Santa and snowmen, mistletoe and holly, nutcrackers and gingerbread men, Christmas seems to bring out the five-year-old joy in everyone. Some of the biggest Christmas celebrations in the nation happen in the smallest of towns, but some of the best places to live. If you're looking for a fabulous Christmas celebration to enjoy the poinsettias, fruit cake, toys, and joys, check out these spectacular small town celebrations.
1. Branson, Missouri
Branson, Missouri was on the brink of becoming nowhereville until they came up with the idea of turning it into one of the country's biggest music and theater attractions. During the renovations, a special celebration was born called the Branson Area Festival of Lights. This festival begins each year on November 1 and runs six weeks through the holiday season. See the Annual Adoration Parade, featuring a cattle drive and more than 50 bands and floats. And don't miss the Winter Wonder Landing, a fountain that shoots both fire and water every half hour accompanied by Christmas music. Horse and buggy rides to the top of the hill overlooking the winter wonderland of Branson are also available.
2. Paradise, Pennsylvania
Paradise truly becomes paradise each year when the National Christmas Center opens for business. Starting on weekends in April and opening daily from May through the New Year, the National Christmas Center is the only museum in the country that is dedicated to Christmas. It features hundreds of thousands of Christmas displays, many of which are over 200 years old. By the holidays, Paradise is wrapped in a glorious frenzy of Christmas cheer.
3. Woodstock, Vermont
Wassail is a Christmas-y drink that resembles cider and is served hot. It was a Norse Christmas tradition, and is celebrated in grandiose style each year in Woodstock during Wassail Weekend. The weekend features a parade with more than 50 riders dressed in holiday themed costumes and Norse 19th century period clothing. Wagon and sleigh rides are available, too. Picturesque Woodstock, usually covered in snow this time of year, is the ideal setting for a holiday festival.
4. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Like Branson, residents of Pigeon Forge are no strangers to visitors, and welcome them with open arms. Each year the Inn at Christmas Place opens their Bavarian styled doors to a month-long celebration of the season, featuring a visit by the great great grandson of Charles Dickens and the self-proclaimed "largest Christmas store in the American South."
5. Frankmuth, Michigan
If you'd rather see the largest self-proclaimed Christmas store in the entire world, head to Frankmuth, Michigan, a town of fewer than 5,000 that swells to more than two million visitors over the course of one month. Dubbed "Little Bavaria," Frankmuth hosts a Silent Night Memorial Chapel, Christmas Lane, and a station where visitors can make their own ornaments. The venue opened in 1945 and still keeps that post WWII vibe heralded in the movie A Christmas Story.
Having trouble getting in the Christmas spirit? Head to one of these small towns and get the Christmas bug big time! Rosy cheeks and merry souls at no extra charge.
Jeff Schultz is an Atlanta-based travel enthusiast and writer contributing to blogs and publications around the country.