The pure sunshine and laid back lifestyle of the Southwest United States is enough to draw people in from all over the country come holiday time. There really is no warmer and more special space to spend any winter wonderland vacation, especially for those who despise the cold.

Have Christmas fun in the sun with the entire family this December by trading in those wool mittens and heavy coats for something way more nice and toasty. We present the eight best Christmas destinations in the Southwestern U.S.

8 Best Christmas Vacation Destinations In The Southwestern United States

1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Experience winter at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and get ready for a holiday to remember. Depending on the weather, you may or may not have a dusting of snow, but no matter what, you and the kiddies are sure to discover plenty of warmth and holiday spirit all around you. Try staying at the historic El Tovar Lodge, which always dresses up for Christmas time with colorful decorations-- even the stuffed deer, elk, and moose will be donning fuzzy red Santa caps!

Let’s just say that winter at the Grand Canyon is a truly special time. Not only are there far fewer crowds, but the pace of life is so much slower—and those scenic vistas, along with the ever-changing weather, are a sight to behold. Amazing.

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2. Taos, New Mexico

Experience the spirit of the holidays by listening to sleigh bells jingle in winter wonderland. Spend the Christmas season in the perfect Taos vacation home and let Jack Frost nip at your nose as you and the entire family ice skate all your worries away at the Taos Youth and Family Center. Attend "Yuletide In Taos," an entire month of festivities leading up to Christmas and continuing through New Years.

Plus, there’s nothing like celebrating with some help from the good old Rocky Mountains - the stunning Sangre de Christo Mountains, where Taos is located, make up the southernmost subrange of the Rockies. So make it merry this December by making it to the Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair, the Lighting of Ledoux Street with carolers, and the Festival of Trees and Wreaths featuring traditional New Mexican music, all under the spectacular snowy peaks. Cheers!

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3. San Antonio, Texas

Each year after Thanksgiving, San Antonio’s infamous River Walk becomes ablaze with lights where approximately 122,000 twinkling lights form a magical canopy over the entire area every evening through the New Year.

Celebrate Christmas with Paseo Del Rio Holiday Festivities, as well as carolers serenading you from boats, stellar shopping in the El Mercado area (where you’ll find everything from maracas to hand-embroidered dresses), and special events like Fiesta de las Luminarias. Witness 6,000 candlelit brown bags being lit up in tradition for the Holy Family. Fab.

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4. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is magical anytime the year, but especially during the holidays. Experience the ritual of Las Posadas, or enjoy Christmas Eve on Canyon Road with bonfires to warm you up inside and out. You and the family can even head out to a local Pueblo for Native American holiday celebrations and dances.

The entire city is filled with a special sort of charm and tradition during the holiday season. Find lights and evergreens draped across the streets, adobe buildings frosted with freshly fallen snow, mountains gleaming with shiny white tops, and nonstop smells of local piñon wood filling the breezy winter air.

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5. Wickenburg, Arizona

There is nothing like spending an old-fashioned Christmas at a dude ranch. Yes, go all out this holiday season by hanging stockings by the fireplace and celebrating with the entire fam bam at a traditional Arizona ranch, such as Hidden Meadow Guest Ranch in the White Mountains or one of's epic vacation rentals.

There’s also Lake Havasu to check out, where each year, the London Bridge Yacht Club puts on a Boat Parade of Lights. It’s one of the area’s most signature events and has even earned a place among the American Bus Association's Top 100 Events several years in a row—it even won a Governor's Tourism Award for the best event in a rural community!

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6. Phoenix, Arizona

Each Christmas, the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden comes alive with the magic of Las Noches de las Luminarias. Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, the evening celebration of Southwest luminarias always puts visitors into the holiday mood.

Get a taste of the Southwest with Christmas luminarias, farolitos, bonfires, and other such light celebrations along with more than mild temperatures that’ll have you lighting up the night in Phoenix. Happiness awaits, amigos-- so place those candles in sand inside a bag to create a lasting warm glow that’s sure to inspire anyone anytime.

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7. Las Vegas, Nevada

Rodeo on up this holiday with showgirls and the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show. Held annually in Las Vegas, the mega rodeo event is a fun and truly different kind of December destination that’ll have you making memories for sure. Head on down to the Thomas and Mack Center, which is within walking distance of McCarran International Airport and just five minutes from the Strip. Fun times.

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8. Palm Springs, California

Play some golf and spend time relaxing by the pool when you visit Palm Springs. The winter weather is reliably warm and beautiful, and December has clear blue skies that will make the scenic mountains pop in your photos. If a rainstorm comes through, the tops of the mountains sometimes get a dusting of snow, which will make it really feel like Christmas! Treat yourself to a Christmas present by checking out one of the many spas in the area.

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This article was written by Pamela Chan.