With the holidays on us, plenty of people abandon their stockings hung by the chimney with care for the gift of adventure, spending Christmas and New Years in destinations around the globe. Perhaps your family is seeking out adventure holiday cheer in the most magical place on Earth, or maybe a budget-conscious week under the Caribbean sun is more up your alley — whatever jingles your bells, we’ve lined up holiday trips sure to satisfy. Grab your skis or sunblock, and, heck, your Mrs. Claus bikini too, and discover Travel Channel’s top picks for most exciting holiday destinations.
Disney Orlando, Florida
Holidays Disney Style
Orlando, FL’s star attraction, Walt Disney World, creates more than its usual share of wonder during the Christmas season, with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a ticketed event held from 7 p.m. to midnight on select nights in theMagic Kingdom that’s chockfull of fireworks, the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and a special appearance by Santa Claus.
Meanwhile, Epcot features the Holidays Around the World nightly candlelight processional and caroling choir, Animal Kingdom‘s daily parade includes a holiday theme, and millions of twinkling lights shine on the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Be prepared to face large crowds and higher prices from Christmas to New Year’s, though travelers will be amply rewarded with Disney’s seasonal charms. And a Magical New Year’s midnight countdown set to usher in 2014 in the most memorable way possible. Immerse yourself in the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks—taking place December 31, 2013, only at Magic Kingdom park!
Budget-Friendly Holiday Beach Vacation
Looking to completely escape the hubbub of the holidays? Try a budget-friendly beach vacation at the all-inclusive Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach in the Dominican Republic, where packages can include airfare, airport transfers, room, meals and certain alcoholic beverages.
If you grow tired of lounging by one of the resort’s 4 pools or under the shade of a palm tree on the white-sand beach, Viva also offers a number of activities included in your stay, such as introductory dive lessons, merengue and salsa dance classes, trapeze lessons, windsurfing and kayaking. Food is also ample; the resort’s 6 restaurants include the international buffet at La Terraza, Mediterranean fare at the waterfront La Roca, and La Pizzeria, which doles out slices to hungry, late-night partiers.
Summer Christmas Wonderland
Australia might not be folks’ first thought of where to find Christmas cheer, but Sydney truly might be one of the most festive cities in the world. December in Australia is actually summertime, but don’t be fooled by the 80-degree temperatures; Sydney spares no expense in creating a Christmas wonderland throughout the city.
Highlights include the dazzling holiday lights at Town Hall, the enormous Christmas tree at Martin Place pedestrian mall and Christmas on the Green in Hyde Park, where an appearance by Santa delight youngsters and their parents. Still, the real party takes place on Christmas Day at Bondi Beach, where the Sunburnt Christmas party draws thousands of revelers to the shore’s of the city’s hottest beach. International DJs provide a soundtrack for a dance party, all-day beach barbecues and even a Miss Christmas Bikini contest.
A Million-Plus Holiday Lights
New York isn’t the only city that can throw a holiday extravaganza.Chicago’s Christmas epicenter can be found at Daley Center Plaza’s Christkindlmarket, a traditional German Christmas market filled with hundreds of vendors selling handmade ornaments and gifts, like cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers, as well as tasty German treats such as hot spiced wine and sausages and sauerkraut.
Take a trip to Macy’s, where visitors can first enjoy the opulent, animated window displays, then take in the wonder of the season with a meal under the towering 45-foot-tall Great Tree in the historic Walnut Room. Finally, make a trip to the ice rink in Millennium Park, or check out theMuseum of Science and Industry’s display of more than 50 decorated Christmas trees in the Christmas Around the World exhibit. Come nightfall, take in the million-plus holiday lights gleaming along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile — magical.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
New Year’s Ski Torch Display
‘Tis the season for ski buffs planning Holidays in Jackson Hole, WY. The season kicks off at Jackson’s Town Square Lighting Ceremony, where twinkling lights wrapped around trees and the square’s elk antler arches are lit, Santa arrives via dogsled, Christmas carols are sung by the Jackson Hole Community Band and Jackson Hole Chorale.
Other Jackson Hole Christmastime events include a Christmas ornament workshop, holiday chamber music concerts, a winter solstice bonfire and sleigh ride under the stars. For New Year’s, check out the annual torchlight parade and fireworks display at Snow King Resort, where participants ski down a mountain holding flaming torches, in a brilliant display.
Stay Close to Home This Winter Ski Season
Hit the slopes! Take the family or go on a romantic getaway to Vail, Squaw Valley or Jackson Hole. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, go further and head to an international ski destination like Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France. Avoid the crowded beaches and go snowboarding on Mt. Tremblant.
What’s Your Favorite Holiday Destination?
Santa is not the only one traveling around the world… We know many Phoenix Owners have great Holiday Adventure Stories and Fabulous Travel Spots that we’d love to hear about. Send us your photos and your stories so we can share them here! Email us: [email protected]
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Feature Image by Montserrat Antillon, Costa Rica based photographer.