By Jeanenne Tornatore
While everyone is talking about travel over the holidays, sometimes the most festive, memorable trips are the ones leading up to the holidays, filled with shopping, holiday entertainment and decked out hotels. And the price tag can be significantly less than during the big holiday weeks. Here’s a look at my picks for easy, weekend escapes for getting in the holiday spirit.
New York, NY
Experiencing Christmas in the Big Apple is a bucket list item for many. The city lights up for the season, with something to see and do around nearly every corner. Some of the top not-to-miss holiday happenings include
- Ice skating is a must, with plenty of outdoor rinks to choose from — Bryant Park’s Winter Village, Wollman’s Rink in Central Park, and of the course the Rockefeller Center rink.
- Sharing a selfie from the world’s largest Christmas tree and largest Menorah at Rockefeller Center.
- Scoring a seat at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes, at Radio City Music Hall.
- Perusing for one-of-a-kind gifts at some of cities “pop-up” holiday shopping booths that you’ll find at places like Grand Central Station, Bryant Park and Union Square.
- Strolling 5th Avenue to take in the big department store one-of-a-kind holiday window displays.
Every year, holiday events set throughout Music City offer joyful celebrations and beautiful decorations for residents and visitors of all ages, highlighting the history, country music culture and all-around southern charm of this vibrant destination. Be sure to create an itinerary that includes:
- Experiencing the candlelight open house at the Belle Meade Plantation.
- Enjoying an Country Christmas evening of music at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
- Getting tickets to ‘Christmas at The Ryman’, with Amy Grant & Vince Gill, at the historic Ryman Theater.
- Reserving a space on one of the yuletide tours of Nashville’s historic homes.
- Shopping the boutiques of the quaint and eclectic neighborhoods that add so much to the personality of this city.
Orlando is consistently one of the top holiday destinations for good reason: it’s pure magic during this season. This sunny spot is transformed into a wintry dreamland with shows, snow and Santa, with festivities that kick off after Thanksgiving and continue until early January around the many theme parks and resorts. Be sure to add these events and attractions to your wish list:
- Visiting Who-ville at Islands of Adventure, which is fully decked for this annual Grinchmas event. Watch Dr. Seuss characters come to life in a musical show and dance around the Who-ville tree before getting a holiday picture with Mr. Grinch himself.
- Awing at the balloons and floats from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade that wind their way through the streets in a nightly parade celebrating the season at Universal Studios.
- Enjoying worldwide Yuletide traditions at Epcot’s Holidays Around the World program. Meet Santa’s counterparts from other cultures and celebrate Kwanza, Hanukkah and other seasonal holidays from around the world.
- Listening to the retelling of the Christmas story during Epcot’s Candlelight Processional complete with a 50-piece orchestra, choir and a celebrity narrator.
This 400-year-old walled city lights up like no other during the holidays, with a European ambiance, plenty of snow and so many ways to celebrate the holidays. Plan your itinerary with these experiences in mind:
- Strolling and shopping in the charming Quartier Petit Champlain, one of the most magical parts of town with thousands of lights and Christmas decorations along the boutique-lined streets.
- Discovering gifts for your loved ones (and yourself) at the Old Port Christmas Market, featuring over 1,000 local products.
- Taking a spin at the outdoor ice rink at Place d’Youville where visitors can skate to the sound of Christmas music in a beautiful historic setting.
- Sampling specialties at the open-air German Christmas Market, from German mulled wine, cookies, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, Bratwurst and local products galore.
- Joining one of the many themed guided holiday tours (shopping, culinary, history)