Pauline Frommer is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and newspaper columnist based in New York City. She is a member of the Frommer guidebook family. Pauline Frommer’s New YorkCity was twice named “Best Guidebook of the Year” by the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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The holidays will be upon us far sooner than you think. If you are considering spending them away from home at a fun destination, now is the time to start planning. Bottom Line Personal asked Pauline Frommer—of Frommer’s travel guides—for her favorite places to celebrate.
New York City. There are few better places to visit for the holidays than Manhattan. Here is your chance to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Macys.com/social/parade)—with performances by marching bands from all over the country and floats carrying celebrities. Get the party started early by traveling to Manhattan’s Upper West Side the day before to watch the iconic parade balloons being blown up. Beginning right around Thanksgiving and through the New Year, you can enjoy avenues, buildings and department store windows—Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s—all dressed up for the holidays. Attend a performance by the famous Radio City Rockettes (Rockettes.com) or a Broadway show…the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (RockefellerCenter.com) held shortly after Thanksgiving…join in the sing-along to Handel’s Messiah at Lincoln Center…or go to the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, always with big name musical performers.
The Berkshire Mountains, Western Massachusetts. Holidays in The Berkshires—which comprises 30 towns and two cities—bring to life the traditional Currier & Ives paintings. Snow-covered hills, crisp air, blue skies as far as you can see…carriage rides, ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing…s’mores, hot cocoa and a toasty fire. The historic Red Lion Inn (RedLionInn.com) in Stockbridge conjures up images of Christmas past, as does a visit to the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum (NRM.org), where you can see hundreds of the artist’s Saturday Evening Post covers of American life.
The Berkshires are a great place to start your New Year’s resolutions at world-renown wellness destinations. Lenox is home to two luxury spa resorts—Canyon Ranch (CanyonRanch.com) and Miraval (MiravalResorts.com)…and Stockbridge has the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (Kripalu.org).
Stowe, Vermont. If you’re looking for a beautiful old-fashioned Christmas and want to go skiing, head to northern Vermont and the village of Stowe. Located near the state’s highest mountain, Mount Mansfield, the village kicks off the holiday season with its annual traditional Christmas event (December 2 to 4, 2022), featuring live music, a tree lighting, children’s lantern parade, wagon rides, a holiday bazaar and, of course, the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Bonus: Make a visit to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, established by the von Trapp family in 1950, for hearty Austrian-style dishes and a visit to Maria von Trapp’s grave. TrappFamily.com
Pittsburgh is an unsung destination especially for the holidays. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the city presents Highmark Light Up Night, a full-day event with Christmas markets, a tree lighting, live music and fireworks. Throughout the season, enjoy drive-through Christmas light shows and pop-up shops. For Hanukkah: Watch the Chabad Lubavitch Center’s car menorah parade (ChabadPGH.com)…and attend Congregation Beth Shalom’s annual Latkepalooza, featuring traditional Hanukkah foods and music (BethShalomPGH.org).
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. All generations love Colonial Williamsburg, especially when it is decked out in holiday finery in November and December. Activities include carriage rides, ice skating, musical performances and the Grand Illumination (December 3, 10 and 17, 2022), a celebratory firing of guns and fireworks. Enjoy turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings for Thanksgiving dinner, as well as special meals on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, at one of the many restaurants in the area.
Nashville. The home of the Grand Ole Opry is a truly fun place to celebrate the holidays. The temperature is moderate…the food is delicious (try the city’s signature hot chicken dish if you like spicy fried food)…and there is music everywhere. Just minutes from downtown, the Gaylord Opryland Resort (Marriott.com), one of the largest hotels in the world, creates a vast indoor holiday wonderland in November and December, complete with an ice sculpture show and ice skating, tubing and horse-drawn carriage rides.
New Orleans. NOLA, as it is affectionately known, is a proud city filled with culture and history. Holiday festivities include bonfires on the levee to guide Santa to the city…caroling in the French Quarter’s Jackson Square…tours of beautifully decorated mansions…ice skating at the Convention Center’s NOLA ChristmasFest…and Réveillon feasts at many of the city’s best restaurants—a Creole tradition featuring a four-course meal that hearkens back to NOLA’s founding days. For Hanukkah: The Jewish Children’s Regional Service presents the Hanukkah celebration “Latkes with a Twist.”
Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida…and Disneyland, Anaheim, California. The Disney parks are never more magical than at the holidays—and Walt Disney World is celebrating its 50th anniversary through March 2023. Both parks are adorned with holiday trees, lights and décor, and they offer fireworks and parades. At Florida’s Epcot and Disneyland, you can experience holiday traditions and foods from around the world. Be aware: Disney vacations are complex to plan and expensive all year round. The Disney company has cut a lot of services, staff and perks. Examples: The FastPass system to skip lines for popular rides is no longer available. Instead, you have to download the Genie+ app which starts at $15 a day but can go up exponentially in price depending on the rides you choose. Best for families with kids who are four or five years or older.
Outside the mainland US…
Puerto Rico. It is a treat to step off a plane from somewhere cold and feel this Caribbean island’s balmy breezes and happy vibe. Puerto Rico claims to have the longest holiday season in the world, stretching from Thanksgiving and ending in January. Special treat: On Christmas Eve, dine on a Nochebuena meal comprised of roast pork and rice with tropical seeds known as pigeon peas, and drink an eggnog-like coconut-and-rum drink called coquito. The holiday season wraps up in mid-January with the Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián in Old San Juan, a multiday celebration.
Old Québec City, Canada. This charming and very French city hosts a magical German Christmas market every December with more than 90 booths hawking food and artisan crafts. Be forewarned: Winter in Québec is biting cold (9°F to 25°F, on average) and windy—and the city can get about 120 inches of snow per year. Still, intrepid travelers are rewarded with fabulous shopping and European-style treats. You can ride a toboggan on the city’s boardwalk and watch Christmas choirs. Must see: Le Château Frontenac (Fairmont.com), a luxury French medieval-style castle that glistens with 20-plus decorated Christmas trees each December.