Known for its snowy scenery and nature trails, the state of Montana is truly a winter wonderland during the Christmas season. Venture out into the city streets of Whitefish to see festive decorations in storefront windows, as well as the lighted parades in Billings and Lewistown. From Christmas strolls to holiday craft fairs offering a variety of gift options, Montana is the obvious choice for some winter fun. Spend days skiing and snowboarding, and nights warming up by the fireplace. Make this scenic state your holiday destination by booking a stay at one of many incredible vacation rentals in Montana. Choose from rustic cabins and cottages to luxurious lodges and houses. With so many options for holiday-themed fun, it’s no wonder tourists flock to this state when Christmas comes around. Consider these seven destinations for your next holiday trip.

1. Whitefish

It’s no secret that Whitefish is one of the most scenic towns in Montana, but during the holiday season, the city takes on a glow with its annual tree lighting ceremony. Venture from your quaint cabin or luxurious holiday home rental to take part in the annual Christmas stroll where carolers line the streets and Santa makes an appearance to visit and capture photos with the kids. Find your Christmas spirit with a performance by the Alpine Bell Ringers hand-bell choir at the First Presbyterian Church, or see a performance of the Whitefire fire dancers at the Carnival Float.

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2. Billings

As one of the most popular vacation destinations for skiers and tourists seeking fun in the snow, Billings also pulls out all the stops to make your Christmas celebration a winter wonderland. The day after Thanksgiving, the city hosts its annual holiday parade with local marching bands sounding off Christmas medleys and an appearance from Santa on one of the handmade floats. Billings is also known for its ZooMontana celebration where the zoo lights offer guests a magical drive through thousands of lights. Enjoy the live music festivals that are abundant during the holiday season, or learn more about the history of the area with a visit to the Yellowstone County Museum.

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3. Fort Benton

Snuggle up near the fire in your warm cottage or cabin, and then join in the vintage holiday celebration hosted by the city of Fort Benton. As Montana’s oldest town, this area is home to the Virgelle Mercantile, offering downtown shopping for vacationers to find the perfect gift. Head over to the Bridgeton Craft Fair in December for homemade gifts, or walk through the historic town to view the expansive light displays and window decorations. The Shonkin Community Hall hosts a Country Christmas Celebration each year that includes wagon and sleigh rides for the kids.

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4. Lewistown

Take the kids on a ride to the North Pole on the Charlie Russell Chew Choo in Lewistown during your holiday vacation. Right after Thanksgiving, Lewistown transforms into a winter wonderland with a Parade of Lights festival led by Santa Claus himself. The annual Christmas Stroll downtown includes carolers and homemade floats that pass by the local vendors offering food, gifts, and crafts. The festival includes live entertainment on the downtown streets, holiday foods prepared by local restaurants, and bonfires to keep you and the family toasty.

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5. Philipsburg

Bundle up and take off from your rustic vacation rental in Philipsburg to join in the festivities of this charming town during the holiday season. Take a stroll down the city streets to see the window displays and Christmas lights hanging above. The staple of the season in this Montana town is the parade featuring vehicles outfitted with colorful lights and decorated floats. You might even spot Santa and Mrs. Claus riding along the parade route.

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6. Bigfork

Dubbed Montana’s Christmas village, Bigfork is a little community that breaks out big celebrations for Christmas. The kickoff event on the first Saturday of December includes the Bigfork Holiday Parade, held in the evening so you can see the glorious light displays on each float. After the parade, Santa sets up his shop in the downtown area to visit with the kids. This eclectic city also hosts home tours so you can see the decorations the residents put on display each year while strolling through the city streets featuring light displays and mistletoe galore.

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7. Missoula

The annual Parade of Lights sets your vacation aglow in Missoula. This snow-covered area is home to an interactive parade that includes photos with Santa and a downtown holiday tree lighting. Every weekend, you can see the decorations in the downtown area while on board a carriage ride, courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up. The downtown celebrations also include a kids corner with crafts and Christmas-themed activities on weekends in December. Shop for the perfect gift at the quaint specialty and antique stores, and warm up with a mug of hot chocolate at Caffe Dolce before retreating back to your vacation rental for some rest and relaxation.

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