Here's a look at how some cities across the nation celebrate Christmas.
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Meyers, Florida, celebrate the season with thousands of twinkling lights and decorations in historic buildings and 20 acres of glowing gardens.
Santa’s visits, the Children’s Tree Trail and the Waltzing Waters holiday display are not to be missed. On nearby Captiva and Sanibel islands, enjoy the Christmas Luminary Trail made up of three miles of candles.
In Arkansas, the southern slopes of the Ozarks twinkle with 50,000 lights. Wiederkehr Village is a pocket of Swiss heritage and home to mid-America’s largest and oldest winery.
In historic Washington, Arkansas, you can stroll through candlelit streets and enjoy music and decorations. The homes are adorned with period decorations of pine cones, grapevines, magnolia and evergreens in the Southern tradition.
At night, thousands of luminaries transform the village into a magical wonderland. Plan time to visit Williams’ Tavern. Built in 1832, the converted tavern offers a delicious Christmas buffet. Enjoy a horse-drawn surrey ride or browse quaint shops for that special holiday gift.
At Green Bay, Wisconsin’s Botanical Gardens, 250,000 twinkling lights create a spectacular array of botanical-themed displays including an enchanted icicle forest, glistening flowers and dazzling 60-foot walk-through caterpillar.
Marshall, Texas, has one of the best lighting events in the country. Every year, the stately 1900 Harrison County Courthouse and historic downtown are decked out in millions of lights, transforming it into a true winter wonderland.
Along with an outdoor skating rink (yes! in Texas!), a carousel, train rides and Santa’s busy workshop, a visit to Marshall will give you memories to last a lifetime.
In Newport, Rhode Island, The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House —three National Historic Landmarks and icons of the Gilded Age in America — are filled with thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers, evergreens and wreaths.
Christmas trees anchor many of the magnificent spaces. Dining tables set with period silver and china complete elegant settings. Windows of each mansion are lit with white candles in keeping with the colonial tradition.
On view in the Great Hall in The Breakers is a 15-foot poinsettia tree. Model trains, recalling the Vanderbilt family’s New York Central Railroad, are also on display. In The Elms, the ballroom is transformed into a Gilded Age streetscape, complete with sleighs, topiary horse, trees and mannequins dressed in period costumes.
VISITS WITH SANTA
Before Santa leaves on Christmas Eve, he leads a colorful Torchlight Parade down the slope of Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Montana.
Skiers carrying lit torches follow Santa and make beautiful patterns against the dark sky. Afterwards, everyone gathers at the bottom and Santa gives out gifts and greets boys and girls.
Granbury, Texas, offers a magical setting for families to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus with a hand-painted, holiday-themed wonderland to enjoy while the kids whisper their wishes to Santa.
During the holiday season, residents pull out all the stops to show off their beautiful downtown square. With carriage rides, Santa’s workshop, performances at the 1800s Granbury Opera House and more, Granbury puts on a celebration to remember.
Christmas on the Brazos at Barrington Living History Farm at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park in Texas is an immersion in 1850s Texas frontier Christmas traditions. Re-enactors provide stories and lead activities.
At the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls in San Francisco, you can enter the world of Charles Dickens’ Victorian London. Laughter, mirth and merriment abound in this amazing re-creation of a Victorian village. Explore more than three acres of exhibition halls, marvelously transformed into lamp-lit streets, boisterous pubs and wondrous theaters.
Reminiscent of the centuries-old Christkindlesmarkt of Nüremberg, Germany, the Old World Christmas Market at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, offers warmth and merriment.
Guests experience fragrant boughs of fresh evergreens, tantalizing scents of roasted almonds and Nüremberg bratwurst as they browse among international and regional artisans.
Beautiful Ann Arbor, Michigan puts residents and visitors in the holiday spirit with an outdoor market featuring artisans and farmers selling hand-crafted ornaments, toys and unique holiday gifts and German foods like authentic pretzels, bratwursts, sweets, beer and mulled wine.
Each year for KindleFest, there’s live music, fire pits, s’mores roasting, and a Holiday Caroling Lantern Parade in the historic Kerrytown neighborhood.
In Gulf Shores, Alabama, the annual much-anticipated Christmas Lighted Boat Parade begins at LuLu’s at Homeport Marina. The parade travels down the Intracoastal Waterway Canal, before ending in Orange Beach.
In Portland, Oregon, ship owners gather for the Christmas Ship Parade, which begins in North Portland Harbor and travels up the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The boats range from 14 to 65 feet long and are brightly decorated for the holiday season.
The time-honored tradition of singing Christmas carols has been around for hundreds of years. Blanchard Springs Caverns near Mountain View, Arkansas, puts a unique twist on the tradition by moving it underground
The cavern’s sparkling crystalline formations and towering columns create a magnificent cathedral-like atmosphere with perfect acoustics as the backdrop for singing carols.
Tamra Bolton is an East Texas freelance writer. You can also read her stories on parade.com