9 Holiday Getaways in the Eastern U.S. and Canada
Twinkling lights, festive events and the spirit of the season conspire to create magical experiences in these winter wonderlands, from the lakes of Georgia to New York, Montreal and beyond.
New York City
The Big Apple knows how to celebrate the holidays. There’s the Radio City Christmas Spectacular where you can see the Rockettes kick their famous legs in sync. Before or after the show, stroll past the magnificent Rockefeller Christmas Tree and watch ice skaters glide below the tree’s towering twinkling lights. For an even grander ice-skating experience, a 105-foot-long rink located in Battery Park City between the Winter Garden and the North Cove Marina offers expansive views of Lower Manhattan and the Hudson River.
For a fun family outing, head to Center City Village to explore the annual Christmas Village and enjoy listening to carolers while strolling through 80-plus booths of crafts and food vendors. Advanced skaters will love practicing spins on the Olympic-size ice skating rink at RiverRink Winterfest that overlooks the Delaware River. Music lovers should buy tickets to A Philly POPS Christmas, a series that features The Philly POPS Festival Chorus and the award-winning African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir.
The Downtown Holiday Market features a plethora of shopping choices, including 150 regional artisans, crafters and boutique businesses of ethnically produced goods. Take an evening stroll through D.C.’s oldest neighborhood to explore Georgetown GLOW, a curated art exhibition of outdoor public light installations. If you’re closer to Arlington, catch a performance of Holiday Follies, the Signature Theater’s annual holiday cabaret show that will have you humming in your seats. Families will enjoy a night of carols and seasonal tunes at the festive Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long at Northern Virginia’s Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts on December 2.
Experience a spectacular display at Holiday Lights, Garden Nights, the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s annual event. From glowing orbs to synchronized dancing lights, explore the 30 acres of lit up holiday fun. Home décor aficionados will love visiting the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center; the historic mansion gets a holiday makeover as the city’s top interior designers and florists work their festive magic on elaborate displays and trees. For a lovely evening, take a leisurely stroll through the Atlanta Christkindl Market and sip on mulled wine while you shop for unique gifts for friends and family.
Let the Boston Pops get you into the holiday spirit with its program of festive performances. From singalongs with Santa to a New Year’s Eve bash, the world-famous orchestra will have you tapping your toes. Board Northern Lights, a luxury 1920s-style yacht to glide around the Boston Harbor; whether its Holiday Jazz or Cocoa & Carols, choose a cruise theme that fits your fancy. For 41 years, Bostonians have been gathering in Copley Square and Back Bay for First Night, a New Year’s Eve celebration with live performances, special attractions, kid-friendly activities and, of course, fireworks.
Westchester, New York
Model train enthusiasts should head to the New York Botanical Garden to see the Holiday Train Show. Watch as downsized locomotives chug their way through miniaturized NYC landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge. Hear the world-famous Vienna Boys Choir perform at the Tarrytown Music Hall (December 9); comprised of singers all over the world, these talented voices will serenade ears with classical masterpieces and holiday favorites. Visit the largest holiday light show in the Hudson Valley at the Westchester Winter Wonderland, which also boasts activities like ice skating and kid-friendly rides.
If you are looking for a White Christmas, Montreal is the place to be. Take advantage of the winter wonderland and head to Mont-Royal Park for cross-country skiing, tobogganing and great views overlooking the city. Be delighted by the sights and sounds of the Nutcracker and watch as Montreal’s premiere troupe, Les Grands Ballets, perform pas de deux to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve to see some fireworks — every Saturday night in December, catch the Fire On Ice fireworks show at the Old Port by St. Lawrence River.
Lake Oconee, Georgia
Venture a short distance to Greensboro to partake in the Festival of Lights on December 1. See the lighting of the tree and enjoy holiday festivities like carolers, while sipping on hot chocolate. Plus, the charming downtown’s Main Street features a host of eclectic boutiques and shops where you may spot last-minute gifts for your loved ones. Stretch your legs on the Ice Rink at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. With 6,000 square feet of ice, there’s plenty of room for experts and novices to practice their skating under the festive Christmas tree.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Begin (or continue) a holiday tradition with a performance of the Nutcracker at the Charlotte Ballet — it is sure to leave you with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head. For a festive walk, take a self-guided tour of the Fourth Ward, Charlotte’s historic district of well-preserved Victorian homes; they’ll be dressed up to look like real-life gingerbread houses. Treat your ears with an outing to the Charlotte Symphony — its Magic of Christmas performances feature soloists, singalongs and special guests (including a special guest named Santa).