Getting away from home for the holidays By Katrina Brown Hunt
It’s beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas, as resorts around the country are already preparing for the busy holiday season. With most children around the country enjoying nearly two full weeks of school holidays, families are increasingly using Christmastime as a chance for a vacation. This year, a number of resorts are planning over-the-top events that promise more bang for your buck during the holidays. Here’s a selection of nine getaways offering a huge dose of affordable Christmas cheer, including cookie decorating, elf tuck-ins, and even Santa led-Segway tours:
Where: New York City, NY Why: Because this newly renovated hotel sits in the heart of The Big Apple’s holiday magic, within walking distance of Macy’s, the Rockefeller Center tree and more. The hotel’s “Miracle on 31st Street” package starts at $179 a night and includes an in-room movie night of Miracle on 34th Street, skating for two at nearby Bryant Park, hot cocoa and a 10%-off pass at Macy’s.
Where: Pine Mountain, GA Why: Because this resort’s Fantasy in Lights display has been a favorite family tradition for the past 20 years. More than eight million lights shine in the wooded landscape and along Robin Beach. Returning favorites include life-sized scenes depicting the “March of the Toy Soldiers,” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” plus an enchanting drive through “Snowflake Valley,” a wintry blizzard of lights. Families can also explore the resort’s butterfly center or warm up in the Christmas village, where kids can get their photo taken with Santa. The Fantasy in Lights package starts at $124 a night and includes the light show, a Christmas ornament, breakfast for two, and admission to the butterfly center and other resort attractions.
Where: Coeur d’Alene, ID Why: Because the 161-foot Christmas tree at this lakefront resort is twice as tall as the tree at Rockefeller Center. Families can hop aboard a 40-minute cruise across the lake to the “North Pole,” where Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be waiting in the toy workshop. This year the resort is also offering a musical tribute to USO Tours and pop hits of the 1940s. The Holiday Lights Bed and Breakfast package costs $155 a night and includes two cruise tickets (a $32 value), and a $20 breakfast credit. Kids 12 and under cruise for free.
Where: Copper Mountain, CO Why: Because this kid-friendly ski resort (see our review) hosts a fabulous “En Fuego” celebration several times during the holiday season. At nightfall, there will be bonfires, brilliant fireworks displays, and a Santa-led parade of torch-carrying skiers winding down the slopes. In addition, there’s a chance for kids to meet Santa, go snow tubing, ice skating, dog sledding, snowmobiling, roast s’mores by the fire pit, or attend a free Kids’ Night Out camp. Rates start from $74 per person, per night. Kids 12 and under ski free.
Where: Scottsdale, AZ Why: Because this elegant Arizona hotel offers one holiday amenity that you don’t get at most hotels: your own tree. During the week before Christmas, the All-Wrapped-Up package starts at $299 a night and includes a daily $100 resort credit, a family stocking filled with Christmas treats, Santa-ready cookies at turn-down, and a small Christmas tree that you can decorate in your room,. Around the resort, along with the five pools and two golf courses, you’ll get to enjoy a nightly music-and-lights show, carolers in the lobby, Mexican hot cocoa with Christmas cookies, and fireside photos with Santa every Saturday evening.
Where: Louisville, KY Why: Because this downtown Louisville favorite is reprising its expansive Christmas light display: 11 sparkling scenes depicting Santa’s reindeer-drawn flight, Toyland, the Nativity scene, and a Snow Fairy Castle. There’s also a gingerbread house contest, a holiday dinner show and several events hosted by a special VIP guest (read: Santa), including a story time, breakfast, and a kids’ Christmas party. The Kalightoscope Overnight package is priced from $225 and includes accommodations plus two tickets to the exhibit (regularly $17.95 each), as well as two tickets to the Colors of the Season holiday music show (usually $45 per adult).
Where: National Harbor, MD Why: Because this kid-friendly Washington DC resort packs a wow factor for the holiday season. The award-winning ICE! exhibit is a hand-carved winter-wonderland constructed from two million pounds of ice, and which retells the classic story of Dreamworks’ Madagascar. Kids can meet Santa and the characters from Shrek during breakfast, decorate gingerbread, or find hidden items in a resort-wide scavenger hunt. The Christmas Memories package starts at $99 per adult and includes overnight accommodations, the $16 resort fee, the $21 parking fee, admission to ICE! (regularly $25 per adult), and a holiday souvenir.
Where: Palm Springs, CA Why: Because this grand dame desert hotel immerses itself in the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, which Frank Capra wrote while staying at the resort. The hotel’s plaza is transformed into Bedford Falls, and there are frequent showings of the film, Santa breakfasts, mini-tree-lighting ceremonies, and daily gifts for select guests “every time a bell rings.” The “It’s a Wonderful Winter” package starts at $209 and includes a $50 resort credit, as well as a DVD of the film, a basket of gingerbread cookies and a La Quinta snow globe. Even better, the deal is good through the end of February.
(MORE: View a family trip plan: 3 days in Palm Springs with kids.)
Where: Greensboro, GA Why: Because this lakeside, AAA five-diamond resort has meet-and-greets with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, storytimes, menorah lightings, holiday movie showings, gingerbread decorating workshops and a new ice rink that will be open through Valentine’s Day. You can book Santa-led Segway tours, or send the kids to the Ritz Kids evening club, which features elves who will supervise toy-making. The Fire & Ice package starts at $289 a night and includes unlimited ice skating, a s’mores turndown treat and a daily $100 dining credit.
Where: Sunriver, OR Why: Because the popular “Traditions” program is back again this year with a sleigh full of family activities. Kids can make teddy bears and crafts in Santa’s workshop, watch a magic show, and test out some sweets at the candy factory. On Christmas Eve, there is a special holiday celebration with caroling and trivia, followed by a Christmas brunch with Santa and a classic dinner in the Great Hall. There will also be gingerbread homes on display as part of an annual charity contest, family sleigh rides, and elf tuck-ins. The Sugarplum special starts at $149 a night, and is available from Thanksgiving through New Years. The package combines lodging and a $50 credit toward any of the 150 “Traditions” activities.
Where: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA Why: Because this oceanside resort outside LA is offering family scavenger hunts, elf tuck-ins, stories by the fire, candied ornament making, Santa breakfasts, and evening cider and s’mores. Rooms regularly start at $315, but with the Traditions Package, you can get the same starting rate, as well as daily breakfast for two and your $25 resort fees covered.