Don’t get us wrong, being home for the holidays can be awesome. We love the family, the food, the friends, the food… more of the food. But what we don’t love? The crowds at the mall, the stress of finding the “perfect” New Year’s Eve bash, the anxiety of trying to coordinate your schedule when you have 15 parties to go to in three days! Those are the things that make us want to pack it all in and head somewhere far, far away for the holidays.
Here’s where to go in December if you’re dreaming of something a little different this season.
Oh, those Christmas markets. They’re the stuff of fairy tales, aren’t they? Dark nights and twinkling lights, shopping for handcrafted gifts, sipping mulled wine — it’s just so much more civilised than traipsing through a mall and refuelling in a food court. Next year, we’re doing all our holiday shopping in Germany. (Also, lots of love to other fabulous Christmas market cities like Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Brussels, Rome, London, and Toronto.)
New York City, USA
Sure, it’s totally touristy, but we do love the cheesy romance of an ice skate at Rockefeller Center, followed by a stroll along Fifth Avenue to check out the Christmas window displays, finishing off with a viewing of Radio City’s Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. And because NYC is oh-so-cool, after you’ve indulged in more Christmas charm than one can handle, you can retreat into a dark corner of a craft beer or wine bar, and temporarily forget about all the presents you still have to buy.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Pop quiz: When’s Christmas Day? December 25th? Not if you’re in Russia. For much of the country, the day of celebration falls according to the Orthodox calendar, on January 7th. That means you’ve got an extra two weeks to finish your shopping. Procrastinators, rejoice!
For a totally different take on Christmas Eve, head to Japan, where December 24th is considered the biggest date night of the year for young couples. Whisk your significant other away for a romantic dinner that evening — then have a somewhat less romantic meal the next night with a bucket and cake from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Seriously, Col. Sanders is the holiday dinner of choice in this part of the world, thanks to a marketing campaign from the ’70s that clearly worked a little too well.
While the northern hemisphere bemoans the darkest month of the year, the southern side of the globe is basking in the warmth of summer. And what better place to celebrate the southern summer solstice than at the base of Machu Picchu, a place famed for its astrological alignments. If you don’t want to join the throngs that descend on the Inca Trail for the solstice, just stick around Cusco and absorb the local festivities that mark the longest days of the year.
Why? Three words: New Year’s Eve. Yes, there are lots of epic places to ring in the new year (New York City, we’re looking at you), but add in the fact that it’s summertime down under and that you get to be one of the first cities in the world to welcome 2015, and it’s the clear winner for December 31. Have a picnic (with Aussie Shiraz, of course) on the steps of the Opera House and watch those fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you say? We’re in.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Take a few million people, dress them in white, and cram them onto Copacabana Beach. What do you end up with? One wild New Year’s Eve party in arguably one of the sexiest cities in the world. Do you need any more reason to dream of heading to Rio for when midnight strikes?
Last year, Dubai proved it’s the king of extreme fireworks. The city set the Guinness World Record for biggest fireworks display, setting off 479,651 shells in just six minutes. That works out to almost 1,332 fireworks per second. With a show like that, we can’t wait to see how they ring in 2015. Plus, with so many expats from all around the globe living in Dubai, you’re sure to have a truly multicultural celebration.
Still looking for that last-minute Christmas gift? We’ve got you covered with Urban Adventures gift certificates!