Coast to coast, many people celebrate Christmas, and each a little different in their own way. Some host loud and brassy gatherings while others spend the day in reflection. Some focus on Santa; others on Jesus. Some focus on both.

If your family is thinking about “doing Christmas” differently this year, here are eight suggestions of places that do it up right. Click on the heading of each locale for more information.

New York, NY

From the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the lighting of the Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, people around the world love the festivities that go on in New York around the holidays. So many movies and TV shows have been featured here doing Christmas time — wouldn’t it be great to experience it first hand? The Manhattan area is known for its decorated store windows down Fifth Avenue, ice skating at Rockefeller Center and fantastic Christmas shows on Broadway including the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.

Bethlehem, PA

While not the same place as the three wise men traveled through, this city was christened with the name Bethlehem on Christmas Eve in 1741. What’s in a name? A lot. The “Christmas City” is rich with tradition including the annual Christkindlmarkt street market that runs for six weeks and features over 125 vendors. Consider staying in the Historic Hotel Bethlehem with its newly restored rooms in the grand building built in 1922.

Leavenworth, WA

Set in the Eastern Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town that is decked out in snow and a quarter million colored lights during Christmas time. The air is filled with the smell of roasted chestnuts and the sounds of harps and hand bells. The Christmas Lighting Festival lasts for three weeks in the story-bookish town and features old-fashioned sleigh rides, carolers and holiday characters. This is in addition to the excellent skiing, snowshoeing, concerts and theatre performances the town offers.

Disneyland: Anaheim, CA

Most people don’t need another reason to enjoy the “happiest place on earth,” but Christmas time is a pretty good reason. From mid-November to the first week in January, the Disneyland Resort is extra “magical.” New this year is the “Winter Dreams” themed “World of Color” nightly event and the Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party at California Adventure.

California Adventure, or DCA, is a separate park directly across from Disneyland which requires its own admission separate from Disneyland. A Park Hopper ticket allows entry to both parks as does an Annual Passport on non-blockout days, except the day of purchase. Any Annual Passport is valid on the day of purchase, regardless if it’s a blockout day. See the website for all Annual Passport information.

Then, over in Disneyland, you’ll enjoy attractions that have been dressed up for the holiday season. These attractions include It’s a Small World HolidayA Nightmare Before Christmas-themed haunted mansion, fireworks and even snow! In Anaheim! (The “snow” is a special surprise, so without giving too much away, make sure you get a spot on Main Street for the nightly fireworks show. Allow for approximately 30-60 minutes before the fireworks show to claim your spot.)

Holyland Experience: Orlando, FL

In the complete opposite of Disney, families can celebrate our Savior at the Holy Land Experience. Presented by Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Holy Land brings the sights and sounds of biblical times to life. Beginning right after Thanksgiving, the large nativity program, In the Shadow of the King is presented daily where the Archangel Michael is preparing his troops for the big day and a lesser-known angel gets to deliver the biggest news ever.

Pigeon Forge, TN

Amy Grant is famous for singing about a Tennessee Christmas, and your family can experience it for yourself in Pigeon Forge. Inside the Smokey Mountain Opry waits a multi-million dollar production that celebrates every facet of Christmas from sugar plum fairies to Santa to the birth of Jesus. The talented cast includes singers, dancers, comedians, live animals, ice skaters, soaring angels, laser lights and a huge band. 

Consider lodging at The Inn at Christmas Place, the 145-room, four-star Christmas-themed hotel featuring a deluxe hot breakfast, Christmas movies, an indoor pool, the Elves’ Retreat Game Room, the Holly Fitness Center, the Glockenspiel and the Singing Santa.

Branson, MO

Known by some as the country’s live entertainment capital, the city of Branson is transformed for about six weeks during the Festival of Lights event. The highlight of the festival is the Annual Adoration Parade featuring over 50 bands and floats marching through downtown Branson. This is also home to the Christmas cattle drive, where members of the Great American Wild West Show present longhorns dressed for the season. During Christmas time, Branson displays more than eight million Christmas lights with a giant water – and fire – fountain show every half hour.

Santa Claus, IN

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus … and it’s located in Indiana! Celebrating St. Nicolas all year round with the theme park Holiday World, the place really comes alive in December. Special attractions have been built throughout the town including Santa’s Candy Castle, Santa Claus Christmas Store, Santa’s Stables … you get the idea. Drive through the 1.2 mile Santa Claus Land of Lights on Lake Rudolph and see the big Tree of Lights shining brightly every hour. Visit the Santa Claus Museum and Village and stay at holiday-themed Silent Night Golf & Vacation RentalsSanta’s Lodge or Santa’s Lakeside Cottages.

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