Some cities celebrate the holidays with more than the usual parade or tree-lighting ceremony — a lot more.
You can find them anywhere from New England to the Pacific Northwest. Their sizes vary, from several hundred to nearly a hundred thousand. They all have one thing in common, though: paying them a visit around Christmastime feels like taking a trip to the North Pole itself.
If inspiration strikes and you decide to decorate your home to the nines this holiday season, keep safety in mind. The winter holidays are the peak time for home structure fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. More than 47,000 fires take place, which result in 500 deaths, 2,200 injuries, and $554 million in property damage.
One of the leading causes of holiday home fires? Decorations. Candles and Christmas lights, if not properly inspected and/or monitored, can lead to your home igniting and suffering damage. Flammable decorations placed too close to candles and frayed wires on light strands are easy ways for fires to be started inside or outside of your abode.
Luckily, fire is a typically covered peril and your homeowners insurance can help pay to correct damage or destruction it causes. Check your policy to make sure you have enough coverage to protect your home and belongings in case of an accidental Christmas fire.
McAdenville, North Carolina
What better place to start the tour of Christmas towns than a community with the nickname Christmas Town USA?
The former textile mill village of McAdenville is in its 60th year of displaying lights and decorations on homes and trees throughout the entire city. The total number of lights now exceeds half a million. Since the beginning, the annual transformation has benefited from the enthusiastic support of residents, town officials and executives at Pharr Yarns.
What started with a small display at the town community center in 1956 has become a huge attraction that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every holiday season.
When to Visit McAdenville:
The 2015 schedule begins Dec. 1 and ends Dec. 26. Hours to drive through town and admire the lights are:
- Monday-Friday, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
- Saturday and Sunday, 5:30-11 p.m.
In a town known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, the Tannenbaum never goes out of season.
Frankenmuth is home to the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, which features 320,000 square feet of gifts, trees, decorations, and other Christmas-themed merchandise. Daily visits by Santa Claus start on the Friday after Thanksgiving and continue through Christmas Eve. (Kids, bring your wish lists. Parents, bring your cameras.)
Frankenmuth offers plenty of other holiday attractions — the Old Christmas Station restaurant, horse-drawn carriage rides, and lights and decorations. It’s all part of life in a town that celebrates Christmas every day of the year.
When to Visit Frankenmuth
The 2015 schedule begins Nov. 27 and runs to Dec. 24. Hours to take pictures with Santa are:
• Monday-Thursday, 10-11:30 a.m., 1-4 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m.
• Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
• Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
• Sunday, 12-5:30 p.m.
Every holiday season, a small community in the Cascade Mountains transforms itself into a Village of Lights.
Leavenworth, Washington, will be bathed in the glow of more than 500,000 lights for the 2015 Christmas Lighting Festival. In addition to the Christmas lights, residents, and visitors enjoy a full slate of festivities that includes handbell choirs, strolling carolers, costumed Christmas characters, sledding, and a Cookie Crawl for the youngsters.
Leavenworth is also home to Christkindlmarkt, an event celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Bavarian-themed Christmas market features food, arts and crafts, and family-friendly entertainment. Welcome to Washington’s Winter Wonderland!
When to Visit Leavenworth
Events start on Thanksgiving weekend with Christkindlmarkt. This year’s Lighting Ceremonies are scheduled for Friday-Sunday on the following weekend:
• Dec. 18-20
The focal point of holiday festivities in Ogden, Utah, is a city within a city — Ogden’s famed Christmas Village.
The downtown area provides the setting for Christmas Village, filled with tiny cottages inspired by Santa’s home at the North Pole. Visitors can buy keepsakes at Santa’s Store, and younger visitors can ride the Polar Express miniature train and share their wish lists with St. Nick himself at Santa’s Castle. Ogden’s Christmas attractions also include music and dance performances, as well as the Holiday Electric Light Parade.
Christmas Village has been delighting residents and visitors alike since 1962. Sometimes the smallest places can create the most vivid memories.
When to Visit Ogden
The Christmas Village festivities kick off on Nov. 28 with scheduled events including:
• Lighting of Christmas Village
• Holiday Electric Light Parade
• Christmas Village Gala and Fireworks Show
Santa Claus, Indiana
The story of the town called Santa Claus is one of chance, coincidence and — of course — Christmas.
The town was originally known as Santa Fe, but the government refused its application for a post office in 1856 because a Santa Fe post office already existed in Indiana (in an unincorporated community also called Santa Fe). After several meetings, Santa Claus was chosen as the new name — and history was made.
Santa Claus has been home to a series of Christmas-themed attractions since the 1930s. Today the town entices visitors with Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, a theme park which is home to Santa’s Candy Castle, a world-renowned wooden roller coaster, and more. Santa Claus is one community that truly strives to live up to its name.
When to Visit Santa Claus
Although some local attractions remain open year-round, things really start to pick up in late November. Events for 2015 include:
• Nov. 26-Dec. 31 — Santa’s Great Big LED Tree of Lights
• Dec. 19 — Christmas Lake Village Festival of Lights
If you’ve never tasted the mulled cider beverage called wassail, the town of Woodstock urges you to give it a try.
Woodstock has been home to this pre-Christmas festival for nearly 30 years. “Wassailing” refers to a medieval practice of singing, enjoying a hot brew of spiced apples, and toasting to prosperity during the winter solstice. Woodstock keeps the tradition alive with music, food, fellowship, sleigh rides, and tours of historic homes.
The city of Woodstock is brimming with history, and one holiday experience you shouldn’t miss is the historical Christmas experience at Billings Farm and Museum. A fully operational dairy farm, the entire family can experience what it was like to celebrate Christmas traditions during the 19th century. Tours of the decorated 1890 Farmhouse and interactive holiday activities – candle dipping, making historic ornaments, and sledding – give this Christmas experience an Old World twist.
When to Visit Woodstock
Holiday programs at Billings Farm and Museum run from Dec. 26 to Jan. 3, excluding Christmas Day. Events for 2015 include:
• Dec. 19–24 – Hours for making Christmas silhouettes and candle dipping run from 10:00 a.m.–4 p.m.
• Dec. 26-Jan. 3 – Horse-drawn sleigh or wagon ride hours are from 10:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.