For the 50+ Traveler

Quaint small towns, snow-covered streets, cozy inns, a local cafe, friendly neighbors helping each other, and old-fashioned celebrations! Yes, I'm talking about the kind of towns featured in the Hallmark Christmas movies. This year Hallmark is releasing 40 new Christmas movies, and there are plenty of small towns in Pennsylvania that could qualify to be featured in them. Here are a few of my favorites for you to visit. These notable towns were selected for the scenery and decorations, friendliness, community participation, and Christmas cheer.

The Festival of Lights at Stone Henge Golf Course.

1. Tunkhannock

Imagine a white, snowy paradise with cozy inns, garland, and red bow-decorated street lamps. In Wyoming County, the quaint, picturesque town of Tunkhannock, population 1,682, hosts Christmas in Our Hometown during the holiday season. It is part of the Endless Mountains Christmas kicking off in the Northeastern PA region.

Christmas in Our Hometown features carolers, horse rides, entertainment, and family activities.

The festivities start with a parade, Santa's arrival, a tree-lighting ceremony, a cookie walk, a Christmas photo booth, ice carvings, free movies, a holiday pet parade, and a live nativity scene. The whole town is involved with making unforgettable memories for attendees.

During Christmas in Our Hometown, the Dietrich Theater in the heart of town is kicking off The 12 Films of Christmas.

A Journey to Bethlehem presentation and Santa Train rides are also planned.

Millions of sparkling Christmas lights will leave you spellbound at the Festival of Lights at the Stone Hedge Golf Course in Tunkhannock. There is another light show in neighboring Tall Pines Forest of Lights.

New this year is an original Christmas song written, composed, and recorded for the Endless Mountains Christmas campaign by singer and award-winning songwriter Gary Carl, the General Manager of the Comfort Inn and Suites in Tunkhannock. If that isn't something out of a Hallmark movie, I'm not sure what is.

A Christmas tree in downtown Indiana, Pennsylvania.

2. Indiana

It’s a wonderful life in the Christmas Tree Capital of the World. How could Indiana not be included as a Hallmark worthy town? Indiana is approximately an hour and 15 minutes northeast of Pittsburgh. A great weekend getaway or day trip, Indiana is full of holiday cheer.

They hold the It's a Wonderful Life Festival each year in honor of Jimmy Stewart, who grew up in Indiana. With a population of 13,078, Indiana knows how to celebrate Christmas. During non-COVID years, they kick off the festival with a parade that includes over 79 units of floats, bands, dancers, and more.

Over 8,000 spectators usually line the street to watch. And there are even some reindeer on hand to greet visitors. No parade this year, but the festivities continue in the town that is quintessentially Christmas.

Their 37-foot Christmas tree is the sparkling highlight. It is located in the center of town, along with beautiful light displays shining brightly from the end of November through the holidays. Each building is outlined in white lights, shop windows are decorated, and when they get a bit of fresh snow, the place looks spectacularly beautiful. The downtown area is very walkable and safe to enjoy all the light and beauty and shop and dine.

Festival fun includes voting for the best-decorated tree in a Christmas Tree Decorating Contest, and you can take home a live evergreen tree or a homemade wreath when visiting one of the many Christmas tree farms. One of the tree farms offers wagon rides during the weekends.

Check out a matinee showing of It's a Wonderful Life in the vintage theater at The Jimmy Stewart Museum.

If children are visiting with you, they have the opportunity to talk with Santa. This year it will be through plexiglass, but he will still be there to add their wishes to his list.

Train rides during the winter in Strasburg.
Don Shenk

3. Strasburg

The historic brick buildings, coupled with the most beautiful holiday decorations and a train that runs through the town, make Strasburg the perfect Hallmark-type experience. It is a quaint town, and you will probably see an Amish horse and buggy go by while you visit. We saw dozens while we visited.

Their celebrations typically include multiple Santa stops, holiday home tours, bed and breakfasts hosting a Norman Rockwell Christmas, Christmas train displays, and a walk-thru Christmas light experience.

While many of their activities have been canceled or modified this year, the Strasburg Rail Road will be hosting themed train rides. Four different Christmas Train Rides are offered on select dates during November and December.

Various merchants are offering unique experiences and sales. You can even spend the night in a caboose at The Red Caboose Motel and enjoy a delightful weekend holiday dinner meal during November and December at the Casey Jones’ Restaurant. The restaurant is housed in an authentic train dining car. While you are there, be sure to visit the gift shop for every type of train gift you can imagine and Old World tree ornaments.

An old fashioned Christmas display in Canonsburg.

4. Canonsburg

Recognized as one of PA's most Hallmark-esque towns, Canonsburg, with a population of 8,811, celebrates with their Old Fashioned Christmas each year. The Grinch did not steal Christmas from Canonsburg. Although the customary celebration is not being held this year, the merriment will continue.

This year festivities will feature lights on the downtown buildings, decorated trees along the streets, and streetlight banners throughout the town during the holiday season.

Santa will visit via a storefront window, and there will be several Christmas pop-up craft markets. A week-long Christmas tree sale in town and a letter to Santa project will add to the celebration. Grinch sightings and a life-size gingerbread house display will top off the holiday festivities. The Christmas spirit is still alive and well in Canonsburg for all to enjoy.

Saxton Honor Roll Christmas in Pennsylvania.

5. Saxton

This small, darling town located in rural Bedford County is full of holiday cheer and friendly faces. With only 691 residents, Saxton epitomizes the small towns featured in Hallmark movies. When festivities are held, it draws from the surrounding areas. The whole community comes together for Christmas in the Parkway.

The town parkway is transformed into a winter wonderland decorated with sparkling lights, wreaths, garland, and the town Christmas tree is illuminated during the event. The military honor roll in the center of the parkway is decorated.

Christmas in the Parkway features local musicians and school music groups, the lighting of the town tree, a children's coloring contest, an ugly sweater contest, a live nativity, Elf and Cinderella visits, and the children have time to talk with Santa.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are paraded through town and arrive at the event via a local fire engine.

This year they are adding a door decorating contest for residents and businesses.

Refreshments of hot cocoa, homemade cookies, and fresh-popped popcorn are provided by local businesses, churches, and community members.

Saxton is a tiny town with no motels and one red light but it truly encapsulates the magical Christmas spirit.

Horse-drawn carriage rides in Bradford, Pennsylvania.

6. Bradford

A national historic district with a population of 8,194, Bradford is nestled in northwestern Pennsylvania's forest-covered hillsides at the Allegheny National Forest's edge. It is a Hallmark-type town where people say hello, and the shopkeepers know your name. Bradford celebrates each year with twinkling white lights and a sprinkle of snowflakes decorating the town, and an Old Fashioned Christmas celebration downtown.

Put on your mittens and hat to brave the chill for horse-drawn carriage rides transporting you along a street decked out in white twinkle lights. Christmas carolers will serenade visitors while local shops and restaurants will be serving up cocoa and other delights.

A Winter Walk is also a part of the festivities. An adult-only activity offers sampling and shopping along the way.

Christmas In The Park in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

7. Lititz

Lititz hosts a Hometown Christmas each year. This quaint town is beautiful year-round, but it is often a winter wonderland where holiday magic reigns during the yuletide season.

Small cafes and local stores with decorated windows line the streets, the town's square houses a nativity, vintage decorations are everywhere, and thousands of twinkling lights glisten on the snow.

Don't forget the Moravian stars representing part of the town's history dating back to 1747 glowing in the night.

With a population of 9,798 and located in Lancaster County, Lititz will celebrate this year with a community Christmas In The Park, a Carol Sing at the Moravian Church Square, and a Christmas Candlelight Tour.

Wellsboro ornament displays during Christmas time.

8. Wellsboro

Located in Tioga County, north of the PA Grand Canyon with a population of 3,175, Wellsboro hosts a Christmas on Main Street weekend. You can stroll along Main Street and enjoy the gas-lit street lights or ride the trolley to enjoy their picturesque town. There are Victorian bed and breakfasts, cafes, and a plethora of local shops to peruse.

Twenty-four historic ornaments locally made in the 1940s are on display.

You also can learn how during World War II, Wellsboro saved Christmas.

During non-COVID years, Wellsboro hosts their Dickens of a Christmas, where they close streets, and over 179 vendors set up an early Victorian marketplace. Wearing outfits from the 1840s, performers and vendors are sure to rekindle the old-fashioned Christmas spirit as they create a Victorian atmosphere to match Wellsboro’s gas lights.

Christmas lights in downtown Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

9. Ligonier

Light Up Ligonier is just one of the town’s holiday events meant to preserve the childhood wonder of Christmas for everyone. The jolly good elf, Santa, arrives on a horse-drawn sleigh, and they have a countdown not only for lighting the tree but the entire diamond.

Christmas carols play throughout the town, and there is always a good chance of a light, fluffy snowfall that makes the white lights sparkle.

There is a mailbox for sending your Christmas list to Santa, and horse-drawn sleigh rides are available! Enjoy some hot cocoa and take a stroll in this adorable small town that will make you think Hallmark from the first moment you visit!

While you are in the area, visit the nearby Overly's Country Christmas in Greensburg for a nostalgic walk through their volunteer-run Christmas Village.

Holiday decorations in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

10. Bedford

Located midway between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Bedford sits right along the PA turnpike with a population of 2,734 people. This small historic town has a lot happening throughout the year and is a great weekend getaway.

It is transformed into a picturesque Hallmark-type town decked out in small-town warmth and Christmas jingles during the holidays.

Multicolored Christmas lights crisscross the main streets. The town tree is illuminated, and local businesses decorate their store windows.

A Holiday Open House kicks off the Christmas shopping season. This year's holiday events include A Christmas Carol-themed scavenger hunt, a decorated artificial tree auction, a 5K race through downtown so runners can enjoy the decorations, and a progressive dessert walk that will include cookie creations, donut decorating, and other take-home desserts.

Planning for the Christmas Family Fun event is still underway and includes the tree-lighting ceremony.

Bonus: Bethlehem

Bethlehem is a city, but a Pennsylvania Christmas article would not be complete without mentioning the Christmas City. Bethlehem might be a city, but they celebrate remembering their small-town roots and carry on the small-town spirit of celebrating Christmas.

There is always something happening in the Christmas City, like their one-of-a-kind Christkindlmarkt, which features over 150 artisans' handmade works.

Pennsylvania is filled with small towns full of Christmas cheer and twinkling lights. They are towns that inspire gratitude, connection, and humility, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year. They are fun to visit, especially during the Christmas season, when we hunt for the magical Hallmark movie moments these towns inspire.