The holidays are here, and many of us are ready to begin our Christmas rituals: Taking in the city lights, partying with friends and braving the crowds to do some shopping. While many Americans stay home and enjoy family traditions, millions of others use the holidays as an excuse to travel.
According to AAA, more than 90 million people hit the road, rails and skies in 2010. Whether it's to visit family and friends or just explore the festivities in another city, the Christmas season is the perfect time to discover new places.
So, without further ado, here is my list of great places to spend your Christmas this year. They're in no particular order, but each one offers fun for singles or families, great shopping and tons of holiday lights.
The Second City is home to some great holiday activities. One of the most popular is a visit to the Walnut Room. Housed in what was formerly Marshall Fields (now Macy's) on State Street, the Chicago landmark first opened in 1907 and has been a draw for locals and tourists ever since. The first "Great Tree" was erected in the Walnut Room for Christmas 104 years ago, and the tradition continues today.
In addition to lunch at the Walnut Room, friends and family alike can enjoy shopping on famous Michigan Avenue, skating on the the ice rink at Wrigley Field and taking in the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo.
The Mile-High City is the perfect place to enjoy some wholesome holiday activities. Experience a true Victorian Christmas with high tea at the Molly Brown House Museum, take in the lights at the Denver Botanic Gardens Blossoms of Light show or pick up some unique gifts at the Denver Christkindl Market.
This Florida city is well-known as the home of Walt Disney World, a great place to indulge your children -- or your inner child -- in some holiday fantasy fun. Young and old can enjoy holidays around the world at Epcot or take in a Christmas show at SeaWorld, complete with real animals. If you're looking to indulge in a little Christmas shopping, Downtown Disney has something for everyone on your list.
New York City
Everyone should experience Christmas in New York City at least once. There's always a crowd to contend with, but the city is electric during the holidays. Not just metaphorically -- the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is illuminated by 30,000 LED lights.
The enormous tree is just one of many iconic displays to take in during Christmas in New York. Visitors can also enjoy the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the famous Rockettes or a Christmas walking tour down festive Fifth Avenue.
If you need snow to enjoy Christmas, Los Angeles may not be the place for you. But if you like good shopping, unique traditions and a touch of Hollywood with your holidays, Tinsel Town is the place to be. Visitors can ring in the season with the Hollywood Christmas parade, which winds down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards and offers viewers a peak at famous celebrities.
If you'd prefer something more traditional, mingle with reindeer at the L.A. Zoo or head to one of the local shopping centers to grab some gifts for friends and family. One local mall, the Beverly Center, will be decked out as a winter palace for the holidays this year.