By Hayley Simpson | Published on April 22, 2022
After a long year, you may be dreaming of holiday cruise vacations spent on white sand beaches, snowy mountains or in some of the most festive cities in the world. There are so many extraordinary holiday destinations to spend Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and to ring in the New Year. Pack your bags (as well as your ugly Christmas sweater!) and prepare to enjoy the holidays like never before as you visit some of the most beautiful countries around the world.
If there's one city in the world that goes all out for every big holiday, it's New York City. As one of the most beautiful cities in the world for winter vacations, celebration traditions start on Thanksgiving Day with the renown annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The phenomenal pageant features floats, marching bands, Broadway performances, and a celeb cameo or two. The family-friendly event is guaranteed to get everyone into the holiday spirit.
Continue celebrating by visiting New York City's iconic Christmas destinations, which will make you feel like you've stepped onto the set of your favorite Christmas movie. After ice-skating under the grand Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, take a stroll through Bryant Park's Winter Village, admire the Macy's holiday windows at their Herald Square flagship store, and watch the dazzling Christmas lights and decorations in Dyker Heights. New York City is so romantic during the holiday season.
Go back to where it all began, and celebrate Hanukkah and the holidays with a holiday cruise to Jerusalem. It's an awe-inspiring sight as bright lights transform the city during the eight nights of the Jewish Festival of Lights. Jerusalem comes alive during the annual Hanukkah Torch Relay, where people pass a flame from Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut — where the Maccabees lived — to the holy Western Wall.
Walking along the cobbled streets of the Jewish Quarter during Hanukkah, you can soak in the sense of community as you see how local families display their menorahs in windows or in special glass boxes.
If you want to feel like you're in a real-life snow globe scene, you must spend the holidays in Switzerland. If you're an avid skier or snowboarder, the car-free ski village of Zermatt is for you. Surrounded by the iconic Matterhorn mountain towers, the postcard-perfect holiday destination is so pristine people actually buy bottles of air from the surrounding mountains.
You can't visit Switzerland over the holidays without enjoying a Christmas market. Basler Weihnachtsmarkt in Basel is one of Europe's best Christmas markets. With enough twinkling lights to make Clark Griswold jealous, you'll find nearly 200 vendors selling everything from local food delicacies (snack on Swiss raclette to warm right up) to handmade gifts and decorations.
Cities across Japan brightly welcome winter with a series of winter illuminations, which typically shine pretty between November and December. In Tokyo, you must see the brilliantly lit trees surrounding the ice rink in Midtown and the dazzling displays along Nakadori Street in Marunouchi.
Another pretty place for winter illuminations in Japan would be, the Sagamiko Illumillion in Lake Sagami Resort Pleasure Forest which features an astonishing six million LED lights covering the hillside, plus an animated light show and dancing water fountain, light tunnels and amusement park rides, including a Ferris wheel. A similar winter illumination installment occurs at Nabana no Sato Flower Park in Nagoya.
Though when it comes to one of the oldest winter illumination events in Japan there is nothing quite like the Kobe Luminarie, starting in 1995 as a memorial to the victims of the devastating Great Hanshin earthquake. With displays designed by Japanese and Italian artists, it's no wonder more than 3 million people travel to Japan to visit annually at its location near Motomachi Station.
Small and big kids at heart will love adventuring to Finnish Lapland to walk in Santa's footsteps and embrace the magic of Christmas. At Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Santa spends every day of the year sharing the Christmas spirit and spreading love and goodwill to all visitors. Here you can meet Santa and his reindeer, cross the Arctic Circle, and go on a husky or snowmobiling adventure for a true White Christmas experience. While traveling to Finland with your family, don't miss visiting Santa Park in Rovaniemi, as well as its underground toy factory where you can really see Santa's elves making presents for the children around the world.
Another destination to visit in Finnish Lapland is Levi, which resembles a gingerbread village. Mainly a ski town, you can also go on a snowmobiling excursion in Levi to visit Santa's Secret Cabin in the Lapland wilderness. If this doesn't make you believe in the magic of Christmas, maybe an appearance of the Northern Lights will win you over.
You can be one of the first people in the world to welcome the New Year in sunny Sydney, Australia. Prepare to be blown away by one of the world's most breathtaking destinations and biggest holiday celebrations, with a seemingly never-ending fireworks display. Accompanied by a musical backdrop, fireworks explode over the city skyline, the Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour, and off the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
There are several different places to watch the fireworks in Sydney, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Opera House. Head to Luna Park if you want to have some fun and enjoy the amusement park rides while you wait for midnight. Or, check out the Taronga Zoo which is renowned for its wild New Year's Eve party that will excite the whole family. Whichever event you choose, you'll be sure to kick off your year with an unforgettable night.
For a unique experience, swap snow for sand and head to the Southern Hemisphere to celebrate the holidays in the summer sunshine. One of the best places to do this is, of course, the beautiful Bora Bora in French Polynesia. While you may struggle to leave your stunning overwater bungalow, there are many fun holiday adventures awaiting you on Bora Bora.
A few weeks before Christmas, the Village de Noel opens, a market boasting hundreds of makers selling handmade items perfect for last-minute holiday shopping. And once you're feeling merry, keep your Christmas spirit going with Bora Bora's annual Christmas parade where the community comes together in a colorful way with spectacular floats and traditional dance productions.
Holiday vacations to Edinburgh are truly one of a kind. No other country celebrates the New Year with as much passion and revelry as Scotland, which is evident in Edinburgh's enormous and legendary Hogmanay celebrations. Hogmanay is what Scots call New Year's Eve, and it dates back to the Viking days when they'd celebrate the winter solstice with wild, all-night parties.
Edinburgh celebrates the New Year over three days, with an enchanting torchlight procession through the heart of the city's historic Old Town, the infamous Hogmanay street party and musical performances in Princes Street Gardens. But the pinnacle event is when the clock ticks over to midnight. You'll feel like you're exactly where you're meant to be when you join in with thousands of people singing Auld Lang Syne as fireworks burst over Edinburgh Castle overlooking the city.