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Christmas vacation

Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance travel writer specializing in hotels and resorts. She's the author of The Food Lovers' Guide to Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about fashionable travel. Her work has appea...

5 Cities to visit right now

The holidays are a time to spend with the family and those you love. But that doesn’t mean you need to be cooped up in your house until January. Instead, consider a trip to any one of these top holiday travel destinations.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, AZ

With average temperatures in the low 70s, a winter vacation to Scottsdale is the epitome of "warm welcome." Take in 65,000 dazzling LED lights at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, where a custom four-story tree is topped with a 5-foot star. Christmas carolers, menorah lightings, spiced cider and a 6-foot gingerbread display are also on deck. For families, the nearby McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park's holiday light display is a can't-miss, and the 34th annual Las Noches de Las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden is fun for all ages. And the holiday season wouldn't be complete without some festive music -- check out the Musical Instrument Museum's line-up of holiday-themed events with sounds from around the world.

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, OH

How could we not put Cleveland on our holiday travel list? It's where A Christmas Story was filmed, after all! You can even go see Ralphie's house in all its splendor now that it's been restored and turned into a museum. Plus, there are outdoor skating rinks, lighting ceremonies and a ballpark that's been turned into a winter adventure playground. Through Dec. 20, take a ride on the Polar Express along the rails of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. While aboard, sport your finest PJs as you and the family sip hot cocoa, nibble on some cookies and enjoy a reading of the classic story. A grand finale with a stop at North Pole Village and visit from Santa himself tops off the experience.

Solvang, California

Solvang, CA

Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang's reputation as "Little Denmark" dates back to 1911, when Danish-Americans from the Midwest settled the area. Today, the town's architecture, churches and public art are awash in Danish culture. There's even a replica of Copenhagen's famous 17th century Rundetaarn behind one of the village's four windmills. During the holidays, Solvang's residents get into the Christmas spirit with the annual Julefest Celebration. This year marks the Julefest's centennial so there's no shortage of activities. Special events include everything from holiday wine tastings to nativity pageants and Danish musical performances.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Lancaster County, PA

We can practically smell the pine trees as we write! Lancaster County's German heritage makes it a prime destination if you're looking for a traditional holiday vacation. Lodging deals start at just $99 per night at select hotels, so you'll have plenty of funds leftover to enjoy quintessential activities like the Country Christmas Village at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum. Here, you'll take in the splendor of a variety of Christmas trees, including feather trees, upside-down trees and trees made with cotton batting! Downtown Lancaster is a major draw, with open markets and outdoor performances.

Wilmington, North Carolina

Wilmington, NC

Celebrate the season coastal-style in Wilmington, with more than 40 festive events to choose from. Stroll along cobblestone streets decked with holiday wreaths on every lamppost and see the beautiful lights of old Wilmington from a Christmas carriage or trolley tour. Through Dec. 21, the Airlie Gardens are downright enchanting with lighted displays, live music, model trains and periodic visits from Santa. Other celebrations include candlelight tours of downtown, holiday parades, brass concerts and a New Year's noon fete downtown, where your kids can ring in 2012 at the Children's Museum of Wilmington.

More holiday travel ideas

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