I invited travelers to share some of their favorite unique holiday themed adventures and destinations. I think their recommendations will inspire you to add a lot of these places to your list.
Location: 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. The less brave (yours truly) simply fed 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.
Location: Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth, Michigan is a holiday destination at it’s best, but 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 before heading back to Zehnder’s Splash Village Village for some adventures in the indoor waterpark that features a four-person family raft ride, six-story looping body slide, geysers, pools and more for indoor fun. You can read more about Tonya Prater’s adventure here.
Location: Grapevine, TX
Pull on your warmest clothes, hats, mittens, scarf and coat and head over to the Gaylord Resort to experience ICE-like you’ve never seen it before. ICE! is created from 2 MILLION POUNDS 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. Calf-length, hooded winter coats are made available to wear during the visit and you will definitely need it. 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.
What’s more adventurous than playing on a glacier when you’re six months old?! When we traveled from the UK to Canada with our little boy the adventure had only just begun. We went straight to Alberta for a dose of the great outdoors. We drove through Jasper National Park, spying bears along the way and marveling at the gorgeously dramatic scenery. We rode a cable car to the top of a mountain, we nervously held on to our little boy as we dared to walk on a glass viewing platform that jutted out precariously from the mountainside and we rode a boat to the magical and hard to beat Spirit Island. Let’s just say that Jasper National Park was an adventure of a lifetime. You can read more about Char Taylor adventure here.
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.
Location: 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.
For a change of during the holidays, why not consider visiting the area where it all began! Jordan is the center of the “Holy Land”. Jordan features incredible vista’s, history dating back to the dawn of humankind and some of 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, amazing castles, stunning religious pilgrimage sites, and of course, one of the new Wonders of the World, Petra. You can read more about Kevin Wagar’s adventure here.
Location: Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan
Our week-long trip in Jordan was capped off with a spectacular day at Wadi Rum desert. A 4×4 truck took myself, my 5 and 3-year-old boys and my mum out into the desert where we were able to run up and down the sand dunes, drink tea in a Bedouin tent and watch the sunset from the back of a camel. While the Middle East gets nothing but bad press worldwide, I highly recommend a visit to Jordan! There are Bedouin tents to sleep out in the desert, wander the ancient city of Petra, float in the Dead Sea and explore crusader castles! It is an amazing country to explore as a solo traveler, a couple, or with a family! English is widely spoken and modern conveniences are readily available! You can read more about Lindsay Nieminen’s adventure here.
Location: Harrodsburg, KY (25 miles from Lexington)
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.
Location: 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 Eileen Gunn’s adventure here.
Location: 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 because that is the way things work in Louisiana. Life is meant to be enjoyed and Louisianans fully embrace the “life to the fullest” mantra. It is so much fun walking around one of the oldest cities in Louisiana and experiencing how they do Christmas. Every weekend is jam-packed with activities along the riverfront. The river walk is lined with kids activities and food vendors. Horse-drawn carriage rides along the festive streets are available for a fee and stores and restaurants are open a little later. Read more about Deb’s adventure here.
Location: Cambridge, Ohio
Each November, Cambridge, Ohio is transformed into an 1850’s Dickens Victorian Village. The streets are lined with vignettes of what could be a scene from one of Charles Dickens’ books, while carolers dressed in period clothing can be spotted along Wheeling Avenue. Start your adventure at the Welcome Center where visitors of all ages can dress up in Victorian Clothing and pose for a photo in front of a map of England with Charles Dickens, 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. Wrap up your visit with a bite to eat at Guernsey Kitchen before watching the nightly light show on the Guernsey County Courthouse.
Location: 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.
Thanks again to all of the travelers who shared their holiday adventures.