Every holiday we cozy up on the couch and watch an endless amount of sappy Christmas movies from Hallmark. If you're like us, then you know that these films often take place in small towns across the country where there are kitschy holiday traditions, beautiful decorations, and of course a love story involved. From the historic streets of the nation's oldest city to a California town that inspired an actual Christmas movie, there's plenty of holiday cheer to go around. Keep reading to discover what our travel experts have to say about the small towns that will make you feel like you're in a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Small Towns That Will Make You Feel Like You're in a Hallmark Christmas Movie
1. Savannah, Georgia
While it might be known as one of the most haunted towns in the country, Savannah, Georgia is also one of the most quaint. With horse-drawn carriage rides, walks along the riverfront, and of course, plenty of bed and breakfasts to enjoy a stay at, the city welcomes everyone to enjoy its famous streets.
"With its picturesque cobblestone streets and beautiful historic mansions, Savannah tends to resemble a Hallmark movie year-round," says Erin Clarkson, author of the Savannah First-Timer's Guide. "However, the city kicks things up a notch to celebrate the Christmas season! Many of the hotels, B&Bs, and businesses go all-out with their holiday decor, and Historic District homeowners decorate the squares with swags of live greenery and red ribbons on the lampposts."
The famous Forsyth Park fountain gets a touch of greenery and ribbons, as well. "Many of the storefronts entice shoppers with elaborate seasonal window displays, and the annual 'Rockin' Around the Christmas' tree event draws crowds to Broughton Street for the city's annual tree lighting ceremony," she says.
During the holiday season, Savannah hots a German-Style Christmas market and a nighttime holiday boat parade where Santa typically makes an appearance on the final boat, too.
2. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs feels like it should be the next set for any remake of A Christmas Carol or a cute Christmas love story from Hallmark. Throughout the holiday season, the charming town hosts a variety of festive events that locals and visitors can take part in.
"As you walk the winding streets of Eureka Springs, it's easy to feel swept away to a Victorian village reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel," Madison Dawson, tourism director of the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission, tells Best Life. "Whether you're perusing the many unique local shops, galleries, and boutiques for the perfect Christmas gift or you're viewing the dazzling, twinkling lights that adorn the peaceful downtown streets, you're sure to be filled with merriment and delight."
While touring the town, you can stop into Basin Park to see Santa and let him know that you've been nice all year long. Or you can walk along the downtown shopping area and see the Living Windows event, where real people act our holiday scenes in storefronts.
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3. Placerville, California
Even though it's known as a gold rush town, Placerville is an adorable place that actually inspired a real Christmas movie, Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage, since the artist called the town home.
"It was here that Thomas Kinkade got his inspiration for his painting 'Hometown Memories.' Every shop and restaurant along historic Main Street has something unique and different and the holidays are the perfect time to enjoy the small-town charm," explains Jody Franklin, executive director at Visit El Dorado.
Each year, the small town hosts a Christmas parade that makes its way down Main Street with horses, bands, and floats. According to Franklin, this year's theme is A Charles Dickens Christmas, where everything will have a distinct Victorian flair.
4. St. Augustine, Florida
The nation's oldest city really goes all out during the holiday season with lights, trolley rides, and caroling through the historic streets.
"During the holiday season, St. Augustine becomes a hub of festive activities as visitors flock to the Ancient City to enjoy the Christmas spirit without the harsh winter weather," says Kyleen Bontrager of The Bonnie Traveler. "Stroll through the brightly lit downtown or hop on the Holly Jolly Trolley, with caroling and Christmas cookies. Finally, head down to St. Augustine Beach to feel the sand between your toes while viewing the colorfully lit-up beach boulevard to St. Johns County Ocean Pier Park."
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the city lights up for the first time for its annual Night of Lights celebration. Each building in the historic district, along with trees in the nearby park is covered in beautiful white lights.
"In addition to the St. Augustine Christmas parade, there is the Regatta of Lights. This parade of boats floats along the Bayfront and delights onlookers with vessels showing off their beautifully decorated light displays," Bontrager says.
5. Alexandria, Virginia
Just outside of Washington DC, you'll find Alexandria, Virginia, a historic small town where Hallmark charm can be found around every corner. The adorable city is most recognized for its historic buildings and 18th-century row houses but during the holidays the town is even more charming.
"This year the sparkling mile of lights along Old Town's historic King Street and the festive holiday trees will surely make your hearts smile with delight. Ready with your cameras for Instagrammable shots of the picture-perfect decorations of the scenic streetscapes, sparkling window displays, and even a picturesque pilgrimage to the artsy Del Ray, where you will be delighted to see the hand-painted window displays," says Owen Redford, founder of Things To Do.
6. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth is known as the oldest settlement in New Hampshire, with its notable 17th and 18th-century architecture. Over the years, the town invested in its downtown area to add more restaurants, bars, museums, and shopping, drawing in locals and tourists alike, especially over the holiday season.
"During the holiday season storefronts and streets are decorated tastefully… [and] it feels like you're in a snow globe. It's perfect for a holiday Hallmark movie," says Armani Thao of ForkingWithArmani.
"The city hosts incredible holiday-themed events for families. From Christmas-themed plays at The Portsmouth Music Hall to an annual holiday parade, holiday strolls, and much more. The whole downtown area of the city is decked out for the holidays," Thao continues.
7. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
With a name like Bethlehem, most notable for the Biblical city where Jesus was born, we couldn't leave the town in Pennsylvania off our list.
"Named Bethlehem on Christmas Eve in 1741, this quaint and historic city is the OG of holiday charm and has appropriately been recognized as Christmas City USA for the past 85 years. Visitors and locals alike are often awestruck by the magic that lingers in the air during the holiday season," says Alicia Quinn, vice president of marketing&strategic alliances at Discover Lehigh Valley.
Each night in December there is a live advent calendar where locals and travelers gather around the historic Goundie House, in hopes of getting picked to knock on the door to 'open' the advent calendar. After the announcement of how many days until Christmas treats are given out.
"Travelers flock to Bethlehem, known as the 'Christmas City,' every December to enjoy the sparkling white lights in the windows of original Germanic stone Moravian structures," says Quinn. "Beautiful lit evergreens adorn every major intersection and carriage rides over cobblestone streets bring the holidays to life. They shop along tree-lined streets for Moravian stars, beeswax candles, and other ornaments or soak up the sights and wonders at its Christkindlmarkt, a German-style holiday market,"
8. Franklin, Tennessee
Experience a true southern Christmas in Franklin, Tennessee. The small town boasts an impressive main street, where boutiques and restaurants are all decorated with lights. In the middle of the square is a larger-than-life Christmas tree.
"Every town has a Christmas tree lighting and parade but the one in Franklin mixes the incredible local talent that calls Franklin home. The tree lighting is a big musical event too, hosted in years past by locals like former Today Show host Kathy Lee Gifford, Jars of Clay frontman Dan Haseltine, and this year by contemporary Christian artist Matthew West," says Matthew Maxey, Visit Franklin director of public relations.
During the second weekend of December, the town puts on the free Dickens of a Christmas festival, where live-action characters, music, food, and shopping all come together with one festive theme.
"The Victorian architecture of the historic downtown becomes the backdrop of a magical two days where festival attendees can see and interact with Fagin from Oliver Twist, Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and others from A Christmas Carol, and of course Victorian Father and Mother Christmas. In addition to the characters roaming the street in character, guests can also find local makers and vendors, a kid zone, an acoustic stage with musicians, a whiskey lounge, and more," says Maxey.
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9. Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville is a cute Southern town that's often outshined by Charleston, but during the holidays it's not to be overlooked.
"Each holiday season downtown Greenville, South Carolina transforms into a Hallmark movie, as the tree-lined sidewalks twinkle with lights and Santa's motorized sleigh (a converted 1993 Ford Aerostar) glides down Main Street with an elf in tow," says Brenda Cassabon, of TK PR.
New for this year's holiday celebrations is a gingerbread house display with creations from local chefs inside the Residence Inn/Springhill Suites. There's also an ice rink that's designed to be a replica of the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
10. Ocala, Florida
If you really want to get out of the cold and experience a Florida Christmas that still feels like a Hallmark movie, Ocala is the place to be.
"Enjoy a warm-weathered holiday season in Ocala, with an annual holiday parade, Symphony Under the Lights, historic holiday home tours and more! The list of things to do are endless," Cassabon tells Best Life.
She says the must-see place is the World Equestrian Center, the largest equestrian center in the United States. "During the month of December, the grounds transform into a holiday wonderland. The halls of the Grand Plaza at The Equestrian Hotel are decked with all of the traditional regalias of the season, along with larger-than-life ornaments, a glittering, 45-foot Christmas tree, a giant polar bear, and plentiful holiday décor. Not to mention over a million twinkling lights through the property."
Around the resort, guests can also have breakfast with Santa, enjoy a holiday 5k, participate in ugly sweater contests, and indulge in over-the-top hot chocolate concoctions.