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3 Unconventional U.S. Cities to Spend the Holidays

Christmas Tree

For anyone looking to travel for an unforgettable holiday trip, consider these three options that offer an incredible spread of possibilities catering to a variety of interests.

1. Colorado Springs, CO

Jingle Bell Run 5K and Kids’ Reindeer Romp

From romance to family-friendly events, Colorado Springs is always a magical place to visit when fall finally gives way to winter. At a sprawling costume party and holiday celebration rolled into one, the Jingle Bell Run 5K and Kids’ Reindeer Romp is one of the main events that kicks the season into high gear. Participants toss on their ugliest ugly-Christmas sweaters, Santa suits, and reindeer antlers for an energetic run (or stroll) through scenic Fountain Creek Regional Park, which lies at the base of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains. The fun run also is for a great cause that will help you get into the holiday giving spirit, as the proceeds go to a variety of programs that help local teens.
While the Jingle Bell Run 5K is perfect for families, couples, or individuals, the same goes for the popular Skate in the Park, a growing tradition at Acacia Park in downtown Colorado Springs. Featuring demos by Olympic skaters and programs for skaters of all ages and skill levels, Skate in the Park is circled by holiday lights and dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. Families also tend to go all-in for the Santa Express Train, where patrons toss on their favorite holiday pjs and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies with Santa on the way to the North Pole.

Spend the Day at a Castle

On top of the robust list of family options in Colorado Springs during the holidays, there are also some great opportunities for small groups or couples looking to drum up a little romance. At Glen Eyrie, you can not only have a cozy night in a real castle, but you can also participate in a range of holiday activities, from the very popular Yule Tea to the immaculately decorated Madrigal Banquet, which will whisk you back to the 16th century for a jolly night of great food and activities. Also in the area, Miramont Castle offers a Victorian-era Christmas atmosphere from mid-November onward, creating another beautiful backdrop to get the season rolling in the right direction.
Also consider: For more than three decades, the Festival of the Lights Parade has taken over downtown Colorado Springs with a wondrous spread of lights and holiday spirit. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Electric Safari also pivots to the holiday season with all kinds of impressive decorations and offers outstanding views of city holiday lights from its mountain perch.

2. San Diego, CA

You may not instantly think of Southern California when you conjure up images of the holidays, but one trip to San Diego at the right time of year can change that in an instant – particularly for anyone hoping to escape the more wintery aspects of the holiday season. Over at the renowned Hotel Del on Coronado Island, you can actually walk right along the ocean all the way up to the Del’s famous outdoor ice-skating rink, where holiday enthusiasm runs rampant throughout December and early-January. Staged between the wide Coronado beaches and the famous red rooftops of Hotel Del, the rink offers California-style ice skating that typically comes with mild weather (think low to mid-60s) and the patented San Diego sunshine. Hotel Del also gets very decked out for the holidays as well, including an enormous evergreen tree in the lobby decorated to the hilt.

Balboa Park

Meanwhile, Balboa Park in downtown San Diego puts on the steadily growing December Nights, an astounding holiday festival that draws on cultural traditions from all over the world. For four decades, December Nights has taken over the sprawling, 1,200-acre park that showcases the world-famous San Diego Zoo along with an assortment of renowned museums and gardens. But for one weekend in early December, the park is enlivened by countless holiday lights and a staggering spread of food vendors, making for an international holiday celebration and enormous food festival rolled into one. Add in some live holiday-themed performances at the Old Globe and other activities embedded in December Nights and it’s easy to see why visitors (and locals) turn up at Balboa Park in December.

Parade of Lights

As a prominent port of call, San Diego is also not exactly lacking in beautiful harbor views, which create the background for the explosion of holiday colors that come with the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. For nearly a half-century, participants have shown off their inner creativity by decorating their boats based on the annual theme, which have ranged from “Aargh! A Pirate’s Christmas” to “A Tropical Island Christmas” (2018) in recent years. To get the best views of the roughly 80-boat parade, viewers show up early and spread out around the two embarcaderos that jut out into the harbor overlooking Coronado Island.
Anyone up for a short drive from central San Diego also has even more terrific options for the holidays. Though all the beach towns north of downtown (e.g. Pacific Beach, La Jolla, Encinitas, Del Mar) have their own holiday festivals worth checking out as well, driving a little east to Julian, California will give you a completely different experience. Sitting at the base of the Cuyamaca Mountains, Julian is known for its snow-capped mountain scenery, crisp air, and wonderful little historic area that springs to life for the holidays. Regionally famous for the pies and various homemade delicacies, Julian has a fun tree-lighting ceremony and looks like a postcard once Main Street is fully lit with holiday excitement. From major festivals celebrating diverse holiday traditions to events that take full advantage of local geographic advantages, San Diego is simply a great place to spend the holidays.

3. Williamsburg, VA

Christmas Wonderland

There’s an irrefutable holiday cheer in the air in Williamsburg, Virginia once the calendar moves past Halloween. At the heart of the action, Busch Gardens Christmas Town is a vintage winter wonderland complete with more than 10 million lights. It constantly smells of fresh Christmas trees, and has an impressive spread of boutiques lining the cozy village within Williamsburg. Unique holiday-based dining experiences, Santa sightings, and a North Pole workshop help create an electrifying atmosphere sure to get the holiday fun started in Williamsburg. Nearby, at Yankee Candle Village, Christmas is actually celebrated all year. However, it really pops to life in November and December to offer another memorable stroll through lights, decorations, and holiday activities.

Christmas Tree Lighting

Because Williamsburg is often credited with being the site of the first community Christmas tree, the tree-lighting ceremony has become a seminal way to usher in the good vibes of the season. The first tree was decorated here all the way back in the 1840s, and by 1915. Williamsburg celebrated with its first community tree complete with electric lights, making the annual ceremony a timeless tradition that continues to draw both locals and visitors. Not only do participants gather to see the lighting of the enormous evergreen tree in Market Square but everyone crowds around for a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” followed by caroling.
Though Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding region is always great for delving into the magic of the region’s rich history, history lovers have even more options during the holiday season. A short 15-minute drive from central Williamsburg to Jamestown will let you time-travel to the Christmas traditions of the first English settlement on the continent. Whether you come for planned events and activities or simply want a great location to wander and take in a traditional holiday experience, Williamsburg is tough to beat.

Final considerations

Part of the fun of holiday travel is looking for the under-the-radar possibilities that will really tie your vacation together, making the holiday season an amazing opportunity to dive headlong into new experiences and traditions. Even in places that don’t immediately come to mind when you think of the holidays, there’s a good chance there are plenty of exciting sites and local events that will put you in the holiday spirit. With an eye on local social media pages and willingness to consider contrarian options, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right balance of cozy traditions and newfound adventures no matter where you choose to travel.

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Must-See Sights, Attractions, and More in Colonial Williamsburg

colonial-williamsburg-boy-drumming-worldviaNowadays, we are all about taking advantage of the modern times and the convenience that it offers us. As we all know, no one goes anywhere without a cell phone! Many hours per day are spent surfing the internet, we shop online, talk to friends using social media and many people even look for love online using sites such as Match and eHarmony. Can you imagine a world without the technology we take for granted, such as television and radio and cars? Most of us can’t! There is a city in Virginia called Williamsburg that has a historical district known as Colonial Williamsburg, where you can take a step back in time as you visit this wonderful historical landmark. See amazing 18th-century buildings, walk the cobblestone streets, and take horse-drawn carriage rides through the town as you discover what life was like in America during a much simpler era.

Where to Stay

The first thing to consider is your hotel accommodations. There are several hotels in the historical district that are absolutely charming. They are in close proximity to the sights, activities, and attractions that you will be enjoying during your trip.

Horse and Buggy

Williamsburg Inn

Stay at the Williamsburg Inn, and you will be experiencing luxury at it’s finest. There are several themed suites such as the Queen’s Suite, where Queen Elizabeth II actually stayed, and the Rockefeller Suite, a space that was elegantly designed by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Guests can also choose from smaller, yet equally beautiful rooms. With golf, spa treatments, and dining, this is a resort where you can create memories that will last a lifetime!

Griffin Hotel

Get in touch with nature when you stay at the Griffin Hotel, and also be conveniently close to the fun of Colonial Williamsburg. This a retreat that can be genuinely enjoyed, with King and Queen sized rooms that are perfect for relaxing after a day of touring. Amenities include a nature trail, bicycle rental, a health club and fitness center, and much more. This is a hotel where you will definitely feel right at home.

What to Do

Colonial Williamsburg is full of must-do activities that everyone can enjoy. You’ll be living life as they did in the 18th century, without any of the conveniences we have today! Get ready, because this is the ultimate experience!

Battle Reenactment


Located in the heart of the historic area, the apothecary lets you see what the world of medicine was like over 200 years ago. Plan ahead for this attraction, because times are limited, and you must have an admission ticket. You’ll be able to see the evolution of the pharmacy over a span of more than two centuries. Ask questions, see medical equipment from colonial times, and see what types of home remedies were used in the 18th century for injury and illness.


Colonial Williamsburg just may be the only destination where you can actually visit an 18th-century courthouse. Watch a simulated court session and see exactly how the laws were enforced in the past. Experience history in this historic building that opened in 1771 and tells the story of the law in previous times.


Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk

Anyone who enjoys a spooky experience will take delight in the Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk. This guided tour will take you around the streets of the area, as you hear about actual events that occurred hundreds of years in the past right there in the historic town. Get in touch with spirits as you hear about their amazing stories and experiences, and learn about all of the ways they still haunt the town.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

As the oldest museum of folk art in the country, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is a place that you don’t want to miss while you are in Colonial Williamsburg. With plenty of paintings, sculptures, and exhibitions, you’ll be in awe of everything that you see. Ongoing exhibits include American Ship Paintings, German Toys in America, A Celebration of the Early American Iron, and much more.

Historical Government Buildings

You certainly do not want to miss the historical government buildings where the political future of Virginia got its beginnings. The Governor’s Palace and House of Burgesses are two such places where you can see re-enactments of political discussions and happenings. Learn all about Virginia as a colony, and see all about the quest for the independence of what is now the state of Virginia.


See Historical Tradespeople in Action

No trip to Colonial Williamsburg would be complete without seeing how the tradespeople of the 18th century operated on a daily basis. Watch blacksmiths, wigmakers, coopers, and bookbinders as they create things that were essential for the colonial times.

Where to Eat

When the time comes for a bite to eat, you’ll want to do as the locals do and eat at a tavern.

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern is a recreation of taverns during colonial times. Eat at the same place that George Washington did as you enjoy the local seafood and enjoy live music and singing. You’ll be visiting a piece of history as you consume a meal of authentic Southern fare served by waiters and waitresses wearing 18th-century clothing to give you a truly historical experience.

King’s Arms Tavern

Another colonial option for great Southern food is King’s Arms Tavern. Originally opened in 1772. You can enjoy classic dishes such as Grid-Iron Beefsteak, Southern Fried Chicken, Vegetable Pasta, and much more. Save room for dessert, because here at King’s Arms Tavern you will find selections that include Thomas Jefferson’s Brandy Spiked Bread Pudding, Southern Pecan Pie, and a delicious Chocolate Fudge Cake.
Colonial Williamsburg is a place like no other, where you can go back in time and see what America was like hundreds of years ago! Now, you have a great itinerary for a trip that will live in your memory for a lifetime.