Activities

Visit these Towns for Holiday Parades and Events You Don’t Want to Miss

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If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit this time of year, there’s no better way than to utterly immerse yourself in twinkling lights, festive festivals, merry parades, and jolly decor. Across the U.S., there’s no shortage of Christmas pageantry, but beyond the obvious big cities, smaller towns and underrated cities offer their own destination-worthy events. From a skyscraping Christmas tree in Oklahoma to The Nutcracker in North Dakota, here are some of the best towns to visit for Christmas festivities this year.

Enid, Oklahoma

The North Pole has got nothing on Enid. The ninth largest city in Oklahoma might be small in size, but it makes up for it by boasting the tallest fresh-cut Christmas tree in the world, clocking in at a whopping 140 feet. It’s the centerpiece of the annual holiday celebration, The One, which takes place along Main Street downtown through January 6. The free-to-attend events take place daily through Christmas, including children’s choir performances, craft expos, live radio plays of It’s a Wonderful Life, storybook time with Santa, and community caroling.

Rockland, Maine

Have you ever gazed at a Christmas tree and wondered what it would look like if it was made of lobster traps? If so, you need to pay a Christmastime visit to the coastal Maine town of Rockland, home to the world’s largest Christmas tree made entirely of local lobster traps. This one-of-a-kind oddity is classic Maine for the holidays, with a soaring 40-foot-tall stack of traps lit up in all the requisite decor, including 600 feet of garland. It’s the centerpiece of the town’s attractions, which also sees Main Street lit up with decorations and area storefronts getting in on the fun with bedazzled windows, including some selling Maine-appropriate lobster tree trap ornaments. Also, always be on the lookout for periodic Santa appearances, because he’s known to make the rounds throughout December.

Fargo, North Dakota

It may not be the North Pole, but North Dakota is close enough, especially when it’s as festive as Fargo this time of year. Not only will the northern state surely be snowy enough to conjure those picturesque winter wonderland vibes, but Fargo’s events are certain to put you in the mood as well with the pop-up holiday installation at the Jasper Hotel (get a holiday drink from the beautiful Rosewild restaurant while you’re there and get a discount code for a ride on The Northern Express at Rustic Oaks), marvel at the 70+ drive-thru holiday lights displays at Lindenwood Park, see The Nutcracker at NDSU Festival Hall (December 17-19), embark on sleigh rides at M.B. Johnson Park, and say hi to Santa and his elves at Santa Village, running through December 23 at Rheault Farm.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona may not be as snowy or as wintery as, say, Fargo, but this zen Arizona town has no shortage of Christmas magic this time of year. What it lacks in soaring evergreen trees or lobster traps, it more than makes up for with desert cacti, picture-perfect red rocks, lustrous piñon trees, and all the holiday relaxation you could dream of at any number of charming resorts, spas, and of course, Sedona’s famed vortexes. Simply basking in the Sedona glow is enough cheer for the season, but the town also hosts seasonal events like The Magical Christmas Journey, a train ride along the Verde Canyon Railroad to the North Pole, where kids and families will get to see a live bald eagle, a princess, and of Santa himself, who boards the train and gives every child a small gift. Also, be sure to check out a performance from the Manhattan Dolls, a vocal trio belting out Christmas tunes at the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village December 17, then return to the same venue the next day for the Holiday Sweet Stroll. The sweet event features carolers, Santa, boutique shops offering candy, and event occasionally Grinch sightings.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

From Christmas forests and Santa sightings to holiday tea and Victorian homes bedecked with baubles, the Christmas joy is alive and well in the postcard-perfect Ozarks town of Eureka Springs. The family-friendly events are myriad, including the luminous drive-through lights display at the Great Passion Play, ugly sweater contests, “living windows” at various storefronts, wherein Christmas characters make appearances in windows, and the Christmas Forest on the east lawn of the Crescent Hotel. The historic hotel is a mainstay for Eureka Springs’ yuletide splendor, also offering marshmallow roasts, cookies for guests at bedtime, a gingerbread house, and storytelling with Mrs. Claus. Throw yourself a tea party with Teddy Bear Tea on December 19 in the Crystal Dining Room. Perfect for kids and adults alike, the quaint affair features tea and hot cocoa, and all are welcome to bring their favorite Teddy Bear to join.

Andalusia, Alabama

The forecast may not scream “Winter Wonderland,” but the merriment (and the artificial snow and ice) is off the charts in this pastoral little town in southern Alabama, a quick drive north of Florida. The town is revered for its annual “Christmas in Candyland” series, a joyous spree of family fun held on every December weekend in historic Court Square and at Springdale on Ice. With all the snow tubing, ice skating, Christmas lights, live music, play cottages, and “snow shows,” you’d think you were on the North Pole, not the Gulf Coast.

Grapevine, Texas

Apparently a Dallas suburb is the “Christmas Capital of Texas.” That’s a pretty bold claim from the small city of Grapevine, but the town earns its moniker with more than one million lights and 40 days of Christmas-themed events each year, from classic Christmas movie screenings at the Historic Palace Theatre and “Snowland” at the Great Wolf Lodge to epic ice carvings at the Gaylord Texan and “Christmas Wine Train” rides on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad during the holiday season. Kids can get in on their own train fun aboard the North Pole Express — pajamas are encouraged as they embark on an enchanting journey to the North Pole. kids, check out the “North Pole Express,” held on the same railroad.

Macon, Georgia

Located in the heart of Georgia, an easy drive south of Atlanta, Macon is the quintessential Southern charmer that really takes its Christmas duties seriously. Every holiday season, the town erupts with half a million lights set to the tunes of holiday music from the Macon Pops, taking place nightly through January 2. Get a peak for yourself from anywhere on the Macon Merry Cam, which shows prime views of the downtown merriment online, until you can stroll through the festive decor yourself, picking up gifts at boutiques and enjoying a seasonally appropriate turkey burger with smoked gouda and dried cranberries at Ocmulgee Brewpub. Other Christmas events to look for include The Nutcracker performances at the Grand Opera House, holiday luncheons at the iconic Hay House, and ice skating at the Macon Centreplex.

Christmas, Florida

With a name like Christmas, this small town in central Florida is a merry destination any time of year, but it’s especially apt during the holidays, for obvious reasons. It gets its name from Fort Christmas, built in the Second Seminole War when U.S. soldiers began construction on Christmas Day. Today, it’s a tiny town east of Orlando, with a population of about 1,000, meaning it’s mostly a quirky day trip for travelers looking for Christmas decor, to stroll along cute streets like Cupid Avenue or Rudolph Street, or Santa sightings at the enormous post office. Fittingly, the town of Christmas also boasts its own humungous — and year round — Christmas tree, and decorations on all the telephone poles.


Born and raised in New Hampshire, Matt Kirouac grew up with a love for camping and the outdoors. Though he’s lived in Chicago since 2006, he’s always on the lookout for new adventures. He writes about travel and food for outlets like TripExpert, Money Inc, Upventur, DiningOut, Food Fanatics magazine, Plate Magazine and Zagat, and he currently serves as Chicago editor for What Should We Do?! He’s the author of The Hunt Guides: Chicago (2016) and Unique Eats & Eateries of Chicago (2017).


From a skyscraping Christmas tree in Oklahoma to The Nutcracker in North Dakota, here are some of the best towns to visit for Christmas festivities this year.