Holiday Travel 7

Around The World Festivities

Where will you go to celebrate the holidays?  If your holiday plans include travel to enjoy the festivities around the world, here are a few choices for you:

New York City

Yes, it may be an old Yuletide standby, but it is still much more impressive in person. The tree at Rockefeller Center is almost certainly the world’s most famous Christmas tree, but it’s only the centerpiece for a city-wide Christmas display.  Nothing beats carriage rides through Central Park, the elaborate department store displays, and strolls through the some of the city’s classic brownstone-lined streets..

European Christmas Markets

Wonderful, especially when enjoyed on a river cruise. The holidays are pure magic along Europe’s waterways. Storybook villages and snow-capped castles line the river banks. A festive spirit fills the crisp air. In grand cities and charming towns alike, exuberant Christmas markets celebrate the season with colorful crafts, gingerbread and warm, spicy glühwein.

Europe’s fairy-tale villages and sparkling cities provide the ideal backdrop for the holiday season. In medieval town squares and down cobbled lanes, children delight in hand-carved toys. Aromas of old-world family recipes waft from kitchens: hot potatoes and chestnuts, grilled sausages and a sweet array of baked treats. Market stalls overflow with handmade crafts, ornaments, nutcrackers and colorful woolen scarves.  A river cruise will take you from one festive city to the next without ever unpacking!  On board, foster warmth and friendship while enjoying Christmas sing-alongs, festive gatherings and more.  Enjoy regional traditional holiday music with local ensembles who perform on board.

Napapiiri in Lapland, Finland

This smart town doesn’t let the natural presence of reindeer, snowy backdrops and a location straddling the Arctic Circle go to waste. The conditions here are prime for holiday revelers and where Christmas fantasies abound. The region boasts two major St. Nick-themed parks: The Santa Claus Village, a popular amusement park which draws families from all over Europe and Santa Park, which is geared more toward children, but features impressive ice sculptures and quaint shops.

Known as “Europe’s Christmas capital,” Santa Claus Village and Santa Park are located at the foot of the Arctic Circle. Each draws thousands of visitors every year from all over the world to tour the two different Santa themed parks, which include real reindeer, a tour of Santa’s workshop and a meeting with Santa himself.

Christmas in Mexico

A girl on a donkey leads a candle-carrying procession past San Miguel de Allende’s shops festooned with piñatas and poinsettias. When they stop before a Spanish-colonial building and break into song, you realize you’re witnessing the reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter that takes place in the days leading up to Christmas.  December events in San Miguel begin in early December and last through the first week in January.  The last two weeks in December include the Chamber Music Festival, one of the country’s best classical music fests.

Sydney Harbour New Year’s Eve, Australia

Far and away my personal favorite, all-time best New Year’s Eve Celebration took place in the Sydney Harbour.  The elaborate pyrotechnic displays, including the 9 p.m. family fireworks and the midnight fireworks, are synchronized to a soundtrack and the fireworks explode off the arches, catwalk, and roadway of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city buildings.  This is generally the first city in the world to reach midnight and therefore the first televised New Year’s Eve presentation world wide.  I experienced this while sailing on a Crystal Cruise from Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia over the Christmas and New Year’s week, and spent New Year’s Eve on a catamaran in the front row of the harbor while enjoying the spectacular show, listening to a band, and enjoying champagne and an elaborate spread of food!  This year Crystal Cruises is sailing to Rio de Janeiro. As always, you will celebrate in style while the two ships are transformed into whimsical holiday wonderlands with more than $100,000 in decorations to celebrate Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The festivities include seasonal parties, dances, carols, tree lightings, spirited musical productions, sessions with Santa, holiday movies, religious services and traditional feasts.​

Sweet home, Chicago

Check out the millions of holiday lights strung up around the Magnificent Mile, enjoy the Christkindmarket, a large outdoor German crafts market and Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest, a holiday-themed amusement park with an indoor skating rink.

What is your favorite destination for holiday travel? Send Lake Zurich Travel an email and we might include your favorite in our next story! Email Sue Shimkus, president of Lake Zurich Travel and Lakeside Travel Advisors in Wauconda