The holidays mean long and grumpy car rides or flights for many, and while they often also mean going home instead of visiting a new destination, some cities know how to do Christmas better than others. Today, I’m sharing five places that I think are particularly special during the holidays, even if that means they’re a couple degrees colder.
1.) New York–If there’s a time to be a tourist in New York, it’s during the holidays. When my sister lived in the city, we’d often spend a couple of days before Christmas Eve doing all sorts of touristy things to get excited about the holiday.
To get in the spirit, get dessert at Serendipity, even though there will be a line. Another solid option is Magnolia for their banana pudding and cupcakes. Try skating in Central or Bryant Parks and head to the Top of the Rock for views of New York illuminated for the holidays. Join the masses singing at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Christmas Concert. And of course, that’s not to mention the windows of Fifth Avenue, iconic Rockefeller Center, and the Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet.
2.) Naples–Across the pond in Naples, Christmas is also a spectacle, primarily for the San Gregorio Christmas Market. In Naples, the nativity scene is a popular tradition, and this market sells all sorts of figurines for the creche. My friend Fulvia told me that you’re supposed to get one new thing every year to add to your nativity. With such an array of figurines, from Mary to fishermen and baskets of apples, your nativity could soon become more of a city than a manger. Plus, if you’re in Naples, there’s so much more to see and eat. The best pizza I’ve ever eaten came from Di Matteo, and Neapolitan sweets abound.
While I loved the Christmas decorations and markets in Bologna, the tree, though giant, was a little lopsided and looked more like something out of Dr. Seuss than anything else. A lot of other Italian cities, like Florence, have impressive trees and holiday decorations.
3.) Washington, DC–The U.S. Capital is another one of my favorite places during the holidays, though I only discovered it recently when my sister sang at the White House with her college a cappella group. A bit warmer than its northern counterparts, DC still pulls out all the stops for the holidays, and a visit to the White House at Christmas in particular should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Every room has beautiful decorations and incredibly coordinated Christmas trees, and there might even be performers singing carols as you walk through.
4.) Newport–A bit closer to home but still in the vain of extravagant homes, Newport is also a special place to visit during the holidays. While Bellevue Avenue and Cliff Walk are always enjoyable for a stroll or run, the Newport Mansions are particularly beautiful during the holidays with giant Christmas trees, or poinsettia trees in this case. Plus, pictures are allowed this time of year.
If you head down the road to Rough Point, they offer an interesting tour of Doris Duke’s Mansion through the holidays. As the house is a living history museum, they maintain the house in the state it would have been in throughout the year. This means that at the holidays, they put many of the decorations in storage and put furniture under wraps. While visiting this time of year means you don’t see much, it’s a unique way to think about how these “summer cottages” would actually be when the obscenely rich left them behind for most of the year. This special tour also gives you insight into servant life, and at the end they may or may not give you ginger snaps and eggnog. I checked the schedule for this year, and it looks like they’re only offering tours on December 29th, so book tickets soon.
Blithewold in Bristol also merits a visit during the holidays. They host holiday teas from Thanksgiving through Christmas and each year decorate the house according to a different theme, this year being nature.
5.) Quebec–Finally, though I haven’t been during the holidays, Quebec is a great place to visit as it already feels like the North Pole for much of the year. Between the frigidity and Christmas light decorated streets, particularly in Le Petit Champlain, Quebec does a good job of feeling properly cold/Northern and also European.