The holidays can be a great time to take a vacation for a particularly memorable Christmas or New Year’s Eve. But some destinations, while perfectly lovely during other times in the year, can be overbearing during December if not planned correctly.
These locales may have a reputation for being THE place to be during the holidays, but you should consider skipping out on them, according to the experts. We spoke with a number of influential travel personalities about which places they think aren’t worth the risk. But ‘tis the season to spread a little holiday cheer — they also told about us about their favorite places to vacation if you’re looking for some alternative plans.
Here, though, is strictly where they don’t like to visit during Christmas and New Year’s. So, without further ado:
The New Year’s celebration over Sydney Harbour is renowned for its fireworks and is televised all over the world — especially since it’s one of the first major cities to welcome the New Year due to its time zone. But, with that fame comes the masses, which could spoil the celebration, according to Ben Schlappig, who runs the travel blog One Mile at a Time.
“Sydney is a fantastic city, but personally I wouldn't return over New Year’s,” he said. “It was crowded as could be everywhere, lines were long, it was tough to get restaurant reservations, et cetera.”
Even backtracking a few days, the Australian capital is not ideal for December 25 if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, like Richard Quest of CNN Business Traveller.
“I love Sydney, but I don’t want to be there at Christmas,” he said. “Christmas Day has to be cold, wet… the sort of Christmas you remember growing up.”
If you want peace and quiet for Christmas, then London might be the city for you. But if you want to experience the city’s restaurants, museums, nightlife, and more, you might want to reconsider. The British capital is notorious for grinding to a halt on Christmas Day.
“There is no place in the world that celebrates Christmas more fervently than the residents of the city of London, and everything is dead in London — not simply on Christmas Day, but from Christmas Day until New Year’s Day,” said Arthur Frommer, founder of the celebrated travel guide company, Frommer’s. “The entire city virtually shuts down.”
Frommer said he thought it could even be dangerous to visit London during Christmas because many services, including medical, are not fully in operation.
“You’re in a city where nothing is working,” he said. “It’s a time when it’s wrong to be in London. Everything there is at half-speed and so many of the places that you would want to go to are completely shut down.”
At first thought, New Orleans might seem a perfect location to ring in the New Year — the city is a haven for partying and nightlife. So then, travel journalist Peter Greenberg said, why would you go there for the holidays when you can experience it any other time?
“New Orleans is a party 364 other nights a year, so why would you want to go there on New Year’s Eve?” he said. “It’s even more ridiculous.”
“How many drunk people do you want to see in any given five minute period?” Greenberg added. “That to me is not fun at all.”
Similar to New Orleans, Las Vegas has a reputation for partying that might have some travelers keen to ring in New Year’s in Sin City. But that fun could come with a cost — financially.
“Places like Las Vegas especially can charge hundreds of dollars just for the cover charge to get in, and that’s without anything special,” according to Kate McCulley of the Adventurous Kate blog. “A lot of bars will tell you, ‘Yes, come in, there are lots of incentives,’ and one of the incentives is like a half of glass of champagne at midnight, with the retail value of approximately two dollars.”
John DiScala of the Johnny Jet blog wouldn’t suggest pushing your Vegas trip up to Christmas, either.
“I know a lot of people go to Vegas for Christmas, and I think that’s overrated,” he said. “Some of the hotels do really nice decorations, but I do not associated Vegas with Christmas at all. I think it’s almost the opposite of Christmas.
The Italian city surrounding the Vatican could make a fine destination for observing Christians during the holidays, but from a strictly tourist perspective, it may not be worth it, according to Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods.
“I’ve done Christmas week in Rome, and it was breathtaking. But unless you have the advantages of being able to get into the premium VIP area over in Vatican City to watch the Bernini doors open and the processional on Christmas Eve...” Zimmern began.
“... Unless you have made restaurant reservations months in advance — you know, I mean you really need to do a lot of planning to make sure you have the day to day nuts and bolts aspects of your trip locked down if you’re going to do that kind of experience,” he added.
New York City
Christmas Broadway shows. The Radio City Rockettes. Times Square on New Year’s Eve. New York seems made to host the holidays, which is exactly the problem, Kate McCulley said.
“A lot of things are Christmas-oriented in New York tend to be extremely touristy,” she said. “They tend to be concentrated in Midtown. Me personally, I thought I hated New York for the longest time, and then it turned out I just hated Midtown. It is the area that has absolutely no personality.
In Midtown Manhattan, she noted, you’ll find Christmas staples like the shopping on 5th Avenue, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree “where it’s impossible to get in,” she said, and its skating rink, which is often packed to the brim on the holidays.
“You really have to be up to handle big cities at holiday time,” added Andrew Zimmern. “I’m a born and bred New Yorker, I know a lot of people love to vacation in New York during Christmas week and New Year’s week — I don’t know how they do it.”