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En español | New York, N.Y.
Downtown, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is legendary for its ginormous Christmas tree. The Cloisters, a small monastery-like branch of the museum near the northern tip of Manhattan, offers a more subdued holiday experience and is decked from Dec. 11 to 31 with seasonal greens, flowers and candles. The suggested entry fee, including both the Cloisters and the Met, is $25, but you may pay what you can.
Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Every year since 1927, the vaulted dining hall at Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel has hosted this lavish seven-course Renaissance-era yule banquet (Yosemite's famous shutterbug, Ansel Adams, even had an annual role). This year the program runs Dec. 13 to 25. Show, dinner and a two-night hotel stay start at $1,092 for two. Pricey, yes, but just try to get that kind of dinner-show-and-room value in San Francisco or New York.
University of Pittsburgh
Dozens of classrooms in the university's soaring Cathedral of Learning are furnished year-round in the style of the world's nations: The Austrian Room looks like a Viennese palace; the English Room resembles a classroom out of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. But it gets even better from Nov. 12 to Jan. 18, when the rooms are decked in ethnic holiday decorations.
Joe Kapelewski/University of Pittsburgh
Hallandale Beach, Fla.
At Gulfstream Park, 10,000 people are expected at the 32nd annual Chasidic Chanukah music fest on Dec. 13, which is preceded by a 100-car menorah parade.
Courtesy Chanukah Festival
It's open year-round, but the house where the holiday movie classic A Christmas Story was filmed is especially memory-laden this time of year. See Ralphie's family car. See Randy's immobilizing snowsuit. And mostly, see The Old Man's leg lamp, a major award if ever there was one, glowing proudly in the front window.
Courtesy A Christmas Story House
As temps plunge into the 70s in the South, open-air rinks freeze up along the Sun Belt:
Houston. The Discovery Green Model Boat Basin (pictured), framed by office towers, gives way to ice-skaters.
Orlando, Fla. The University of Central Florida's rink also shows holiday movies (lightupucf.com).
Scottsdale, Ariz. Come in from the desert to skate at the W Scottsdale Hotel.
Houston Discovery Green/Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons
Tucked into the Missouri Ozarks, Branson celebrates Christmas with a parade, millions of lights at the Silver Dollar City theme park, and over-the-top home decorations. But no one should miss Branson’s Titanic Museum. Its grand staircase, modeled after the Titanic’s, gives a glimpse of what the holidays would have looked like had the vessel survived for a late December Atlantic crossing.
Courtesy the Titanic Museum
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Several towns lay claim to this honor, but the 160-footer in Coeur d'Alene may have the strongest claim. The tree and 40-minute boat cruises highlight the town's festivities Nov. 23 to Jan. 1.
Courtesy Coeur d'Alene
Times Square has the big ball, but only Port Clinton, Ohio, drops "Wylie," a 20-foot-long, 600-pound walleye fish.
Other notable Big Drops:
Bethlehem, Pa. — home to the company that makes Marshmallow Peeps — drops a giant illuminated, multicolored Peep.
Flagstaff, Ariz. — A giant pinecone.
Courtesy Walleye Madness at Midnight
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