The Best Christmas Tree in Every State
The United States puts up some 40 million Christmas trees every year and, in 2011 alone, Americans spent over $3 billion on them, both real as well as artificial. The tradition of decorating a tree at Christmastime dates back to 16th-century Germany, and was popularized in English-speaking countries when Queen Victoria (and her German husband, Prince Albert) decorated Windsor Castle with a Christmas tree.
A popular magazine put the royal tree on their cover and, within a decade, the practice was widespread. The prevalence of Christmas trees was further boosted in the United States with the largescale arrival of German immigrants in the 19th century, who introduced the practice to new communities.
Once relegated to private spaces, public Christmas trees became common in the early 20th century, as governments, businesses, and communities began putting up their own trees. Whether they are erected by department stores (like Atlanta’s Great Tree), or even nations, like DC’s National Tree, these evergreens are often lit in late November or very early December.
Up until the 1950s, almost all Christmas trees were harvested from natural forests. Formal Christmas tree farms increased greatly in number after World War II, and helped shape (literally) what the trees looked like—producing denser trees in response to customer demand. Artificial trees became increasingly common as the 20th century continued, eventually eclipsing real trees in terms of dollars spent per year by American consumers.
But whatever your personal tree preference, it’s likely you’ll find it reflected here. From lobster traps to natural boughs, these are the most memorable trees in the United States.
Alabama’s Capitol Christmas Tree in Montgomery
On the gracious steps of the Alabama State Capitol, a massive tree—decorated with stars representing each of Alabama’s 67 counties—lights up every December. Donated by a state resident, the tree is lit in an annual ceremony with music, souvenirs, and an open house.
Alaska’s Holiday Tree in Anchorage
In Town Square Park, Anchorage lights up its tree with a toy drive, free hot cocoa, and baked goods. Santa makes a not-so-short journey from the North Pole for the occasion, complete with reindeer.
Arizona’s Tumbleweed Tree in Chandler
This unique Christmas tradition began in 1957, with members of Chandler’s Park Operations Division gathering tumbleweeds on the outskirts of town. As Chandler has grown, however, tumbleweeds are harder to find: the tree requires nearly 1,000 of them.
Arkansas’s Lights of the Ozarks Tree in Fayetteville
With a whole menagerie of animals—carriage horses, camels, and “party time ponies,”—Fayetteville lights up its Christmas tree (and downtown) in festive Ozark style.
California’s Lego Christmas Tree in Carlsbad
At 30-feet tall and made from more than 245,000 green Duplo bricks, Legoland California can boast the world’s largest LEGO Christmas tree. It even has its own Lego ornaments!
Rocky Mountain Region Cut-Your-Own Christmas Trees in Colorado
So it’s not one Christmas tree, but the National Forest Service encourages Colorado residents to cut their own trees from the Rocky Mountain Region’s national forest lands. “In doing so,” they say, “you take an active part in managing your national forests as you celebrate your own family's holiday tradition!”
Connecticut’s Christmas Tree in Mystic Seaport
The seaside Connecticut town lights its Christmas tree with an annual lighted boat parade. At the head is Santa, who arrives via tug boat.
Delaware’s Christmas Tree in Rehoboth Beach
In view of the surf, Rehoboth Beach’s annual Christmas tree stands beside the town bandstand and the iconic boardwalk candymaker, Dolle’s Saltwater Taffy. Santa also takes a stroll along the boardwalk for the occasion, and has been known to play some skeeball.
Florida’s 100-Foot Christmas Tree in Delray Beach
Delray Beach has celebrated Christmas with a 100-foot tall tree for over 20 years. Decorated with 12,000 ornaments and 15,000 LED light bulbs, the artificial tree is constructed with the help of dozens of volunteers known as “Mother Fluffers,” for the work they do fluffing the tree’s 3,086 branches to create a more realistic visual effect.
Georgia’s Great Tree in Atlanta
Rich’s department store began a tradition in 1948 that would eventually land its annual rooftop Christmas tree, called the Great Tree, on the cover of Time magazine in 1961. After a merger with Macy’s in 2004, the Great Tree’s brand name changed, but the essentials remain the same. Today, you can see the Great Tree in at Lenox Square, where a tree lighting is accompanied by a massive fireworks display.
Hawaii’s Christmas Banyan Tree in Lahaina
Lahaina’s banyan tree was planted in 1873 to commemorate the first anniversary of Christian missionaries’ presence on the Hawaiian island. Only eight feet tall when it was brought from India, the tree now measures almost an acre wide and has a dozen primary trunks. Thousands of lights are used to decorate the historic tree every Christmas.
Idaho’s Capitol Christmas Tree in Boise
An army band, complimentary hot chocolate and cider, and free books greet holiday revelers in Boise looking to watch the state’s official 45-foot Blue Spruce Christmas tree light up with 12,000 colored Christmas lights against the dramatic backdrop of the Idaho Statehouse.
Illinois’s Christmas Tree in Chicago
Chicago began erecting a city Christmas tree in 1913, first in Grant Park, then in Daley Plaza, and now in Millennium Park. In previous years, the Chicago Christmas tree was selected by online poll: nominated trees had to be at least 55 feet tall, a spruce or fir variety, and located within 100 miles of the Chicago Loop.
Indiana’s Circle of Lights Tree in Indianapolis
With fireworks, Santa, and a lucky child chosen to turn on the lights, Indianapolis celebrates the official lighting of their Monument Circle Christmas tree every year the day after Thanksgiving. Its many toy soldier decorations honor the nearby Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Iowa’s Main Street Tree in Slater
In the small town of Slater, a special manhole (complete with an electrical outlet) was dug in the center of downtown’s main intersection for the singular purpose of supporting their annual Christmas tree. Each year, a 30-foot-tall evergreen is donated from a local citizen’s lawn, and for the month of December, everyone else must drive around it.
Kansas’s Blue Earth Plaza Christmas Tree in Manhattan
The tallest tree in Kansas is in downtown Manhattan: the 56,000 person strong city of Manhattan, Kansas, that is. An enormous 75-foot artificial tree is festooned every year with 15,000 LED lights in Blue Earth Plaza.
Kentucky’s Triangle Park Tree in Lexington
In Lexington’s Triangle Park, the city’s Christmas tree is lit alongside a holiday market and ice skating rink. Santa flips the switch for this annual tradition, now called Luminate Lexington, which first began in 1913.
Louisiana’s French Market Tree in New Orleans
The French Quarter’s 225-year-old market celebrates Christmas in classic New Orleans style: with excellent food and equally exceptional music. Washington Artillery Park hosts the fleur de lis-topped tree, while jazz and gospel music accompany the tree-lighting ceremony. There’s even a traditional second line brass parade to St. Louis Cathedral.
Maine’s Lobster Trap Tree in Rockland
Decorated with buoys and crowned with a triumphant lobster holding a star, Rockland’s 30-foot-tall tree is actually made up of 152 lobster traps, all constructed by U.S. Coast Guard volunteers. Though Gloucester, MA, can claim the first lobster trap tree, Rockland—home of the annual Maine Lobster Festival—offers a delightful variation on the theme.
Maryland’s Christmas Tree in Annapolis
Alfred A. Hopkins Plaza in downtown, brick-clad Annapolis hosts the capital’s annual Christmas tree, and its elaborate “Grand Illumination” lighting celebration, complete with ballet and choir performances.
Massachusetts’s Christmas Tree in Boston
Boston has erected a city Christmas tree since 1941 and, since 1971, that tree has come from Nova Scotia, which honors Boston’s life-saving response to the 1917 Halifax Explosion. Every year the tree stops in Halifax for a public send-off ceremony before it departs on its 750-mile journey to Boston.
Michigan’s State Christmas Tree in Manistee
This Victorian-style celebration brings its Christmas tree in with a parade. Draft horses pull the 30-foot tree into town and welcomed with fireworks.
Minnesota’s Rice Park Holiday Tree in Saint Paul
Set up alongside the seasonal Wells Fargo WinterSkate and against the backdrop of downtown Saint Paul’s Romanesque 1902 Landmark Center, the city brags that its tree is “as tall and bright as the iconic Rockefeller Center tree in New York City”—but with an extra helping of Minnesota charm.
Mississippi’s Christmas Tree in Natchez
On the banks of the Mississippi River, Natchez combines its tree-lighting ceremony with an annual gumbo cook-off.
Missouri’s Ozark Mountain Christmas Tree in Branson
Though 1,000 Christmas trees are decorated across “Silver Dollar City” every holiday season, there’s only one that’s five-stories tall.
Montana’s Christmas Tree in Missoula
Next to four red X’s on North Higgins Avenue (a 1986 piece of public art called “Crossings”) is downtown Missoula’s Christmas tree. The annual lighting is celebrated with a Parade of Lights down Higgins and free carriage rides.
Nebraska’s Christmas Tree in Minden
Known as Nebraska’s Christmas City, Minden has been celebrating the Yuletide with lights since 1915, when City Light Commissioner J.H. “Jack” Haws strung some up across the town square to celebrate the Grand Army of the Republic: and the brilliantly illuminated tree is no exception.
Nevada’s Holiday Cactus in Las Vegas
Though there are plenty of opulent Christmas displays along Las Vegas’s strip, the real heart of the Mojave can be found at Ethel M Chocolate’s annual Holiday Cactus Light Display. What says holiday spirit more than a Christmas cactus?
New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Christmas Tree in Portsmouth
In downtown Market Square, an illuminated parade begins when the Portsmouth Christmas tree is lit in a celebration called “Vintage Christmas,” complete with strolls through the living history museum, Strawbery Banke, and free vintage trolley rides around town.
New Jersey’s Christmas Tree in Cape May
The Victorian seaside town of Cape May celebrates Christmas Dickens-style, especially at its historic Emlen Physick Estate. Here, an enormous tree illuminates the holiday celebration (as do glowing gaslights and trolley rides).
New Mexico’s Christmas Tree in Albuquerque
A history-themed Old Town Holiday Stroll brings revelers into downtown Albuquerque’s Plaza Don Luis for the lighting of an enormous tree. So big, it’s in fact not a single tree, but 130 that have been combined into one.
New York’s Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City
Perhaps the most famous Christmas tree in the world, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been installed every year since 1933, when the iconic plaza was completed. The tallest tree on record reached 100 feet in 1999—the width of New York City’s bedazzled streets limits the tree height to 110 feet.
North Carolina’s Biltmore Christmas Tree in Asheville
As opulent as the grand manor it decorates, Biltmore House’s annual banquet hall Christmas tree is 35-feet-tall, 3,500 pounds, and very difficult to fit into a Gilded Age mansion. The tree is brought to Biltmore on a horse-drawn carriage, with Santa seated next to the driver, and heralded by a trumpeter blowing a welcome from the fourth floor window.