Like Christmas cards sprung to life, some of America's towns go all out for the holidays. From coast to coast, these communities go to great lengths to make the season bright by decking out their streets with twinkling lights by the thousands—or even millions. In these towns, window decorations, holiday markets, and towering Christmas trees all make for a very festive December.
CHRISTMAS TOWN USA
Where: McAdenville, North Carolina
McAdenville, a small town about 20 minutes outside of Charlotte, gets so into the Christmas spirit each December that they change the name of their village to Christmas Town USA. More than 600,000 people visit Christmas Town USA to gawk at the 450,000 lights that decorate this hamlet. Over 375 trees light a route perfect for a winter stroll through the McAdenville’s downtown. One of the favorite vantage spots is at the nearby lake, where 33 trees line its perimeter, reflecting peacefully in the water. It’s hard to miss the town’s fountain, featuring a jet of water that is propelled up 75 feet, lit with vibrant colors every 10 seconds.
Insider Tip: Christmas Town USA hands out free hot chocolate and kettle corn for the first 1,000 in attendance each night.
KOZIAR'S CHRISTMAS VILLAGE
Where: Bernville, Pennsylvania
Imagined as a true one-stop Christmas destination, Koziar’s Christmas Village has been a tradition since 1948. A regional hotspot for families, this popular Christmas town packs crowds in to gaze at the million-plus light displays, visit the small cottage dioramas and shops, as well as meet face to face with Mr. Claus. Look out for the several scenes depicting Christmas Beneath the Sea, Christmas in the Jungle, and Christmas in Other Lands, housed in former chicken coops.
Insider Tip: Just 20 minutes southeast of Bernville is Judy’s on Cherry, a cozy restaurant serving New American favorites. Be sure to try the hearth-fired pizzas, notably the Exotic Mushroom Pizza with porcinis, shitakes, and oyster fungi, fontina cheese, and truffle oil.
OGDEN’S CHRISTMAS VILLAGE
Where: Ogden, Utah
Northern Utah’s Ogden, one of the country’s great railway hubs, welcomes in the holiday season each year with their downtown Christmas Village. A winter wonderland is staged in the middle of town as miniature cottages pop-up, modeled after Santa’s North Pole Village. Each of the 59 elf-sized cottages has its own theme including The Elf Workshop, The Grinch, and Santa’s Castle—a cottage where children can visit with Santa himself. Rides on the free Polar Express Train are a favorite, as the locomotive passes through a glow-in-the-dark tunnel painted with holiday flourishes.
Insider Tip: Be sure to take time to explore Union Station, the former train depot that served as a major hub for transcontinental rail service. The station has been retrofitted into three museums featuring trains, firearms, and automobiles.
NEVADA CITY VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS
Where: Nevada City, California
About an hour northeast of Sacramento, the historic and quaint Nevada City (population: 3,068) takes great pride in their annual Victorian Christmas festival. A former Gold Rush town, Nevada City now is noted for its many historic buildings, mountainous surroundings, and bygone picturesque downtown. The Christmas season in Nevada City has been described by its Chamber of Commerce as “a genuine Christmas card come to life” as the city transforms into a winter wonderland complete with twinkling white lights, authentic gas lamps, and carolers dressed in Victorian apparel. Festival attendees are encouraged to dress in period attire, complete with feathers, scarves, and top hats.
Insider Tip: Make sure you stop by My Favorite Things in downtown Nevada City, where gorgeous Christmas décor and artisan local crafts fill a cozy boutique space.
OZARK MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS
Where: Branson, Missouri
Known as the Ozark Mountain Christmas, Branson, Missouri, doesn’t mess around when it comes to Christmas spirit. Branson transforms overnight as the city puts on its best and brightest Christmas flare. The historic downtown shopping center on Main Street has street lights wrapped in evergreen garland with lights flickering on the trees along the way. Known as the Live Music Show Capital of the World, Branson is home to fan favorite events such as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, where the arena performance is adapted to incorporate snow, evergreens, and traditional holiday music.