12 old-fashioned Christmas towns you should visit

Travel to these small towns around the United States to get in the holiday spirit.

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Old-fashioned Christmas towns
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Old-fashioned Christmas towns

Corning & Hornell, New York

Dotted with delightful settlements between stretches of magnificent forest and all that deep blue water, the southern Finger Lakes region transports visitors back to a simpler era during the holidays. Hornell is transformed into Whoville, with a Grinch-themed parade and townsfolk dressing as their favorite Dr. Seuss characters on November 30. Also, the nearby town of Corning hosts Sparkle on December 1, with carolers, fireworks, and photos with Santa in his Crystal House. For more holiday nostalgia, get a look at these rare, vintage photos of Christmases past.

Cedarburg, Wisconsin

This enchanting historic town is like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life during the holidays. Santa’s Cedarburg Workshop, open on weekends from Nov. 23 through Dec. 22, gives kids the chance to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus inside a gingerbread house. The restored Rivoli Theatre plays classic Yuletide films, and decorated windows and 1,000 glowing luminaries grace Washington Avenue to enchant and delight shoppers on Fridays. For those who want to do a good deed with their exercise, Santa’s Dash Away 5K raises money to help keep Santa’s Workshop free for families.

Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte is the name of a lovely little ski town and the mountain that rises above it. The merriment begins on Light Up Night on Dec. 7, when Santa lights a giant Christmas tree and downtown merrymakers are treated to free hot chocolate and s’mores. You’ll want to make sure you stroll along Elk Avenue to browse brightly colored Victorian-era storefronts, which will be decorated for Christmas. For an invigorating way to experience Jack Frost’s favorite season, don’t miss the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade. Ski instructors at Crested Butte Mountain Resort glide down the slopes holding torches, and the mountain’s peak is illuminated. Check out these charming towns that are even cozier when it snows.

Prescott, Arizona

This scenic town, surrounded by the Prescott National Forest and the country’s largest stand of Ponderosa pines, provides an abundance of Christmas cheer. Events begin with the Christmas Parade on Dec. 1. That evening, more than 100 trees will be illuminated during the annual lighting ceremony at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza. Bands visit 100 area businesses to play during the Acker Music Night on Dec. 7, raising money for youth art scholarships. Throughout the holiday season, the Prescott Resort hosts the World’s Largest Gingerbread Village, displaying more than 100 charming, handcrafted houses.

Leavenworth, Washington 

So picturesque and perfect it might have magically materialized from a fairy tale book, this Bavarian-style mountain town celebrates with its Christmas Lighting Festival that kicks off on Nov. 30. More than a half-million Yuletide lights set the village aglow. Santa and Mrs. Claus, Saint Nicholas, and Father Christmas join in the merrymaking. Music from choirs, marching bands, hand-bell ringers, and carolers fills the air, and horse-drawn carriage rides, dogsled rides, sledding, tubing, and skiing help attendees make the most of this glittering wintry wonderland. This is the most charming small town in every state.

McAdenville, North Carolina 

This tiny town, population 660, boasts a holiday extravaganza that few cities can match, with 375 live trees draped in decorations and lights. The trees range in height from six feet to 90 feet, with 5,000 lights used on the biggest ones. The official lighting ceremony in McAdenville is Nov. 30, and there are events throughout December, including a Yule Log Parade on Dec. 13. During every Christmas season since 1950, the local children have pulled the Yule log on a sled through town, followed by residents and visitors. When the procession reaches downtown, the Yule log is set ablaze, beginning the annual Christmas Town Festival.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Considering the name, it’s fitting that this lovely place is one of the best spots in the nation to spend the Christmas season. Visitors can browse the artisan-crafted wares of Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem, an immense outdoor holiday market held under heated tents. Modeled on legendary European Christmas markets, Bethlehem’s version also offers live music and belly-filling fare on weekends from Nov. 16 until Dec. 23. Guided walking and bus tours through Bethlehem, which was founded in 1741 by members of the Moravian Church, offer a glimpse of Victorian and colonial architecture and the town’s Christmas star. Check out these Christmas traditions from around the world.

Fredericksburg, Texas

A month-long holiday celebration blends Old World German Christmas traditions and Texas hospitality in Southern Living’s 2018 pick for the best small town in Texas. Shop along the glowing Main Street Marktplatz, which features a hand-carved 26-foot Christmas pyramid and an outdoor ice skating rink. On Dec. 7, watch the Light the Night Christmas Parade, and on Dec. 8 bring the little ones to Kinderfest, a children’s festival, at the Pioneer Museum. Or visit the drive-through Nativity at Bethany Lutheran Church on Dec. 14 and 15.

Manistee, Michigan

Travel back in time during the 30th annual Old Christmas Weekend on Dec. 6-9 in the festively decorated downtown. The highlight is the Victorian Sleighbell Parade, in which a team of draft horses pulls a 30-foot Christmas tree down River Street. After the parade, gather for caroling and the lighting of the tree. Other can’t-miss spectacles include a display of Victorian-era holiday items, a meet-and-greet with Dr. Seuss character the Grinch, and a Festival of Trees. Try these DIY Christmas decorations to make your home look more festive.

Bedford, Ohio 

This holiday season, visit a place in touch with Christmas in the 1940s. On the afternoon of Dec. 8, the city transforms into the iconic small town of Bedford Falls, depicted in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. Shopkeepers greet customers with a bevy of delightful sweets and treats. Santa and Mrs. Claus welcome young children and listen to their hopes and dreams for gifts they will find under the tree. The free event includes crafts, hot cocoa, live music, Lolly the Trolley tours, Polar Express Story Time, letter-writing to veterans, and more.

New Castle, Delaware

Tour decorated homes and churches and enjoy live music during the Spirit of Christmas Celebration on Dec. 8, a town-wide event sponsored by the New Castle Presbyterian Church. Admission is free on that date at the Amstel House, which is adorned for a traditional 18th-century colonial holiday, and the Dutch House, hosting a celebration of St. Nicholas’ Eve. Also check out A Dickens Experience, complete with a Victorian ball, on Dec. 7—when the New Castle Visitor Center at The Arsenal becomes the Fezziwig house from “A Christmas Carol”—and a Victorian tea on Dec. 8.

Rapid City, South Dakota

Main Street Square is a place of community and mirth as it gets dressed up for Christmas, says Field Editor and Rapid City resident Kathleen Ungerer. On Nov. 24, visit the winter market and watch as the Festival of Lights Parade marches along with over 75 floats. All season, the square transforms into a skating rink. Gather over a fire pit to warm your hands while children glide across the ice. Statues of presidents downtown wear hats and scarves, donated so the less fortunate can help themselves to what they need. Next, check out the best small towns for Christmas lights.

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