Are you craving a winter holiday escape? While I admit I love staying at home with a cup of hot cocoa and Christmas music playing non-stop, there’s something really special about visiting a Christmas town or city for the holidays. If you’re based on the west coast, here are some of my picks for the best west coast Christmas destinations.
This is an updated 2022 list of the best Christmas towns in the West Coast USA.
10 Best Christmas Towns in West Coast USA
Looking to see some of the best Christmas decorations in the United States with the whole family? You’ll need to get you and your family to the Pacific Northwest and Southern California to experience a unique west coast Christmas town.
Choose what kind of winter vacation you want with options for Christmas lights and ice skating or sandy beaches and palm trees with Christmas lights! Affiliate links are included in this post if you make a purchase from my link I might receive a commission.
If you’re searching for that postcard-perfect Christmas holiday spot, Leavenworth, Washington should definitely be on your list. Located about two-and-a-half hours away from Seattle, it’s a Bavarian-themed town that goes all out for Christmas.
You’ll truly feel like you’re inside a snow globe. They have a tree-lighting ceremony that happens every year! The whole town is lit up and you can find plenty of holiday activities like a Christmas bazaar and carol singers to keep you entertained. The city even has a Nutcracker museum that offers nutcracker scavenger hunts to kids.
And if you’re craving some winter snow activities, Leavenworth is a great home base for those as well. Head to Leavenworth Ski Hill for tubing and hot chocolate or enjoy some winter sledding in the area.
You can even take a quiet sleigh ride, dog sled trip, or snowshoe around Enchantment Park and Blackbird Island near downtown. With three locally groomed cross-country skiing areas, an alpine community ski hill, and many winter trail networks, there are countless winter adventures to be had for all ages.
Where to Stay in Leavenworth:
– Icicle Village Resort (walk to town)
– Bavarian Lodge (in town)
– Hotel Pension Anna (in town)
North Pole, Alaska
If you’re craving a white Christmas with some kitschy holiday cheer, head to North Pole, Alaska. Located only 18 minutes outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, North Pole offers kids the chance to meet Santa at Santa Claus House where you can even get a letter from Santa mailed from the North Pole!
Kids will also love all the local winter activities like getting to pet actual reindeer and trying dog-sledding. Driving through the North Pole will put you in the Christmas spirit with plenty of lights to admire and even candy cane-striped signposts. Fairbanks also features a six-week-long “Christmas in Ice” event where you can see experts and amateurs create amazing sculptures.
I mean, if you’re going to celebrate Christmas on the West Coast, then it makes sense to visit a place like the North Pole in Alaska. During the Holiday Season, this is a town that is heavily sought out.
Where to Stay in North Pole:
– Hotel North Pole
– chain hotels in Fairbanks, Alaska
While there are tons of Christmas & holiday events happening all over California, there are some pretty amazing Christmas towns in California. And Monterey is a great town to visit in December. You’ll get out of the heavy big-city traffic and find the perfect spot for a coastal Christmas.
Strap on your ice skates for outdoor skating by the bay at the Custom House Plaza rink by Fisherman’s Wharf. Then enjoy the weekend festivities on Fisherman’s Wharf where you can listen to live music and even meet Santa.
Enjoy some strolling, shopping, and eating in downtown Monterey, Cannery Row, and Pacific Grove while looking at all their fabulous light decorations.
Plan a visit to The Inn at Spanish Bay, nestled on the Monterey Peninsula. Their lobby features an elaborately designed gingerbread display that is entirely edible. The displays take 2.5 weeks to create and include over 75 pounds of powdered sugar, more than 200 egg whites, 20 pounds of flour, 18 pounds of marshmallows, and tons of love from seven dedicated bakers.
The Inn is also illuminated with holiday lights and a variety of Christmas trees. Plus, for several days leading up to Christmas, carolers regale visitors with the season’s favorite tunes.
Where to Stay in Monterey:
– The Inn at Spanish Bay
– Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
– Hyatt Regency Monterey
If you’re looking for some more ideas for California, check out my friend Leslie’s post about other great winter destinations in California.
If you’re dreaming of palm trees for your Christmas tree, a trip to Honolulu might be the perfect winter escape. The city hosts a month-long City of Lights Festival. The celebration begins on December 1st with the tree lighting ceremony at Honolulu Hale, followed by the Electric Light Parade.
Visitors can visit Santa’s Gingerbread House and the Enchanted Forest Display, take photos with Santa, and even enjoy a holiday concert. For more sparkling lights, check out the Friday night fireworks at the Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites. If you’re Disney fans, you can even have a Christmas dinner at Disney Aulani.
Where to Stay in Honolulu:
– Moana Surfrider
– The Royal Hawaiian
– Hilton Hawaiian Village
– Disney Aulani
If you’re looking for a white Christmas and a spectacle of lights, Denver should be your destination choice. The city of Denver hosts a variety of activities like a classic German Christkindlmarket at Civic Center Park complete with cozy wooden huts, artisan gifts, and tasty treats like the traditional glühwein.
You can also see amazing light displays and entertainment around the city with the Denver Mile High Holidays celebration.
For more twinkling lights, visitors can head to the Denver Botanical Gardens to see their Blossoms of Light, a sound-reactive light display. If you plan in advance you can buy tickets for the popular Zoo Lights, which spreads across 60 acres with over a million bright lights, animated animal sculptures, Santa and Mrs. Claus visits, animal encounters, exciting entertainment, and treats for kids of all ages.
If you have a car, don’t miss the chance to drive through the nearby installation of Christmas in Color. It’s a mile-long drive-through of over a million lights perfectly synchronized to holiday music you’ll hear right through your radio.
Where to Stay in Denver:
– The Brown Palace Hotel
– Grand Hyatt Denver
– Gaylord Rockies Resort (Aurora, CO)
My hometown of Seattle, Washington is a great place to spend Christmas. You’ll get the crisp winter weather without all that white stuff getting in the way. And come on, it’s the evergreen state, you’ll be surrounded by Christmas trees! As I mentioned for Denver above, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo creates a light display around the zoo called, WildLights.
Head over to Seattle Center to visit Santa at the top of the Space Needle. And enjoy all the great lights and entertainment annual Seattle Center Winterfest event.
Downtown, be sure to check out the teddy bear suite at the Fairmont Olympic, then pop into the Sheraton Grand Seattle to see their epic annual 28th Gingerbread Village which features some of the city’s top architecture firms, master builders, and culinary teams. And for entertainment, catch a show of the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker or one of the Seattle Symphony’s holiday shows.
Cross over Lake Washington to the city of Bellevue to get your fill of shopping and watch snow fall at the nightly Snowflake Lane Christmas parade.
Where to Stay in Seattle:
– The Fairmont Olympic
– The Edgewater Hotel
– The Sheraton Grand Seattle
Related Post: Holiday Trip from Seattle to Victoria on the Clipper
Las Vegas, Nevada
With the numerous over-the-top hotels that are located in Las Vegas, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s a go-to Christmas town destination on the west coast. One of the best spots to head is the Bellagio resort. Inside you’ll see their conservatory transformed into a winter wonderland filled with beautiful holiday plants and flowers, as well as a towering Christmas tree.
Head outside to watch the daily water fountain show that features popular holiday tunes. Both of these events are free, leaving you extra money for presents!
The Park (formally the Monte Carlo) is another hotel that is offering holiday activities for visitors. Pop-up dining experiences in quaint cabins from Beerhaus, Bruxie, and more will offer a variety of bites and sips inspired by European holiday traditions, including German sausages, waffles on a stick, and mulled wine. Strolling carolers will sing the songs of the season and spread cheer throughout The Park, leading guests all the way to the towering 80-foot holiday tree on Toshiba Plaza.
If you’re dreaming of ice skating during your winter escape, head to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. They turn their Boulevard Pool into an ice rink, where you can spin and glide to the sounds of holiday tunes alongside the Vegas strip.
Where to Stay in Las Vegas:
– The Park MGM
– The Aria
If you’re searching for a Christmas town in the USA that will remind you of a European Christkindlmarkt, head to Solvang. This Danish-themed town is just north of Santa Barbara, California, and will give you the feel of a Scandinavian Christmas.
Every December they hold a Julefest festival that is filled with holiday activities and events. Some of the highlights include a wine and beer stroll, candlelight caroling tours, and even a nisse (Danish gnomes) scavenger hunt adventure.
Where to Stay in Solvang:
– Hotel Corque
– The Landsby
– Mirabelle Inn and Restaurant (adults only)
– Wine Valley Inn
Another great destination is Christmas in San Fransisco
With an average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit in December, Phoenix is the perfect place to find a sunny and warm Christmas vacation. Phoenix also is a sprawling metro area that has a lot of sister cities all with their own holiday celebrations, making it easy to find plenty of festive things to do.
For a unique desert experience, visit the Desert Botanical Garden to experience their Las Noches de las Luminarias. Visitors can stroll through the gardens that are lit with over 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and twinkle lights while listening to a southwest desert soundtrack.
Glendale Glitters is a massive pop-up holiday market that showcases 1.6 million LED lights throughout sixteen blocks of Historic Downtown Glendale, making it the largest free holiday light display in Arizona.
Where to Stay in Phoenix:
– The Wigwam
– The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
There are also many great Holiday Activities in Scottsdale, too!
My final west coast Christmas town USA pick is Portland, Oregon. One of the prime highlights of the season is the Christmas Ships boat parade. The parades feature over 50 decorated and lit ships that parade through the waters during fifteen nights in the season. You’ll need to check out the schedule to determine the days and locations of the parades.
Portland has more lights to see beyond those on the water. Visit the “Largest Holiday Light Show West of the Mississippi” at the Winter Wonderland drive-through light show that features over 250 staged scenes.
Then head to The Grotto for their Christmas Festival of Lights, one of the largest Christmas choral festivals in the world. The festival features more than 170 indoor holiday concerts performed by many of the region’s finest schools, churches, and civic choirs.
Where to Stay in Portland:
– The Nines
– The Heathman Hotel Portland
Are you ready to plan your west coast holiday getaway? Do you have a favorite Christmas town you think should be added to this list?
And if you’re thinking of an international Christmas vacation, check out these amazing European Christmas markets.
Saturday 11th of December 2021
Phoenix? Vegas? Great Christmas without snow and any Christmas theme ever. Why Denver? If in Colorado, go to Telluride!
Tuesday 14th of December 2021
Those are great ideas! I need to update this list and add some more great ideas. I definitely agree that sunshine vacations can be great! I've never been to Telluride, so will look into what it looks like for Christmas so I can add it when I update this post. Thanks!
Friday 11th of October 2019
These are all very nice but, I think you missed a major one and my top pick which is December Nights in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. It is spectacular and draws 350,000 people for two nights of an amazing holiday experience. This should not be missed. It's winter magic! Thank you..
Christmas in San Francisco: 11+ Things to Do with Kids to Celebrate the Holiday Season - Trips With Tykes
Tuesday 11th of December 2018
[…] For more holiday decorations and events on the West Coast, don’t miss Stuffed Suitcases’s guide to the 10 best Christmas towns on the West Coast. […]
Sunday 18th of November 2018
Thanks for all of the ideas. I can't wait to get out to the West Coast for some Christmas cheer. Levanworth looks especially fun.
Wednesday 21st of November 2018
Thanks, Christy! It certainly makes me want to take a few holiday trips!
Thursday 15th of November 2018
We still haven't made it up to Levanworth. One of these days.
Wednesday 21st of November 2018
It's such a cute town! Not too difficult to get to from Seattle. They even have bus tours that take you round trip if you don't want to deal with the mountain pass or parking!