You don’t need a white Christmas to have a magical holiday season. Cities all over the world celebrate this festive time of year with local customs that are so elaborate you won’t miss the traditional snow-filled scene.
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, here are seven spots raising the bar on yuletide cheer.
Sin City might not top your family-friendly travel list this time of year, but come Christmastime, it probably should. You could go for the pure spectacle of watching resort after resort battle each other for the best light and holiday displays (we love the Bellagio Fountain show set to Christmas tunes).
Kids will live it up at the entertainment- and shopping-focused Linq Promenade, which transforms into a winter park on November 25. There will be holiday decorations, carolers, a nightly light show, a 35-foot tree, a tubing hill and evening snowfall scheduled every 30 minutes.
Make your winter getaway even more luxe with a stay at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, where you’ll enjoy floor-to-ceiling views of the extra-illuminated Strip. If you’re in town on December 15, head to Wynn’s treat trimming party to create edible holiday ornaments with the entire family.
At Delta’s Kitchen (one of four onsite eateries), you can sit down to a comforting family-style dinner on Turkey Day. Choose from a whole slew of traditional and Southern fixings, from slow-roasted turkey and classic stuffing to collard greens and bourbon pecan pie.
Starting on November 15, Graceland, a stop on Tennessee Music Pathways, a statewide program consisting of more than 500 music-rich locations to visit, transforms to even more of a winter wonderland with Christmas decorations and bright lights. And then on December 14 and 15, Graceland will gift guests with live holiday music events that include a 32-piece orchestra, gospel groups and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton.
Fans of the season’s twinkling lights will want to make a special trip to this Japanese city come wintertime. Through December 31, the streets will be spectacularly aglow during the Festival of Lights, an annual holiday ritual that sees illumination designers and contemporary artists creating awe-inspiring light displays throughout the city.
Expect boulevards lined in glittering ginkgo trees, historic buildings colorfully lit up, epic light shows with music and even Technicolor projection mapping.
Book a stay at Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka for a central location near the Osaka train stop, refined digs and stellar views of the glowing city.
This little enclave of luxury has several glitzy holiday-themed offerings on tap, but the biggest is its New Year’s Eve dinner party. The sure-to-be-memorable event will feature cocktails, wines, fine dining (celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten heads up all food outlets at the hotel), a DJ and plenty of surprises.
The hotel’s New Year Tangará Jean-Georges package is worth the flight to Brazil alone: it includes a one-night stay, a five-course dinner at the property’s signature restaurant, access to the glamorous bash, a New Year’s Day brunch and a welcomed 5 p.m. checkout time.
The historic Five-Star hotel decks its halls with festive décor, and the genuinely friendly staff exuding Southern hospitality will help you experience the many events Music City offers this time of year.
A few things we’d put on our bucket list include Holiday Lights at Cheekwood, another Tennessee Music Pathways event, where you can check out more than 1 million lights across the estate’s illuminated gardens, see Santa, roast marshmallows and pet reindeer from November 23 to December 30.
For adults-only fun from December 1 to 29, head to Reindeer Games, a holiday-themed pop-up bar that will host ugly sweater parties, classic movie screenings (The Grinch and A Christmas Story are both in the lineup), Santa sightings and photos, Christmas karaoke and festive drinks (warm spiced rosé with pear brandy).
Change up your annual winter Caribbean sojourn with a stop in this colorful Colombian jewel for New Year’s Eve. The historic walled city goes all out with elaborate galas, pop-up parties and fine-dining feasts, which culminate with a sensational display of fireworks against the illuminated cupola-dotted skyline.
Snag a spot on the walls close to Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena for prime vistas of the show. The colonial-era luxury hotel is a beguiling building with an excellent location on the lively Plaza San Diego, putting you right in the center of the festivities.
Santa makes his rounds Down Under in the summertime, which means there’s no chill in the air to avoid. Take advantage of the balmy weather by heading outdoors to see the city’s impressive light displays, stopping by alfresco holiday concerts — check out Carols by Sea (December 12) on world-famous Bondi Beach or the massively popular Carols in the Domain (December 22) — and visiting the multitude of markets to get in your gift shopping.
Stay at Five-Star The Darling, inside the upscale entertainment, shopping, dining and casino complex The Star, and you’ll be privy to a slew of restaurants with holiday feasts and Santa sightings.
Consider staying through New Year’s to take advantage of the luxury hotel’s impeccable viewpoint of Sydney Harbor, where one of the world’s largest fireworks displays takes place every December 31.