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Wines on the Wing

Best Small Towns to Visit Before Christmas

by Barbara Rogers

Dec 12, 2022

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania © Cheryl Fleishman | Dreamstime.com

North America

December is a good time for family travel, with sparkling lights decorating the streets and shop windows aglow. But there’s no need to head for the big cities to enjoy holiday lights and festivities or shop in Christmas markets.


You’ll find smaller towns across the country with great holiday festivals. Some are places with long-established immigrant populations who preserved old-world traditions of their former homes. Some towns take inspiration from their names, others simply wanted to make the season special.


Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has long-time roots in the culture of its German population, and it shows in not one, but two traditional Christmas markets. On Friday through Sunday in December, see craftspeople and food vendors selling from a village of wooden cabins at the Christmas City Village in downtown. Another, opening in mid-November, is the indoor Bethlehem Christkindlmarkt. Families can enjoy carriage rides, story time with Santa, a live Advent calendar with treats for everyone and 28 beautifully decorated Christmas trees at historic sites throughout town.


Christmas never ends in the small city of North Pole, Alaska, where holiday decorations stay up year-round. Street lights are giant candy canes, and street names include Kris Kringle Drive, Santa Claus Lane and other Christmas themes. You can buy everything Christmas at Santa Claus House and get lost in the Ice Maze during the Christmas in Ice festival. Professional and amateur ice carvers create polar bears, sleighs, elves and Santas. You can also ride down a mile-long ice slide. Kids can meet reindeer and mail cards to friends with the North Pole postmark.


For a wonderland of Christmas trees, go to Branson, Missouri, in December. More than 1,500 decorated trees include one that’s nearly 40 feet tall and covered in thousands of Austrian crystals. After viewing the trees up close, get a bird’s eye view from Branson Ferris Wheel.


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