When you choose a festive holiday destination, you want to choose a location that’ll have you singing ‘it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go’! For the cosiest Christmas, make like the movies and look for mulled wine, markets, ice-skating and a magical atmosphere. Add to that somewhere lovely to retreat at the end of the day, and you’ll be very merry indeed. Try these jolly holiday destinations on for size…
What could be cosier than donning all your snuggest winterwear for a quick trip to the North Pole to visit Father Christmas and tell him just how good you’ve been this year? A getaway to Lapland allows you to visit his grotto, workshop and post office, with plenty of festive fun for all the family besides.
SantasLapland.com recommends visitors can get into the Christmas spirit by “driving the husky sled, after meeting the huskies” or “meet some of Rudolph’s reindeer friends and enjoy silently swishing through the trees of Saariselkä forest on your reindeer sleigh ride.” For sportier types, try a spot of ice-fishing, snow hockey, or riding a skidoo. Traditional tobogganing is a must – following which, you might like to hit a red-hot sauna or meet the local Sami people and borrow one of their furs to warm up.
German Christmas markets boast such a lovely atmosphere they’ve been replicated the world over. This year, try the original Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt for size, with over 180 stalls. The city is also where you’ll find a gingerbread-house bakery turning out the finest lebkuchen– chewy, spicy biscuits sweetened with honey and often coated in chocolate or a thin glaze of snowy icing.
If something more savoury is in order, “the world-famous bratwurst are a not-to-be-missed pleasure.” Try a traditional bratwurst which, since 1497, must have a diameter allowing it to fit through the city gate’s keyhole. The official website suggests your enjoy the traditional sausage “with sauerkraut, potato salad or as two- or three-in-a-bun, the “Weggla”.
Warm up with a cup of hot red wine and rum punch, scooped from the largest “Feuerzangenbowle” in the world holding 9,000 litres. Once fed and watered, get your fill of culture exploring the festive nativity scene, many arts and crafts on display on the market’s abundant stalls, and the local churches.
The whole city embraces Christmas, lit up like a fairytale and boasting a non-stop seasonal buzz. Local museums get into the spirit, too, with The Toy Museum putting on a festive exhibition in the Old Town Hall and the Museum for Industrial Culture putting on a programme of baking workshops all about those famous lebkuchen – featuring history, demonstrations… and tasting opportunities!
Mouans Sartoux, France
Can’t get enough of classic stable scenes complete with a full cast of characters? A trip to Mouans Sartoux this Christmas is for you. The French Riviera tourism board says, “The Foire aux Santons market of Mouans-Sartoux, is the oldest and largest in the Alpes-Maritimes département, boasts 22 santonniers (makers of santons) and has over 8,000 visitors each year.” Since 1802, the town has hosted the ‘Foire aux Santons’ – a festival devoted to the traditional figurines. This year is the 30th event, and will see 22 specialist craftsmen from around Provence attend the fair, displaying nativity characters of all types and sizes along with beautiful Christmas tree ornaments.
Of course, there’s more to see and do to keep you feeling firmly festive in the Alpes-Maritimes area – including street performances and a large Christmas market filled with crafts, knick knacks and ample opportunities to eat and drink amazing wintertime French fare – check out what’s in season at the regular Tuesday and Thursday Provencal market.
If you want your Christmas festivities to be completely over-the-top, visit Vegas. The city simply doesn’t know how to do things by halves – something never as evident as at Christmas. Skating across the world’s only floating ice rink, Lake Las Vegas, is something else . The annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run keeps the adrenaline pumping – but you’ll need to don a Santa suit to take part.
The city’s never short of lights, but come December, it blazes even brighter. The best place to see Christmas lights on the Vegas Strip is the Bellagio, where the star of the show is an 8-foot Christmas tree topper crowning an enormous fir tree and awe-inspiring fountains ‘dance’ to carols. Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory is worth a visit, for lights, demos and real chocolate houses. Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall offers an equally impressive spectacle at its Christmas show, with fake snow a-flying, lasers ablaze, and in excess of 500,000 fairylights. Similar shows occur all over town – be sure to book early, as they book up fast.
A visit to paradise is always a pleasing prospect, but here it’s actually the name of your destination. Pennsylvania state’s Paradise is home to the unique National Christmas Centre – founded in 1998 and still the only museum of its type. On a mission to “educate and entertain our guests, so that they may continue the timeless Christmas traditions we portray, or be inspired to create new customs and celebrations, ” owner Jim Morrison has created 14 different Christmas worlds, allowing you to move through time and from country to country as you explore.
Visit ‘Nazareth’ and witness the birth of Jesus in a Bethlehem stable, or whizz up to the North Pole to see Santa. In the interim, you can stop off in ‘Tudor Towne’ and see how people got into the Christmas spirit way back. The National Christmas Centre is bedecked with hundreds of thousands of festive items, from the ornate to the totally trashy. Whatever your own vision of the perfect Christmas, you’re sure to find a scene that captures your imagination.