If you’re looking for an old-fashioned Christmas experience, the state of Kansas should be at the top of your vacation destination list. Enjoy shopping for unique, handcrafted gifts; taking a stroll through inspiring, elaborate decorations; visiting breathtaking living Nativities; and visiting Santa in all sorts of fun venues. Look for Santa on trains, at breakfast, and even swimming with penguins! Whether you prefer traditional caroling, a professional-quality performance of “The Nutcracker,” or inspiring classical choir music, it’s easy to find these and much more in Kansas. Book a stay at a Kansas vacation rental today. Without further ado, take a look at seven towns in the state that celebrate Christmas fantastically.

1. Baldwin City

If your Christmas plans take you to Baldwin City, book a ride on the Santa Claus Express. This 11-mile train ride lets each kid meet Santa personally in his train car, a relic that’s more than 100 years old, and everyone gets hot cocoa and cookies to add to the fun. If you choose a twilight trip, your kids may even come dressed in their pajamas (which makes it easier to get them to bed back at your vacation rental!). Back in town, make sure to attend the Baldwin City tree lighting, and take your kids to breakfast with Santa. Head to the Lumberyard Arts Center to build your own gingerbread house or to admire the craftsmanship of the artisans participating in the Festival of Wreaths and Trees.

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2. Lindsborg

Lindsborg prides itself on offering an old-fashioned prairie Christmas to locals and visitors alike, with an emphasis on the town’s Swedish heritage. Take part in the Julotta Christmas service, the Festival of St. Lucia, and a Jultide concert that all bring an authentic Old World feel to the festivities. At the Old Mill Museum, enjoy 18th-century Christmas crafts and music as Santa strolls the grounds. Be sure to catch the re-enactment of the Nativity story as told by the shepherd in the stable.

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3. Sharon Springs

The Victorian Holiday Celebration in Sharon Springs takes you back to days gone by to enjoy a classic version of the holidays. Stop at The Roseboro to peruse the wares of dozens of artisans and get a little shopping done. Choose from handmade jewelry, wooden toys, Christmas decorations, and homemade jams and jellies to bring back to your vacation rental. Local restaurants serve up special menus featuring holiday fare, and streets are filled with people dressed in Victorian garb. Start the fun off right with a waffle breakfast at the firehouse, and don’t miss the costume contest at the end of the festivities.

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4. Russell

A Russell Christmas is a magical one. Head to the Kansas Christmas Wonderland that’s housed in an old Victorian church to experience Christmas decorating options like you’ve never seen before. Pick up a few decorations to make your vacation rental more festive, or find a stunning antique piece to take home with you. Kick off the season with the Christmas parade down Main Street; you can even participate if you add some lights and other decorations to your car.

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5. Atchison

Atchison takes Christmas very seriously, getting the festivities going right after Thanksgiving. Enjoy free carriage rides and sleigh rides through this quaint town as part of the Sights and Sounds of Christmas celebration, and enter coloring contests or gingerbread house contests to win prizes. Local businesses give away giant Christmas stockings to lucky kids, and wrap your day by snagging a great viewing spot for the annual Parade of Lights as it wends its way through the city.

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6. Kansas City

On both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border, Kansas City does Christmas right. Enjoy holiday productions of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker,” or head to First Baptist Church Baytown for the spectacular Heart of America Christmas pageant, in which 600 church members come together for a stunning retelling of the Nativity story. More Christmas productions include annual presentations of Handel’s “Messiah,” performances of Christmas music by local choirs, and screenings of favorite Christmas movies at local theaters and malls. Several churches present drive-through and walk-through living Nativity scenes, and Santa makes an appearance at all the shopping centers, as well as at the KC Zoo, where may find the jolly man diving with the penguins. Local community centers and restaurants host breakfast with Santa, and luminary walks take place at Powell Gardens, the Overland Park Arboretum, and the Ernie Miller Nature Center.

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7. WaKeeney

WaKeeney calls itself the Christmas City of the High Plains, and with good reason. Since the 1950s, this small town has gone all out, putting together the most elaborate decorating display between Kansas City and Denver. The festivities are anchored by a 35-foot tree and four blocks of incredible decorations in the downtown shopping district. Book your vacation rental for the weekend after Thanksgiving to be present for the tree-raising, and enjoy carriage rides and a visit with Santa at the same time. Later in the month, stroll down the main street to be amazed at the thousands of lights, hundreds of pounds of greenery, and other elaborate decorations that show how much WaKeeney loves Christmas.

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