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The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

25 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas Vacations Around the World


As the weather changes to cold winter nights, I sip a hot tea by the fire while listening to the wind howl. The Christmas tree is decorated, and Michael Bublé plays softly in the background. Oh yeah, Christmas is right around the corner. But some people don’t like spending Christmas at home. We used to be those people and have enjoyed many a Christmas getaway. So, for those who want a Christmas getaway, here are our picks for the best places to spend Christmas worldwide.

The Best Places to Spend Christmas VacationsWhere to Spend Christmas in USA1. New York City2. Orlando3. Washington DC4. Las Vegas5. North Pole AlaskaBethlehem, PennsylvaniaBest Christmas Vacations in Europe6. Basel, Switzerland7. Nuremberg, Germany8. Rome and Vatican City9. London10. Paris11. Dublin, Ireland12. Prague13. Vienna, Austria14. Zurich, Switzerland15. Brussels, Belgium16. Tallinn, Estonia17. Lapland, Finland18. Copenhagen, Denmark19. Sydney, Australia20. Tokyo, Japan21. Beijing, China22. MexicoChristmas Getaways in Canada23. Quebec City, Canada24. Toronto25. Banff

The Best Places to Spend Christmas Vacations

Merry Christmas from Dave and Deb

From the traditional celebrations of Europe to the all-out displays in downtown New York and Toronto, these destinations will keep you in the holiday spirit while enjoying a Christmas away. If you want a place that embraces the Christmas spirit, here are some of the best Christmas Vacations worldwide.

Where to Spend Christmas in USA

1. New York City

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Christmas in New York City is a magical experience. The city is adorned with sparkling lights, and festive decorations, with numerous events and activities to enjoy. Some highlights include the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and the New York City Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

You will also want to book this Dyker Heights Christmas tour to see the neighborhood’s elaborate displays with views of the Manhattan skyline.

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The holiday window displays at department stores in Manhattan like Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman are beautiful, and the festive markets at Bryant Park and Union Square are filled with energy. Make sure to stop to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue light show for free. Read more: Christmas in New York – What to do in NYC for the Holidays

Where to Stay: We love the Intercontinental Times Square. 

2. Orlando

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My family spent nearly every Christmas in Orlando and Orlando is truly fun for the whole family. And then the rest of the holidays in Daytona Beach. Orlando is famous for its theme parks that transform into magical winter wonderlands and holiday activities

Walt Disney World and Universal Studios offer spectacular Christmas-themed events, parades, and decorations that are a feast for the eyes. Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays showcases holiday traditions from around the globe, offering a unique, multicultural Christmas experience.

Where to Stay:

3. Washington DC

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We spent the week before Christmas in Washington DC, and it was the perfect place to spend the holidays. Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, offers a Christmas experience steeped in American tradition and grandeur. The National Christmas Tree is a must-see attraction. It is beautifully lit near the White House, accompanied by nightly musical performances.

Seasonal events like the unique twist on a traditional Christmas parade is the Holiday Boat Parade on the Potomac River and the U.S. Capitol National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony are unique to the city.

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We even got a White House ornament while visiting the Intercontinental Willard Hotel. 12 Must-See Washington DC Monuments and Memorials in Photos

4. Las Vegas

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Who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas in Vegas? Las Vegas, already known for its dazzling lights and entertainment, takes Christmas to another level. The famous Las Vegas Strip is adorned with spectacular holiday decorations, and casinos offer special Christmas shows and events.

The Bellagio Conservatory transforms into a stunning holiday display, a must-visit for those seeking a luxurious Christmas experience. Beyond the Strip, the Ethel M Chocolate Factory lights its cactus garden with festive lights.

Where to Stay: Park MGM Las Vegas is a strong runner-up after Wynn Las Vegas and a fabulous mid-range property. Situated right on Las Vegas Boulevard, it is one of the most centrally located hotels in Vega

5. North Pole Alaska

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Located just outside of Fairbanks, you will not only find yourself in the North Pole for Christmas one of the best places in the world to spot the Northern Lights.

For one of the most truly unique Christmas getaways North Pole, Alaska, offers a magical, winter wonderland experience. This small town, where the Christmas spirit lives year-round, is home to the Santa Claus House, filled with Christmas decorations and gifts. There are even Santa’s reindeer waiting in the pasture, getting ready for their Christmas Eve run. And the annual North Pole Christmas In Ice Contest showcases stunning ice sculptures.

Where to Stay: Fairbanks Aurora Villa. This modern retreat is a boutique hotel offering views of the northern lights nestled in the mountains above Fairbanks.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

What could be more Christmassy than Bethlehem? With the same name as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, holds a special place in Christmas celebrations. Known as the “Christmas City,” Bethlehem hosts a traditional Christkindlmarkt, a German-inspired Christmas market with artisans, live music, and delicious holiday treats.

The city lights up with beautiful Christmas decorations, and the historic Moravian Book Shop, founded in 1745, is the oldest bookstore in America. The live Christmas pageants and the city’s historical significance provide a uniquely authentic holiday experience.

Best Christmas Vacations in Europe

6. Basel, Switzerland

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Basel was one of our favorite cities in Switzerland, with many things to see and do. From incredible architecture to world-class museums, Basel has it all. Read more: 20 Reasons to Fall in Love with Basel, Switzerland

If you visit Basel during the holidays, grab a hot chocolate and walk around the magnificent Holiday Bazaar at Barfüsserplatz, Münsterplatz. Barfüsserplatz is the largest of the three, with 140 merchants in decorated small chalets selling Christmas goods and seasonal delights under the twinkling lights.

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The Münsterplatz holds around 40 stalls in a larger area, making navigating easier. You can also enjoy the amazing sights of the Rhine River and the Gothic Basel Minster. The smallest Basel Christmas Market Is the Claraplatz in Kleinbasel. The Foyer Theatre of Basel opens its doors to its Advent calendar daily production. Read more at 24 Fantastic Things to Do in Basel, Switzerland

Where to Stay: We stayed at Art House 4051 Basel (Design Hotels)

7. Nuremberg, Germany

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The Christmas markets in Nuremberg, Germany, are a must-see for anyone celebrating the holiday season. Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg’s Hauptmark (the city’s main square) is one of the oldest and most famous in the world. The square lights up with twinkling lights and features more than 180 stalls selling traditional handmade gifts, food, and drinks.

This interactive tour will get you into the festive spirit as you do fun challenges to solve puzzles while learning fun facts about Christmas in Nuremberg. It’s all done at your own pace using an app.

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Visiting Nuremberg feels like a fairytale with its timber homes and medieval architecture. Nuremberg has a rich history and culture, and there are many things to see and do all year round. During Christmas, you can visit some of the city’s top attractions, such as the Nuremberg Castle and the Toy Museum. (The perfect museum for the holidays.)

Nuremberg is a great place to experience a traditional German Christmas. Read more: Fantastic Things to Do in Nuremberg Germany

Where to Stay: We stayed at The Adina Apartment Hotel within walking distance to everything. 

8. Rome and Vatican City

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For a truly unique Christmas experience, consider celebrating the holiday in Rome, Italy. Not many cities can compete with the history and beauty of Rome, and there are plenty of festive events and activities to enjoy.

The Vatican City displays an elaborate Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square every year, and the Pope addresses the public at noon on Christmas Day. Many people go to Rome to attend Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve. The Christmas season in the Vatican is long, starting on December 8th and continuing to January 6th.

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Seeing the crowded Vatican at Christmas can be difficult, so we suggest booking beforehand. This highly rated tour includes a tour, a Christmas meal, and the Christmas Eve midnight mass.

The Christmas Market in Piazza Navona is a popular destination for holiday shopping, with stalls selling gifts, decorations, and festive treats. Even the Colosseum gets into the spirit with a large tree standing proudly beside the ancient Amphitheatre.

A unique Christmas celebration in Rome is the lavish Christmas brunch yearly at the Rome Cavalieri, and The Rome Opera often hosts special Christmas-themed concerts and performances. Read more: 23 of the Best Things to Do in Rome, Italy

9. London

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Christmas lights in London are a sight to behold, with the city’s famous landmarks and streets adorned with colorful displays.

Some must-see locations include Oxford Street Christmas lights, Regent Street Christmas lights, and Christmas in Covent Garden. There are numerous festive events and activities, such as ice skating at Somerset House or the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.

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Credit: David Parry

London also has several festive markets, including the Southbank Centre Winter Festival, the Christmas market at Winterville, Camden, and the Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre. Read more: 22 of the Top Things to Do in London, England

Christmas continues in London with cultural events, including the Christmas pantomime at the Old Vic Theatre, the Carols by Candlelight at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Royal Albert Hall has been the home of Christmas in London for 150 years!

Where to Stay: Read our complete guide Where To Stay In London – Guide to The Best Neighborhoods

10. Paris

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If you’re looking for an elegant Christmas destination, consider spending the Christmas holiday in Paris, France. The city is known for its romantic atmosphere and beautiful holiday lights, and there are numerous festive events to enjoy, such as the markets at Champs-Elysees and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

This Paris Christmas highlights Tour in a vintage car is one of the most unique ways to see Paris. We have done a vintage Citroën convertible tour of Paris, which is so much fun. I would think it is even better at Christmas. At Christmas, you will be wrapped in blankets as your private driver takes you to view the Christmas lights from Place Vendôme to Champs Elysées, Pont Alexandre III, and the Louvre.

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Some of the most famous displays are on the Champs-Elysées, the Place Vendôme, and the Place des Abbesses. Read more: 3 Days in Paris

Similar to New York, Many of Paris’s department stores and boutiques have elaborate Christmas window displays, and there are numerous skating rinks around town, including the rink at the Eiffel Tower and the rink at Hôtel de Ville

The Opéra Garnier and the Salle Pleyel host special Christmas-themed concerts and performances. The holiday markets Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées and the Marché de Noël du Trocadéro are popular and offer a range of gifts, decorations, and festive treats. Check out 21 Best Paris Hotels with Eiffel Tower Views

Where to Stay: Read our complete guide Where To Stay In Paris – Best Neighborhoods and Hotels

11. Dublin, Ireland

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Dublin, Ireland, is one of our favourite cities. While it’s famous for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, have you thought of it for a Christmas getaway? The capital of Ireland is known for its festive atmosphere during the holiday season, with events like the Dublin Christmas Market and the Winter Wonderland at St. Stephen’s Green. Read more about Dublin at 34 of the Best Things to Do in Dublin, Ireland

Visiting Dublin during the holidays allows visitors to experience a traditional Irish Christmas with events like the St. Stephen’s Day Parade and the tree lighting in the city center. The Christmas lights of Grafton Street are magical; grab a hot toddy with Irish Whiskey to warm up in the cold winter months.

Dublin embraces Christmas with several holiday markets, including the Dublin Flea Christmas Market. With markets, lights, and decorations throughout the city. It’s a great time to visit and experience the holiday spirit. See our picks for where to stay in Dublin

12. Prague

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For a Christmas destination with a touch of history, consider spending the holiday in Prague, Czechia. The city is known for its numerous events and activities to enjoy the holidays, such as visiting the Christmas Market at Prague Castle and Old Town Square or attending Midnight Mass at St. Vitus Cathedral.

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Wenceslas Square Christmas Market automatically makes me hum the Christmas Carol, “Good King Wenceslas.” Wenceslas was, after all, the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic. 20 of The Best Things to do in Prague, Czechia

Some of the most famous Christmas light displays are on the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square. Prague is home to several concert venues, including the Rudolfinum, the Estates Theatre, and the Municipal House, which host special Christmas-themed concerts and performances.

There are even many Christmas-themed tours available in Prague, including this highly-rated tour. Take a walk through Christmas-decorated Prague while you taste Czech holiday specialties through the Old Town and Lesser Town.

Experience the magical atmosphere of Prague’s Christmastime decorations and stalls. Follow a local guide as you walk through Old Town and Lesser Town markets on a guided journey. You’ll visit five Christmas locations while tasting traditional Czech holiday specialties such as Czech Christmas soup and mulled wine.

13. Vienna, Austria

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Eating a Giant Pretzel in the Christmas Market of Vienna

We have enjoyed Vienna’s famous Christmas markets and can attest they are incredible. The capital of Austria is known for its elaborate holiday markets, which offer a wide variety of gifts, decorations, and festive treats.

Christmas Market at the City Hall and the Christmas Market at the Belvedere Palace are the two main markets to visit. These markets offer a chance to shop for unique gifts and sample local food and drink. Our favourite food and drink are giant pretzels and mulled wine. Yum!

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Vienna is known for its rich musical tradition, being the home of Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss, and there are many Christmas concerts held in the city during the holiday season, featuring classical music and choirs. During Christmas, you can visit some of the city’s top attractions, such as the Vienna State Opera, the Hofburg Palace, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Read more: The 24 Best Things to do in Vienna, Austria

14. Zurich, Switzerland

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The city of Zurich is known for its beautiful markets, which offer an array of festive gifts and delicious food. The Christmas Market at the Lindenhof and the Christmas Market at Bellevue Square are two of the most popular markets to go shopping. Read more at The Perfect 3 Days in Zurich, Switzerland

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Weihnachtsdorf, in Sechseläutenplatz in front of the Opera House, is one of the best Christmas markets in Zurich, where you can grab some mulled wine and do some last-minute shopping. It’s open from November 23rd-December 23rd. Zurich is known for its excellent transportation, and during the holidays, Marlitram is a Christmas-themed tram driven by Santa Claus.

After visiting its many markets, go ice skating in Zurich, there are many rinks around town. And be sure to order a taste of Glühwein, a hot red wine mixed with cinnamon, orange, and cloves. And nothing says the holidays more than enjoying a hot cheese fondu followed by a chocolate fondu dessert before heading out to Bahnhofstrasse to see the singing Christmas tree. See our city itinerary for your visit: The Perfect 3 Days in Zurich, Switzerland

15. Brussels, Belgium

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The Christmas markets in Brussels, Belgium, are another must-see destination for anyone celebrating the holiday season. When we walked into the square of Brussels for the first time, we gasped at its beauty. It had the reputation of being one of the prettiest in Europe. Put in Christmas lights and holiday decorations, which are even more beautiful.

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The Winter Wonders is held annually in the city’s Grand Place from November to January 1. It features more than 200 stalls selling traditional gifts, food, and drink. A large tree at the Grand Palace and a sound and light show.

Make sure to keep an eye out for the winter pop-up that takes place around the city. There are plenty of ice rinks for ice skating around town with decorations and toys, including the Bois de la Cambre skating. Brass bands, choirs at St. Catherines Square, and light Christmas parades occur throughout the holiday season.

16. Tallinn, Estonia

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Tallinn is such a beautiful city and a beautiful place to add to your Christmas vacation list. With several festive events and activities to enjoy. Its holiday markets are some of the best. Europe has endless markets serving hot cocoa and mulled wine to keep you warm as you shop! We once took an entire River Cruise of Europe dedicated to seeing the top Christmas Markets around Europe! Read more at: Visit Estonia

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Tallinn is Beautiful

Tallinn’s top markets include the Tallinn Christmas Market in Town Hall Square and the Christmas Market at the Rotermann Quarter. Stroll through the romantic historic Old Town to go back in time.

Several holiday concerts are held in Tallinn during the holiday season featuring local and international performers. Tallinn has several outdoor ice skating ice rinks open during the winter months, including the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds ice rink and the Freedom Square ice rink.

17. Lapland, Finland

Why wouldn’t you celebrate the holidays in the land of the North Pole and Santa? The Finnish region of Lapland is known as the “official home of Santa Claus,” it is a popular destination for those looking to experience a traditional Christmas.

Lapland, Finland, is a magical destination for Christmas, with its snowy landscapes and abundance of holiday cheer. Visitors can enjoy reindeer sleigh rides, skiing, and dog sledding.

But nothing says Christmas more than seeing Santa himself in Rovaniemi’s Santa’s Village. Santa spends his downtime 354 days of the year at Santa Claus Village, spreading the message of love, goodwill, and the Christmas Spirit across the globe.

And, who needs Christmas lights when you have the Northern lights twinkling in the sky, and you can participate in traditional Finnish Christmas celebrations such as lighting the Christmas peace candle.?

18. Copenhagen, Denmark

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The Danish capital of Copenhagen, Denmark, is known for its beautiful holiday displays and markets, which offer an array of festive gifts, decorations, and delicious treats. Copenhagen is already a magical city; at Christmas, it truly is a place of holiday spirit.

At Christmas, Tivoli Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland with Christmas two million holiday lights and projected Christmas images. This enchanting amusement park is fun for the whole family. Santa and his reindeer appear, and the sparkling tree lights up the calm waters of Tivoli Lake. Read more: Tivoli Gardens – Copenhagen’s Enchanting Amusement Park and Pleasure Garden

One of the more unique things to do in Copenhagen is ice swimming at one of its outdoor pools. The Danes are hearty and enjoy their cold dips in pure, clean waters. Read more: How to Visit Copenhagen Like a True Dane

19. Sydney, Australia

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If you want a tropical Christmas, head to Sydney, Australia. Christmas in Sydney is a unique experience, with warm weather and beautiful beaches.

The city is known for its beautiful beaches and festive events, including the Sydney Festival and the Sydney Harbour Yacht Race. There is also the 40th annual Carols in the Domain concert by Woolworths, where Australia’s biggest stars put on a Christmas concert. Plus, its New Year’s celebrations are second to none.

Visitors can enjoy Christmas dinners at some of the city’s top restaurants or spend the day at the iconic Bondi Beach. Now that’s a Christmas I can get behind. Read more: 23 of the Most Iconic Places to Visit in Australia

20. Tokyo, Japan

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Despite not being a traditional holiday in Japan, Christmas has recently become increasingly popular. Tokyo at Christmas is known for its elaborate holiday displays, light shows, and festive shopping districts.

Several holiday events include the Christmas Illuminations at Roppongi Hills, the Tokyo Disney Resort’s Christmas event, and the Christmas Eve Countdown at Shibuya Crossing. See more of Tokyo: The Best Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan

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The shopping districts of Ginza, Shibuya, and Omotesando are alive with holiday festivities with a wide range of gifts, decorations, and festive treats. From Christmas to New Year, Japan loves to celebrate the holidays. Read more: 7 Unique Japanese New Year Traditions

21. Beijing, China

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Our first visit to Beijing was in December, and we were surprised by how many Christmas displays we saw. We saw Christmas celebrated throughout our travels in China. Department stores are decorated with lights and displays and embrace the Christmas cheer.

You’ll be surprised just how “Christmassy” China can be. Shopping malls have Christmas trees, and shopping streets are adorned with Christmas lights.

Bird’s Nest Stadium (Beijing’s Olympic Stadium) transforms into a winter wonderland with the annual Ice and Snow Festival, Christmas Bazaars, and markets. Even the hutongs have Christmas fairs. Read more: 24 of the Best Things to do in Beijing, China

22. Mexico

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Felize Navidad from Mexico. That’s what we were singing during our Christmas vacation in Mexico. We first celebrated Christmas abroad on a holiday trip to the Riviera Maya. Someone brought a mini decorated Christmas tree to the beach, and we all sat around it on beach chairs.

Mexico knows how to make Christmas getaways feel like the perfect holiday vacation with plenty of festivals, fireworks, and pinatas. It is a festive season. There are processions by candlelight in city streets, and families put out Nativity Scenes. I will admit that we spent it on the resort, but years later, we traveled around Mexico and enjoyed festivities in town.

Families celebrate the nights recreating when Mary and Joseph search for lodging, creating a procession going from one posada (Spanish Inn) to the next.

Christmas Getaways in Canada

23. Quebec City, Canada

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We are partial to celebrating Christmas in Canada. We have the snow, we have the lights, and we have the reindeer, and Quebec is the most enchanting place to celebrate Christmas in Canada. The old city feels like a charming town from a Hallmark Movie. This Christmas Magic tour takes you around to see the sites of the old city with a guide adorned in authentic local dress.

Quebec City’s old-world charm with horse-drawn carriage rides through its cobblestone streets is made for Christmas. Stroll through the historic Old Town, which is especially beautiful during the holiday season, as its historic buildings are adorned with festive decorations.

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The Quebec City Christmas Market is held in the Old Port of Quebec City and features over 100 chalets offering local crafts, food, and drinks. We have personally skated at the outdoor ice rinks in Quebec and suggest lacing up at Place D’Youville ice rink at the Old City Wall or the Plains of Abraham skating rink along the St. Lawrence River.

Read more: The 27 Best Things to Do in Quebec City

24. Toronto

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Celebrating Christmas in Toronto is getting better with each year! At the heart of the city, Nathan Phillips Square is the epicenter of Christmas celebrations with its picturesque outdoor ice-skating rink, creating a postcard-perfect winter scene. The Distillery District is transformed into a traditional European-style Christmas Market, complete with artisanal crafts, festive foods, and lively music, encapsulating the joyous spirit of the holidays.

Toronto is home to the original historic Christmas Parade, a century-old event featuring vibrant floats and Santa Claus himself. The Christmas shopping scene is excellent, from the tallest Christmas tree in North America at the Eaton Centre, to the upscale boutiques in Yorkville and the historic St. Lawrence Market. Read more: Best Christmas Events in Toronto: A Festive Guide 2023

25. Banff

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You can enjoy one of the best Christmas Getaways in Banff for a white Christmas. This ski town makes you feel like you are in a Hallmark movie. From some of the best skiing in North America to sleigh rides, Banff’s picturesque, quaint village makes it one of the best Christmas getaways in Canada.

Ski bunnies will love their choice of three ski hills from Lake Louise to the ski in ski out access of Sunshine Village. There is cross-country skiing and the Banff Christmas market at the Warner Stables. Banff is conveniently located in Banff National Park, where you can participate in all the amazing outdoor winter activities.

There are many more places around the world to celebrate Christmas. Regardless of your religion, Christmas is a magical time worldwide. It’s fun to check out holiday displays and lights and see how others celebrate them. If you go away for Christmas next year, where would you go?



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