6 Popular Holiday Tourist Attractions in the U.S.

By Audrey W. | Arcadia Staff
 
It’s true that nothing beats the holidays at home surrounded by family. But should you decide to set out this winter in search of the most festive locations, this list will provide you with some of the best places to help you celebrate the holidays.

‘Tis the season for yuletide carols, hot apple cider, winter wonderlands, and gleaming Christmas trees. From caroling the streets to adorning our homes in the holiday spirit, there’s no question we’re entering the most wonderful time of the year. Every family has their own cherished traditions passed down from generation to generation, and like each one of them, the cities on this list have a few traditions of their own.
 
These 6 holiday tourist destinations are places that even the biggest Scrooge will enjoy.
 

Rockefeller Center

New York, NY

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2015. Image by Michael Vadon [CC-BY 2.0], via Flickr.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2015. Image by Michael Vadon [CC-BY 2.0], via Flickr.

A list of holiday attractions in the United States wouldn’t be complete without the iconic Rockefeller Center. Every year in early December, the ceremonious lighting of this monumental tree takes place in a grandiose celebration that is broadcasted nationwide. Don’t miss the stacks of giant ornaments, gold trumpeting angels, and holiday tunes. Skating beneath the iconic golden Prometheus and the Rockefeller tree is a must-do for a holiday vacation in the Big Apple. Ice skating is a favorite activity of visitors, but this holiday attraction sells out fast so be sure to get your ticket early.
 

Biltmore House

Asheville, NC

The east elevation of Biltmore Estate in 1910. Reprinted from Biltmore Estate by Ellen Erwin Rickman (pg. 32, Arcadia Publishing, 2005).
 
The east elevation of Biltmore Estate in 1910. Reprinted from Biltmore Estate by Ellen Erwin Rickman (pg. 32, Arcadia Publishing, 2005).
 
Just before the arrival of the holiday months, the legendary Biltmore House is transformed into a jolly delight for the senses. Located in Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate was built in the late 1800s by George Washington Vanderbilt. The Biltmore House and Winery spans over 80,000 acres with three overnight properties, nine gardens, 13 shops, 15 restaurants, and over 20 tours.
 
From early November to January, visitors can witness the home fully embellished in its yuletide charm. Stay for the day or opt for an overnight experience at the Biltmore Inn or Hotel. The mansion is adorned in holiday wreaths, garlands, sparkling lights, and some of the season’s most exquisite trees. At the winery, visitors have the option to taste Christmas wine, many of the restaurants offer special holiday menus, and guests can’t miss the stunning evening light display at Antler Hill Village.
 

State Street Holiday Parade

Chicago, IL

A photo from the very first State Street parade in Chicago, in 1934.
A photo from the very first State Street parade in Chicago, in 1934. Reprinted from Chicago’s State Street Christmas Parade by Robert P. Ledermann, courtesy of The Greater State Street Council (pg. 11, Arcadia Publishing, 2004).
 
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City generally steals the spotlight when it comes to festive holiday parades across the country. And while parades are hosted across the country on Thanksgiving morning, Chicago’s State Street Parade may be a worthy contender for the grandest holiday parade in the U.S. The parade has a rich history in Chicago, spanning over 80 years. Originally known as the State Street Parade, Chicago’s annual celebration draws thousands of people from across the country every year.
 
Among the soaring balloon characters visitors will see Snoopy, Curious George, Grover, and SpongeBob. Dance and musical performances are scattered throughout the parade, bringing together the diverse cast of cultures living in and around the Chicago area. Visitors are invited to bundle up, bring their warm drink and enjoy a morning of humor and delight.
 

Holiday Lights on the River Walk

San Antonio, TX

A float from the lighting ceremony for the San Antonio River Walk.

A float from the lighting ceremony for the San Antonio River Walk. Reprinted from Downtown San Antonio by Joan Marston Korte and David L. Peché (pg. 85, Arcadia Publishing, 2012).
 
If you’re a lover of winter festivities, but could do without the cold, this next destination may be for you. With a display of over 100,000 lights, San Antonio’s River Walk is a wonder to behold. The lights are lit from just after Thanksgiving to early January, and cover the huge cypress trees that hang over the river. Shops and restaurants along the historic walk also find themselves in the holiday spirit with a merry array of window displays. Check the event schedule on the River Walk’s website for a full detailed list of holiday-themed events and activities, which include holiday boat caroling, an artisan show, various parties, and much, much more.
 

Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion

Memphis, TN

Graceland in 1959.
Graceland in 1959. Reprinted from Memphis: Birthplace of Rock and Roll by Robert W. Dye, from the author’s collection (pg. 91, Arcadia Publishing, 2017).
 
The winter festivities in Memphis are spearheaded by none other than the King’s humble abode. The official kickoff is mid-November with the lighting of the mansion’s Christmas tree, followed by a season of merriment. Experiencing Christmas at Graceland comes with the option for numerous events from the lighting ceremony to the holiday concert weekend in mid-December.
 
Both the interior and exterior of the mansion are also decorated. The home is done up as Elvis himself would have decorated with hundreds of blue lights lining the driveway, a life-size Nativity scene, and Santa with his sleigh of reindeer. If you visit the home, you’ll have the opportunity to “Give Like the King” to support to Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation through the 2018 Graceland Poinsettia Campaign. When visitors make a donation to the foundation, they get to add a poinsettia to the ever-growing collection, and add to the mansion’s numerous holiday decorations.
 

Lights of the Ozarks

Fayetteville, Arkansas

A 1935 view of East Center Street in Fayetteville. These holiday lights were a predecessor to the Lights of the Ozarks festival.
A 1935 view of East Center Street in Fayetteville. These holiday lights were a predecessor to the Lights of the Ozarks festival. Reprinted from Fayetteville by Charles Y. Alison and Ellen K. Compton, courtesy of UA Libraries/Bennett Collection, Sheet 98 (pg. 17, Arcadia Publishing, 2011).
 
With the chilly winter months, downtown Fayetteville transforms into glittering wonderland. Every year, over 200 hours are spent blanketing the town’s trees and building with 450,000 lights. Visitors can pay a visit to Santa, ride a horse-drawn carriage through downtown or stroll through the twinkling streets while sipping fresh hot chocolate and listening to holiday music.  Festivities begin in mid-November with a lighting night parade, and stay lit through the end of the year. Vendors from the local area or abroad are invited to sell their goods.
 
These holiday tourist attractions are sure to please the whole family this winter season. Make the most of your holiday by visiting one of these great historic sites!
 
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