Want to shake things up a little this Christmas? We totally get it. Perhaps the best way to do that is to take yourself on a Christmas trip. Spending Christmas traveling can be a great way to discover a different side of your favorite vacation destinations or even a way to visit a place you never would’ve thought to check out otherwise. There are plenty of places across the US that come alive when they’re injected with the Christmas spirit. But how will you choose the best one(s)?
That’s what we’re here for. Lucky for you, in this guide, we’ve identified and outlined some of the best Christmas vacations in the USA, regardless of where you’re located. To make your trip-planning more convenient, you will also find the closest SIXT branches to each of these destinations so you can explore to your heart’s content. Let’s hit the road.
1. New York City: One of the best Christmas vacation spots for Christmas movie enthusiasts
Best for: Singles, young couples, groups of friends
Christmas vibe: vibrant and energetic
Don’t miss: Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza
While this one may seem obvious, New York City, New York, tops the list of best places to spend Christmas in the USA. New York City has a special kind of magic all year round, so just imagine what it has at Christmas.
NYC is home to everything you need to get into the Christmas spirit: chilly weather, the potential for snow (white Christmas, anyone?), markets, and plenty of Christmas lights and decorations. You’ve seen it all in the movies, now it’s time to experience it for yourself. You can even make a point of going to the filming locations, if that’s what gets you in the festive spirit.
Christmas in New York may be best suited for singles, young couples, or groups of friends, as it tends to be crowded and lively. Those wanting a vibrant and energetic Christmas should look no further. There’s plenty to do and see here at this time of year. First and foremost, you’ll want to ice skate around the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza. Don’t miss the displays in the shop windows around 5th Avenue and catch the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. There are also plenty of Christmas villages and markets dotted across the city, so be sure to pop in while you’re wandering around.
Getting around NYC can be expensive, though, so it may be best to have your rental car. Check out SIXT locations in New York City, whether you’re arriving at one of the airports or you’re already located downtown. Choose from sedans, SUVs, or luxury and electric cars the one that fits you the best.
2. Washington, D.C.: One of the most traditional American Christmas vacations
Best for: Families, patriots, history buffs, tradition lovers
Christmas vibe: traditional
Don’t miss: The National Christmas Tree
The capital city of the USA is one of the best Christmas vacation destinations in the USA for those looking for a bit of tradition mixed in with their travel. Families, patriots, history buffs, and older couples will especially love this destination. The energy of this city may seem busy and almost intimidating during the rest of the year, but at Christmas, everyone comes together to celebrate traditions spanning about 100 years.
Not only does Washington, D.C., experience the cold weather, but it’s one of the places in the US with the most Christmas trees on display during this time. The main attraction is, of course, the National Christmas Tree just south of the White House. If you can, try to attend the lighting ceremony of this tree. Artists from across the country make the ornaments, so it looks different every single year. Surrounding the tree are 56 smaller Christmas trees, meant to represent the 5 US territories, D.C. itself, and the 50 states. You’ll find yet another Christmas tree on the US Capitol’s West Lawn.
Aside from the dozens of Christmas trees present in D.C., you can also visit the Downtown Holiday Market, Ford’s Theatre (they play Christmas movies!) and the Smithsonian Museums, which usually have a Christmas program during this time of year.
Those arriving in Washington, D.C., to spend Christmas here will likely do so via one of the several airports serving the area. Once you land at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), or Dulles International Airport (IAD), it would be wise to hire a rental car to help you get around without delay. Check out all the SIXT branches in Washington to pick up yours.
3. Asheville: One of the best Christmas vacation spots and shopping destinations
Best for: Families, couples and singles alike
Christmas vibe: cozy, snow-dusted
Don’t miss: The National Gingerbread House Competiton
Asheville, North Carolina, is tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, giving it a secluded vibe that’s perfect for a cozy Christmas. Not only is the snow-dusted scenery beautiful, but the small-town vibe of this southern city will make you feel like you’re spending Christmas with your closest friends, even when you’re miles from home. All these elements combined make Asheville one of the best Christmas vacations in the USA for families, couples, and singles alike.
Being in the mountains, Asheville does experience some snow at higher altitudes, but within the city, the temperature rarely drops below freezing. That means if you’re trying to escape the winter chill, this is one of the best places to do it.
The main attraction here during the Christmas season is the Biltmore Estate. Yes, it’s grand all year round, but at Christmas, it truly shines. At the Biltmore, you’ll find 100 Christmas trees decorated with 10,000 ornaments and over 100,000 Christmas lights. The Biltmore hosts a series of events known as Candlelight Christmas Evenings, during which you can explore the extravagant mansion before heading to the winery to sample a glass beneath the Christmas decorations. The North Carolina Arboretum also puts on a Winter Lights show, and if you’re in town on the right day, you can attend the National Gingerbread House Competition.
But we mentioned holiday shopping. Not only can you buy souvenirs at the Arboretum and at the Biltmore (a bottle of Biltmore wine is a thoughtful Christmas gift), but you can also visit the holiday markets throughout the city. Asheville is known for its eclectic arts scene, so you’re sure to find some unique pieces to take home for yourself and as gifts for your loved ones.
The best way to get around Asheville is by car, especially if you plan to take any scenic drives through the Blue Ridge Mountains. SIXT in Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) is closest to Asheville and can help you make the most out of your trip. Get an SUV, or a Sedan and enjoy your time in Asheville.
4. Vail: One of the best Christmas vacation spots for winter sports enthusiasts
Best for: Families, winter sports lovers
Christmas vibe: active white Christmas
Don’t miss: Vail Ski Resort, Kris Kringle Market
If you’re traveling during winter, you may as well make the most of the best time for winter sports. Vail, Colorado, boasts world-class facilities for skiing and snowboarding. December brings the best skiing conditions in the mountains, but Vail also pulls out all the stops to get into the Christmas spirit. As a result, this is one of the best Christmas vacations in the USA for families and winter sports lovers. After all, you’re guaranteed a white Christmas in this town.
The Vail Ski Resort offers plenty of different runs for all styles and experience levels. The little ones and beginners can take lessons, while the ski and snowboard veterans can head straight to the slopes. As a bonus, the views from the ski lifts and the tops of the mountains are absolutely gorgeous. Those not interested in skiing can head to the ice-skating rinks or enjoy a sleigh ride.
After an active day on the mountain, head into Vail Village to visit the Kris Kringle Market, which features plenty of local vendors selling souvenirs, sweet treats, warm drinks, and local crafts. Don’t worry: there are heated tents located throughout the village, where you can enjoy your food and drink. Vail is known for its coffee and cocktails, so be sure to sample both.
Those arriving in Vail typically do so via plane, so you can pick up your SIXT rental car directly from the Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) and get your adventure started right away. Make sure to book your car rental online in advance, so you can make sure you will find it waiting for you when you arrive.
5. Los Angeles: One of the best warm Christmas vacation destinations
Best for: Couples, families with children
Christmas vibe: warm and adventures
Don’t miss: Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland Christmas Fantasy
Heading further west, we land in Los Angeles, California. This may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of Christmas, but it’s actually the perfect Christmas vacation destination for those looking to escape the cold. Just because you won’t see snow doesn’t mean you can’t get into the Christmas spirit.
This is perfect for couples and families with children, as many of the holiday events here happen at amusement parks such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags, and Knott’s Berry Farm. Disneyland Christmas Fantasy is a place like no other. You’ll get to see all your favorite characters dressed up for Christmas, and the entire park is adorned with Christmas lights and decorations. Knott’s Berry Farm is transformed into Knott’s Merry Farm, with annual Christmas shows and seasonal foods. The rides here are also open for 24 hours a day during this season.
On Christmas Eve, you can attend the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, during which Santa and many other floats will march down Hollywood Boulevard spreading Christmas cheer. You can also find plenty of outdoor ice-skating rinks and head to one of the many shopping centers for the Christmas tree lighting ceremonies.
Los Angeles is a spread-out city, and virtually the only way to get around all these attractions is by car. SIXT in Los Angeles, located at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or downtown, can help you out.
6. Leavenworth: One of the best Christmas vacations in the USA if you’d rather be in Europe
Best for: Couples, German Christmas vibe fans
Christmas vibe: romantic, cozy, secluded
Don’t miss: Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum and Reindeer Farm
Heading to our northernmost Christmas vacation spot, Leavenworth, Washington, is designed to emulate a traditional Bavarian village. Situated in the Washington Cascade Mountains, this town screams Hallmark movie during the winter. It’s perfect for couples looking for a romantic Christmas getaway, as Leavenworth provides a cozy and secluded atmosphere reminiscent of a German alpine town.
Leavenworth transforms itself into the Village of Lights during the Christmas season. This means they decorate all the colorful, quaint buildings downtown with more than 500,000 Christmas lights, making the city glitter and sparkle like the inside of a snow globe. The town also boasts an authentic German Christmas market, known as the Christkindlmarkt, where you can shop for local souvenirs and savor tasty local food and drink. The market also features a nightly entertainment program featuring carolers and other live performances.
Other holiday attractions in town include the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum and the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. If you’re looking for something active to do, there are also some ski slopes nearby.
Most people traveling to Leavenworth for Christmas arrive at the airport in Seattle. You will need a car to get the rest of the way to Leavenworth, so visit the SIXT branch at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to make your journey easier.
No matter what kind of Christmas you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone on this list of the best Christmas vacation spots in the USA. And these are only a few of the finest festive destinations in the country; there are so many others. So, what are you waiting for? Rent a car from SIXT and get going on your Christmas road trip vacation.