Best Holiday Festivals in the U.S. you don’t know about… yet

We’ve all seen the lights starting to go up around town. The Christmas music has already hit the radio, and holiday sales have begun to pop up even at local boutiques. Whether we are ready or not the holidays are upon us and home may not feel like the best place to celebrate the season this year. You’ve been there, done that. So why not go on a weekend adventure to check out one of these holiday festivals that can get you in the mood and make you merry and bright once again?

Dickens of a Christmas Celebration

Wellsboro, PA

Step back in time at this central Pennsylvania tradition where period costumes are the norm and you will find more than one strolling musician on Main Street. Shop for crafts, food gifts and costumes to get you into the holiday spirit. Catch a performance by the Men’s and Women’s Choruses at the Arcadia Theater or see “A Christmas Carol” at the Coolidge Theater and Warehouse Theater.

And don’t worry, plenty of food vendors will be on hand to warm you up with hot chocolate, cheddar wursts, homemade soups, cookies, hot dogs, apple dumplings and hot apple cider. Parents can feel free to let the kids wander without worry too, as Main Street will be closed to cars all day long.

Christmas Lighting Festival

Leavenworth, WA

Like lights? You will love Leavenworth. This little German-inspired town east of Seattle brings in St. Nick as well as a few hundred thousand lights (over half a million in fact) each holiday season. Friday night rings in the season with a visit from St. Nickolaus, while Saturday at noon Santa shows up with a parade of characters as they march from Festhalle to the Gazebo. Carolers fill the streets, along with the smell of chestnuts and spiced wine and cider. Kids will love the “Cookie Crawl” map, but the whole family will marvel as the lights turn on every Saturday and Sunday night. Come for the weekend or just a long day trip to experience the brilliant magic this town has to offer.

Horse Drawn Carriage Parade & Christmas Festival

Lebanon, OH

On the first Saturday in December every year you can watch horses prancing through the streets, Christmas carolers, local vendors selling hot beverages and warm baked goods, and shop for antiques at one of the 80+ antique and specialty stores in town. The afternoon horse parade is great for younger kids, while those who can stay up late will love the traditional candle light parade at 7pm. This festival may only last one day, but they sure know how to pack in the holiday cheer in those ten hours.

Dickens Village Festival

Garrison, ND

Finally there is a place to get rid of all of that fruitcake you have been hoarding over the years. The annual Fruitcake toss at the Dickens Village festival will make you laugh and duck for cover. Better yet, kids and adults of all ages can participate and get the chance to win prizes.

What’s the skinny on this popular North Dakota festival? For three weekends starting on Thanksgiving, you can head to this small town of 1500 people who has been transformed into a Victorian Christmas destination. Parents can enjoy an English high tea with their prince and princess, partake in a children’s top hat decorating workshop, shop the local stores and enjoy a Dickens’ play performance.

Annual Inn to Inn Holiday Cookie and Candy Tour

White Mountains, NH and ME

Only Scrooge would say no to more cookies, so a cookie and candy tour will be right up your alley. For one weekend only, you and your children can devour the magic of the season through a two day self-guided tour of eleven area inns located in the New Hampshire towns of Albany, Bartlett, Eaton, Hart’s Location, Intervale, Jackson, North Conway, and nearby Fryeburg, Maine. Taste cookies, candy, grab recipes to go, and decorating ideas just in time for the holidays. Although the whole family might not get excited about an inn and cookie tour, this is the perfect excuse for mom and dad to slip away, to gather a group of girlfriends or plan a special mother-daughter getaway before the holidays take over your lives.

Bonus pick: ArtShop Philadelphia

Ok, so this isn’t so much of a festival as an amazing craft fair created by my very own sister in Philadelphia. She’s been organizing it with a friend for the past 11 years, and it continues to grow to the point that they have to turn people away just because they are out of space. It happens on the first weekend of December every year, and offers crafts and wares in all price ranges and styles. ArtShop makes it easy to get handmade gifts for everyone on your list.

Holiday Festivals

Image via Jonathon James/Flickr

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