Some brush off the Midwest as merely the area between Los Angeles and New York, but it is home to some hidden-gem Christmas towns that make for the perfect places to celebrate the holiday season. If you are looking to spend the holidays in the Midwest, fear not, as there are plenty of holiday festivities that will get you in the Christmas spirit. There is something special about the cozy hometown atmosphere of a charming Christmas town. If you are looking for some of the best Christmas towns in the Midwest to celebrate the holiday season, we break down our top picks to help you choose your winter destination.
The Top 9 Festive Christmas Towns In The Midwest
1. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is more of a big city than a small town, but there is no better place to celebrate Christmas than in the hustle and bustle. Some of the Midwest’s most notable events, parades, and festivities are held in the city of Chicago.
Macy’s State Street
Chicago has several traditions that have been around for decades, but Macy’s State Street takes the top spot and has been around since the 19th century. Since the early 1870s, Macy’s has been stunning spectators with its famed holiday window displays and celebratory events. Macy’s on State Street is the store’s flagship destination and the over-the-top festive displays are sure to bring big-city holiday cheer to all. While the storefront displays are sights in themselves, be sure to check out the famed Macy’s Christmas tree and Santaland located inside the store.
A local tradition for over 100 years, Chicago’s biggest and most iconic wonder is the official Christmas tree right in the center of Millennium Park. The towering tree is decorated with thousands of bright lights and makes for the perfect backdrop to your holiday snapshots. The annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place in November and includes a dazzling fireworks show and live performances. Millennium Park also features an ice skating rink for you to enjoy some winter fun with the bright atmosphere of Christmas decorations.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Just 30 minutes outside of Chicago, in the small town of Glencoe, lies the hidden gem of the Chicago Botanic Garden. From November 10 to January 7, the garden is transformed into a light display known as the Lightscape. The radiant installations range from traditional classics of a winter cathedral to whimsical interpretations of a nocturnal garden. The garden captures the spirit of Christmas and brightens the holiday nights. Enjoy festive foods and drinks while exploring the imaginative world of lights, music, and color.
2. Santa Claus, Indiana
What better way to celebrate Christmas than in a town named after Santa Claus himself? Santa Claus is a small town located in the southwestern region of Indiana and is also known to be America’s Christmas Hometown. As the name suggests, it is known for its forward Christmas theme, making it the most magical place to celebrate the holiday season this year. The Santa Claus Museum and Village displays the quintessential Santa Claus Church, Santa Claus Post Office, the 1935 Santa Claus statue, and many more festive icons. The museum gives visitors an insight into the history behind the Christmas town’s name and is a perfect way to get into the festive spirit.
Santa’s Candy Castle
Santa’s Candy Castle is one of the most popular holiday traditions in town. The castle is a wonder for kids and kids-at-heart, as the inside features a massive selection of confections. The treats range from old-fashioned delicacies, rare candies, hand-made treats, over 30 flavors of cocoa, famous frozen hot chocolate, and more.
Santa Claus Land Of Lights
Visit Santa and revel in holiday lights on this drive-through light display event. This Christmas town favorite features a mile-long light adventure telling the childhood favorite story of Rudolph with over a million lights. The light display is held at the Sun Outdoors Lake Rudolph and is just one of the events a part of this three-weekend-long town-wide celebration in Santa Claus, Indiana.
3. Manistee, Michigan
Manistee is an ideal Christmas town nestled in the northwestern region of Michigan. If you are looking for a nostalgic Christmas city to celebrate the holidays this year, Manistee is the place to be. From brick storefronts to throwback Christmas festivities, this charming town knows how to bring the holiday spirit.
Manistee’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade
Taking a step back into old Victorian times, the annual Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade is an ode to old-time Christmas traditions. The unique celebration features an extravagant horse-drawn carriage, talented bagpipers, carolers, and reindeer — all dressed in old Victorian attire. The parade is a great way to kick off the Christmas season. Some of the most notable moments of the parade include the horse-pulled Christmas tree that strolls down River Street. It is followed by the festive tunes of carolers and ends with the lighting of the 30-foot tree.
Old Christmas Weekend
Old Christmas Weekend is a whole weekend filled with old-fashioned festivities. No shortage of nostalgia, the popular Old Christmas Weekend presents a host of Victorian-style holiday celebrations that include a Christmas bazaar, the Festival of Trees, a gingerbread house contest, and a 5K.
4. Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth is one of the most popular Christmas towns in the Midwest. The city is known for its Bavarian architecture, and when it’s adorned with over a million lights during the festive season, visitors are transported instantly to the North Pole.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
Bronner’s is the world’s largest Christmas store, which gives Frankenmuth one of the top spots as the best Christmas towns in the country. The store features an overwhelming selection of holiday items including Christmas trees, cards, decorations, stockings, collectibles, Nativity scene displays, glass ornaments, your favorite Christmas characters, and more. Bronner’s is located on 25 Christmas Lane, where you will find actors dressed in old-timey Dickens-Day costumes, singing Christmas carols into the chilly winter night. Mimicking Santa’s workshop, the world’s largest Christmas store is a must-visit in early December if you want to get some early holiday shopping in.
5. St. Charles, Missouri
St. Charles is a small river city with a rich and illustrious history. It is known for its unique historical celebrations and slower pace than some of the bigger surrounding cities. The residents of St. Charles pride themselves on having extravagant displays of holiday spirit during the winter months. Enjoy the festive traditions of St. Charles that have been around for years.
St. Charles Christmas Traditions
This year marks the 49th annual St. Charles Christmas Traditions, which is a month-long celebration of all things holidays. The festival events display a distinguished mix of history, fantasy, and storytelling that celebrates customs from all around the world. Some favorites you won’t want to miss include the Holiday Food Hall of Fame, historic Main Street shopping, and A Christmas Carol Stroll, among many more.
6. Rapid City, South Dakota
Most commonly known as the home of Mount Rushmore, Rapid City is dubbed the “Winter Wonderland of the Midwest” during the holiday season. With all the different Christmas traditions this small town has to offer, your itinerary is sure to be filled.
Main Street Square Ice Rink
Go ice skating at the Main Street Square for a true winter experience. The ice rink is decorated with festive twinkling lights, the perfect atmosphere for skating with friends and family. If ice skating is not for you, enjoy the views next to the warm fire while sipping on some homemade apple cider and hot chocolate offered by local shops.
7. Garrison, North Dakota
Garrison is known as the Christmas town of North Dakota, as the small town celebrates the holidays in a traditional Dickensian way. From a horse-drawn sleigh ride to an annual festival that travels back to the Charles Dickens era, Garrison is sure to bring the Christmas spirit to you and your family this holiday season.
Dickens Village Festival
This festival turns the town into a Victorian village and the Christmas capital of North Dakota. The event features traditions such as a fruitcake toss, horse-drawn carriages, showings of A Christmas Carol, performances, and more.
8. Wooster, Ohio
Wooster is a festive Christmas town that attracts travelers each year with its holiday charm.
Pine Tree Barn
While not exactly a huge attraction, like the theme park of Silver Dollar City, Pine Tree Barn is the perfect small-town gem that brings about cozy holiday cheer. The barn is a family-owned shop and restaurant that features festive drinks and pastries, holiday gifts, and a wide selection of Christmas trees.
If in Ohio, we recommend a short detour to Cleveland to visit the Christmas Story House, which is located just an hour’s drive from Wooster.
9. Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth is a small port city located on the beautiful Lake Superior. It beams with Christmas magic, as during the winter months, the small Christmas town comes to life. Duluth is home to Bentleyville, a free Christmas village light display that features holiday activities for the whole family to enjoy. While port cities don’t necessarily scream “best Christmas cities” like Duluth’s cozier counterparts, the light displays, Christmas shops, and other festive offerings put it on the map as one of the best in the Midwest.
Bentleyville features one of the most magical light displays located on the majestic shores of Lake Superior. The lighted walkways feature different holiday scenes ranging from classics like candy canes to tributes of front-line workers in a grand celebration of the Christmas season.