If you feel like escaping the family around the holidays, there are plenty of places to go and have a festive celebration of your own.
Here are 10 of our favorites.
1. Tromso, Norway
If you like the night life, Tromso is the place for you. Daylight during the holiday season is just a couple of hours long.
But, the darkness is lit up by incredible views of the northern lights (look for them between 6 p.m. and midnight) and a chance to say you’ve been to the North Pole—well, the Arctic Circle, anyway—for Christmas.
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2. Prague, Czech Republic
Seeing The Nutcracker is a great experience. Seeing it in Prague, one of the homes of ballet, takes it up a level.
When you leave the ballet, enjoy historic Nerudova Street in Mala Strana, which is filled with Gothic and Baroque architecture. Don’t miss the holiday markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.
3. Lapland, Finland
Want to walk in a real winter wonderland? Urho Kekkonen National Park, a 90-minute flight from Helsinki, is the real thing. You can cross the frosty landscape via a reindeer-pulled sled, or go cross-country skiing on the Saariselkä trails.
If you want to watch the Northern Lights warmly, some of the igloos at Hotel Kakslauttanen are made of thermal glass.
4. Zurich, Switzerland
One of the most beautiful cities in Europe believes in lighting up the holidays. A display of 12,000 crystal lights are turned on to mark the season starting in late November.
On the eve of December 19, children set candles afloat on the Limmat River near City Hall. And don’t miss the Conelli Christmas Circus.
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5. Charleston, S.C.
If you’re not in the mood for Europe, Charleston has its own spin on the holidays. Pecans roasting instead of chestnuts, eggnog spiked with bourbon, and choirs singing spirituals at Drayton Hall plantation are among the signs of the season.
The city has an extensive list of events at christmasincharleston.com.
6. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland has been a hot vacation spot for the last several years, and the center of that is Reykjavik, the capital city. It’s another northern location where daylight is a four-hour affair and the aurora borealis is the biggest holiday light of them all. Statues of the 12 Yule Lads (the Icelandic version of Santa Claus) peek around every corner and from every window.
7. Santa Barbara, Calif.
So you’d rather be warm for Christmas – who wouldn’t? Hotels in the Santa Barbara area can give you the New England winter lodge feeling, then you can step out onto the beach.
If you are there on a Sunday, check out the Sunday Arts & Crafts Show for last-minute shopping.
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8. Boston, Mass.
If you want New England’s old world ambience with snow, Boston is the place to go.
Enjoy Beacon Hill’s cobblestoned streets dusted with snow, and celebrate the ghosts of Christmases past with the Christmas Revels at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Get some skating in on Boston Common.
9. Edinburgh, Scotland
Fireworks lighting up over Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse? Yes please. Add in bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” around the Sir Walter Scott Monument, and the sounds of the season are fully engaged here.
10. Taos, N.M.
For a unique holiday season, light a farolito (little lantern) in Taos. The Native American and Hispanic influences are prevalent, bringing a multicultural twist to the holiday season with activities like the lighting of Ledoux Street with the tiny lanterns.
In the days prior to Christmas, the town also celebrates the Hispanic tradition Las Posadas.