The Best Places to Spend Christmas ( part 2 )

The La Parroquia and Templo de San Rafael on the main square of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Why Go: The Spanish colonial gem and cultural hot spot in central Mexico is electric at Christmas, with theatrical processions around town, numerous posadas reenactments, and fireworks, live music, and dancing in the main square, El Jardín. Be sure to sample ponche, a kind of Mexican hot toddy made of fruits and brandy, and the sweet bread rosca de reyes.



Key West, Florida USAKey West, FL

Why Go: Good cheer and warm temperatures are typically Key West’s winning attributes, and Christmas is no exception. The trimmed palm trees, done-up historic inns, and four festooned blocks of boats along the historic waterfront (the “Bight Before Christmas”) only amplify the town’s merriment.




Why Go: The Windy City embraces yuletide cheer to the max, with a million holiday lights along bustling Magnificent Mile; Christkindlmarket, a huge outdoor German crafts market with beer and fare like sausages to stoke your fire; a towering handmade Christmas tree; and Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest, a holiday-themed amusement park and indoor skating rink.




Why Go: An old-fashioned warmth envelops Vienna at Christmas, softening the hard edges of imperial architecture with twinkling decorations and three outdoor Christkindlmarkts. Vendors sell crafts and ornaments, while visitors fuel their shopping with finger food and a glass of spiced mulled wine, or glühwein. The Vienna Boys’ Choir concerts are lengendary.



The church at Place Royale. Winter in Quebec, Canada

Quebec City

Why Go: Lit-up cobblestone streets, 16th- and 17th-century stone houses, and lots and lots of snow make Quebec’s 400-year-old walled city an atmospheric and European-like place to be at Christmas. The local good cheer and great food could make even a skeptic love winter after all.



Night view of Marienplatz with the Christmas market in Munich, GermanyMunich

Why Go: Winter in the Bavarian capital means a hundred-foot-tall Christmas tree in the Marienplatz, about two dozen Christmas markets (weekdays draw fewer crowds), and mulled wine and gingerbread, served on a tram that crosses the old city.

Don’t Miss: Every evening at 5:30 from November 25 through Christmas Eve, there’s live holiday music on the balcony of the town hall.



Paraty, Brazil

Why Go: It may not look a lot like Christmas, but Paraty, a half-day’s drive from Rio, is a hidden gem of a town with astonishingly well-preserved Portuguese colonial architecture, a vibrant cultural scene, and easy access to rainforest and some of the world’s most perfect beaches. Sounds like a holiday to us.



Taos, NM

Why Go: This remote village on a high desert plain is especially magical at Christmas, thanks to its rich mix of cultural traditions. Not to miss: historic Ledoux Street all lit up with luminarias (paper lanterns); the ceremonial reenactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter, called posadas; and the dramatic American Indian Christmas Eve celebration that takes over the main square in Taos Pueblo. Plus, you can ski all day long on Christmas Day at Taos Ski Resort, 18 miles away.




Why Go: The legend of Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas) is strong in the Dutch capital, where 16th- and 17th-century houses are strung with lights in early December. Consider lingering through New Year’s Eve for champagne and fireworks in the Nieuwmarkt or Dam squares.

Don’t Miss: Join locals as they trade their bicycles for noren (long-bladed ice skates) and tour the city’s outdoor rinks.



San Juan, Puerto RicoPuerto Rico

Why Go: “Jingle Bells” set to a salsa beat will get you dancing and caroling. Palm trees basking in sunlight and exotic flora in the El Yunque rainforest replace your typical snowcapped pines. Wrap up your Caribbean days with an evening stroll through a 500-year-old Spanish colonial city on the Atlantic.



Castleton, England

Why Go: A tiny stone English village dotted with cheerfully lit Christmas trees would be enough of an allure, but caroling by candlelight inside caves seals this southern town’s place on a list of special yuletide travel destinations.



Provence, France

Why Go: A Provençal winter is always fairy tale–like: the villages gone silent at summer’s end come back to life; music from medieval churches fills the cobblestoned streets; women crowd around market stalls to sniff out the freshest foie gras.



Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand

Kaikoura, New Zealand

Why Go: The Kaikoura peninsula may not have reindeer, but it is teeming with sperm whales, fur seals, dusky dolphins, pilot whales, and albatross in Kaikoura Bay. Since it’ll be summertime when you visit, you can encounter almost all of them by boat or kayak, then catch some yuletide rays on the beach.


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