New Years Eve, Times Square, New York City
Credit: Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

Cold winds may be whipping and snow may be falling in some parts of the U.S., but when it comes to festive activities, no month is hotter than December. Here are our top picks for fun (even without the sun).

Sail on a Christmas Ship in Seattle

The Christmas Ship Festival, an annual holiday tradition in the Seattle area since 1949, is a unique way to celebrate the Christmas season. Argosy Cruises decks out their "Spirit of Seattle" Christmas Ship and sails to multiple ports around the Pugent Sound waterfront. Onboard, choirs perform for passengers and loudspeakers broadcast holiday music for those partying along from the shores. Santa, sing-a-longs, contests, prizes, and crafts keep the passengers entertained.

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Ride the Polar Express in North Carolina

Prepare to journey through the wilderness enroute to the “North Pole.” Guests on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express ride enjoy hot cocoa while listening to the soundtrack and reading along to this classic Christmas story. Be greeted by Santa upon arrival in his hometown as he boards the train to greet guests and presents each with a special gift. The best part: pajamas are encouraged.

Tour the Decked Halls of St. Augustine

The quaint, historical city of St. Augustine, Florida hosts its popular Bed and Breakfast Holiday Tour every December. The event showcases the picturesque inns bejeweled in their finest holiday decor. The B&Bs partner with local restaurants to offer holiday treats to savor while touring. Advance reservations are suggested.

Mingle With Artists and Trendsetters in Miami

Art Basel Miami brings together the most innovative artists and performers worldwide for a spectacular art fair presented Miami style. The event has been touted as the American art world’s answer to the Cannes Film Festival. While the main show takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center, over 25 satellite art fairs are set up at various venues throughout the area. It’s a great excuse to check out trendy Wynwood, too.

Visit the Historic Holiday Sites of Washington, D.C.

Be part of a tradition that began with Calvin Coolidge in 1923 in our nation's capital. Though tickets to the initial lighting ceremony are awarded through an online lottery, the Pathway of Peace is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. The National Christmas Tree is surrounded by 56 smaller state and territory trees, each uniquely decorated with handmade ornaments.

Cheer on the Christmas Boat Parade in Newport Beach

Behold the holidays with California charm at the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Festival. Decorated yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes wind their way around the harbor for 10 miles. Viewers can enjoy the spectacle from waterfront restaurants, homes, and many public gathering spots along the route. A nautical-themed playground and picnic area provide a family-friendly vantage point.

Spend Eight Crazy Nights in Chicago

From “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Music Box to a Hannukah Concert at Chicago's Botanic Garden, latkes at Kaufman's and holiday toasts with limited-edition brews from Schmaltz Brewing Company, the Windy City provides an abundance of Hanukkah happenings every December.

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Celebrate the 12 Days of Aspen

The bewitching winter wonderland of Aspen, Colorado becomes even more magical during the 12 Days of Aspen holiday celebration. Activities include free ice skating and holiday attractions, concerts and carolers, and of course Santa and his reindeer. A breathtaking New Year's Eve firework spectacular over the snow-covered Rocky Mountains concludes the festivities.

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Ring in the New Year in New York City

The world-renowned Times Square New Year's Eve celebration trumps all others. Upwards of 1 million revelers squeeze into New York City's Times Square to participate in this star-studded experience. Requirements include layers of clothing, a bionic bladder, and a double dose of patience. Arrive by noon or earlier for a prime spot. Bring snacks and water and prepare to witness a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

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