Where to travel based on your favorite holiday movies

Dec 23, 2021

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There’s something about chilly weather during the holidays that makes curling up on the sofa with a mug of cocoa, a bowl of popcorn and a good movie the perfect indoor activity.

Whether you’re a fan of Hallmark movies, classic films, what I call “holiday adjacent” movies (such as “Die Hard”) or a mix of all of the above, there are plenty of great Christmas-themed movies to watch this time of year — and some might even inspire your next real-life adventure.

As we all dream of trips we might take in 2022, here’s a roundup of where you should book a trip next on your favorite holiday movie.

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‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’

Universal Orlando VIP Tour
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In the same way that “Die Hard” is absolutely a Christmas movie, so is “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” And if you’re dreaming of a Hogwarts holiday season, you don’t have to go far to make those dreams a reality.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, is an immersive section of the theme park that recreates some of the settings from the Harry Potter movies. There, you’ll find all of your favorite wizarding world locations, from Diagon Alley to Hogwarts Castle. You can visit Olivanders and The Three Broomsticks and even ride the Hogwarts Express.

Of course, there’s no shortage of ways to experience the magic of Harry Potter. You can visit filming locations across the U.K. or do a set tour in London. New York City is now home to a Harry Potter store filled with specialty merchandise, a wand shop, bookable experiences and even a cafe where you can get your very own butterbeer.

Related: 7 locations every Harry Potter fan should visit

‘Eloise at Christmastime’

(Photo courtesy of The Plaza/Facebook)

If there’s one Christmas movie I associate with my childhood, it’s “Eloise at Christmastime.” The movie is based on the stories by Kay Thomspon, starring a precocious little girl named Eloise as she stirs up mischief at The Plaza hotel. You can recreate the magic from this iconic movie by visiting New York City — specifically The Plaza.

After shutting down at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the hotel reopened to guests in May 2021. You can now book a stay here, but you can also go visit without spending the night. There’s even a Manhattan Tea package offered at The Palm Court for those who want to get the full Plaza experience.

Of course, New York City is the setting for many Christmas movies. If films such as “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” or “Elf” are more your style, the Big Apple is still the place to visit to recreate the magic from those holiday movies.

‘The Holiday’

Surrey, England. (Photo by Daniela White Images/Getty Images)

As my absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time, I couldn’t skip out on “The Holiday.” The movie tells a story of two women looking to escape their problems during the holidays by swapping homes with a stranger across the world. Both end up finding true love and a dose of Christmas spirit through the exchange.

While half of the movie is set in Los Angeles, it’s the fictional cottage in the English countryside that stars in my daydreams about this movie. Unfortunately, the cottage used in filming isn’t real, but the cottage that inspired the movie set is Honeysuckle Cottage in Holmbury St Mary. And you can find the same vibes in holiday cottages in Surrey, England.

‘The Polar Express’

(Photo by Lenolux/Getty Images)

“The Polar Express” is a magic-infused animated movie based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. The wholesome tale follows a young boy who learns to believe in Santa while on a magical train ride from his home to the North Pole.

While there is (unfortunately) no magical train that can take us to meet Santa Claus up at the North Pole, you can still experience stunning views and possibly a little northern lights magic on the Aurora Winter Train.

The 12-hour trip between Anchorage and Fairbanks traverses through snow-covered scenery, and packages include activities such as dog-sledding and chasing the northern lights.

Related: 14 of the most scenic train rides on Earth

‘Love Actually’

(Photo by _ultraforma_/Getty Images)

This Christmas romantic comedy is set in London and showcases 10 different stories about love. Most of the film was shot on location in London, which means travelers who love the movie can easily visit where some of their favorite scenes were filmed.

Grosvenor Chapel on South Audley Street is where Peter and Juliet’s wedding is held. Harry purchases the necklace for Mia at Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. Daniel has the heart-to-heart with his son on a bench found on Gabriel’s Wharf, a section of Queen’s Walk that stretches down the South Bank of the River Thames.

Related: An expert’s guide to London neighborhoods

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Seneca Falls, NY. (Photo by Matt Champlin/Getty Images)

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a Christmas classic many families watch every year as a holiday tradition. Though the story is set in the fictional Bedford Falls, many believe the town was based on real-life Seneca Falls, New York.

A bridge in Seneca Falls does have a resemblance to the steel truss bridge George Bailey jumps from in the film to save his guardian angel, Clarence. And each year, the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Museum hosts a festival in the film’s honor during the second weekend of December (though the museum is open year-round).

The small town is located in the Finger Lakes region with plenty to do in the surrounding area for travelers who want to pay homage to the iconic Christmas movie while on a larger vacation to the area.

‘Christmas at Dollywood’

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

If you’re a fan of Hallmark movies, then you’ve likely heard of “Christmas at Dollywood.” Dolly Parton herself makes an appearance in the film about an event planner from New York City who falls in love during her holiday trip home to Tennessee when she ends up working during the Christmas event at Dollywood.

Dollywood is a worthwhile destination all year long, but the park goes all out during the holiday season. Dollywood is lit up with millions of lights, and seven different holiday shows are presented during the extravaganza. According to Dollywood’s website, its Smoky Mountain Christmas festival has been hailed as America’s best Christmas event for more than a decade.

‘The Santa Claus’

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland. (Photo by Mint Images/Getty Images)

Finally, you can’t forget “The Santa Claus,” the first film of the iconic Christmas movie franchise starring Tim Allen. In the film, Scott learns that he is the new Santa Claus and must take over for the previous St. Nick before the next holiday season.

The film visits Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. The actual North Pole is a bit less exciting (and you won’t find any elves working on this year’s Christmas gifts), but you can visit Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland. It’s considered the Official Hometown of Santa Claus. At Santa’s Village, you can meet Santa’s reindeer, go on dog sled rides, attend the Elf’s Hat Academy and so much more.

Featured photo by Phil Barker/Future Publishing/Getty Images. 

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