A coastal village perched by the Atlantic Ocean in the Canary Islands
Whether you like lounging or lots of activity, the Canary Islands will make for a memorable family getaway.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

6 Christmas Vacation Ideas for a Festive Family Getaway

Hot and Cold Yuletime Escapes Across the Globe

American poet Robert Frost was famously ambivalent about where the mercury would fall in the thermometer at the end of the world. In “Fire and Ice,” he wrote that he’d “hold with those who favor fire,” but that “ice / Is also great / And would suffice.”

He could’ve been talking about Christmas-time getaways rather than the apocalypse. For some, it just isn’t Yuletide without frost, while others want a little warmth near the end of December. So here are six worldwide Christmas family vacations at every temperature.

“The Best Climate in the World”: The Canary Islands, Spain

If you log onto the Canary Islands’ official tourism page, you’ll see a bold proclamation: “The best climate in the world!” It’s not hard to see why this Spanish archipelago makes the claim. With an average winter temperature of 68° Fahrenheit (20° Celsius), you’ll enjoy temperate times while most of the northern hemisphere shivers.

The port city of Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife boasts a fascinating Museum of Natural History, a 12 hectare botanical garden, and lots of shopping. A Canary Islands vacation isn’t complete without sunbathing on the black-sand beaches on Tenerife or enjoying the lush tropical splendor of Garajonay National Park on La Gomera.

Athletic types can take advantage of ample opportunities to hike, scuba dive, or windsurf, while nature lovers will goggle at the alien lava landscapes on Lanzarote.

A view of the Petit Champlain street in downtown Quebec City during a near-Christmas nightQuebec City's Petit Champlain on a near-Christmas nightPhoto Credit: Getty Images

North America’s Europe: Quebec City, Canada

“Québec is the idea of going to Europe without really having to go to Europe,” Frommers.com editor David Lytle has noted. “You’re almost guaranteed to have a white Christmas, and Old Québec does it up right with lights, cobblestone streets and a toy parade.”

So what should North Americans check out around Christmastime in this nearly 500-year-old city? Start by admiring the lights strewn around Rue du Petit-Champlain, the oldest commercial district on the continent.

Bundle up for a carriage ride around various historical districts. Young families can watch their kids’ eyes light up when they meet Santa Claus at the Quartier Petit Champlain.

Few trips to Quebec City would be complete without a visit to (or stay in!) the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which some claim is the most photographed hotel in North America. The Observatoire de la Capitale provides perfect panoramas of the city, while the gorgeous Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec boasts beautiful architecture.

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Outdoor square with lit up structures.Christmas celebration at the supertree grove of Singapore's Gardens by the Bay.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Southeast Asia’s Superior Xmas Shopping: Singapore

Celebrating an Asian Christmas sounds oxymoronic, yet in the city-state of Singapore, Yuletide is big business. Revelers work up a sweat in the tropical heat at the rowdy ZoukOut music festival, and history buffs can enjoy high tea at Raffles Singapore, a genteel throwback to 1940s-era British occupation. But one of the main draws is the Lion City’s tax-free shopping.

The ferociously free market nation goes all in for Christmas commercialism. Singapore’s various malls compete to win the city’s Best Dressed Building award, and the Orchard Road shopping district explodes into a multi-hued light display. So does Cloud Forest, a multi-story botanical garden that soars over 100 feet high.

Stupendous buffet-style spreads are de rigueur in Singaporean hotels, and the Marina Mandarin Hotel serves up Asian-infused takes on American Christmas staples. Those hoping to spend the holiday in worship will find an abundance of Catholic and evangelical congregations conducting services.

Teepee erected in a field surrounded by sage bushes and snow in Taos, New MexicoWitness the Procession, a celebration that's part Catholic mass and part Indigenous tradition. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Tasty Tradition: Taos, New Mexico

Twilit snowy streets. Sunset mass. A solemn processional. Rifle shots sounding into the snowy night. A Christmas family vacation in Taos, New Mexico is truly unlike any other.

On Christmas Eve, virtually every member of this historically entire town turns out for the Procession, a celebration that’s part Catholic mass and part Indigenous tradition. Guests are absolutely welcome, but any recording of the assembly is prohibited.

Taos also celebrates Hanukkah earlier in the month with equal vim courtesy of the Taos Jewish Center, followed closely by the Lighting of Ledoux Street, a bonfire-lit stroll among the area’s hottest art galleries.

Of course, there are ample winter-related activities at hand for families who are more interested in cavorting than culture. World-class skiing lies a mere 18 miles away at Taos Ski Resort and the gastronomy is all any gourmand could ask for.

A sunny, shack-dotted beach in Goa, IndiaSpend your days on the beautiful coast, indulging in delicious food from beach side shacks.Photo Credit: Getty Images

East Meets West in Sandy Splendor: Goa, India

Goa has a royal Indian history stretching back over two millennia, but people today remember it as a prime hippie hangout during the 1960s. This tiny corner of west India certainly has its share of laid-back tourists looking to tap into their inner yogi. But you can find a lot more than esoteric enlightenment in Goa.

Beaches run the gamut, everything from isolated Agonda to touristy Dona Paula to turtle-populated Galjibaga. Christmas isn’t a commonly celebrated holiday here, but you can see the Christian stamp Portuguese left on the region when visiting Old Goa.

The 16th century Basilica of Bom Jesus makes an imposing mark on the city, and its archaeological museum offers tantalizing tidbits of ancient Indian culture.

Don’t let the shores and structures divert you from eating enjoyment, though. Goa has a great food scene — if you avoid most restaurants. Too many sit-down venues are mere tourist traps, so stick with the beach side shacks and their surprisingly tasty offerings for the best family Christmas vacation you can imagine.

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Street with old buildings and picnic tables out front.For a classic holiday retreat, head to Castleton.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Quaint Christmas Communion: Castleton, England

Where Goa has the weight of dynasties behind it, Castleton exudes a quaint vibe as only a modest Derbyshire village can. Despite its small size, though, the town goes in for Christmas in a big way.

Every mid-November, Castleton flares with Christmas lights and St. Edmund’s Church hosts a display of some 40 decorated trees. Local mines host caroling sing-alongs, and visitors can gather in Peak Cavern to enjoy its awesome acoustics. Nearly two score of restaurants and inns serve up Christmas nosh, too.

Hoping to stretch your legs after stuffing yourself? The nearby Mam Tor walk, a National Trust certified jaunt, provides dramatic — and snowy! — views of Castleton itself and the Peak District in general.

There are plenty of Peak District attractions to get your heart soaring — from the physical activity and beautiful sights — as well. The village of Eyam is of particular interest due to its sordid history during the plague outbreak in England. While not the most festive activity, it’ll certainly give you an appreciation for the area and a feeling of gratitude for modern life.

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