What Christmas looks like in every state

Frank Olito
·18 min read
hawaii christmas
Christmas looks very different in Hawaii. Marco Garcia/ AP
  • People across the US celebrate Christmas differently. 

  • Alabama, Idaho, and Oklahoma are known for their lavish state Christmas trees found outside their Capitol buildings. 

  • Light displays that you can drive through are popular in Connecticut, Louisiana, and West Virginia. 

  • States in warmer climates like Arizona and Hawaii get creative when it comes to their Christmas trees, by decorating cacti, for example.

  • This year, states are adjusting their celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

As December begins, towns and cities across the US start hanging up Christmas lights and hosting holiday-themed events. But that doesn't mean Christmas looks the same in every state. 

Insider went state by state to find out what Christmas looks like throughout the country. From the decorated row houses in Baltimore, Maryland, to the Christmas trees on Hawaii's beaches, every state celebrates Christmas differently - especially this year as states deal with the coronavirus pandemic. 

Keep reading to find out how your state celebrates the holiday season. 

Alabama was the first state to make Christmas a legal holiday, and the state usually celebrates with a tree outside its Capitol building.

alabama christmas tree
The state Christmas tree. Dave Martin/ AP

In 1836, Alabama was the first state to make Christmas a legal holiday, and it became a federal holiday in 1870. These days, the state celebrates its history with a tree outside the Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama. 

North Pole, Alaska, is home to the original Santa Claus House.

North Pole Santa Claus House Alaska
Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. Kit Leong/Shutterstock

In 1952, Con and Nellie Miller set up a trading post outside Fairbanks, Alaska, and called the town North Pole. There, the Miller family built Santa Claus House, a general goods store. You can also have a letter from Santa postmarked from North Pole, Alaska, sent to your child for the holidays. 

In the Arizona desert, some people decorate cacti for their Christmas tree.

christmas cactus
Christmas cactus. Jeff Greenberg / Getty

In 2018, a family in Phoenix, Arizona, made headlines when they built their Christmas tree out of a cactus skeleton. They called it a "Phoenix Christmas Tree."

Every year Fayetteville, Arkansas, hosts a Christmas light display called the Lights of the Ozarks.

Lights of the Ozarks
Lights of the Ozarks in Arkansas. Shutterstock

From November 22 to December 31, downtown Fayetteville in Arkansas is turned into a light show for the holiday season. The annual event known as Lights of Ozarks has been happening since 1994. This year, however, the tree-lighting ceremony is virtual.

California is home to the original Disneyland, which hosts several Christmas-themed events during the holiday season.

disneyland christmas
Disneyland during Christmas. Getty

From November 8 to January 6, Disneyland is usually transformed into a holiday celebration. The castle is decorated in wreaths, while the rest of the park becomes a winter wonderland. At the "World of Color: Season of Light" show after sunset, parkgoers are treated to a colorful presentation. This year, the main amusement park will be closed, but Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street will be open to help share that Disney magic during the holidays. 

Every year Denver, Colorado, turns into a holiday wonderland in an event known as Mile High Holidays.

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Denver decorated for Christmas. Shutterstock

From November to January, Denver is decorated in light displays, which include a 110-foot-tall tree, a botanic garden decked out in lights, and a zoo transformed for the holidays.  

Many residents of Connecticut admire the great lengths their neighbors go to when decorating for the holidays.

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The Setti family's house. Brownie Harris / Getty

For several years, the Setti family in New Haven, Connecticut, had the go-to house everyone admired. With a handcrafted nativity scene and several light displays, the Setti house was something of a tourist attraction for years. Although the family has moved on, other families in the New Haven neighborhood have kept the tradition alive. 

In Delaware, Nemours Estate is typically decked with elaborate Christmas decorations.

Nemours Estate
Nemours Estate. Gabrielle V. / Yelp

Nemours Estate is a 20th-century mansion with 77 rooms, and each is decorated lavishly for Christmas. Inside, you will find 15 Christmas trees and "hundreds of feet of greens and lights everywhere," according to the mansion's Facebook page. However, this year, the event has been canceled to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, transforms for the holidays every year.

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Universal Studios during Christmas. Shutterstock

Universal Studios is decked out in holiday lights, Christmas trees, and festive decor starting in the middle of November each year. In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section, guests can sip hot butterbeer, while the Grinch haunts the rest of the park.  

Every year, Atlanta, Georgia, spruces up the streets with large decorations and hosts the Santa Speedo Run.

Atlanta Christmas decorations
Decorations at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Although the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run has been postponed this year, the city is continuing most of its other holiday festivities, including a Christmas tree in Lenox Square

Sometimes residents set Christmas trees up on Hawaii's famous beaches.

hawaii christmas
Waikiki Beach. Marco Garcia/ AP

Since it's still warm during Christmas in Hawaii, the state celebrates mostly on the beach.

In Idaho, there's a Christmas tree in front of the statehouse.

Idaho State House Christmas Tree
Idaho's Statehouse. Charles Knowles/Shutterstock

Every year, Idaho's state Christmas tree is lit in front of the statehouse in Boise. In 2018, there was a 35-foot blue spruce, which was grown in Southeast Boise. Although there will be no formal tree lighting ceremony this year, the governor invited people to visit the Capitol and see the tree in person. 

Chicago, Illinois, has an annual holiday market called Christkindlmarket.

Chicago Christmas Christkindlmarket
Christkindlmarket. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Every year Chicago hosts the Christkindlmarket, which is inspired by a similar holiday market in Germany that dates back to 1545. Stateside, the tradition started in 1996, and 24 years later, it has become a popular attraction for residents looking to buy gifts, ornaments, and food from around the world. This year, however, the market will be virtual, with an online marketplace, events, and activities.

Indianapolis, Indiana, decorates one of its statues for the holidays at an event known as the Circle of Lights.

Indianapolis circle of lights
Circle of Lights. Shutterstock

Residents of Indianapolis decorate the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors monument with 4,784 Christmas lights to make it look like a giant Christmas tree. Travelocity named it one of the best Christmas trees to see in the US, but this year residents will enjoy the event from home, as it's broadcast live on TV.

Keokuk, Iowa, hosts a light display in Rand Park that you can drive through.

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A light display. Shutterstock

Every year, 20,000 cars drive through the City of Christmas Display of Lights in Keokuk's Rand Park. Driving through the park, guests can see over 150 light displays that include the nativity scene, Santa's workshop, reindeer, and elves. 

A public garden in Wichita, Kansas, hosts a light show every Christmas.

botanica kansas
Illuminations. Jenna G. / Yelp

Botanica is a public garden in Wichita, Kansas, and every Christmas, it hosts a light show known as Illuminations. At the event, the greenery and grounds are completely covered in two million Christmas lights. In the garden, you can also find Santa and a carousel for children. It has even been described as Wichita's biggest holiday attraction.

Every year, residents of Lexington, Kentucky, enjoy ice skating at Triangle Park.

lexington kentucky
Ice skating at Triangle Park. Shutterstock

According to its website, Triangle Park is "transformed into a winter wonderland" during the holiday season, including a large ice skating rink. This year, guests are required to wear a proper face mask when skating. 

New Orleans' City Park in Louisiana is converted into a light show for the holiday season with an event called Celebration in the Oaks.

celebration in the oaks new orleans
Celebration in the Oaks. Lee Celano/ Reuters

The Celebration in the Oaks is an annual tradition where the city covers 25 acres of New Orleans City Park in Christmas lights. The display spans the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. It's estimated that 165,000 people visit the light show every year, and this year guests will drive through the attraction to ensure social distancing. 

Mainers love to build Christmas trees out of lobster traps.

lobster trap christmas trees
Lobster trap Christmas tree. Robert F. Bukaty/ AP

Since Maine is known for its lobster, it's fitting that residents build special Christmas trees focused on the sea creature. In 2018, for example, people in Rockland, Maine, built the world's largest tree out of lobster traps, reaching 40.5 feet. The tree included 155 lobster traps, 180 lobster buoys, and 2,500 lights. This year, the unique tree was built by thirty members of the Coast Guard who all wore face masks. 

The row houses in a neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, is dubbed the "Miracle on 34th Street" for its holiday decor.

baltimore christmas
Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland. Patrick Semansky/ AP

Hampden is a neighborhood of row houses in Baltimore, Maryland, that attracts visitors every year for its elaborate Christmas decorations. Almost all of the homes on the block are covered in Christmas lights, candy canes, Santa dolls, and other holiday displays. This year, however, residents are being discouraged to come for safety concerns.

In Massachusetts, the Boston Common gets decorated in Christmas lights.

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Boston Common. Charles Krupa/ AP

Boston transforms during the holiday season, covering hundreds of trees in the Common, the Public Garden, Copley Square, and the Prudential Center in Christmas lights. The Common, however, is where the city's largest Christmas tree is located.

The Detroit Zoo in Michigan turns into a massive light display for the holidays.

detroit zoo christmas
Detroit Zoo during Christmas. Shutterstock

Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo is a 32-night event that covers the entire front half of the zoo, surrounding trees, and some buildings in over five million lights. Some of the massive light displays include a whale, a fox, and a snake. 

Rum River Tree Farm in Anoka, Minnesota, is one of the most popular places to get a tree in the state.

christmas tree minnesota
Rum River Tree Farm in Anoka, Minnesota. Eric Miller/ Reuters

Cutting down Christmas trees is a common tradition all over the US, and that's no different in Minnesota. Some residents of the Gopher State go to the famous Rum River Tree Farm in Anoka, Minnesota, which remains open during the pandemic. 

Biloxi Beach in Mississippi typically hosts a Christmas boat parade.

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Boats decorated for Christmas. Shutterstock

While most of the country decorates houses for Christmas, residents in Mississippi usually decorate their boats with Christmas lights and other holiday decor. The boaters show off their festive vessels at the Biloxi Beach Water Boat Parade, which culminates in a fireworks show over the water, but the event was rescheduled for 2021

Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, is known for its transformation during Christmastime.

kansas city union station
Kansas City's Union Station. Shutterstock

Union Station in Kansas City is decorated in Christmas lights, falling snowflakes, a Christmas tree, and toy trains for the holiday season. People also come to the station to take in the holiday-themed shows, which include piano recitals, pageants, and caroling. 

The town of Bigfork is known as "Montana's Christmas Village."

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A store in Bigfork decorated for Christmas. The Jug Tree / Yelp

The residents of Bigfork are known as Elves, as they are the ones responsible for turning the town into a popular destination for Christmas. The Elves cover the town in colorful lights and put up a Christmas tree near the Bigfork Inn. The town hosts a parade of lights, pictures with Santa, and holiday shows at the local theatre. 

The odds of having a white Christmas in Nebraska are somewhat high.

Nebraska christmas
White Christmas in Nebraska. Nati Harnik/ AP

In America's heartland, the likelihood of snowfall on Christmas is high. In Omaha, for example, there is a 33% chance that it will snow for the holidays. In the last 126 years, there was a white Christmas in Omaha 42 times. 

Every year, Las Vegas hosts the Great Santa Run.

great santa run las vegas
The Great Santa Run. Steve Marcus/ Reuters

In 2017, Business Insider named Las Vegas one of the best places to spend the holidays, and the annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run might be the reason. The event draws thousands of people dressed in Old Saint Nick costumes to the city's downtown area to run or walk the course. The 2020 race has been turned into a virtual event on December 5

New Hampshire goes all out when decorating for the holidays.

new hampshire
A home in New Hampshire. Andrew Matthews - PA Images / Getty

For example, Loudon, New Hampshire, is home to the Gift of Lights, which is a 2.5-mile drive with hundreds of light displays. 

In New Jersey, residents re-enact George Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas Day.

Washington crossing delaware river
Re-enactment of Washington crossing the Delaware River. Mel Evans/ AP

Christmas Day looks a bit different for some in New Jersey because they re-enact George Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware River. The event starts at the Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania and ends in Trenton, New Jersey, just as the former president did in 1776. This year, a pre-recorded video of a re-enactment will air online on Christmas day.

Residents of Mesilla, New Mexico, gather in the town square for Christmas Eve celebrations.

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Christmas in Mesilla, New Mexico. Las Cruces Sun-News/Shari Vialpando/AP Images

Every Christmas Eve, the streets that lead to the town square in Mesilla are lined with paper lanterns. The square itself is also decorated in lights, as the Mesilla Singers Choir sing Christmas tunes in front of the Basilica of San Albino. Currently, the event is still on the calendar for this year. 

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York is one of the most recognizable images of the holiday season.

ROCKEFELLER CENTER CHRISTMAS TREE
Rockefeller Center. Mary Altaffer/ AP

The Rockefeller Center has been a New York tradition since 1931 and has been attracting millions of tourists ever since. In fact, 125 million people visit the tree every year. However, access will be restricted during this year's tree lighting ceremony, and people can only watch from home.

The tree isn't the only attraction in the square, though. You can also find the ice skating rink that famous celebrities have skated on, including the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

North Carolina is the biggest Christmas tree provider in the country.

christmas tree farm north carolina
Christmas tree farm in North Carolina. Chuck Burton/ AP

Ashe County in North Carolina produces more Christmas trees than any other region in the US. In 2012, for example, the town produced 2 million trees for the holiday season. Currently, it's estimated that there are about 250 Christmas tree farms in the county alone.

The town of Williston, North Dakota, spells out its name in Christmas lights for the holiday season.

north dakota christmas
Williston, North Dakota. Eric Gay/ AP

Williston, North Dakota, celebrates Christmas with light displays at Harmon Park and Spring Lake Park. The town holds a number of other holiday activities, including a holiday stroll through the shopping district

People come to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit the house seen in the popular movie "A Christmas Story."

a christmas story
The house in "A Christmas Story." Jason Miller/ AP

"A Christmas Story" was released in 1983 and quickly became a cult classic during Christmastime. The house seen in the movie is actually a real home in Cleveland, Ohio. Across the street is a museum that houses props, costumes, and other artifacts from the film.  

Every year, a large Christmas tree dazzles Oklahoma's capital.

oklahoma christmas tree
Oklahoma state Christmas tree. Sue Ogrocki/ AP

In Oklahoma City, there's a Christmas tree just outside of the state Capitol building. When the tree is lit for the first time, children from all over the state come to witness the holiday tradition. However, this year, the event was broadcast on TV and online

Oregon is one of the largest Christmas tree growers in the country.

oregon christmas tree
Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Gillian Flaccus/ AP

After North Carolina, Oregon is the second-largest Christmas tree provider in the US. North Carolina and Oregon, in fact, produced 79% of the trees sold in 2012, according to the most recent data available. More specifically, Marion, Clackamas, Polk, and Benton counties in Oregon produce the most trees in the state for the holiday season. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is home to the famous Christmas Village every year.

christmas village Pennsylvania
The present at the Christmas Village. Matt Rourke/ AP

In Philadelphia's Love Park, you will find the Christmas Village, which is an open-air market that sells holiday items and gifts from all over the world. In 2018, the event introduced a 27-foot-tall light display that looked like a wrapped present and had 100,000 bulbs. 

The mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, are lavishly decorated in Christmas decor every year.

the elms
The Elms decorated for Christmas. Shutterstock

Newport is known for its famous mansions like The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House. The Preservation Society of Newport County welcomes visitors every year inside these homes to tour the Christmas decorations. All over these mansions, you will find wreaths, poinsettias, white candles, and elaborate Christmas trees. 

South Carolina mixes history with the holiday season at an event called "Christmas 1860."

south carolina christmas
The Edmondston-Alston House. Kat T. / Yelp

The Edmondston-Alston House in Charleston hosts an annual event called "Christmas 1860." During the event, the famous house is decorated for Christmas as if it was 1860 — the last holiday before the start of the Civil War. 

South Dakota's State Capitol building is filled with 100 Christmas trees every year.

south dakota christmas
South Dakota's State Capitol building. Amber Hunt/ AP

In 1981, 12 Christmas trees decorated the halls of South Dakota's Capitol building, but today that tradition has expanded to 100 trees. Residents can explore the hallways, which are lit by the trees, as carolers sing holiday tunes. The official Christmas tree, however, is typically a large spruce that is cut from the Black Hills. 

In Nashville, Tennessee, you can take a ride in a decorated carriage around the Capitol Christmas tree.

nashville christmas
Christmas in Nashville. Mark Humphrey/ AP

While Nashville is known for its country music stars, it also has a ton of events and activities during the holiday season. You can tour the city's Christmas decor, including the Capitol tree, by hopping on a decorated carriage.

Dallas, Texas, hosts an annual fireworks show and concert to ring in the holiday season.

dallas texas christmas
Reliant Lights Your Holidays. Brandon Wade/ AP

The Reliant Lights Your Holidays is a free event at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, which is decorated in Christmas lights. The event includes a firework show and a three-act concert. There's also an arts-and-crafts section for children. However, this year the event has been made virtual.

The holiday season marks the return of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Douglas C. Pizac/ AP

Founded in 1847, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir tours the world for most of the year, but the choir of 600 people returns to their homeland in Salt Lake City to put on their annual Christmas concert. The show includes 150 instrumentalists, 32 bell ringers, and several actors and dancers. Due to COVID-19, the concerts will stream online throughout the holiday season. 

Woodstock, Vermont, is the quintessential small town during the holidays.

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Woodstock, Vermont. Shutterstock

Woodstock is a small town in the New England state, and it goes all out for the holiday season. The Memory Tree is lit up with Christmas lights every year and the quaint storefronts and older homes in the town decorate for the holidays, too. 

Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, also gets the Christmas treatment during the holidays.

ronald regan international airport
Ronald Reagan National Airport. Carolyn Kaster/ AP

While the airport is decorated for the holidays, it's still considered one of the most stressful airports during a typical holiday season, according to The Washington Post. The outlet found that almost 4% of flights around Christmas are canceled at the airport, but this year, travel is expected to be lighter. 

People in Seattle, Washington, usually dress up as Santa Claus for the annual SantaCon.

santacon seattle
SantaCon in Seattle. David Ryder/ Reuters

Every year, people all over the country celebrate SantaCon, and Seattle is no different. SantaCon is one day out of the year where participants dress up like Old Saint Nick and go on a bar crawl throughout the city. In Seattle, the event takes place downtown for 14 hours.  According to the website, this year's SantaCon in Seattle may be virtual or socially distanced.

The Celebration of Lights in West Virginia is one of the country's largest light displays.

christmas in west virignia
Winter Festival of Lights. Mark K. / Yelp

The West Virginia's Winter Festival of Lights takes place in Oglebay and dates back to 1985. Today, it spans 300 acres, with 90 light displays, and 1 million LED lights. Participants can drive through the 6-mile show, or they can walk through on specially designated nights.

Residents across Wisconsin often see a white Christmas.

wisconscin christmas
Man walking through Milwaukee. Morry Gash/ AP

In the past, Rhinelander, a city in Wisconsin, has had a white Christmas 90% of the time, while Green Bay and Fox Valley have had one 75% of the time. Milwaukee, on the other hand, has snowfall less than 50% of the time. 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is famous for its Christmas arch made of antlers.

antler arch jackson hole
The antler arch. Shutterstock

The Jackson Hole Town Square is home to the arch made of antlers. After Thanksgiving, the city holds an event to watch the antlers light up with Christmas lights for the first time. At the event, you can find Santa, cookies, candies, and carols. 

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