Cities shining in bright holiday lights, snowy winter wonderlands, and Hallmark movie-worthy Christmas towns in the Midwest — oh, it is a wonderful time of the year for taking one of these magical Midwest Christmas getaways.
With snowy landscapes and cities — big and small — decked in holiday trimmings, you’ll love celebrating Christmas in the Midwest. That is why I’ve partnered with eight other travel bloggers to share these 10 wondrous destinations for Midwest Christmas vacations.
Disclosure: This guide to magical Midwest Christmas getaways contains some affiliate links. When you click on one of these links, make a purchase, or book your hotel, I may earn a commission.
Certainly, with its Bavarian-style architecture dusted in snow, Frankenmuth, Michigan, is one of the most charming Christmas towns in the Midwest.
It’s also one of the most festive. In fact, Michigan’s Little Bavaria celebrates Christmas all year long — at least at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.
At the world’s largest Christmas store, you can browse more than 50,000 Christmas decorations and gifts. For a memorable souvenir, purchase one of Bronner’s unique glass ornaments or a personalized ornament to add to your own Christmas tree back home!
Of course, a visit to Bronner’s isn’t just about shopping for Christmas gifts and decorations. With three 17-foot Santas, a 15-foot snowman, and 300 decorated Christmas trees, it truly is a “Christmas Wonderland.”
In the evening, drive through Bronner’s half-mile Christmas Lane illuminated in 100,000 twinkling lights. Then visit the Silent Night Chapel, a 56-foot replica of the chapel in Obendorf bei Salzburg, Austria, where the Christmas carol “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht” in German) was first sung.
In downtown Frankenmuth, more holiday shopping, Christmas decorations, and outdoor ice skating at Zehnder Park add to the jolly festivities.
One must-see sight is the 40-foot Christmas tree outside the Frankenmuth Visitor Center. Not only does it dazzle in 23,000 glimmering lights, but it also performs a 7-minute Christmas music spectacle multiple times each day.
As you can see, Frankenmuth is a festive destination with European charm for your Midwest Christmas vacation!
Where to Stay in Frankenmuth on a Midwest Christmas Getaway
Decorated for the holiday season right down to the red-and-white plaid bedding and Christmas-themed coffee mugs, Viola’s Place is perfect for creating Christmas vacation memories in Frankenmuth.
Silver Dollar City, near Branson, Missouri, is one of the most magical Christmas destinations in the entire country. In fact, the park has won USA TODAY’s “Best Theme Park Holiday Event” readers’ choice poll five different times!
During An Old Time Christmas, you can find more than 6.5 million Christmas lights throughout the park and a Christmas tree over 80 feet tall. There is also a fun electrical parade, meet and greets with Santa, and multiple holiday-themed shows.
If you enjoy thrilling rides, you’ll be delighted to find many roller coasters at Silver Dollar City remain open through the holiday season, depending on the weather. You’ll also find craftsmen creating beautiful masterpieces like blown glass, basket weaving, and even a blacksmith.
You’ll also find a fun menu limited to the Old Time Christmas festival, including options like hot chocolate, hot wassail, funnel cakes, soups, stews, cinnamon rolls, and more.
If you’re looking for a fun Christmas destination that the entire family can enjoy, definitely consider taking a trip to Silver Dollar City.
— Submitted by Janae of Adventures With TuckNae
More Festive Things to Do in Branson at Christmas
Of course, a Christmas getaway in Branson wouldn’t be complete without taking a magical train ride to the North Pole. So, don your coziest Christmas pajamas and climb aboard the Polar Express — just as the young narrator did in the classic children’s Christmas storybook!
Where to Stay for a Magical Christmas Vacation in Branson
Displaying a Christmastime gingerbread village of three-feet-tall gingerbread houses, the Chateau On The Lake Resort, Spa & Convention Center is certainly one of the most festive hotels in this Midwest Christmas town.
Chicago, one of the best travel destinations in the Midwest, is a delightful place to experience the warmth and joy of the Christmas season with stunning holiday decorations and numerous festive events.
One of the most iconic sights is the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, where a million lights illuminate the famous Michigan Avenue. Another highlight is the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, a classic event featuring dazzling lights and festive installations, offering a magical experience for all ages.
Two annual Christkindlmarket holiday markets — at Daley Plaza and in Wrigleyville — bring a taste of European holiday charm to Chicago. At both Christmas markets, you can buy holiday crafts and ornaments, enjoy seasonal treats, and sip on warm mulled wine.
The ice skating rink at Millennium Park, set against the stunning backdrop of Chicago’s skyline, is another holiday staple. Ice skating under the Cloud Gate sculpture will add another layer of magic to your visit.
Many museums in Chicago hold special holiday exhibits and events, making them a great stop when it feels too chilly outside. For example, the Museum of Science and Industry hosts an annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit. The city also has a variety of special holiday-themed theatre performances and musical events.
— Submitted by Sophie of Delightful Travel Notes
Where to Stay in Chicago at Christmastime
Just like jolly ol’ Saint Nick when his sleigh stops in Chicago, you can stay in the Santa Suite at Swissotel Chicago. The 2,000-square-foot Presidential Suite transforms into Santa’s home away from the North Pole and is festively decorated with 17 Christmas trees.
Here’s something you might not know: Cleveland, Ohio, is an excellent Christmas city! With tons of Christmas events, holiday lights, and pop-up bars, Christmas in Cleveland is a favorite time of year for locals and visitors alike.
Cleveland was featured in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story, and you can visit Ralphie’s house from the movie in Tremont. The house has been restored to look exactly as it did in the film, and you can tour the Christmas Story house and a museum dedicated to the movie. (And if you want to take a ride down THE famous Santa Slide from “A Christmas Story,” that can be found at Castle Noel in nearby Medina, Ohio.)
Cleveland’s zoo does a winter lights show each year called “Wild Winter Lights,” and you’ll find three different outdoor ice skating rinks, including one in Public Square downtown surrounded by the city’s main holiday light display.
You can also catch a holiday concert by the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra, or see a Christmas production at one of the theaters at Playhouse Square. Additionally, the Allen Theatre is always decked out in decorated trees this time of year.
And, last but not least, Cleveland has 10+ pop-up Christmas bars this year serving up holiday cocktails and over-the-top decorations. You definitely won’t be bored around Christmas here!
–– Submitted by Amanda of Cleveland Traveler
Where to Stay in Cleveland
When visiting Cleveland at Christmastime, you can stay in Mrs. Kringle’s Suite at the Hotel Indigo Cleveland Downtown. If you’d rather stay where Santa does, then book Mr. Kringle’s Suite at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown.
Oh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for a Midwest road trip to Detroit, Michigan! During the holiday season, the Motor City is aglow in bright, twinkling lights and, oftentimes, glistening in snow, too.
In Downtown Detroit, go ice skating with the city’s towering Christmas tree in view at Campus Martius Park. Then head to Cadillac Square to shop for local artisanal gifts at the Downtown Detroit Markets and sip hot cocoa in the cozy, ski-lodge-style Cadillac Lodge.
Just across the street, the Monroe Street Midway offers free wintertime fun for all. Take a ride down the 80-foot-long arctic slide, or play nine nets of puck-putt, similar to mini golf, with hockey sticks and pucks!
If it’s a sighting of the jolly man in red you’re after, Santa and his magical sleigh are always a part of America’s Thanksgiving Parade. Santa also makes other appearances in Detroit throughout the holiday season, particularly at 1001 Winter Wonders. In this indoor winter wonderland, you can share your Christmas wishes and pose for a free photo with Santa.
View this post on Instagram
Where to Stay in Detroit During the Holiday Season
Stay just a short stroll to the Downtown Detroit holiday festivities at the trendy Shinola Hotel, where Parker’s Alley is decked in green garlands, big red bows, and white twinkling lights.
Santa Claus, Indiana
If you’re searching for one of the most magical Midwest Christmas destinations in the USA, then you cannot beat Santa Claus, Indiana.
After all, this tiny town lives up to its bigger-than-life name, and you can start your trip to one of the best places to visit in Indiana with a stop at the Santa Claus Museum and Village.
It’s a great place to learn about local history as you explore the Santa Claus Museum, the Santa Claus Church from 1880, and the original Santa Claus Post Office.
Next, you can admire an astounding, 22-foot-tall Santa Claus statue and go on a fun scavenger hunt to find the 15 other Santas scattered throughout town.
Afterward, grab some sweets at Santa’s Candy Castle, a beautifully decorated Christmas-themed shop, where you can celebrate Christmas traditions and purchase vintage candies, hot cocoa, and delicious Chicago Popcorn (caramel corn with cheddar).
You can also attend an array of vibrant seasonal events that include chestnut roasting at Santa’s Candy Castle, the Christmas in Dale Light Show, Santa Claus Land of Lights, and a live reindeer exhibit at Santa’s TOYS.
— Submitted by Linda of Midwest Explored
Where to Stay in Santa Claus, Indiana
For your Midwest Christmas vacation in Santa Claus, reserve a cabin in the woods for the whole family. Outfitted with six bedrooms, the spacious Hollow Creek Cabin sleeps up to 14 guests.
With your loved ones, curl up by the stone fireplace and 12-foot Christmas tree to watch a holiday flick indoors or gather around the outdoor fire pit to roast marshmallows for s’mores. It’s perfect for a cozy Christmas getaway near Santa Claus!
If you want to head to the North Pole this Christmas, but don’t actually want to leave the Midwest, your best bet is to head to Duluth, Minnesota.
This cold, snowy city located on the western tip of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota takes the holiday season so seriously that it’s nicknamed “The Christmas City of the North.”
Duluth’s annual Christmas festivities kick off the Friday before Thanksgiving with the Christmas City of North parade and tree lighting ceremony in downtown Duluth. From then on, expect a whirlwind of holiday events in Duluth including light displays, shopping events, and performances.
No Duluth Christmas is complete without a stroll through Bentleyville, the largest outdoor light display in America.
Don’t forget to stock up on gifts from dozens of local vendors at the Duluth Winter Village — a Christmas-market-style event held on the waterfront.
If you have kids, you’ll definitely want to grab tickets to ride the Christmas City Express, which features a story, hot cocoa, and a scenic train ride.
Another favorite Duluth Christmastime activity is a candlelight tour of the famous Glensheen Mansion.
— Submitted by Ada of Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: A Travel Blog
Where to Stay in Duluth
For a magical stay, plan your Christmas vacation in Duluth when Santa and his reindeer visit the lakefront Fitger’s Inn. On weekends from late November through mid-December, Kris Kringle will mingle with hotel guests while his reindeer wait in the Fitger’s Courtyard.
Another magical Christmas town in the Midwest USA is Dubuque, Iowa.
This Eastern Iowa city along the Mississippi River hosts several Christmas events across the holiday season.
The biggest of these Dubuque holiday events is Reflections in the Park, a drive-through Christmas light trail in Louis Murphy Park. Visitors can tune their cars into a special radio station that plays festive music, while enjoying a candy cane and taking in the lights. It runs from Thanksgiving until January 1, and funds raised go to a local charity.
Additionally, the Fenelon Place Elevator, said to be the world’s shortest and steepest funicular railway, is lit up for the holidays. Please note: It is closed to ride during the winter season.
Other festive holiday events in Dubuque include scuba diving Santa at the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, the Merry Millwork Market in the renovated Millwork District, and “Home For The Holidays” historic tours at the Mathias Ham House, just to name a few!
The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train also stops in Dubuque every other year on its journey around the US.
For a festive stay in Dubuque, check out the Grand Harbor Resort. Each year the family-friendly resort and indoor waterpark offers special packages for weekend stays leading up to Christmas. Typically, these include water park passes, visits from Santa, small gifts for children, and more.
— Submitted by Kylie of Between England and Everywhere
Where to Stay in Dubuque, Iowa
As an alternative to the Grand Harbor Resort, book an elegant room at the boutique Hotel Julien Dubuque. Inside this historic hotel, a tall and beautifully decorated Christmas tree fills the lobby during the holiday season.
Adding to the holiday merriment is a calendar of “12 Days of Christmas” events including Breakfast with Santa, a holiday show, and Christmas Day brunch.
View this post on Instagram
Custer, South Dakota
On the edge of the Black Hills of South Dakota is the quaint, old town of Custer. This little spot is the perfect place to spend a magical Midwest Christmas!
The Custer Christmas parade is sure to bring holiday spirit to the whole family. After watching the parade of colorfully lit floats, celebrate the season with a family dinner at a local restaurant. Whether you prefer an award-winning restaurant or an adorable diner, there is always a delicious place to eat in Custer.
A snowy town like this is also great for outdoor winter recreation. Try snowmobiling, ice skating, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing!
Nature lovers will find many things to do in Custer State Park. From snowshoe hiking to Jeep Safari tours, there are so many winter adventures to be had. The landscape is beautiful, and you won’t want to miss landmarks like Needle’s Eye tunnel and formation.
Best of all, the Christmas season offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the park. Buffalo, antelope, prairie dogs, mountain goats, and so much more, you never know what you might spot!
There is nothing quite like celebrating Christmas in a winter wonderland like Custer.
— Submitted by Candice of CS Ginger
Where to Stay in Custer
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? For a snowy Christmas getaway, book a rustic yet luxurious holiday hideaway at Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort. You can stay among the glistening snow-covered Ponderosa Pine trees in a treehouse or modern cabin that accommodates up to 10 guests!
Shipshewana, Indiana, may be best known for its large Amish population and wonderful boutique shopping, but it’s also a fantastic town for a Christmas weekend getaway.
Early in November, the town kicks off the holiday season with the lighting of Shipshewana — during which you’ll feel like you’re doing your holiday shopping in a Hallmark movie — and the annual Holiday Light Parade.
Throughout the rest of November and December, Shipshewana celebrates Christmas in a big way.
Grab a hot chocolate and drive through the almost 2-mile Lights of Joy, get tickets for a Christmas show at The Blue Gate Theatre, take a buggy ride through the decorated downtown, or just enjoy a big old-fashioned family dinner at a local restaurant.
In addition, Shipshewana has some sort of special holiday event almost every weekend, so you can pick the one that is perfect for your family.
Thanks to the town’s over-the-top holiday decorations, everyone will be fully in the holiday spirit.
— Submitted by Pam Howard of Our Adventure is Everywhere
Where to Stay in Shipshewana
You’ll be near all the holiday festivities in Shipshewana when you stay in one of the cozy rooms at the Morton House Inn. Perhaps most cozy of all is the Schrock room complete with a fireplace to warm you up on cold December nights.
View this post on Instagram
Which of these magical Midwest Christmas getaways will you take?
As you’ve been watching Hallmark Christmas movies, have you been dreaming of taking a magical winter getaway in the Midwest? If so, I hope this guide to 10 of the best Midwest Christmas getaways has inspired your own trip!
Of course, if you are dreaming of a White Christmas, you are sure to experience that in Custer and Duluth as snow blankets the Upper Midwest this time of year.
Meanwhile, in the Midwest’s big cities — like Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit — snow may glisten there, too. But, certainly, the magic of the season will be on full display with dazzling holiday lights, outdoor skating rinks, and festive holiday events.
No matter which of these Midwest destinations you visit during the holiday season, you are sure to have a jolly good time!
Read Related Midwest Travel Posts
- Detroit Holiday Events Guide: 25 Festive Things to Do in Metro Detroit at Christmas
- 20 Christmas Pop-Up Bars in Metro Detroit
- 11 Romantic Getaways in the Midwest
- Where to Eat in Chicago
- Bloomington, Indiana Weekend Getaway Guide
Check Out Our Gift Guides & Holiday Recipes
- Holiday Gift Guide: 20+ Gift Ideas for Wine Travelers
- Coffee Lover’s Gift Guide: 20+ Gifts for Coffee Travelers to Brew, Drink & Experience Coffee
- 25 Cool Travel Gifts for Him Under $25
- 37 Festive Cranberry Cocktails to Put You in the Holiday Spirit
- Christmas Cocktail: Cranberry Orange Margarita Recipe
Save this post to your Christmas or Midwest travel board on Pinterest!