Put away the snow boots! These festive spots offer Christmas cheer without the freezing temperatures.
NOLA heats up the season for a Cajun Christmas that’s not too hot, not too cold. Throughout December, check out free Christmas New Orleans Style concerts in the historic St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square; then join the carolers in the square for a massive singalong the Sunday before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, a centuries-old tradition of bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River light the way for Papa Noel, as Santa is known locally.
It’s summer in the southern hemisphere, so for Australians, Christmas means balmy weather and beach days. You’ll probably catch locals surfing in Santa hats, playing backyard cricket, and heading out for Christmas Eve “prawn runs.” Sydney gets especially decked for the holidays, with illuminated decorations throughout downtown, musical events, and even Christmas “lunch” (the main holiday meal) at STUDIO Sydney Tower with a view of the harbor. And like the English, Aussies celebrate Boxing Day, December 26, with more opportunities for street parties and barbecues.
Where else can you surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon? With its mild climate and mountains not far away, L.A. is the best of both worlds. Skate in an outdoor rink on a sunny day, enjoy holiday events at Disneyland and Universal Studios, witness the splendour of the nightly Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, and see Las Posadas, a traditional presentation of the journey of Mary and Joseph on the nine nights leading up to Christmas. Then, stick around for the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
The historic town of Old San Juan looks even more magical dressed up for Christmas with lights, decorations, and nativity scenes. Puerto Ricans go all-out for their long holiday season, with celebrations from right after Thanksgiving all the way to Three Kings Day on January 6, and even extending to San Sebastian Street Festival (“SanSe”) in mid-January. Experience parades, traditional food, and a lively version of caroling called “parrandas.”
With highs near 80 degrees in December, this gorgeous town on the Sunshine State’s Paradise Coast offers a respite from winter weather—plus, fun holiday attractions. The shopping and dining destination Venetian Village presents its Holiday on the Bay celebration on weekends including Christmas Eve, with Santa, carolers in Dickens costumes, musical and dance performances, and even a snow show. The shopping district of Third Street South also offers weekly seasonal entertainment with its Third Street Thursdays. And don’t miss holiday lights on the tropical plants of the Naples Botanical Gardens.
December is actually one of the best months of the year to visit Hong Kong, with comfortable temperatures, low humidity, and not much rain. Plus, as a former British colony, the vibrant city really gets into the Christmas spirit. See the normally sparkling skyline look even more brilliant with the nightly Symphony of Lights multimedia show over Victoria Harbor, part of the city’s annual holiday festival. And although Christmas is a national holiday, shops and restaurants are frequently open. Read about the best ways to survive holiday travel.
A desert oasis awaits visitors to Tucson in December, without the scorching heat of the summer months and hardly any rain. Plus, the city goes all out with its Winterhaven Festival of Lights, a 69-year-old tradition of light displays in the Winterhaven neighbourhood. Also, check out the illuminations at Reid Park Zoo, and the huge Christmas tree, Mexican hot chocolate, “snow,” and entertainment at La Encantada’s Enchanted Snowfall. Here are more of the old-fashioned Christmas towns you should visit.
Like much of Latin America, this historic walled city is big into Christmas. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Cartagena‘s colonial buildings and cobbled streets look particularly magical lit up for the holidays.
Visitors will find a festive atmosphere on Christmas Eve, with people out celebrating, eating at restaurants, and attending midnight mass in awe-inspiring churches. But be warned: It will be hot in the city, so be sure to spend time at the beach and in the Caribbean Sea as well—Cartagena is a spectacular diving destination.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
It’s not exactly beach weather in this resort town, but it’s still a warm place to get away from frigid temperatures—as well see all of the area’s attractions along the Grand Strand lit up for the holidays.
Attend fantastic holiday shows like The Carolina Opry Christmas Special, called “The Christmas Show of the South.” The stunning Brookgreen Gardens has Nights of a Thousand Candles, featuring 4,500 hand-lit candles plus twinkling lights set among the flowers and sculptures. Stroll along Holidays on the Boardwalk for more festive lights and live music.