Tis the season for going to holiday-themed public spaces, looking at Christmas lights, and bracing the cold. Many cities have some sort of central, holiday area, but here are three of our favorites:

Balboa Park:

Located near downtown San Diego, Balboa Park (as it appears today) was built in the early 1900s in preparation for the 1915 Panama–California Exposition. The park’s Mission Revival architecture, and the many on-site museums, are a pleasure at any time of the year.


But during the holidays Balboa Park is even more enjoyable, with Christmas lights, displays, and booths. San Diego’s temperate climate also offers a nice alternative to some of the chillier Christmas destinations around the country.

Temple Square:

Most people who visit Utah in the winter go for either the skiing or, a little later in the year, for Sundance.

But Temple Square — which is the headquarters of the Mormon Church — is also a worthwhile winter destination. During December, the square’s park-like grounds are festooned with millions of Christmas lights. It’s a spectacle in itself, and some of the church’s historic buildings offer grand places to warm up and grab a hot chocolate.

Rockefeller Center:

Yes of course you’ve heard of this one. But New York City looms large in our ideas about Christmas, and much as it’s important to see the city to understand America it’s worth seeing Rockefeller Center in order to get Christmas.

Via Anthony Quintano

I have never paid to ice skate at Rockefeller Center, and I haven’t even spent a ton of time there. Instead, my favorite things to do are merely to walk around, take in the scene, and then duck into somewhere warm.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


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