Top Destinations for the Most Wonderful Time of Year
After a year that started off with uncertainty, carefully planned vacations this holiday season look to be more feasible than last year. With the most wonderful time of year upon us, it’s time to get the sparkles out and celebrate the end of the year on a positive note with your loved ones, and even consider celebrating away from home. According to our research, the appetite to travel again is as big as a Christmas ham with almost three quarters (72%)* of American travelers willing to say ‘yes’ to any vacation opportunity if budget allows and 63%* of American travelers saying that they don’t mind where to travel as long as it matches the trip type that they want, they're just happy to be away from home.
With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, we looked at the top destinations** that Americans have been searching for this holiday season. Whether looking to enjoy the twinkling lights in a festive city like Chicago or Atlanta, or looking to be warm and cozy in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains, we have something to inspire everyone this holiday season.
San Diego, California
Known for its beaches and warm climate year round, San Diego may not sound very winter wonderland-y, but it’s an incredible destination to celebrate the holidays as it offers several activities and attractions to get you in the holiday spirit. Think about ice skating on the beach, rent a car and drive through a true Holiday Wonderland at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, or hop on an Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights and Sights Trolley Tour and view the best San Diego Christmas lights in one evening. Rather celebrate Christmas from the waters? Join a Sunset Sailing Tour and enjoy incredible views of the shimmering Christmas lights throughout the city.
Where to stay: Surrounded by greenery, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa is a perfect stay to enjoy a relaxing Christmas getaway. This cozy boutique hotel with Spanish architecture and luxurious rooms is just a short drive from both downtown San Diego and the Del Mar Fairgrounds, so guests can easily enjoy a variety of festive activities San Diego has to offer. Guests can also enjoy a festive lunch or dinner in one of the three properties' restaurants, or sip a holiday cocktail at the property’ bar. And for the little ones, there’s even a kids hot cocoa station.
During the holiday season, the streets of Atlanta are shining brightly with the mesmerizing Christmas lights. And besides the beautiful decorated streets, Atlanta offers a variety of festive open-air activities throughout the season, including outdoor holiday pop-up markets where visitors can enjoy warm beverages and shopping for one-of-a-kind handcrafted goods. A number of ice skating rinks and giant snow globes are popping up throughout the season, making it an even more jolly festive season. Fun fact, Atlanta is also featured as one of Booking.com’s top trending destinations for 2022.
Where to stay: Celebrate the holidays at The Candler Hotel Atlanta, situated on one of Atlanta’s main streets, Peachtree Street. Originally built in 1906, this property features an incredible historic decor combined with modern luxury. With its central location, guests can easily explore the city by foot or public transport and visit festive sights, including the ice skating rinks at Park Tavern or Ponce City Market, and the ‘Garden Lights, Holiday Nights’ lights festival at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
According to our research, almost 8 in 10 (78%)* Americans want to use their vacation to spend quality time with friends and/or family. And since the holiday season should be celebrated together, Gatlinburg is the place to be for a festive family holiday. During the holiday season, there’s magic everywhere across the area. From the incredible Christmas lights of Gatlinburg's Winter Magic Festival to Christmas caroling in Downtown Gatlinburg. To make it even more magical and the ultimate winter feeling, travelers should visit the Smoky Mountains National Park and check out the frozen waterfalls. Travelers can also experience the incredible views of the Smoky Mountains by joining a tour of the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster Ride, the longest coaster in the east of Tennessee. If you choose to take this ride at night, you’ll be able to see magnificent lights as you move along for an even more unique coaster experience.
Where to stay: Bears Eye View is a beautiful chalet outside the city center of Gatlinburg but with incredible views of the Smoky Mountains. During the winter, guests can even enjoy the white landscape as snow usually falls in December, so dreams can come true for those travelers dreaming of a white Christmas. Cozy up with the family around the fireplace and enjoy a home cooked holiday meal.
During the holiday season, Chicago is full of excitement and seasonal celebrations, including ice skating at the scenic rink at Millennium Park, where you can also see the City of Chicago’s official Christmas Tree. But the city is also perfect for Christmas shopping for loved ones as the city offers many shopping districts, including The Magnificent Mile, one of the most iconic shopping streets in the world. For those looking for more traditional Christmas shopping, pay a visit to the Christkindlmarket, an authentic German Christmas market for an unique shopping experience. Visitors can enjoy cheerful live entertainment and original food and beverages like the imported mulled wine from Germany, Glühwein.
Where to stay: Located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood in the heart of Chicago, nearby many festive activities the city has to offer, Viceroy Chicago is a perfect stay to celebrate the holidays. The property is even part of our Travel Sustainable program, which means the property has taken multiple steps to offer guests a sustainable stay and makes finding credible sustainability information easier for travelers. Christmas shopping options are just around the corner as both the Magnificent Mile and the Christkindlmarket are both within walking distance.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Go back in time in New Orleans during the holidays by experiencing long time holiday traditions that date back to the mid-1800s. Even the traditional streetcars and steamboats are decked out for the holidays, making a New Orleans Jazz and Dinner Cruise on the Mississippi River even more spectacular. One of the highlights every year are the bonfires along the Mississippi River on Christmas Eve, built to guide Santa Claus. This tradition dates back to the earliest Cajun settlers in the region. Also, New Orleans is the culinary heart of creole and cajun food, and during the holiday season visitors can enjoy a true New Orleans Creole dining experience called a ‘Reveillon Dinner’. The best restaurants in town serve up decadent holiday meals in the spirit of this classic tradition, inspired by the traditional gumbo’s, souffles and lavish desserts, and are a must visit for every food lover.
Where to stay: Situated in the French Quarter, just a short walk away from Bourbon street, guests can wake up with views of the Mississippi River at One11 Hotel. The property was a former 19th century sugar warehouse, and the industrial elements original to the building’s architecture are still in place, combined with a luxury design decor. A bistro and bar are available on site, where guests can infuse classic well-known dishes with a Creole twist and sip Sazerac, a Classic New Orleans Cocktail.
Celebrate a tropical end of the year in Honolulu. Perfect for those travelers dreaming of a sunny Christmas instead of a white one. And while it may not directly sound like a typical holiday season destination with a winter wonderland background, the holiday spirit is very much alive. During daytime, travelers can sit back and relax on the beach or join a Downtown Walking Tour to explore downtown Honolulu by walking through the city's historic landmarks, but when the sun sets, the island lights up with the bright Christmas lights decorating the entire city. Visitors can also enjoy several Christmas parades, and take a stroll on the Waikiki Beach Walk while enjoying live music played every evening in December.
Where to stay: Halekulani is an incredible stay for celebrating the holidays at the beach, and a perfect accommodation for the 7 in 10 (71%)* US travelers who want to stay in an accommodation near a beachfront. This resort is located on Waikiki Beach and overlooks one of the island's most recognized landmarks, Diamond Head. The property offers three restaurants on-site of which one is internationally-awarded, perfect to enjoy a high end Christmas feast meal. With all the festivities going on, guests can also take some time to rest and enjoy a relaxing treatment in the property’s spa.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and conducted among a sample of adults who plan to travel for business or leisure in the next 12-24 months. In total 24,055 respondents across 31 countries and territories were polled (including 501 from Argentina, 1003 from Australia, 500 from Belgium, 1001 from Brazil, 500 from Canada, 1000 from China, 1007 from Colombia, 1001 from Croatia, 508 from Denmark, 1002 from France, 1000 from Germany, 1005 from Hong Kong, 1000 from India, 502 from Israel, 1003 from Italy, 1002 from Japan, 500 from Mexico, 501 from The Netherlands, 501 from New Zealand, 500 from Peru, 1000 from Russia, 1005 from Singapore, 1002 from South Korea, 1002 from Spain, 501 from Sweden, 501 from Switzerland, 504 from Taiwan, 500 from Thailand, 1000 from the UK, 1002 from the US and 501 from Vietnam). Respondents completed an online survey in August 2021.
**Based on Booking.com search data looking at search sessions between 1 and 24 November 2021, with check in dates between 23 December 2021 and 6 January 2022.