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Late December in eastern France / western Germany—where to go?

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Hello! I'm having trouble figuring out what areas to explore during a post-Christmas trip. My family of five (all adults) will be staying in Colmar for four days, until 12/29. We split up on 1/1: some to Brussels, some to Frankfurt, and some to Stuttgart. Where should we spend those three days in between?

The Rhine River area makes geographic sense, but are all those small towns, so charming in the summer, dead in the winter? Are any of the cities in Rhineland-Palatinate / North Rhine-Westphalia particularly attractive spots to spend New Year's in?

Our travel style is fairly low-key, and for this trip specifically we're mostly hoping to spend a lot of time together, eating and drinking in a cozy environment. We're not looking for any place that's too busy but hope to avoid ghost towns, especially as darkness will fall so early. We'll have a car so we do prefer driving distance, but can make arrangements for train travel instead if necessary.

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    A Rhine cruise is a bit bleak in the winter but you could still have a Rhine-centric holiday in the region by visiting the bigger cities with museums (indoor activity) along that general pathway (Cologne, Mainz, Frankfurt, maybe Wiesbaden) and staying off the boats. If you still want to see the little townships do it by train, but they will be quieter than in the summer / autumn months.

    New Year's Eve (called 'Silvester' locally) is a mad fest of people letting off crackers everywhere on the streets (crazy and a little dangerous IMO (crackers in champagne bottles, anyone?)). In Wiesbaden the focal point of the fireworks is the Kurhaus. It is quite a spectacle, and there is a Silvester party in the Kurhaus itself (ticketed). There will be similar activity in all the places I mentioned.

    Cologne would be a good place for the Brussels person to end their journey as there is a Thalys that goes directly to Brussels from there; trains to Stuttgart from Wiesbaden go via Mainz and change in Darmstadt. There are direct trains to Frankfurt (S-Bahn) from Mainz and Wiesbaden.


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