16 Festive Holiday Attractions & Activities
7. Frog Pond Ice Rink
Downtown Boston is one of the most gorgeous cities in the country to spend Christmas. With a lineup of festive events, a giant tree downtown, cozy coffee shops, wonderful city parks often covered in snow, brisk temps & a high likelihood of snow, lots of fine shopping and restaurants, and a real ice rink, a trip to Boston is a must add to any Christmas loving traveler’s bucket list. Christmas in Boston really is a memorable experience.
With a beautiful cityscape in the background, pretty holiday lights adorning all the trees, and festive music, skating at this beautiful Boston rink really is a magical experience.
After freezing your butt off and burning loads of calories (ice skating is one of the top forms of winter cardio), treat yourself to an amazing Italian dinner in the city. Boston is known for its’ wonderful Italian cuisine, especially in the North End neighborhood. I recommend checking out Giacomo’s, home to the best lobster ravioli off all time, and conveniently located within walking distance.
Other great holiday events in Boston include Zoo Lights, a long lineup of holiday plays, the Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker, the Boston Pops Holiday Concert, a holiday light show at Faneuil Hall, and carriage rides.
Location: 38 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108
Dates: mid-November to March. Hours are as follows: Mon 10:00AM-3:45PM, Tue-Thu 10:00AM-9:00PM, Fri-Sat 10:00AM-10:00PM, & Sun 10:00AM-9:00PM
Admission: $6, $12 for skate rentals ($6 for kids)
8. Florida Botanical Gardens
Surprisingly, many warm weather destinations go all out in terms of festive seasonal events, even more so than the cold, snowy cities whom you would expect to put on a bigger production. Tampa is no exception, with a whole lineup of fantastic holiday activities to enjoy. The best part of all is that you can enjoy all these activities without being bundled up head to toe! And asides from holiday attractions, the gorgeous beaches, nature preserves, and wonderful trails will give you even more options for winter fun. Here’s 50 fun things you can do in Tampa Bay year-round.
The Florida Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to visit any day of the year, with 30 acres of gorgeous cultivated gardens, and another 100+ acres of rare natural habitat, which you can view by strolling along one of the quiet nature trails. The Gardens is a peaceful place to spend the day, with plenty of opportunities for bird watching (more than 150 species of birds have been documented) and more than enough opportunities for wildlife sightings (a gopher tortoise is the most common sighting-I’ve seen more than I can count in this area!).
While a daytime visit to the botanical gardens is a must on any trip to Tampa, the gardens are even more spectacular during the holiday season. The grounds are covered with over a million lights. A 7 foot tall gingerbread house, holiday entertainment, and visits from Santa make the event even more festive. The best part of all is that this display has a bit of personality with Florida style decor including flamingo displays, decorated palms trees, and other tropical style decorating. It’s a refreshing change to see a different side to the holidays versus the ordinary light displays. I love areas that take advantage of their tropical surroundings rather than pretending that they are in the Midwest!
Other great seasonal events to check out during your December visit to Tampa include Christmas in the Wild at Lowry Park Zoo, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens, and the Dunedin Holiday boat parade.
Location: 12520 Ulmerton Rd, Largo, FL 33774
Dates: Nov 25-Dec 31st, Hours: 5:30-9:30
Admission: $4 suggested donation
9. La Salette Festival of Lights
The Salette Shrine in Attleboro, MA puts on one of the most beautiful light displays in all of Massachusetts, if not New England. All the locals know that this is the place to go to enjoy a quiet & gorgeous light display. In fact, people come from areas all over New England to see the gorgeous lights. For more than 50 years, the shrine has been decorating its’ 10 acre space with more than 300,000 lights. The lights are not simply thrown around as is the case in many events, but rather very attractively organized to create a truly spectacular event. The synchronized show is also fantastic.
Other highlights at La Salette’s event include nativity scenes from around the world, an International Creche museum with hundreds of creches from around the world, special holiday concerts, a Christmas craft fair, and a special Christmas Eve mass at 6pm and Midnight.
What sets this event apart from others is the peaceful, quiet nature. There are barely any crowds, no traffic noise whatsoever, and no over the top cheesy displays. La Salette is a quiet oasis for reflection anytime of the year, no matter your religious beliefs.
Location: 947 Park St, Attleboro, MA 02703
Dates: Nov 24th-January 1st, Hours: 5-9pm
10. Downtown Chicago Ice Skating, Holiday Window Displays, & Shows
Although Chicago is more commonly thought of as a summer destination due to the wonderful lakefront, Navy Pier, zoos, and Cubs games, a winter visit should not necessarily be ruled out. In fact, winter is my favorite time to visit the city. Chicago, especially the downtown area, is much less crowded in winter. Combine this with amazing holiday traditions & an abundance of fun winter activities, along with the high likelihood of snow, and Chicago easily tops the list of America’s best Christmas cities.
While the city sees brisk & snowy weather occasionally throughout December, this is no excuse to not get out there and enjoy all the great holiday festivities. In fact, it just makes it feel more like Christmas. So bundle up, grab a hot chocolate to go, and explore the sights of the best city in the Midwest.
Ice skating at Millennium Park, surrounded by Chicago’s magnificent architecture, to the sound of holiday tunes, is definitely a must. With Chicago’s stunning skyline as the backdrop, skating at the McCormick Tribune rink is one holiday tradition you do not want to miss out on! Just a few steps away is the Christmas tree, which used to be located in Daley Plaza, but was moved to Millennium in recent years. And on Friday nights, carolers perform holiday favorites that you cannot help but sing along to.
Other must-do holiday events include checking out the spectacular free display at Lincoln Park Zoo, checking out the annual holiday windows at Macy’s on State Street (this year’s theme is Reason to Believe with a few special nods to the World Series winning Cubs), carriage rides, seeing a holiday play at the Chicago Theater (for 2016, you can see Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer: The Musical), and of course, treating yourself to a wonderful performance by the Joffrey Ballet in The Nutcracker at The Auditorium Theater. For unique holiday shopping, stop by Chriskindlmarket for handcrafted German ornaments & gifts. And of course, you can also enjoy some traditional German food and beer. Also most of the museums offer some type of special holiday exhibition. For example, The Museum of Science and Industry offers a wonderful Christmas Around the World event, and The Art Institute offers a number of community events, in addition to a lovely holiday display.
Another must during the holiday season is dining at the fabulous Walnut Room, located on the 7th floor of Macy’s on State Street. It’s a great stop after holiday shopping as you can keep the festivities going as you dine alongside a 45 foot tall Christmas tree with 42 LED star ornaments. The Great tree shines blue & white this year to commemorate the Cubs’s World Series win, which interesting enough, first happened 108 years ago when The Walnut Room first opened it’s doors.
As you can see, there are more than enough holiday activities & attractions to keep you busy for a few days, or through the New Year’s.
Location: Millennium Park is located at 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602. I recommend finding a parking lot around here, as you can basically walk or take a train from here to get basically anywhere else.
Ice rink dates: The rink is open from Nov. 18th-March 5th
Ice rink pricing: Admission is free, skate rentals are $12