Holiday Destinations and Shopping Hotspots

 Brrr…Baby It’s Cold Outside!

journeyPod has put our cold noses together to bring you some of the best holiday destinations in the western hemisphere – guaranteed to keep those cheeks rosy! Pull out the winter coat (or bathing suit if you pick one of our tropical destinations) and get ready to sing the latest pop version of a traditional carol (Mariah Carey’s Christmas album is still the # 1 seller).  Other holiday activities include spiking the Apple Cider, watching menorah lighting ceremonies and enjoying holiday movies (“A Christmas Story” and the Hanukkah flick “Lights” are two great choices).

The Holiday Season is a time to connect with the family, surprise loved ones with the perfect hard-to-find-gift or argue over the last pair of gloves at a bustling department store (think Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack in “Serendipity”). Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Chanukah – seasonal lights, the smell of roasted almonds and the festive sounds are hard to miss.

Here are some of our fave Holiday Destinations and Shopping Hotspots.

New York City, NY – How could we start the list with any other city? New York City seeps holiday spirit throughout its five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Every neighborhood offers something unique to appease even the most discerning traveler!  Marvel at this year’s 84-foot tall Norwegian Spruce at the Rockefeller Center.  Purchase unique ornaments in any of Holiday Markets at Union Square, Bryant Park, Columbus Circle or Grand Central Terminal. Catch the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular”, “Nutcracker”, “A Christmas Carol” or “Maccabeat!” Skate hand-in-hand with that special someone at the Pond at Bryant Park, Wollman Rink, Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers or Rockefeller Center. Shopping in the city during Holiday Season is truly a magical experience (or can be a madhouse if you wait till last minute). Be sure to checkout the trendy boutiques in Chelsea and SoHo or scour Chinatown for secret bargains.  We love Century 21 too.  Not the real estate company but the department store downtown that has bargains on top notch designers including Gucci and Polo.  Challenge your kids to play “Chopsticks” on the large piano at FAO Schwartz (Like Tom Hanks did in the movie “Big”).

Chicago, IL – The Windy City is known for its rapid increase in tourism during the busy months of November and December. Witness the Magnificent Mile of Lights Festival (more lights than at the Griswold’s!). The Christkindlmarket takes place in Daley Plaza, infusing the German traditions like gluehwein, sauerkraut, bratwurst, German beer, Advent calendars, St. Nicholaus ornaments and a collection of hand-crafted Nutcrackers. Dine under the Great Tree in the world famous Walnut Room and catch a free concert December 1-19 at the City Hall Concert Series. Shopping Fanatics – make sure to head down the mile strip of Michigan Avenue for all the best holiday steals!

St. Augustine, FL – Just 25 minutes from the Jacksonville airport, Jet Blue-jetSetters will enjoy the magic of Florida’s Oldest City and “Best Tourist Town” (voted by FamilyFun Magazine). The Fall Arts and Crafts Festival is held on November 29th and 30th and explores all the Spanish heritage that makes up a large part of the city. The St. Augustine ‘Nights of Lights’ festival runs November 20th all the way through the end of January and is not to be missed! Celebrate the city’s European influence and march with the town during the 54th Annual Christmas Parade. The new Ice Slide is opening at the 2008 Winter Wonderland Show at the Saint Augustine Amphitheatre (make sure to wear something warm to protect your tush!)

Orlando, FL -Let Walt Disney and the magic of Universal Studios send you on an enchanted journey of holiday spirit and adventure. The Gaylord Palms ICE show impresses its holiday goers with a Winter Wonderland exhibition made solely of – what else – ice (2 million lbs of ice that is). Enjoy “Disney On Ice”, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Candlelight Processional at Epcot! The Orlando Premium Outlets, Millenia Mall, Downtown Disney and Park Avenue at Winter Park are some of the best spots for shopping!

Toronto, Canada – Just 96 miles from the Buffalo airport, celebrate holiday season with the Canadians! Enjoy “A Charlie Brown Christmas” viewing and take in the holiday sights, smells and lights!  By far the coolest show is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. “The Cavalcade of Lights” offers weekly schedule of concerts, performances and shops.

San Diego, CA – Even sunny San Diego knows how to celebrate the cold season with a splash! The La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival boast classic cars, marching bands, community pride and holiday spirit. Share the light spectacular with other party animals at “San Diego Zoo’s Holiday Light Display”. “The December Nights” in Balboa Park is a must! Families marvel at an array of shows including a preview of Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo” (We quite enjoy the marvelous selection at the International Cottages Spirits and Beer Garden). Perhaps the hippest holiday event, “An American Christmas” is held at Hotel del Coronado, where guests enjoy a lavish 5-course dinner, music and dancing in the Grand Ballroom.  Hotel Del also offers ice skating even in the warm year round San Diego.

If the cold weather is not your thing this holiday season follow us as we share some amazing holiday HOTspots! Grab your Eggnog on the rocks, Candy Cane-striped Bermuda shorts and head down south!

Fort Lauderdale – Float away this holiday season at the Winterfest Boat Parade. Dozens of yachts, sailboats and small fishing vessels anchor together to watch leaping dolphins (sorry Rudolph), indulge in an Advent BBQ and watch as their chocolate ornaments turn into fondue. Not a boat owner or freeloader – watch the show from ashore at the Stranahan House. Other cool things to do and see include the “Festival of Trees” at the Galleria Mall or browsing through all the Christmas Finery at the “Las Olas Christmas Festival”.

San Juan, Puerto Rico – Even Papa Noel enjoys a few tropical moments delivering presents to his little ninos on this fun island! The “Bacardi Artisan Fair” is sure to keep you merry and singing (slightly off-cue) to holiday classics. Witness an impressive Christmas light display at the lighting of the town of Bethlehem, an event that attracts islanders and tourists alike!

St. Maarten – Looking for a quiet getaway this holiday season? Be sure to book your next escape to the luxurious island of St. Maarten!  Explore the Dutch and French Quarters and taste some of the freshest food across the Caribbean. Whether you’re traveling with the family or seeking a romantic few days – St. Maarten is guaranteed to do the trick. Tell work that you can’t make it back till the 27th as St. Maarten celebrates the British tradition of Boxing Day on December 26th!

For more weekend getaway and vacation ideas visit journeyPod.com!

Photo credid to Kruhme!

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