- Ren Gudino
A Different Kind of Christmas Town: Cozy, Quaint & Warm
Sure, if you want to fulfill your fantasies of recreating Elf or Home Alone Christmas, you can always go to New York City, try the “Best Coffee in the World” and feed some pigeons in Central Park. As idyllic as it seems, there are still a lot of people there and these quaint, cozy, quiet images that we’re given in films are hardly a reality. Though now that I think about it, I think the bustling rush of tourists and city-life is part of the appeal.
There’s also the infamous Santa Claus, Indiana. This beloved midwestern city has been given plenty of well-deserved press for its perpetual celebration of Christmas–complete with full-town involvement from the local businesses and a Christmas-themed amusement park. There’s even the Santa Claus Museum and Village that can teach you how Santa Claus (the town and not the person) got its name.
I’m always a fan of checking out things that feel lesser known or at least, less visited. Plus, my past decade of living in the south has made me more than wary of driving in a northern winter. Not to mention that northern towns have more road damage from the extreme changes in temperature throughout the year. I didn’t realize this was my tendency until I started looking up Christmas towns to visit and noticed my growing anxiety over icy roads, foggy drives, limited visibility, etc.
When I saw an article about the small town of Atchinson, KS and its population of around 11k being one of the best Christmas towns, I was intrigued. Atchinson offers an all-ages Christmas pageant, storytimes, a train, various entertainment events, local vending booths and more! Atchinson Christmas Historic Homes adds a personal element by asking the owners of these beautifully decorated homes to invite others in for a tour! This ties the organizers to the local community and brings people in in a way would only be seen in the South.
With my family in Louisiana, seeing the name of this town came as a surprise:
Natchitoches. You might have seen this town of 17k in such films like the The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood or in Steel Magnolias, if that tells you about its quaint and charming small town aesthetic. What I didn’t know was that it’s also known as the "City of Lights" for its 100 temporary set pieces secured along the river and thousands (THOUSANDS) of set up Christmas lights. The event that gives Natchitoches an additional “wow” factor is its Boat Parade! Think of your traditional Christmas parade but on boats, along the river, with every boat decorated with lights for the season!
Another warm locale for the holiday that you can visit without worrying about being trapped by ten feet of snow is Grapevine, Texas! Who knew that Grapevine had earned its spot as one of the best Christmas towns? The Gaylord Texan Hotel hosts a huge holiday-themed convention that includes snow tubing for the kids, gingerbread decorating center, and spa treatments for the grown-ups. The main hit of the entire thing is ICE!: a holiday scene made entirely out of ice sculptures that the entire family can go through, bundled up in a chilly room for that wintry feeling.
I couldn’t put together a list of warm Christmas spots without including a state known for being a popular winter haven for anyone escaping the chill–Florida. You might remember St. Augustine from our haunted/historical (whichever you prefer) road trip as housing some of our nation’s oldest landmarks (namely the St. Augustine Lighthouse). There’s the standard Christmas Parade, holiday movies shown in theaters, and a festival called the Night of Lights showing off their seasonal display of three million lights. There’s a holiday-inspired tasting tour throughout their downtown and our second boat parade–though this one is named the Regatta of Lights and is hosted by the St. Augustine Yacht Club.
What makes St. Augustine’s Christmas unique is its history! The Old Town Trolley Tour flaunts sights from 1565 to now, or take part in the Night of Lights Trolley Tour which adds a seasonal twist. Visitors can witness a Colonial Night Watch (a reenactment of the night watches necessary during the 1700’s) followed by a parade that ends at the Governor’s House. The event ends with carols sang by the soldiers and militia. The most unique event is the annual Luminary Night–where you can climb to the top of the 151-year-old St. Augustine lighthouse to fully take in over 200 luminaries set up across the grounds.
Whether you’re in the humid south or the icing north this winter, there are more than enough events to get your hot cocoa, Santa-visits, pine-scented experience. As you drive to visit family, warm weather, or boat parade, remember to stay safe, get your car checked, and look out for your future self!
We’ll be doing our part by supplying the highest quality and most reflective highway signs, so you can get where you’re going as safely and efficiently as you can!