The holidays should be a time to enjoy family, friends and traditions, not a frantic race to the finish line or an endless to-do list. Give yourself a gift — slow down and enjoy the pleasures of the season. These citywide escapes are waiting for you with Christmas bells on.


St. Charles Christmas Traditions
Greater Saint Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau
230 S. Main St.
St. Charles, MO 63301
(636) 946-7776

Stroll along the historic Main Street under the gas lamps, chat with Santas from different countries and historical periods, meet characters from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” listen to live carolers and buy some freshly roasted chestnuts to nibble on. The charmingly decorated shops stay open into the evenings, and there are restaurants galore to choose from. Visit the website or call to find a hotel or bed & breakfast for an enchanting holiday getaway. The festivities last all season long, with special events on some weekend dates.


Kimmswick Visitor Center
314 Market St.
Kimmswick, MO 63053
(636) 464-6464

To the South, the historic village of Kimmswick also decks out for an old-timey holiday. The town is a charming place to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts, handmade ornaments and more. Lunch at The Blue Owl can include mini-corndogs for the kids and a slice of Levee High Apple Pie to share, or try one of the town’s dozens of other restaurants. Drive down for the day, or take a riverboat cruise on the Tom Sawyer from under the Gateway Arch and arrive in style.


Maeystown, IL

Illinois has its share of beautiful historic towns as well. Maeystown is a beautiful German community that is not as crowded or expensive as its Missouri cousins, but has oodles of charm. Shop for antiques and collectibles, visit the Sweet Shoppe or have lunch at the Tavern or the Tea Garden. The Corner George Inn bed and breakfast is the primary lodging for the village, but if there’s no room at the Inn, you can just spend the day in town and drive home.

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Way Of Lights
National Shrine of Our Lady Of The Snows
442 S. DeMazenod Drive
Belleville, IL 62223
(618) 397-6700

There are other light displays around the region, but The Way of Lights has been a holiday tradition in the St. Louis area for generations. Millions of twinkling white lights spell out the story of the season, from the city of Bethlehem to the Holy Family under the stars in the grotto. A petting zoo, camel rides, puppet shows, tree displays and live entertainment round out the event. You can drive through the Way of Lights or arrange a carriage or limo ride. There is a hotel on the site, if you’d like to extend your visit into a holiday escape. Visit downtown Belleville to see the award-winning gingerbread creations in the store windows and find a tasty bite to eat on Main Street.


Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas
Chamber of Commerce
269 State Highway 248
Branson, MO 65616
(417) 334-4084

During the holiday season, Branson puts on a Christmas light show with all the razzle dazzle you’d expect from a city that sports enough neon to pass as Vegas’s little brother. Branson offers more than a hundred holiday shows and attractions, and dozens of designer discount outlets and outdoor stores for your holiday shopping. Winter lodging options include bed and breakfasts, hotels, cabins, condos, resorts and spas. 

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Lauren Haas was the founder and publisher of The St. Louis Area Family Gazette magazine, and editor-in-chief of Marketplace Magazine. Now, Lauren is a full-time freelance writer who travels the world, using St. Louis as her base. Contact her at