With songs and slogans proclaiming the holiday season “the most wonderful time of the year,” it’s certainly a jolly time to travel. But just because you have packed your bags and left home behind, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the festive fun. In fact, in many places around the world, you will find even more opportunities to get into the spirit.
These places will have you scrambling to decide where to go for Christmas. Click through to see the best places to celebrate the holidays.
- Estimated airfare: $515 from Los Angeles to Newark
- Estimated lodging: From $204 a night at New York Hilton Midtown
Although it's one of the most expensive cities to visit during the holidays, New York knows how to mark Christmas time, starting with viewing the enormous tree at Rockefeller Center or skating on its world-famous ice rink.
For real fun, you can act out the scenes from countless Hollywood movies that have a “Christmas in New York” theme, such as "Miracle on 34th Street," "Trading Places" or "Elf."
- Estimated airfare: $761 from JFK to Prague
- Estimated lodging: From $125 a night at Appia Hotel
Prague is one of the most underrated tourist destinations, and if you visit during the holidays, you'll understand why. The holiday markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square really get visitors into the Christmas spirit.
With vendors selling traditional handicrafts, jewelry, wooden toys, ceramics and a range of gifts from wooden huts, you’ll find something for everyone on your list. Local and traditional foods can also be sampled here, including barbecued sausages (klobása), and cakes such as Trdelník, a warm, sugary pastry.
- Estimated airfare: $901 from JFK to Strasbourg
- Estimated lodging: From $221 a night at Maison Rouge Hotel
Do you think that Paris is one of the most overrated destinations? Then perhaps visit Strasbourg this Christmas.
A whole series of Christmas markets — selling locally brewed beer, regional delicacies and gifts — delight visitors at 12 locations in this festive Christmas town. There is plenty of gluhwein (mulled wine) to make even the biggest Grinch feel magically festive.
Hyde Park, Christmas Market, London
- Estimated airfare: $733 from New York (JFK) to London Gatwick
- Estimated lodging: From $171 a night at Blakemore Hyde Park
London comes alive during the winter months with Christmas lights, Victorian caroling and a variety of Christmas events. The Christmas market at Hyde Park is among the very best of the capital’s yuletide programming.
This winter wonderland welcomed more than 2 million visitors last year and delights visitors with an ice rink, visits with Santa Claus (called Father Christmas in the UK) and traditional food stalls, as well as roller coasters and carnival-style rides. Want to see more dazzling lights? Check out these Christmas light displays in the U.S.
- Estimated airfare: $727 from JFK to Budapest
- Estimated lodging: From $74 a night at the Boutique Hotel Victoria Budapest
Vörösmarty Square in the capital city’s center is the place to be to welcome in the holiday season.
At the Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival, wooden stalls numbering in the hundreds sell holiday gifts, seasonal foods, mulled wine and more. Traditional Hungarian folk music really gets visitors into the Christmas spirit, making this the perfect Christmas town. While you're in Budapest, don't forget to see some of its other interesting attractions.
- Estimated airfare: $411 from Newark to Portland
- Estimated lodging: From $189 a night at the Residence Inn Portland Downtown/Pearl District
Portland is one the best cities for affordable winter travel. It's often seen as a haven for hipsters, but with The Grotto's Christmas Festival of Lights, it’s also popular with those who think December is simply the best month of the year.
The Festival of Lights is billed as the largest Christmas choral festival in the world, and The Grotto’s 600-seat chapel has amazing acoustics to listen to the choir. There’s even a petting zoo during the festivities. The Christmas illuminations use more than 1 million lights and take seven weeks to install and hang.
- Estimated airfare: $640 from JFK to Copenhagen
- Estimated lodging: From $213 a night at The Phoenix Copenhagen
The Danish capital practically screams Christmas cheer. The Tivoli Gardens amusement park gets a special sprinkling of festive magic during the holidays with a light show and illuminations over the lake, including a variety of Christmas activities and events. This is where Copenhagen residents go to get into the spirit of the season.
- Estimated airfare: $428 from New York (LGA) to Quebec City
- Estimated lodging: From $137 a night at Hotel Le Vincent
If you want to visit the most scenic winter destinations in the world, put Quebec City on your roadmap. With almost guaranteed snow, this magical capital has castles, forts and a real Christmas village to rival any that Dickens could imagine. The city also has Christmas markets and festive culinary treats galore.
- Estimated airfare: $976 from Newark to Zagreb
- Estimated lodging: From $101 a night at ZigZag Zagreb
Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, should be on your radar for Christmas destinations. With a bevy of yuletide activities — such as Christmas caroling, sipping hot chocolate around an open fire and shopping for gifts — Zagreb has been voted the best Christmas market destination in Europe twice in a row.
- Estimated airfare: $788 from JFK to Luqa, Malta
- Estimated lodging: From $114 a night at Grand Harbour Hotel in Valletta, Malta
Every year, Malta residents make and proudly display “presepju,” or nativity scenes from their homes. Check out the Bethlehem Għajnsielem, a real-life nativity experience for all the family, where actors play out the scenes from the original Christmas story more than 2,000 years ago.
- Estimated airfare: $470 from Newark to Reykjavik
- Estimated lodging: From $216 a night at Hotel Reykjavik Centrum
When traveling, it’s wonderful to see how other cultures and nationalities weave their traditions into Christmas time. For instance, in Reykjavik 13 Icelandic Yule Lads are said to bring gifts to nice children for the 13 nights from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6.
Don’t miss having a skate on the Ingólfstorg Square ice rink. And if you are lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights and can speculate on whether they might come from the trails of Santa’s sleigh.
- Estimated airfare: $1,107 from JFK to Salzburg
- Estimated lodging: From $213 a night at Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron
With views of the Alps, Salzburg is a spectacular winter playground.
Make sure you visit the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt in the old city — it's one of the world’s oldest Advent markets. The stunning scenery here is straight from the front of a Christmas card, making it the perfect place to spend the winter holidays.
- Estimated airfare: $862 from JFK to Lima
- Estimated lodging: From $125 a night at Dazzler Lima
Many Peruvians are Catholic, and Christmas is very important in this South American country. Families have nativity scenes in their homes, and there are special services at churches and cathedrals, like the cherished Church & Convent of Santo Domingo.
- Estimated airfare: $548 from JFK to Zurich
- Estimated lodging: From $123 per night at Hotel Montana
This Alpine city marks the end of the year with a stunning display of 12,000 crystal lights that gets visitors and residents alike in a seasonal mood.
The Conelli Christmas Circus cannot be missed, and Zurich’s Wienachtsdorf — or Christmas market — has more than 100 stalls and is a must-see at this special time of year. Held in front of the Opera House and complete with a skating rink, this is one of the most atmospheric Christmas villages in the world.
- Estimated airfare: $880 from JFK to Edinburgh
- Estimated lodging: From $87 per night at the Ibis Edinburgh Centre Royal Mile
Family-friendly activities — Christmas tree maze, anyone? — bring holiday festivities to this cultural and historic city center, and the Edinburgh Castle puts on Christmas plays and events for the public. There are also Christmas villages and markets to get all those souvenirs and last-minute gifts, as well as ice skating around the Melville Monument on the circular ice rink in St Andrew Square.
- Estimated airfare: $1,893 from JFK to Sydney
- Estimated lodging: From $187 a night at the Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney
Sydney has dozens of activities to celebrate Christmas, but none sparkle as much as the Boulevard of Light, which features 80,000 lights along the Pitt Street Mall.
If you can stay to ring in the new year, nobody does New Year's Eve fireworks like Sydney. As Australia is also one of the world's first countries to welcome the new year, you’ll be celebrating and posting on social media way before all your friends.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Estimated airfare: $506 from LGA to Colorado Springs
- Estimated lodging: From $109 a night at Hyatt House
A train ride with Santa’s elves and a chance to meet the big man himself aboard the Pikes Peak Cog Railway Santa Claus train keeps people coming back to the Colorado Springs area every holiday season. It becomes part of families' magical annual yuletide traditions.
There's also a skating rink, Christmas markets and the formidable Miramont Castle, which puts on Victorian Christmas shows during the season.
- Estimated airfare: $129 from Newark to Boston
- Estimated lodging: From $151 per night at Revere Hotel Boston Common
Beacon Hill’s cobblestoned streets are made for Christmas strolls, especially when they have a nice coating of snow. Attend a performance of The Nutcracker at the Boston Opera House, or take the kids to a matinee to hear holiday songs from the Boston Pops.
- Estimated airfare: $249 from Newark to Orlando, Fla.
- Estimated lodging: From $136 a night at Clarion Suites Maingate
When you're researching where to go for Christmas, Kissimmee might not be at the top of your list. After all, who knew you could enjoy snow for the entire month of December in Florida?
But the original and premier snow event features an ice rink, Charles Dickens carolers, community performers, photos with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, the Celebration Express train and nightly snowfall hourly from 6 to 9 p.m. Don't forget you aren't far from the Christmas magic at Walt Disney World, either.
- Estimated airfare: $554 from Newark to Durango
- Estimated lodging: From $75 per night at Quality Inn Durango
Heading for a ski hill is a surefire way to feel festive. It’s not just the snow — all the après-ski activities, hot cocoa and carolers are particularly magical, too. In Durango, there's even a steam train that takes you out to the mountains to cut down your own Christmas tree.
Sun Valley, Idaho
- Estimated airfare: $901 from Newark to Hailey, Idaho (14 miles from Sun Valley)
- Estimated lodging: From $369 a night at the Village Condominiums
Sleigh rides, mountainside dining options and ice skating are sure to delight in this Christmas village for those looking to have a very merry Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, there is a parade led by ski instructors carrying red torches down the mountain. The glow of lanterns in flight on the slopes is really quite magical. Perhaps that's one of the reasons Sun Valley is known for having the best world-class skiing.
North Pole, Alaska
- Estimated airfare: $803 from Newark to Fairbanks, Alaska
- Estimated lodging: From $85 a night at Best Western Plus Pioneer Park Inn
What could be more festive than a trip to the North Pole?
This Christmas town about 14 miles south of Fairbanks is famous for its year-round Christmas decorations. Every December, it also showcases amazing works of art all sculpted from ice. The finished intricately carved Christmas wonders are quite magical.
- Estimated airfare: $1,184 from Newark to Honolulu
- Estimated lodging: From $150 a night at the Ala Moana Hotel
Even with the palm trees and beautiful sunny weather, Hawaii is actually a very festive place to spend the holidays — especially during the month-long Honolulu City Lights festival, which begins with a parade and lighting of the big Christmas tree. While there, visit Santa's Gingerbread House and Enchanted Forest Display, and take free photos with the big man.
- Estimated airfare: $431 from Newark, N.J., to San Diego
- Estimated lodging: From $138 a night at Rancho Bernardo Inn
Take a visit to the Rancho Bernardo Inn, which is close to a number of festive holiday events in San Diego County. That includes the Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden, where more than 125,000 lights sparkle throughout the garden. You might even see some snow or take a ride on a horse-drawn wagon.
Urho Kekkonen National Park
- Estimated airfare: $800 from JFK to Helsinki, Finland
- Estimated lodging: From $139 a night at Tankavaara Gold Village
Getting to Urho Kekkonen National Park requires a 90-minute flight from Helsinki, but it’s worth the effort as it is a real-life winter wonderland. Deep in the cold Finnish wilderness is where Santa Claus is said to live. You can get there, and look for yourself on a reindeer-pulled sleigh ride.
- Estimated airfare: $348 from LGA to Miami
- Estimated lodging: From $156 a night at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay
Billed as the world's largest holiday-themed amusement park, Santa’s Enchanted Forest has more than 100 rides, shows, games and animal attractions. In Miami, it will be a Christmas without snow, but that doesn't mean the cheer and goodwill will be lacking.
Santa Claus, Ind.
- Estimated airfare: $546 from Newark to Owensboro, Ky. (30 miles from Santa Claus)
- Estimated lodging: From $83 a night at Santa's Lodge
Another perfect Christmas town with a merry-sounding name is Santa Claus, Ind., which receives a whole lot of mail every year from expectant children the world over.
Santa’s elves (friendly town volunteers) personally reply to each letter. The town hosts numerous Christmas-themed events, including a buffet dinner with a very special guest, Santa Claus himself.
- Estimated airfare: $615 from Newark to Missoula, Mont. (38 miles to Greenough)
- Estimated lodging: Resort at Paws Up where the Christmas package starts at $776 per person/per night based on a family of 4 in a Meadow Home.
Expect a personal visit from Santa delivering gifts and stockings if you stay at the exclusive 37,000-acre Resort at Paws Up, which also has a full program of Christmas events, including a skating rink and festive sing-a-longs.
These luxury cabins are the perfect place to hole up for the winter holidays, stay warm and enjoy an intimate celebration. The snowy weather here certainly helps you to feel festive. A Christmas tree is also provided in every cabin, and you can even opt to have it already decorated upon your arrival.
- Estimated airfare: $721 from JFK to Paris
- Estimated lodging: From $203 a night at Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe
There’s no magic like Disney magic, and at Christmas time the mega park knows how to delight visitors. Why not try something a little different by enjoying everything Mickey and the gang have to offer, but in the heart of Europe and with a little French flair?
Characters in costume, fireworks and Christmas parades will sit high atop your Christmas wish list, and you’ll be well-positioned to explore other parts of France during your trip.
- Estimated airfare: $749 from JFK to Venice
- Estimated lodging: From $210 a night at Hotel Savoia & Jolanda
The large crowds that make Venice so hectic in the summer months are long gone by Christmas, and you’ll practically have the place to yourselves.
The yuletide festivities last three weeks in Italy, so you’ll likely be able to get into the spirit of things with a visit anytime in December. Be sure to visit St. Mark’s Basilica for midnight mass and partake in the Venetian tradition of La Vigilia (The Vigil) by eating a huge multi-course fish dinner on Christmas Eve.
- Estimated airfare: $877 from JFK to Liberia, Costa Rica
- Estimated lodging: Villa Buena Onda in Guanacaste (20 minutes from the airport). From $447 per person, per night (including meals and activities).
Sometimes getting away from everything is just what you need, especially if your family get-togethers are more stressful than festive. The party starts early in Costa Rica as people gather on the night before Christmas for “Noche Bueno.” Families and friends enjoy roast pork leg, tamales and plenty of rum before opening gifts before midnight, when they head off to mass.
Valkenburg, The Netherlands
- Estimated airfare: $928 from JFK to Cologne, Germany (66 miles from Valkenburg)
- Estimated lodging: From $103 a night at Hotel Tummers
Take a ride aboard the Christmas Express train that runs between Simpelveld and Valkenburg, bringing crowds to the Christmas market and a 18th-century chapel. Visitors can stock up on culinary treats, traditional crafts and all those last-minute gifts at the Valkenburg Christmas market.
- Estimated airfare: $214 from JFK to Burlington, Vt. (32 miles from Middlebury)
- Estimated lodging: From $135 a night at Middlebury Inn
Middlebury is an absolutely picture-perfect Christmas village for a getaway. Santa Claus comes for a visit on board a fire truck and ice skating is available, of course, with the requisite hot chocolate. You can even partake in a contest to find tiny reindeer in shop windows and win a prize.
All prices are based on travel between Dec. 20 to 27, 2017, departing from New York-area airports. When New York was the destination, Los Angeles was used as the departure city.