If home is not where you want to spend the rest of your holiday break, don’t feel guilty or burdened — it’s possible to embark on a getaway without hopping on a plane or traveling too far from the Baltimore area. Many of the best Christmas towns, holiday celebrations and breathtaking displays are located within the Mid-Atlantic region, requiring less than a four-hour drive — and it’s not too late to catch the seasonal attractions.
Whether you’re in it for the Christmas lights, the cozy ambiance of a small town or the adventure, here are some destinations worth the short trip:
Christmas City in Bethlehem, Pa.
In Bethlehem, Pa., which was given its name on Christmas Eve in 1741, the residents go above and beyond for the holidays, so much so that it’s been dubbed “Christmas City.” The town hosts a variety of holiday-themed tours and events throughout the winter season and features a robust German-inspired Christmas market. If you choose Christmas City as your holiday destination this year, here are a few events worth checking out:
Explore the city at night with a bus tour, hosted by a certified guide in period dress, who will clue you in on the town’s holiday traditions, past and present, and its historical highlights and hotspots, including the famous Bethlehem Star atop South Mountain. Open through Dec. 30. 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
Tourists can see the brilliance of the town’s Christmas lights and its trees in the Trees of Historic Bethlehem display, which features decorated trees, ornaments, and artwork at four different historic sites. The locations include the 1810 Goundie House (501 Main St., Bethlehem, Pa.); the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts (427 North New St., Bethlehem, Pa.); the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem (66 West Church St., Bethlehem, Pa.); and the Single Sisters' House (50 W. Church St., Bethlehem, Pa.). Open through Jan. 13. Closed New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Hours vary. $9-$12 for a one-site pass. $12-$20 for a multi-site pass. historicbethlehem.org.
And if you’re looking for an out-of-the-box New Year’s celebration and are a fan of marshmallow, attend the annual Peepsfest, which includes two-days’ worth of family-fun, fireworks and a Peeps Chick Drop, a 4-foot, 9-inch Peep, which is lit and dropped at 5:15 p.m. to commemorate a new year. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Dec. 30-31. ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem, Pa. steelstacks.org. For more information about Bethlehem, visit christmascity.org.
Koziar’s Christmas Village
What started as Bernville, Pa. resident William M. Koziar’s desire to decorate his home and barn for his family in 1948 has become a must-see attraction with more than one million lights, drawing in tourists from far and wide to this small Pennsylvania town.
Koziar’s tradition, passed down for three generations, has now evolved to include dozens of indoor and outdoor displays, including a reflective lake, a brilliant “Kissing Bridge,” an indoor train display, as well as an illuminated village, with a schoolhouse and Santa’s toy shop. Stop by the gift shops and take a picture with Santa for proof of visit to this magical place.
Open through Jan. 1. 6 p.m.-9 p.m. weekdays. 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m.-9 p.m. 782 Christmas Village Rd., Bernville, Pa. $10-$12. koziarschristmasvillage.com.
‘Christmas Candylane’ and ‘Sweet Lights’ in Hersheypark
See Hersheypark in a new light, literally, as the amusement park transforms itself into a winter wonderland with more than 4 million lights. The best views are likely from the top of one of more than 45 of the park’s most popular rides and roller coasters, along with a choreographed light show, live entertainment, and a visit from Santa and his nine reindeer. If heights and daring thrills are not your thing, opt to see nearly Hershey Sweet Lights’ assortment of nearly 600 illuminated art and animated displays from the comforts of your vehicle while driving through 2 miles of trails.
Christmas Candylane is open Dec. 30. Noon-5 p.m. Dec. 31, Jan. 1. Sweet Lights is open 5 p.m.-10 p.m. through Jan. 1. 100 Hersheypark Dr, Hershey, Pa. $26.95 for park admission includes access to Christmas Candylane. Sweet Lights admission is $19.15-$34.15. hersheypark.com.
A Longwood Christmas
Longwood Gardens transforms its already alluring garden grounds into a magical trove of Christmas trees reimagined for the holiday season. The traditionally decorated tannenbaums aim to please, while the trees crafted from books, birdhouses, stained glass, and those suspended in the air will expand your idea of what the holidays can look like. Other attraction include a main fountain garden, fire pits for the warmth and congregation, and lively carolers.
9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Open through Jan. 6. Timed tickets required with admission $12-$30. Children 4 and under are free. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa. longwoodgardens.org.
Winter adventure abounds at Maryland’s only ski slope, WISP, located in McHenry in Garrett County. The resort, which opened for the winter season this month, features a Mountain Coaster, a combination of a roller coaster and a snowy slide; snow tubing; snowshoeing; as well as snowboarding and skiing for all levels (Lessons are available for those who would like to brush up on their skills). And if driving back after the fun is over doesn’t seem appealing, stay the night at The Lodge at Wisp, rejuvenate at the resort’s many eateries, and hit repeat the next morning. Regular season hours vary and will be posted on the WISP resort website. 296 Marsh Hill Rd., McHenry. $24-$79 for lift tickets. $24-$34 for 2-hour sessions of Snow Tubing in Mountain Park, $19-$49 for snowshoeing, and $14-$19 for rides on the Mountain Coaster. wispresort.com.
The state’s capital is bound to bring some holiday cheer, with a host of festivities, including Lights on the Bay, the annually themed drive-thru holiday lights experience, which display more than 60 illuminated displays along the Chesapeake Bay. Open daily through Jan. 1. 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Sandy Point State Park, 1100 E. College Pkwy, Annapolis. $15 per car. lightsonthebay.org. And if you’re looking to end the year with a bang, head to Annapolis for its family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration, with a day full of family activities, music, and dancing to welcome in the New Year. Kids’ activities, including crafts, obstacle courses, moon bounces and performances by kids’ rock bands, will take place on Weems Whelan Field behind Maryland Hall and Bates Middle School, followed by closing fireworks at 5:15 p.m. 935 Spa Rd, Annapolis. The second round of festivities includes live music and dancing at Susan Campbell Park at City Dock beginning at 8 p.m. with the band Radio City leading the fun. It ends at with midnight fireworks. Dock St, Annapolis. annapolis.gov.
ICE at National Harbor
National Harbor’s annual ICE attraction returns, this time with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as its theme, presenting more than 2 million pounds of colorful ice sculptures, hand carved by 40 artisans from China, all kept at a chilly 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Christmas Village, where the ice sculptures are hosted, will feature a variety of other festivities. Slide down one of the four two-story tall ice slides, bask in a full nativity made of ice, or hop on the Christmas train rides ($4.54). The attraction will also offer gingerbread decorating ($30-$39), ice skating ($16.99), a free acrobatic “Cirque Dreams Unwrapped” show, and a cocoa cafe, where guests can warm up with hot chocolate and sweet treats.
Dec. 26-30. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 10 a.m.-5 p.m.Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor. Tickets for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are $17-$38 online. marriott.com.
National Christmas Tree at President’s Park
An annual tradition since 1932, the evergreen tree in our nation’s capital is decorated with mesh red ribbons, hundreds of miniature green holiday lights, white rope lighting and illuminated ornaments representing the nation’s capital and every U.S. state and territory. Each ornament has been decorated by everyday citizens. Be sure to look out for Maryland’s ornaments. Painted by visual arts students from Leonardtown High School in St. Mary’s County, the ornaments feature symbols and landmarks that represent the state. The tree, which is free and open to the public throug Jan. 1, will be lit from around 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. There will also be free performances onsite most evenings throughout December. 15th St NW &, E St NW. thenationaltree.org.
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va.
Venture off to Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town in Williamsburg, Va., for one of the largest holiday light displays in the country. The park’s festive attraction, which features more than 10 million lights, offers fun for the whole family, in the form of arts and crafts, Christmas-themed shows, sing-a-longs, lighted train rides, visits to Santa’s workshop, introductions to Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and live entertainment throughout the day. Adults can also enjoy some mature fun with wine tastings with specialty wines and shops where you can find gifts for loved ones.
2 p.m.-10 p.m. through Dec. 30-31, Jan. 1. noon-10 p.m. Jan. 4-52 p.m.-9 p.m. 1 Busch Gardens Boulevard, Williamsburg, Va. buschgardens.com/williamsburg.