13 Towns Around the World That Feel Just Like the North Pole
’Tis the season for decking halls, trimming trees and, if you’re anything like us, traveling. Wondering where to soak up some extra seasonal bliss? From Bethlehem to Rovaniemi, these postcard-perfect towns deliver a major dose of Christmas spirit that’s sure to fill even jaded teens and grinchy grannies with cheer.
You’re pretty much guaranteed to have a white Christmas in Vail. This beloved cold-weather retreat wows with its skiing and snowboarding. Beyond the slopes, it offers plenty of seasonal excitement with horse-drawn sleigh rides. Plus, you can shop for last-minute gifts in the quaint village.
Find your yuletide bliss in Bethlehem. As its name suggests, this eastern Pennsylvania town delights with nativity scenes, life-size nutcrackers and artfully trimmed trees. Between exploring the European-style holiday market and admiring the “Live Advent Calendar” on Main Street, there’s certainly no shortage of joyful pastimes.
Seeking a genuine Christmas experience? Rovaniemi, which sits on the Arctic Circle in Lapland, is the “official home of Santa Claus.” So, expect tons of festive and frosty fun! We’re talking reindeer safaris, tobogganing, ice skating, snapping photos with Saint Nick and even aurora hunting.
Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt lures two million visitors each year. Wander through rows of beautifully embellished stalls selling hand-painted glass ornaments, gold-foil angels and nativity figurines. Hungry? Savor gingerbread and roasted almonds. And to wash it down? Aromatic mulled wine. Nearby is the world-renowned Toy Museum.
Local heritage and time-honored customs shine in this historic town. The holidays kick off with Wassail Weekend, a pre-Xmas celebration featuring colorful lights, dazzling window displays and a parade with 50 horses! Snowy surrounds and the smell of pine needles make it all the more magical.
With its dramatic peaks and outdoor activities, Jackson has seasonal splendor on lock. Visitors can partake in endless winter recreation—notably skiing, snowboarding and dog sledding—or opt for more mellow pursuits. Cozying up by the fire with a cup of eggnog and decorating sugar cookies sounds downright dreamy.
Whether you’re frolicking in the piles of powder or sipping hot chocolate at a café, the atmosphere in Frankenmuth feels remarkably festive. Of course, “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” promises German traditions galore. It also boasts Bronner’s, which bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store.
Framed by the Bernese Alps, this fairy-tale village has served as the setting for many films. Fresh flakes cover the ground, string lights deck the houses and carols echo through the air. Adding to the merriment are traditional trinkets and tasty treats for sale at Grindelwald market.
Leavenworth is nestled in the Cascade Mountains. But its enchanting environs is only part of the seasonal appeal. The festivities kick off in November with the annual Bavarian-style Christmas market. And did we mention that 500,000 luminaries twinkle every night from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day?
North Pole, Alaska
OK, so it’s not the actual North Pole, but this Alaskan enclave—just 20 minutes outside Fairbanks—abounds with year-round yuletide spirit, from candy cane traffic lights to Kris Kringle Drive and Mistletoe Lane. December brings heaps of fresh powder plus a winter amusement park.
McAdenville, North Carolina
For an unforgettable atmosphere, head to McAdenville. Also known as Christmas Town, this jolly gem lives up to its moniker with garland-draped stores, minstrels and magnificent fireworks. Fill your belly with figgy pudding and glazed ham. Don’t leave without taking a candlelit tour on the Tri-State Trolley.
Despite a lack of snow, this Danish town in the southern California turns on the charm with Julefest, a month-long event touting a tree lighting, parades and caroling. Of course, the chance to taste authentic gløgg, Scandinavian hot spiced wine, is worth visiting alone.
Cape May, New Jersey
While most folks associate Cape May with summer, this photogenic town is the perfect place to soak in the magic of the season. Congress Hall transforms into a real-life winter wonderland with activities for children of all ages. Get ready for yuletide concerts, gingerbread contests, carousel rides and breakfast with Santa.