Visiting Wilmington, Delaware during the holiday season has much to offer. The Wilmington and Western Railroad has a fun train ride past Christmas lights, and the train itself is lit and Santa can often be found there. Downtown, there is a tree at Rodney Square, and the Wilmington Riverfront is lit up for over a mile.
Longwood Gardens and Brandywine River Museum are a short drive from Wilmington, right over the PA line. Longwood has a world-class display – every year the conservatory is absolutely beautiful, and there are outdoor light displays throughout the Gardens as well. They sell out quickly, so make reservations soon and expect to pay $25-30 per person ($16 per kid); membership is well worth the cost if you plan to go more than once. Both Longwood and Brandywine River Museum have fun model train displays set up that are quite large (Longwood’s is outside and the Museum’s is inside).
The Eastern Shore of Maryland
This is a fun region to visit during the holidays, with a number of festive things to do. The little town of Ridgely, MD hosts a large, free festival each year, with food trucks, free synthetic ice skating rinks, inflatable bounce houses, carriage rides and more. Throughout the season, the park in the middle of the town boasts 6 blocks of lights that can be walked through, with a life sized gingerbread house, historic train station and selfie-stations.
Christmas at St. Michael’s is another lively annual holiday celebration and a lovely place to stay is the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville on Kent Island, where you can also enjoy a festive lights display. Winter is the off season, so you can find lower prices, fewer crowds and fresh seafood that is just as delicious as always in this part of the country.
New York City
Nobody does over-the-top holiday décor like NYC. If you have limited time, just driving around the times square area will give you views of the Rockerfeller Christmas Tree, the Saks 5th Avenue lightshow that repeats every 10 minutes after 5, Radio City, the Empire State Building, and other lit and heavily decorated icons of the mid-Atlantic. You can also catch lights at Central Park, Hudson Yards and quite a few other places. Some more ideas can be found here.
The town of Lancaster is truly charming at any time of year, but especially during Christmas. You can take an Amish buggy ride or visit Dutch Wonderland, a children’s amusement park that is set up with thousands of lights that can be viewed from their train ride, and numerous other working rides, mostly geared toward younger children. Santa is also in town there, and there are some opportunities to warm up inside the café. Lancaster also hosts the drive-through Christmas Spirit Light Show, where the lights blink in time to the music tuned into your radio. It’s a delight.