By Ally Marotti for the CheapTickets Travel Blog
It's Christmastime. In towns big and small all over America, people are gathering around Christmas trees as they are illuminated for the first time this year. Some of those trees are iconic, adorning Christmas ornaments and postcards, but for some of them, their glory lies in their story. And the best part? It doesn't cost a dime to take in their majesty, save for the cup of hot chocolate you'll likely buy on your way. Take a look at this list of some of America's best public Christmas trees.
Rockefeller Center, New York City -- This is about as iconic as you can get when it comes to Christmas trees. New York City's massive tree overlooks the ice skating rink in Rockefeller Plaza and has made it into many a classic Christmas movie scene. Something that really makes this tree iconic though, is its origins. The New York Times did a story earlier this month that revealed the history of the tree, noting that hard-working Italian immigrants first pushed a tree up in 1931 after a long day of constructing the city into what we know it as today.
Millennium Park, Chicago -- Chicago's giant public Christmas tree usually sits in the middle of the German Christmas market, Christkindlmarket, in Daley Plaza in the heart of downtown, but this year it was moved to Millennium Park. Now it rises above Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean) in front of Chicago's skyline.
Boston Christmas Tree -- A tree has been lit in Boston each year since 1941, and since 1971, each tree has come from Nova Scotia. Illuminated in Boston Common, the tree is gifted to the city each year by Nova Scotia as a thank you for assistance provided during the 1917 Halifax explosion, which destroyed much of the city. Boston sent help immediately, although their train was delayed by a blizzard. Still, the Nova Scotians never forgot.
Union Station, Washington D.C. -- Norway gifts a Christmas tree to Washington D.C. each year as a symbol of friendship with the U.S. and as a thank you for the help the U.S. provided to Norway during World War II. The tree is displayed in Union Station, and the Norwegian Embassy chooses a theme with which to decorate the tree each year. In 2013, when the theme was Edvard Munch's "The Scream," the tree was fashioned with dozens of tiny reflective versions of the shrieking man in Norway's most famous painting. This year's theme is Norwegian music.
Public Square Park, Nashville -- The Christmas tree in downtown Nashville is often gifted to the city by residents. This year, Tammie Myles donated 42-foot Norway spruce to honor her parents. It will be decorated with 5,000 lights. This idea of individuals donating Christmas trees is common throughout the country, especially when the trees or activities surround them feature some sort of charitable aspect. Local Christmas tree farms will often donate trees for display near the courthouse.
Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia -- Rittenhouse Square is one of five original open spaces in Philadelphia planned by William Penn. It is about two short blocks long on each side, and in December a 30-foot Christmas Tree rises out of its center. It makes the little historical park even cozier.
Fountain Square, Cincinnati -- The Christmas tree dominates downtown Cincinnati's Fountain Square each December, and shadows the temporary ice skating rink that is assembled nearby each year. The smaller size of the square, which is mostly enclosed by the city's skyscrapers, makes the tree seem even bigger and more festive.
When the trees don't move:
Town Square Lighting, Jackson Hole -- Instead of decorating one giant tree, Jackson Hole sets Town Square ablaze with multiple tree lightings. Fitting in with its outdoorsy M.O., the town does not cut down any trees for its Christmas celebrations, so it earns a spot on our list for being environmentally aware.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho -- A nearly 200-foot grand fir at Coeur d'Alene Resort is decorated with tens of thousands of lights and at one point set the world record for the tallest living Christmas tree. The star on top is 10 feet alone.
Sardy House Tree, Aspen -- This is the 31st year the owners of the Sardy House illuminate the large fir tree on the corner of Main and Aspen streets in Aspen. (New owners spent $250,000 to amp up the lighting in 2006). It is strewn with 10,000 LED lights hooked up to a system that can emulate everything from fireworks to a cascading waterfall. The glory of using a live tree? The lights stay on year-round and can be used during other holiday celebrations.