival

Apart from Christmas, the Midsummer Festival is the most important holiday on the Swedish calendar. Flowers in your hair, dancing around a maypole, singing songs while drinking schnapps and eating pickled herring is all part of this special celebration. We recommend visiting Leksand to experience the largest midsummer festival in Sweden. 960 1280

Reuters/Bob Strong  

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Explore the incredible Inca ruins of Peru’s Machu Picchu, often called “Lost city of the Incas.” Take an adventurous climb to see the Temple of Condor and Sun Gate -- the end point for the Inca Trail. Visit in June to take advantage of the dry season and to avoid the heavy crowds in July and August. 960 1280

iStockPhoto  

Father's Day

Father's Day

Don’t forget about Dad this month. Spend some extra time with your father figure by planning a trip to go fly fishing, rock climbing or skydiving. For a getaway minus the adrenaline-pumping thrills, we have a few Father’s Day travel ideas like a brewery tour in Portland, OR, or game of golf in Myrtle Beach, SC. 960 1280

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Glastonbury Music Festival

Glastonbury Music Festival

Since 1970, music fans and art lovers have swarmed to Pilton, Somerset, England, to attend the Glastonbury Festival. Only 1,500 people attended the first festival, and today more than 170,000 people flock to Worthy Farm -- owned by festival organizer Michael Eavis -- to hear leading pop and rock artists as well as other forms of art, including dance, comedy, theater, circus and cabaret. 960 1280

Jim Dyson/Getty Images  

Gettysburg Fest

Gettysburg Fest

The Battle of Gettysburg -- the bloodiest battle in American history -- is known as the turning point in the American Civil War. Today, locals and tourists don’t have to be history buffs to enjoy the annual Gettysburg Fest. This 5-day festival has more than 50 live performances on 7 stages, 7 art shows, culinary experiences, movie premieres and more. Over the past 6 years, more than 3,000 artists, musicians and performers --The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, blues artist Robert Cray and world-renowned guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli -- have been featured at the festival. 960 1280

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Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice

June marks the official start of summer, and what better way to welcome the Summer Solstice than by joining thousands of people at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. It’s not uncommon for groups to celebrate by performing impromptu ceremonies that include samba bands and drummers. No amplified music is allowed here. 960 1280

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Wimbledon Tennis Championships

Wimbledon Tennis Championships

Arguably the most famous tennis tournament in the world, the Wimbledon Championships have been played since 1877. Starting towards the end of June and lasting approximately 2 weeks, or until all events are complete, tickets for Wimbledon are always in fierce demand, especially with pro tennis players like Andy Murray competing. 960 1280

Julian Finney/Getty Images  

Santorini Caldera Lagoon, Greek Islands
Santorini Caldera Lagoon, Greek Islands

Santorini Caldera Lagoon, Greek Islands

I would gift my mother the $10,000, no hesitation. My mother went to Greece a very long time ago for a very short time — a few hours on a layover. Now that she’s a single mother and grandmother, I would accompany her back to Greece and hit all the must-see, off-the-beaten-path spots, including a stop at world-famous chef Lefteris Lazarou’s Varoulko restaurant in Athens. We’ll bypass the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum (she’s seen them) and board a 100-foot, 2-masted schooner to sail to the beautiful islands of Hydra, Santorini, Mykonos and Naxos, which is said to be the hometown of none other than Zeus, king of all the Greek gods. – Rani Robinson, Managing Producer

Enter to win $10,000 in cash to pay for your next trip!
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Pailon Del Diablo Waterfall, Ecuador

Pailon Del Diablo Waterfall, Ecuador

One of my good friends got married this year and (being the amazing woman she is) spent her honeymoon volunteering in Haiti; she also spends half her year and all her extra money working toward improving Haitian education. So she's the person I'd give a $10,000 vacation, but a typical luxe beach retreat wouldn't be her and her new hubby's style. Instead, a high-adventure hiking and biking tour through Ecuador and the Galapagos would fit this couple’s outdoorsy personalities. From enjoying the snowcapped mountain views of the Andes to seeing wildlife up close in the Galapagos, this couple would deserve every unforgettable moment. – Kathleen Rellihan, Interactive Producer 960 1280

Estivillml/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Canal Grande at sunset, Venice, Italy

Canal Grande at sunset, Venice, Italy

I would give a gift of $10,000 to my parents, no question. They both just finished helping me plan my wedding, are nearing retirement and deserve every penny. They had to cancel a trip to Italy a couple of years ago because of an unexpected medical issue. They were heartbroken, and I know they would definitely use the money to finally take their much-deserved vacation to explore Italy. A stop in Venice would be a must for my mom so she could take a ride on a gondola, while the vineyards throughout Tuscany would be calling my dad’s name (although I’m sure there would be quite a few winery visits for them on this trip). They’ve done so much for their children and family, especially over these past couple of years, and they deserve their trip to Italy, plus so much more. – Kristen Kochanski, Photo Editor 960 1280

Inge Johnsson/ AEG Fotostock/ Getty Images  

Car on winding highway, Aspen Colorado

Car on winding highway, Aspen Colorado

I’d give $10,000 to my dad so he could go on the ultimate United States road trip. He’s already camped his way from Maryland to California, but the money would go a long way to ensure he could visit all 48 contiguous states. And maybe I could persuade him to upgrade his tent for a more luxurious camping experience. – Josh Levin, Digital Operations Manager 960 1280

Seth K. Hughes/ Image Source/ Getty Images  

Downtown Beirut, Lebanon

Downtown Beirut, Lebanon

My dad would definitely be a deserving recipient of a $10,000 holiday gift for travel. He works long hours as a doctor and hardly ever gets to take a real vacation. I would send him on a trip to Lebanon, where he was born and raised. He hasn’t been back in more than 40 years, and I know it would mean a lot to him to return. With $10,000, our whole family could go and learn more about his roots, and our own. We’d explore the rebuilt city of Beirut, hike among the famous cedars of Lebanon, and meet relatives we never knew we had. My dad would especially love to visit the traditional souks (markets) and get some of his favorite authentic Arabic dishes — not to mention that oh-so-strong Lebanese coffee. – Hannah Prince, Digital Copy Editor 960 1280

Ramzihachicho/ Getty Images  

Canal in Copenhagen

Canal in Copenhagen

If I had $10,000 to give to 1 person for a trip of a lifetime, I would absolutely give that money to my wife. For years, she has talked about her time as a high school exchange student in Denmark (the food — the people — the fun!) and has never had the chance to go back. This gift would finally give her the opportunity she has waited decades for. Coincidentally, she has a surprising number of childhood friends who now live overseas. What a lucky problem to have for someone who likes to travel! With people to visit everywhere from Singapore to Prague, she could definitely put this money to good use. Oh, and let me be honest here: I selfishly hope to tag along on this European adventure! – Matt Dewhurst, Interactive Producer 960 1280

Visions Of Our Land/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images  

Costa del Sol, Malaga, Spain

Costa del Sol, Malaga, Spain

I would definitely give my mom a $10,000 gift to travel on a luxury cruise ship. She would probably feel more comfortable visiting the Caribbean, but I would encourage her to expand her travel horizons and take an all-inclusive luxury cruise around the Mediterranean that would include stops at ports of call including Lisbon, Portugal; Costa del Sol, Spain; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Portofino, Italy; and Rome. Of course, I’d drop everything to travel with her. My dream would be to whisk her away and be her guide in some of my personal favorite places, such as Paris; Barcelona, Spain; and Salvador, Brazil. She rarely takes time to pamper herself, so a little forced rest and relaxation never hurt anyone, right? And honestly, she probably deserves more than a $10,000 gift. – Kwin Mosby, Managing Producer 960 1280

Wolfgang Kaehler/ LightRocket/ Getty Images  

Wanderlust festival in O’ahu, Hawaii

Wanderlust festival in O’ahu, Hawaii

If I HAD to give someone close to me (other than myself!) $10,000 to travel with, it would definitely be my brother. A yogi, my brother works tirelessly on his craft, teaching on an everyday, almost-every-hour basis, which leaves him with hardly any money and, even worse, hardly any time to travel. That would all change with this $10,000 gift of travel. The first place that comes to mind for someone like my brother — someone who loves yoga, music and adventure sports — is Hawaii during the Wanderlust O’ahu festival. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax, be of a peaceful mind, exercise and take in all the beautiful surroundings Hawaii has to offer. – Ben Breslerman, Interactive Producer 960 1280

Amanda Bjorn for Wanderlust Festival  

Jetliner over New York

Jetliner over New York

I would give a friend a $10,000 gift to travel so that he can join me on my round-the-world adventure trip. We would begin in London and continue on to Budapest, Hungary; Nairobi, Kenya; Bali, Indonesia; Brisbane, Australia; and Honolulu, HI, before heading home. While I’ll be sitting in business class, the $10,000 isn’t enough for an equivalent ticket, so he would be sitting in economy — but that would leave enough remaining money to enjoy some quality food, hotels and booze around the world. – Arthur Hsu, Video Project Manager 960 1280

John Lund/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images  

Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany, Italy

My younger brother is getting married in December, and I'd love to gift him and his fiancée a $10,000 honeymoon in romantic Italy. Whether they choose to do a cycling tour through the Tuscan countryside, complete with wine tastings and cooking classes, marvel at the Venetian architecture aboard a luxurious water taxi, or charter a yacht on the Italian Riviera — or, better yet, all 3 — it would surely be a trip to remember. After honing their culinary skills, I'd expect they'd show their appreciation stateside with a homemade pasta dinner. – Sara Gilliam, Senior Producer 960 1280

Zoonar/ P.Jilek/ Getty Images  

Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany, Italy

My younger brother is getting married in December, and I'd love to gift him and his fiancée a $10,000 honeymoon in romantic Italy. Whether they choose to do a cycling tour through the Tuscan countryside, complete with wine tastings and cooking classes, marvel at the Venetian architecture aboard a luxurious water taxi, or charter a yacht on the Italian Riviera — or, better yet, all 3 — it would surely be a trip to remember. After honing their culinary skills, I'd expect they'd show their appreciation stateside with a homemade pasta dinner. – Sara Gilliam, Senior Producer 960 1280

Zoonar/ P.Jilek/ Getty Images