5 U.S. cities that shine bright for Xmas getaways

With its National Christmas Tree. Washington Harbour Ice Rink, and ZooLights, the nation’s capital is a magical Christmas destination.  Hower, for those DMVers looking for a change of holiday scenery, we have five bright and shiny options:


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Chicago’s Magnificent Mile (Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago)

Millions of twinkling holiday lights along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile set the stage each year for the city’s Christmas season.  Checking them out is a must along with the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum.  Christmas trees fans will also want to visit Millennium Park, Museum of Science and Industry, 900 North Michigan Shops, and The Walnut Room restaurant at the Macy’s State Street (BTW — don’t miss The Great Tree buffet available during lunch and dinner).  Other popular draws are the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza and the Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles
Moonlight Forest (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden)

As the entertainment capital of the world, its should come as no surprise that Los Angeles puts on a great showing for Christmas.  Its many over the top light displays include the Moonlight Forest at The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Grand Park’s Winter Glow in Downtown Los Angeles, and Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, and LA Zoo Lights. The city also loves its ice skating with multiple rinks in and around the city. Among the most popular are the Holiday Ice Rink Pershing Square and the LA Kings Holiday Ice outdoor rink at L.A. Live. Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Grinchmas holiday experiences at Universal Studios Hollywood are also not to be missed.

New York City

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (Photo courtesy of NYC & Company)

Rockefeller Center displayed its first official Christmas tree in 1933, and since that time it has become the centerpiece of New York City’s holiday celebration. In addition to the tree, visitors flock annually to skate on The Rink and the see The Radio City Rockettes.  Another Big Apple tradition is to see the many elaborate window displays at retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue.  Visits also have the opportunity to visit long running Christmas markets such as the Winter Village at Bryant Park. Union Square Holiday Market, and Columbus City Holiday Market (BTW – don’t forget a nearby carriage ride through Central Park).


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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (Photo by Kent Phillips/Disney)

Every holiday season, Orlando’s world-famous theme parks dazzle with jubilant cheer along with miles of garland and twinkling lights.  Of course, Disney leads the pack with holiday events throughout its many parks including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on select nights at Magic Kingdom. Universal Orlando Resort also celebrates the holiday season at both its parks with special experiences including Christmas at Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of Dr. Seuss’s classic holiday tale. At SeaWorld visits find over three millions lights, a holiday parade, and seasonal shows. Beyond the theme parks, the City of Orlando’s Christmas tree at Lake Eola Park and free to visit comes alive with synchronized light and music.


CitySkate Holiday Ice Rink (Photo courtesy of  VisitPhoenix)

Phoenix is proof that you don’t need frigid winter weather to get in the spirit of the season. The capital of Arizona and its surround metropolitan area embrace Christmas with great zest.  A signature experience is CitySkate, an outdoor ice rink in downtown Phoenix that includes a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the rink and frequent appearances by Santa.  There are also multiple massive light displays including ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo, Lights of the World at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden, World of Illumination show in Temple, and Glendale Glitters in historic downtown Glendale.  Offering a very unique take on the holidays is Butterfly Wonderland’s Christmas in the Rainforest that combines festive holiday elements with thousands of colorful butterflies from around the world in the largest glass conservatory in the country.

* Visitors to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Orlando, should consider purchasing a CityPASS, providing admission to the most famous and popular attractions in each city and are priced up to 50% less than the combined regular price of admissions.







Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

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