Most Festive U.S. Cities for Holiday Travel
Last updated on 12/14/2022
The holidays are a popular time for travel, and many travelers get into the spirit by visiting cheery locations that inspire seasonal joy. From Minneapolis to Miami, we reviewed 100 cities across the United States to identify which were the most festive. We collected data to determine the jolliest locations based on the following criteria: number of Christmas markets, holiday events, festive tours, the chance of snow, and number of searches for ‘Christmas in ...'.
We hope this gives holiday travelers destination inspiration as they’re looking for festive locations when planning their next trip.
|Rank||City / State||State||Overall|
|1||Rochester,New York||New York||6.1|
|2||Buffalo,New York||New York||5.7|
|3||Syracuse,New York||New York||5.3|
|4||New York City,New York||New York||5.1|
|7||Salt Lake City,Utah||Utah||4.7|
|22||Albany,New York||New York||3.5|
|30||Asheville,North Carolina||North Carolina||3.2|
|33||Providence,Rhode Island||Rhode Island||3.1|
|40||Charlotte,North Carolina||North Carolina||2.7|
|45||Raleigh,North Carolina||North Carolina||2.6|
|47||Albuquerque,New Mexico||New Mexico||2.5|
|53||Greenville,South Carolina||South Carolina||2.3|
|59||Charleston,South Carolina||South Carolina||2.2|
|72||Myrtle Beach,South Carolina||South Carolina||1.9|
|84||West Palm Beach,Florida||Florida||1.5|
Traveling for a White Christmas
For many, the concept of a 'White Christmas' has been endlessly romanticized. For some states, the idea of a White Christmas is little more than a fantasy whilst others have come to expect it.
New York’s Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo dominate the competition when comparing the chance of snow in cities across the country. Both Rochester and Syracuse score just under a 50% chance of snowfall throughout the Christmas period, while Buffalo maintains a 39% probability.
Excluding the leading state, Grand Rapids, Michigan followed close behind in fourth, accompanying state partner Detroit in the top 10. Anchorage, Alaska registered fifth place, with Spokane, Washington in sixth place.
For those who prefer to avoid the snow, 39 cities recorded a 0% chance of snowfall. Notably, these states all reside within the country’s southern region.
Number of Christmas Markets
Looking for a classic Christmas market in the upcoming holidays? We looked at the number of Christmas markets in each city, helping those who love holiday shopping to plan their next adventure.
New York City leads our list of cities in Christmas markets, with a total of 6. Denver, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada tie for second place with 5 Christmas markets each. Six cities tie for third place: Albuquerque, New Mexico, Raleigh, North Carolina, Omaha, Nevada, Nashville, Tennessee, Boston, Massachusetts and Boise, Idaho.
Alternatively, 25 U.S. cities reportedly host no Christmas markets. Surprisingly, only half of these destinations reside in the southern part of the country. Of the remaining cities, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Spokane, Washington, were still able to score highly overall, despite their lack of any markets.
Number of Winter Tours
When traveling during the winter, it’s essential to ensure that activities are still available. Winter tours can range from Christmas light tours In New York to kayaking in Orlando, Florida. The number of winter tours has been highlighted below.
Picturesque holiday destinations Honolulu (10), Miami (6.8), and Fort Lauderdale (6.6) seize the top three spots. Unsurprisingly cities residing within Hawaii, Florida, and California dominate the top end of this list. Whilst the weather still cools in these states their top event spots remain the same - surf locations, national parks, and theme parks.
27 locations do not provide any winter tours, with overall high-scoring Grand Rapids, Michigan appearing among these. Other high-scoring standouts are Spokane and Minneapolis.
Number of Christmas Events
Christmas events are staged holiday performances providing festive entertainment.
The results displayed diversity in locations across the U.S. Fort Worth Texas hosts the most Christmas events boasting an impressive 147 with Ontario, California (142) and Columbus, Ohio (138) following close behind.
Lihue, Kailua Kona, and Kahului record the least Christmas events, meaning Hawaii may not cater to your staged entertainment festivities. These locations can provide as few as two Christmas events during the holiday period.
100 Cities Worth of Festivities
Incorporating all the previous data points into one score allows us to identify the most festive city.
Rochester, New York tops the list with a score of 6.1, followed closely by Buffalo (5.7) and Syracuse (5.3), which are also both located in New York. While spending Christmas in New York City (5.1) remains a bucket list item for many, results reveal the city’s state counterparts may be better destinations to visit during the holidays.
Outside of the state of New York, Grand Rapids, Michigan (4.9), Anchorage, Alaska (4.8) and Salt Lake City, Utah (4.7) all place highly.
Separately the least outwardly festive cities are Lihue, Hawaii (with a score of 0.2), Dulles, Virginia (0.6) and Punta Gorda, Florida (0.7).
To recap, the possibility of snow has a large impact on the perceived festive spirit of a city, thus potentially impacting the Christmas-related industries that follow.
The number of Christmas markets per city is highly competitive across the country, distributed fairly evenly across the regions.
The U.S. leading summer vacation destinations dominated the Winter Tours section. Whilst Winter Tours are not directly related to a traditional Christmas, they are essential for many in providing entertaining activities across the holiday season.
Christmas Events are the less active form of entertainment, though they presented the opposite in results. Hawaii and Florida’s cities are placed around the bottom of this list.
Each data point consists of the latest research available from reputable sources. All sources are destination specific level data points. The data was standardized using minmax normalization. The minmax normalization value is multiplied by 10 to create a score (between 0-10). A score of 10 is always the best result, while a score of 0 is the worst. Each city is then ranked on their overall rating across all festive data points, to find which city is the most festive.
InsureMyTrip isolated each data point in addition to giving an overall category score. This will give families an opportunity to target destinations for individual points (e.g. chance of snow, number of Christmas markets or number of winter tours). Alternatively, the “Overall” category score gives a general view of which city is the most festive.
The number of tours on Expedia between the 18th- 31st December under the search ‘Christmas’.
The number of Christmas markets according to Christmas Market Guides
The number of times each city was mentioned on Instagram in the hashtags #christmaslights, #christmastree, #christmas
Number of Christmas Events
The number of Christmas events listed on Google’s Events page.
Number of Searches
The average number of monthly searches for ‘Christmas in …’ over the last 12 months.