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Best places to celebrate Christmas in America

  • Michael Rivera // Wikicommons
    1/ Michael Rivera // Wikicommons

    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!

    RELATED: States that produce the most Christmas trees

  • Rhavasy // Wikicommons
    2/ Rhavasy // Wikicommons

    #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.”

  • dun_deagh // Flickr
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    #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.

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    #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.

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    #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.

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    #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.

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    #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, Miss., 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.

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    #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.

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    9/ Dig Downtown Detroit // Flickr

    #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.

  • Austin Kirk // Flickr
    10/ Austin Kirk // Flickr

    #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.

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    #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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    #40. San Antonio, TX

    Total score: 45.26

    Tradition and fun rank: #22

    Observance rank: #23

    Generosity rank: #77

    Shopping rank: #34

    Cost rank: #56

    A number of San Antonio’s Christmas traditions, like many others near the Texas-Mexico border, are steeped in Latin American and Spanish culture. San Antonio offers the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, the largest mariachi festival in the United States. The event is held each year   at the Lila Cockrell Theater and features artists from around the world.

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    #39. Tulsa, OK

    Total score: 45.39

    Tradition and fun rank: #64

    Observance rank: #29

    Generosity rank: #50

    Shopping rank: #43

    Cost rank: #1

    The Tulsa Lantern Light Festival, held each year at the River West Festival Park downtown, is a Christmas tradition celebrating Chinese heritage around the holidays. The park transforms every December into a display of magnificent Chinese lanterns of all shapes, sizes, colors, and themes, including a 400-foot-long dragon and giant panda bear lantern. Tulsans and visitors may also partake of a variety of traditional Chinese food, acrobatic performances, activities for kids, and live music.

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    #38. New Orleans, LA

    Total score: 45.67

    Tradition and fun rank: #13

    Observance rank: #52

    Generosity rank: #55

    Shopping rank: #44

    Cost rank: #60

    Like Mardi Gras and Carnival, the Christmas season in New Orleans is treated with grandeur and tradition. A number of downtown eateries offer a Reveillon ("awakening") dinner featuring prix-fixe menus with traditional Christmas dishes. The annual event was started by French colonists in the 19th century whose families fasted all day in preparation for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve then returned home to enjoy large, over-the-top feasts. Another Christmas Eve tradition here is Bonfires on the Levee, a collection of 30-foot-tall bonfires lining the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. The flames are maintained throughout the evening to celebrate Santa Claus—or Papa Noel, as he's known here—coming to town.

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    #37. Indianapolis, IN

    Total score: 45.69

    Tradition and fun rank: #45

    Observance rank: #24

    Generosity rank: #28

    Shopping rank: #55

    Cost rank: #31

    Throughout Indianapolis, locals and tourists can enjoy a variety of light shows around the holiday season. Winterlights at Newfields offers a dizzying array of choreographed lights you can enjoy on foot while wandering garden trails with a cup of cocoa; or stop in at the Indiana Historical Society for glimpses of 80 differently decorated evergreens at the organization's annual Festival of Trees. And instead of watching the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, racing fans can enjoy a two-mile drive along the speedway to check out more than 2.5 million twinkling lights—and relish in the opportunity to cross the hallowed ground of the celebrated Yard of Bricks during Lights at the Brickyard.

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    #36. Phoenix, AZ

    Total score: 45.72

    Tradition and fun rank: #25

    Observance rank: #79

    Generosity rank: #35

    Shopping rank: #37

    Cost rank: #2

    For the month of December, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is lit up with more than 8,000 luminaria bags and thousands of twinkling white lights for Las Noches de Las Luminarias. This isn’t your typical lights display: This year's installation, "Electric Desert" from the Klip Collective, brings the garden's palms and cacti to life as the Technicolor lights move, dance, and pulse in coordination with original music. Families will also enjoy "Holidays at the Heard," a half-mile nature trail walk at the Heard Museum featuring lights and decor (and several dinosaurs!).

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    #35. Memphis, TN

    Total score: 45.74

    Tradition and fun rank: #65

    Observance rank: #10

    Generosity rank: #57

    Shopping rank: #39

    Cost rank: #64

    Holiday light displays are put out in Memphis with reckless abandon, most spectacularly in the famed Peabody Hotel lobby, along "Starry Nights" trails at Shelby Farms Park, and at the "Zoo Lights" at Memphis Zoo. The city loves the holiday season so much, in fact, the Graceland Christmas event kicks things off even before Thanksgiving. This year's televised house-lighting ceremony at Graceland was held Nov. 15 and featured country music stars Scotty McCreery and Marty Stuart flipping the switch.

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    #34. Sacramento, CA

    Total score: 45.84

    Tradition and fun rank: #32

    Observance rank: #40

    Generosity rank: #39

    Shopping rank: #24

    Cost rank: #59

    At Cal Expo in Sacramento, Calif., the Global Winter Wonderland allows visitors to “travel the world in one day.” There you'll find the first and largest lantern festival outside of China, world-class entertainment from cultures around the globe, carnival rides, a meet-and-greet with Santa, and international cuisine.

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    #33. Raleigh, NC

    Total score: 46.28

    Tradition and fun rank: #36

    Observance rank: #53

    Generosity rank: #23

    Shopping rank: #46

    Cost rank: #27

    Raleigh gets serious about the Christmas season with an annual “Christmas on Salem Street” in the city's historic district, which features a Christmas tree lighting, the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage, cookie decorating, Christmas carolers, and a parade. Visitors can also stop in at the Angus Barn for a meal set against a backdrop of jaw-dropping Christmas decorations. As part of the holiday traditions, hand-decorated gingerbread cookies are handed out for free along with Christmas cheer by elves who frequent the place for the holidays.

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    #32. Nashville, TN

    Total score: 46.66

    Tradition and fun rank: #47

    Observance rank: #34

    Generosity rank: #14

    Shopping rank: #29

    Cost rank: #51

    You can't talk about Christmas in Nashville without mentioning The Gaylord Opryland Resort and its month-long Country Christmas celebration. The resort is laden with lavish holiday displays and decorations, more than 3 million twinkling lights, a Dr. Seuss-themed stage show, a Nutcracker playground made of ice, and indoor rink for ice skating and tubing. For a different vibe, hop aboard the Redneck Christmas Light Adventure for a two-tour on the Redneck Comedy Bus complete with eggnog and sing-alongs. It’s BYOB, so fill up a cooler with your choice adult beverage and climb aboard.

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    #31. Louisville, KY

    Total score: 47.05

    Tradition and fun rank: #51

    Observance rank: #20

    Generosity rank: #59

    Shopping rank: #30

    Cost rank: #18

    The Louisville Mega Cavern—originally created by miners working a limestone quarry—is a large cave now functioning as the world’s largest indoor bicycle park and also offers a zip line and ropes course. Around Christmas, the cavern is transformed by a drive-thru light display appropriately called "Lights Under Louisville." With more than 3 million lights and 85 displays along 17 miles of underground passages, it is the largest fully underground light show in the world.

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    #30. Jacksonville, FL

    Total score: 47.47

    Tradition and fun rank: #57

    Observance rank: #27

    Generosity rank: #33

    Shopping rank: #51

    Cost rank: #8

    In the Sunshine State, with average low temperatures in the 60s, some Floridians celebrate Christmas with the largest light display in the state hosted on Jacksonville Beach. Instead of decking the halls in December, locals "Deck The Chairs" by covering American Red Cross lifeguard chairs along the sandy beaches with elaborate holiday displays and lights.

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    #29. Minneapolis, MN

    Total score: 47.56

    Tradition and fun rank: #40

    Observance rank: #21

    Generosity rank: #26

    Shopping rank: #31

    Cost rank: #45

    In Minneapolis, Minn., you can partake of a lutefisk dinner on Christmas, a fairly popular thing to do in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. These dinners began as a part of Nordic holiday tradition but now are a key part to a standard Minnesotan Christmas meal. To the uninitiated, Lutefisk—“lye fish”— is dried white fish that becomes gelatinous after being soaked for a week in a water and lye mixture. The dish is usually served with boiled potatoes, green peas, and melted butter alongside with bacon, horseradish, or cheese.

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    #28. Charlotte, NC

    Total score: 47.61

    Tradition and fun rank: #35

    Observance rank: #30

    Generosity rank: #31

    Shopping rank: #25

    Cost rank: #38

    In the heart of downtown Charlotte, you can visit a Germanesque holiday market that transforms a local park into an idyllic Christmas Village. Stroll from shop to shop in search of handmade crafts and toys while enjoying live German music and performances and snacking on strudels, bratwurst, roasted nuts, and mulled spice wine.

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    #27. Cleveland, OH

    Total score: 47.65

    Tradition and fun rank: #41

    Observance rank: #5

    Generosity rank: #45

    Shopping rank: #58

    Cost rank: #52

    Christmas in Cleveland would not be complete without a performance of the holiday classic Black Nativity, written by Cleveland’s own Langston Hughes. The theatrical performance is a retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus Christ set to the music and dance of the black church.

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    #26. Columbus, OH

    Total score: 47.98

    Tradition and fun rank: #38

    Observance rank: #42

    Generosity rank: #51

    Shopping rank: #40

    Cost rank: #3

    If you’re in Columbus, Ohio, over the holidays, considering stopping in at the Main Library of the Columbus Metropolitan Library to check out The Huntington Holiday Train display. The installation features a 600-square-foot winter landscape dotted with pines and handmade Germanic-style buildings. From Thanksgiving week until Jan. 2, visitors may delight in the display of six miniature trains traveling along more than 280 feet of track.

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    #25. Honolulu, HI

    Total score: 48.24

    Tradition and fun rank: #18

    Observance rank: #54

    Generosity rank: #81

    Shopping rank: #3

    Cost rank: #73

    Before Protestant missionaries arrived on the scene in the 1800s, Hawaiians had their own winter holiday known as Makahiki. The celebration, lasting four months, is a season of rest, rejuvenation, and feasting. While most Americans enjoy turkey at holiday dinners, in Hawaii the main course is the Kalua pig cooked on a spit. Through December, visitors can enjoy the Honolulu City Lights that include a shaka-wielding Santa, tree lighting, booths with holiday foods and wreaths, and an electric light parade through downtown.

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    #24. Virginia Beach, VA

    Total score: 48.29

    Tradition and fun rank: #29

    Observance rank: #84

    Generosity rank: #12

    Shopping rank: #45

    Cost rank: #5

    Virginia Beach's most popular Christmas tradition is the annual 100 Miles of Lights celebrated in consolidation with seven cities from Richmond to the Atlantic Ocean. Locally, these events include the month-long Holiday Lights Maola Milk Merry Mile, featuring a variety of light displays of everything from colorful fish to Santa’s elves all along the boardwalk and beach. Other events throughout Virginia Beach include parades, reenactments, caroling, food and drink festivals, and live music.

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    #23. Philadelphia, PA

    Total score: 48.32

    Tradition and fun rank: #21

    Observance rank: #7

    Generosity rank: #60

    Shopping rank: #22

    Cost rank: #97

    A Philly favorite Christmas tradition since 1985 is Dickens Village, hosted at the Macy’s Center downtown since 2006. Step into this 6,000-square-foot experience to experience the Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol” brought to life as you stroll through the village's Victorian-era architecture and a vintage animatronic display. After you travel back from 19th-century London and the tour ends, you will be greeted by Santa Clause to wish you Christmas greetings or hear your wish list for this year.

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    #22. Austin, TX

    Total score: 48.51

    Tradition and fun rank: #15

    Observance rank: #46

    Generosity rank: #83

    Shopping rank: #18

    Cost rank: #26

    If you feel like doing Christmas bigger and better than ever, then where else to do so than in Texas? In Austin's Zilker Park you can enjoy the biggest holiday tradition and second-largest event in the city with the Trail of Lights; more than 1.25 miles of Christmas lights, visits with Santa, sculptures, food vendors, rides, arts and crafts, dancing and music, and more . Each year—and this is the 54th—the holiday event attracts more than 425,000 visitors. That’s more attendees than the Austin City Limits music festival, South by Southwest conference and festival, and Formula 1 combined.

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    #21. Tampa, FL

    Total score: 48.72

    Tradition and fun rank: #23

    Observance rank: #38

    Generosity rank: #30

    Shopping rank: #13

    Cost rank: #84

    If you’re visiting Tampa at Christmastime, a must-do is the Lighted Boat Parade held in late December. Stroll along the river walks and boardwalks to take in the spectacle of hundreds of decked-out boats lit up for the holidays. Keep an eye out for the 35-foot, LED-lit, floating Christmas tree in the harbor. Boaters sign up to participate in the event and are automatically entered into contests for the best-decorated vessel, one for motor boats and one for sailboats.

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    #20. Miami, FL

    Total score: 48.81

    Tradition and fun rank: #8

    Observance rank: #32

    Generosity rank: #78

    Shopping rank: #17

    Cost rank: #83

    A rite of Christmas passage in Miami is Santa’s Enchanted Forest—the world’s largest holiday theme park. This place has it all: more than 100 rides, shows, games, attractions, the tallest Christmas tree in South Florida, and Santa (of course)—all to help you get into the Christmas spirit. The park is open from the beginning of November to Jan. 6 and has been a South Florida holiday staple for more than 30 years.

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    #19. Oklahoma City, OK

    Total score: 49.25

    Tradition and fun rank: #48

    Observance rank: #18

    Generosity rank: #43

    Shopping rank: #38

    Cost rank: #7

    Downtown Oklahoma City is bustling throughout the holiday season. From free holiday water taxi rides and Sandridge Santa Run to an annual run of "The Nutcracker" and 45 pop-up holiday shops at 399 NW 10th St., there's truly something for everyone.

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    #18. Houston, TX

    Total score: 50.03

    Tradition and fun rank: #19

    Observance rank: #9

    Generosity rank: #87

    Shopping rank: #21

    Cost rank: #50

    During the holidays, the Houston Zoo is transformed the week of Thanksgiving until the first week in January for Zoo Lights. Tour the beautiful grounds to view more than 15 miles of 2 million twinkling lights and enjoy holiday carols while trying to spot any of the zoo’s nocturnal inhabitants. Other attractions include the giant Holiday Tree, the Holiday Train Village, the Enchanted Forest, and the talking Zebra. You can also enjoy roasting s’mores, drinking hot chocolate, and eating other holiday treats.

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    #17. San Diego, CA

    Total score: 51.42

    Tradition and fun rank: #11

    Observance rank: #37

    Generosity rank: #67

    Shopping rank: #14

    Cost rank: #55

    Cities like San Diego put their own spin on Christmas. Catch Surfin’ Santa riding the waves into Seaport Village in a pair of board shorts and Hawaiian shirt without a reindeer in sight. And be sure to head down to the Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade in early December to see locals showing off their festively costumed furry companions. You won’t be disappointed as the pets and their handlers vie for prizes and bragging rights for Best Costumed Duo, Cutest Critter, Bets Pet Costume, and Best of Show.

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    #16. Birmingham, AL

    Total score: 51.45

    Tradition and fun rank: #59

    Observance rank: #1

    Generosity rank: #36

    Shopping rank: #33

    Cost rank: #28

    If you enjoy ballet and love dogs, you won't want to miss Birmingham Ballet’s “The Mutt-cracker” this season. The Christmas favorite and canine-filled performance premiered in 2011 and includes the traditional ballet along with special appearances by a wide range of "pup" stars. A portion of each ticket sold benefits shelter animals at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.

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    #15. Denver, CO

    Total score: 51.81

    Tradition and fun rank: #14

    Observance rank: #36

    Generosity rank: #22

    Shopping rank: #23

    Cost rank: #36

    Go retro this Christmas with the ninth annual 1940s White Christmas Ball in Denver, Colo., held in the style of the '40s and '50s Swing Era. This party goes all out with jaw-dropping antique and vintage decorations and holiday regalia. This year's theme is borrowed from the holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life." Guests will be treated to re-creations of The Columbia Inn and Novello’s Nightclub from “White Christmas,” and a Charleston dance-off in the style of the one hosted at Bedford Falls High School from the movie. A portion of ticket sales go toward local nonprofits supporting veterans and the military.

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    #14. Los Angeles, CA

    Total score: 54.85

    Tradition and fun rank: #10

    Observance rank: #14

    Generosity rank: #42

    Shopping rank: #10

    Cost rank: #90

    Kicking off the holiday season in Los Angeles every year is the Hollywood Christmas Parade, held Nov. 25 this year and featuring marching bands, performers, and the requisite giant balloons. And kids and adults will all love opportunities for outdoor ice-skating in Pershing Square and Disneyland's Christmas Fantasy Parade.

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    #13. Cincinnati, OH

    Total score: 55.80

    Tradition and fun rank: #20

    Observance rank: #8

    Generosity rank: #52

    Shopping rank: #12

    Cost rank: #46

    A visit to the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio, is great any time of year but especially with its annual, two month-long Christmas exhibit—a tradition since 1933. The conservatory is transformed with handcrafted holiday scenes and winter scenes. This year’s theme is “A Crystal Holiday” and features a train display that zips through a miniature City of Cincinnati built from all-natural materials and dispersed among the fragrant evergreens and holiday florals on display.

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    #12. Dallas, TX

    Total score: 56.51

    Tradition and fun rank: #12

    Observance rank: #15

    Generosity rank: #48

    Shopping rank: #16

    Cost rank: #15

    Dallas residents ditch the traditional pine or fir at Christmastime and rock around the pecan tree, instead. Each year since 1927, a giant pecan tree in Highland Park gets decorated by the locals and today boasts more than 5,000 Christmas lights. On the first Thursday in December, The Big Pecan Tree is lit in a much-anticipated ceremony.

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    #11. St. Louis, MO

    Total score: 57.76

    Tradition and fun rank: #27

    Observance rank: #6

    Generosity rank: #62

    Shopping rank: #9

    Cost rank: #13

    St. Louis offers a ton of free holiday events for the whole family to enjoy. Check out downtown lighting displays at the Old Courthouse (decorated in Victorian style), Macy's Holiday Festival of Lights, or head over to the Anheuser Busch Brewery, where families can enjoy free walking tours and thousands of lights decorating all the building and trees. 

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    #10. Portland, OR

    Total score: 57.76

    Tradition and fun rank: #16

    Observance rank: #39

    Generosity rank: #7

    Shopping rank: #7

    Cost rank: #33

    A tradition that belongs entirely to Portland is the Singing Christmas Tree, now in its 56th year. More than 350 youth and adult vocalists make up the tree, which is just one part of a larger Christmas celebration. Other highlights of the evening include dance numbers from the Jefferson Dancers, specials by local actors and musicians, a cinematic living nativity, and a light show that will appeal to all ages.

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    #9. Las Vegas, NV

    Total score: 57.77

    Tradition and fun rank: #4

    Observance rank: #41

    Generosity rank: #53

    Shopping rank: #1

    Cost rank: #69

    If you enjoy shopping, Las Vegas is the place for you this Christmas. One of the best traditions of Christmas most everyone observes is gift-giving; and with #1 shopping rank, no other city in the country can rival Las Vegas. The sheer volume and variety of malls, outlets, and specialty stores are astounding. At the Forum Shops at Caesars, the Shoppes in the Grand Canals of the Venetian, and the Fashion Show Mall, you will definitely find something, if not everything, to check off the wish lists of your loved ones. Expensive tastes will love the luxury shops of Crystals, Via Bellagio, or one of the six certified Rolex dealers on the strip; while bargain shoppers will enjoy the Las Vegas North and South Premium Outlets.

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    #8. Washington D.C.

    Total score: 57.79

    Tradition and fun rank: #5

    Observance rank: #13

    Generosity rank: #2

    Shopping rank: #19

    Cost rank: #92

    The nation’s capital is, of course, home to a lot of history, culture, and tradition. You can visit the many memorials, statues and landmarks, government buildings, and museums in D.C., but make sure to go to Arlington National Cemetery to be inspired. On Dec. 16, Wreaths Across America decorates the more than 400,000 graves with holiday wreaths to honor fallen service members. The organization does the same at 1,200 other locations around the country.

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    #7. Atlanta, GA

    Total score: 59.43

    Tradition and fun rank: #6

    Observance rank: #12

    Generosity rank: #5

    Shopping rank: #15

    Cost rank: #78

    Macy’s is worth a visit around the holidays for a number of reasons. But in Atlanta, there's one tradition you will not experience anywhere else. Only here can children hitch a ride on Priscilla the Pink Pig, a train ride in operation since 1953. Kids can ride the train beneath a 170-foot, 1950s-themed tent where Priscilla makes her debut each year in early November and sticks around until New Year’s Eve. You can also purchase Pink Pig merchandise and, of course, get some great photo ops.

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    #6. Orlando, FL

    Total score: 61.70

    Tradition and fun rank: #3

    Observance rank: #19

    Generosity rank: #58

    Shopping rank: #5

    Cost rank: #34

    Some of the most magical holiday events in the country take place at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. In the Magic Kingdom during the holidays, you can check out Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for live entertainment, fireworks, and a holiday parade. In Epcot, from Thanksgiving week until Dec. 30, you can feast at one—or all—of the 15 Holiday Kitchens during their International Festival of the Holidays. Other holiday features include a candlelight processional and fireworks. Enjoy the daily Jingle Bell, Jingle Jam! Celebration at Hollywood Studios and don’t miss Sunset Seasons Greetings that brings snow to Sunset Boulevard.

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    #5. Seattle, WA

    Total score: 61.84

    Tradition and fun rank: #9

    Observance rank: #50

    Generosity rank: #1

    Shopping rank: #6

    Cost rank: #65

    In Seattle, check out an entire festival dedicated to tree decorating—the Festival of Trees. Running for more than 40 years, this Christmas tradition is a must-do as you view more than 20 professionally decorated trees according to a specific theme. This year, there are two additions: the Harry Potter Tree and the Condo Tree, perfect for tight spaces and apartment- or condo-style living. 

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    #4. New York, NY

    Total score: 63.60

    Tradition and fun rank: #1

    Observance rank: #3

    Generosity rank: #8

    Shopping rank: #11

    Cost rank: #99

    New York City is the quintessential stop for holiday travelers.  With its great shopping, window displays, outstanding cultural experiences, and entertainment options, this bustling city that never sleeps is one of the best places to spend the holidays. You cannot visit NYC at Christmas without experiencing holiday staples such as a visit to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, ice skating in Central Park, shopping on Fifth Avenue, and visiting Santa at Macy’s Santaland.

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    #3. Pittsburgh, PA

    Total score: 63.72

    Tradition and fun rank: #17

    Observance rank: #2

    Generosity rank: #4

    Shopping rank: #4

    Cost rank: #47

    Downtown Pittsburgh is a perfect winter wonderland to visit for the holidays. The Pittsburgh Christmas Market takes over Market Square in the heart of the city each year with pop-up shops filled with handmade and holiday decorations and gifts. If you get chilly, step inside the Wintergarden to get cozy and enjoy a display of hundreds of gingerbread houses and a collection of international Santas. There is also great food and drink to enjoy. And don’t forget to visit the Unity Tree in Highmark.

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    #2. San Francisco, CA

    Total score: 63.76

    Tradition and fun rank: #2

    Observance rank: #33

    Generosity rank: #6

    Shopping rank: #2

    Cost rank: #91

    With great shopping, a variety of holiday traditions and events, and a respite from winter weather, San Francisco is a great location to spend Christmas. A must-see is San Francisco Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” which made its U.S. debut here in 1944. The San Francisco version of the performance is set in the City by the Bay during the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. A performance of a very different sort but definitely worth your time can be had at Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest-running musical revue. If you want to get into the holiday spirit and laugh your head off, come see Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon Holiday Extravaganza, a one-of-a-kind show that offers parody Christmas caroling, pop-culture spoofs, incredible costumes, and the biggest hats you’ve ever seen.

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    #1. Chicago, IL

    Total score: 64.44

    Tradition and fun rank: #7

    Observance rank: #4

    Generosity rank: #15

    Shopping rank: #8

    Cost rank: #53

    As the third-biggest city in the United States, it should come as no surprise that Chicago is also one of the most festive come holiday season. The city offers holiday events galore, including an explosion of twinkling lights at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Millennium Park and ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Probably the most famous Christkindlmarket in the country is here, featuring hundreds of local artisans and vendors selling traditional crafts and trinkets and ornaments from all over the world.

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