2021’s Most Festive Cities

Family looking up at snow and clutching warm beverages at a Christmas market

Sleigh bells are ringing, snow is glistening, and Mariah Carey is serenading shoppers at every Target and Macy’s — it’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

But which of the 200 biggest U.S. cities most resemble a scene out of a Hallmark movie?

LawnStarter made a list of 2021’s Most Festive Cities and checked it twice to find out which among them will fill you with holiday cheer.

We looked for cities packed with holiday events, Euro-style Christmas markets, delicious goodies, and other fun things to do and see.

Of course, no winter wonderland is complete without snow, so we also measured the average snowfall in each city to find the most Instagram-worthy backdrops. 

Check out our ranking below, followed by some highlights and lowlights.

Table of Contents

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Methodology

City Rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreFrolicking RankMerrymaking RankEntertaining RankEating RankShopping Rank
1New York, NY85.98241111
2Chicago, IL42.91342629
3Boston, MA38.35766895
4Philadelphia, PA36.7630263441
5San Francisco, CA35.8460341610
6Los Angeles, CA35.8180135330
7Jersey City, NJ35.79198114854
8Newark, NJ33.9322713109124
9Denver, CO30.74233929174
10Washington, DC29.66275541464
11Anaheim, CA28.01952473369
12Irvine, CA27.741424325195
13Las Vegas, NV27.49141276472
14Santa Ana, CA26.88825434797
15Garden Grove, CA26.56885982256
16Orange, CA26.2511130480119
17Torrance, CA25.68157157518
18Seattle, WA23.99523234819
19Minneapolis, MN23.8997284498
20Portland, OR23.88624777116
21Glendale, CA23.7274441084107
22Baltimore, MD23.674412921236
23Long Beach, CA23.647328173475
24Huntington Beach, CA23.295421413265
25Fullerton, CA23.1210362912290
26Houston, TX22.4111836191534
27Paterson, NJ22.42598940145
28Honolulu, HI22.39857610353
29Pasadena, CA22.1977521268132
30Milwaukee, WI22.1211231113932
31Yonkers, NY22.0128117999136
32Fort Lauderdale, FL21.869317317857
33Arlington, VA21.694615748252
34Miami, FL21.676714501392
35Pasadena, TX21.41361366107115
36Nashville, TN21.0742341042911
37Buffalo, NY20.9923516045113
38Bridgeport, CT20.95291088159171
39Salt Lake City, UT20.458156553622
40Dallas, TX20.111063201949
41Providence, RI19.5212381534323
42San Diego, CA19.3511122811037
43Hollywood, FL19.19101164866120
44Austin, TX18.5714626463051
45Rochester, NY18.5636718932110
46Arlington, TX18.5140692410644
47Anchorage, AK18.41106619511316
48Orlando, FL18.315348392343
49Corona, CA18.281646416155175
50Syracuse, NY18.25117815965102
51Atlanta, GA18.2410629652145
52Cleveland, OH18.126791075450
53St. Paul, MN17.7114501138055
54New Orleans, LA17.5191371291613
55Hialeah, FL17.577217315470
56Alexandria, VA17.4253199412181
57Worcester, MA17.3953314498112
58Fort Worth, TX17.3315558217388
58Ontario, CA17.33125253363134
60Cincinnati, OH16.8450551182633
61Pittsburgh, PA16.8116861331847
62Pembroke Pines, FL16.641831849123130
63Grand Rapids, MI16.59412593137159
64Columbus, OH16.2949711202528
65Oakland, CA16.267031703898
66Louisville, KY16.17341221054224
67Naperville, IL16.16405651129169
68Omaha, NE16.09151641508315
69Aurora, CO15.9733163385589
70Santa Clarita, CA15.84173492566138
71Charlotte, NC15.75166111835012
72Raleigh, NC15.73122751007914
73Plano, TX15.661321002276101
74Sacramento, CA15.5612851562871
75San Jose, CA15.35116465720105
76Lexington, KY15.3231989111767
77Frisco, TX15.231899918157139
78Tempe, AZ15.07103134239283
79Aurora, IL14.79366195127121
80Albuquerque, NM14.6687166127367
81Scottsdale, AZ14.52187148325946
82Rancho Cucamonga, CA14.381578028120135
83Lakewood, CO14.34359260173174
84Colorado Springs, CO14.325774806296
85Akron, OH14.15218316110863
86Tampa, FL14.07116411555226
87Phoenix, AZ13.93153934041104
88Detroit, MI13.71209516914862
89Pomona, CA13.681077037115165
90San Antonio, TX13.5416882722460
91Miramar, FL13.511922086188128
92Reno, NV13.46617313614242
93Fort Collins, CO13.443710213211153
94Fremont, CA13.31209442188116
95Bellevue, WA13.1841514311185
96Tacoma, WA12.9966167986827
97Riverside, CA12.97151405872183
98Joliet, IL12.89398511487122
99Springfield, MA12.881745179168184
100Mesa, AZ12.84741156110299
101Madison, WI12.7326107125145118
102Lincoln, NE12.75414411916940
103Dayton, OH12.544712817313538
104Boise, ID12.475915314810320
105Hayward, CA12.43951174587129
106Sioux Falls, SD12.324513118216931
107Fontana, CA12.291708135197180
107Sunnyvale, CA12.29927871140127
109Garland, TX12.2212612030176189
110McKinney, TX12.218210927167181
111Chula Vista, CA11.961421065227144
112Kansas City, MO11.84641141126459
113Rockford, IL11.653860200197117
114Savannah, GA11.591361521166821
115San Bernardino, CA11.58727782118173
116Salem, OR11.53891621099925
117Oklahoma City, OK11.371001351025648
118Richmond, VA11.36631031107799
119Spokane, WA11.341816111744161
120Irving, TX11.1911511647176164
121Virginia Beach, VA11.071131701504617
122Gilbert, AZ10.7719213836126146
123Oceanside, CA10.721706576164162
124Thornton, CO10.584317175174190
125Escondido, CA10.51349767161167
126Overland Park, KS10.4764173979072
126Chandler, AZ10.4717312153135150
128Lancaster, CA10.42190846694165
129Mesquite, TX10.415510169180151
130Stockton, CA10.3214253115151125
131Grand Prairie, TX10.1916712444188197
132Palmdale, CA10.121988959158172
133Oxnard, CA10.09951049071158
134Indianapolis, IN9.755614113060111
135Greensboro, NC9.62119961389077
136Memphis, TN9.571231291977335
137Des Moines, IA9.384118418417658
137St. Louis, MO9.384810817935156
139Santa Rosa, CA9.3413488106123126
140Glendale, AZ9.3215714062134152
141Baton Rouge, LA9.1615215415711439
142Tulsa, OK8.91551831405878
143Tucson, AZ8.781331271346174
144Moreno Valley, CA8.6318368101160188
145Norfolk, VA8.578613313917993
146Fort Wayne, IN8.5251112182149154
147Elk Grove, CA8.2118311878174187
148Toledo, OH8.1632137189147198
149Columbus, GA8.061949019316461
150Winston-Salem, NC7.9315014713512867
151El Paso, TX7.921021461663179
152Bakersfield, CA7.751778712887160
153Spring Valley, NV7.74127126108171133
154Huntsville, AL7.7318011015215182
155Metairie, LA7.629916999110140
156Eugene, OR7.529015817510173
157Modesto, CA7.4712891143140163
158St. Petersburg, FL7.3714210514992137
158Murfreesboro, TN7.3712414214419684
160Henderson, NV7.2418616896150123
161Salinas, CA6.96121119142116149
162Knoxville, TN6.8710814517285114
163Jackson, MS6.8218819219716129
164North Las Vegas, NV6.7417217585125192
165Chesapeake, VA6.73159130163200108
166Fayetteville, NC6.58169113141144148
167Jacksonville, FL6.411971491685780
168Paradise, NV6.41141761885391
169Durham, NC6.37131132123186177
170Chattanooga, TN6.2816513917797109
171Peoria, AZ6.1919017787183186
172Cary, NC6.09148150121142170
173Springfield, MO6.0671165184129141
174Tallahassee, FL5.9718116016610594
175Birmingham, AL5.831621791709587
175Wichita, KS5.837917415795178
177McAllen, TX5.77138159146138131
178Clarksville, TN5.7616018217618866
179Mobile, AL5.7417917217815176
180Killeen, TX5.72175157165183103
181Little Rock, AR5.7113919116210386
182Lubbock, TX5.5858197181132142
183Kansas City, KS5.3568190124197199
184Midland, TX5.28105185122138176
185Olathe, KS5.0876193137194184
186Fresno, CA4.96128194131119146
186Newport News, VA4.96109143173172193
188Vancouver, WA4.7294180154156182
189Macon, GA4.42178123189194194
190Augusta, GA4.3883195184180157
191Montgomery, AL3.97195188184188106
192Amarillo, TX3.7769198197180191
193Sunrise Manor, NV3.7616318714786195
194Cape Coral, FL3.74199181125145179
195Shreveport, LA3.62176186156186168
196Brownsville, TX3.41161199171131143
197Corpus Christi, TX3.18149196189164155
198Laredo, TX2.79147200195163153
199Port St. Lucie, FL2.41200155194185196
200Enterprise, NV2.24196189164193200
Infographic showing the most festive cities, a ranking based on snowfall, holiday events, holiday markets, access to treats, and more

Highlights and Lowlights

New York, I Love You

There’s a reason the Big Apple is the central character in countless holiday-themed movies: Nobody does the holidays like New York, our No. 1 most festive city. In fact, New York earned more than double the points of our silver medalist, Chicago, and swept all but one category.

With so many timeless traditions like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Times Square Ball Drop, kids from 1 to 92 indeed will find it hard to sleep in The City That Never Sleeps. So if you want to witness a miracle on 34th Street this year, add New York to your holiday bucket list.

Skate on ice in Central Park, browse the holiday window displays of 5th Avenue department stores, or watch the tree lighting ceremony at the Rockefeller Center. When you’re ready to sit down, let the Radio City Rockettes dazzle you with their high-kicking Christmas Spectacular. 

The Bigger, the Merrier

If frolicking, merrymaking, entertaining, eating, and shopping are all equally a top priority this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with big cities.

Cities like Chicago (No. 2), Boston (No. 3), Denver (No. 9), and Washington, D.C. (No. 10) have it all: parties, goodies, and shops galore — and, of course, snow. These cities are frequent tourist destinations, which means there’s never a shortage of holiday activities. 

That’s not to say that small towns aren’t big on holiday fests — many of them just aren’t big enough to make our survey. Santa Claus, Indiana, for instance, is a year-round wonderland, while Grapevine is the Christmas Capital of Texas. This year, Seneca Falls, New York, celebrated 75 years as the inspiration for “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Baby, It’s Warm Outside

Nothing says “winter wonderland” like Jack Frost nipping at your nose, but California cities like Los Angeles (No. 6 overall) and its suburbs can warm up your holiday spirit, too.

You won’t get much, if any, snow in most Golden State cities in our ranking, but if there’s one thing Californians know how to do well, it’s how to throw a smashing holiday party. California cities — the Los Angeles metro area in particular — occupy nearly every top 10 spot in the Entertaining category.

But if you absolutely need low temperatures to get in a festive mood and can’t leave the state, head to nippy San Francisco (No. 5 overall). If you missed the downsized return of Santacon SF, check out the Drive-Thru Great Dickens Christmas Fair.

The Grinch Stole Christmas — from Small Texas Cities

Not everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, it turns out. 

Holidays appear to be less of a production in smaller Texas cities, most of which landed in the lower half of our ranking. Laredo, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, and Amarillo slipped to the bottom 10 and took the last spots in the Merrymaking category. 

But bigger Texas cities know how to party, with Houston faring best at No. 26 overall. Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights, San Antonio’s Chanukah on the River, Austin’s Trail of Lights, and KwanzaaFest in Dallas are just some of the larger events in the state that stand to make your holiday wishes come true.

Christmas Markets Come to America

Christmas markets are more of a tradition across the pond, but they’re catching on here at home. In other words, you might be able to get a taste of this European experience in your own backyard — if you live close enough to one.

Modeled after the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, Chicago’s annual Christkindlmarket, for example, starts in mid-November and ends Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, the newer Savannah Christmas Market in Georgia offers a unique Southern twist on the Salzburg Christmas Market in Austria and lasts into the new year. 

You can find others in smaller towns like Kerstmrkt in Holland, Michigan, and Julefest in Solvang, California. Grab an authentic bratwurst, savor some mulled wine, and be transported to another continent. 

Happy holidays!

Methodology

We ranked the 200 biggest U.S. cities from most (No. 1) to least festive (No. 200) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across all the weighted metrics listed below. 

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Frolicking
Average Snowfall in Inches (November-December)2023.3Max. Value
Walk Score11398Max. Value
Merrymaking
Holiday Events and Festivals31833Max. Value
Attractions231,290Max. Value
Music Venues1098Max. Value
Skating Rinks1011Max. Value
Entertaining
Holiday Decoration Shops2015Max. Value
Holiday Decorating Services1038Max. Value
Christmas Tree Sellers2032Max. Value
Party Supply Stores2074Max. Value
Eating
Bakeries20355Max. Value
Candy Stores2084Max. Value
Shopping
Holiday Markets308Max. Value
Shopping Centers and Department Stores33123Max. Value
Gift Shops20160Max. Value
Holiday Card Stores10125Max. Value

Sources: Christmas Market Guides, Eventbrite, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Walk Score, and Yelp

Main photo credit: Shutterstock

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Staff Writer