It’s that time of year where the sky gets darker earlier, and people start to put lights on their houses, and towns begin to look a little brighter. The holidays are a special time of the year; we’ve come up with a list of places that go all out to celebrate!
Leavenworth is located to the east of the Cascade Mountains in North Central Washington. The snowy landscape’s incredible views with over half a million sparkling lights make this Bavarian-style town a must-see destination during the holidays. Here are some things you can expect to see and do on your visit to Leavenworth:
- Craft Fairs
- A parade followed by a community outdoor yule log
- Great food (Christmas themed appetizers and desserts found at many of the restaurants)
- Horse-drawn wagon tours
- Performances by carolers
- The famous Christmastime Wassail Feast: A fun, medieval-style pageant.
With many unique boutiques and galleries to choose from, Leavenworth is excellent for holiday shopping or if you want to pick up some holiday home décor for yourself.
Nutcracker. This is a two-story building filled with thousands of nutcrackers (about 7,000) from 50 different countries. You might find yourself in amazement as you view the nutcrackers and the details they hold. You can even participate in a nutcracker scavenger hunt: this is an excellent activity for the kids, but adults are welcome to join the fun too!
Reindeer Farm: Head to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, where you can pet and feed the reindeer while you learn about these cute creatures and the history of the family farm.
Christmas shows: You can find live performances from breakout solo artists as well as local high school choirs and professional choirs. You can also hear carolers as they sing throughout the streets and check out live authentic Bavarian music at the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts, where you can listen to handbell concerts, Celtic yuletide songfest, and bluegrass.
The Christmas Lighting Ceremony: When the sun sets, you’ll hear the alphorns that signal everyone to head to the Town Square for the Christmas Lighting Ceremony to witness all the lights turn on.
Christkindlmarkt: A Bavarian-style outdoor Christmas market with plenty of homemade arts and crafts, family entertainment, and German eats! This event typically takes place the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Lantern Parade: Join the fun as families carry their handcrafted glowing lanterns and follow Mr. And Mrs. Claus through the town to a Gazebo where they hold the Christkindlmarkt to welcome everyone and to kick off the holiday season!
Breweries: Check out the local breweries where the beer they brew in Leavenworth is all made from local ingredients (even the water they use is local).
Wineries: If you’re more into wine, head to the wineries and go wine tasting.
There are plenty of food options, such as The Sausage Garten. You’ll also want to check out the Gingerbread Factory Desserts: Here, there are all things gingerbread, from gingerbread houses to ice cream sandwiches with gingersnap cookies.
Front Street Park: Front Street Park has a sloping lawn that turns into a sledding hill when it snows.
Leavenworth Ski Hill: This is great for the more advanced kids to go tubing down or launch off the ski jump!
Sleigh Rides: Experience a sleigh ride through Leavenworth’s downtown area or take a ride to the local farm for some incredible views of the mountains.
Natchitoches, pronounced “Nack-a-tish,” is home to one of the country’s oldest community-based celebrations. With six weeks to celebrate the holiday season that begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the town lights up with more than 300,000 lights and over 100 displays to brighten up the streets.
Join the fun and watch the parade that starts at the Northwestern State University and goes through the Historic District. You’ll hear bands from the university and local high schools playing and see dancing groups, themed floats, costumed characters, the Christmas Belles, Miss Natchitoches, the Christmas Angels, Miss City of Lights, and Miss Merry Christmas!
Firework Shows: Expect to see an incredible firework show every Saturday from the Saturday before Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve!
Christmas Festival: Every year, artists from around the country submit their artwork in hopes of having their design become that year’s poster for the holiday event. They have become great gifts for visitors to bring home to their families. They also raise money from the posters’ sales to provide three scholarships at Northwestern State University for students in the Creative and Performing Arts program.
Christmas Festival: The big event is the Christmas Festival, which typically begins the first Saturday in December. You can expect to see a parade in the early part of the day, followed by an arts and crafts show, food vendors, live entertainment, and fireworks all along the riverfront! The festival has been ranked 3rd “Best Holiday Light Show,” right behind the Rockefeller Center and Disneyland by Yahoo! Travel.
Specialties: You can’t go to Natchitoches without trying their iconic meat pies and creamy eggnog daiquiris! You’ll also find funnel cakes, cotton candy, hamburgers, alligator, and many more options.
If you love Christmas, add Frankenmuth to your list of places to visit. This city was named one of the “9 Most Christmassy Towns in America” by TIME and is home to the world’s largest Christmas store! Even more, they celebrate Christmas all year long.
The Old Christmas Station: What once was a train depot in the 1920s is now known as the Old Christmas Station. This quaint café is filled with antique Christmas ornaments and offers an assortment of dishes. You can expect to find Swiss, Austrian, German, and French-inspired meals, but you’d be missing out if you skipped dessert. Chocolate mousse cake or Austrian apple strudel? Each dessert is made from scratch and uses the freshest ingredients.
Christkindlmarkt: A European-inspired holiday market where you can find anything from baked goods, art, holiday décor, soaps, and many other creations from the local artists, bakers, and makers! You can find this market in Frankenmuth the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland: If you need to do some Christmas shopping, you need to stop by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It’s the world’s largest Christmas store, the size of 1 and a half football fields, filled with trees, trims, and many goodies and trinkets.
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is a fabulous way to enjoy the holidays with various ways to enjoy the lighting presentation. Plus, it’s typically warmer, which makes for an even more unique holiday experience!
Nights of Lights: National Geographic ranks this town in the top ten holiday light displays in the world! You can view this event from an array of places: on the trolley or train; on the water on a 6-12 passenger boat, from above at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, go further and view St. Augustine in the Old City Helicopter, or if you’re looking for something romantic you can get cozy and enjoy an evening on a carriage tour. Guided tours are also available to view the lights while also learning the history of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine Annual Art & Craft Festival: Typically, this event is hosted on Thanksgiving Weekend, where over 100 artists can sell their art and products. You can find an array of items from paintings, to handmade jewelry, to mixed media.
Luminary Night: This event is held at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum during the Nights of Lights event. There are various holiday fun stations throughout, but most importantly, you can grab your luminary kits – the community will light up all of the luminaries together in the Nights of Lights event.
Boat Parades: Head to the Palm Valley Boat Parade to watch boats pass by covered in holiday lights along Ponte Vedra Beach! Or Head to the Holiday of Regatta of Lights to view the ships between the Bridge of Lions and Castillo de San Marcos.
The Nutcracker: Watch as the St. Augustine’s Ballet performs the Nutcracker.
Night of Pints: While Night of Lights is happening, you can partake in Night of Pints, where local breweries offer a passport-style event. Grab your list and go beer hopping as you try seasonal beers nearby!
Wine & Carriage Tour: Enjoy the views of Night of Lights with a group of loved ones in the comfort of a carriage ride while pairing it with a bottle of wine to share.
No matter what you celebrate, many communities and celebrations are held all around the world. Maybe you’ve been to some, or perhaps you’re inspired to celebrate from another country. Whatever it may be, it’s our wish that you celebrate in a way that makes you feel fulfilled.