Why honeymoon during the holidays? In a word -- magic. No other time of year is so beautifully lit, so lovingly decorated, or so joyously love-abundant as the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Plus there are sleigh rides during which to hold hands, roasted chestnuts to feed each other, and ice-skating rinks that offer unlimited opportunities to fall into each other's arms. Most cities around the continent celebrate the season, of course, but some pull out all the stops and so make perfect newlywed getaways. Below are some of our favorites.
Denver might be described as the home of the original Christmas-light display. It seems one night when a sick little boy couldn't come downstairs to see the family tree, his electrician father dipped lights in paint and strung them around his bedroom window. That was back in 1914 -- today Denver strings more than 100,000 colorful bulbs along the windows and eaves of its city hall to announce the season.
But that's just the beginning. In early December, Denver throws a parade for 100,000 onlookers and then lights up the city's official tree at the old train station. At Larimer Square -- a several-block area of renovated Victorian buildings -- they build a gingerbread city, play carols for ice skaters, and give free carriage rides to shoppers. And, oh yes, nearly 30 specialty stores tempt you with dowry-dropping goodies. For more information on Denver, call (303) 892-1112.
Victoria, British Columbia
If elaborate Victorian styling is your idea of Christmas past, why not spend Christmas present in Victoria itself? Victoria, British Columbia, dresses itself up with all the colors and rich fabrics of turn-of-the-century England at Christmas. Famous Butchart Gardens gets decked out with elegant ribbons and holly while traditional carolers stroll the grounds, filling the crisp air with melodies from days gone by. Thirty-nine-room Craigdarroch Castle dresses up to entertain, too, with elaborate entertainments including singers, theatrical events, harpists, and Charles Dickens' Victorian classic, A Christmas Carol. The Royal British Columbia Museum mounts special exhibits as well.
Victoria's holiday hotel would have to be the Empress. They have a yule log, carolers during the must-see afternoon high tea, and jesters to raise Christmas cheer. They also offer a package that includes a city tour, admission to several museums, and a visit to Butchart Gardens. Call (250) 652-4422. To receive information on the city of Victoria, call (250) 953-2033.
If English-speaking Canada sounds inviting, take a glimpse at the French-speaking part. Montreal's charming Old Port neighborhood comes alive with Gallic holiday charm, sleigh rides, ice skating, and shopping that matches festive trinkets with a decidedly strong U.S. dollar.
The strongly Catholic tradition of Montreal permeates many -- though not all -- of the city's holiday events. Start at Saint-Joseph Oratory to pay respects at 300 mangers from 95 countries. In the Old Port they reenact the Nativity with an elaborate production and light up Quebec's largest Christmas tree -- with your donation of love. Open-air masses celebrate the season's highest meaning.
Montrealers enjoy the unusual, as well. One event honors cats alone. The largest professional crafts show in America takes place at the Place Bonaventure. At Pointe-a-Calliere, playing Christmas figures from different cultures discuss their traditions. For Montreal info, call (800) 363-7777.
Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia, will travel you back for Christmas in the age of the founding fathers. In Williamsburg, everything is as it was in 1770.
In November and December, Colonial Williamsburg celebrates with look-at-the-decorations walks, festive dances, caroling, plays, fife-and-drum concerts, holiday feasts, tavern sing-alongs, yule-log carrying (and burning), gingerbread-house construction, and general 18th-century merrymaking. Here's what you won't see: big, decorated trees. They didn't have them in colonial days! Call (800) HISTORY for more info on Christmas in Williamsburg.
New York City
How about the Big Apple for the big holiday? Besides an astonishing array of restaurants, entertainment, nightlife, and shopping, New York gussies herself up for Christmas like a starlet for the Oscars. The city throws the switch on millions of lights at Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, Lincoln Center, and countless other places. St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine mount elaborate Christmas pageants. The Rockettes kick up Christmas fairy dust along their famous dance line. But the highlight has to be strolling the streets and avenues -- decked out in their finest finery (and you in yours) -- to window shop. For more about N.Y.C. during the holidays, call (212) 484-1200.
San Antonio, Texas
A San Antonio holiday: It's the reflection of thousands of multi-hued lights dancing off the river, decorated floats that really do float, Christmas tamales fashioned with crunchy nuts and sweet fillings. It's Posada songs delivered by angelic children, their faces lit with candles, the tree-lighting at the Alamo, and mariachis singing Christmas tunes. It's strolling and shopping along the Riverwalk and at the Little Christmas Village in the quaint La Villita neighborhood. San Antonio puts on a Christmas as big as Texas, with a spicy salsa accent. For information on San Antonio, call (800) 447-3372.
Charleston, South Carolina
Meet Charleston at Christmastime. Antebellum homes are richly decorated; evergreen wreaths and ruby poinsettias adorn front porches and doors along many streets. And holiday happenings raise winter spirits. The Sugar Plum House Tour is a three-hour walking tour of gloriously decorated private homes. Drayton Hall Plantation hosts a night of African-American spirituals sung a cappella. Three historic inns offer a progressive dinner. The Charleston Garden Club decorates the Joseph Manigault House. And lovebirds can take a carriage ride on King Street Square before attending a presentation of "The Nutcracker." For Charleston info, call (800) 868-8118.
USA + Canada