Holiday traditions are delightful, but when the sugarplum season rolls around, I like to mix it up. Last year I watched Santa's twinkling ferryboat pull up to a dock in the Virgin Islands. The year before I sipped Glühwein in Germany. I've spent the season at the electric wonderland of La Salette Shrine, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with grandma. Are you the type who looks forward to the same cherished traditions year after year? Or do you take your holidays with a splash of novelty? Whichever way you lean, here are a few ideas for celebrating your Yuletide season. From a snow-covered colonial village in New England to a sun-drenched canyon in the Arizona desert, these four holiday destinations offer sparkling surprises.
1) Manchester Village
Dreams of a white Christmas come true year after year in this Vermont town. You know those Currier and Ives prints with snow-covered farmhouses and horse-drawn carriages? This is that kind of place. Nestled in the heart of the Green Mountain National Forest, the historic locale is surrounded by some of the Northeast's best spots for skiing. If sensational slopes aren't reason enough to head north this winter, perhaps the promise of a Victorian Christmas celebrated the way the Lincoln family would have a century ago, will lure you. Each December, Hildene, the gracious Georgian Revival mansion built by President Abraham Lincoln's son Robert Todd, hosts an authentic Victorian celebration complete with caroling and wreath making. All month long the historic halls are decked with boughs of holly. I can definitely see myself in crimson velvet belting out "fa la la la la" like a Louisa May Alcott character.
2) Washington, D.C.
When it comes to Christmas, few do it as well as the Scandinavians. The Lucia Weihnachstmarkt is my favorite of Berlin's many Christmas Markets, and I'm always on the lookout for something like it here in America. Turns out, my best opportunity for waving the Norwegian flag while singing "Silent Night" is in Washington, D.C. Our nation's capital heralds the holidays Norwegian style. Crafts bazaars and jazz concerts create a spirited atmosphere at Union Station, the city's historic central train terminal. Head here December 2 for your tree lighting fix. The 32-foot tannenbaum gets its glow on as a local children's choir sings holiday favorites. All month long, miniature trains toot and chug through the mountains and fjords of an enormous replica of an authentic Norwegian landscape. Get on board all you train enthusiasts and Scandinavia-philes (like me).
3) Minneapolis' Holidazzle Parade
Each weekend, from November 26 to December 19, a fleet of twinkling floats rolls down Nicollet Mall, downtown's main pedestrian thoroughfare. Local heroes like the city police chief and Olympic athlete Natalie Darwitz lead the illuminated procession of waving storybook characters while marching bands fill the cold night air with favorite seasonal tunes. I'll wish upon a star and blow a kiss to Cinderella and Pinocchio as they pass by in this picture-perfect evening of fairytale magic.
4) The Desert Botanical Garden
Peeling off the layers of woolen sweaters, I'll trade in my cold weather clothes for a wide brimmed hat to shade the southwestern sun. All the way across the Great Plains, one of the country's most unique seasonal events takes place at the Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix. Los Noches de las Luminarias transforms this natural wonderland into a glowing oasis of holiday enchantment. Once the sun goes down, the flames begin to flicker as over 8,000 luminaria bags are lit by hand. Their soft light illuminates meandering pathways in cactus groves and yucca forests as the chiming melodies of handbell ensembles, the Mexican rhythms of mariachi bands, and the joy of a capella carolers fills the moonlit night. I never want to wake up from this Sonoran dream.
For a chance to win free hotel stays in the above North American cities hosting these dazzling events, play the Luxury Collection's Global Explorers Challenge on Facebook through December 12th. Answer the daily trivia questions and you can win complimentary two night hotel stays at select North American hotels along with reward points to all the Luxury Collection properties worldwide.