Best Holiday Destination (2015)


Looking to get away from home for the holidays? USA TODAY 10Best readers have selected their favorite holiday destinations from all corners of the globe – places with loads of holiday events, beautiful decorations or heaps of holiday history.

  • Prague


    Advent is one of the most magical times to visit the city of Prague, which gets decked out with trees, lights and markets. The largest Christmas market in the Czech Republic occupies Old Town Square, where visitors can stand beneath the city's tallest Christmas tree. Christmas Day isn't the only holiday either. Earlier in the month on St. Nicholas Day, the famous man himself parades through the city, accompanied by a devil and an angel, visiting children in Prague's streets and plazas.
    Photo courtesy of Prague City Tourism

  • Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico is a short flight from U.S. borders and no passport is required for entry. Puerto Rico celebrates the season for even longer than in the U.S., from Thanksgiving Day all the way through February. Visitors can enjoy a variety of new ways to celebrate, from Three Kings Day to parades, puppet shows, food fests and plenty of caroling. Singing door-to-door is still widely popular in Puerto Rico. In between celebrations, visitors can hit beaches or lakes or tour the beautiful countryside.
    Photo courtesy of Charlie Stortz

  • McAdenville, N.C.

    McAdenville, N.C.

    McAdenville is nicknamed Christmas Town USA for a good reason. Every winter, this small town in North Carolina transforms into a festive, twinkling wonderland, dotted with thousands of lights, dramatic displays and a spirited Main Street. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Christmas Town USA every December to drive through the 1.3-mile-long route through breathtaking holiday displays. McAdenville’s Christmas Town tradition dates way back to the ‘50s. What started with nine trees has grown to more than 400 today, plus a life-sized nativity scene.
    Photo courtesy of Steve Rankin

  • San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

    San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

    The holidays in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico start with traditional posadas, or re-enactments, complete with live animals, music and more. The air is filled with the scent of burning wood and fireworks, and the community oscillates between colorful displays, pinatas and fairs and solemn services. One highlight in Mexico is the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the country’s patron saint. The musical Festival de San Miguel is considered one of Mexico’s best classical music fests. After Christmas, visitors can attend the Three Kings Market, where hundreds of vendors set up shop.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Lapland, Finland

    Lapland, Finland

    Rovaniemi, in Lapland, Finland, claims to be the “official home of Santa Claus,” which makes it a fun place to visit around the holidays. Lapland features a Santa Claus Holiday Village at the magical and mysterious Arctic Circle, and visitors can meet Santa, his elves and other creatures. Here, visitors can also learn about Christmas traditions around the world, including Finnish traditions, and visit the elves’ Toy Factory. Adding to the magic: In Finland, visitors have the chance to witness the Northern Lights.
    Photo courtesy of Mikka Niemi / Flatlight Films

  • Taos, N.M.

    Taos, N.M.

    New Mexico does the holiday season a little differently, which draws travelers to Taos every December. Here, they call the holiday celebrations “yuletide,” and they are marked by candles, luminaries and bonfires. Taos celebrates with arts and crafts fairs, chorus concerts, carolers, the lighting of a large Christmas tree, the Electric Light Parade and a procession at Taos Pueblo on Christmas Eve. Visitors can get gifts made by local artists and witness the Procession of the Virgin, complete with rifle salutes from the rooftops. Snow, ancient adobe buildings and rich traditions abound.
    Photo courtesy of Taos

  • Quebec


    Quebec has been named one of the world’s best holiday destinations, and the combo of history, lights, snow and great shopping easily explain why. In December, Old Quebec turns into a real-life Christmas village. Visitors can stroll through the decorated streets, or take a guided historical tour that ends in a Christmas market. In face, Quebec features a variety of holiday markets, including European-inspired. Quebec also offers holiday foodie tours, and is home to one of the world’s seven Holy Doors, which are to be reopened this December.
    Photo courtesy of Ville de Quebec

  • Strasbourg, France

    Strasbourg, France

    Strasbourg, France is known as the Capital of Christmas, a title well deserved, since this city has offered a Christmas market centered around its cathedral since (wait for it) 1570. The Strasbourg Christmas market has influenced markets across Europe and the world. Today’s market features 300 different booths over 12 different locations, making it one of Europe’s biggest. The streets glow with lights and the air is filled with orchestras and choirs singing Christmas music. Visitors can ice skate, sled, see a live nativity and watch the Great Christmas Tree hover above the heart of town.
    Photo courtesy of Leonid Andronov / Thinkstock

  • Reykjavik, Iceland

    Reykjavik, Iceland

    Although Iceland may be a small country, it does the holidays big, with not one Santa Claus, but 13 different “yule lads” to help celebrate. The major celebrations only last about three days, but the whole month of December is exciting in Reykjavik. Visitors can attend musical celebrations, multiple holiday markets, a Christmas village and browse decorated shopping districts. But the highlight is easily the annual Winter Lights Festival, a dramatic and artistic celebration of light during this dark season.
    Photo courtesy of Inspired by Iceland

  • Tromso, Norway

    Tromso, Norway

    The sun doesn’t make an appearance in Tromso, Norway, throughout the entire month of December, which is what makes this small city such a unique destination for the holidays. What the city lacks in sunlight, it makes up for in holiday lights, which can glow 24/7 in a community with no daylight. Residents match their decor with spirited events, such as concerts and festivals. Visitors can sip traditional coffee while listening to choir music, before booking a dogsled to head on an excursion to try to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
    Photo courtesy of Gaute Bruvik -

The top 10 winners in the category Best Holiday Destination are as follows:

  1. Prague
  2. Puerto Rico
  3. McAdenville, N.C.
  4. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
  5. Lapland, Finland
  6. Taos, N.M.
  7. Quebec
  8. Strasbourg, France
  9. Reykjavik, Iceland
  10. Tromso, Norway

10Best Local Experts and Editors picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Additional cities nominated for Best Holiday Destination included Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bath, Copenhagen, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Key West, New Orleans, New York, North Pole and Nuremburg.

Congratulations to all of our winning holiday destinations!

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