USA Destination Ideas for Magical Holiday Road Trips
When we think of the holidays, our minds are almost always drawn to the iconic image of families gathered at home to celebrate together. However, spending the holidays at home isn’t mandatory — in fact, a Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation might actually serve to make the season more festive! If you’re itching to take the family somewhere new this holiday season, look no further than the following US destinations.
USA Destination Ideas for Magical Holiday Road Trips
The national parks are a popular tourist destination — so popular that they’re often overcrowded. However, if you plan your trip for the winter season, you may just find you have the whole place to yourself!
Both Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone are absolutely stunning in the winter. Rocky Mountain offers a variety of activities for cold-weather fanatics, including ice climbing, winter mountaineering, snowshoeing, and skiing. Yellowstone, on the other hand, has a few more leisurely options, such as guided snowshoe and snowmobile tours, complete with stops at warming huts.
Though cold weather national park road trips during the fall and winter are entirely possible, you’ll need to take care when it comes to wildlife in the road. The roads are likely to be icy, and animals pop up without warning, so stay within the designated speed limit and and make sure you know in advance how to brake on slick roads, especially if you don’t have anti-lock brakes.
If winter weather isn’t your idea of a good time, head south to the national and state parks located in Texas, such as Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, or Monahan Sandhills. Enjoy hiking, bicycle, and equestrian trails while taking in the breathtaking beauty of the Texan landscape.
Amusement parks aren’t just a summer vacation destination anymore! Several parks around the country offer delightful holiday-themed activities from late November through the new year. Here are just a few to consider:
Hersheypark, Hershey, PA
Each November, Hersheypark re-opens it’s gates as Christmas Candylane, a holiday/candy themed park festooned with a dazzling display of 4 million lights. Visitors can enjoy a choreographed light show, festive live entertainment, and a family-friendly skating pond. Be sure to take the little ones to see Santa and the reindeer! And of course, a holiday visit to Hersheypark wouldn’t be complete without a cup of fresh hot chocolate to keep you warm, inside and out.
Disney World, Orlando, FL
Though all the rides and attractions remain open, Disney World has so much more to offer your family during the holiday season. There’s Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, where you can witness the season as celebrated by cultures around the world. Listen to the story of Christmas during the candlelight processional — a stirring tale accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and massed choir. And of course, the rest of the Disney gang gets involved as well — all of your favorite characters don their most festive gear, Cinderella Castle is drenched in lights, and multiple holiday-themed parades take place every day!
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA
You don’t wanna miss the moment Busch Gardens Williamsburg transforms into Christmas Town. Over 8 million Christmas lights cover the park, making it the largest Christmas light display in North America. You can visit live penguins in their ice-themed habitat, chase thrills on many of the park’s most popular rides, and take the perfect Christmas card photo with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his friends. Round out your day with a trip to the Christmas buffet and watch world-champion figure skater Elvis Stojko perform “‘Twas that Night”!
The magic of Christmas isn’t relegated to theme parks. Multiple towns around the country undergo their own seasonal transformation, becoming the perfect destination for holiday memories.
Skaneateles, New York
Weekends from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, the The Dickens’ Christmas festival takes Skaneateles back in time. Costumed actors portray characters from A Christmas Carol along the town streets, Mother Goose reads stories to the children, and Father Christmas makes an appearance as well. There are free horse and carriage rides complete with roasted chestnuts! What’s not to love about this idyllic, old-fashioned holiday celebration?
From mid-November to early January, Grapevine, Texas holds more than 1,400 holiday events every year. Boats draped in Christmas lights sail through the lake during the Twinkle Light Boat Parade. Pajama-clad children climb aboard the North Pole Express for a magical adventure-filled train ride. Classic holiday movie favorites play at the 1940s-era Palace Theatre. ICE! presents an extraordinary display of elaborate, life-sized ice sculptures, ice slides, and ice monuments with gorgeous lighting effects. This amazing celebration has to be seen to be believed.
Rockefeller Center, New York, New York
There’s just something so enchanting about Christmas in New York — a nowhere does New York do Christmas better than at Rockefeller Center. You can see the Radio City Rockettes performing the Christmas Spectacular, skate amid a sparkling scene at Rockefeller Plaza, visit the city’s holiday market, and take in the over 1,000-plus gingerbread houses at the New York Hall of Science. If you’re looking for a hotel in keeping with the holiday theme, the Omni Berkshire Place offers lobby carolers, an edible candy-cane installation, a hot cocoa bar, and a welcome note from Santa. It’s pure magic!
Though holidays at home are wonderful in their own right, a holiday getaway can create memories that last a lifetime. So, choose a destination, gather up your family, and let the holiday spirit take over. Happy travels!
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.