AAA: Places to celebrate the holidays

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Although the holiday season is still five months away, Amy Moreno with AAA Arizona said it's a great time to start planning a winter vacation. She offered several suggestions:

Polar Express

Each winter, Grand Canyon Railway's Polar Express makes its magical roundtrip journey to the "North Pole," where kids get to meet Santa and enjoy caroling, hot chocolate, cookies and a special gift.

The ride lasts a little over an hour, with the train leaving each night at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., as well as select days that feature a 3:30 p.m. matinee departure.

This popular event starts in early November and runs through early January. It sells out every year, so be sure to book your tickets early.

Rose Parade

The Rose Parade is a century-old celebration. It features music, millions of flowers, and, of course, the Rose Bowl.

The parade, which is always held on New Year's Day, is a great way to start the new year. There is much more to the Rose Parade than the parade itself. Many packages also include admission to the Reagan Library, the Getty Center and the float barn, where parade floats come to life, and much more.

San Antonio

AAA has a group called Today's Traveling Women for women who want to get together, learn something new and travel together as a group.

One upcoming itinerary is San Antonio Holiday in December. On the trip, travelers will experience the serenity of the holidays on the river walk as they take in Fiesta de las Luminarias, a trip to the Alamo, a riverboat ride on the Paseo del Rio and more.

New York City

The Big Apple is a popular destination all year long, and the holiday season is one of the best times to visit.

Popular holiday activities and attractions include Radio City Music Hall, the incredible Christmas Spectacular featuring the high-kicking Rockettes, Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and more.

European holiday markets

If you want to take a big trip over the holidays this year, consider visiting a European holiday market. The tradition began around 1400 in the German-speaking locales of Europe. Markets were established to offer food and provisions for the long, cold winter season. They quickly grew into a beloved holiday tradition.

Today, hundreds of markets attract millions of visitors a year. Most central European towns and villages host a holiday market, and since many are located on a river or other waterway, the best and most relaxing way to experience them is on a river cruise.