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5 Top Cities for Holiday Lights

By Posted by Nicole Campoy-Leffler, Editor
December 8, 2011; 12:46 PM ET

'Tis the season to indulge (even briefly) in tourist attractions like the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink and Christmas tree and the Magnificent Mile Lights in Chicago. Done up with thousands of lights, towering Christmas trees, fireworks displays, and sparkling winter wonderlands, cities across the country go all out for the holidays. Here are our top five picks for family-friendly holiday fun this year.

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Flickr/ralph and jenny

New York City

Of course, New York City is the classic holiday city destination, with that iconic giant Christmas tree, festive shop windows down Fifth Avenue, ice skating rinks, and charming Christmas markets. Step in from the cold to see Grand Central Station's (free) Holiday Kaleidoscope Light Show displayed on their walls, sip hot cocoa at Central Park's Wollman Rink, and snack on roasted chestnuts from street vendors all over town.

Newport Beach, Calif.

The country's longest running holiday boat parade features more than 150 boats done up with colored Christmas lights, trees, and snowmen sailing along Newport Harbor near Balboa Island. Nearly 1 million visitors look onto the lights reflecting in the water as they stroll down Balboa Island, listening to carol singers and sipping hot cocoa. Just across the island, find your new favorite fish tacos at Great Mex restaurant.

Chicago

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Chicago hosts the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, where more than 1 million lights adorn trees along the street to kick off the season. Then, the 45-foot tall Macy's Great Tree goes up, as well as the brightly lit Christmas tree and holiday market in Daley Plaza, while State Street boasts sweet holiday-themed shop windows. Go skating on the Millenium Park rink before finding deep dish pizza at Giordano's or warming up with a classic pot pie at the historic Berghoff nearby.

Natchitoches, La.

Perhaps the most famous stop along the Holiday Trail of Lights, which spans from Louisiana into Texas, Natchitoches is marking its 85th year of holiday festivities, which include many thousands of tiny lights along the downtown area and the Cane River Lake, carriage tours through the National Landmark District, carol singers, fireworks, and their Christmas by Candlelight tour of homes. Find a seat at the historic Landing Restaurant and Bar for traditional Louisiana cuisine.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/sburke2478)

Albuquerque, N.M.

At Albuquerque's Botanic Garden every year, hundreds of thousands of lights are lit to celebrate the season with their River of Lights and Luminaria Tour. In historic Old Town, brown paper bags are lit up with candles, transforming the area into a warmly lit holiday wonderland. Find authentic New Mexican cuisine, like sopaipillas, in Old Town at Monica's El Portal Restaurant.

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