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Best places to celebrate Christmas in America

  • Best places to celebrate Christmas in America

    The holidays are upon us again. 'Tis the season for Christmas music piping out of every store and radio speaker, commercials to touch your heart (and wallet), replays of your favorite holiday classics, strings of lights and wreaths on every house, and all other forms of general merriment. But while Perry Como’s Christmas favorite tells us “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,” we wanted to see what other options might be out there.

    Stacker crunched data from WalletHub comparing 100 of the most-populated cities across five dimensions: traditions and fun (Christmas events, tree farms, and ice-skating rinks per capita, hotel and flight bookings around the holidays, and internet searches for Christmas celebrations), churches per capita, generosity (food banks and online giving per capita, as well as the share of the population collecting and handing out food and clothes to the needy), shopping access (malls, gift shops, Christmas markets, and chocolate and stationery shops), and cost (average price for Christmas parties, hotel rooms, and affordable restaurants).

    Each dimension was weighed equally, allowing us to determine a total score on a 100-point scale. In this system, 100 represents the most favorable conditions for celebrating Christmas. Did your hometown make the list? Read on to find out!

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  • #50. Boston, MA

    Total score: 42.02

    Tradition and fun rank: #24

    Observance rank: #71

    Generosity rank: #9

    Shopping rank: #52

    Cost rank: #96

    With its Victorian architecture often blanketed in snow around the holidays, Christmastime in Boston could just as easily be the setting for Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Who would guess that at one time the holiday was banned? Among the most popular celebrations in this once-Puritan town is the century-old Candlelight Carols celebration at Copley Square’s magnificent Trinity Church, which gets decorated in garland and Christmas pines. A decidedly less wholesome event that has nevertheless sold out every year for the past decade is “The Slutcracker,” a parody and adult interpretation of the Christmas classic “The Nutcracker.”

  • #49. Durham, NC

    Total score: 42.09

    Tradition and fun rank: #83

    Observance rank: #62

    Generosity rank: #17

    Shopping rank: #56

    Cost rank: #16

    Another lovely spot to enjoy the holiday season is Durham, N.C., which offers up high doses of Southern charm every Christmas season. Christmas by Candlelight can be enjoyed at the Duke Homestead, a state historic site and national historic landmark, while costumed tour guides lead visitors through decked-out grounds in dazzling light displays and late-1800s decorations. Another Christmas tradition—running now for more than 40 years straight—is Ira David Wood III’s comedic, musical twist on “A Christmas Carol,” held at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

  • #48. Fort Worth, TX

    Total score: 42.24

    Tradition and fun rank: #67

    Observance rank: #25

    Generosity rank: #21

    Shopping rank: #74

    Cost rank: #41

    It may not have the look of a Currier & Ives winterscape, but Christmas in Texas nevertheless has an aesthetic and feel all its own. During December one can experience the only Texas-sized Drive Thru light park as the Texas Motor Speedway is transformed for the Gift of Lights celebration. The holiday event features 1.5 miles of more than 500 dazzling displays and 2 million twinkling lights that lead to Santa’s Village.

  • #47. Omaha, NE

    Total score: 42.42

    Tradition and fun rank: #60

    Observance rank: #43

    Generosity rank: #56

    Shopping rank: #49

    Cost rank: #17

    Looking for a Christmas experience that will take you around the world? Head to Omaha, Neb., where tourists flock from around the U.S. to enjoy festivals and events inspired by countries like Germany, Greece, Mexico, and Ireland. The German American Society holds a Christmas dinner and program complete with pork schnitzel, lederhosen, and traditional songs and dances; while St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church puts on “Christmas in Greece,” featuring traditional dishes and pastries, live music, and ethnic dancing.

  • #46. St. Paul, MN

    Total score: 43.40

    Tradition and fun rank: #39

    Observance rank: #31

    Generosity rank: #37

    Shopping rank: #28

    Cost rank: #89

    St. Paul’s European Christmas Market, held from late November to mid-December, is inspired by the open-air German and Austrian Christkindlmarkts during the Advent season. At this Christmas market—and others around the area —you’ll find handcrafted gifts and decorations from local vendors and enjoy traditional European food and drink.

  • #45. Kansas City, MO

    Total score: 43.64

    Tradition and fun rank: #58

    Observance rank: #28

    Generosity rank: #25

    Shopping rank: #64

    Cost rank: #32

    In Kansas City, Missouri, Christmas festivities begin before Thanksgiving. Three main events kick off the season over three days: Christmas in the Sky at Longview Lake Beach, the Plaza Lighting Ceremony, and the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Crown Center. The tree-lighting ceremony—a Kansas City tradition since the 1800s—features a 100-foot-tall fir adorned with ornaments created using wood from the previous year’s tree. The Mayor's Christmas Tree Ceremony commemorates Mayor George Shelley, who served from 1878 to 1879. Mayor Shelley is known for buying a Christmas tree and fixing meals for the poor with his own money.

  • #44. Scottsdale, AZ

    Total score: 44.37

    Tradition and fun rank: #66

    Observance rank: #93

    Generosity rank: #11

    Shopping rank: #20

    Cost rank: #37

    In the arid, desert landscapes of Arizona, Christmas takes on a distinctly Southwestern flair. Just outside of Scottsdale, you won’t find a fir tree decorated in red and green ornaments. But you will find the world’s largest—and possibly only—tumbleweed Christmas tree and lighting ceremony. You can even enjoy some ice skating at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, which features over-the-top Christmas decorations and lights, and even a nightly snowfall as you glide over the ice.

  • #43. Detroit, MI

    Total score: 44.73

    Tradition and fun rank: #37

    Observance rank: #11

    Generosity rank: #88

    Shopping rank: #77

    Cost rank: #22

    Detroit, Mich., features some of the best Christmas markets and villages to take in right in the heart of downtown. Inside Cadillac Square, you can enjoy a traditional holiday market with a cozy twist: Each of the 20 vendors has his or her own transparent, heated booth resembling an igloo. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the pop-up Cadillac Lodge at the downtown Detroit Christmas Market, filled with roaring fireplaces, games, ski lodge-themed amenities, and gourmet snacks and festive cocktails.

  • #42. Baltimore, MD

    Total score: 44.91

    Tradition and fun rank: #26

    Observance rank: #17

    Generosity rank: #72

    Shopping rank: #50

    Cost rank: #63

    Baltimore offers visitors a stroll down a real-life “Miracle on 34th Street”.  Back in the 1990s, 34th Street resident Bob Hosier decorated his home with a string of Christmas lights. His neighbors followed suit; and nowadays, this little Baltimore block is completely decked out with decorations and lights in a holiday display that draws visitors from all over the United States.

  • #41. Milwaukee, WI

    Total score: 44.97

    Tradition and fun rank: #52

    Observance rank: #22

    Generosity rank: #47

    Shopping rank: #73

    Cost rank: #23

    With its strong German heritage, Milwaukee observes St. Nick’s Day as the true start to the holiday season. Kids wake on the morning of Dec. 6 to find their stockings stuffed with little gifts and treats. If you're into something less secular, you might enjoy the city's Festivus celebration Dec. 23 on Brady Street. There you can celebrate with a beer run and wrestling competition that sends one lucky winner home with a Festivus pole of his or her own.

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