How White Christmas Became an Iconic Holiday Song

On this day in history, December 25, 1941, Bing Crosby performed White Christmas for the first time

Created by songwriter Irving Berlin and singer Bing Crosby, White Christmas became an instant hit when it premiered in the movie Holiday Inn in 1942.

As a winter storm is set to blanket much of the nation in snow, many Americans will indeed experience a white Christmas. 

When those first few notes of the song White Christmas begin to play, your heart begins to melt. Then, the textured tones of Bing Crosby’s crooning voice fill the air and wrap around you like a warm blanket.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Christmas is one of the most iconic songs of the holiday season and it’s easy to see—and hear—why. Many artists, from Elvis and The Supremes to Dolly Parton and the Flaming Lips have created their renditions paying homage to the nostalgic tune.

But woven within that tune are whispers of the time, a time of global change and uncertainty, and how Hollywood and musical legends found a way to create a wistful escape.

The dreamer

It seems only fitting that the melancholy melody of the holiday tune was sung by one of the most beloved voices of the 20th century.

“At the time that Bing Crosby recorded White Christmas, he was the biggest star in the country, perhaps in the world,” said Matthew Barton, the curator of recorded sound at the Library of Congress.

“He was a huge success on records, he had a weekly radio show, and he was a major film star,” Barton added. “He really was just a towering figure and had been for a number of years.”

According to Barton, Crosby had already been recording Christmas songs as a band singer in the late 1920s and then he recorded the songs on his own in the 1930s.

“They were big hits,” Barton said. “And they became hits again every winter.”

“(Crosby’s) voice, his personality were very much, very closely associated with Christmas and Christmas music at the time,” Barton added.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The man behind the curtain

While Crosby might be the most recognizable name associated with White Christmas, another cultural heavy hitter was behind the song’s creation: Irving Berlin.

“Berlin wrote constantly,” Barton said. “It was not unusual for him to have quite a few songs just on hand if the occasion demanded them.”

According to Barton, Berlin wrote White Christmas in late 1939-early 1940–by that point, he had been writing hit songs for more than 25 years.

“(White Christmas) came from an idea he’d had several years earlier to do a musical revue, a series of numbers built around days in the year—holidays, specifically important days.”

Berlin, who had also recently written God Bless America by that point, presented his idea for a holiday musical revue to Hollywood film director Mark Sandrich.

“They started developing a whole story which you can now see in the film Holiday Inn which is sort of framed by the song White Christmas,” Barton said.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Showtime

When Holiday Inn was released in August 1942, it was an instant hit—and so was White Christmas, despite the movie’s summer premiere.

“It wasn’t really a seasonal song, but that was the one that clicked with people,” Barton said. “It was just obvious from the get-go.”

“Berlin said he knew it all along,” he added. “He thought it was the best thing he’d written to that point.”

By September, the popularity of White Christmas grew as evidenced by growing sales of the song’s sheet music.

“People just wanted this song, they wanted to hear it, and they wanted to sing it and play it themselves,” Barton said.

Come October, it tops the charts.

“You’ve got a Christmas song and it’s number one in October—I’m not sure that anyone else has ever accomplished that,” said Barton.

According to Barton, White Christmas remained at No. 1 for three months.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Notes of nostalgia

Probably one of the most striking aspects of the song’s popularity is its somber, nostalgic sentiment.

In Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby’s character is down on his luck on Christmas Eve as he dreams of a white Christmas.

“If you see the film, you know it’s very much about the loss and loneliness that he’s feeling at the time,” Barton said. “It just invokes this image of being so far from where you want to be.”

This image is also set upon a dark backdrop outside the movie. 

When Berlin wrote White Christmas in late 1939-early 1940, the country was right on the heels of the Great Depression and on the cusp of World War II.

“The war had started but we weren’t in it,” Barton said. “It was something that’s very much in the headlines and very much on people’s minds.”

By the time Holiday Inn premiered with White Christmas in tow in 1942, the U.S. had joined the war. 

According to Barton, the country’s involvement may have informed how Crosby sang the song, what he was thinking about, and how people listened to the song.

Dreaming of a White Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Somber songcraft

For Berlin, the inspiration for writing such a somber song may have been influenced by his personal feelings of loneliness.

“He was a show business veteran of many decades and it was not unusual for him to be away from home or to be working long days that everybody else was just relaxing and enjoying themselves,” Barton said.

According to Barton, Berlin also had sad memories of Christmas Day having lost an infant son on the holiday.

“He said that he visited that son’s grave every year on the 25th of December,” Barton said. 

Berlin was also well aware of the universal nature of distance and loss, whether of loved ones or of times long past, and hoping for a brighter future.

An Arizona Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The canon of culture

Eighty-two years have passed since Holiday Inn introduced the public to White Christmas—a song that has resonated with countless listeners worldwide.

In 2002, it became one of the first songs added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. 

According to Barton, the registry is an ongoing initiative of the Library of Congress to recognize and draw attention to, popularize, and promote the preservation of recordings that are historically, aesthetically, and technically significant.

Given the significance of White Christmas, its placement in the registry comes as no surprise.

“I feel that any good music, good records, that there’s always a good story behind them,” Barton said. “And that’s certainly the case with White Christmas.”

Worth Pondering…

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.

—Alexander Smith

Merry Christmas to all…

The Christmas Song

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.

—Alexander Smith

The Nat King Cole Trio recorded The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) in 1946 and turned it into a Christmas classic one year after Bob Well and Mel Torme wrote it. The song is also commonly subtitled as Chestnut’s Roasting on an Open Fire due to its opening lyrics.

Multiple song arrangements have been recorded throughout the years but the most notable version has to be Cole’s which includes the warm sounds of a small string section. The lyrics are filled with warm Christmas feelings and sweet holiday imagery including: “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe/ Help to make the season bright…Yuletide carols being sung by a choir/ And folks dressed up like Eskimos.”

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The popular Christmas song has been covered by many artists including Christina Aguilera for her 2000 album, My Kind of Christmas and Michael Bublé on his Let it Snow EP.

Check out the full lyrics below to get in the Christmas spirit. 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you 

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is Christmas Eve and I hope you are reading this someplace cozy, surrounded by friends and family, your partner, your dog, your cat… 

I hope there’s a soft chime of Christmas music playing in the background and something delicious cooking in the oven. I hope you are warm, healthy, and grateful for everything mentioned above.

If this year looks different for you, if you are not warm, or healthy, or surrounded by friends and family, this space is for you too.

This year, much like the past two, has presented new challenges. Prices are high, gifts may be fewer, and miles traveled may also be fewer.

Things that are always free to give: love, kindness, a smile, a wave, a hug, your favorite book off your bookshelf, a phone call…

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’ve been working hard to try and define ourselves here at rvingwithrex.com. Who are we really? What’s the point of all this? Why do I do what I do? Much of it boils down to my love of the RV lifestyle and a desire to share my years of experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you have an RV whether it’s a big Class A that you live in full-time whether it’s a small teardrop trailer that you and your family take out on the weekends or whether you live in an RV because it’s your only option or place of shelter, it doesn’t matter. One thing I’ll always say: We’re all RVers. Our community is for everyone.

As usual, I will post a newsletter tomorrow and I wish you the Merriest of Christmases—and, to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah.

Whatever your day may be, wherever you are and however you’re spending it—may your day be merry and bright.

Worth Pondering…

A joy that is shared is a joy made double.

John Roy

The Top 10 Christmas-Inspired RV Road Trips

While any corner of the United States brims with holiday joy and magic during the season, these are the top road trips and destinations to mark on your map to experience the creme de la creme of Christmas road trips

This festive season, many people are choosing to avoid flying and hit the road for the holidays instead. Whether you’re looking for famed mountain peaks frosted with snow, national parks devoid of tourist crowds, or iconic routes allowing you to cruise without traffic or something in between, one of these options is sure to fit the bill.

RV road trips are often reserved for the freedom of summer vacation but if you miss the open road there’s no reason you can’t find holiday-inspired adventure along the highway during the winter. Work these festival stops into a trip back to grandmother’s house or follow the trail for a merry and bright day trip.

Grand Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, Arizona

While desert landscapes may not provide a winter wonderland experience, Phoenix knows how to do the holidays right with its famous Chandler Tumbleweed Tree tradition, a lighting ceremony, and Christmas parade.

Before or after enjoying it, take a road trip to the Grand Canyon where there’s a good chance you’ll see at least a dusting of snow with the South Rim sitting at about 6,800 feet in elevation, bringing lots of picture-perfect photo-ops without the crowds. And, during the holidays, you can ride the Polar Express Train from Williams to the South Rim.

Here are some helpful resources:

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Augustine, Florida to Savannah, Georgia

Winter transforms beautiful St. Augustine, America’s oldest city into a stunning spectacle of lights. Its magnificent Spanish architecture is lit up with over three million individual bulbs and there will be horse-drawn carriage rides to view them all.

Afterward, take off for Savannah to enjoy the Boats on Parade with more than 40 lighted vessels parading both sides of the waterfront accompanied by live music, a tree lighting ceremony, and fireworks. Or enjoy an old-fashioned celebration with Christmas on the River with local entertainment, music, seasonal treats, and more.

Here are some articles to help:

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Dora, Florida

Mount Dora’s slow pace of life and relaxed atmosphere paint the picture of a quintessential small town presenting a sweet escape from the urban hustle and bustle. This quaint destination is famous for its antique shops and festivals and by exploring the lively downtown you will discover several spots worth visiting.

One of the highlights is the Modernism Museum, a great place to admire intricate designs of modern furniture. But if you are interested in actual history, you can step into the Mount Dora History Museum. Here, you will explore a local legacy dating back to the 1880s through exciting exhibits.

Stepping outside, Mount Dora is surrounded by picturesque sceneries like Palm Island Park. This tranquil nature preserve features a promenade passing along Lake Dora and through a wooded area. You can find a laidback picnic area or fishing spot to spend quality time. Meanwhile, one of the best times in Mount Dora is during winter festivals like the Mount Dora Arts Festival or the Mount Dora Half Marathon. 

Check this out to learn more: 11+ Sensational Things to do in Mount Dora

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe makes a great alternative to the norm for your best Christmas travel ideas. A trip here allows you to view Christmas through the lens of Pueblo and Hispanic cultures.

Celebrate a midnight mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi. Discover the GLOW light display at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

Pick up some unique gifts at the Winter Santa Fe Winter Indian Market. There are also many music and dance performances to check out. The lanterns adorning the rooftops on Christmas Eve are a sight to behold as well!

Santa Fe has more to offer the Christmas traveler than you would think! Activities, traditions, candles, and lights all make this a unique offering. Enjoy sipping hot chocolate while watching the winter sunsets.

Check this out to learn more: Santa Fe Never Goes Out of Style

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helen, Georgia

A Bavarian Christmas in America? Yes, it is possible and Helen in Georgia serves it up for you with the snow-capped Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop.

Helen is one of the cutest small towns in the South and it only gets more adorable during Christmas. You can drink Glühwein, visit the Christkindlmarket, marvel at the architecture, and all without having to leave the U.S. For a Bavarian Christmas, Helen offers something different when it comes to the best American Christmas vacations.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park to Moab, Utah

The onset of winter shouldn’t automatically mean that sunny days in the great outdoors are over; to chase bright, dry skies, head for the desert. This jaunt will have you swooning over Utah’s myriad of red rocks, elaborate hoodoos, and slot canyons with pitstops in Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches National Parks. Spend a full week to soak up the scenery (and craft beer).

Begin early in Zion to take in the sunrise glow from within the fabled canyon walls. Stop for photos and say hello to the horses in rustic, cliff-lined Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park then cruise up to Moab for the Arches scenic drive before taking in the sunset at Dead Horse Point.

Here are some helpful resources:

Manatee in Crystal River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crystal River, Florida

Cool temperatures in Florida bring to life one of the state’s most famous marine mammals. The gentle Florida Manatees escape the colder waters of the Gulf of Mexico to warmer springs in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, such as the gorgeous Three Sister Springs. Crystal Rivers boasts a long list of park spaces that are perfect to visit during the winter season. At Crystal River Preserve State Park, you find various fun recreational opportunities, including kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, and bird-watching. 

Alternatively, you can mix your love for history and the outdoors at the Crystal River Archeological State Park. This pre-Columbian site houses a plaza area, temple mounds, and burial mounds that portray a primitive way of life in ancient Native American societies. A visit to Crystal River would not be complete without an intimate encounter with the town’s most famous marine resident and the Swim with Manatees boat tour provides tourists with this rare opportunity. 

Check this out to learn more: Swim with the Manatees of Florida’s Crystal River

Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Shores, Alabama

It is not just the name. This well-known Alabama jewel provides the ultimate Gulf Coast winter experience. Relaxing coastal breezes, mild temperatures, and heart-ravishing views will see one’s vacation end before it starts. With its miles of white-as-sugar sandy beaches, bayous, rivers, and lakes, winter here is not the time to dress as someone going to the moon.

Gulf State Park boasts 8 miles of paved trails perfect for biking—while Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land on the Alabama coast is bearably cooler in winter and, hence, an awesome outdoor adventure spot. In winter, you will likely see birds such as Red-breasted Mergansers and Peregrine Falcons—at the wildlife refuge. The latter is not only the world’s fastest bird but also the world’s fastest animal. For those who love skating, The Wharf boasts an ice skating rink and is worth checking out.

For more tips on exploring this area, check out these blog posts:

Jekyll Island Club at Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holly Jolly Jekyll

Jekyll Island is home to more than a million lights during the Holly Jolly Jekyll season. The Great Tree alone has more than 45,000, which is more per square foot than the NYC Rockefeller Center Christmas tree! Purchase tickets online for the guided tram tours that take place on select nights. Trolley riders will enjoy festive holiday beverages, music, and a one-of-a-kind tour souvenir! 

Don’t miss the light parade, holiday fireworks, and special drive-in movie presentations.

Here’s a great article to help you do just that: Holly Jolly Jekyll.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park to Nashville

One of the best things about East Coast mountains (apart from their rich human history) is their year-round accessibility due to being lower in elevation than their counterparts out west. This trip is all about soaking up the best of both worlds—the human and the wilderness—from the panoramic views of Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive to a spooky tour of Mammoth Cave and even the lively honky-tonk bars in Nashville’s historic downtown. 

Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia is a hiker’s dream with 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail cutting right along the park’s spine. From there, it’s easy to continue onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Head to Cades Cove to take in the centuries-old Cherokee and homestead history before veering north towards a self-guided tour of Mammoth Cave National Park.

If you need ideas, check out:

Worth Pondering…

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

—Norman Vincent Peale

22 Southern Destinations for an End-of-Year RV Road Trip

Celebrate the spirit of the season

As another year draws to a close, you’ll likely notice a few familiar patterns beginning to take shape. Your social calendar fills with holiday fetes, giftgivings, and cookie swaps galore. The days until Christmas seem to slip away faster than you can click add to cart. And the pressure of seeing every last great aunt and twice-removed cousin over the holidays begins to mount.

With all the added pandemonium that the most wonderful time of the year can bring, getting away for an end-of-year road trip may be just the thing you need to reset before the New Year.

Whether you want to head for the mountains or the seashore these 22 Southern destinations are ideal for a year-ending RV road trip.

Whether it’s the Gulf Coast, a German village in Georgia, or Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg all of these southern destinations are worth a spot on your Christmas travel list.

Gatlinburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Head to Gatlinburg for holiday fun in the Great Smoky Mountains! Few mountain vacation destinations are as popular as this one where you can find everything from a high-flying RV resort experience to a tranquil cabin in the woods. If you’re looking for a winter wander you’ll find it near this fun town which is known as the Gateway to the Smokies. Also, if you’re lucky and the weather’s just right you might just get to experience the beautiful landscape surrounding Gatlinburg blanketed in snow.

2. Asheville, North Carolina

See and hike the snow-capped Blue Ridge Mountains on a trip to this well-known western North Carolina city. Winter trips should always include a tour of the Biltmore Estate to see it all dressed up for the holidays. Other must-dos are a stop at the Omni Grove Park Inn to check out the gingerbread house competition finalists and an evening of hot chocolate sipping at French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. San Antonio, Texas

If you’re not in the mood to be bothered by the winter chill, hightail it to the Lone Star State for a road trip to San Antonio. This historic city is ideal for an end-of-year getaway where shopping and snacking are high-priority. You’ll surely find a sense of wonder in the thousands of multicolored string lights adorning the scenic River Walk.

4. Dahlonega, Georgia

If you’ve been sleeping on Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas, it’s time to wake up and smell the gingerbread cookies. Americans everywhere travel from far and wide to catch this place during Christmastime. The North Georgia town is draped in twinkling lights and overrun with rambling horse-drawn carriages. The town’s month-long celebration features everything from a hometown parade to charming tree lighting.

Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Gulf Shores, Alabama

You may not get snow but you can find a different kind of white Christmas on the white sand shores of this Southern beach town. We can’t imagine anything more perfect than a sunset picnic on the quiet beaches here in the off-season.

6. Natchitoches, Louisiana

This small Louisiana town celebrates Christmas in a big way. The annual Festival of Lights runs for 40 days and attracts visitors from all over who arrive with family in tow to take in the more than 300,000 glittering lights and riverbank holiday decorations on display. The Christmas Festival is also a huge draw replete with a boat parade, fireworks, and a holiday market. This small-town Christmas celebration is well worth a road trip. Don’t leave town without trying one of Natchitoches’s famed meat pies.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Charleston, South Carolina

While most people associate South Carolina with seafood-scarfing and sandy-toed summer vacations, it’s also a great place to visit in cooler months. Average temperatures hover around 60 degrees so you’ll be perfectly comfortable as you tour through town stopping into specialty stores and swooning over the rows and rows of adorable pastel-colored homes.

Bonus: You can attend the annual Illumination Charleston event (December 1-2, 2023) that includes a holiday market, cooking demos from some of their favorite Southern chefs, and a fabulous opening night party.

8. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Enjoy the coastal charm of Myrtle Beach at Christmastime. Don’t miss Brookgreen Gardens which is filled with Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and flickering candles during the winter season. And be sure to catch a Christmas show with your family at one of Myrtle Beach’s beautiful theaters.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Savannah, Georgia

Enjoy the cinematic charm of Savannah minus the high-season crowds by visiting the Hostess City of the South during winter. On top of great weather and plenty of strollable streets, you can also visit for the Mountainfilm Festival (January 18-21, 2014) and Savannah Book Festival from February 15-18, 2024.

10. Lewisburg, West Virginia

The Greenbrier resort (in nearby White Sulphur Springs) is reason enough to plan a trip to the Lewisburg area. Families have been spending Christmas at The Greenbrier for centuries and once you see the incredible decorations at the hotel you’ll understand why. There are plenty of other places here where you can feel the holiday magic including the lovely shops of downtown Lewisburg. To really get in the spirit, catch an area performance of the West Virginia Symphony.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Bardstown, Kentucky

Bardstown‘s beloved Main Street is a perfect destination for your seasonal adventures. Kick off the holidays with the Light Up Bardstown event, a light-filled festival that signifies the beginning of the season in this small Kentucky town. Don’t miss the much-anticipated visit from Santa Claus or the plentiful browsing opportunities in Bardstown’s downtown shops.

To rest your head for the night head the RV to My Old Kentucky Home State Park campground.

12. Oxford, Mississippi

This college town has Christmas spirit aplenty lighting up with glimmering decorations, lush greenery, and seasonal decor each December. Check out the Gingerbread House Village, Santa’s Workshop, and Holiday Ornament Auction, as well as the Oxford Christmas Parade on the downtown square for family fun. Before you leave, make sure to hit Square Books to find a unique gift.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Helen, Georgia

If you’re looking for a Bavarian-style winter wonderland you’ll find it and more in Helen. From downtown parades to Victorian Christmas celebrations to a Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas market), there is no shortage of festivities to enjoy in this small Georgia town with a big Christmas charm.

Among the gingerbread-style homes with their steeply pitched roofs and lovely cross-gables, you’ll find plenty of restaurants serving up bratwursts, schnitzel, and plenty of sudsy brews. For lovers of vino, there are several nearby wineries.

14. Branson, Missouri

Visit Branson, Missouri for the Ozark Mountain Christmas festival, a month-long holiday extravaganza complete with great music, festive lights, and fun parades. Grab the kids and jump on the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express Train Ride for a rollicking time on the tracks and plenty of excitement for the whole family.

Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Williamsburg, Virginia

Experience Colonial flavor in Williamsburg at Christmastime! The yearly Colonial Christmas celebration lets visitors explore the Jamestown Settlement and meander the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown—so you can celebrate Christmas and learn about American history at the same time.

16. Pine Mountain, Georgia

Nothing will make the kids happier than Christmas at Callaway. Located in the small town of Pine Mountain, Callaway Gardens hosts what can only be described as “the ultimate Christmas extravaganza.” The main attraction: Riding through a dazzling illuminated forest complete with synchronized Christmas carols. But you can also make merry (and shop for gifts) in the Christmas Village, meet holiday characters up close, and have an overall festive stay at Callaway’s resort.

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Seaside, Florida

Head to Florida for a coastal Christmas full of festivities and seafood galore! Seaside is a fantastic beach town because there is so much to do on 30A in December. Marvel at the beautiful holiday decorations, shop for your gift list, and check out the amazing restaurants for celebratory drinks and meals.

Added bonus: You won’t even need to bring a jacket!

18. Grapevine, Texas

Do you know about the Christmas Capital of Texas? Let us introduce you. Grapevine touts more than 1,400 holiday events throughout the season but don’t overlook the Christmas Wine Train. Family-friendly activities range from The Parade of Lights to watching classic movies or Christmas concerts at the Palace Theatre. The Gaylord Texan Resort—already an impressive sight—is transformed with millions of lights, a rotating Christmas tree that’s more than 50 feet tall, miniature train sets, and even a life-sized gingerbread house.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

19. Mount Dora, Florida

Visit merry Mount Dora to experience the best of the holidays. Central Florida doesn’t get much more festive than this fun small town where you can see two million twinkling lights throughout the town. Stop by St. Nick’s Holiday Shoppe to get your celebration on and don’t miss the annual Christmas walk, a fun block party for the community complete with carolers and musical performances. There’s also a Christmas tour of homes and the local-favorite Christmas boat parade which brings the festivities to the water.

20. Blue Ridge, Georgia

This is the closest thing you’ll get to the Polar Express down in these parts. This mountain getaway feels as magical as the man in red himself. Start your holiday journey by hopping on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s Santa Express. Your family will hear a Christmas story, sing carols, meet holiday characters, and visit Santa and Mrs. Claus as the famous couple makes their way through the train.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. Fredericksburg, Texas

Small-town Texas gets an infusion of Christmastime charm with the annual festivities held in Fredericksburg, a community located in Central Texas west of Austin. The town’s old-fashioned celebrations are characterized by carolers, a three-day Christmas festival extravaganza, and plenty of nostalgic downtown shopping every December—all the while paying tribute to its German heritage. Enjoy kolaches (yeast buns filled with fruit) and Christmas bratwurst.

22. Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Spend Christmas in Eureka Springs for an unforgettable holiday season. Don’t miss the Eureka Springs Christmas Festival, the annual Silver Tea at the Crescent Hotel, a downtown Christmas parade, and the annual Christmas tree lighting. The kids will love an afternoon with Santa (and reindeer games) in one of the town’s charming parks. This small town promises music and merriment aplenty.

Worth Pondering…

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

—Norman Vincent Peale