Each city in the country has its own traditions and celebrations for the holidays, but for some, it’s a yearlong wait for their shining moment on the calendar.
In this year’s America’s Favorite Places survey, Travel + Leader readers cast their votes on which destinations they love the most for Christmas light madness. Unlike Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards, which encourages readers to weigh in on travel experiences across the globe, the America's Favorite Places survey is a way for locals to share what their hometowns do best.
No. 1 San Antonio, Texas
When it comes to Christmas festivities, this Texas city is bursting with tradition, and its lights are unmatched (there’s a reason it was ranked number one). Decorating begins as early as November 19th, when the University of the Incarnate Word flips the switch that lights their entire campus (an event inspired by the famously light-crazed Windcrest area nearby). Feel the city’s true holiday pulse the day after Thanksgiving when the Ford Holiday River Parade & Lighting Festival kicks everything into gear.
The River Walk and its adjacent streets are illuminated by tens of thousands of string lights, and crowds converge to view the four-hour nighttime river parade brimming with decorated floats carrying lights and carolers. If that weren’t enough, San Antonio’s oldest tradition—the Ford Fiesta de las Luminarias—brings thousands of glowing candles in sand-filled bags to line the riverbanks every weekend after dusk, matching the twinkling trees and surrounding sparkling facades.
After wandering the city’s stunning Spanish missions and eating renowned tamales in the trendy Pearl neighborhood, visitors and locals view the 55-foot tree in the Alamo Plaza (yes, thatAlamo) and stroll the candlelit River Walk.