En español | Suddenly, as if elves appeared overnight, towns and cities across North America are twinkling with holiday lights while adorned with boughs of holly and garlands of greens. But some towns really go wild for Christmas — making them fun places to visit with your family this season. A few longtime favorites, from Quebec to Santa Fe:
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PHOTO BY: marcduf/Getty Images
Old Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Dressed in its snowy finery, Old Quebec delivers a Christmas-card-perfect setting in December. You can browse craft shops, art galleries, local foods, clothing boutiques and more along Rue du Petit-Champlain and Place-Royale, which is bedecked with greenery, sparkling lights and bright decor. Stop for a sip of hot cider or a mug of mulled wine. Warm your hands at strategically placed fire pits with a view of the St. Lawrence Port. Stroll to the Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral and listen to roaming carolers fill the not-so-silent night with Old World French holiday songs, or ice skate under holiday lights of the outdoor rink at Place D'Youville, overlooking one of the city's historic fortifications, the Saint-Jean Gate. It's chilly this time of year, yes, but also super festive and fun.
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PHOTO BY: Josh Boston
Known for its celebrity-filled music shows throughout the year, Branson oozes with Christmas cheer throughout the months of November and December. Besides over-the-top holiday décor all over town, there's plenty of entertainment, such as Dolly Parton's Stampede, which features 32 majestic horses and takes guests on a Christmas journey as they enjoy a four-course, country-style meal. Silver Dollar City theme park's Broadway-style production shows include original adaptations of A Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life. And catch Rudolph's Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, shown twice a night through December at the park. Find unique stocking stuffers at Silver Dollar City's Jingle Bell Junction, home to a colony of 100 resident crafters selling woodcarvings, hand-blown glass, pottery, candles and more.
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PHOTO BY: Visit Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
This town takes its history — and the holidays — seriously. Every winter the historic district transforms into an 18th century Christmas colonial village with the help of period decorations, roving carolers, glowing candles in windows and old-time cressets burning on the streets. Guides dressed as Martha Washington and other historic residents offer Talk of the Town Christmastide walking tours of the city, sharing stories about the colonial holiday season. You can also listen to Midwinter Stories at the Governor's Palace Stage to hear about winter traditions from Native Nations such as the Lakota, Cherokee, Shawnee and Pamunkey. And each year, Colonial Williamsburg hosts The Grand Illumination, an evening (Dec. 8 in 2019) of fireworks, musical performances and a fife and drums concert.
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PHOTO BY: mikecranephotography.com / Alamy Stock Photo
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
The legendary ski resort town of Whistler, just over an hour's drive north of Vancouver, displays holiday cheer almost all winter long. Pedestrian-only Whistler Village dresses Christmas trees with more than 5,000 strings of lights and sparkling decorations, and offers loads of free events. Those include Family Après, held at Whistler Olympic Plaza Stroll (this season twice a week, Dec. 9 until the end of March), with activities including sledding, music, hockey, snowman-building competitions, games and hot drinks; and the Fire and Ice Show in Skier's Plaza, with freestyle skiers and snowboarders flipping and twisting through rings of fire at the top of steep jumps, fire spinners and fireworks (every Sunday night at 8 through March). If you're with little ones, take an old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh ride, sipping hot chocolate as you glide along forested trails to a view of the village's holiday lights.
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PHOTO BY: Tourism Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Terracotta-hued adobe buildings fan out from the historic plaza. Pine trees wear cloaks of snow. The air is filled with the scent of piñon from fireplaces, and farolitos (small paper lanterns), bright as flashlights, line the walkways. There's a definite holiday mood in this Southwest town, which kicks off the season of merrymaking the day after Thanksgiving with two events: the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in Santa Fe Plaza, part of the free festivities known as Christmas at the Palace that features cocoa, cider, cookies, live music, Santas and piñatas; and Los Posadas, an annual candle-lit procession around the Santa Fe Plaza, finishing in the Palace of the Governors Courtyard.
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