Things to Do in December

See Christmas Eve bonfires in New Orleans and Santa’s house in Alaska. Plus, embark on a Hobbit tour in New Zealand. The month of holiday cheer just got a little more cheery and adventurous.

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Jeff Hitchcock, flickr

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Royal Caribbean International

Photo By: Erik Tomasson

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Rosie Rosenberger, flickr

Photo By: Thinkstock

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

Photo By: Christmas Village in Philadelphia

Photo By: Chicago's Polar Adventure Days

National Christmas Tree

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.

San Antonio River Walk

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

Hobbit Tour

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.

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. 

Caribbean Cruise: Early December

For an impromptu December getaway, set sail for the Caribbean. The first two 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.

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 two-act ballet performed by the San Francisco Ballet, which first introduced Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece to American audiences in 1944. 

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating

For the quintessential N.Y.C. 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.

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. Be sure to explore the new visitor center close to the ancient site, too.

Santa Claus House in North Pole

Just where does Santa Claus live? North Pole, Alaska, 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.” 

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, Colorado, boasts the country’s largest ski school for all skill levels. For the more seasoned skier, head to Jackson Hole, where over 90 percent of the trails fall into intermediate to expert categories.

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”)!

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.

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 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.