Travel: 50+ ABSOLUTE BEST CHRISTMAS TOWNS IN USA

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Christmas is a wonderful time of year, filled with memory-making, family and friends, good food, cozy nights, fun activities, and, of course, the big man in red. In the United States, there is at least one town in each of the 50 states that goes above and beyond when it comes to Christmas spirit. A visit to any of these towns will feel like you’ve stepped right into a Hallmark movie.

We’ve rounded up our favorite Christmas towns from each of the 50 states — plus, added a few extra. Put on your Santa hat, grab a cup of cocoa, and get ready to sing carols to your heart’s content…here are the best Christmas towns in USA!

Leavenworth, Washington © Provided by 365Traveler Leavenworth, Washington

ALABAMA – ANDALUSIA

If you’re visiting Montgomery, Alabama, or road tripping through the Southeast this December, be sure to stop in Andalusia, the region’s unofficial Christmas capital. From Christmas lights to the decorated First National Building downtown, all of Andalusia gets into the spirit. The town’s biggest holiday attraction is Candyland Village, open most of December.

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Located on the town’s Court Square, Candyland celebrates Christmas with all-day fun for the little ones, including the Candyland Cottage Village, a 30-minute Snow Show, and horse drawn carriage rides. Built especially for smaller visitors, the cottage village features a number of play areas to wander through, including Santa’s Workshop, the Princess Castle and the Train Depot.

For those looking for a taste of winter weather in southern Alabama, the Snow Show produces Candyland’s own snowflakes, mimicking a real live blizzard and surpassing expectations.

Don’t let Andalusia’s small population fool you — when Christmas comes around, there’s more than enough cheer to go around. Andalusia is located less than two hours from both Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama.

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Read More: 23 THINGS TO DO IN MONTGOMERY AL TO CAPTURE ITS RIVETING PAST AND PRESENT

ALASKA – NORTH POLE

If you’re planning a winter getaway to Fairbanks, Alaska, venture only 15 minutes south of the city to find your gateway to Christmas. Home to year-round decorations, the Santa Claus House, and the yearly Winter Festival, North Pole, Alaska is a joy to behold, especially while surrounded by the state’s rugged landscape.

While in town for the Winter Festival, drop by Santa Claus House for an ornament shopping spree and to see Santa in person. There are also opportunities to meet Santa’s reindeer, mail gifts to loved ones, and indulge in the Sweet Shop. At the festival itself, admire ice sculptures, fireworks displays, and plenty of interactive holiday themed activities. The kids will enjoy mailing their Christmas letters to the North Pole, even more after seeing it for themselves!

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Ringing in the holidays since the 1950’s, Alaska’s North Pole is a novelty destination that goes above and beyond to keep Christmas on the map. While winter is the best time to go, the Santa Claus House invites visitors year round, and visiting while the weather is warm and the sun is out can make your experience even more unique. Don’t miss your family photo-op with the town’s towering Santa statue!

Read More: 27 PHENOMENAL THINGS TO DO IN FAIRBANKS ALASKA

ARIZONA – PRESCOTT

Known for its tree and Christmas light displays, Prescott is a must-stop on any December visit to Phoenix. A yearly parade and lighting ceremony kicks off the season, while the Sharlot Hall’s Museum Frontier Christmas event keeps the festivities going strong.

Throughout the month, enjoy the Prescott Zoo’s Wild lights and Animal Sights showcase, the local Valley of Lights drive-through experience, and the Gingerbread Village at the Prescott Resort. Talk about a winter wonderland!

While Prescott’s northern Arizona climate does see some snowfall, mild temperatures can make your Christmas visit balmy, pleasant, and filled with outdoor activities. As Prescott’s illuminated trees are best seen in the evening, plan a weekend or multi-day stay to get to know all the city has to offer.

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Winter hiking opportunities, a busy downtown district, and cultural sites can fill up an entire itinerary. Prescott is located less than two hours north of Phoenix.

Read More: 14 PHENOMENAL DAY TRIPS FROM PHOENIX YOU’LL LOVE

ARKANSAS – EUREKA SPRINGS

Located just south of the Arkansas-Missouri border, Eureka Springs makes an idyllic destination, especially when coupled with nearby Bentonville, Arkansas. Start your visit off with a stroll around the city’s Historic District, where you’ll come across Victorian architecture, local shopping opportunities, and holiday window displays.

Don’t miss the Eureka Springs’ Christmas Tour of Homes, a self-guided experience organized by the local preservation society. With stops at the city’s most stunning Victorian homes, the tour features docents who teach visitors about each building’s story, costumed “residents,” live music, and more. It’s a special way to get to know the city’s history while gearing up for Christmas. The homes will be elaborately decorated to complement their original interiors. You must purchase a ticket to participate in the tour.

Other local events include the Ozarks Chorale Christmas Concert, and the Christmas Parade of Lights, and the Great Passion Play. With plenty of lights and decorations to admire by night, and annual activities to partake in by day, Eureka Springs is easy to immerse yourself in.

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Nearby Bentonville’s Holiday Trail of Lights and Christmas Parade bring you double the fun within an hour’s drive.

Read More: 16 BEST THINGS TO DO IN EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

CALIFORNIA – SAN FRANCISCO

While it never gets cold enough for a white Christmas in San Francisco, the City by the Bay celebrates the holiday season right. From Fisherman’s Wharf to the Civic Center, San Francisco is aglow in lights and decorations each December.

Union Square is the center of much of the action, with a huge tree, ice rink, and Santa meet and greet at Macy’s. Several luxury hotels serve holiday teas and construct enormous gingerbread houses in their lobbies. -Leslie Harvey from Trips with Tykes

Read More: Christmas in San Francisco: 17+ Things to Do with Kids to Celebrate the Holiday Season

RUNNER UP: SOLVANG

Known as Southern California’s capital of Dutch heritage, Solvang is your stop for a European-style Christmas a few miles from the Pacific Coast.

The city’s yearly Julefest celebration spans a month and includes events, activities, tours, and traditional Dutch elements. The festivities begin with the Julefest Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony, setting the stage for an entire month of fun and flair.

The Solvang Nisse hunt invites the whole family to search the city for a number of Danish gnomes hidden throughout the city. Following the provided clues in hopes of winning a special prize is a fun way to get to know the area and get you in the holiday mood.

Featuring Santa himself, Santa’s Village is another must-stop, while the city’s Candlelight Tour series invites you to experience Danish Christmas traditions while on a guided tour. As dusk falls over Solvang, you’ll listen to carols, take in local sights and more.

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Solvang is about two and a half hours north of central Los Angeles, and slightly under an hour from Santa Barbara.

READ MORE: 14 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN SOLVANG, CALIFORNIA

COLORADO – TELLURIDE

Known for its local winter sports opportunities, Telluride combines Christmas celebrations with the thrill of a ski trip to Colorado’s snowy peaks. Cozy and lined with historic buildings, local businesses, and eateries, the town is a favorite any time of year. In December, the whole town takes part in Noel Night, an annual event where local shops offer deals and prizes while you get some last minute gift shopping in.

When it comes to Christmas lights, Telluride’s Colorado Avenue is the best place to see the town illuminated. The town’s Christmas tree invites admirers once the sun goes down. Made of repurposed skis, it captures the Telluride spirit perfectly. The kids will love the annual Holiday Prelude event, which includes time with Santa, ice skating, and train rides just south of town.

When you’re ready to hit the slopes, Telluride Ski Resort is open throughout the winter, making it easy to plan a ski-trip without missing the comforts of Christmas.

Read More: 38 PHENOMENAL THINGS TO DO IN COLORADO

CONNECTICUT – MYSTIC

If you’re spending the season in the Northeast, seaside Mystic is a small-town Christmas destination with a huge heart. As the weather turns colder on the Connecticut coast, enjoy visits with Santa, town tours and holiday adventures on the water.

Christmas in Mystic is a community affair, and you won’t want to miss the Christmas Tree lighting in Mystic River Park, or Santa’s Arrival. In seafaring Mystic, St. Nick arrives via tugboat. The Mystic River also hosts the town’s Lighted Boat Parade, which takes place in the evening and features a number of charming vessels gliding along in front of judges and onlookers.

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Olde Mistick Village, a beloved local attraction, hosts a Holiday Carnival, while Lantern Light Tours at Mystic Seaport delights audiences with a play set among historic museum vessels. With a different storyline each year, the Lantern Light Tour is a tradition that keeps on giving.

An hour and a half from Boston and 2.5 hours from New York City, Mystic is an unforgettable alternative to the crowds and chaos of Christmas in the city.

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DELAWARE – NEW CASTLE

Located just south of Wilmington, New Castle is a historic Delaware town overlooking the Delaware River. Cobblestone streets, old-fashioned red brick buildings, and a packed holiday event schedule make this a worthwhile day trip from both Wilmington and nearby Philadelphia.

Hosted by The Arsenal, a local venue, Fezziwig’s Ball is held on the eve of A Day in Old New Castle, a yearly tradition that invites history buffs into the town’s oldest homes for firsthand tours. The New Castle Spirit of Christmas celebration and town-wide Dickens Experience bring a Victorian-inspired Christmas to New Castle’s homes, streets and businesses.

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FLORIDA – MARTIN COUNTY

Dodge the flurries and skip the cold by planning a Christmas escape to the Sunshine State!

Martin County, Florida is an under-the-radar paradise known for its irresistible charm — but it really dazzles during the holidays. Discover quaint downtown districts twinkling with lights, a lineup of unforgettable events, and activities the whole family will love.

Soak up the sun (and the season’s greetings) in America’s Happiest Seaside Town!

Read More: Why The Holidays Are Better In Martin County

GEORGIA – HELEN

Located just over an hour from Athens, Georgia, the alpine town of Helen is a tiny slice of Bavaria tucked into the state’s northern slopes. Helen’s German architecture and European aesthetic goes hand in hand with its burst of Christmas spirit, especially if you’re looking for a winter hideaway.

After you take in the village lights and season kick-off in Riverside Park, save the date for Christkindlmarkt, a German market featuring crafts, ornaments, delicacies, and hot drinks.

To learn more about local history, visit the nearby Hardman Farm State Historic Site, which hosts traditional Victorian holiday evenings throughout December.

During your stay, be sure to catch the Christmas in the Mountains Lighted Parade in neighboring Cleveland and Helen’s own Christmas Parade. If you don’t mind chilly thrills, the town’s Georgia Mountain Coaster is another way to admire the Christmas lights from a bird’s eye view.

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HAWAII – HONOLULU

It’s no secret that December is one of the best times to leave winter weather behind and head to the Hawaiian Islands. If you’re staying in or around Honolulu, you won’t have to forgo the Christmas festivities…in fact, celebrating island style might be exactly what you need to get excited about Christmas again.

You’ll want to start by admiring the Honolulu City Lights after a day spent getting to the state capital’s downtown district. On display throughout the month of December, the City Lights are an urban tradition, illuminating the Honolulu Hale.

Taking place in Honolulu’s Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, the Mele Kalikimaka Marketplace is your next stop; along with hunting for the perfect gifts to surprise friends and loved ones with, enjoy performances and the Gingerbread Workshop, where kids learn to make their own treats.

Located at the Hawaii Kai Marina, the Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parade is another local tradition that draws crowds from across Oahu. As exuberantly decorated boats cruise past, the marina is illuminated in Christmas cheer; as the parade concludes, one lucky boat is chosen as the year’s winner.

Though you’ll likely be spending most of your time on the beach savoring the weather, Christmas in Honolulu will keep you busy. From showcases to gift shopping, the Hawaiian capital’s Aloha spirit is even more apparent when its time to ring in the holidays.

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IDAHO – SUN VALLEY

Sun Valley’s romantic landscape and ski credentials make this pocket of Idaho perfect for winter sports enthusiasts looking for a scenic Christmas. If you’re visiting in December, you’ll have the chance to attend not one, but three Tree Lighting ceremonies; the communities of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey each hold their own.

When Sun Valley is blanketed with snow and you’ve had enough skiing for the day, there’s no better way to enjoy the fresh powder than a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Reservations for the area’s scenic sleigh rides book fast, so be sure to secure your spot in advance.

Once Christmas Eve rolls around, check out the Sun Valley Resort’s Winter Wonderland Ice Show. Along with the Dollar Torchlight Parade, the event features live music, performances, and Santa. The Dollar Torchlight Parade features skiers lighting their path down Dollar Mountain, marking another year of a beloved Sun Valley tradition.

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ILLINOIS – MONTICELLO

Between the Polar Express, the quaint downtown, and the mesmerizing Allerton Park, Monticello has become quite the capital of Christmas in Central Illinois.

Visitors can see a wonderful light display downtown, which is set to music. Stroll through Allerton Park – one of the seven wonders of Illinois – for its one-mile Holiday Glow lights experience. If you time your visit, you can tour the delightful Allerton mansion, which is impeccably decorated.

Passengers of all ages enjoy the Monticello Railway Museum’s Polar Express experience. Read along with the story as the train makes its round-trip journey to the North Pole. Meet Santa and enjoy caroling, hot chocolate, surprises, and much more. Don’t forget to pack pajamas! – Laura Bleill from Chambana Moms

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INDIANA – SANTA CLAUS

Santa Claus, Indiana celebrates Christmas all year long, but it gets an extra dose of holiday spirit during the first three weekends in December.

Visit the Santa Claus Museum Village, send your holiday cards from the Santa Claus post office, go to Lake Rudolph’s famous Santa Claus Land of Lights Show, roast chestnuts over an open fire, and so much more! – Sharlene Earnshaw from Trekaroo

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IOWA – VALLEY JUNCTION

West Des Moines’ Valley Junction neighborhood hosts one of the city’s most popular holiday events, giving you plenty to celebrate if you’re visiting Iowa this December. Jingle in the Junction offers special evening access to many of the neighborhood’s small shops, where you’ll find sales, mini-parties and more on Thursday nights.

With 5th Street lit up in the glow of thousands of Christmas lights, you’ll have a great time dropping in and out of local businesses before taking the kids to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Horse drawn trolley rides, performances, ice sculptures, live caroling, and the chance to support West Des Moines’ small businesses turn quiet Valley Junction into a cozy three-block wonderland when the days grow shorter and the weather colder.

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KANSAS – BALDWIN CITY

Baldwin City, Kansas, only 30 minutes outside of the KC metro, has been the home of The Midland Railway for as long as we can remember. In years past, they’ve hosted Thomas the Tank Engine, Polar Express trains and the Christmas Village. But there’s a NEW reason to celebrate Christmas in Baldwin City!

The Snowglobe Express, which calls itself “The Merriest Train on the Planet,” is here beginning in 2022! This custom train experience includes a 12-mile Christmas train ride that takes families from the traditional Baldwin City Train Depot to the Christmas magic world of Snowglobe. Once there, the kids will visit Santa’s herd of reindeer. – Shawna Allen from iFamily KC

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KENTUCKY – BARDSTOWN

Known for its artisan bourbon distilleries, Bardstown is a Kentucky Christmas destination within easy reach of Louisville. After catching the close knit town’s Tree Lighting Ceremony, head to the My Old Kentucky Home Museum to tour the historic building by candlelight. Hot drinks, baked goods and a home steeped in local lore make this a cozy introduction to Bardstown’s historic curiosities.

Throughout the rest of the month, be sure to keep an eye on local distilleries’ event schedules, as many host one-of-a-kind Christmas experiences. Between visiting Santa at the Old Nelson County Courthouse, and cheering on the Bardstown-Nelson County Christmas Parade, bundle up and stroll the town’s storefronts and eateries.

If there’s one local attraction you have to try, it’s the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train excursion. Combining 4-course meals with a scenic 2-hour train ride in an old-fashioned dinner car, the Dinner Train experience transports you back to Kentucky’s railroad heyday. During the holidays, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train offers North Pole Express rides, which include special appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus, dinner, hot chocolate, and children’s activities.

If you’re staying in or around Louisville, Bardstown is only about an hour’s drive away from the center of the city.

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LOUISIANA – NATCHITOCHES

Located halfway between Shreveport and Alexandria, Louisiana, Natchitoches is home to the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, which draws visitors from all over the state. Kicking off the season, the festival is a day-long event featuring gift vendors, local bites (Natchitoches meat pies, anyone?), and live music. The town Christmas Parade takes place during the event, turning the stage over to marching bands, floats and performers. Two riverside fireworks displays wrap up the festival, illuminating the water for over half an hour.

After attending the festival, add the city’s outdoor light show to your itinerary. Hosted by Dark Woods Adventure Park, the daily showcase features lights strung across wooded paths, s’mores by the fire pit, the chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and plenty of glowing ornaments the kids will love.

The city’s Christmas Tour of Homes invites guests to take a peek into historic homes and learn about their histories. Decked out for the holidays, the homes are stunning both inside and out, and the tour is self-guided.

If you’re looking for another community event to enjoy once the sun goes down, don’t miss the annual Lighted Boat Parade, where residents display their vessels on Cane River Lake. You can easily spend a long weekend or more enjoying all Natchitoches has to offer before heading home or south to New Orleans to keep celebrating.

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MAINE – KENNEBUNKPORT

Rocky beaches, a trove of marine history and top notch seafood define coastal Maine’s Kennebunkport- the town is an all year destination for anyone looking to discover classic New England. December visitors have the added bonus of taking part in Kennbunkport’s Christmas Prelude, an annual event that takes place over the first two weeks of the month.

Bringing residents  together since 1982, the Prelude begins with the tree lighting ceremony at Dock Square, a decades-long tradition. As carols ring out all around, visitors can admire huge tree and the holiday lights lining Kennebunkport’s tidy streets. While the exact schedule of events varies each year, you can expect everything from outdoor gift markets to seafood sampling opportunities.

Prelude Boat Rides on the Nor’Easter fishing boats offer cruises down the Kennebunkport River, while the cozy heated Prelude Trolley ferries visitors through wooded paths. Historic homes open their doors to curious guests, while cider and wine tastings help you keep warm in between outdoor adventures. Santa’s Lobster Boat arrival is definitely a highlight; after stepping off the boat at The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, Santa will be ready to take photos and meet the kids at the Temple Street Community House.

With each day of Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude packed with events all over town, spirits are guaranteed to stay high even as temperatures dip to their yearly lows on Maine’s Atlantic coast.

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MARYLAND – ANNAPOLIS

When it comes to Christmas in Baltimore, Christmas markets are the way to go. The annual German-style Christmas Market in the Inner Harbor’s West Shore Park is probably our favorite, but there are nine other spots you can shop as well. We love the Annual Black Friday Pop-Up Shop At Open Works and the Black Friday Block Party in Harbor East. The BAZAART Holiday Art Market at the American Visionary Art Museum is always a must as well.

If you’re looking for holiday concerts after you’re done shopping, you must check out the annual Holiday Spectacular at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall — think Broadway meets syphons and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.

And you can’t call it Christmas unless you have gone to ZooLights or popped over to Miracle on 34th Street, a neighborhood extravaganza that is free to the public, as these neighbors love to include anyone and everyone when it comes to showing off their insane holiday decor. – Keryn Means from DC Travel Magazine

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MASSACHUSETTS – STOCKBRIDGE

One weekend per year in early December, visitors flock to the Massachusetts island of Nantucket for its annual Christmas Stroll weekend. Festive activities for the weekend include the arrival of Santa on a Coast Guard ship, holiday entertainment, and Santa’s Village filled with shops and food kiosks.

Don’t miss the Festival of Trees at the Nantucket Whaling Museum, which takes place during the month of December. – Jodi Grundig from Family Travel Magazine

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MICHIGAN – FRANKENMUTH

Frankenmuth’s German history is always on full display in the central Michigan city, but when Christmastime rolls along, the city’s Bavarian architecture takes on a whole new identity. Often blanketed in snow, Frankenmuth’s Main Street brings to mind European chalets with a hearty dose of small-town charm.

Frankenmuth’s Visitor Center hosts an annual tree show, which combines light and music to mark the beginning of the holiday season. The Visitor Center is also a great first stop to pick up event schedules, get local recommendations and discover Christmas activities that may not be advertised online. On your next free evening, stop by the newly unveiled Frankenmuth Ice Rink and strap on some skates for a classic winter activity.

As the big day draws nearer, pay a visit to Grandpa Tiny’s Farm, located just south of town. Every December, Grandpa Tiny’s hosts Santa’s Reindeer, offering the youngest visitors the chance to meet the animals and drop off letters to Santa.

Venture just up the street from Grandpa Tiny’s Farm and you’ll come across one of the area’s most popular year-round attractions. Known as the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is filled to the brim with ornaments, keepsakes, gifts and nearly anything you can imagine that has to do with the holidays. After you’ve picked up the perfect souvenir, don’t miss Bronner’s Silent Night Chapel, a replica that honors the first performance of the Christmas Carol.

With local shopping, lauded restaurants and cozy accommodations at the Bavarian Inn Lodge, it’s easy to spend Christmas week enjoying Frankenmuth. The city is located about an hour and a half from Detroit and slightly over two hours from Grand Rapids.

Read More: 17 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN

MINNESOTA – STILLWATER

Overlooking the St. Croix River, Stillwater is just outside of Minneapolis, making it a favorite day destination for city dwellers. As winter weather approaches, the city’s quaint Main Street gets ready for Christmas, with light displays, holiday decor, and an event schedule lasting throughout December.

Twinkle Weekend invites visitors to stop by small businesses, sample local bites, and enjoy live caroling in the evenings and includes the Twinkle Party, held in a local park. Stillwater’s annual Christmas Tree lighting takes place the same day at Chestnut Plaza, featuring a surprise visit from Santa and live music.

If you miss Santa at the lighting ceremony, he’ll be back in town accompanied by three reindeer later in the month. A pet parade, Gingerbread House Building Contest, horse drawn carriage rides and other events are among the season’s draws. If you’re lucky, you and the kids might even spot an elf during the city’s Elf Takeover!

Bustling with boutiques, dinner destinations and holiday spirit, Stillwell is a memorable alternative to Minneapolis over Christmastime.

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MISSISSIPPI – GULFPORT

Gulfport, Mississippi is one of the best Christmas scenes along the US Gulf Coast. The waterfront Jones Park is transformed by nearly 2 million lights into the Gulfport Harbor Lights Festival, called the “Most Magical Show in Mississippi.” So magical that it is the inspiration and setting for the Hallmark/Lifetime movie, Christmas in Mississippi.

While there, enjoy carnival rides, Santa’s Village, train rides around the park, and through a magnificent light tunnel and those magical lights. – Charles McCool from US Gulf Coast Travel

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MISSOURI – BRANSON

A popular summertime destination thanks to its abundance of natural wonders, Branson, Missouri also makes for an unforgettable Midwestern Christmas getaway. During an annual Old Time Christmas event, the city’s Silver Dollar City theme park’s 6.5 million lights illuminate the night alongside a brightly lit 80-foot Christmas tree. Paired with the parks’ rides, roller coasters, gift shopping opportunities and performances, the whole family can spend an entire day enjoying Old Time Christmas.

Known as America’s Christmas Tree City, Branson displays its trees proudly, and any walk through town is guaranteed to be full of decorated branches to admire. Other attractions include Silver Dollar City’s Jingle Bell Junction craft sale, Fruitcake & Jelly Kitchen, and ice skating at the foot of the Branson Ferris Wheel. If you get on the ice in the evening, you’ll be treated to the ferris wheel’s light show.

Dolly Parton’s Stampede is another must-see Branson favorite. The performance includes over 30 horses, a four course meal and a large serving of country meets Christmas.

You’ll likely see plenty of home light displays while driving or strolling through town, but be sure to check out Branson’s Lights of Joy as well. Counting more than 300 displays, the showcase is the perfect way to wrap up a busy day while cozying up to loved ones.

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MONTANA – WHITEFISH

Minutes from Glacier National Park and perched on the shore of an idyllic mountain lake, Whitefish is one of Montana’s most loved four-season destinations. Taking place every December, the Christmas Stroll is the best way to get to know the community and absorb the atmosphere. After grabbing a hot chocolate, walk down Main Street to take part in Christmas-themed activities, grab a bite to eat or join a caroling session.

By day, bundle up and set out to the heart of town to pick up gifts from a local boutique (and a little something for yourself)! Skiing, winter hiking and icy fun at Stumptown Ice Den keep you active, before settling down for dinner and live music at a local restaurant or brewery. Venturing down to the lakeshore promises a unique photo op, especially if the sandy peach is coated with a light dusting of snow.

On Christmas Eve, catch the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Featuring a cast of elves and Santa himself, the Torchlight Parade is a Whitefish tradition sure to delight the youngest revelers.

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NEBRASKA – MINDEN

Southern Nebraska’s Minden is just a blip on the map, but the tiny town hides a big heart and and even bigger Christmas spirit. Known as the state’s Christmas City, Minden’s holiday celebration includes a light display that has grown to local fame. Decorating the County Courthouse dome, the lights welcome December visitors.

Titled “The Light of the World,” the town’s annual Christmas Pageant is held three times and features Minden residents in starring roles.

Read More: 15 THINGS TO DO IN NEBRASKA EVERYONE WILL LOVE

NEVADA – VIRGINIA CITY

Dotted with museums and Victorian buildings, Nevada’s Virginia City is a former mining town located just south of Reno. Known as Christmas on the Comstock, the town’s yearly festivities define December, featuring a Victorian celebration with an Old West spin. Go saloon hopping, join the town’s Believe Again Christmas Giveaway, and take in the Magical Christmas Fireworks Show.

The V & T Candy Cane Express and Train O’ Lights give guests the chance to enjoy Christmas from the tracks with narrated, holiday-themed rides. Virginia City’s annual Parade of Lights is another favorite…and the best part is, anyone can participate! If Christmas is around the corner and you’re still looking for last minute gifts, stop by the Holiday Faire at St. Mary’s Art Center to pick up a keepsake from a local artisan.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE – PORTSMOUTH

Celebrate Christmas New England-style with a winter adventure in Portsmouth, one of New Hampshire’s most picturesque towns. Starting in early December, the community kicks things off with its yearly Tree Lighting, Parade and Food Drop off event at Market Square. The tree lighting is sure to get you in the mood for Vintage Christmas, brought to the public by Portsmouth’s Music Hall and the Strawberry Bank Museum.

The museum’s Candlelight Stroll is a fan favorite, having delighted residents for over four decades. Set in Puddle Dock, the stroll through the museum is candle lit, treating guests to performances, old-world traditions and handmade decor. Tickets sell out fast, so try to sign up in advance.

A town-wide Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibition joins Vintage Christmas in keeping timeless traditions alive and well. If you’re traveling with the whole family, go for a skate at the Strawbery Banke Museum’s Puddle Dock Pond, before catching a show at one of Portsmouth’s performance venues.

Read More: 25 BEST THINGS TO DO IN PORTSMOUTH NH YOU’LL LOVE

NEW JERSEY – CAPE MAY – JENNIFER AUER

Many people do not realize that the beach town of Cape May, New Jersey also has lots of events to offer in December. It celebrates Christmas to the max with events on many different days before Christmas.

Recently, it was number 19 on the list from PureWow of The Best Christmas Towns in the US. Be sure to check out the various tree lightings, Winter Wonderland, and various town tours during your visit. – Jennifer Auer from Jersey Family Fun

Read More: The 25 Best Christmas Towns In New Jersey

NEW MEXICO – TAOS

Tucked into the valleys north of Santa Fe, Taos is your high desert haven for a unique Christmas vacation in the midst of a one of a kind landscape.

Watch the town’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony among adobe homes on Taos’ historic Plaza and ring in Yuletide, a series of holiday celebrations taking place throughout December. Yuletide includes a local crafts fair, the Taos Folk artisan pop-up store, and the lighting of the town’s charming Ledoux Street, an occasion that includes extended hours at shops and museums. In fact, you’ll find that many of the town’s small shops, galleries and other businesses host special events and offers throughout the month.

The fiesta at the Millicent Rodgers Museum invites children to meet Santa, while the Christmas Eve Procession honors the holiday with a bonfire-lit walk that is as beautiful as it is haunting.

A cultural crossroads that celebrates where history meets immense natural beauty, Taos is a worthwhile jaunt north from Santa Fe or even Albuquerque.

Read More: 18 THINGS TO DO IN SANTA FE YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE

NEW YORK – NEW YORK CITY

When it comes to a once in a lifetime Christmas, New York City is a no-brainer; the holidays are one of the most popular times of year to visit. While exploring the city spontaneously yields the best results, there are a few classic attractions you’ll want to cross off your bucket list.

The Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center features one of the most famous trees in the world, year after year. At the foot of the towering tree, you’ll find The Rink at Rockefeller, where you can ice skate surrounded by Midtown Manhattan’s skyscrapers. Better yet, head over at night to glide to the twinkling lights adorning the tree.

Before catching the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular at Radio City or stopping by a Broadway Show, head to Central Park for an open-air ice skating session in Manhattan’s most famous oasis. Don’t limit yourself to one borough, either- the Bronx Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show is a must-see for both kids and adults, while Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is best seen under a thick blanket of snow.

Read More: 40 FREE THINGS TO DO IN NYC THAT YOU CAN’T MISS

NORTH CAROLINA – MCADENVILLE

Every December, more than half a million twinkling lights illuminate a tiny town in North Carolina. McAdenville, also known as Christmas Town USA, has quickly become an annual tradition for many seeking the holiday cheer.

Located outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, the town of McAdenville lights up every evening in December. There are more than 100 decorated homes and visitors will often walk or drive the 1.3 mile route to get in the holiday spirit.  – Christina Riley from NC Tripping

Read More: Christmas Town USA (How to See the Wonderful McAdenville Christmas Lights)

NORTH DAKOTA – GARRISON

Located just north of Lake Audubon, Garrison is an unassuming North Dakota city that undergoes a radical transformation just around Christmastime. Starting in late November and early December, the city hosts its annual Dickens Festival, becoming a Victorian-era town fit for Charles Dickens himself. The event schedule includes everything from carriage rides to crafts exhibits, live music and the three-course Fezziwig’s Feast.

A lighted parade down Main Street goes perfectly with a cup of homemade hot chocolate, and the Deck the House Christmas Light Contest lets you vote for your favorite home in a neighborly competition.

While in Garrison, don’t miss your chance to meet the start of the show. The Queen Elizabus is a double decker marvel straight out of a London storybook and a one of a kind vantage point for Garrison’s holiday-lit streets. If you can, get a ticket for the 5pm ride – it’s part of the evening lighted parade!

Read More: 17 THINGS TO DO IN NORTH DAKOTA YOU CAN’T MISS

OHIO – CAMBRIDGE

Create holiday memories with a trip to Cambridge, Ohio for Christmas in the Dickens Victorian Village.

Take a walk along the historic downtown streets to see 92 Dickens scenes, book a Victorian Tea, take a carriage ride or a trolley tour, and visit the National Museum of Cambridge Glass. End your evening outside the Guernsey County Courthouse, as the circa 1881 building is set aglow with colorful lights synchronized to music for a spectacular (and free) holiday show. – Bridgett Raffenberg from 365 Cincinnati

Read More: 7 Christmas Towns in Ohio to Put on Your Holiday Bucket List

RUNNER UP: CLIFTON

Located outside of Dayton, Clifton is one of Ohio’s most popular small town day or weekend trips, and Christmas is no exception. The village’s historic water-powered Clifton Mill draws history buffs from across the state and also happens to be home to a beloved eatery.

Around the holidays, the mill is illuminated in a holiday light glow, twinkling as night settles upon the village. Nearly 4 million lights outline the unique contours of the mill, cascading into a waterfall-like formation near its base. A mini-village, Santa Claus Museum and Workshop and vintage toy collection add to your experience.

Clifton’s Legendary Lights are 30 minutes outside of Dayton and just under an hour from Columbus.

Read More: 16 THINGS TO DO IN DAYTON OHIO FOR YEAR-ROUND FUN

OKLAHOMA – OKLAHOMA CITY

If you’re in the Oklahoma City area over the holidays, don’t miss some of the city’s most popular seasonal celebrations. Downtown in December celebrates Christmas by bringing the city’s downtown district to life with an events schedule, performances, gift sales and much, much more.

After catching the Oklahoma City Tree Lighting, head to Automobile Alley for the annual Lights on Broadway event. Taking place on two Saturdays in December, Lights on Broadway invites local businesses to deck out their window displays and keep their doors open until the sun goes down. Giveaways and special offers join music showcases, Santa photo-ops and balloon art to delight the whole family.

If you’re staying awhile, keep your eye out for the Saints Santa Run and OKC Ballet’s Nutcracker performance, as well.

Read More: 15 FUN THINGS TO DO IN OKLAHOMA CITY EVERYONE WILL LOVE

OREGON – JACKSONVILLE

Located just west of the hub of Medford, Jacksonville is one of Oregon’s former mining towns. These days, the small city is home to a Victorian Christmas celebration, drawing visitors from Medford and beyond. While the annual Tree Lighting usually takes place in late November, December is marked by the city’s Victorian Christmas Parade, a festive procession you won’t want to miss.

On weekends, Jacksonville’s main streets are adrift with live music, happy shoppers and holiday bustle. Kids can meet and greet Father Christmas before picking out unique local gifts for family and friends back home. The city also hosts Victorian holiday traditions at the C.C. Beekman House Museum, with in-depth tours led by docents.

Read More: 38 ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL THINGS TO DO IN OREGON

PENNSYLVANIA – PITTSBURGH

When it comes to Pittsburgh, PA and Christmas, it’s a big city with a small town vibe. Light-Up Night officially kicks off the holiday season with free horse-drawn buggy rides, life-size crèche (manger scene), and a free shopping shuttle. But the coolest downtown draw is the German Christmas Market in Market Square.

Bundle up the kiddos, hit the ice rink at PPG Place, and enjoy the Pittsburgh traditions that locals adore. – Karyn Locke from Sand and Snow

Read More: Free Things to Do in Pittsburgh During the Holidays

RUNNER UP: BETHLEHEM

If you’re looking for a Northeastern Christmas without traveling too far from Philadelphia, New Jersey, or New York, explore Pennsylvania’s very own Christmas City. Located a few minutes east of Allentown, Bethlehem is all about tradition, bringing events, displays and showcases to residents and visitors during the holiday season.

Start with the Trees of Historic Bethlehem, an experience that will take you through five historic sites to see nearly 30 fully decorated Christmas trees, each adorned by the Bethlehem Garden Club and inspired by the year’s theme.

Set aside an evening to take part in Bethlehem’s Christmas City Stroll, featuring guided tours touching on the town’s history, culture and legendary tales. If you’re staying an extra night, check out the Bethlehem By Night Motorcoach Tour, an original spin on a city tour. The tour route includes the Bethlehem star and a number of historic sites.

Top off your visit with one of the town’s horse drawn carriage rides, a vintage tradition that transports you back to Bethlehem’s bygone eras.

Read More: 22 THINGS TO DO IN PENNSYLVANIA YOU CAN’T MISS

RHODE ISLAND – NEWPORT

While Newport is known as the “Sailing Capital of the World,” this historic, East Coast town still sparkles in the winter. Christmas in Newport is a month-long celebration of the holiday season. From the white lights that illuminate the buildings, representing candlelight from bygone days; to a series of holiday events, and especially Christmas at the Newport Mansions, winter can be a lovely time to visit Newport.

Three of the Newport Mansions are decorated for Christmas around the holidays — The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House. Each of these National Historic Landmarks are filled with thousands of poinsettias, fresh flowers and evergreens from late November through early January.

The Newport Historical Society also offers lantern-led group tours of the charming neighborhoods. For those seeking more modern holiday festivities, you can also enjoy outdoor ice skating at Gurney’s Newport Skating Center and then warm up by booking an igloo at the Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina. – Tamara Gruber from We 3 Travel

Read More: THINGS TO DO IN NEWPORT RHODE ISLAND IN THE WINTER

SOUTH CAROLINA – FOUNTAIN INN

Experience the magic of a horse drawn carriage ride at Christmas in Fountain Inn, SC. Part of “Christmas Inn Our Town,” the old-fashioned Christmas season in Fountain Inn also includes a traditional parade, merry markets, a Christmas tree lighting, and even a special Polar Express trolley ride.

The town, decked out in twinkling lights, red bows and holiday decor brings big time Christmas charm. – Bethany Winston for Kidding Around Greenville

Read More: Christmas in Fountain Inn, SC

SOUTH DAKOTA – SIOUX FALLS

Known for its photogenic waterfall and historic Queen Bee Mill, Sioux Falls is your premiere South Dakota Christmas destination. Winter Wonderland in Falls Park invites guests to walk through light displays that illuminate both the waterfall and the natural landscape around it in colorful Christmas hues.

Your Wonderland experience will also include decorated trees, animated elements, and live music, keeping you company as you admire the displays. Sioux Falls’ museums, local eateries and riverside hangouts complete your stay as you spend the holidays in South Dakota.

Read More: 17 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA

TENNESSEE- PIGEON FORGE

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee offers a bright and festive Winterfest celebrating the Christmas season and wintertime. You’ll find winter themed shows, dinner events, amazing holiday lights, amusement rides, and so much more!

Don’t forget to ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at night to view half a million twinkling lights from the sky! – Bethany Winston for Kidding Around Greenville

Read More: Winterfest in Pigeon Forge

RUNNER UP: FRANKLIN

If you’re visiting Tennessee in December, but want to avoid Nashville’s crowds, head slightly south, stopping in Franklin. The city’s holiday events may not have the bar-hopping atmosphere of the state’s capital, but their thoughtful charm makes for a relaxing holiday experience for the whole family.

Franklin’s Dickens of a Christmas celebration re-imagines historic downtown Franklin as Victorian-era London, featuring a cast of characters from Dickens’ own work. The stars of Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol make an appearance, along with a jolly Father and Mother Christmas. Dance performances, food and drink, a craft market and even a whiskey lounge are all part of Dickens of a Christmas.

When in Franklin, be sure to catch the city’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony as well. Expect music performances and plenty of holiday cheer leading up to the big moment.

Read More: 18 THINGS TO DO IN FRANKLIN TN YOU’RE GONNA LOVE

TEXAS – GRAPEVINE

When a city is the proclaimed “Christmas Capital of Texas,” rest assured it’s going to deliver during the holiday season. Grapevine, Texas schedules over 40 days of celebration, including 1400 Christmas-themed events, providing the quintessential backdrop for holiday fun.

Favorites include the North Pole Express train ride with Santa (there’s also a wine train for parents), Christmas movies at the historical Palace Theatre, and new in 2022, an outdoor skating rink. Main Street is filled with festive shops and restaurants, and decorations galore. This is sure to be one of the best places to visit if you’re spending Christmas in Texas! – Kirsten Maxwell from Kids Are A Trip

Read More: Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in Texas

UTAH – PARK CITY

Famous for its top notch ski runs, Utah’s Park City can easily double as your Christmas destination, especially if you were planning to hit the slopes this winter anyway. Starting with the Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Canyons Village, kickstart your holiday getaway by meeting Santa, finding the perfect handcrafted gift and dancing to live music. The city’s Electric Parade is another must-see; Santa will make an appearance there, too, along with decked out floats and caroling groups.

Train aficionados young and old will love Heber Valley Railroad’s North Pole Express experience, a 90-minute train ride accompanied by live music, cookies, and plenty of hot chocolate to keep you toasty.

As Christmas Day gets closer, be sure to catch Santa’s grand entrance via the Town Lift, a performance of The Nutcracker by Ballet West, and Park City’s annual Mountain Torchlight Parade.

Read More: THE BEST ‘THINGS TO DO IN PARK CITY’ FAMILY-FUN ITINERARY FOR YOUR WINTER VACATION

VERMONT – WOODSTOCK

Located just north of Vermont’s rolling Green Mountains, the little town of Woodstock invites you to leave city life behind and settle into a picture-perfect New English Christmas. With winding streets, a historic town square and classic covered bridge, the community is an ideal setting for an old-fashioned holiday experience.

Looking forward to all year, Woodstock’s Wassail Weekend brings three days of non-stop fun to the heart of town, starting with a true Victorian Christmas at nearby Billings Farm. Try your hand at traditional activities like candle dipping, before heading back to town to catch a performance at the Town Hall Theatre.

Throughout the weekend, you’ll also have the chance to participate in the Wassail Scavenger Hunt, hop on a carriage ride, witness the Yule Log and Memory Tree Lighting, and bask in the glow of 400 luminaries at the  Lighting of the Luminaries event. If the kids have any last minute wishes to tell Santa, you’ll find the star of the show at the local ice skating rink and the Town Hall Theater over the course of the weekend.

Read More: 15+ SENSATIONAL THINGS TO DO IN VERMONT ANY TIME OF YEAR

VIRGINIA – ALEXANDRIA

The historic streets of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia sparkle during the Christmas season. Boutiques and restaurants draw shoppers to King Street, while festive holiday decorations are reflected in the cobblestone streets of Captains Row.

The Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, one of several unique things to do in Alexandria during the holidays, kicks off the season with a parade of Clansmen and a lighted boat parade on the Potomac River. – Julie McCool from Fun In Fairfax VA

Read More: 25 Fun Unique Things to Do in Alexandria VA

WASHINGTON – LEAVENWORTH

Leavenworth, Washington is the best Christmas town in Washington State. Nestled at the base of the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town that loves Christmas.

Thousands of holiday lights decorate the entire town with nightly lighting ceremonies.  Don’t miss Father Christmas, carolers, and the Christmas market on weekends leading up to Christmas.  For a fun excursion just outside of town, visit the Reindeer farm for amazing photos.

The Nutcracker Museum is a must-see, filled with amazing nutcrackers from around the world. The Gingerbread Factory is the perfect stop for a sweet treat! Their pink sugar cookies are amazing. – Tammilee Tillison from Tammilee Tips

Read More: ULTIMATE LEAVENWORTH WA CHRISTMAS GUIDE! {VIDEO}

WASHINGTON DC

Christmas in Washington DC starts with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree outside of the White House on the Ellipse at President’s Park, along with the national Menorah. The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the Capitol’s West Lawn, is the tree most people hear about though. It comes from a different state every year, and is massive, towering over most buildings in the District.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you can enjoy some winter lights. Georgetown GLOW is a fun way to take in different sorts of lights in winter. Running for a month from December through January, this artistic light installation exhibit brings you around the neighborhood, with very little (okay…no) Christmas involved at all.

If you happen to be down by the Yards, check out Light Yards on the Capitol Riverfront too. Your kids will love it! When you’ve had enough lights, make sure you check out the Christmas markets around town, the Boat Parade down at the Wharf, and Christmas concerts at the Kennedy Center and A Christmas Carol at the Ford Theater.

DC knows how to make the season bright, no matter what you love or how you choose to celebrate the winter season. – Keryn Means from DC Travel Magazine

Read More: 35 Amazing Christmas Light Displays In DC, MD And VA

WEST VIRGINIA – LEWISBURG

If you’ve never experienced small-town West Virginia, Christmas is the best time to start. Located on the state’s eastern edge, the town of Lewisburg features a family- friendly Holiday Festival that brings the whole community together, starting with the local tree lighting ceremony.

From breakfast with Santa to horse drawn carriage rides, Christmas in Lewisburg is all about celebrating at your own pace. Kids will have the opportunity to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus, participate in sing-alongs, and enjoy the Greenbrier Junction Model Railroad.

Art gallery showcases, local goodies and sales take place throughout the festival, along with musicians performing your favorite Christmas hits.

Read More: 20 BEST THINGS TO DO IN WEST VIRGINIA YOU’LL LOVE

WISCONSIN – WISCONSIN DELLS

Overlooking the Wisconsin River, Wisconsin Dells is an area hub thanks to its theme parks, natural areas and popular downtown district. As the holidays draw nearer, the city comes alive with both indoor and outdoor winter activities.

The city’s Great Wolf Lodge hosts the yearly Snowland experience, inviting the whole family to admire the lobby’s surprising snowfall showcase, which features real snow inside the cozy lodge. At nearby Chula Vista Resort, kids can wander through the resort waterpark’s tunnel, which becomes Candy Cane Lane once the holidays roll around. Sweet treats and holiday decorations await you in your room if you choose to book a stay at the resort.

For the area’s most breathtaking light show, pay a visit to Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park, a new attraction featuring over a million twinkling lights adorning the park. The city’s River Walk is another holiday light destination, where visitors can admire illuminated riverside trees starting with the “Tree of Light,” a famous local maple.

Read More: 32 PHENOMENAL THINGS TO DO IN WISCONSIN DELLS

WYOMING – JACKSON

Jackson, Wyoming is one of the Mountain West’s most visited destinations, a title that the city upholds throughout the holidays and beyond. If you’re looking to organize your Christmas itinerary around skiing, winter sports, and snowy slopes, Jackson is your answer to a White Christmas.

Following the town Tree Lighting Ceremony and Santa visit, book a once in a lifetime sleigh ride that takes you through the nearby National Elk Refuge. There’s nothing like watching a herd of elk make its way through snowy woods, as you sit back in what feels like Santa’s best sleigh.

Once you’re back in town, the local Holiday Art Bazaar and Small Business Saturdays events have all your gift-giving needs covered, while Jackson Hole Mountain Resort invites the smallest athletes to ski with Santa himself. If you missed Santa during the tree lighting, you can catch him at the Town Square throughout December, or watch him arrive by Tram at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Read More: 29 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING

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