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Holiday guide: Best things to do and places to visit this season

The holiday season has officially arrived. To help make plans for "the most wonderful time of the year," USA TODAY 10Best looked for the best places to visit and things to do for the holidays — zoo lights, Christmas markets, holiday parades, festive hotels, department stores, light displays, theme park events, and holiday home tours.

We asked a panel of experts to nominate their top picks in each of nine categories, and then readers voted for their favorites to determine the winners.

Click on each category below to see the full winners list:

Best Botanical Garden Holiday Lights: Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights in Richmond, Virginia

Don't miss the gorgeous lights at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights
Don't miss the gorgeous lights at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights

Taking place from late November to early January, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, lights up with over a million LED bulbs during the Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights. Check out model trains nightly at the Kelly Education Center, and roast s'mores by the Kelleher Warming Fire.

Full list of winners: Best Botanical Garden Holiday Lights »

Best Holiday Historic Home Tour: Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee

See how Elvis spent the holidays with a visit to Graceland
See how Elvis spent the holidays with a visit to Graceland

Every year, more than 500,000 people go to Elvis Presley’s former estate in Memphis. The Christmas season at Graceland kicks off in mid-November and allows visitors to tour the home decorated for the season with traditional lights, a life-size nativity scene, and Elvis' Santa. Presley family Christmas artifacts are also on display during this special time of year.

Full list of winners: Best Holiday Historic Home Tour »

Best Holiday Market: Carmel Christkindlmarkt in Carmel, Indiana

Carmel Christkindlmarkt wins Best Holiday Market for fourth year in a row
Carmel Christkindlmarkt wins Best Holiday Market for fourth year in a row

The Carmel Christkindlmarkt brings a bit of Saxony, Germany, to Indiana during this annual festive event. The market features the only Glühwein Pyramid in the U.S., standing 33 feet tall with more than 3,000 lights. Visitors enjoy perusing the traditional wooden market huts, trying delicious German food and drinks, and the festive atmosphere.

Full list of winners: Best Holiday Market »

Best Holiday Parade: Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ring in 2024 at the Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia Mummers Parade
Ring in 2024 at the Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia Mummers Parade

The Mummers Parade is one of the longest-running traditions in the nation, with the first parade taking place in 1901 as a celebration of the New Year in Philadelphia. The colorful procession along Broad Street features performances by comics, string bands, and fancy brigades in their spectacular costumes.

Full list of winners: Best Holiday Parade »

Best Hotel for the Holidays: The Roosevelt New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana

Book a stay for the festive season at The Roosevelt New Orleans
Book a stay for the festive season at The Roosevelt New Orleans

During the holidays, the lobby at The Roosevelt New Orleans is adorned with more than 100,000 lights, over 1,000 feet of garland, and thousands of glass ornaments to create its Waldorf Wonderland. Guests also enjoy the beloved Teddy Bear Tea, set at the North Pole and including pastries, hot chocolate, storytelling, and Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Full list of winners: Best Hotel for the Holidays »

Best Public Holiday Lights Display: Bentleyville 'Tour of Lights' in Duluth, Minnesota

Bentleyville 'Tour of Lights' wins Best Public Holiday Lights Display for second consecutive year
Bentleyville 'Tour of Lights' wins Best Public Holiday Lights Display for second consecutive year

Bentlleyville "Tour of Lights," one of America’s largest free walk-through lights displays, invites visitors to stroll among more than 5 million lights spread across a 20-acre park on the shores of Lake Superior. Guests can get their photo taken with Santa and enjoy cocoa, cookies, roasted marshmallows, and popcorn.

Full list of winners: Best Public Holiday Lights Display »

Best Theme Park Holiday Event: An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri

Enjoy a dose of nostalgia with An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City
Enjoy a dose of nostalgia with An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City

Branson's Silver Dollar City gets decked in 6.5 million colorful, twinkling lights during its annual holiday celebration, An Old Time Christmas.

It’s bigger and brighter than ever with festivities centered on an 8-story-tall special effects Christmas tree, along with two Broadway-style holiday productions, an illuminated parade featuring Rudolph and his friends, 50-foot light tunnels, and an irresistible selection of festive meals and treats.

Full list of winners: Best Theme Park Holiday Event »

Best Zoo Lights: PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio

PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo wins Best Zoo Lights for sixth year in a row
PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo wins Best Zoo Lights for sixth year in a row

During the annual PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, some 4 million LED lights illuminate the night. Visitors can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, marvel at the Wild Lights show on Swan Lake, explore a gingerbread village, munch on s'mores, or ride through a light tunnel on the North Polar Express train.

Full list of winners: Best Zoo Lights »

Best Department Store: JCPenney

It's easy to find exactly what you're looking for at JCPenney
It's easy to find exactly what you're looking for at JCPenney

JCPenney has more than 600 department stores across 49 states and Puerto Rico, with each one offering an assortment of national, private, and exclusive brands at a variety of price points. That includes brand names like Liz Claiborne, Frye and Co., and Nicole by Nicole Miller. It's one-stop shopping for picking up gifts for everyone on your list.

Full list of winners: Best Department Store »

Congratulations to all these winners! Remember to visit 10best.usatoday.com daily to vote in our other Readers' Choice Awards contests.

This article originally appeared on 10Best.com: Best things to do and places to visit this holiday season