Eight of the Best Hanukkah Celebrations in the United States

Hanukkah is the eight-day celebration commonly referred to as the Festival of Lights because it commemorates the miraculous eight days of light from one night's worth of lamp oil when the Second Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated. It's a joyous celebration that communities take part in nationwide. The menorah, with its nine branches, shines as a bright reminder of the miracle that inspires the celebration. Latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), dreidels (the four-sided spinning tops), and gift exchanges are all part of the Jewish holiday.

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This year, the holiday begins at sundown on Sunday, December 22, and ends on the evening of Monday, December 30. And in that time, there are plenty of communal celebrations across the country—many of which are free and open to the public—that give us an opportunity to celebrate Hanukkah together. You can find planned gatherings from coast to coast—latke festivals, open museums, menorah lightings, and so much more are all planned. Why not travel to one or more of them during the eight days of Hanukkah for a holiday experience that will create new memories and help you to make new friends, too?

Related: The History of Hanukkah and All of Its Traditions

Hanukkah at the Museum of Fine Arts

As part of a now-annual tradition, the Jewish Arts Collaborative and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, team up to present the sixth annual Hanukkah at the MFA—an exciting celebration of art for the evening. On December 18 after 4:30 p.m., festival-goers can make their own sufganiyot and crafts throughout the museum, and listen to live performances by world music-klezmer fusion Yaeko Elmaleh Group; visitors can also enjoy Jewish folk songs Rosalie Gerut, storytelling with The Moth's Rabbi Dan Judson and Michelle Ephraim, and modern dance with Jenna Pollack. The Museum's Judaica curator Simona DiNepi will guide you through the 120-plus religious artifacts in collection. The evening culminates at 6:30 p.m. with the communal lighting of this year's custom menorah.

Latke Festival

Love latkes? Taste the best of artisanal latkes from New York City's chefs at the 11th annual Latke Festival. Some of the past winners on the menu? Try cheesy potato latkeswith hot pepper jelly, russet potato latke with smoked duck breast and hibiscus rhubarb jam, or what claimed the judges' choice: plantain, sweet potato and tortilla latkewith ancho-braised chicken, pickled onion, and crema. This year's event will be hosted December 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Museum. And it's all for a great cause: The net proceeds from Latke Festival go to The Sylvia Center, a nonprofit organization that teaches culinary skills to children and families in underserved communities.

Friends of the Maltz Museum's Annual Hanukkah Candle Lighting

Celebrate the first evening of Hanukkah in Beachwood, Ohio, at the Friends of the Maltz Museum's Annual Hanukkah Candle Lighting. On December 22 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., this event offers a sing-along live musical performance, holiday crafts, and free admission to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. People of all faiths are welcome to learn about the history of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Hoopla

Have little ones in tow? The Hanukkah Hoopla Marketplace and Family Fun event is hosted annually by the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas, Texas (colloquially called JCC of Dallas)—and proves to be one can't-miss family event. On December 8 from noon to 4 p.m., browse the vendors at market and shop for antiques, handmade crafts, and kosher goodies like latkes. (You can even pre-order latkes for larger groups.)

Related: Our Favorite Hanukkah Crafts and Decorations

Grand Menorah Lightings and Hanukkah Celebrations

Hosted by Chabad Intown in Atlanta, Georgia, the Grand Menorah Lightings is one of the greatest Hanukkah celebrations in the country: a menorah parade, an upscale "drinks and dreidels" party for those of age, kosher food trucks and doughnuts, and more. The event is free and includes several menorah lightings across several days: December 22 to 29 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can RSVP for one of them or choose to attend all of them.

Jewish Federation of Greater Naples Hanukkah Celebration

In Naples, Florida, community bands together to host the Hanukkah Celebration on the Lawn at Mercato in Naples, Florida. This community-wide celebration is hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples in coordination with a number of other local organizations. Starting at 5 p.m. on December 23, your family can enjoy an evening of music by the Naples Klezmer Revival Band, kids' crafts and face painting, food, cultural presentations, and the highly-anticipated menorah lighting.

Pop-Up Glowing Hanukkah Party

In true fashion for the Festival of Lights, all attendees of this pop-up party are encouraged to don their brightest light-up, glittery, glow-in-the dark outfits. The Pop-Up Glowing Hanukkah Party is hosted by the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on December 22 (in honor of the first night of Hanukkah) from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. At this family-friendly event, you will get to light candles, eat fresh doughnuts, sing communal songs, and Hanukkah shopping from the merchants in Ghirardelli Square.

"The World's Largest Menorah" Lightings

For the eight nights of Hanukkah in New York City, you can see both midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza host competitors in the race for the title of "World's Largest Menorah." The former is erected in front of the Plaza Hotel near Central Park, where people gather around the 32-foot-tall (or 36-foot-tall if you count the shamash) holiday icon to see the candelabrum's oil lantern flicker to life. The latter can be found across the river in Prospect Park where attendees can enjoy live music, latkes, gifts for children, and, of course, the lighting of the menorah.