It’s the most wonderful time of the year — or at least it can be, depending on where you celebrate Christmas. That’s because America’s favorite holiday is also one of the most expensive. From decorations and food to gifts and travel, there’s a long list of expenses to check twice and save up for during the year.
In 2019, Americans are projected to spend up to $730 billion over the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. The average person plans to spend $1,047.83. If you don’t have a reasonable holiday budget — or enough self-control — then your Plan B should definitely include celebrating in the cheapest Christmas destinations. Overspending is a common mistake committed by consumers during the Christmas shopping season and one of the top sources of holiday stress.
But beyond ensuring its affordability, a successful holiday also hinges on a location’s Christmas-friendliness. Typical Christmas activities include shopping, dining out and attending holiday events, so the availability of such options can make all the difference. Many people also are likely to attend church services, considering Christmas is a Christian holiday. The more churches around, the less likely each is to be crowded.
WalletHub considered all of those factors to determine where you’re guaranteed to enjoy a holly jolly Christmas whether you’ve been naughty or nice. More specifically, we compared the 100 biggest U.S. cities based on 33 key indicators of a festive and affordable Christmas, such as traditions, shopping and costs. Read on for the ranking results, expert holiday tips and a full description of our methodology.
Best Cities for Christmas
(1 = Best)
|City||Total Score||‘Traditions & Fun’ Rank||‘Observance’ Rank||‘Generosity’ Rank||‘Shopping’ Rank||‘Costs’ Rank|
|3||New York, NY||64.82||1||11||9||4||100|
|6||Las Vegas, NV||61.14||8||36||36||1||62|
|7||Los Angeles, CA||60.27||5||13||47||11||68|
|8||San Francisco, CA||59.50||2||43||6||12||96|
|14||St. Louis, MO||54.15||20||6||60||10||84|
|24||San Diego, CA||50.58||11||37||78||9||87|
|25||San Antonio, TX||50.45||17||23||75||18||71|
|31||Oklahoma City, OK||48.64||60||20||68||59||1|
|41||New Orleans, LA||45.78||15||50||63||42||81|
|46||Kansas City, MO||44.96||26||29||50||64||54|
|47||St. Paul, MN||44.65||37||33||42||33||61|
|48||San Jose, CA||44.63||34||67||12||20||98|
|49||Fort Worth, TX||44.09||46||27||32||71||22|
|53||Colorado Springs, CO||42.57||57||73||59||41||18|
|54||Virginia Beach, VA||42.51||40||85||15||47||32|
|70||Long Beach, CA||37.35||62||55||67||73||51|
|72||Santa Ana, CA||36.93||43||77||45||82||60|
|73||Jersey City, NJ||36.92||78||68||16||95||64|
|74||Baton Rouge, LA||36.80||67||53||81||51||83|
|82||El Paso, TX||34.59||84||60||86||72||28|
|84||Fort Wayne, IN||33.76||82||56||91||77||58|
|88||St. Petersburg, FL||32.19||70||86||71||81||80|
|90||Corpus Christi, TX||31.62||86||58||100||86||31|
|95||Chula Vista, CA||30.02||79||92||77||68||77|
|98||San Bernardino, CA||24.96||93||87||92||96||89|
|99||North Las Vegas, NV||24.95||95||99||83||99||40|
Ask the Experts
Many people feel pressured to spend during the holidays, which can lead to overspending. To help consumers avoid ending the year with an empty wallet and stay safe during their travels, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for celebrating Christmas on a budget?
- What are some of the big money wasters on Christmas?
- What money-saving tips do you have for people planning to travel for the Christmas holiday?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best places to celebrate Christmas, WalletHub compared the 100 most populated cities across five key dimensions: 1) Traditions & Fun, 2) Observance, 3) Generosity, 4) Shopping and 5) Costs.
We evaluated those dimensions using 33 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for celebrating Christmas.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the city proper in each case, excluding cities in the surrounding metro area. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we used the square root of the population to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Traditions & Fun - Total Points: 20
- Ranking on Top 25 Destinations for Christmas: Double Weight (~2.67 Points)
Note: This metric is based on advance hotel reservations made on priceline.com and measures the ranking of the city among the top 25 Christmas destinations.
- Christmas Events per Capita*: Double Weight (~2.67 Points)
Note: “Events” include festivals, performances and galas.
- Presence of SantaCon Events: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
Note: This metrics measures the presence or absence SantaCon events in a city.
- Google Search Interest for ‘Christmas Celebration’: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the real intent of the population to find information about the following search terms: “Christmas party”, “Christmas light show”, “Christmas market”, “Christmas concert”, “Christmas festival” and “Christmas dinner”. “Real intent” is measured using the average monthly search volumes for those specific terms.
- Christmas Tree Farms per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
Note: "Christmas tree farms" refers to Christmas tree gardens & lots & selling points.
- Bakeries per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Restaurants per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Diversity of Restaurants: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Number of Attractions: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Ice Skating Rinks per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Nightlife Options per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Bars per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
- Music Venues per Capita*: Full Weight (~1.33 Points)
Note: Many cities host Christmas concerts during the holiday season.
Observance - Total Points: 20
- Share of Christian Population: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Churches per Capita*: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Generosity - Total Points: 20
- Food Banks per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Share of Income Donated to Charity: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Share of Population Collecting/Distributing Food & Clothes for the Needy: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Online Giving per Capita: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Christmas Spirit: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Most Caring Cities” ranking.
Shopping - Total Points: 20
- Christmas Markets per Capita*: Double Weight (~5.00 Points)
- Gift Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Shopping Centers & Outlets per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Toy Stores & Hobby Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Candy Stores & Chocolatiers per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Cards & Stationery Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Holiday Decorations Shops & Holiday Decorating Services per Capita*: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Costs - Total Points: 20
- Average Price per Christmas Party Ticket: Double Weight (~5.71 Points)
- Cost of Three-Star Hotel Room: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- Restaurant Meal Costs: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
- Number of Affordable, High-Quality Restaurants: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: “High-Quality Restaurants” include those with ratings of 4.5 stars or higher.
- Average Beverage Price: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: “Beverage” refers to beer and wine.
- Average Price for Two Tickets to the Theater: Full Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: Some cities offer a wide range of Christmas-themed performances which one can enjoy with friends or family.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Corporation for National and Community Service, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Council for Community and Economic Research, The Association of Religion Data Archives, Priceline, Eventbrite, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Numbeo, Google Ads, SantaCon, Expatistan and WalletHub research.