Top 10 places to spend a magical Christmas

See the baby fur seal sunbathing on the shores of Kaikoura, New Zealand.
See the baby fur seal sunbathing on the shores of Kaikoura, New Zealand.
Whether your ideal Christmas is about snow and magical lights or a beach and a seasonal cocktail, here are the ten of the best places to spend Christmas.

1. Kaikoura, New Zealand

The Kaikoura peninsula may not have reindeer, but it is teeming with sperm whales, fur seals, dusky dolphins, pilot whales, and albatross in Kaikoura Bay. Since it’ll be summertime when you visit, you can encounter almost all of them by boat or kayak, then catch some yuletide rays on the beach.

2. Taos, New Mexico, United States

This remote village on a high desert plain is especially magical at Christmas due its rich mix of cultural traditions. Don’t miss historic Ledoux Street all lit up with luminarias or paper lanterns, the ceremonial re-enactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter, and the dramatic American Indian Christmas Eve celebration that takes over the main square in Taos Pueblo. Plus, you can ski all day on Christmas Day at Taos Ski Resort.

3. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The Spanish colonial gem and cultural hot spot in central Mexico is electric at Christmas, with theatrical processions around town, numerous nativity re-enactments, and fireworks, live music, and dancing in the main square, El Jardin. Don’t miss a taste of ponche, a kind of Mexican hot toddy made of fruits and brandy, or the sweet bread rosca de reyes, both Christmas specialties.

4. Tromso, Norway

The snowy city island of Tromso offers unparalleled views of the Northern Lights and a chance to say you’ve been to the North Pole – well, the Arctic Circle, anyway – for Christmas. Plus, there’s dogsledding, great food, and a mountaintop cable car.

5. Key West, Florida, United States

Good cheer and warm temperatures are typically Key West’s winning attributes, and Christmas is no exception. The trimmed palm trees, done-up historic inns and four festooned blocks of boats along the historic waterfront amplify the town’s merriment.

6. Chicago, United States

The Windy City embraces yuletide cheer to the max, with a million holiday lights along bustling Magnificent Mile, Christkindlmarket, a huge outdoor German crafts market with beer and fare like sausages to stoke your fire, a towering handmade Christmas tree, and Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest, a holiday-themed amusement park and indoor skating rink.

7. Vienna, Austria

An old-fashioned warmth envelops Vienna at Christmas, softening the hard edges of imperial architecture with twinkling decorations and three outdoor Christkindlmarkets, which are best visited at night. Vendors sell crafts and ornaments, while visitors fuel their shopping with finger food and a glass of spiced mulled wine, or gluhwein.

8. Quebec City, Canada

Lit-up cobblestone streets, 16th- and 17th-century stone houses, and lots of snow make Quebec’s 400-year-old walled city an atmospheric and European-like place to be at Christmas.

9. Paraty, Brazil

It may not look a lot like Christmas, but Paraty, a half-day’s drive from Rio, is a hidden gem of a town with astonishingly well-preserved Portuguese colonial architecture, a vibrant cultural scene, and easy access to verdant rainforest and some of the world’s most perfect beaches.

10. Castleton, England

A tiny stone English village dotted with cheerfully lit Christmas trees would be enough of an allure, but carolling by candlelight inside caves seals this town’s place on a list of special yuletide travel destinations.


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