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Five festive Christmas stores

  • Story Highlights
  • Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland is the world's largest Christmas store
  • The Christmas Place is a 43,000 square-foot, multi-store complex
  • The Christmas Loft features almost life-size animated holiday villages
  • St. Nick's in Littleton, Colorado, has been in business since 1976
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By Jacque Wilson
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(CNN) -- Even before Thanksgiving, people were decking their halls with Christmas joy. Now lights sparkle at home, trees stand tall in offices and Santa's at the mall.

When you walk into St. Nick's, you instantly feel the magic of Christmas, according to visual designer Chris Davis.

Aldridge's Always Christmas shop has more than 90,000 square feet of Christmas accessories.

Let the Christmas countdown begin, and there's no better place to start than with holiday paraphernalia. Specialty stores across the country dedicate themselves year-round to fulfilling your Christmas needs. These stores are more than just shopping destinations -- they're an experience.

We asked a few of the best-known Christmas stores to name their top competitors, enabling us to come up with this list. Here are five to check out:

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth, Michigan

As the world's largest Christmas store, Bronner's is 45 acres of fun. Each year, more than 2 million people visit the store in the idyllic town of Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Approximately 100,000 lights illuminate the salesroom. The store stocks "Merry Christmas" ornaments in more than 70 languages. Oh, and its electric bill averages $900 a day.

Bronner's began in 1945 as a window display-painting business run by Wallace Bronner. Over the years, business boomed and Bronner had to purchase three buildings just to keep up. By 2001, construction began on a building that would bring the total size of Bronner's to 5.5 football fields.

The store's location now includes a Silent Night Memorial Chapel and a half-mile Christmas Lane, decorated with lights. In April of this year, Wally Bronner passed on, but his family still manages Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland.
Store Hours (through December): Monday -- Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Incredible Christmas Place, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

The Christmas Place began as a gift shop 22 years ago in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Since then, Hurshel and Marian Biggs' once-small business has grown into a 43,000-square-foot multi-store complex -- complete with hotel.

"Guests tell us that we are the most beautiful store they have ever experienced," marketing manager Janet Donaldson said.

Visitors can see more than 50 themed Christmas trees decorated by a team of designers at the store. The Inn at Christmas Place opened in 2007. The 145-room hotel is decorated year-round for the holidays and is located right across the street from the Christmas Place village.

Christmas Place is also home to Singing Santa. Santa Dean Townsend greets guests and offers the traditional photos with Santa. He also performs concerts at the store five days a week.
Store Hours (through December): Seven days a week 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Always Christmas in Canterbury Village, Lake Orion, Michigan

Another one of the world's largest Christmas stores also resides in Michigan. Always Christmas in Canterbury Village is located just north of Detroit in Lake Orion, Michigan.

Olde World Canterbury Village is a designated historical site and extends over 21 acres. Aldridge's Always Christmas shop, with more than 90,000 square feet of Christmas accessories, is just one of 18 specialty shops on the premises.

Always Christmas' Web site also boasts of their large collection of Department 56 items and one of the world's largest nativity displays.

"Stan Aldridge and his family have collected a wealth of treasures from around the world," said Teresa Miller, manager of Always Christmas. "The Always Christmas store features antique windows, doors, paneling and a host of other artifacts to add distinction to our beautiful store."

Other stores in the village include Whittington's Clocks and Home Accents, the Royal Confectionary and Canterbury Toy World.
Store Hours: Monday -- Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Christmas Loft, multiple locations in New England

The Christmas Loft is actually six year-round Christmas stores. Located in New England, the Christmas Loft has branches in Meredith, North Conway and North Woodstock, New Hampshire; in Shelburne and Stowe, Vermont; and in Hadley, Massachusetts. The largest branch is 12,000 square feet.

Two of the stores feature almost life-size, animated New England Christmas villages. According to co-owners Richard and Ronnie Vander Veer, each village includes a church, a country store, a covered bridge, and villagers scurrying to get their last-minute chores done as Santa and his reindeer hover above them in the sky.

"The stores are alive with the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas and are surely the best way to get into the spirit of the season," Ronnie said. "[The stores] sell more than Christmas merchandise; they sell memories."
Store Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

St. Nick's, Littleton, Colorado

When you walk into St. Nick's, you instantly feel the magic of Christmas, according to visual designer Chris Davis.

The Littleton, Colorado, store has 22 decorated rooms and more than 100 themed trees (designed on movie themes this year). St. Nick's is also home to a glittering assortment of ornaments, decorations and collectibles from all over the world.

"Many customers come here to feel the true joy of the Christmas spirit and to be filled with inspirations for their own homes," co-owner Susan Sealy said. "It is nice to be a part of that."

St. Nick's has been in business since 1976, according to co-owner Shawn Sealy, and "a family Christmas tradition for generations."
Store Hours: Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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