5 surprising walkable cities to enjoy holiday cheer

Consider planning a getaway to enjoy the season charming downtowns are packed with programming and holiday spirit.

There’s something about the splendor of the winter holidays that puts everyone in a cheery mood.

Not only can you enjoy the festivities in your own town, consider planning a quick getaway to enjoy holiday programming in these stand-out cities where their charming downtowns are packed with programming and holiday spirit to enjoy.

New Orleans

There are lots of ways to get into the holiday spirit in NOLA – la, la, la. Hang out with Kris Kringle at NOLA Christmas Fest, or go caroling in Jackson Square.
Marvel at the holiday lights in Celebration in the Oaks, a month-long light show in City Park boasting hundreds of thousands of colorful lights and illuminated outdoor displays to showcase the festive season in New Orleans. An annual tradition that began in the late 1980s, Celebration in the Oaks is a family-friendly event that only happens after dark. Over the years it has become one of the most beautiful and popular holiday lighting displays in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of people annually.

Celebration in the Oaks opens every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and closes January 3rd

While visiting NOLA, be sure to see LUNA Fête, now in its fifth year, is free and open to the public and includes light projections, illuminated installations, and more as it explores new technology each year. Each year Christmas in New Orleans arrives in a blaze of glory when huge, creatively built bonfires are lit at sundown on top of the Mississippi River levees. Called Bonfires at the Levee these bonfires light the way for Papa Noël.

Or maybe you have wondered what’s inside our beautiful French Quarter and Garden District homes? Take a tour inside and enjoy festive decorations and New Orleans hospitality.

Philadelphia

Philly’s walkability is one of its greatest assets as a city. And, when it comes to the holidays, Philadelphia has become a first-class destination because of various events and easy access to them all. Once Christmas comes around, The Philly Holiday Festival presented by One Liberty Observation Deck has more than 20 events throughout the city. Many of the events are blocks away from each other, which creates a magical holiday stroll for all ages.

And just on the other side of City Hall is the Grand Court in the National Historic Landmark Wanamaker Building, which has hosted its Christmas Light Show annually since 1956. The department store revives the tradition of sugarplum fairies, dancing snowmen and more with a 100,000-light show narrated by Julie Andrews and accompanied by the famed Wanamaker Organ. Free performances take place every two hours during store hours.

Greenville, South Carolina

A walkable downtown, a wide variety of restaurant and accommodation options and many holiday activities make Greenville, South Carolina the perfect option for a Christmas getaway.

As you stroll through the illuminated, tree-covered streets of downtown Greenville, more than 120 locally owned restaurants, boutiques and one-of-a-kind works of art offer a getaway to remember! Be sure to hop on the free trolley to get around for a car-free weekend.

Kick off the holiday season with Greenville’s “Night of Lights” celebration on November 30 – a tree lighting ceremony complete with food trucks and live music. On December 1, the annual Greenville Christmas Poinsettia Parade takes over Main Street with holiday floats, carolers and more!

Grab your gloves and rent a pair of skates for a glide through Ice on Main, Greenville’s open-air ice skating rink right on Main Street.

Once off the ice, take a ride with Santa in a motorized sleigh up and down Main Street in downtown Greenville during the holiday season. The rides are chartered by Santa and Mrs. Claus. A team of elves helps sell tickets and organize the rides. And, don’t miss the magic of the holidays with at the Bon Secours St. Francis Festival of Trees as more than 80 luxurious and festively decorated trees are featured throughout four hotels in downtown Greenville.

Bellevue, Washington

This Pacific-Northwest destination combines walkability and holiday festivities. Downtown Bellevue offers six weeks of holiday traditions, dazzling lights, magnificent productions, and outdoor activities that are worth bundling up for. One must-see is the Snowflake Lane Extravaganza, presented by The Bellevue Collection, that’s a magical evening performance for the entire family. It’s a holiday spectacle of live toy soldier drummers, exhilarating music, animated snow characters, glittering lights all surrounded by snow falling every night along Bellevue Way. Join the Snowflake Lane excitement located on the street between Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square and Bellevue Place every evening at 7 pm from November 25-December 24.

Next, grab your friends and family and make your way to open-air holiday ice skating experience! Rain or shine, Bellevue Downtown Ice Rink is sure to fulfill your holiday bucket list. This family-friendly venue offers skating opportunities from November 25-January 8, as well as Free Skate Mondays.

This season, make Evergreen City Ballet’s performance of THE NUTCRACKER part of your family’s holiday tradition. From the magical 25-foot holiday tree, to the delicate snowfall, to the beautiful Pas De Deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier—discover an enchanted world filled with excitement and joy.

Also, The Garden d’Lights features over half a million lights that transform the Bellevue Botanical Garden into a blossoming winter wonderland. Each holiday season, thousands of visitors enjoy this dazzling display. This year, the route has changed, grown, and become more magical than ever. Enjoy the spectacular display of lights from November 26-December 31 every evening from 4:30-9:00 pm.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Not only is Santa Fe an easily walkable city, centered around a plaza with charming narrow streets lined by adobe buildings housing fine art galleries and independent boutiques all decorated for the holidays, but the city’s most popular holiday event is a walk!

Held every Christmas Eve in Santa Fe, The Canyon Road Farolito Walk is a festive Southwest tradition. For one night only, visitors join thousands of people to walk this famous road that is decorated with hundreds of farolitos (small brown sacks filled with sand and holding a glowing candle inside, often called “luminarias” in other parts of the country).

Many of the 80+ art galleries on Canyon Road are open for last minute shopping and to welcome participants to come in for hot cider or cocoa and to warm up around bonfires in the courtyards and sculpture gardens. You will hear groups of carolers singing and walkers are encouraged to join in.

Any night of the holiday season visitors will delight in walking downtown Santa Fe as most buildings around the city decorate with electric strands of farolitos. You will see these special Southwest holiday lights sitting on roof lines, fences and building ledges at every turn. The large trees in the Santa Fe Plaza are strung with colorful lights and the park setting glows brightly each night.

Another local tradition that gets participants out walking the streets around the Santa Fe Plaza is the candlelit Las Posadas procession, a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a location to give birth to baby Jesus. The procession will be held on December 9, 2018, and it ends at the Palace of the Governors Courtyard with carols and refreshments.

Erica Lamberg|is a business, health, and travel writer whose work appears in Gannett, US News & World Report, Bankrate, MSN, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Reader’s Digest and NBC News