So, we have all added a few things to our Christmas bucket list: go caroling, open presents, or put up Christmas lights. But let’s shake it up and REALLY get some things on your bucket list that are worth being there!
Let’s discuss a Christmas Bucket List, but add a traveling twist!
That’s right–it is a Christmas Bucket List: Travel Edition. Featuring traveling adventures that you must put on your bucket list only in Christmastime!
Spend Christmas Day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Imagine spending your Christmas in a fairy-tale town that looks like it’s been plucked straight from a storybook.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany is precisely that. It has unique architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and romantic, centuries-old buildings. If you are lucky, you might even get snow.
When I first visited this city in the dead of summer, I even got the holiday vibes. I then swore that one day I would return for the Christmas season!
I am not going to sugarcoat it, it might be a little touristy.
But, this town literally looks like a Christmas village come to life!
The town transforms into a winter wonderland during the festive season, with its world-famous Christmas Market, ‘Reiterlesmarkt‘.
The rich aroma of mulled wine, gingerbread, and roasted nuts fills the air while twinkling lights and beautifully adorned stalls add a magical glow. This picturesque town deserves a spot on your Christmas bucket list, promising an unforgettable holiday experience.
Ride the Ferris wheel in Winder Wonderland in Hyde Park
There’s nothing quite like the buzzing atmosphere of Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London, to spark that festive spirit.
Every year, from late November to the start of January, this iconic park transforms into a Christmas fairytale.
Picture yourself bundled up in warm winter clothes, sipping a steaming cup of hot chocolate as you ride the giant Ferris wheel. From the top, you’re treated to panoramic views of London, beautifully illuminated with festive lights.
The aroma of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine wafts through the winter air, while laughter and Christmas carols echo around the park.
Don’t forget to explore the Christmas markets where you can buy gifts, and trinkets, and indulge in festive treats.
When I lived in Cambridge, Winter Wonderland was a non-negotiable Christmas tradition! My family even flew out from the US to visit for some Christmas cheer!
A visit to Winter Wonderland is an absolute must for your Christmas bucket list. It’s an experience you’ll cherish, leaving you filled with joy and festive wonder.
Go on a ski trip in the Rocky Mountains
For all the snow lovers out there, a Christmas ski trip in the Rocky Mountains has to be on your bucket list!
Imagine the thrill of swooshing down slopes with fresh, powdery snow beneath your skis. All while against the backdrop of the majestic Rockies.
They are a true winter wonderland, adorned with snow-capped peaks and pine trees that glisten under the winter sun. The picture-perfect towns nestled in the Rockies dress up for Christmas. Their streets are lined with twinkling lights, offering delightful après-ski activities.
For more high-scale luxury, I would check out Aspen, Breckenridge, or Vail. If you are looking for a cheaper option, I would go for Keystone, Winter Park, or Ski Cooper. With that being said, it is an expensive activity and there are endless options throughout Colorado and other neighboring states.
Cozy up by a crackling fire in a ski chalet, sipping hot cocoa, and watching snowflakes gently fall against the panoramic mountain views.
And for a truly magical Christmas Eve, consider a moonlit gondola ride with a nice dinner at the top. It’s an experience that will truly make your holiday unforgettable.
Discover the Magic of German Christmas Markets
There is nothing quite as enchanting as the Christmas markets in Germany, known locally as Christkindlmarkts.
They are a vibrant mix of centuries-old traditions, mouth-watering delicacies, and festive cheer that should be a top priority on your holiday bucket list.
The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest and most famous. It features over 200 vendor stalls offering everything from handcrafted decorations to traditional gingerbread cookies known as Lebkuchen.
The Dresden Striezelmarkt, dating back to 1434, is renowned for its unique arts and crafts. It is also known for stollen, a traditional Christmas cake.
The Cologne Christmas Market is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral. It attracts millions of visitors annually with its festive ambiance and wide range of gifts and culinary treats.
In Berlin, you can find a variety of markets, each with its unique style. This includes the historical Gendarmenmarkt and the family-friendly Winter World on Potsdamer Platz, where you can also take ice-skating lessons!
My personal favorites were Cologne and Düsseldorf. When in Cologne, I was drinking glühwein, listening to live Christmas music, and almost in tears! Not going to lie, it was better than actual Christmas day!
Attend Disney World’s Magical Candlelight Processional at Epcot
For a truly unforgettable Christmas experience, attending the Magical Candlelight Processional at Disney World’s Epcot is a must-add to your bucket list.
This annual event is a reverent and breathtaking celebration of the Christmas story told through a celebrity narrator, a 50-piece live orchestra, and a glorious massed choir.
Held in the America Gardens Theatre, the spectacular performance immerses you in the yuletide spirit.
The grandeur of the event is amplified by the beautiful backdrop of Epcot, decked in festive lights. This truly adds an element of enchantment to the evening.
There’s a certain magic to Christmas at Disney, and the Candlelight Processional is the epitome of this. It certainly does provide a heartwarming and joyous experience that will be one of the highlights of your holiday season.
See the Nutcracker at the Hungarian Opera House
Ahhhh Budapest! A place very close to my heart–because I lived there! One of the things that cannot be missed during the holiday season is seeing a Christmas favorite. The best part? It is held at one of the most impressive opera houses in Europe!
The Hungarian Opera House, a splendid architectural gem in the heart of Budapest, hosts one of the most celebrated performances of “The Nutcracker” each holiday season.
The grandeur of the building, combined with the magnificence of Tchaikovsky’s music, creates an atmosphere of pure Christmas magic.
The story of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince unfolds through a sequence of vividly imagined dance sequences. This is a quintessential Christmas experience that should be on every holiday bucket list.
If you are in the area, Budapest hosts one of the most acclaimed Christmas fairs! Nestled in the heart of the city, Vörösmarty Square transforms into a festive wonderland with its annual Christmas market.
This magical affair brims with over 100 stalls offering traditional Hungarian food, handcrafted goods, and unique Christmas gifts.
Don’t forget to indulge in some delicious chimney cake (Kürtőskalács) and mulled wine (Forralt Bor).
Want more bucket list ideas for Hungary from someone who lived there? Don’t forget to check out my Hungary Bucket List!
Roam Singapore’s Gardens by The Bay Christmas Wonderland
Ditch the traditional snow-covered Christmas and embrace a tropical holiday experience in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.
With the annual “Christmas Wonderland,” this iconic landmark redefines festive charm with a blend of Eastern and Western traditions. Imagine the sight of the iconic Supertrees, draped in dazzling lights, set against the night sky.
Feast your senses on the Christmas market that offers a smorgasbord of international cuisine, festive treats, and unique artisanal creations. It is perfect for last-minute Christmas shopping.
And let’s not forget the exhilarating carnival games and rides. It also has mesmerizing festive performances that add to the holiday cheer.
Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay truly captures the spirit of the season. It is a destination that definitely deserves a spot on your Christmas bucket list!
Visit an Ice Castle
Stepping into an Ice Castle for Christmas is like entering a realm straight out of a fairy tale. It an absolute must-add to your holiday bucket list.
One of the most awe-inspiring ice castles you could visit is the Ice Castles in Midway, Utah. This hand-crafted wonderland is built using hundreds of thousands of icicles, creating a magical spectacle that is truly breathtaking.
If you’re looking for a more expansive experience, Harbin’s International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China boasts a dazzling array of massive ice structures. This includes replicas of world-famous monuments that are illuminated in vibrant colors, transforming the city into a radiant, icy wonderland.
Lastly, don’t miss out on the chance to visit the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Each year, artists from around the world are invited to design the hotel’s rooms.
Each of these destinations offer an unforgettable Christmas experience that you’ll treasure for years to come.
Climb Norway’s Mount Floyen during Christmas Time
For an unforgettable Christmas experience, climbing Mount Floyen in Norway should undoubtedly be on your bucket list.
Located in Bergen, the climb to the peak of Mount Floyen during the winter months is a mesmerizing journey. As you ascend, you’ll witness the city of Bergen transform into a magical winter wonderland.
At the summit, you are rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of Bergen, which lies beautifully illuminated under a blanket of snow.
For a truly Nordic Christmas experience, join the locals with the advent calendar, the Christmas Forest, or enjoy the view. Sharing stories, sipping warm gløgg, and singing Christmas carols in this location is a truly festive experience.
Bonus Tip: if you are in Norway, don’t forget to try Julebrus. One of my best friends is Norwegian and I had the pleasure of trying this “Christmas Soda” during the holidays. It might be a bit sugary but it is a unique treat to add to your bucket list.
Explore the Christmas lights display around Toronto’s Distillery District
Stepping into Toronto’s Distillery District during the Christmas season is like walking into a dazzling spectacle of holiday cheer.
The district, known for its historical buildings and unique artistry, becomes a festively illuminated paradise during the festive season. Thousands of twinkling lights are strung across the district, bathing the cobbled streets in a warm, enchanting glow.
The Toronto Christmas Market, set against this illuminated backdrop, is a treasure trove of unique handcrafted goods, delectable festive food, and heartwarming seasonal performances.
A visit to the Distillery District is like stepping into a holiday postcard. This makes it a must-have experience on your Christmas bucket list if you are in Canada!
Eat Christmas Dinner in the Great Hall in Harry Potter
For die-hard Harry Potter fans, the ultimate Christmas experience surely has to be eating Christmas dinner in the Great Hall. This is at the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. This truly once-in-a-lifetime experience transports you directly into the magical world of Hogwarts.
The enchanting Great Hall is decked out in full Yuletide decor. It is complete with the original props from the Harry Potter film series.
Christmas trees line the room, the long dining tables are laid with festive treats. Mouth-watering, traditional British Christmas dinner is served, making the magic of the wizarding world come alive.
Don’t forget to drink the butterbeer!
So, if you’re looking for an extraordinary Christmas bucket list destination, make sure to reserve your spot at the Great Hall. It will give you a magical Christmas experience!
Visit Santa’s Village in Various Places in the World
Every Christmas enthusiast’s bucket list should include a visit to Santa’s Village, where the heart of the holiday season beats the strongest.
One of the most iconic of these is Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland – the official hometown of Santa Claus. Here, you can meet the jolly man himself, send postcards from Santa’s official post office, and even cross the magical Arctic Circle.
Alternatively, you could visit Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, New York, one of America’s oldest themed attractions. This charming destination features a quaint village full of Christmas cheer, a chance to meet Santa and his reindeer, and a variety of fun rides and shows.
For a more tropically inclined Christmas, consider Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Miami. It boasts South Florida’s tallest Christmas tree and a host of festive carnival rides.
Each of these enchanting locations offers a wealth of magical experiences that will fill your Christmas holiday with joy and wonder.
Go Reindeer and Dog Sledding up North
For an authentic and exhilarating Christmas adventure, reindeer and dog sledding is a thrilling endeavor that absolutely deserves a spot on your festive bucket list.
Picture yourself bundled up against the cold, speeding through a picture-perfect winter landscape, guided by the rhythmic pattern of reindeer hooves or the eager barks of sled dogs.
In Alaska, you can even visit a musher’s camp. Here, you can learn about the ancient practice of dog-sledding and the remarkable bond between musher and their canine team.
Meanwhile, in Finnish Lapland, a traditional reindeer sleigh ride offers a serene journey through snow-laden forests.
Dog sledding in the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland provides an unparalleled festive adventure. You can immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness, glide across snow-capped fields, and experience the exhilarating rush of steering your own sled.
To top it all the possibility of sled riding under the Northern Lights brings an extra layer of magic to this already unforgettable experience.
Soak Up Some Sun in Hawaii Over the Holidays
In an unexpected twist to your festive plans, a Christmas getaway to sunny Hawaii offers a truly unique holiday experience. Swap your snow boots for flip-flops and your wooly jumpers for a vibrant Hawaiian shirt.
The islands welcome the festive season with a tropical twist, from Santa arriving in a canoe instead of his traditional sleigh to enormous Christmas trees adorned with orchids and hibiscus.
The iconic ‘Honolulu City Lights’ event is a must-see. This is where the city comes alive with dazzling light displays and giant Yuletide installations.
Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a festive Luau. You can feast on Kalua Pig cooked in an earth oven and freshly caught fish, all while enjoying traditional Polynesian music and hula dancing.
Celebrating Christmas in Hawaii is a unique blend of traditional holiday cheer and island-style festivities that is sure to make your holiday season unforgettable.
Enjoy Christmas Dinner in the Swiss Alps
For a spectacular Christmas dining experience, consider having a Christmas dinner in the Swiss Alps!
Picture yourself in a cozy chalet, nestled amidst the snow-capped peaks, with a crackling fire to keep you warm.
As you sit down for dinner, you’re treated to a breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps. Everything is bathed in the soft glow of sunset, their majestic peaks stretching as far as the eye can see.
On the menu, you’ll find traditional Swiss dishes like raclette and fondue. And trust me–there is nothing quite like eating these dishes in a true alpine setting!
The hearty, comforting flavors of melted cheese and locally sourced ingredients, combined with a glass of Swiss wine, create a festive culinary experience that is as unforgettable as the view.
Go on a Cruise Over Christmas
Embarking on a Christmas cruise is a truly unforgettable way to celebrate the festive season.
Christmas cruises come in all shapes and sizes, from the extravagant ocean cruises that journey to exotic tropical destinations to the more intimate river cruises that traverse through Europe‘s enchanting heartland.
Each brings its own unique flavor of holiday spirit, providing joyous festivities, sumptuous Christmas dinners, and spectacular views of twinkling coastlines.
With all of the choices of cruises, a European river cruise stands out as an ideal choice for the ultimate Christmas experience.
As you glide along the serene waterways, you will come face to face with a fairy-tale vista of snow-dusted landscapes and charming old towns adorned with twinkling Christmas lights.
The highlight, undoubtedly, is the opportunity to stop at Europe’s renowned Christmas markets. There’s nothing quite like sipping a warm mug of Glühwein, tasting rich gingerbread, and soaking in the festive atmosphere of these markets while at the port.
I did a Mediterranean cruise with my family over Christmas, ending in Paris for New Year’s. It was, to say the least, one of my favorite holidays and there were memories that we still talk about to this day!
Adding a cruise to your Christmas bucket list is, without a doubt, a magical way to experience the holiday season.
Take a Snowmobile Safari through Lapland, Finland
Embark on an adrenaline-fueled snowmobile safari through the pristine snow-covered landscapes of Lapland, Finland.
This thrilling adventure is a must-add to your Christmas bucket list.
If you’re fortunate, the elusive Northern Lights may grace the night sky, adding a touch of magic to your remarkable journey.
This fantastic snowmobile safari not only offers an exciting mode of transport but also a chance to experience the breathtaking Lapland landscape in an exhilarating way.
So, all you thrill-seekers out there, strap on your helmets, rev up your engines, and prepare for an unforgettable icy adventure in Lapland, Finland – a truly spectacular way to celebrate the holiday season.
Enjoy Traditional Carol Singing in England
For a heartwarming Christmas experience, immerse yourself in the tradition of carol singing in England. It’s an annual delight that never fails to evoke a sense of camaraderie and holiday cheer.
The best spots for this festive joy can be found across the country. One example is the grandeur of the historic St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. You can join the congregation in melodious carols under the iconic dome.
Or, journey to the quaint village of Dorchester in Oxfordshire, where carolers gather around a towering Christmas tree in the town square.
Don’t miss the famous ‘Carols by Candlelight’ service at Salisbury Cathedral. This is a magical event where you can sing along with the choir in the flickering candlelight.
For those eager to participate, community caroling events are plentiful – simply search for local church services or community gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Whether you’re a seasoned caroler or a shy first-timer, there’s an undeniable charm in joining your voice with others in these timeless melodies.
Traditional carol singing in England not only brings people together but is a quintessential Christmas experience that deserves a spot on your holiday bucket list.
Indulge in an Austrian Christmas Dinner and Concert at Schönbrunn Palace
Experience the grandeur of an authentic Austrian Christmas dinner at the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.
During the holiday season, the baroque palace, once the imperial summer residence, comes alive with festive decorations and a bustling Christmas market on its expansive grounds.
As you step within the palace walls, you will be welcomed with the warm glow of chandeliers and the soft melodies of traditional Austrian carols.
The Christmas dinner itself is a feast for the senses. Featuring Austrian classics like Wiener Schnitzel, Tafelspitz, and Glühwein, all prepared with traditional recipes passed down through generations.
And after dinner? A Christmas orchestra concert accompanied by vocalists and ballet dancers!
Admire the Beauty of Holiday Decorations around Tokyo
Tokyo, the vibrant capital of Japan, takes on a whole new charm during the Christmas season.
The city’s famous shopping districts, such as Ginza, Shibuya, and Roppongi, transform into mesmerizing spectacles of light and color.
As you stroll through these bustling areas, you will see intricate displays of Christmas lights that elegantly lace the buildings, streets, and trees.
Giant Christmas trees sparkle with thousands of twinkling lights, and beautifully crafted ornaments hang from every corner, creating a dazzling scene of holiday cheer.
In the Omotesando and Harajuku areas, intricate digital light shows elevate the festive spirit, painting the night sky with a cascade of radiant colors.
The most famous is the Blue Cavern in Shibuya, which transports you into a sea of blue illuminations!
Taking a leisurely winter walk through Tokyo’s lit shopping districts, and admiring the spectacle of Christmas decorations, is an unforgettable experience that should undoubtedly be on your holiday bucket list.
Go Ice Skating in New York
Every holiday season, ice skating in New York becomes a magical experience and a ‘must-do’ for your Christmas bucket list. The city offers a variety of rinks each with its own unique charm and festive spirit.
The most iconic is, undoubtedly, the Rink at Rockefeller Center. Nestled beneath the city’s dazzling Christmas tree, the rink offers a quintessential New York Christmas experience.
Wollman Rink in Central Park is another great option. Who wouldn’t want the chance to skate under star-speckled skies with the city’s impressive skyline as a backdrop?
For those seeking a less crowded option, try the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It features both indoor and outdoor rinks.
Or head over to Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, where entry to the rink is free, and you can enjoy a spin on the ice amid a bustling Christmas market.
If you are looking to escape the bustle of the big city, maybe take a trip out to Lake Placid–the perfect holiday getaway!
Whether you’re a seasoned skater or strapping on your blades for the first time, ice skating in New York offers a delightful blend of exhilaration and Christmas cheer, making it a must-try experience in the Big Apple.
Eat A Christmas Lunch at Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle, perched atop a rocky crag and overlooking Scotland’s capital, is an iconic destination that unequivocally deserves a spot on your Christmas bucket list. Imagine savoring a scrumptious Christmas lunch in the castle’s regal dining hall!
The Castle’s award-winning chefs pull out all the stops during the festive season.
You can feast on traditional Scottish dishes with a festive twist.
Even better, each course is paired with a selection of fine wines and finished with an array of decadent desserts.
Dining in such historic surroundings, with panoramic views of snow-capped Edinburgh, is an unforgettable yuletide experience steeped in culinary delight and Scottish tradition.
Attend the Christmas Festival of Lights in Portland
The Christmas Festival of Lights in Portland, Oregon is an event that positively buzzes with holiday spirit and is a must-see for your Christmas bucket list.
This annual festival, hosted at the Grotto, is one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions, attracting visitors from near and far. As you walk through the spectacularly lit grounds, the sweet strains of caroling choirs fill the crisp winter air, adding to the magic of the occasion.
The festival offers over a million dazzling lights, hundreds of musical performances, and a petting zoo for the little ones.
Highlighting the night is the awe-inspiring life-sized Nativity scene, a moving sight that embodies the true spirit of Christmas. There are plenty of indoor concerts and biblical performances as well.
Whether you are with family, and friends, or taking a solo holiday adventure, attending the Christmas Festival of Lights in Portland offers a luminous experience that promises to make your holiday season gleam with joy and wonder.
With so many festive experiences to choose from, spending Christmas abroad can be a magical and unforgettable adventure.
Whatever Christmas adventure you choose, each destination offers its unique blend of Christmas cheer. Or, maybe you stay home and spend some much needed time with your family.
So start crossing off these fantastic experiences from your holiday bucket list. I hope that you create memories that will warm your heart for years to come.
Merry travels and a joyous Christmas to you all!
*Special thanks to Explore Your Bucket List for contributing photos from Toronto*