The city of Branson is nestled in the Ozark Mountains about 250 miles from the gateway to the West, St. Louis, MO. Once a dying lumber town, Branson is now the country's live entertainment capital. It is home to scores of theaters and resort hotels that appeal to tourists year-round. And during that most wonderful time of the year, the hotels, theaters and townspeople all come together to produce the Branson Area Festival of Lights.
The festival starts November 1, and lasts 6 weeks, drawing about a million and a half visitors. The star of the festival is the Annual Adoration Parade -- a big, old-fashioned Christmas parade with over 50 bands and floats passing through historic downtown Branson. Something you won't see in any other Christmas parade is the Christmas cattle drive, where the cowboys of Branson's Great American Wild West show deck out their longhorns in the spirit of the season.
In addition to the parade and Christmas musicals put on by local theaters, the whole town is literally aglow with the Christmas spirit. The centerpiece of Branson's more than 8 million Christmas lights is the Winter Wonder Landing, featuring the world's only fountain that shoots fire as well as water. The fountain's display is choreographed to Christmas music and goes off every half hour.
Perhaps the most beautiful way to take in the spirit of Branson a horse and buggy ride through snow-covered hills. The ride ends with a breathtaking Christmas vista of the town below. You can even climb the 200-foot inspiration tower and enhance your view of this spectacular Christmas Wonderland.
Christmas Miracle, Vegas-Style
No American city parties harder than Las Vegas, and every December more than 3 million people flock here to celebrate the holidays. As proof that Christmas in Vegas is high-speed and high-octane, there's an annual holiday road race -- exclusively for Santa impersonators!
Witness a Christmas miracle Vegas-style by ice-skating in the Nevada desert. At Lake Las Vegas, you can lace up and hit the ice in the world's only floating rink.
Each year, Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall creates a winter wonderland spectacular. The experience boasts over half a million Christmas lights, a futuristic Christmas laser show and culminates in a magical Christmas snow shower. If you find yourself in the Nevada desert, dreaming of a white Christmas, then Sam's is the place for you!
If you want to witness Christmas done right on the Vegas Strip, there's only 1 place to be -- the world-famous Bellagio. The fountains at the Bellagio are already a must-see on any Vegas tour guide, but come December, the fountains dance only to Christmas carols. The botanical gardens at the Bellagio are home to a breathtaking display featuring a 49-foot-tall Christmas tree topped with an 8-foot star.