Curiously, even though Christmas derives its identity from snow and cold, one of the most recognizable emblems of the season is flamboyantly tropical: the poinsettia. Encinitas is home to the world's largest grower of these stunning plants, Ecke Ranch, which produces 70 percent of the poinsettias sold in the United States. Ecke Ranch grows a rainbow assortment of colors, including traditional reds, pinks and creams, and a recently introduced bright-white variety called Polar Bear whose sales benefit the conservation of these endangered animals.
You'll likely find a touch of Middleborough on your holiday dinner table: It's the cranberry capital of the world. The Ocean Spray company, headquartered here, is surrounded by acres of cranberry bogs and still gets much of its crop from area families who have been in the business for generations.
In Hawaii, Santa doesn't arrive by sleigh -- he much prefers an outrigger canoe, to say nothing of the traditional palaka costume he wears in lieu of red velvet. Each December, he alights on the shore by the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach hotel, where the public can greet his arrival and pose for pictures.
Residents of this southeast Portland neighborhood make sure their holiday light displays live up to their street's colorful namesake. A tradition since the 1920s, Peacock Lane's decor definitely has glimmer and glitz, but it also strives to be different, with rotating Christmas trees and lifelike replicas of Santa and Frosty the Snowman. You can safely stroll down Peacock Lane on "pedestrian only" nights, or pick up a ride in a horse-drawn carriage that will deliver you to the neighborhood and back to your car in style.
They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway, but Christmas lights take center stage in the Dyker Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Year after year, the competitive New York spirit drives homeowners in Dyker Heights to outdo one another, which makes for a fantastic show for Christmas-decor devotees. Make it a night by trying the "Christmas and Cannoli" bus tour that offers a comprehensive tour of Dyker Heights, as well as a pit stop where you can warm up (and fill up) with hot chocolate and cannolis from a local pastry shop.
This unassuming town in Pennsylvania's coal country bills itself as "the Christmas tree capital of the world." According to local lore, a group of enterprising Indiana County gentlemen were the first to grow Christmas trees as a crop back in 1918. The area still grows more than a million pines, firs and spruces commercially every year. But perhaps Indiana's most famous Christmas-related product is native son Jimmy Stewart, star of the iconic holiday film It's a Wonderful Life. Indiana holds an annual festival and parade in mid-November named after the film.
Kristen and David Wilson were married on February 9, 2013, on a lovely winter day. Dressed for the season, Kristen paired her gorgeous gown with a bright white sweater and navy scarf. The outdoor setting made a beautiful backdrop for sunny wedding photos.
If you hanker to ski in 70-degree weather, the Phoenix Zoo has the next best thing: the Polar Slide. Hop aboard your inflatable raft and scream down a 200-foot track that simulates the packed snow you'd see at a real tubing run -- and be sure to stay for the evening's special feature, ZooLights. The spectacular holiday light display boasts 3.5 million individual lights in the shapes of all your favorite exotic creatures.
This town in central Alaska advertises its ZIP code (99705) as "Santa's ZIP Code." And why not? After all, it's got the right name -- even if the reason for it is more about economics than holiday spirit. When a development company bought the area in 1952, it decided to call it North Pole in the hopes of attracting a toy manufacturer or theme-park developer to the area. While that didn't pan out the way the developers had hoped, the town does lay claim to the Santa Claus House, the "official" home of the jolly gift-giver. A 42-foot tall, 900-pound Santa statue welcomes visitors to the sprawling store, which, predictably, specializes in Christmas-related merchandise and collectibles.