America’s 10 Best Towns to Visit During the Holidays

It’s that time of year again, sleigh bells are ringing, Christmas lights are strung from rooftops and around trees, carols are playing over the radio and there is a feeling of holiday cheer in the air. Some towns in America take the holidays extra serious, with festive decorations, tree lighting ceremonies, parades, contests and more. From traditional Victorian Christmas Festivals to those that feature over 5 million lights, here are America’s best towns to visit during the holidays.

10. Woodstock, Vermont

The air smells like pine needles, the ground lightly dusted with snow and the twinkling of lights shine down on this town during the holiday season. For the past 25 years this town has hosted Wassail Weekend, a pre-Christmas festival that is rooted in 19th century Norse culture and traditions. Wassail is a hot beverage, something like cider that is associated with Christmastime. The festival brings a parade of over 50 horses and riders that are in holiday costumes and period dresses, as well as wagon and sleigh rides. Don’t forget about the feast and the tours of the most notable historic buildings as well. Add in local shops that decorate their windows and stay open late for shoppers during the festival, friendly locals and an old-world charm, and this may be the perfect town to visit this holiday season.

Photo by: Scenic VT PHotos
Photo by: Scenic VT PHotos

9. McAdenville, North Carolina

This small town just 20 minutes outside of Charlotte has actually renamed itself “Christmas Town USA” during the month of December each year. This small town draws an average of 600,000 people each year who come to gaze at the 500,000 lights that decorate this town. This town kicks off its holiday cheer with a tree lighting ceremony on December 1st where the big switch is turned on to reveal the 500,000 red, white and green lights. It takes about 375 trees to house all these lights and they light a route that is perfect for a winter stroll through the downtown. Along with these lights are homes that are lit up by owners, who all love to take part in this holiday celebration. Enjoy hot chocolate and kettle corn as you stroll through the downtown and down to the nearby lake which features 33 trees liming the perimeter and a 75 foot water fountain that is lit with vibrant colors. It’s truly Christmas here all December long.

McAdenville, North Carolina

8. Ogden, Utah

Located in Northern Utah, this great railway hub of a town welcomes in the holiday season each year with their downtown Christmas Village. From the Saturday after Thanksgiving through January 1st the downtown area is aglow with magnificent displays and holiday lights. Every year thousands of tourists come to view the Christmas lights and replica cottages that are modeled after Santa’s Village at the North Pole. To open the Christmas Village an Electric Light Parade fills the streets, loaded with elaborate floats, themes and performers. Santa also happens to arrive this day and flips the switch to turn on the lights and illuminate the village. Each of the 59 cottages have their own theme, including The Elf Workshop, The Grinch and of course, Santa’s Castle. Ride on the Polar Express Train, shop at Santa’s store and marvel at the millions of lights that light this village up.

Photo by: Our Beck Treks
Photo by: Our Beck Treks

7. Vail, Colorado

This town turns into a true Winter Wonderland when the holiday season hits. December brings the festivities of Snowdaze to the town, when fresh snow is celebrated with live concerts each night. The village is filled with sponsors and après parties and former performers include the Barenaked Ladies, Wilco and O.A.R. Vail also plays host to Holidaz, a celebration that includes the tree lighting ceremony, a New Year’s Eve torchlight parade and some incredible fireworks. Enjoy outdoor skating, hot coffee from local producers and equally warming cocktails. This incredible winter destination has more than 5,2000 acres of ski and snowboard terrain and things only get better during the holiday season. Get here and discover why this is one of America’s most loved towns, especially in December.

Photo by: Panoramio/Ash Cook
Photo by: Panoramio/Ash Cook

6. Nantucket, Massachusetts

The festivities in this town really started in the 1970’s, as too many locals left town to shop in Cape Cod, and there needed to be a solution. This island town quickly came up with an annual Christmas Stroll, in which stores stayed open late and shop owners entertained shoppers with wine, hot chocolate, cider and Christmas cookies while they browsed. Nowadays this Christmas Stroll lasts for the whole first weekend of December and visitors can take part in walking amid dozens of seven foot Christmas trees that are illuminated at night and the 20-foot tree that talks to all visitors who visit it. Carolers sing at various downtown locations, live entertainment takes place, craft shows happen and Santa and Mrs. Claus always make an appearance.

Nantucket, Massachusetts Christmas

5. Ogunquit, Maine

It used to be an artist’s colony but has transformed into a summer getaway, not the first place one would think of when it comes to the Holiday season. But visiting here during the holidays means lower prices, a laid-back feeling and enough festivities to keep you going. Christmas by the Sea Festival features a town tree lighting ceremony with caroling and warm drinks, concerts, a meet and greet with Santa, beer and wine tasting, nightly bonfires, Christmas craft making workshops and more. There are plenty of local shops for those last minute gifts and plenty of friendly locals, and great deals on accommodations and dining here.

Photo by: Discover New England/Paul LaCedra
Photo by: Discover New England/Paul LaCedra

4. Naples, Florida

If you want to avoid the snowy weather but still want to enjoy that festive feeling, there is no better place than Naples to head to. This snowbird-style winter wonderland lures visitors with its festive ambiance, luxury stores, fantastic dining and warm weather. The headquarters for the official Christmas tree is Third Street South where twinkling lights and red and silver decorations adorn the streets. It is here where Santa comes to visit, snow falls out of the lampposts and shows take place throughout the month. On Fifth Avenue South is where the Christmas Parade takes place, along with awesome shopping for the Holidays event, which features live music, dancing and dining. Those who still want holiday cheer but want to avoid the snow, this is the town for you.

Naples Florida Christmas

3. Nevada City, California

Nevada City is located about an hour northwest of Sacramento, population of just over 3,000 and it happens to take great pride in its annual Victorian Christmas Festival. Already picturesque all year round with its historic buildings and mountain surroundings, this town transforms into a beautiful picture perfect Christmas Card during the holiday season. The town brings in authentic gas lamps, twinkling white lights and carolers that dress up in Victorian apparel. The smell of roasted chestnuts and holiday food will fill the air as you wander through the streets that over-flow with Christmas treasures. Make sure to check out the famous walking Christmas tree and the living nativity scene, as well as take a ride in a horse drawn carriage. Visitors are also encouraged to dress up in period attire, complete with feathers, scarves and top hats.

Photo by: Nevada City Chamber of Commerce
Photo by: Nevada City Chamber of Commerce

2. Branson, Missouri

It is known as the Ozark Mountain Christmas here in this town, as Branson transforms into a winter wonderland complete with twinkling lights, live shows and plenty of shopping. Here in this town they don’t even wait until thanksgiving has passed to start their holiday cheer, celebrations run from the beginning of November through New Year’s Day. Branson is the live music capital of the world and visitors should plan on attending one of the famous events that incorporate traditional Christmas music. Visiting the Silver Dollar City’s an Old Time Christmas Festival is a must when you are here, where 5 million lights, two live chows, 1,000 decorated Christmas trees and the awesome light parade all take place. Many of the hotels and resorts in this town pull out all stops for the holidays and expect visits with Santa, special activities for kids and lots of yummy treats.

Photo by: Branson Ticket Travel
Photo by: Branson Ticket Travel

1. Historic Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

It is Washington D.C.’s oldest neighborhood, beautiful already with its historic buildings that line the streets, but it really comes alive during the holiday season. With over 450 stores, restaurants and galleries, the streets come alive with Yuletide decorations. The Holiday Window Competition that takes place each year means visitors are privy to the gorgeous and innovative displays that shop keepers come up with. Think roasted chestnuts, horse-drawn sleigh rides, appearances by St. Nicholas, carolers in Victorian costumes, dancers and other entertainment.

Photo by: Hotel Junkie
Photo by: Hotel Junkie

The 15 Most Expensive Airbnb’s In America

Private accommodations site Airbnb all started as a way to provide budget-friendly accommodations to fellow travelers and offer a way to experience the world as a local -all while feeling right at home (in someone else’s home). These days just about any type of accommodation can be found on Airbnb, including entire mansion rentals which rival some of the swankiest hotel accommodations you can find. From countryside estates to pimped out luxury homes that have reportedly housed some note-worthy celebrities, America certainly has it’s fair share of luxury Airbnb’s…and they of course come with hefty price tags.  Let’s take a look at 15 of the most expensive Airbnb’s in America:

15. Spectacular Grand Mansion Sleeps 25

-Manchester, Vermont
Price per night: $2,500 USD

The Wilburton Inn in Manchester, Vermont is promoted as the ideal spot for weddings, corporate events and family reunions. The 1902 historic estate sleeps 25 guests in 10 bedrooms and also has ‘8+’ bathrooms, pool, tennis court and a sculpture garden…how fancy! The 30 acre estate also features other rental houses and can accommodate 125 guests for special events. The price tag might be $2,500 per night with a 2 night minimum but hey, there’s always a price for such elegance.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

14. Dream Weddings, Corporate Get Aways

-Gilford, New Hampshire
Price per night: $2,500 USD

Advertised as the perfect retreat for weddings and family reunions, this New Hampshire property is located just minutes from ski hills and lake Winnipesauke. The 5 bedroom, 6 bathroom home can accommodate up to 16 people with 10 beds and also has a hot tub, heated pool, basketball court and even a grass tennis court for non-stop family fun.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

13. Antietam Overlook Farm Scenic B&B

-Keedysville, Maryland
Price per night: $2,995 USD

While the price per night may seem high, this lovely farmstead B&B in Maryland is located right near Antietam National Battlefield making it a perfect rental for your reenactment troops. The 19th century-style property can also be rented for events like weddings and parties with space to accommodate up to 50 guests. Featuring 6 bedrooms suites with 6 bathrooms on 95 acres of beautiful Maryland country-side.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

12. 3 Bedroom Premium View Unit Solaris

-Vail, Colorado
Price per night: $3,000 USD

This next listing is particularly interesting for those foodies out there who have deep pockets. If you’ve ever wanted to attend the Taste of Vail Food and Wine Festival, but weren’t sure where to stay, consider this swanky rental unit which features 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, over 2,000 sq feet of space, spectacular village views and access to all the amenities if this luxury building including room service, pool, spa, valet, housekeeping and a private chef.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

11. Beautiful, Spacious Beach House

-Narrangansett, Rhode Island
Price per night: $3,255 USD

Rhode Island is a favorite summertime vacation destination with beautiful beaches and quaint towns along the beautiful east coast. Staying in this newly built Colonial Narrangansett beach house featuring 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a third floor deck and ocean views. You can also sip the famous Narrangansett beer while actually being in Narrangansett…all for the not so low price of $3,255 per night.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

10. US Open Chambers Bay Mansion

-Tacoma, Washington
Price per night: $3,500 USD

Compared to some of the other luxury accommodations on this list, this 10 bedroom, 10 bathroom Tacoma, Washington mansion is almost a deal at $3,500 per night. The historic home was once owned by the famous Weyerhauser family and sleeps up to 20 guests. It also features 4 kitchens, 4 decks and a media room. The high price tag is due to the fact that the US Open will be in Chambers Bay in June so a 1 week stay is required then. But, they’re throwing in 3 bottles of Chateau St. Michelle wine and a $250 gift card to a local brew pub

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

9. Executive Indianapolis Home

-Indianapolis, Indiana
Price per night: $3,900 USD

This next listing is somewhat puzzling; OK, we get that being only 6 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium is many football fan’s dream but other than that we don’t really see what’s so special about this “executive home”. The photos in the listing are nice enough and the description indicates the home has 2 fireplaces, a steam shower and flat screen televisions but a $3,900 per night price tag and 4 night minimum? Really?

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

8. Royal Private Estate

-Santa Fe, New Mexico
Price per night: $4,250 USD

This impressive estate in Santa Fe sits on 14 acres and boasts some seriously spectacular mountain views. The home itself is equally impressive and seems like it could have been featured on MTV’s ‘Cribs’ with features like 3 master suites, a library, theater, gourmet kitchen, “museum quality art collection” and 10-car “auto court”. You know you’ve made it when you don’t just have a garage, but an auto court. It’s no surprise this mega mansion comes with a $4,250 per night price tag.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

7. Alaskan Experience on Luxury Yacht

-Juneau, Alaska
Price per night: $5,000 USD

This next luxury listing proves that not all homes (or accommodations) are stationary. Hop aboard this 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom private yacht and set a course for discovery as you explore the wilderness and waters of southeast Alaska. Your luxury yacht comes complete with Captain, crew and your very own private chef. Activities and itineraries are customized and tailor to the preferences of guests. If an Alaskan cruise ship is just too crowded for you (and you have deep pockets) this private option might be just for you.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

6. Sprawling Horse Country Estate

-Southern Pines, North Carolina
Price per night: $5,000 USD

When you’re booking an accommodation that costs $5,000 USD per night, you probably want to know what you’re getting. Unfortunately this listing is lacking in details…and photos, but we do know this North Carolina estate sits on 16 acres of farmland. While there are no photos of the inside of the home, the host does indicate there are 6 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, a pool, a pond and an indoor fitness room. Those that are curious about this rental will just have to contact the host for themselves.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

5. Hale Ohana

–Kahuku, Hawaii
Price per night: $5,520 USD

Hawaii is known for luxury accommodations in a picture perfect setting and this lavish rental home is no exception. Hale Ohana O Kekai (which means family house by the sea)  is located on the ocean with private beach access and is a 25 minute drive to historic Haleiwa Town on the island of Oahu. The one-acre property features 5 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, open air living space, 3 dining areas, infinity pool and a guest house. This slice of Hawaiian paradise has hosted such celebrities as Diana Ross and Bobby Brown -who could easily afford the $5,520 per night price tag and 4 night minimum.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

4. English Country Manor

–West Orange, New Jersey
Price per night: $8,000 USD

Located 14 miles from New York City is this elegant country manor –something you might not expect in New Jersey. The 5 bedroom, 7 bathroom home is located in the gated community of Llewellyn Park –the country’s first planned community, and is just down the street from Thomas Edison’s home. There’s also a televisions in each room, a fitness room, country kitchen and a pool table. Sure, there’s no denying this home is lovely…but $8,000 a night?

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

3. Film Location

–Brooklyn, New York
Price per night: $8,000 USD

If you’re going to spend $8,000 a night to stay in New York, you’d probably expect to be in Manhattan rather than Brooklyn, but one look at the photos of this classic brownstone and you’ll see why the price tag. The 10,000 square foot home was built in 1887 and combines the vintage details and character with modern furnishings. Owned by interior designer Jessica Warren the home is being offered on Airbnb as a film location (hence the price tag). In addition to the 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms is a green room, hang out space and a kitchen that is “perfect for craft service”. All for the starting price of $8,000 for a 12 hr shoot.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

2. Abode at Red Cloud

–Park City, Utah
Price per night: $10,000 USD

If you’re planning on making a trip to next year’s Sundance Film Festival and have very deep pockets, check out the Abode at Red Cloud in Park City Utah. This mountain mansion features a spectacular great room with massive fireplace, 2 master suites, wine cellar, exercise room, steam room, screening room (for private film festival parties) and a ski room which provides direct access to the Red Cloud chair lifts via a heated walkway. While this place would probably be any skiers dream, the price tag of $10,000 USD per night put it comfortably out of reach for most. Oh, and did we mention there’s a 3 night minimum?

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

1. Historical Mansion Garden District

–New Orleans, Louisiana
Price per night: $10,000 USD

This beautiful 4,000 square foot Greek revival style mansion is located in the Garden District of New Orleans. The Airbnb listing claims past guests have been A-list movie stars but doesn’t go as far as to mention any names. The house features 4 large guest rooms each with adjoining bathroom, a kitchen many chefs would be envious of, a pool and gardens. As you can see from the photo, the house is beautiful and decorated in a lavish style that suits the history of the mansion, but at a price tag of $10,000 per night plus cleaning and service fees, this luxury home is reserved for the rich and famous.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

12 Great American Food Festivals

It’s no secret that Americans like good food and while there are a few all-American classics, the food across this great nation is largely diverse.  Asian, European, South American… no part of the globe stands unrepresented and no dish goes untouched in the land where food is celebrated at every opportunity. There are so many ways to enjoy the diverse cuisine of America but one of the best ways is to visit one of these great food festivals. Festivals offer you a chance to sample small bites from big places and try a lot more than you probably could than just visiting a restaurant for a full meal, so read on, take your pick and plan to visit these amazing food festivals soon.

12. Taste of Buffalo Festival

While you may be surprised to find the Taste of Buffalo on this list, you may also be surprised to know this festival is actually the largest 2-day food festival in the whole country. People from all over western New York and beyond flock to the streets of downtown Buffalo to sample more than 200 culinary specialties and beverages. With all items priced between $1-4, you can bring the whole family and afford to sample till your heart’s content. Just be prepared to deal with some crowds at this festival as it currently attracts almost 450,000 patrons annually.

Nicholas Piccillo / Shutterstock.com
Nicholas Piccillo / Shutterstock.com

11. Maine Lobster Festival

When you think of east coast specialties, Maine lobster is probably one of the first things to come to mind and it’s being celebrated in every way thinkable at the annual Maine Lobster Festival which takes place at the end of July. The festival runs for 5 days and features a carnival, arts and crafts vendors, art show, a parade, live entertainment and of course lobster! Over 20,000 pounds of these crustaceans are served up during the festival so if you’re a lobster lover this is the festival for you!

Maine Lobster

10.  Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

The annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival heads into its 7th year in 2015 and celebrates one of the country’s best cheesemaking regions. The one day festival takes place in July and highlights the award winning cheeses, wines and artisan foods of the area. There’s cheese themed workshops, cooking demonstrations by local chefs and of course lots of cheese to be sampled. Children under 3 get in free and regular priced adult admission is $50 but this gives you access to the workshops, cheesemaking and cooking demos and of course lots of samples!

Jeffrey B. Banke / Shutterstock.com
Jeffrey B. Banke / Shutterstock.com

9. Savannah Food and Wine Festival

The Savannah Food and Wine Festival is one of the newest and hottest food festivals in the country. 2014 marks the return of this celebration of the south after much success after their inaugural festival last year. Taking place in the fall, the festival runs for 1 week and features events of all kinds including cooking classes, farm to table dinners, celebrity chef tour, wine tastings, riverboat dinner cruise, and of course the main event: Taste of Savannah. Taking place on the Saturday, the streets are closed as patrons sip and sample some of the best the city has to offer.

Cupcakes Savannah

8. The Taste: Los Angeles

Presented by Los Angeles Times and Citi, The Taste is a weekend food festival highlighting the best of west coast cuisine. Featuring several events including opening night gala, field to fork, Sunday brunch and flavors of LA, The Taste provides supporters with a local food experience that’s authentically LA. Sample the best from local restaurateurs all looking to boost their restaurant street cred in a city where culinary competition is fierce and innovation is key. The Taste happens annually on labor day weekend.

Small bites

7. Austin Food and Wine Festival

Austin’s culinary scene has been steadily growing over the years and the Austin Food and Wine Festival proves this city deserves a spot right up with the culinary giants like New York and South Beach. The weekend festival takes place in the spring and includes some notable celebrity chef faces. There are events happening the entire weekend including cooking demos, chef showcases and feast under the stars. The grand tasting event is where you’ll get to try the best bites from the Austin culinary scene.

tacos

6. Taste of Chicago

Since 1980, Chicago’s lakefront Grant Park has been closing to play host to this 5 day food extravaganza celebrating everything that makes Chicago cuisine so unique.  This festival has something for everyone and is perfect for families with the kids zone and live music featuring notable performers each year. Of course there’s also the food…and it comes in the form of food trucks, 5 day festival restaurants and pop-up restaurants; keep an eye out for these short opportunity shops because they’re only around for a day or two!

Photo by: Taste of Chicago
Photo by: Taste of Chicago

5. New Orleans Food and Wine Experience

It’s safe to say the people of New Orleans enjoy good food and drink…in fact they’re downright passionate about it! From beignets to po’ boys, The New Orleans Food and Wine Experience showcases the best of the Big Easy. Not only is food celebrated at this event but this festival goes above and beyond to incorporate another Louisiana passion into the agenda; live music! With hundreds of wineries and restaurants participating each year, it’s easy to see why the festival is currently in its 22nd year.

Shrimp and grits

4. Taste of Vail

Rated among the best food and wine festivals by many media publications, we agree that Taste of Vail is an experience like no other, and should be high on any traveling foodies list. Each April, Vail Colorado hosts this 4 day culinary celebration highlighting the unique Vail lifestyle and renowned Colorado cuisine. While it may not be the biggest food festival in the country, each of the 30+ participating restaurants places a focus on quality ingredients with local flair.

Photo by: Taste of Vail
Photo by: Taste of Vail

3. NYC Food and Wine Festival

The New York City Food and Wine Festival presented by The Food Network and Food and Wine is a party with a purpose. 100% of the net proceeds from the 4-day fall festival go towards Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and the NYC Food Bank. With over $7 million raised in its six short years it’s clear to see this city supports both food and wine as well as community support. At this event you’ll find lots of recognizable Food Network celebrities but event tickets aren’t cheap so save up before visiting this one.

Cheese plate

2. South Beach Food and Wine Festival

Also presented by The Food Network and Food and Wine, The South Beach Food and Wine Festival (or SOBEWFF as it’s known) has been delighting diners in Florida for over 13 years. The event began as a 1-day festival at the Florida International University campus and was moved to South Beach in 2002 and as they say; the rest is history. South Beach is widely known as the premier celebration of celebrity chefs, exceptional wines and south coast dining. If you’re looking for a great food experience in a beautiful setting SOBEWFF is your spot.

South Beach

1. Aspen Food and Wine Classic

Celebrating its 32nd year, the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen is like the pro-bowl of America’s culinary scene. It’s a star studded affair with big name chefs like Tyler Florence, Giada De Laurentiis, Marcus Samuelsson and many more. The Classic allows chefs to demo their best new recipes, wineries to pour their finest drops, and attendees to enjoy all the best of these culinary geniuses…all surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the mountains.

Aspen Food and Wine