Christmas Across America: A Unique Way to Celebrate the Holidays in Each State
From scuba Santa to a giant pig, each state has its own way of celebrating the season
Home is where the heart is, but it may not be where you always want to be for the holidays. There is no reason wanderlust and winter wonderlands can’t go together.
If you are looking for a festive escape (from your family, work, whatever) this Christmas, all you need to do is throw some eggnog in a thermos and hit the road. Each state in America has its own unique way of celebrating the season, so we listed 50 of the oddest, brightest, sweetest and Santa-iest ways to get into the holiday spirit, one for each state.
Each year, Mobile residents don their best set of pointy ears and gather to enjoy the city as elves. In 2015, the merry makers set out to break the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Santa’s elves.
Alaska: Counting Birds
Started in 1900 by ornithologist Frank Chapman, the Christmas Bird Count celebrates the variety of beautiful birds surrounding us every day. Many states host an annual CBC, but Alaska’s is one of the largest.
Arizona: Tumbleweed Christmas Tree
Since they are a little short on firs in the southwest state, the city of Chandler makes due by lighting up a stack of decorated tumbleweeds each year.
Arkansas: Lights of the Ozark
The day after Thanksgiving, the town of Fayetteville becomes a twinkling wonderland as every building and street turns on an impressive arrangement of Christmas lights that stay on until New Year’s Eve.
California: Surfing Santa
When Santa visits Seaport Village, he doesn’t drop down the chimney – he rides in on a monster wave.
After you ring in the New Year, come to the snow-capped land of Breckenridge to see the world’s best winter architecture at work.
Connecticut: Lantern Light Tours
For decades, the town of Mystic has hosted a progressive performance, which attendees follow by lantern light, through its historic buildings.
Delaware: Yuletide at Winterthur
Every winter, the appropriately named Winterthur Museum decorates its rooms with stunning trees to bring the holidays of yore back to life.
Florida: Deck the Chairs
Who needs an evergreen? Jacksonville Beach ornately decorates lifeguard chairs to get into the holiday spirit.
Georgia: The Pink Pig
More than 50 years ago, the pink pig went on its inaugural ride through an Atlanta department store. Now, the unique train is available for rides every holiday season at Macy’s Lenox Square.
Hawaii: Roast a Pig
Speaking of swine: It’s a Christmas tradition to roast a pig luau-style for the big day instead of cooking up a turkey, in the island state.
Idaho: Tuba Christmas
A group of dedicated tuba players travel the state to blow out the biggest holiday hits with bellowing power.
Illinois: Ugly Sweater Run
Do more in your signature ugly holiday sweater than drink ‘nog; hit the streets of Chicago for the “merriest 5K” of the year.
Indiana: Indianapolis Auto Show
Show Santa what you want next year by cruising through this annual auto show the day after Christmas.
Iowa: North Pole Express
The fastest way to Santa’s homeland, this locomotive treats kids to a festive ride before stopping at the “North Pole” to visit Santa and the Snow Princess.
Kansas: St. Lucia Day
Known as the little Sweden of the United States, Lindsborg, Kansas, celebrates the Swedish winter holiday St. Lucia’s Day. Young girls wear robes with red sashes and a crown of candles in remembrance of a young female martyr from 304AD.
A holiday place for LEGO lovers, this annual event features large-scale displays built completely out of the tiny bricks.
Louisiana: Bonfires on the Levee
The Big Easy celebrates Christmas in a big way, lighting giant bonfires along the Mississippi River so Papa Noel can find the way.
Maine: Lobster Trap Christmas Tree
Rockland, Maine, uses the holidays to honor St. Nick and local lobstermen by crafting a giant Christmas “tree” out of lobster traps.
Maryland: Miracle on 34th Street
For more than 70 years, the residents of the 700 block of 34th Street in Hampden, Maryland, have decorated all of their homes to make a blinding frenzy of Christmas spirit.
Massachusetts: Nova Scotia Christmas Tree Lighting
Every year, the massive tree alighted in Boston comes from Nova Scotia. The tradition started in 1918 after Boston dispatched a group of first responders to help those affected by a ship explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Canadian province has donated a tree to the city every year since as a thank you.
Michigan: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
Michiganders travel from all over the state to Frankenmuth to visit the world’s largest Christmas store.
Minnesota: Holidays at the Mill
The Mill City Museum hosts an annual Flour Tower elevator ride and tour, where guests are treated through a trip back in time to meet the ghosts of the Mill City’s past holiday parties.
Mississippi: Christmas in Cotton Plant
One family makes Cotton Plant a Christmas destination by setting up an elaborate display of lights and inflatables.
Missouri: Fairy Princess
Starting as a tradition at the now-closed Kline’s department store, the Kansas City Museum welcomes the Fairy Princess each year as an extra magical person to meet along with Santa.
Montana: Bozeman Ice Festival
Each year, Bozeman hosts ice climbers from around the world so they can show off their skills to spectators and hopefully encourage others to take up the thrilling winter sport.
Nebraska: Christmas at Cody’s
William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and his wife loved to entertain over the holidays. To honor this hospitality, the people of North Platte gather together and decorate Cody’s mansion, covering the outside and each room in Christmas cheer.
Nevada: Scuba Santa
Fish loves gifts, too, so Santa makes sure to drop in to visit the swimmers of the Silverton Casino aquarium each Christmas.
New Hampshire: Ho-Ho-Hobo
Ride the scenic Hobo Railroad in New Hampshire with Santa! Take in the sights, enjoy hot drinks and coast in vintage cars all with the big red guy by your side.
New Jersey: Dreaming of an Alpaca Christmas
The alpacas of Bluebird Farms have cleared off time in their busy Christmas schedules for a special visit during the holiday season.
New Mexico: Madrid Christmas Parade
Madrid, New Mexico, used to be a vibrant mining town renowned for its Christmas decorations, but that all changed when the mine closed down. In the 1970s, hippies began to move into the shut-down city and restart the Christmas celebration. Now, Madrid has an annual Christmas parade full of festivities and free spirits.
New York: World’s Largest Gingerbread Village
New York City isn’t just home to one of the world’s largest Christmas trees – it also boasts the largest gingerbread village. GingerBread Lane at the New York Hall of Science covers over 500 square feet and includes 1,050 houses.
North Carolina: Rappelling Santa
He surfs, swims and he jumps off cliffs. Santa really does it all. In North Carolina, Santa makes regular rappel trips down Chimney Rock during the winter.
North Dakota: Beer and Bacon Festival
After a long month of holiday eating, why not eat some more? That seems to be the motto behind Happy Harry’s Beer and Bacon festival, which happens in January.
Ohio: Christmas Story House
You can visit the actual house used in the holiday classic A Christmas Story, restored to its movie splendor. The house and museum holds an auction each year in which the winning bidder gets to spend Christmas in the famous abode.
Each year, Tulsa turns into an outdoor wonderland with Winterfest. The celebration features ice skating, carriage rides, giant trees and more.
Oregon: Reindeer Sign
Every year, Portland gets playful and adds a red nose to the neon deer on the city’s sign.
Pennsylvania: Traditional German Christmas
The presence of Amish Country in Pennsylvania brings interesting Christmas traditions to the state, especially those of German heritage. Some of the traditions include the Santa-esque Beltznickel and leaving candles in the window.
Rhode Island: Gilded Age Mansions
As if they weren’t fancy enough, the Gilded Age mansions of Newport go all out for the holidays.
South Carolina: Parade of Boats
Who needs the streets when you have the sea? In Charleston, residents decorate their boats with lights and merrily sail them down the city’s waterways.
South Dakota: Christmas at the Capitol
The Capitol Building in Pierre opens its doors to everyone during the holiday season so they can enjoy the landmark’s 100 decorated trees and other Christmas decorations.
Tennessee: Christmas at Graceland
It’s hard to have a “Blue Christmas” when you are at The King’s estate surrounded by holiday cheer.
Texas: Las Posadas
Texas takes part in this nine-day Christmas celebration of Spanish origin that includes pinatas, reenactments and carols.
Utah: Festival of Trees
More than 700 Christmas trees are on display at this annual event that donates every penny of its ticket sales to Primary Children’s Hospital.
Vermont: First Night Burlington
This single-day arts festival is an easy, affordable and entertaining way to ring in the New Year with more than 110 performances.
Virgina: Colonial Christmas
Travel back in time and see what Christmas was like in America before Toys “R” Us at Colonial Williamsburg.
Washington: Christmas Ship
Every year, Argosy Cruises sends out its Christmas Ship, which stops at more than 40 communities of the Puget Sound waterfront, to serenade the state with an on-board choir.
West Virginia: Hanging of the Greens
Students and faculty of West Virginia Wesleyan College gather together each winter for the “Hanging of the Greens.” The group decorates the school’s chapel with long lines of fresh garland.
Wisconsin: Christmas Village
Chippewa Falls transforms into holiday central each Black Friday, when volunteers cover the city’s Irvine Park in decorations. The electric bill for the lights usually costs about $3,000.
Wyoming: 1,000 Faces of Santa
Get in all your Christmas wishes by visiting the Thousand Faces of Santa exhibit at Cheyenne’s botanic gardens. The holiday special features one the largest collections of rare Santa dolls and toys.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate the holidays in your city or state?