The Best Christmas Tree in Every State
This story originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.
On the gracious steps of the Alabama State Capitol, a massive tree—decorated with stars representing each of Alabama’s 67 counties—lights up every December. Donated by a state resident, the tree is lit in an annual ceremony with music, souvenirs, and an open house.
In Town Square Park, Anchorage lights up its tree with a toy drive, free hot cocoa, and baked goods. Santa makes a not-so-short journey from the North Pole for the occasion, complete with reindeer.
This unique Christmas tradition began in 1957, with members of Chandler’s Park Operations Division gathering tumbleweeds on the outskirts of town. As Chandler has grown, however, tumbleweeds are harder to find: the tree requires nearly 1,000 of them.
With a whole menagerie of animals—carriage horses, camels, and “party time ponies,”—Fayetteville lights up its Christmas tree (and downtown) in festive Ozark style.
At 30-feet tall and made from more than 245,000 green Duplo bricks, Legoland California can boast the world’s largest LEGO Christmas tree. It even has its own Lego ornaments!
So it’s not one Christmas tree, but the National Forest Service encourages Colorado residents to cut their own trees from the Rocky Mountain Region’s national forest lands. “In doing so,” they say, “you take an active part in managing your national forests as you celebrate your own family’s holiday tradition!”
The seaside Connecticut town lights its Christmas tree with an annual lighted boat parade. At the head is Santa, who arrives via tug boat.
In view of the surf, Rehoboth Beach’s annual Christmas tree stands beside the town bandstand and the iconic boardwalk candymaker, Dolle’s Saltwater Taffy. Santa also takes a stroll along the boardwalk for the occasion, and has been known to play some skeeball.
Delray Beach has celebrated Christmas with a 100-foot tall tree for over 20 years. Decorated with 12,000 ornaments and 15,000 LED light bulbs, the artificial tree is constructed with the help of dozens of volunteers known as “Mother Fluffers,” for the work they do fluffing the tree’s 3,086 branches to create a more realistic visual effect.
Rich’s department store began a tradition in 1948 that would eventually land its annual rooftop Christmas tree, called the Great Tree, on the cover of Time magazine in 1961. After a merger with Macy’s in 2004, the Great Tree’s brand name changed, but the essentials remain the same. Today, you can see the Great Tree in at Lenox Square, where a tree lighting is accompanied by a massive fireworks display.
Lahaina’s banyan tree was planted in 1873 to commemorate the first anniversary of Christian missionaries’ presence on the Hawaiian island. Only eight feet tall when it was brought from India, the tree now measures almost an acre wide and has a dozen primary trunks. Thousands of lights are used to decorate the historic tree every Christmas.
An army band, complimentary hot chocolate and cider, and free books greet holiday revelers in Boise looking to watch the state’s official 45-foot Blue Spruce Christmas tree light up with 12,000 colored Christmas lights against the dramatic backdrop of the Idaho Statehouse.
Chicago began erecting a city Christmas tree in 1913, first in Grant Park, then in Daley Plaza, and now in Millennium Park. In previous years, the Chicago Christmas tree was selected by online poll: nominated trees had to be at least 55 feet tall, a spruce or fir variety, and located within 100 miles of the Chicago Loop.
With fireworks, Santa, and a lucky child chosen to turn on the lights, Indianapolis celebrates the official lighting of their Monument Circle Christmas tree every year the day after Thanksgiving. Its many toy soldier decorations honor the nearby Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
In the small town of Slater, a special manhole (complete with an electrical outlet) was dug in the center of downtown’s main intersection for the singular purpose of supporting their annual Christmas tree. Each year, a 30-foot-tall evergreen is donated from a local citizen’s lawn, and for the month of December, everyone else must drive around it.
The tallest tree in Kansas is in downtown Manhattan: the 56,000 person strong city of Manhattan, Kansas, that is. An enormous 75-foot artificial tree is festooned every year with 15,000 LED lights in Blue Earth Plaza.
In Lexington’s Triangle Park, the city’s Christmas tree is lit alongside a holiday market and ice skating rink. Santa flips the switch for this annual tradition, now called Luminate Lexington, which first began in 1913.
The French Quarter’s 225-year-old market celebrates Christmas in classic New Orleans style: with excellent food and equally exceptional music. Washington Artillery Park hosts the fleur de lis-topped tree, while jazz and gospel music accompany the tree-lighting ceremony. There’s even a traditional second line brass parade to St. Louis Cathedral.
Decorated with buoys and crowned with a triumphant lobster holding a star, Rockland’s 30-foot-tall tree is actually made up of 152 lobster traps, all constructed by U.S. Coast Guard volunteers. Though Gloucester, MA, can claim the first lobster trap tree, Rockland—home of the annual Maine Lobster Festival—offers a delightful variation on the theme.
Alfred A. Hopkins Plaza in downtown, brick-clad Annapolis hosts the capital’s annual Christmas tree, and its elaborate “Grand Illumination” lighting celebration, complete with ballet and choir performances.
Boston has erected a city Christmas tree since 1941 and, since 1971, that tree has come from Nova Scotia, which honors Boston’s life-saving response to the 1917 Halifax Explosion. Every year the tree stops in Halifax for a public send-off ceremony before it departs on its 750-mile journey to Boston.
This Victorian-style celebration brings its Christmas tree in with a parade. Draft horses pull the 30-foot tree into town and welcomed with fireworks.
Set up alongside the seasonal Wells Fargo WinterSkate and against the backdrop of downtown Saint Paul’s Romanesque 1902 Landmark Center, the city brags that its tree is “as tall and bright as the iconic Rockefeller Center tree in New York City”—but with an extra helping of Minnesota charm.
On the banks of the Mississippi River, Natchez combines its tree-lighting ceremony with an annual gumbo cook-off.
Though 1,000 Christmas trees are decorated across “Silver Dollar City” every holiday season, there’s only one that’s five-stories tall.
Next to four red X’s on North Higgins Avenue (a 1986 piece of public art called “Crossings”) is downtown Missoula’s Christmas tree. The annual lighting is celebrated with a Parade of Lights down Higgins and free carriage rides.
Known as Nebraska’s Christmas City, Minden has been celebrating the Yuletide with lights since 1915, when City Light Commissioner J.H. “Jack” Haws strung some up across the town square to celebrate the Grand Army of the Republic: and the brilliantly illuminated tree is no exception.
Though there are plenty of opulent Christmas displays along Las Vegas’s strip, the real heart of the Mojave can be found at Ethel M Chocolate’s annual Holiday Cactus Light Display. What says holiday spirit more than a Christmas cactus?
In downtown Market Square, an illuminated parade begins when the Portsmouth Christmas tree is lit in a celebration called “Vintage Christmas,” complete with strolls through the living history museum, Strawbery Banke, and free vintage trolley rides around town.
The Victorian seaside town of Cape May celebrates Christmas Dickens-style, especially at its historic Emlen Physick Estate. Here, an enormous tree illuminates the holiday celebration (as do glowing gaslights and trolley rides).
A history-themed Old Town Holiday Stroll brings revelers into downtown Albuquerque’s Plaza Don Luis for the lighting of an enormous tree. So big, it’s in fact not a single tree, but 130 that have been combined into one.
Perhaps the most famous Christmas tree in the world, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been installed every year since 1933, when the iconic plaza was completed. The tallest tree on record reached 100 feet in 1999—the width of New York City’s bedazzled streets limits the tree height to 110 feet.
As opulent as the grand manor it decorates, Biltmore House’s annual banquet hall Christmas tree is 35-feet-tall, 3,500 pounds, and very difficult to fit into a Gilded Age mansion. The tree is brought to Biltmore on a horse-drawn carriage, with Santa seated next to the driver, and heralded by a trumpeter blowing a welcome from the fourth floor window.
The North Dakota Council on the Arts curates the annual Capitol Building Christmas tree, which is open to the public. Beautifully decorated, the tree has been artificial since 2015—it’s not easy finding a tall evergreen in the country’s least forested state.
In downtown’s Public Square, a Winterfest marks the lighting of Cleveland’s Christmas tree, with ice skating, free carriage rides, a holiday market, and even an appearance by the Cavaliers.
The town of Guthrie has been celebrating Christmas in territorial style since 1995, when it decided to highlight the town’s early history (before Oklahoma became a state). Its Territorial Christmas Tree—a living tree strung with hundreds of lights—is not exactly historically accurate, but it is beautiful.
The Stimson Lumber Company provides the city of Portland with its annual 75 footer, which it lights up the day after Thanksgiving in the heart of downtown Portland. A holiday sing-a-long (the city’s largest) traditionally accompanies the lighting.
The birthplace of actor Jimmy Stewart and the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World,” Indiana, PA, throws an annual It’s a Wonderful Life festival complete with a town Christmas tree that makes the local tree farm industry proud.
Newport—despite its reputation as a summer hot spot for the Gilded Age wealthy—knows how to do Christmas. On the snowy brick and cobblestone walkways of Bowen’s Wharf, this mighty tree enjoys a view of the water and is lit each year by the mayor.
In Sumter’s Swan Lake Iris Gardens, the floating Christmas tree has drawn visitors for more than 35 years. Set within the largest free Christmas light display in South Carolina, the park lights up every night through December.
This small South Dakota town celebrates Christmas with a Parade of Lights down Main Street and an after party with cookies and chili at the famous Corn Palace: a 1921 Moorish Revival building decorated with corn.
Nashville’s governor lights the city’s Christmas tree every year in a (what else?) country music event in front of the Tennessee State Capitol building. This year, locals rocked around a 40-foot-tall Norway spruce.
A 155-foot masterpiece in Austin’s Zilker Park, this “tree” is made by stringing a moonlight tower (the last remaining 19th-century invention designed to affordably illuminate large urban areas) with 3,000 lights. It has been lit annually since 1967.
The tallest Christmas tree in Utah is located at the Outlets at Traverse Mountain in Lehi, about halfway between Provo and Salt Lake City. Over 75 feet tall, it’s decorated with more than 500 lights and 900 ornaments.
The small town and capital city of the nation’s most rural state lights a Christmas tree in front of the 1859 Greek Revival-style state house.
Most famous as the site of the battle that prompted Britain’s surrender in the American Revolutionary War, this charming Virginia town has been putting up a Christmas tree every year since 1945. Today, they celebrate with a performance from the colonial-style Fife & Drums of York Town and a lighted boat parade.
A tradition begun in 1923 with Calvin Coolige, the nation marks the Yuletide season with a spectacular (and enormous) living tree decorated with ornaments from every U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia. And many, many lights.
With 185 feet of lights and an “Extreme Scream thrill ride,” this man-made tree is the tallest structure in the Puyallup Valley. Its 4,494 bulbs help illuminate the Fair’s annual Victorian Country Christmas celebration.
Accompanied by a bonfire and roasted chestnuts, historic Shepherdstown’s Christmas tree is lit up outside of McMurran Hall, the town’s former City Hall and once a Civil War field hospital after the nearby Battle of Antietam.
Since 1913, the city of Milwaukee has placed a decorated Christmas tree outside of its City Hall. Donated each year by a city resident, the tree must be between 30 and 40 feet in height. Its donors get to turn the lights on during the lighting ceremony.
In Wyoming, rather than light up a plain old tree, the residents of Jackson Hole decorate four elk antler arches that frame the town square. The antlers (which male elk shed every year) have been gathered by Boy Scouts from the nearby National Elk Refuge; about 2,000 antlers make up each arch.
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