Quaint small towns, snow-covered streets, cozy inns, a local café, 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 premiering 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.
A town rich in history becomes a magical snow globe during the winter season, and Christmas in Montrose adds to the sparkling scene with an event-filled holiday lineup. The festival warms your heart and appears to be right from the set of a Hallmark movie.
The community comes together to provide this memory-making event held the first weekend in December. The event kicks off on Friday the 3rd with a tree lighting, free children’s activities, food vendors, local artists, and much more throughout the quaint town.
A unique activity is the “Santa Roll” — Chocolates by Leopolds creates a giant chocolate Santa rolled down the “ave” by the local children.
Saturday the 4th will see the Montrose Green come alive with holiday festivities, including a Christmas Gift Market, a free s’mores station, a petting zoo, a Christmas village, and free hayrides. There will be special appearances by the Grinch, as well as Frozen’s Elsa, Anna, and Olaf.
The Rosemont Inn Bed & Breakfast will host the Annual Festival of Trees and the Gingerbread House Contest. Local businesses, individuals, and organizations come together to create the Festival of Trees, with each donating a fully decorated tabletop-sized Christmas tree or wreath to be displayed during the weekend celebration. They’re auctioned off, and the money is donated to charitable organizations. Part of the money this year goes toward keeping almost all events at Christmas in Montrose free!
Just like in a Hallmark movie, individuals have the opportunity to decorate their own gingerbread house at home and bring it to the Rosemont Inn. The holiday creations will be displayed the entire weekend, and the public votes for the best one. The winners of the Gingerbread House Contest win bragging rights and cash prizes.
A Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk is a family-friendly event that goes through the heart of Montrose. Many of the participants dress up in holiday garb and bells for the run/walk. The “medals” are handmade of fired clay each year by a local resident, and each one is unique. This year, 36 “medals” will be awarded.
Horse-drawn carriage rides around the historical Montrose will be provided. As you go from place to place, you can catch a ride on one of the hay wagons, which will drop you off at different locations. Kids can enjoy a pony ride in the gorgeously decorated garden area of the Episcopal Church.
Santa and his elves will be greeting children in the decorated gazebo on the lawn at the Rosemont Inn. Bring the grandkids for free photos with Santa. Christmas specialty drinks, homemade donuts, and other specialty shops will have food available near the inn. Harpists, other musicians, and carolers will be strolling the streets and stores providing Christmas music.
Saturday ends with the twinkling Parade of Lights at dark, including Santa riding the winning float from last year’s parade. After the parade, the fire department hands out Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.
Sunday’s events include a paint-and-sip event and the Christmas Chorale concert at a local church.
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 Tunkhannock Santa Train Rides and Christmas in Our Hometown during the holiday season. It is part of the Endless Mountains Christmas in the Northeastern Pennsylvania region.
Tunkhannock Business and Professional Association is bringing back the popular Santa Train Rides for 2021. They are held the last weekend of November with three rides each day leaving from Riverside Park.
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, horse-drawn carriage rides, musicians, a cookie decorating workshop, a Christmas photo booth, ice carvings, and free movies. The whole town is involved with making unforgettable memories for attendees.
During Christmas in Our Hometown, the Dietrich Theater in the heart of town kicks off The 12 Movies of Christmas. The second Saturday in December, they will be showing It’s A Wonderful Life multiple times, all free to the public.
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.
The 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, will be used for promotion purposes. If that isn’t something out of a Hallmark movie, I’m not sure what is.
It’s a wonderful life in the Christmas Tree Capital of the World. How could Indiana, Pennsylvania, 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 Celebration each year in honor of Jimmy Stewart, who grew up in Indiana. With a population of 13,078, Indiana knows how to celebrate Christmas. They kick off the celebration with a holiday parade that includes over 79 units of floats, bands, dancers, and more. Over 8,000 spectators line Philadelphia Street to watch.
The festivities continue in the town that is quintessentially Christmas. Their 32-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.
Family holiday 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 the expanded 75th anniversary It’s A Wonderful Life exhibit, a matinee showing of the making of It’s a Wonderful Life, and General Electric Theatre’s “The Trail To Christmas” (directed by Jimmy Stewart and introduced by Ronald Reagan) in the vintage theater at The Jimmy Stewart Museum.
Also, there is a miniature Granville House (and LEGO recreation of the Granville House) from the movie. If children are visiting with you, they have the opportunity to talk with Santa on Saturday and Sunday.
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 on our visit.
The Strasburg Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place in the Historic Town Square on the first Thursday night in December. The Strasburg Heritage Society will be hosting the Holiday Home Tour again in mid-December.
The Strasburg Rail Road will be hosting numerous themed train rides and special events on select dates during November and December. Kids of all ages enjoy riding the trains.
Nearby, at the Choo Choo Barn, you can enjoy a toy train Christmas layout and search for sixty hidden Santas, one for every year the Choo Choo Barn has been open for business.
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.
The Historic Smithton Inn in nearby Ephrata is an awesome place to stay. Built in 1763, the Historic Smithton Inn is a gorgeous colonial bed and breakfast that attracts guests from around the world. Guests appreciate the history while staying at the inn, but they enjoy modern comforts. We loved our stay at the Smithton Inn and look forward to a return visit. Nothing is more beautiful than the inn decorated for Christmas.
The Christmas spirit is still alive and well in Canonsburg for all to enjoy.
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 on the first weekend of December.
This year’s festivities will feature a community tree lighting, lit-up downtown buildings, decorated trees along the streets, and streetlight banners throughout the town. A Christmas parade through the town along with a Christmas market, featuring 50 vendors and a food court, will add to the merriment.
Children can have their pictures taken with Santa at the North Pole (plus there are family photo opportunities). Increasing the Hallmark-town factor will be a children’s skate rink this year. A community Gingerbread House Contest will be held in the Frank Sarris Public Library, and there will be live entertainment on both Friday and Saturday.
Saxton is a tiny town with no motels and one red light, but it truly encapsulates the magical Christmas spirit.
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. Santa and Mrs. Claus are paraded through town and arrive at the event via a local fire engine decorated for Christmas.
Christmas in the Parkway this year will feature local musicians and school music groups, the lighting of the town tree, a children’s coloring contest, elf visits, and the children even have time to talk with Santa.
For the second year, a door decorating contest for residents and businesses will be held.
Refreshments of hot cocoa, homemade cookies, and fresh-popped popcorn are provided by local businesses, churches, and community members.
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.
In Bradford, they kick off the Hallmark season — I mean holiday season — on the first Saturday of November with special shopping and discounts. They also participate in Shop Small Saturday.
Bradford celebrates each year with twinkling white lights and a sprinkle of snowflakes decorating the town — and, of course, the Old Fashioned Christmas celebration downtown. The celebration is held on the second Saturday of December. 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. Costumed Christmas carolers will serenade visitors while local shops and restaurants will be serving up cocoa and other delights.
An Old Fashioned Christmas Winter Wine Walk is also a part of the festivities. An adult-only activity offers a complimentary wine glass for sipping unique wines from local wineries while exploring and shopping historic Bradford.
The quaint town of Lititz is beautiful year-round, but come yuletide season, it’s a winter wonderland where holiday magic reigns.
Small cafés and local stores with decorated windows line the streets, the town’s square houses a nativity, thousands of twinkling lights glisten on the snow, and vintage decorations are everywhere.
Don’t forget the Moravian stars, representing part of the town’s history that dates back to 1747, glowing in the night.
With a population of 9,798 and located in Lancaster County, Lititz will celebrate this year with Christmas In The Park on the first Friday in December. The annual Christmas Carol Sing at the Moravian Church Square on December 9 allows the public to sing holiday favorites accompanied by the Lititz Moravian Trombone Choir.
An annual Christmas Candlelight Tour of the 1792 Johannes Mueller House is hosted by the Lititz Historical Foundation on December 10.
Pro Tip: Ephrata’s Historic Smithton Inn is 15 minutes away.
Wellsboro, located in Tioga County, north of the PA Grand Canyon, hosts their Dickens of a Christmas each holiday season. The 3,175-person town closes its streets, and over 179 vendors set up an early Victorian marketplace. Wearing outfits from the 1840s, performers and vendors rekindle the old-fashioned Christmas spirit and Victorian atmosphere to match Wellsboro’s gas lights. The event is held the first weekend in December.
They also celebrate Christmas on Main Street the second weekend of December. You can stroll along Main Street and enjoy the gaslit streetlights or ride the trolley to enjoy the picturesque town. There are Victorian bed and breakfasts, cafés, and a plethora of local shops to peruse.
Historic ornaments made locally in the 1940s will be on display along Main Street. During that tumultuous decade, the town’s Corning Glass plant manufactured millions of glass ornaments for U.S. households, replacing blockaded German manufacturers. Wellsboro prides itself as “The Town That Saved Christmas.”
Light Up Ligonier, held in in the Ligonier Diamond park, is just one of the town’s holiday events meant to preserve the childhood wonder of Christmas for everyone. The event is a fun, family event that ushers in the holiday season the day after Thanksgiving. Shops remain open till the evening parade begins and the jolly good elf, Santa, arrives on a horse-drawn sleigh. Ligonier has 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.
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 Overly’s Country Christmas in nearby Greensburg for a nostalgic walk through their volunteer-run Christmas Village.
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.
This year, they are celebrating with the theme of a “Cinematic Christmas.”
“Bedford has the look and feel of a Hallmark movie,” organizers stated, “and our downtown merchants have lots of ‘character,’ so let’s set the stage for everyone to enjoy!”
A Holiday Open House, with storefronts decorated, kicks off the Christmas shopping season in mid-November. They wrap up the last two weeks of November with a Cookie Crunch Contest and a Grinch Scavenger Hunt.
December brings a “Lighten Up, It’s Christmas” window-decorating contest for merchants, and the public gets to vote! A Christmas tree auction and a Christmas Family Fun Night with the town tree lighting add to the festivities
Finally, just to make sure everyone has some Christmas goodies, they will be hosting a unique event, the Dessert Detour, the first Monday of December. Each participant has the opportunity to decorate three dessert items at four different locations throughout the downtown for a total of a dozen desserts to take home.
The town’s event page has times and locations of each activity.
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.