Unique Holiday-Themed Adventures and Destinations

I invited travelers to share some of their favorite unique holiday-themed adventures and destinations. Their recommendations will definitely inspire you to add a lot of these holiday destinations to your list.

Hardy's Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul, IL

Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul, IL

I don’t think there are many adventures that can top feeding Santa’s reindeer and that’s exactly what we got to do at Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul, IL.

The Reindeer Tour is a must as it gets you close to the reindeer and, if you are feeling brave, you can give them a kiss.

If you are feeling less brave, like yours truly, simply feed the reindeer handfuls of oatmeal. This is definitely a memorable experience to have this holiday season.

You can read more about Deb Thompson’s adventure here. 

Christmas Village in Downtown Ogden in Utah

Christmas Village in Ogden, Utah

Christmas Village seriously looks like something out of a Hallmark movie! In fact, Ogden has been the filming location for several Holiday movies.

The best part is that it’s a FREE holiday attraction.

From the Saturday after Thanksgiving – January 1 you can explore the amazing lights at Ogden Municipal Gardens.

Ogden’s holiday season begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The first kickoff event is the Electric Light Parade and opening ceremony that fills Washington Blvd from 22nd Street to 26th Street.

You can read more about things to do in Ogden, Utah here.

 Christmastime in  Frankenmuth, Michigan

Christmastime in  Frankenmuth, Michigan

Frankenmuth, Michigan is a holiday destination that you don’t have to wait until Christmastime to visit.

Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, is open year-round and offers a huge selection of ornaments, tree trimmings, and holiday displays. Outside the store is just as fun as exploring inside.

The parking lot is full of fun photo ops.  From over-sized Christmas ornaments and snowmen to a larger-than-life Santa. Every night, 365 days of the year, you can drive through Bronner’s parking lot to see their Christmas lights.

Next door you’ll find the Silent Night Chapel, an exact replica of the chapel in Austria where Silent Night was sung for the first time.

After you’ve finished shopping and sightseeing, stop by the Bavarian Inn or Zehnder’s for their famous chicken dinner.  For more indoor fun, Zehnder’s Splash Village has an indoor waterpark that features a four-person family raft ride, six-story looping body slide, geysers, and pools.

You can read more about Tonya Prater’s adventure here.

ICE at the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine, TX

ICE at the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine, TX

Pull-on your warmest clothes, hats, mittens, scarf, and coat, and head over to the Gaylord Resort. ICE is like nothing you’ve never seen it before. ICE! is created from 2 MILLION POUNDS of ice and includes hand-carved sculptures and an ice slide.

The colored ice is carved by 40 ice sculptors from China that spend a month carving and creating delightful scenes. It is COLD in the exhibit though at a balmy 9 degrees.

Guests are provided with calf-length, hooded winter coats for your visit and you will definitely need them.

I had my winter boots with me as well and I was still cold, BUT the exhibit is so awesome that it’s worth being a bit chilly to enjoy the works of art.

Read more about Deb’s adventure here.

Christmas Lights in Downtown Leavenworth Washington

Christmas Lights in a Bavarian-themed Village in Leavenworth, WA

Each year Leavenworth makes winter more magical with colorful Christmas lights on trees and buildings throughout their downtown.

As you can imagine, Leavenworth is already a VERY popular destination around Christmas. 

The Christmas lights in Leavenworth are up in early December and stay up until at least Valentine’s Day/ Mid February.

Sometimes the Christmas lights do stay up longer if the snow lasts later into the season.

You can read more about fun things to do in Leavenworth, Washington here.

Holiday Trail of Lights in  Louisiana

This is the adventure for those the enjoy road trips. It takes you to eight cities to celebrate the holidays with an incredible Holiday Trail of Lights.

Fuel up the tank, hop in the car, and set off on an epic adventure through some of Louisiana’s most quaint towns and ooohhhh and ahhhhh over the epic light displays.

I can’t wait to do this again, it is definitely a unique way to celebrate Christmas!

You can read more about Deb’s adventure here. 

Small Town Holiday Charm in Bardstown, Ky

Small Town Holiday Charm in Bardstown, Ky

The bourbon capital of the world offers small-town charm, wonderful dining, and tours.

Try a bourbon tasting, take a mixology class or tour “My Old Kentucky Home” by candlelight.

You can read more about this adventure here.

Christmas in the Center of the "Holy Land" in Jordan

Christmas in the Center of the “Holy Land” in Jordan

For a change during the holidays, why not consider visiting the area where it all began! Jordan is the center of the “Holy Land”.

Jordan features incredible vistas, history dating back to the dawn of humankind, and some of the warmest, most amazing people you could hope to meet.

This small nation features some of the most beautiful and well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy itself. You’ll find amazing castles, stunning religious pilgrimage sites, and one of the new Wonders of the World, Petra.

You can read more about Kevin Wagar’s adventure here. 

Holiday Simplicity at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY 

Holiday Simplicity at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY 

Slow down and experience the beauty of the holidays- simplified at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

Learn about the Shaker community and dine in the restaurant with a lemon pie that will leave an impression on you long after you leave.

You can read more about this adventure here.

New York Botanical Garden Train Show in New York City

New York Botanical Garden Train Show in New York City

New York City is amazing during the holiday season. One of my favorite thing to do is to travel to the Bronx to the New York Botanical Garden for its train show.

A designer uses natural materials such as leaves, bark, twigs, and berries to recreate just about every landmark building in New York from the old mansions to the Empire State Building. Trains run around them overhead and down below.

The creativity is amazing and it’s quite magical for kids. After the show, we drive or call a cab to nearby Arthur Avenue, the borough’s Little Italy, for old-school New York Italian food. Huge portions of clams, veal Parmesan, lasagna, and chicken Francese.

Before heading home we stop in a bakery for cream puffs, Italian cookies, and eclairs. It’s a great holiday season staycation day and a different side of NYC for tourists, too.

You can read more about Eileen Gunn’s adventure here.

View 300,000 Lights in Natchitoches, LA

Holiday Lights in Natchitoches, LA

300,000 lights light up Natchitoches, LA every evening through Epiphany and a firework shows light up the sky every Saturday through the end of December. Thousands of people enjoy the fun and revelry along the streets.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and Louisianans fully embrace the “life to the fullest” mantra. I really enjoyed experiencing how they do Christmas in one of the oldest cities in Louisiana.

Every weekend is jam-packed with activities along the riverfront. The river walk is lined with kids’ activities and food vendors.  There are Horse-drawn carriage rides along the festive streets and stores and restaurants are open a little later.

Read more about Deb’s adventure here. 

A Christmas Story House in Cleveland Ohio

Explore the A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio here

Relive some of your favorite holiday movie scenes with a visit to the A Christmas Story House.

The guided tour gives you access inside the house where you can take pictures with many of the props.

A Christmas Story fans will find lots of movie memorabilia inside the museum. You will definitely make you want to watch the movie again after your visit!

You can read more about A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio here.

A City Transformed into a 1850s Dickens Victorian Village in Cambridge, Ohio

A City Transformed into an 1850s Dickens Victorian Village in Cambridge, Ohio

Each November, Cambridge, Ohio is transformed into an 1850’s Dickens Victorian Village.

The streets are lined with 92 vignettes and over 160 mannequins depicting what could be a scene straight from one of Charles Dickens’ books.

Start your adventure at the Welcome Center on Wheeling Avenue where you can learn about the process of making the mannequins that are used to create the scenes on the street, shop for souvenirs, and hop on a trolley tour of the town on select weekends.

Grab a bit to eat at Theo’s Restaurant or The Foundry and don’t leave town without watching the hour-long nightly light show on the Guernsey County Courthouse.

You can read more about Tonya’s adventure here. 

Underground Light Display at Lights Under Louisville at Mega Cavern

View Lights Underground at Lights Under Louisville at Mega Cavern in  Louisville, KY

Looking for a unique way to view holiday lights?

Lights Under Louisville takes you on a journey through 17 miles of underground passageways. With over 2,000,000 points of light and it’s the only underground light show of its kind on the planet!

You can read more about this adventure here.

Historic Santa Claus Statue in Santa Claus Indiana

Visit the City Named After Santa in Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus, Indiana is a destination that LOVES sharing the Christmas spirit all year round.

The town was forced to come up with a new name by the USPS after they chose a name that was already established. 

You can read more about this city here.

Atrium at the Gaylord Opryland Resort

Experience Christmas in the Atriums at the Gaylord Opryland Resort

You don’t have to be an overnight guest to explore the atriums at the Gaylord Resort for free.

You can get a map of the hotel near the front desk to help you find all of the points of interest in the hotel. Have your camera ready because there are so many great photo ops in the hotel.

You’ll also want to check the schedule to catch a fountain show choreographed to music and light in the Delta atrium.

You can read more about unique things to do in Nashville here.

Thanks again to all of the travelers who shared their holiday adventures.

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