5 Places To Travel For Christmas Fantasy And Winter Wonderlands

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Dec. 5 2023, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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If you’ve been dreaming of a fantasy Christmas, it’s not too late to bring it to life. There are several destinations around the world that can help you live out your Hallmark holiday fantasies. 

Spend your Christmas surrounded by snow-capped mountains, cozy village markets and dazzling lights to cast a magical glow on your winter wonderland adventures.

Here are five destinations around the world to help you realize your Yuletide dreams.

1. Disney World And Disneyland

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Source: Unsplash

If you want a magical Christmas in the States to heal your inner child, look no further than The Most Magical Place On Earth. Both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. are fully decked out for holiday celebrations all the way through New Years.

If you’re willing to spend extra money, check out Walt Disney World’s special-ticketed after hours event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This allows guests to stay inside Magic Kingdom a few hours after the park closes and offers unique experiences exclusive to the event. You can meet rare characters, ride attractions with special holiday overlays, munch on holiday-themed snacks and watch exclusive live performances.

There’s also plenty of holiday cheer for guests who don’t want to dish out the extra cast. Everyone can experience the magical holiday decor, the enchanted Christmas parades and the fun meet and greets with beloved characters in their holiday attire.

There are many hotels to stay at on Disney property, some of which grant you perks such as early entry in the parks. There are also lots of budget-friendly options nearby.

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2. Leavenworth, Washington

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Source: Unsplash

If you think you won’t find a snowy winter wonderland on the West Coast, you would be severely mistaken. Leavenworth, Wash. is where you go to step away from your corporate 9-5 and into your favorite holiday romcom. Just a four-hour train ride from Seattle, Leavenworth allows you to live out your fantasies of being a big city girl in a charming small town.

Leavenworth is a little piece of Europe nestled in the Cascade mountains. In Winter, the town is blanketed in the softest sparking snow and aglow with the most mesmerizing lights with the sweet sounds of carolers in the air. Enjoy the German-style market, marvel at the lights, meet a reindeer or take a sleigh ride.

You can stay at one of the many nearby hotels, or you can switch things up by booking with a local bed and breakfast or renting a cozy cabin.

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3. Heidelberg, Germany

If you want to live out your perfect romcom adventures in Europe, Heidelberg, Germany is the place to do it. You may have attended your fair share of Christmas markets, but this one will blow you away like no other.

The market is watched over by one of the most beautiful cathedrals you will ever see. At its center is an open-air ice rink framed by a literal castle. 

The Christmas market is divided into five sections: Kornmarkt, Marktplatz, Universitätsplatz, Anatomiegarten and Bismarckplatz. Each has its own unique offerings, so be sure to explore them all. Arrive early and take your time. It’s likely you won’t see everything in one day, so try and allocate multiple days to the market. 

If you’re in town just for the Christmas vibes, try to lodge as close to the market as possible. Make the most out of your stay with a vacation package that takes care of your tours, lodging and transportation.

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4. Sapporo, Japan

If you want a European-style Christmas in Asia, you’ll want to visit Sapporo, Japan, the capital city of Hokkaido, and the sister city to Munich, Germany.

During the holidays, Sapporo throws its yearly celebration of White Illumination. During the event, the city is surrounded by larger-than-life  artistic masterpieces donned in Christmas lights that span multiple blocks. Just a few steps over from this display is the German Christmas market. 

Once you’ve had your fill of lights and markets, head over to one of Sapporo’s ski resorts for some R&R.

5. Zermatt, Switzerland

There are few experiences more luxurious than spending Christmas in the Swiss Alps. The city of Zermatt is the place to be. Snow-capped mountains are the backdrop of this charming village. The iconic Matterhorn summit looms overhead. 

There is no shortage of activities that accommodate all travelers. Take a scenic train ride over 10,000 feet into the Alps on the Gornergrat Railway. Ski across the border into Italy. Take a historical guided walking tour. Cozy up with a warm drink and admire the many Christmas lights down the main street.

Transportation is a breeze for Zermatt is car-free for the most part and extremely walkable. Taxis, mini-buses and golf carts are available for guests who want to get around a little quicker . There are also plenty of lodging options, from luxury hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts to clean vacation rentals.

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By: Bareerah Zafar

Bareerah Zafar is a Seattle-based journalist who turned her high school reputation of "angry brown girl" into a career in writing. Her work focuses on intersectional stories covering lifestyle, travel, identity and social justice. When she's not writing, you can find her in a cozy corner snuggling with her cats and a book.

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