For so many parents the only time they can take a vacation is over their child’s Christmas break. They want somewhere warm and sunny (especially if they live in New England, like me) but they don’t want to completely lose the spirit of the holidays.
I have put together a list of some of the best warm-weather destinations that celebrate the season in fun but unique ways. If you are looking for a vacation where you can enjoy sunbathing AND Santa, look no further.
On the island, la Navidad lasts around 45 days, starting right after Thanksgiving Day in November, extending through mid-January, and culminating with the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, also known as la SanSe. Christmas in Puerto Rico is a truly magical time with the stunning colonial beauty of 500-year-old Old San Juan decorated with dazzling lights and colorful whimsy. Take part in parranda (traditional caroling) or dancing and eating at a local festival. And you can quickly check people off your shopping list with gifts like Santos, a hand-carved wooden saint, or just a good bottle of rum.
The Cayman Islands prove that Christmas doesn’t have to be a winter wonderland for it to be special. The people here make up for a lack of snow with lots of festive decorations, holiday activities, and an incredibly warm Christmas spirit to go with the idyllic climate, including their very own Caribbean Santa, who wears shorts and flip flops. Dance to Jingle Bells with a Reggae beat, visit Santa himself on the little island off Camana Bay and take the Christmas Bus Tour of Lights which visits a historic Mission House as well as the island’s most decorated homes – it also includes a feast with traditional holiday fare like Christmas beef and Cassava Cake.
St. Kitts, and its dual-island nation partner Nevis, are unusual for celebrating their Carnival in December instead of the more traditional February. Combining with the Christmas season, “Sugar Mas,” as the festival is known, creates an energetic and colorful atmosphere of parades, costumes, and street performances that take place almost every day in December. On the day after Christmas, J’ouvert (pronounced “Joo-vay”) continues the fun with a big street party.
With many concerns about international travel restrictions, the closest you can get to the Caribbean without leaving the country is Key West. Festivities kick off during the first week of December with the Christmas parade, but events continue throughout the month with Old Town Trolley Christmas Light Tours, meetings with Santa, performances of the Nutcracker, and lighted boat parades. Here you can truly enjoy warm temperatures AND holiday cheer, Christmas feasts, AND water sports.
Savannah will always hold a special place in my heart as the first destination Annabelle ever visited. The historical downtown is full of charm all year round but there is something about the holidays that turns this town into a scene out of a Hallmark movie. With Christmas parades happening on boats and old fashioned cars, artisan festivals on the riverbank, historic tours of homes decorated for Christmas, and many theatrical performances to choose from. My favorite aspect of Christmas in Savannah is The Journey, an incredible outdoor production of the Christmas Story. The town creates an authentic recreation of the ancient town of Bethlehem. And you follow shepherds to find Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger, then enjoy delicious food from one of the stands.
San Antonio’s River Walk is a year-round hotspot for the city’s visitors. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and hotels lining the San Antonio River, but on Thanksgiving they flip a switch and 100,000 twinkling lights form a magical canopy over the riverwalk. The magic of the season doesn’t end there, Festive events fill the city calendar – think caroling, boutique shopping, tamale making, football, and so much more. Experience the holiday-centric festivities during the Ford Holiday River Parade, SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, Six Flags Fiesta Texas Holiday in the Park, Zoo Lights!, the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & 1/2 Marathon, and the Valero Alamo Bowl. High on my list are the lantern festival and German Kristkindlmarkt, a traditional German Christmas market complete with Biergartens and gluhwein.
The people of New Orleans love any excuse to throw a party and what is a better excuse than the holidays!! NOLA is known for its Cajun Christmas that’s not too hot, not too cold. December is jam-packed with free outdoor Christmas concerts in the historic St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square; if you want to be a part of the action you can join the carolers in the square for a massive singalong the Sunday before Christmas. Stroll through the hotel lobbies which try to out decorate each other each year. A newer addition, LUNA Fête, is going on its 6th year in Lafayette Square and boasts light projections, illuminated installations, a nightly art market, drinks, and food from local vendors. It wouldn’t be New Orleans without a parade… or two! Then, on Christmas Eve, a centuries-old tradition of bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River light the way for Papa Noel, as Santa is known locally.
Mele Kalikimaka! Oahu, Hawaii is one of my favorite destinations to send families to escape fighting for mall parking and listening to Mariah Carey screech out what she wants for Christmas. Here Santa arrives by outrigger, children play in manmade snow that is never dirty or mushy, and artists create some of the world’s coolest sand sculptures, AND you can skate outdoors without donning hats or gloves. An Oahu holiday wouldn’t be complete without the annual Honolulu City Lights featuring the lighting of the city’s 50-foot tree, a downtown parade and month-long displays throughout Santa’s Enchanted Forest in the Honolulu Hale courtyard. Polynesian Cultural Center gets in on the action with 12 days of Christmas festival, local craft fairs which are popular with tourists all year long are the perfect place to find a gift for even the hardest people on your list and there is plenty of holiday entertainment whether you enjoy theatre, concerts and or the Christmas classic, the Nutcracker.
I understand how you’re feeling, I know all too well how easy it can be at the beginning to start researching online, just to find yourself 3 hours down the line more confused than when you started. But don’t panic! I can help you plan your dream Disney vacation without any of the stress of hassle – starting with the ‘A Disney Trip without Overwhelm, 5 Easy Steps’ Guide. These 5 steps will help keep you focused on organizing the best trip ever, while giving you peace of mind that everything will be done, and nothing will be left out.
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