The holiday season can be a lot of fun, but over time it can get boring if we do the same thing every year. To start your creative travel juices flowing, here are a few alternative places where you can enjoy the festive season this year.
For a long time this sleepy industry was known more for carrying around aging octogenarians than providing a fun vacation. But the new river boats that cruise up and down Europe’s rivers are modern, sleek and fun. River cruise companies have also added more experiential activities, appealing to a broad range of people and allowing passengers to be as active, or not, as they like. During the Christmas season these cruises take on an extra special element of fun, the famous Christmas Markets. Every town through which the ships sail feature a fun, local market giving passengers an intimate look at how Christmas is celebrated on The Continent. Be sure to eat your way through the markets, enjoying local delicacies, and you’ll quickly fall into the holiday spirit.
Part of my heart will always be in Williamsburg; it's a city that I have come to know and love over the years. Famous around the world for its colonial charm, that's just one part of the Williamsburg story. Sure, if you want to learn more about 18th century life in the United States, there is no better place in the country than the town's living museum; dozens of buildings, homes and streets that all look as if they were plucked out of the 1750s. But during the holiday season, the city achieves an even higher level of charm. If you time it right, you can catch Grand Illumination. This incredibly popular local event takes place the first Sunday in December and marks the official start of the holiday season with a massive lighting ceremony and the unveiling of the town’s famous wreaths. On every door in Colonial Williamsburg, residents (yes, people really live there) compete to outdo their neighbors when it comes to creating the perfect holiday wreath. Walk around and find your own personal favorites. For something a little different, be sure to also stop by Busch Gardens. Every year the European-themed amusement park hosts Christmas Town, a fun way to enjoy the holidays with great food, hot cocoa and of course a few rides.
If cold weather isn’t your thing, then why not head to the other side of the planet where it’s summer? My favorite pick is Australia, which is in the middle of summer during the holiday season. That doesn’t mean they don’t celebrate, they certainly do but in ways we may at first find a little strange. In the big cities you’ll find all the typical holiday cheer we’re used to in this hemisphere, but once you head to the coastal communities it’s a different story. Lavish BBQs, celebrations on the beach and Santa in shorts are all just a few of the more quirky aspects to celebrating Christmas in the Land Down Under. One of my favorite places to visit is Queensland, where you can enjoy all of these elements in one state. For that urban flair, Brisbane is the place for you. Open and modern, this is one of the most livable cities I’ve ever visited and there’s a lot to see in do in the city itself, or within an easy drive or train ride. Next door to Brisbane is the Gold Coast, the quintessential Australian beach community where you’ll think you’re in Florida instead of Australia. If you’re in Queensland though, there’s one place you cannot miss – The Great Barrier Reef. This natural wonder is enormous and while you’ll only be able to visit a small sliver of it, it’s one of the most exciting and unique natural experiences in the world.
What are some other unusual ways to celebrate the holiday season?
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A luxury adventure traveler at heart, Matt Long shares his experiences with thousands of readers every day through his travel blog, LandLopers.com. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Matt is a Washington, DC based travel writer/photographer and has been featured on many other web sites and publications including BBC Travel, CNN GO, Huffington Post, AFAR Magazine and National Geographic Intelligent Travel. His work is also syndicated on the Flipboard and Pulse apps. Follow Matt on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Google Plus.
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