Great Christmas Travel Experiences for Families

By: andrewbowman

December 16, 2010

To those heading to one of our destinations this Christmas – we salute you!  And no matter where you are, you can keep up traditions and still spoil the kids. From snow courtesy of Mickey in Hong Kong to Christmas-tree style cacti and a mountaintop Santa, we’ve highlighted some of the best family fun to be had in some of our most desirable destinations”¦


New York

If you’re in New York for yuletide, you probably already know all about the festivities at Macy’s, but there’s more unmissable action to be had at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. The Holiday Train Show celebrates the metropolis and nature, with model trains zipping around miniatures of the city’s landmarks, all beautifully crafted from dried plants. A show ticket also includes entry for other activities including the Gingerbread Adventure, puppet and theatrical performances and a chance to meet Thomas The Tank Engine.



Holiday Train Show miniatures at The New York Botanical Garden

Holiday Train Show miniatures © The New York Botanical Garden


For more festive NYC info, see our post on Five Great Christmas Destinations.


Hong Kong

The feast of fireworks and spectacular lights in Times Square and around Victoria Harbour are great for ringing in the New Year, but families can also celebrate a more child-friendly Sparkling Christmas at Hong Kong Disneyland. Alongside seasonally costumed characters, much of the park’s décor undergoes a radical transformation and the non-stop artificial snowfall of the glittering “Let It Snow” parade makes the atmosphere perfect.

Snow Parade at Hong Kong Disneyland by tsechuen26 on Flickr

Snow Parade at Hong Kong Disneyland by tsechuen26 on Flickr



San Francisco

One of the best places to head for family fun in SF this year is San Francisco Zoo, where four furry, hoofed friends will be in attendance until early January for the annual Reindeer Romp. To see the spirit of giving in action, also check out what’s on the Presents For The Animals calendar, which commences with a gift of snow for the polar bears on 21st December.

Reindeer at San Francisco Zoo by jurvetson on Flickr

Reindeer at San Francisco Zoo by jurvetson on Flickr




You’ve gone for Mickey, Minnie and a warm winter, but you needn’t deprive the kids of at least a little snow. Head over to Celebration – a settlement originally developed by Disney, of course – where ‘snow’ falls nightly until the 31st December. Ice skating, Dickensian carolers, horse drawn carriages and plenty of appearances by the big man in red are also on offer in this little town that lives up to its name.

Snowfall in Celebration, Florida

Snowfall in Celebration © Celebration Town Center



Las Vegas

While Sin City is centred on adult fun and indulgence, there are still plenty of treats to be had by the younger members of your party. Ethel M Chocolates, whose stores are dotted around the city, have a factory open seven days a week for tours. Once the kids have indulged their Wonka-like fantasies, visit the adjacent Botanical Cactus Garden where the cacti are lit up like Christmas trees.



Also check out our post on seeing Las Vegas For Free, for more year-round family-friendly activity suggestions.

Light Up at Botanical Cactus Garden © Ethel's Chocolate

Light Up at Botanical Cactus Garden © Ethel’s Chocolate




If you’ve opted for Dubai’s sunny eastern climes over tradition, the Global Village is the place to be, where the whole world comes together in the name of entertainment. Try not to restrict yourselves to the huge fun fair though, get the kids learning the songs and steps of folk dances from across the globe. Events over the winter season include Bollywood dance, French fire-eating and a gravity-defying choreographed acrobatic basketball display from Hungary.



Los Angeles

Universal Studios Hollywood pull out all the stops for their Dr. Seuss-inspired Grinchmas, where the all family can come and play – in real snow! The whole set of the Whoville comes alive with a cast of characters to sing along with, while kids also get the chance to help The Grinch and Max the dog return presents to the townsfolk.

Whoville at Universal Studios Hollywood by Mot the barber on Flickr

Whoville at Universal Studios Hollywood by Mot the barber on Flickr



Cape Town


Table Mountain might be the last place you’d expect to see Father Christmas, but he’ll be making a couple of special stops atop the Cape’s great natural wonder – with a sackfull of gifts in tow. A whole area of the mountain’s cableway is cordoned off exclusively for children’s activitiesthroughout December and into January, with Santa stopping by on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day.


Thanks to Flickr photographers tsechuen26, jurvetson and Mot the barber.

For the best deals ton flights to any of the above destinations, visit