By Jo Lee Ferguson | Courtesy Photos
Picture this: It’s East Texas, and it’s Christmas time. Sure. It’s home. Family is close by. The tree is up in the living room. Stores are decorated. Downtown looks nice, and there are some great, big Christmas light displays not too far from home. Chances are, though, there’s no snow on the ground. It might even be… warm and humid. Those decorations on your tree are the same ones you’ve had for 10 or 15 years, and you know your aunt will be making that same green bean casserole we all love to hate as part of Christmas dinner.
Now, picture this: a place you’ve never been. Maybe it’s covered in snow. Or maybe Christmas carols are sung to the tune of waves lapping up on the shore. Maybe Santa show up on skis. Or even a surfboard. The lights are spectacular, and green bean casserole is definitely not on the menu. In short, it’s a holiday, from your holiday. If it sounds like a good idea, here are some suggestions, some holiday destinations that are on IN Magazine’s must-see list.
1. SANDPOINT, IDAHO -www.sandpointonline.com
Located in northern Idaho, a town of about 7,500 people is 60 miles south of the Canadian border and about 75 miles from Spokane, Wash.; named Most Beautiful Small Town in America in the Best of the Road competition by Rand McNally and USA Today and Best Ski Town in the USA, Rand McNally; National Geographic named Sandpoint an Adventure Town; Sandpoint listed in America’s Prettiest Winter Towns by Travel and Leisure; home to Schweitzer Mountain Resort, largest resort in Idaho.
EVENTS: Eugene Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at Panida Theater – Dec. 3; Santa Claus hits the slopes at Schweitzer Mountain Resort and then stops at the Selkirk Lodge – Christmas Eve; Christmas Home Tour; Schweitzer Mountain Resort hosts several parties for New Years Eve – Dec. 31; ice skating; sleigh rides at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch; Winter Festival – Feb. 15-24, Sandpoint Ski Joring competition, downtown events such as BioLuminesce Fire Dancing, Rail Jam, Taste of Sandpoint, Shop Around Sandpoint and Dine Around Sandpoint.
2. SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA-www.santacruz.org
Beach town 70 miles south of San Francisco, 40 miles north of Monterey; ranked by “Travel and Leisure” as one of the best places in the world to spend the holidays; birthplace of mainland surfing; redwood forests nearby; more than 300 days of sunshine a year; home to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill.
EVENTS: Surfin’ Santa – Santa and his reindeer surf into Capitola Beach, Nov. 24; Santa Cruz Holiday Lights TrainLighted Boat Parade, through Santa Cruz Harbor, Dec. 1; Jingle Shells Art and Craft Festival with the lighting of Ms. Blue, one of the largest blue whale skeletons in the world, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Dec. 2; Santa Cruz Bird Club 56th Annual Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 15.
3. TAOS, NEW MEXICO-www.taos.org
Annual snowfall of 35 inches, 312 inches in the Taos Ski Valley; home to the National Historic Landmark Taos Pueblo, multi-storied adobe dwellings continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years; centuries old Historic Taos Plaza is home to old mercantile stores, house galleries, restaurants and shops; Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, second highest bridge in U.S. highway system is nearby.
EVENTS: Famous Taos Ski Valley opens for skiing and snowboarding Thanksgiving weekend; at the Taos Pueblo – procession of the Virgin Mary, Dec. 25; Deer or Matachines Dance, Dec. 25; Turtle Dances, Jan. 1; Brewmaster’s Festival – festival of beer and food, Dec. 22; torchlight parade – Christmas Eve; farolitos and luminaries lighted through town, caroling, festivities – Christmas Eve; torchlight parade and fireworks – New Year’s Eve.
4. GRAPEVINE, TEXAS-www.grapevinetexasusa.com
Designated Christmas Capital of Texas by Texas State Senate with 1,400 Christmas events in about 40 days; named for wild mustang grapes that grew in the area; Bonnie and Clyde robbed the Home Town Bank and were later killed by two of Grapevine’s motorcycle officers; home to the Great Wolf Lodge and its indoor waterpark, Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center; Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World; Grapevine Mills mall with LEGOLAND™ Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium
EVENTS: Ice! at the Gaylord Texan Resort, with a theme of “Merry Madagascar” this year, featuring 2 million pounds of carved ice ; Texas Tenors perform at historic Palace Theatre; synchronized Christmas light display with singing Christmas tree at Town Square Gazebo; North Pole Express on Grapevine’s vintage railroad; Christmas wine trains; Christmas classic, family friendly movies at the Palace Theatre; Christmas on Main in historic downtown Grapevine; Parade of Lights in downtown Grapevine and Twinkle Lights Boat Parade on Lake Grapevine; Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge.
5. NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA-www.natchitoches.net
Louisiana’s oldest town, established in 1714; originally settled by French near the Natchitoches Indian Village; Louisiana later became a Spanish territory and then joined the United States of America; filming location for “Steel Magnolias; Bed and Breakfast Capital of Louisiana; one of the 2005 Dozen Distinctive Destinations for Historical Preservation, by the National Trust.
EVENTS: Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, Nov. 17-Jan. 6, with the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, the largest event held during the Festival of Lights; Festival of Lights includes home tours, children’s activities, entertainment, arts and crafts shows, carriage tours and lighted downtown historic district; annual Christmas Festival includes a parade and fireworks over Cane River Lake.