December Culture Travel Guide

Dominica River
Unlike most vacation spots in the Caribbean, people go to Dominica to explore the lush interior, not the beach—and with this kind of landscape, that's understandable. (Corbis)

Newport, Rhode Island
Decking the halls with boughs of holly doesn't prove such an easy task in Newport, Rhode Island; its opulent estates stretch a city block long. The historic seaport gets into the holiday spirit with Victorian dinners at the Astors' Beechwood Mansion, tours of the rarely visited estate of Doris Duke, holiday choral concerts, and lantern walks over the twisting cobblestone streets. The festivities last for the entire month of December.

Galveston, Texas
On the South Texas coast, Galveston seems far, far away from the London Charles Dickens wrote about in A Christmas Carol. But every winter during the first weekend in December, the street called The Strand is transformed into a recreation of 19th-century London for a pre-Christmas festival known as "Dickens on the Strand." Street vendors sell chestnuts in front of the restored buildings; folks dress up in costume to play Beefeaters, Dickens characters, and even the Queen herself; and A Christmas Carol is presented at the Grand Opera House, built in 1894.

Barbuda lies 30 miles north of Antigua, its sister island. Except for the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, where visitors can spot a colony of birds sitting on their eggs in the mangrove bushes, not many other attractions will keep you away from the sublime 17 miles of pink- and white-sand beaches. Indeed, one of Barbuda's main exports is sand. Head to Wa'Omoni Beach Park to visit the bird sanctuary, snorkel for lobster, and eat barbecue. Most visitors to the island are content curling up with a book.

An anomaly compared to the rest of the Caribbean, people come to Dominica to visit the interior, not the beaches. Tropical rain forest covers much of the mountainous terrain, earning the island a reputation as the most rugged in the West Indies. Hike through rainforest in Morne Trois Pitons National Park to visit Ti Tou Gorge, where a waterfall lies hidden on the side of a mountain. Or take the harder trek to Boiling Lake, a crater filled with steaming water.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Don't have your boots, spurs, and cowboy hat ready for the Wrangler National Final Rodeo in December? No worries. More than 400 vendors from across North America will be selling the perfect holiday gift. But, most of your time will be spent watching the best rodeo riders in the world hootin' and hollerin' on the back of a bad-ass horse or bronc.

Milan, Italy
The great European city of Milan starts off the Christmas season with Fiesta di Sant'Ambrogio. Antique and art dealers set up stalls around the Basillica of Sant'Ambrogio to sell their crafts. Cheeses, meats, and cakes are also served, washed down the signature drink of the fair, vin brule, sweetened red wine with a hint of cinnamon.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Hogmanay (hog-muh-NAY) is the Scottish word for last day of the year. But, typical of the Scots, their party lasts for four days. Head to Edinburgh on December 29th for the torchlight procession. The following night is Night Afore International, with street music, a carnival, and a fair along George Street. On New Year's Eve, there's a concert in West Princes Street Gardens and fireworks over Edinburgh Castle. Choose your sport between the One O'Clock Run or Triathlon sport on New Year's Day.

New York City
Tis' the season to head south with Jack Frost nipping in the air, but don't be too hasty to leave for the warm weather locales. In Manhattan, folks line up to see the elaborate Christmas window displays at stores like Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. Across the street from Saks on 49th Street, the Christmas Tree (sometimes approaching 90 feet tall) in front of Rockefeller Center pumps up the voltage on December 2. Show off your latest double lutz at the ice skating rink, just in front of the tree, always crowded with onlookers.

Sydney, Australia
Fireworks soar over the Harbour Bridge and illuminate the Sydney Opera House as the world's first major metropolis witnesses the New Year. Don't miss the Harbour of Light Parade, when sailing vessels decorated in lights cruise through Sydney Harbour. And since it's the heart of summer in the southern hemisphere, bring your swimsuit to Bondi and Manly Beaches. Afterwards, head to The Rocks for a pint at the circa-1845 Hero of Waterloo Hotel pub.

Machu Picchu, Peru
As another year comes to a close, it's time to stop putting off those must-see sites. Start with the The Lost Citadel of Machu Picchu, the last stronghold of the Incas. From the Andean city of Cuzco, 50 miles to the southeast, you can drive or take a four-day trek on the famed Inca Trail built some 500 years ago. The sinuous path leads through a jungle thick with leafy trees across two 13,000-foot high mountain passes. Eventually, you'll reach Machu Picchu, whose glorious history will be disclosed in its entirety by your guides, many of whom are descendents. For an established outfitter, contact

Boston-based writer Stephen Jermanok has authored or contributed to 11 books on the outdoors, including Outside Magazine's Adventure Guide to New England , Discovery Channel's Backcountry Treks , Discovery Channel's Paddlesports , Outside Magazine's Guide to Family Vacations and Men's Journal's The Great Life . His latest book is New England Seacoast Adventures . His many adventures appear in National Geographic Adventure , Outside , Men's Journal , Forbes FYI , Travel + Leisure , Hooked on the Outdoors , and Backpacker . He can be reached at

Published: 25 Jun 2007 | Last Updated: 22 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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