Atlanta residents wouldn't miss a holiday visit to the city's Botanic Garden, which light up from the middle of November through the first week of January. The light show includes a tunnel of light, a glittering "galaxy," and glowing orbs that keep time to classic holiday tunes.
It wouldn't be Christmas in Hawaii without a festive laua, where you'll likely find holiday garlands made from silk flower leis and a kalua roast pig in lieu of a traditional turkey or roast beef dinner. Further evidence you're celebrating the holidays in a tropical paradise? Christmas carols being sung in the native Hawaiian language, accompanied by a ukulele. Mele Kalikimaka, indeed!
In Boise's Treasure Valley, the holiday season starts with the Saint Alphonsus Festival of Trees, an annual fundraiser that collects millions of dollars to benefit community health care. An individual or organization can become a tree sponsor and donate a Christmas tree, which gets delivered to the Boise Centre. Then, volunteers show up to decorate the trees, which remain on display for citizens to enjoy during the festival's black-tie gala and throughout the holiday season.
Chicago's Chrstkindlmarket on the famous Daly Plaza runs from just before Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. This holiday market is based on traditional German markets, which is why the Grand Opening Ceremony features a German "Christ child," a fairy-like being dressed in gold and white robes, wearing a crown upon her golden locks. Vendors from around the world sell ornaments, jewelry, wooden treasures, embroidery and delicious food.
For almost 50 years, the Indianapolis Zoo has been hosting Christmas at the Zoo. In addition to enjoying all the animals that love cold weather, including seals, seal lions, polar bears, walrus and red pandas, visitors can drop by Santa's Workshop, decorate cookies, join in with carolers and search for mistletoe. Anyone who gets chilly can warm their hands and toes at a campfire!
The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad's Santa Express takes kids on a magical holiday train ride, where kids can enjoy cookies and cocoa, story time, Christmas carols and a visit from Santa himself.
Think Christmas is just for caroling? Then you haven't been to TubaChristmas, an annual event sponsored by the Kansas City Symphony that recruits all local tuba and euphonium players to perform seasonal music for the public.
At Newport on the Levee, it's all about Legos! The levee's holiday display, BRICKmas, features large-scale LEGO displays, like a 32-foot long model of a local bridge. A children's play area encourages kids to make their own LEGO creations, too.
On Christmas Eve, families living along the banks of the Mississippi River light bonfires to make sure "Papa Noel" doesn't get lost.
They may roast pigs in Hawaii, but in Maine, they concoct something special with seafood. Eels, smelt, cod, crab and lobster might all be on the menu for Christmas dinner (some dedicated seafood enthusiasts even serve up lobster instead of turkey for Thanksgiving). Holiday planked pollock sounds particularly delicious, if you ask us!
Many states, including Maryland, participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count organized by the National Audubon Society. The count starts on December 17, 2016.
Active Bostonians get in the spirit by putting on their ugliest holiday sweaters and heading out for a jog. It's all part of the Ugly Sweater Run, a national celebration of ugly sweater lovers everywhere. In Boston, runners are rewarded with warm hot chocolate (plus Kahlúa cocktails for those old enough to attend the after-party) and a really ugly hat to go with that sweater.
Don't miss what USA Today calls one of the "top 10 places to take the grandchildren." Greenfield Village in Dearborn takes you back to the era of the Model T, lantern-lit streets and old-fashioned cinnamon sticks during its Holiday Nights event, where visitors can munch on roasted chestnuts, join carolers roaming the streets and enjoy presentations from actors dressed in period costumes.
Many Minnesotans celebrate their Scandinavian heritage by making lutefisk, a delicacy Smithsonian Magazine describes as "codfish (fisk) preserved in lye (lut)." Yum! Lutefisk dinners, along with Swedish meatballs, are served across the state, in restaurants, churches, delis and cafes.
If you love pecan pie, black eyed peas and greens, Mississippi might be your ideal holiday destination. Black eyed peas, a symbol of good luck for the coming year, are simmered with bacon fat; the collard greens might be braised in ale. And that pecan pie? Don't forget to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Bundle up against the cold and head to St. Charles, MO on any Wednesday night between Thanksgiving and Christmas for a candlelight reading of "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (a.k.a. "Twas the Night Before Christmas").
For 20 years the city of Bozeman has hosted an ice festival in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Billed as one of the largest ice climbing festivals in the world, the event gives people of all ages the chance to pit their skill, courage and determination against sheer walls of slick, solid ice. If you'd rather not scale an icy mountain, you can get your kicks taking in the accompanying Adventure Film Festival.
Remember the stories of "Buffalo" Bill Cody? Turns out, he lived in North Platte, NE, a fact the locals honor every year by elaborately decorating the mansion he and his wife Louisa occupied. Wander through the entire house, then enjoy hot cider, Christmas cookies and roasted chestnuts on your way out.
If your holiday's not complete without a gingerbread house, you'll love the Gingerbread House Competition and Festival that Reno's May Arboretum Society hosts every year. The first rule? Houses must be made with edible ingredients. Artistic types that want to create a non-traditional design can enter the "funhouse" category.
People come to the Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, NH from miles away to cut down their own Christmas tree, then hop on a horse-drawn wagon before heading back to the estate for food and hot drinks.