If you're not feeling so holly jolly this year, that's cool – like millions of Americans, what you could probably use right now is a really long nap. And yet – no matter what you celebrate (if you celebrate anything), you can't escape the fact (no really, it's a fact) that no matter what, the holidays are – as the saying goes – pretty much the most wonderful time of the year. Disagree? Here are five extremely pro-Christmas destinations that will likely convert even a Grinch. Try one and see.
Tradition? Tick. Decorations, everywhere? Absolutely. A strong culture of supporting small, independent businesses that make shopping so much more fun than you'd expect? Better believe it. Few American cities manage to bring warmth to the celebration of the Christmas holiday as effectively and effortlessly as New Orleans does, with its Reveillon dinners, midnight mass at the Cathedral, the twinkling lights at City Park and all of the other traditions, not to mention the food. And the drink. Order a seasonal cocktail, kick back, relax and feel your skepticism melting away.
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Europe crawls with Christmas markets and celebrations at this time of year, but the Austrian capital does it with such style and flair, it's almost breathtaking. The party centers around the Christkindlmarkt, featuring Vienna's ornate City Hall as a backdrop, but this isn't just some place to buy tree ornaments – for a few weeks each year, this is party central, with hordes of locals taking to the giant ice rink, pausing every so often for cups of steaming mulled wine. Don't miss the weekend carol performances by a rotating list of international choirs.
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It's always a good time to visit one of Europe's most delightful cities – even during the darkest months of the year. That's when Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens – one of the world's oldest amusement parks, conveniently located across the street from the main train station – goes hard for Christmas. Magical at any time of year (this is, after all, one of Walt's inspirations for Disneyland, way back when), things get even more memorable when the light displays go up, the real, live, reindeer enter the park and the market stalls go up. A night (which stays open very late) at the park is a Copenhagen Christmas tradition and an affordable one at that – admission is roughly $15 per adult. Nothing in a town where you can easily pay that much for a burger.
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New York gets all the attention, but the Windy City gets the job done with far less fluff (and less insane crowding), from legendary store windows along the Magnificent Mile to skating on the rink in Millennium Park to an annual tree-lighting and the traditional Christkindlmarket (featuring many of the same items sold in Germany's many historic markets) running at Daley Plaza – under the Picasso sculpture! – through Christmas Eve. But wait, there's more – the light displays at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the giant tree at the classic Walnut Room restaurant, located high atop one of the country's largest department stores, the world-class annual performances of Dickens' Christmas Carol (at the Goodman Theatre) and The Nutcracker (done proud by the Joffery Ballet). Cold? It can be. But you'll likely be too busy to notice.
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The United Kingdom is hardly short of quaint towns and villages that'll make you feel like you've stepped into a postcard sent from Christmas past, but this mid-sized, comeback kid of a city is less for nostalgia around this time of year and more about fun, bringing an almost carnival atmosphere to its annual celebration, head at the heart of town. Outdoor bars, hundreds of decorated trees, a food hall and an ice rink complement the traditional market stalls; it's a great change of pace from London's epic commercialism and as little as 1.5 hours away by train.
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