Home for the holidays? We prefer traveling to these destinations instead. December promises plenty of holiday celebrations, wild New Year’s Eve parties and music, art and film festivals. Squeeze in some end-of-the-year travel with these best places to travel in December.
No way you’ll freeze your feet off while taking in the Electric Light Parade, a 50-foot Christmas tree and larger-than-life decorations at Honolulu City Lights. In fact, Santa and Mrs. Claus can be seen cooling off their bare tootsies in the fountain at City Hall.
On St. Kitts, Carnival happens all month long. Events like Sugar Mas combine Boxing Day with Carnival street parades. Music-lovers will appreciate the Calypso Semi-Finals and Soca Monarch Festivals.
St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Set your alarm for 4 a.m. The only-in-SVG Nine Mornings Festival starts before the sun rises, with street concerts, Christmas-light competitions, and offbeat events like banana-eating contests. Be sure to try the homemade ginger beer, sorrel, and other seasonal specialties.
The crème de la crème of Italy and Hollywood gather every December for the Capri Film Festival to screen everything from big-time blockbusters to independent films.
Catch the Havana Jazz Festival before the crowds pour in. Tip: Though there are ticketed theater performances, some of the best are in the intimate, rum-soaked clubs of the Vedado neighborhood.
British Virgin Islands
It’s the height of peak season, but for good reason: Foxy’s New Year’s Eve Party on the island of Jost Van Dyke is one of the world’s biggest fetes; start making arrangements in July, if possible. This month is also the height of dry season, as well as when the trade winds blow steadily, ushering in leagues of southbound yachts.
Editor's note: Despite the recent hurricanes, this event is still on for 2017.
St. Croix, USVI
Stake your spot on the Christiansted boardwalk well before sunset for the Christmas Boat Parade. Seaplane fly-overs warm up the crowd for the lavishly decorated watercraft. Watch for reindeer under palm trees and mermaids sharing deck space with Santa. Extravagant fireworks finish the night.
Editor's note: Sadly, this event has been cancelled for 2017.
Originating in Basel, Switzerland, the art festival Art Basel now also takes place annually in Hong Kong and Miami Beach. Miami’s four-day festival showcases creative works from international galleries and world-renown artists, as well as local emerging stars. The main event takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center but there are more than 25 satellite art fairs nearby. Visit the modern and contemporary shows to view (and purchase) paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations and photographs.
Caroling gets a new twist at the Carriacou Parang Festival. Backed by mandolins, guitars, and shak-shaks (maracas), groups compete with both traditional songs and ones that call out politicians’ wrongdoings and the misbehavior of ordinary citizens. No wonder they’re called melees.
The cultural festival Junkanoo takes place on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The main event is a “rush out,” a huge parade (usually from 2 a.m to 10 a.m.) along Bay Street, where groups don elaborate costumes and play goatskin drums, horns and cowbells. Can’t make it to the Bahamas over the holidays? Due to popular demand, there are now several Junkanoo celebrations throughout the year.
In the Gulf of Thailand, the island of Koh Phangan is one of the best places to ring in the New Year with all-night dancing on the beach. The king’s birthday is December 5, so expect gaudy displays of flags and buildings decorations, plus firework shows. This month belongs to the cooler season throughout all of Thailand, and thus the travel peak.
Carnival in February is Trinidad’s biggest excuse to celebrate, but Christmas is a close second, and the Trinis are well into the swing of it by month’s start. Foodies get to try December-only specialties such as pastelles, black cake and ponche de crème — a high-test eggnog made with overproof rum. And even Scrooges capitulate to carols played on steel pan and you-gotta-dance Christmas parang, with maracas, cuatros and a fast Latin beat.