Most Festive US Cities to Visit for the Holidays

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Sleigh bells are ringing, snow is glistening, while Mariah Carey serenades shoppers at department stores — it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Which of the 200 biggest U.S. cities most resemble a scene out of a Hallmark movie? LawnStarter made a list of 2022’s Most Festive Cities and checked it twice. They looked for cities with bags of fun, like holiday festivals and European-style Christmas markets serving delicious goodies. Of course, no winter wonderland is complete without snow, so LawnStarter also measured the average snowfall in each city to find the most Instagram-worthy backdrops.

Rotary Rink in Buffalo – courtesy of onlyinyourstate.com

To rub icy elbows with your pal Jack Frost, head to Upstate New York. Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester are true winter wonderlands, boasting excellent walk scores and the highest average snowfalls among all 200 cities. There’s plenty of merrymaking to be had in these frigid cities, but you’ll need the warmest pair of winter boots — or even snowshoes — and a well-insulated coat. The region already hit an icy milestone, a historic 4 feet of snow in a single day, back in November. Buffalo, NY is especially festive, as the city also boasts a second place ranking for most ice skating rinks. While it may not have as many festivals or shopping options as some of the other top-ranked cities, Buffalo is the perfect place for those looking to enjoy the wintery outdoors.

Philadelphia’s Christmas Village – courtesy of phillyfunguide.com

Philadelphia took a respectable sixth place in the list’s “merrymaking” and “entertaining” categories, and has the fourth most skating rinks on the list. The city of brotherly love is home to one of the most exciting holiday markets. Inspired by the Germans, Philadelphia’s Christmas Village takes center stage at LOVE Park every winter. Treat yourself to waffles, gingerbread, and bratwurst, then wash it all down with some warm mulled wine. Let your kids take a spin on a vintage carousel, while you browse through trinkets and other crafts from international artisans.

Christkindlmarket – courtesy of blockclubchicago.org

Chicago ranked as the fourth overall most festive city, taking second place in the “eating and drinking” category. In addition to great food, Chicago has the fifth most shopping centers and department stores making it a great place to find gifts for everyone on your list. Visitors will want to be sure to stop at the city’s annual Christkindlmarket, modeled after the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany—and try some authentic Glühwein, or mulled wine, imported all the way from Germany. The market starts in mid-November and ends Christmas Eve.

Mile High Tree – courtesy of denverpost.com

Denver ranked high for “frolicking” and “eating and drinking” categories, and tied with a handful of other cities for second most holiday markets. Visitors will find the Mile High Tree lit up at Civic Center Park and several festive light displays at the Denver Botanic Gardens. While not directly located in the city, Denver is also a gateway to the Rocky Mountains and several wonderful ski resorts and pristine snowy mountain scenery. For an extra festive experience, consider making a short trip to the Victorian-inspired town, Georgetown. Now in its 62nd year, the Georgetown Christmas Market describes itself as “the quintessential winter town event, right out of a Christmas movie.” Don’t miss St. Nicholas touring the town or the Georgetown Community School carolers singing a traditional Swedish Christmas tune.

The Venetian Christmas Tree – courtesy of capturetheatlas.com

For some people, cold weather might not sound as enticing. Despite the lack of snowfall, Las Vegas took the #2 overall spot for most festive city thanks to its plentiful holiday shopping options. Those that love the holidays but prefer warmer climates will find this city to be the best option for a festive way to celebrate. In addition to the typical gambling and nightlife fun of sin city, Las Vegas has the second-most holiday festivals, second-most shopping centers and department stores, and fourth most holiday decoration shops.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree – courtesy of loving-newyork.com

Kids from 1 to 92 will find it hard to sleep in The City That Never Sleeps. New York is the #1 overall most festive city for the second year in a row. Earning over 32 points more than Las Vegas, our silver-bell medalist, the Big Apple dominated four out of five categories in our holiday ranking. It has the most holiday festivals, most holiday markets, most holiday decoration ships, and the fifth most ice skating rinks. No other city holds a fir-scented candle to America’s most popular tourist destination. It would take a miracle on 34th Street to beat the city with the most holiday festivals, attractions, music venues, gift shops. Only in New York will you find time-honored traditions like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting, and the Times Square Ball Drop. So, if you want a unique holiday experience, add New York to your bucket list.

Click here to read about all the other festive cities that topped LawnStarter’s list.

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