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The Best Family Escapes to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Family Travel Holidays

Some years, you embrace Target’s boldly premature holiday displays and happily have your Christmas cookies done by Thanksgiving. Other years, however, you can’t seem to summon the holiday spirit no matter how hard you try. If you foresee falling into the latter camp this year, we can help, as we know what it’s like to be a Grinch in a pinch. We’ve rounded up some of the best holiday escapes for your family that will have you contentedly caroling and blissfully baking like you’re Cindy Lou Who.

Branson, Missouri

Branson Missouri at Christmas

Home to the world's largest toy museum, it's no huge surprise that Branson is a hotspot for holiday hubbub. Its theme park, Silver Dollar City, transforms into a winter wonderland with more than 6 million lights and plenty of seasonal shows for the whole family to enjoy. Take the America's Christmas Tree Tour, ogle one of the many light displays, or go snow tubing at Wolfe Mountain. Consider staying at The Big Cedar Lodge resort, which is reminiscent of a gingerbread village once the lights are up through mid-January. With activities like scavenger hunts, stocking decorating, storytime with Mrs. Claus, and hot cocoa around the bonfire, this place is Christmas Central.

Asheville, North Carolina

Biltmore Estate Asheville North Carolina Christmas
Photo Courtesy of ExploreAsheville.com

If twinkle lights and gingerbread are what you think of when it comes to Christmas, a trip to Asheville will make you feel as though you've found your way into a Hallmark movie. With wondrous winter vista, festive light displays and holiday performances, this might as well be called Christmas Town. A jaunt to the Blue Ridge Mountains for Christmas at the Biltmore, an after-dark wonderland at Winter Lights at the N.C. Arboretum, and to "ooh" and "ahh" at the National Gingerbread House Competition & Display at The Omni Grove Park will complete any holiday. If you only have time for one, Christmas at the prestigious Biltmore is a must. The scent of fresh evergreen from the garlands, wreaths, and over 55 Christmas trees on the estate will stay with you forever. Continue the olfactory delights by taking in the festive blooms at the Conservatory, sip on some Christmas wine at the winery, and enjoy their holiday menu at their world-class restaurants.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Christmas Millenium Park
Photo Courtesy of Chicago.gov

Chicagoans know that there are two can't-miss times of year to brave their somewhat brutal climate - one is during the summer for a ball game and the other is just before Christmas. Yes, it is worth those frigid temps! Not only is the downtown area stunning to behold at this time of year but there is a flurry of family-friendly activities to enjoy. Whether you ice skate in Millennium Park, take in a holiday show at Goodman or Auditorium Theatre, head indoors to Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier, or do some whimsical window shopping at Macy's State Street, the Windy City will not disappoint. Kids will also love the ZooLights at the renowned Lincoln Park Zoo. Located right in the heart of the city, the Zoo is under the glow of 2.5 million lights, so if this (free!) event doesn't get you in the holiday spirit, you're out of luck. For your stay, consider booking the Snowed Inn package at the Loews Chicago Hotel, which includes a kids’ tent set up in the room, hot cocoa, and Christmas cookies!

New York City, New York

Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Certifikid

Close your eyes and picture yourself in the most "Christmasy" place your imagination can muster. Chances are, you were momentarily transported to The Big Apple, as it's hard to get more magical than the city that never sleeps. And one of the most quintessential holiday activities in NYC is going to see the Rockettes. Experience wonder like never before at the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes® presented by Chase. Radio City Music Hall® transforms into a magical winter wonderland where the sights and sounds of Christmas surround you, and the legendary Radio City Rockettes® dazzle on the Great Stage. The Rockettes aren't the only show in town, of course - this is NYC, after all. The Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker is so traditional that it basically signals the start of the holiday season. Or take the fun up, up, and away with the Hello Panda Lantern Festival at Citi Field, the largest lantern festival in North America. Find out how to save money on ALL of these Christmas favorites and more by clicking HERE.  

Moscow Ballet Nutcracker in NYC

Make it (at least!) a weekend by skating at Rockefeller Plaza, visiting one of the city’s holiday markets, and checking out 1,000-plus gingerbread houses at the New York Hall of Science. Stay at the Omni Berkshire Place, which offers lobby carolers, an edible candy-cane installation, a hot cocoa bar on Fridays, holiday-themed amenity for kids, and a welcome note from Santa. Of course, no proper trip to NYC during the holidays is complete without gazing at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the red and green lights of the Empire State Building, and the stunning window displays along 5th Avenue. If the kiddos need a break from sightseeing, savor their squeals of delight as they brave the bumps while sledding in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights.

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe Vermont Mountain Lodge

While there are plenty of holiday-themed events in Stowe, Mother Nature is what makes this place so perfect over Christmas. With the ground typically covered with a dusting of snow and the scent of pine needles wafting through the air, it doesn't get much better than this. Hit the slopes (they have a great preseason) or head out for some snowshoeing, but not before you fuel up with a Dutch Pancake at the The Grey Fox Inn & Resort. If you're lucky enough to be there from December 6th through 8th this year, you can usher in the season with a traditional Christmas in Stowe with tree lightings, a lantern parade, wagon rides, Santa and reindeer visits and carolers, candy cane pulling and wreath making, gingerbread and cookie decorating, performances, and ice skating. Events take place in the village and all along the Mountain Road. Stay at The Lodge at Spruce Peak to continue your holiday happenings. With activities to keep the whole family entertained, a world-class spa, skiing just a short walk away, and some fantastic food options, this winter wonderland is bound to bring out the holiday spirit in even the scroogiest of family members.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Hearthstone Christmas Breckenridge
Photo Courtesy of the Hearthstone in Breckenridge

This beloved ski town is transformed into a beautiful Victorian era-style Christmas town during the holidays and, with glistening snow and sparkling lights at every turn, just a simple walk through Breck can put you in the spirit. What truly kicks off the season, however, is the annual Lighting of Breckenridge and Race of the Santas, which takes place on December 7th this year. Hundreds of Saint Nicks race down Main Street with milk and cookie “aid” stations followed by caroling and the official lighting of the holiday lights in Blue River Plaza. Dine at the Hearthstone for incredible mountain views and, for lodging, peruse the top 20 AirBnB listings for a chance to get a home-like vibe while away.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

horses on Mackinac Island at Christmas

Quaint doesn't begin to adequately describe the holidays in this tiny town of only 500 residents. A short ferry ride will bring you here and also, quite frankly, back in time. People travel by horse and buggy, as motorized vehicles have been banned for the past century. At Christmas, Santa actually visits every child to get their Christmas wishes. There is also an annual island Christmas bazaar (happening this year from December 3rd through 6th) in which unique crafts and decorations filled with green, red and lots of lilac (a favorite color by the locals) colors abound. You won't find any huge hotel chains on this island, as the bed-and-breakfast type experiences are part of the charm. The saying is to go big or go home but, at Christmas time, you want to go small and come here for a magical experience. 

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
Photo Courtesy of Leavenworth Reindeer Farm

Get one view of this Bavarian village that transforms into a virtual winter wonderland, and you'll know why The A&E Network crowned Leavenworth the “Ultimate Holiday Town USA”. When you combine this Bavarian architecture with mulled wine and Christmas lights, this town set on the eastern edge of Washington's Cascade Mountains feels like it was relocated from the North Pole. Sleigh rides, winter hiking, and sledding abound, but you'll also want to visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm and attend The Christmas Lighting Festival.

Reading, Pennsylvania

Koziars Christmas Village

Reading's Koziar's Christmas Village is a dazzling winter wonderland of more than one million Christmas lights adorning buildings, gift barns, and the surrounding landscape. Celebrating 72 years of Season's Greetings, this extraordinary seasonal attraction draws visitors from all over the country. Meander through the various buildings filled with tree-trimming inspiration and indoor and outdoor Christmas displays. Enjoy freshly baked cookies and other treats in the country kitchen and browse in Santa's Toy Shoppe for unique gifts, ornaments, toys and souvenirs. Explore the various train displays and their unique train platform. It opens on Saturday, November 2nd, with weekend evening hours through Thanksgiving and then seven nights a week after Thanksgiving through January 1st. Yes! They're even open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day! Save 27% off an overnight getaway to Koziar’s Christmas Village with this CertifiKID deal. Holiday spirit all but guaranteed!

McAdenville, North Carolina

Christmas Town North Carolina
Photo Courtesy of Steve Rankin of Christmas Town USA

While Charlotte is a festive sight in and of itself, this tiny town town located just 20 minutes outside it is so invested in holiday spirit and traditions that it changes its name to Christmas Town USA come December. Talk about walking the walk! It's no wonder that more than 600,000 people flock to Christmas Town USA annually to marvel at the 265 evergreens covered with more than 500,000 holiday lights, 160 beautifully decorated homes, and a large lake surrounded by 38 lighted spruce trees. This FREE lights celebration is open to the public from November 30th through December 26th and, in the spirit of giving, you'll also be given hot chocolate and kettle corn if you're one of the first 1,000 attendees.

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

Elkhart Lake Wisconsin at Christmas

Channeling Christkindlmarket in Nuremberg, Germany, this tiny Midwestern town is home to the famed Old World Christmas Market. Kids will love the horse-drawn wagon and breakfast with Santa while parents will savor the opportunity to try traditional German schnitzel and mulled wine. In December, nearby Greenbush's Wade House Historic Site hosts Old World Christmas, another mid-19th century-style Christmas celebration filled with Christmas caroling, horse-drawn rides bedecked with jingle bells, and photos with a Victorian Santa Claus.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Photo Courtesy of JacksonHoleWy.com

Because this quaint ski town is such an epic destination for those who want access to seemingly endless winter activities, resorts in Jackson Hole take their role in spreading good cheer very seriously. They do this with room-delivered wreathes, trees, eggnog, fresh cookies, and horse-drawn carriage rides throughout the town's many properties. There are also a ton of holiday-themed family events throughout December, including meeting Santa on the slopes on Christmas Eve, skiing with Santa on Christmas Day; ornament, tree, and cookie decorating; and ice skating. The skiing is top notch, making this the perfect place for parents and littles alike.

Washington, D.C.

ice skating at Washington Harbour

You know about the monuments and embassies in D.C. and have probably even heard about the cherry blossoms in the spring, but what you might not realize is how magical our national's capital is during the holidays. The National Christmas Tree alone is worth the visit, as this free-to-enjoy conifer and light display on the White House Ellipse is surrounded by trees decorated with handmade ornaments from 56 U.S. states and territories. Nightly musical performances add to its already festive nature. At least one trip to the Downtown Holiday Market is another must. It's open daily from 12-8 p.m. from November 22nd through December 23rd, but it's the bright lights at Penn Quarter that make this so extraordinary.

Bundle up to go sub-zero for the return of ICE! at National Harbor. Okay, so it's not that cold but this stunning display of ice sculptures that plays out scenes from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is kept at a chilly 9°F. You can even gather clues and solve puzzles along the way to win a prize and help the Grinch have a change of heart with The Grinch's Wonderful Awful Idea Scavenger Hunt. Better yet, bundle those two activities together and get 25% off with this CertifiKID deal.

Make memories your kids won't soon forget by gazing at the ZooLights at the National Zoo or by searching for missing reindeer at Enchant Christmas. Of course, nothing sets the holiday tone like a night at The Washington Ballet's The Nutracker, with its historic and breathtakingly beautiful set (score 20% off tickets HERE). If you're itching to work off a meal at one of DC's many culinary delights, hit the City's largest outdoor ice rink at Washington Harbour and skate the day away with a panoramic view of the Potomac River for 50% off with this CertifiKID deal.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia Christmas
Photo Courtesy of Visit Williamsburg

Widely considered to be the birthplace of American Holidays, Williamsburg is ideal for avid historians and spirited Santa-lovers alike. Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland (select days from November 16th through January 5th) returns this season at Busch Gardens, with reindeer meet-and-greets and themed games. Littles will love the Sesame Street Forest of Fun and 1.5-mile Christmas Town Express, teens and tweens will be satisfied with skating (come on, that's all one can hope for with teens) at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion, and parents can take in a show or enjoy the many other holiday-themed events in this historic town.

In search of the perfect holiday gifts for everyone on your list? Check out our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide.


CertifiKID was founded by a mom with a passion for helping parents provide the best experiences for their children on a budget. From outings to adventures, classes to camps, theater to sporting events, amusement parks to getaways, CertifiKID provides the best family-friendly experiences at unbeatable prices. Sign up for family-friendly deals in your area and start saving!