12 restaurants with the most over-the-top, dazzling decor in the U.S. and Canada

Image caption: Craftsman Row Saloon’s red-green-and-white interiors evoke candy canes. | Credit: Craftsman Row Saloon

Come December, some restaurants take decking the halls really seriously. To brighten the darkest weeks of the year, these extra-festive spots break out boughs of holly and welcome diners into winter wonderlands adorned with lights, ornaments, and tinsel—plus some of the most playful cocktails and bites around.

Drinks served inside hollow Christmas ornaments make up a special menu at a cozy Philadelphia saloon, where the red-white-and-green interiors evoke an inhabitable candy cane. A bar at a historic Nashville hotel, dusted with faux snow, lets diners sip tea with Santa himself. In Vancouver, carolers accompany live piano music at a beloved steakhouse, strewn with garlands and oversized wreaths.

When it comes to holiday decor and spirit, these spots go over the top in the best possible way. Read on for a list of 12 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, all dressed up to celebrate.

Angus Barn (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Angus Barn’s stunning holiday transformation, known for featuring over five thousand ornaments, is usually complete before Thanksgiving. | Credit: Angus Barn

This Raleigh icon transforms each October, from steakhouse to holiday fantasyland, decorating its many rooms according to distinct themes. Choose from an opulent ballroom with more than 5,000 colorful ornaments covering the entire ceiling; in another, children dressed as elves hand out warm gingerbread cookies. The menu is just as celebratory as the decor, featuring a surf and turf trio with steak, shrimp, and lobster, and a 22-ounce ribeye served with goat cheese and chive butter. To enjoy this long-running tradition, revelers from all around the country make reservations months in advance. 

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Chase Restaurant (Santa Barbara, California)

Since 1979, Chase Restaurant has played a key role in Santa Barbara’s stellar food scene, and going all out for the holidays is part of its traditions. Some of the restaurant’s most prized decorations are vintage pieces, such as an antique nutcracker collection displayed every season for more than 40 years. Chase’s outdoor dining area is extravagantly trimmed with white twinkly lights, garlands galore, a 16-foot live Christmas tree, and an impressive gold Santa that stands near the doorway. Inside, the bar dazzles with red bows, golden balls, and even more greenery, and the dining room sparkles with tiny white lights. The holiday scene may put you in the mood for rich, comfort food. Chase’s fulfills those Christmastime cravings with classics including steamed mussels with wine, lemon, and garlic or housemade ravioli.

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Craftsman Row Saloon (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Not a single square inch is spared a generous application of holiday sparkle in this cozy Philadelphia restaurant and bar. Boughs of green hang from the walls and ceiling, and each banquette and booth is crammed with lights, garlands, and ornaments. The red, green, and white color scheme evokes candy canes and fully decorated Christmas trees. The drinks menu is equally festive: Holiday-themed cocktails with apropos names (St. Nick’s Milk & Cookies, for instance) are served inside hollow holiday ornaments. The boozy milkshake menu also features seasonal specials, enhanced by eggnog and crushed gingerbread cookies.

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Filomena Ristorante (Washington, D.C.)

Spirited family gatherings inspire this southern Italian stalwart. Filomena decorates for practically every holiday, but in December, its creativity takes on new heights. You’ll find Santa figurines flanked by gilded nutcrackers, plus lights, glitter, and silver trees. Shimmering red garlands are strung throughout. Center stage belongs to the fully decked Christmas tree, rumored to contain over 5,000 ornaments. To that, add some hearty Italian fare, such as housemade burrata cheese and arancini, and don’t miss the pasta dishes Filomena is renowned for. For those who want to linger in the festiveness, there are plenty of top-notch desserts, such as cannoli and strawberry cheesecake.

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Handcraft Kitchen and Cocktails (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)

For over a month, this Mount Pleasant restaurant, an industrial-chic bar for most of the year, morphs into “Miracle,” an immersive holiday experience. That transformation results in floor-to-ceiling decor (which takes more than 50 hours to install). There’s a holiday playlist on constant rotation, and every nook is packed with glittery decorations, both traditional and whimsical—in 2021, highlights included an animatronic Santa. Staff members fuel the yuletide vibes by sporting holiday-themed outfits. To drink, expect special holiday cocktails in kitschy glassware, including Santa’s Little Helper (gin, spiced caraway syrup, eucalyptus, sage, lime, and seltzer).

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Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House (Vancouver, Canada)

As a respite from Vancouver’s gloomy winters, Joe Fortes goes all out to create a bright and cheerful holiday escape. It’s strewn with garlands, lights, and scads of oversized wreaths, plus four Christmas trees, fully trimmed with large ornaments and other glittery embellishments. Carolers accompany live piano music throughout the season. On one prized day in December, the restaurant takes the festivities to-go in its vintage taxi, used to hand out holiday cookies all around town. A special December menu celebrates local Pacific Northwest ingredients with dishes including fresh oysters and cioppino, packed with prawns, scallops, calamari, clams, mussels, and fish.

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Tavern on the Green (New York, New York)

An illuminated tree outside Tavern on the Green. | Credit: Tavern on the Green

In New York City’s Central Park, Tavern on the Green leverages its iconic backdrop for maximum holiday magic. Outside, the restaurant erects a sky-scraping Christmas tree that’s adorned with thousands of classic lights and ornaments. Inside the restaurant, there are up to a dozen additional fully decked trees. All are strung with quirky decorations, such as a gingerbread house in the shape of the restaurant. Start with the roasted figs appetizer (served with honey, goat cheese, cured beef, and arugula) before moving on to grilled whole fish with roasted fennel and artichokes for your festive main course.

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TENN (Nashville, Tennessee)  

Seasonal cocktails at Bar TENN include the Feliz Navidad Nog, served in an old-school milk jug. | Credit: Bar TENN at Holston House

Bar TENN, a quaint spot in Nashville’s historic Holston House hotel (just steps from the Broadway crowds), becomes even cozier when it turns into an old-fashioned Christmas bar. During the day, the space, dusted with faux snow, hosts family-friendly events including “Tea with Santa,” featuring hot chocolate service, sweet treats, and photo opps with St. Nick himself.  Once the sun sets, an adults-only vibe takes over, thanks to seasonal cocktails such as the Feliz Navidad Nog, served in an old-school milk jug, and the Mistletoe Fizz, paired with seasonal bites such as cranberry pecan baked brie and Christmas cookies. In true Music City fashion, on select nights, TENN hosts live entertainers, including musicians, comedians, and more.

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Hey Nonny (Arlington Heights, Illinois) 

For much of the year, Hey Nonny, a popular restaurant in downtown Arlington Heights, is known for outstanding farm-to-table fare and some of the Chicago area’s best live entertainment. But the restaurant truly amps it up for holiday season when its bistro room is decked with items inspired by the classic film, “A Christmas Story,” including the infamous leg lamp and flag pole (which make for especially quirky photo ops). This year, expect evenings featuring renditions of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and a blues-style holiday performance. Opt for dinner and a show with celebration-worthy plates such as roasted butternut squash soup, Spanish octopus, and braised short ribs with parsnip puree.

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Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse, at Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo, California) 

A sugar plum fairy greets diners at Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House. | Credit: Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House

There’s nothing minimalist about the sparkly pink vibes at this eclectic roadside hotel, where rooms channel the Alps, Ireland, and even an old-fashioned carousel. Though its onsite steakhouse is famous for extravagant decor all year long, December brings seasonal embellishments such as Christmas trees of various sizes, gnomes, lollipops, and snowy deer. The latest addition to the interiors at this Central Coast mainstay is a life-sized sugar plum fairy, perched by the restaurant entrance. Special holiday entrees, available on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, include baked honey cured ham with a California fruit sauce, and slow-roasted prime rib, served au jus-style with creamy horseradish.

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Casa Juancho (Miami, Florida)

With its blue skies and 85-degree temps, Christmas in Miami is much balmier than most places in the U.S. Casa Juancho is the place for Floridians lusting after a winter wonderland. The decor at this wood-and-brick expanse, a blend of garlands, lights, and large, red ornaments, is more North Pole than South Beach. Its tapas-style menu is ideal for a holiday feast, with hits such as jamón Ibérico, Spanish cheeses, and rice with bacalao and garbanzo beans. For an especially large gathering, book one of its private rooms, which can accommodate groups as large as 100.

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The Thirsty Elf at The Fairmont Royal York (Toronto, Canada) 

A whimsical ambience fills this walk-in only pop-up in Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York hotel. Launched in 2019, the snug, mezzanine-level bar can seat just 25, making it a sought-after escape. Fluffy pink Christmas trees, spray-snow frosted windows, fairy lights, and tabletops with kitschy holiday prints deck its cozy interiors. Drinks, such as the Naughty List, a cranberry, cinnamon, lime, ginger beer, and vodka concoction, are just as playful. For those feeling peckish, there’s Milk & Cookies, a horchata-inspired drink garnished with a crisp chocolate chip cookie.

Amber Love Bond is a Miami-based food + beverage writer who can typically be found somewhere delicious with her laptop in tow and a cocktail in hand. See what she’s sipping and follow her adventures on Instagram.

Joy Manning contributed to this guide.