Celebrate the winter holidays with all the festivity and none of the work by heading to these fantastic destinations.
No matter the classic lyrics sung by Bing Crosby, some of us don’t want to be “Home for Christmas.” Or Hanukkah. Or Kwanza. Or the other winter holidays. Or the New Year.
My family is small and scattered through the United States. That’s one reason we sometimes choose a destination to meet for the holidays instead of descending on one of our homes. By doing so we’ve discovered a relaxing way to enjoy the magic of the season and spend time together — while no one is saddled with all the work of hosting.
I highly recommend you try this, too, with one big caveat — plan it now or you will overpay for mediocre accommodations or be shut out altogether.
Check out these five top holiday getaways and start planning now:
1. Cruise with Christmas charm
Tanya Hart / Flickr
There’s something special about a cruise over the holidays, even for those who don’t often opt for this type of travel. The ships are truly decked out with seasonal lights, fragrant wreaths and trees decorated with posh bows, ribbons and ornaments. There’s live holiday music to put even the most determined Scrooge in the mood to celebrate.
The plentiful entertainment options on cruises ensure everyone can find something they enjoy.
Singles shouldn’t feel shy about taking a holiday cruise. True, there will likely be a lot of groups aboard, but sea voyages tend to foster friendliness and camaraderie.
If you consider a cruise, remember these two things:
Obtain a passport or check to see if you need to renew your existing passport. Most cruises involve crossing borders, so apply now to avoid having to pay extra for a rush service. All the information you need is on the website of the U.S. State Department.
Book your air travel now, too. If you wait until the last second to book a flight to your port of departure you may miss out on deals and prime flights. (You could literally miss the boat!)
And read: “10 Things to Know Before You Book a Cruise.”
2. Old-world festivities in Key West, Florida
AdamEdwards / Shutterstock.com
This year, we are spending part of the holidays in Key West. The small island offers just the right mix of warm weather (temperatures are usually a comfy 76 degrees in December), old-world charm and holiday spirit.
I’ve spent the holidays in Los Angeles, in Orlando, Florida, and in other warm weather meccas but sometimes found them too heavy on the summer feel and too light on the holiday theme.
Key West residents lavishly decorate the palm trees and historic inns — and hold an annual parade of lighted boats — adding to the cheer.
Explore options for Key West holidays at Florida Travel Life. The Key West Travel Guide also gives terrific insight into attractions, lodging and holiday events including Hanukkah in Key West (Dec. 24-Jan. 1), Christmas in Key West (Dec. 25), and New Year’s Eve.
3. Sweet! Holidays in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Albert / Flickr
Hersheypark, in the birthplace of Hershey chocolates, is never sweeter than during the winter holidays, when you can celebrate as the park is transformed into Christmas Candylane with year-round characters and more than 4 million lights, as well as Santa, elves and live reindeer.
This year’s Candylane celebration is from Nov. 11 through Dec. 31. The details will soon be announced, but expect attractions to include 46 rides including four roller coasters, story times, live shows, ice skating and train displays.
The “Little Elves Workshop” where kids make ornaments, Snowball Saturdays (when fake snowballs drop from the second floor onto the lobby of the Hershey Story Museum) and the Hershey factory tour are among don’t-miss attractions recommended by MommyUniversity. The four-star Hotel Hershey and the more relaxed Hershey Lodge are arguably two of the most-sought-after lodging options. You can get more ideas at TripAdvisor.
Check out: “10 Little-Known Facts About the Hershey’s Chocolate.”
4. Victorian celebration in Nevada City, California
Bob White / Flickr
This city with just over 3,000 residents turns the former Gold Rush Town into a winter wonderland during the holidays. Twinkling white lights, authentic gas lamps and carolers in Victorian costume are some of the highlights that bring this holiday destination to life.
If you go, consider dressing in Victorian fashion or at least don a top hat or carry a muffler. The city encourages attendees to dress the part. Don’t miss My Favorite Things boutique that features a mix of holiday décor and artisan local crafts, reports Fodor’s.
The Nevada City Chamber of Commerce has the details on dates, lodging, dining and even marriage options.
5. Historic holiday in Williamsburg, Virginia
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com
Book right now if you want to celebrate the holidays in historic Williamsburg, which played a major role in both the Revolutionary War and Civil War.
This is a place that does it up right for the holidays starting right after Thanksgiving and through New Year’s. Walking tours, fife and drum events, caroling, seasonal dinners and abundant Victorian decorations create a classic atmosphere to the holidays. Nearby Busch Gardens joins in the celebration with 8 million lights, seasonal food and drink and live shows. There are a host of food and lodging options, packages and more you can learn about at Williamsburg Vacations.
Are you thinking about getting out of town for the holidays? What’s your dream destination? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.