Do I love a hotel or resort that’s all dressed up for the holidays? If the number of photos I have of my now-teenage daughter standing by an elaborate gingerbread house display, perched by an array of poinsettias, or posed in front of an over-the-top Christmas tree in a hotel lobby throughout the years is any indication, then the answer is a resounding yes.
Staying at family resorts and hotels is always fun, but when you add in hundreds of twinkling lights, festive greenery, sweet treats, and an atmosphere full of holiday happiness, that escape just feels even more magical. Whether you’re looking for a December weekend getaway or a special place to spend the Christmas holiday, here are the U.S. hotels and resorts that sparkle and shine the most over the holidays.
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1. Big Cedar Lodge
There’s nothing little about Big Cedar Lodge, so it’s not surprising that the expansive Ozark Mountains resort celebrates the Christmas season in a major way. Its annual Home for the Holidays extravaganza features an almost never-ending series of events and activities in November and December, including a seasonal ice skating rink, baking and craft workshops, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, kids club pajama parties, and gingerbread bake-offs. There’s hot cocoa to sip, fires to settle in by, and more than two million holiday lights to admire.
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Guest rooms, cottages, and cabins serve as cozy, outdoors-inspired spots for winter getaways, and an array of dining options means you’ll never need to leave the resort. If all the holiday happenings aren’t enough to keep you busy, there’s also a spa, fitness center, and the Fun Mountain entertainment zone.
2. Boyne Mountain Resort
Boyne Falls, Michigan
Michigan’s Boyne Mountain Resort makes for a fun family getaway no matter the month on the calendar, but the holiday season makes for an even more special escape. Not only can you enjoy some of the standard winter activities like ice skating, snow tubing, and skiing, you can also take part in special seasonal events during the resort’s annual Holiday Week (December 20, 2023, through January 1, 2024).
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Wagon rides, bonfires, s’mores and other festive treats, arts and crafts, and family-friendly holiday movies are all on the schedule. On Christmas Eve, Santa himself makes an appearance on the slopes and then poses for pictures later in the day. The 1,200-foot-long SkyBridge Michigan is also done up with holiday lights throughout the season, which you can admire as you cross the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge.
3. The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Long appreciated for its blend of mountain adventure and European-style elegance, The Broadmoor has been drawing guests since 1918. There are even more reasons to choose it as your hotel for the holidays, though, when millions of lights are illuminated by Santa after Thanksgiving, adding an extra layer of magic to the property throughout the season. The resort’s awe-inspiring annual gingerbread creation is also revealed at that time and remains on view through the New Year.
Daily special events and activities take place during the Broadmoor’s Twelve Days of Christmas event (December 20 through January 1), while its beloved family-friendly holiday variety show is on the calendar for multiple evenings in December. And the AAA Five-Diamond resort offers lots of ways for the whole family to stay busy, including 20 dining options, a spa, six lanes of bowling, a movie theater, and s’mores kits for gathering around the fire pit.
4. Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa
Lost Pines, Texas
With its hiking and biking trails, yard games, friendly animal residents, on-site water park, and Camp Hyatt programming for kids, there’s already a lot to love about the 405-acre Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa. It becomes one of the best hotels for Christmas, though, when all of its festivities turn this Austin-area property into a Texas-style winter wonderland.
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Strolling Christmas carolers provide a holiday soundtrack while horse-drawn wagon rides help you take in all the seasonal decorations. The resort’s crafts room becomes “Santa’s Workshop” during the month of December, offering all kinds of crafting activities. Themed s’mores experiences, cocktail classes, and breakfasts with Santa serve up fun food and drink, and a Christmas market makes holiday gift shopping a little easier.
5. Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center
National Harbor, Maryland
Prepare to be dazzled by more than two million lights, 160 themed Christmas trees, more than 10,000 ornaments, and miles of garland at the sprawling 19-story Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center during the holidays. There’s also ice skating, snow tubing, snowball making, photos with Santa, singalongs, and gingerbread decorating to be enjoyed.
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You’ll want to plan time to rest up in the recently renovated guest rooms (which took design inspiration from the hotel’s location on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C.), because that’s only the beginning of the holiday fun. Christmas shows take place in the hotel’s impressive atrium, a Christmas village takes over part of the convention center, and the popular ICE! event brings in more than two million pounds of ice that gets carved into imaginative seasonal displays (2023’s theme is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer). You might need a vacation from your vacation after experiencing it all!
6. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa (or Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge and Resort)
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Understated is not a word often associated with Dolly Parton, and the Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration at Dollywood is just as larger-than-life. Think more than six million lights, dozens of Christmas trees, and an impressive holiday drone show. Book a guest room or suite at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa or the new HeartSong Lodge and Resort to experience all of the holiday magic at Dollywood theme park and around the rest of the site.
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You get special theme park perks and transportation as a resort guest, and when you visit either of the two hotels for Christmas, they are also decked out with festive touches. Holiday-themed crafts and evening marshmallow roasts are on the schedule for Camp DW kids programming at both resorts. A two-story Christmas tree greets you as you arrive at DreamMore Resort and Spa, and the hotel also offers a Tree Décor Package that includes a three-foot faux Christmas tree for your room, cookies and holiday candy, a handwritten letter from Santa’s elves, and a special ornament to commemorate your stay.
7. Paséa Hotel and Spa
Huntington Beach, California
Close to Huntington Beach Pier and set on the Pacific Ocean, Paséa Hotel and Spa has guest rooms and suites with private balconies and amenities like a pool, spa, and fitness studio. During the holiday season it unveils an oceanfront ice skating rink which hosts special theme nights and serves up hot chocolate and other holiday food and drink. You can reserve oceanfront or rink-front fire pits where you can enjoy special menu offerings to add to the wintery fun.
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When you visit this hotel for Christmas you’ll find a 170-pound Gingerbread Hotel in the lobby built to scale from the hotel’s original blueprints. It takes 140 hours to create and incorporates 50 pounds of icing and almost 200 candy canes! The hotel’s Study Kitchen + Bar serves up special holiday fare during the season, and other events in December include a tree lighting ceremony and breakfast with Santa.
8. Hotel Bennett
Charleston, South Carolina
With an appealing location on King Street in the heart of downtown Charleston and luxe but still family-friendly guest rooms and suites, Hotel Bennett already has a lot going for it. But visit this hotel for Christmas and you’ll immediately be wowed by the life-size gingerbread house in the lobby made with pounds and pounds of candy and serving up cups of hot cocoa to get a stay started off in a sweet way.
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On weekends during December, your whole family can enjoy tea with Santa, with holiday treats for all and Champagne for the adults. Breakfast with Santa takes place closer to the big day, and there’s carols and holiday stories on the night before Christmas Eve. Plus all of the holiday festivities in downtown Charleston are just outside this Christmas hotel’s front door.
9. Hotel Healdsburg
During the holidays, Sonoma County’s boutique Hotel Healdsburg welcomes the season with Christmas decorations and a roaring fireplace in the lobby. Weekend holiday teas feature pastries, scones and clotted cream, crudités, custom-blend teas, classic cocktails, and other goodies for both kids and grownups. A Saturday jazz music series creates a festive soundtrack in the lobby area.
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Add some special touches to your Christmas hotel stay by ordering an in-room Christmas tree that your family can decorate and a holiday cookie tray that can be waiting for you when you arrive. Commemorate the trip by booking a family photo session through the hotel or by picking up a meaningful souvenir in Healdsburg’s historic downtown.
10. Edgewood Tahoe Resort
Situated along the shores of Lake Tahoe, Edgewood Tahoe Resort ushers in the holidays with festive decorations, a range of spirited events, and the possibility of actual snow when you book this hotel for the Christmas season. Wintry fun at the resort includes cookie decorating workshops, holiday bingo, and story time with Mrs. Claus. Milk and cookies for Santa are delivered to your room on Christmas Eve.
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Winter visits to this boutique resort also mean activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, and skiing at nearby Heavenly Ski Resort. (Edgewood Tahoe has a Ski Butler program that delivers gear directly to your accommodations.) The resort’s elegant new Villa Suites are tailor-made for spending the holidays as a family, with multiple bedrooms, scenic views, and lots of space for gathering together.
11. Salish Lodge and Spa
Situated in the postcard-perfect foothills of the Cascade Mountains overlooking Snoqualmie Falls, Salish Lodge and Spa already has the winter wonderland part down. But somehow it gets even more magical over the holidays. The resort hosts a tree lighting ceremony with carolers and goodies for the kiddos, holiday teas, and visits from Santa in the dining room every Sunday morning during December.
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Don’t miss the iconic “Honey from Heaven” service during a morning meal, where servers drizzle honey from the onsite apiary onto biscuits from high above the plate. Each of the 86 guestrooms has a gas fireplace, spa-like shower, and stellar views. And a special “pillow menu” makes this one of the most comfortable hotels for Christmas, especially after a day spent exploring the area’s natural side.
12. Wailea Beach Resort
Celebrate the holiday season the Hawaiian way at Wailea Beach Resort on the south end of Maui. Christmas-themed events and activities such as holiday hula lessons, ornament making sessions, cookie decorating and s’mores, a daily Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt, and Santa’s arrival via canoe make this a top choice among family hotels for Christmas. Start the day with sunrise yoga, sip frozen hot chocolate as a midday treat, and wind down at the sunset torch lighting ceremony each evening.
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You can dive deeper into Hawaiian culture via workshops that teach about traditions like bamboo stamping and ukulele music. Or you can take a literal dive at the hotel’s NALU pool, which has four water slides (including the longest waterslide on Maui), splash zones, and a swim-through grotto. There’s arts and crafts, Hawaiian stories, and other activities at the kids club, and the whole family can catch a flick at the Movie House or stop by the GameSpace for some foosball or vintage arcade games.
13. Woodloch Pines Resort
Perennially lauded as one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the U.S., family-friendly Woodloch Pines Resort adds even more fun to its already packed schedule as a Christmas hotel. That means holiday-themed scavenger hunts across the resort’s 135 acres, “bakery wars” to see which family creates the sweetest holiday treats, and rousing family-friendly games of chance to see which wooden reindeer crosses the finish line first.
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Grab some hot cocoa and mittens for a wagon ride through the resort’s Festival of Lights display, where Santa just might make an appearance. And this is all on top of the other wintertime activities you can always enjoy at the all-inclusive resort, like snow tubing and ice skating outside, plus indoor games, entertainment, arts and crafts, a playground, a pool, and a splash park.
14. Hotel del Coronado
Celebrate the holidays in 1920s Art Deco style at the historic Hotel del Coronado. This iconic Southern California hotel definitely doesn’t skimp on holiday fun, offering seasonal experiences like a beachfront ice-skating rink and beachside “igloo” seating, photos with Santa, gingerbread house decorating, and holiday movies on the beach.
On the resort’s Founders Lawn, a grove of Norfolk Island pine trees serves as the setting for a light show set to a 1920s jazz soundtrack that concludes with festive snow flurries. A new bar and lounge with a replica of the San Diego-area hotel’s signature red turret serves up holiday cocktails and cocoa to enjoy during the display. Your whole family crew can also reserve a private fire pit on the beach for a special holiday s’mores experience.
15. Hotel Drover
Fort Worth, Texas
Book a stay at the Hotel Drover during the second half of December and you’ll be right in the middle of all kinds of holiday fun. During the hotel’s 12 Days of Drover event, you can get photos with a Cowboy Santa, meet live reindeer, and sample tasty holiday treats.
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The hotel, whose name honors the cowboys who drove cattle to market across the Plains, sits within the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, which also does it up for the holidays. You can glide around the Stockyards Rodeo Rink on the lawn of the Livestock Exchange Building, hear stories told by Mrs. Claus, visit the Cocoa Corral, and take in the live music, lights, and 40-foot Christmas tree. And when you’ve had your fill of fun, your hotel for the holidays is just steps away, with rustic-luxe guest rooms and suites brimming with Texas style.
16. Waldorf Astoria Orlando
You won’t experience any falling snow or icy temperatures while staying at Waldorf Astoria Orlando during the holiday season. Even if it looks like summer outside, though, it’s still plenty Christmasy within the hotel. Book one of the Holiday Suites Packages and you’ll get amenities like in-suite decorations, a cookie decorating kit, a holiday-themed turndown amenity, an exclusive Holiday Royal Tea experience held in your suite, and a holiday-themed poolside cabana for a day during your stay.
You’ll also enjoy complimentary transportation to Disney’s Orlando theme parks if you want to take part in all the holiday fun there. Of course, you’ll be entertained without ever leaving the resort with carolers in the lobby, story-time sessions with Mrs. Claus complete with milk and cookies, and year-round amenities that include a zero-entry pool and kids club. And if you extend your Christmas hotel stay through New Year’s Eve, your kids can enjoy a special party and buffet just for them while the grownups ring in the New Year with one of the resort’s holiday cocktails.
17. Pendry Washington DC – The Wharf
Set on D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront, Pendry Washington DC – The Wharf offers great views in a refined setting. During the holidays, checking in is made sweeter with a hot chocolate cart in the lobby complete with marshmallows, candy canes, sprinkles, and whipped cream. Young guests can write letters to Santa and drop them off in a special mailbox, and an optional “Holiday Movie Night Package” includes a selection of classic holiday flicks, an in-room popcorn machine, and an array of Sugarfina sweets.
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At sundown during each night of Hanukkah (December 7 through 15 this year), you can sample babka and rugelach made by the hotel’s pastry team and watch the candle lighting ceremony in the hotel lobby. It’s also an easy stroll from the hotel to The Wharf’s seasonal ice-skating rink and Camp Wharf’s s’mores station.
18. Enchantment Resort
Set amid red rocks and green pine trees, Sedona’s Enchantment Resort lives up to its name. It’s a pretty enchanting place to spend the holidays too. Arts and crafts sessions are held at “Santa’s Workshop,” carolers sing festive tunes on Saturdays, Mrs. Claus leads story time sessions, and Santa himself poses for pictures with guests.
You can take part in a holiday-themed culinary class or glide around the outdoor ice skating rink that offers memorable 360-degree views of Boynton Canyon. If the holiday season stresses you out at all, the resort also offers sound immersion and mandala art sessions to soothe your spirits, plus a winter solstice ceremony and the opportunity to make New Year’s manifestations to get 2024 started off in a positive way.
19. Jekyll Island Club Resort
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Make like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers once did and head to the Jekyll Island Club Resort for a special family getaway. At Christmastime, this historic Golden Isles resort (which also includes a more modern beachfront property) hosts afternoon teas, a gingerbread house decorating event, breakfast with the Grinch, lunch with Santa, and special holiday meals throughout the month of December.
The Holly Jolly Jekyll festivities that take place throughout the island from November 24 to January 7 help make this one of the best hotels for Christmas in the whole country. Some 350 light displays made up of more than a million lights can be seen illuminating stately trees and in other spots all over the island, which you can check out on your own or via a trolley tour. The island’s mini golf course even turns into “Peppermint Land” for the season.
20. Aspen Meadows Resort
Odds are high for a white Christmas at Aspen Meadows Resort, which sits on 40 acres in Aspen’s West End neighborhood. There are all kinds of festivities at the resort leading up to the big day, including a reindeer village with carolers, snowmen building, gingerbread house and cookie decorating, sleigh rides, and s’mores around the fire. Holiday movie nights take place throughout December, and there’s lots of special holiday food and drink to enjoy.
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On all eight nights of Hanukkah, leaders from the Aspen Jewish Congregation and Aspen Chabad House take turns lighting the menorah as the sun sets, and latkes are served for attendees. The all-suite hotel is well-suited for family getaways with the recently renovated suites done up in primary colors in homage to the resort’s Bauhaus design roots. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide optimal mountain views.
21. Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center
Gaylord hotels around the country are known for their “ICE!” experiences themed around the classic holiday films like A Christmas Story or A Charlie Brown Christmas. At Gaylord Rockies Resort, you can combine that frozen fun with snow-capped mountain views for the ultimate Christmas setting.
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Inside the Gaylord Rockies Resort, you’ll find two million pounds of colorful carved ice sculptures depicting scenes and characters from A Charlie Brown Christmas, along with kid-friendly activities and attractions like slides made entirely of ice. When it’s time to warm up, families can enjoy making s’mores around the fire, building a gingerbread house, or trying to break out of a holiday-themed escape room. This year’s ICE! celebration runs from November 17 through January 1.
22. Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa
Palm Beach, Florida
If your idea of the perfect Christmas getaway is escaping to one of Florida’s best beach resorts, the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa should be at the top of your list. Starting a few days before Christmas (on December 21), adults can enjoy a holiday cocktail class while the kids visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. This sunny retreat also offers a holiday breakfast buffet on Christmas Eve and a Christmas brunch on Christmas day.
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The seasonal festivities keep going through New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, too. Enjoy a Champagne toast at midnight while the kids have a pajama party they’ll never forget in the resort’s Loggers Kids Club.
23. Primland Resort, Auberge Resorts Collection
Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland Resort is a collection of luxury cottages, tree houses, and an upscale lodge brimming with rustic charm. The resort kicks off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving 5K around its onsite golf course, but that’s just the beginning. Its holiday experience also includes s’mores by the fire pit, cozy holiday drinks, and steaming hot toddies for the adults.
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Throughout November and December, guests can take part in a private Wine and Wreath Workshop, learning to make festive wreaths while sipping on a curated selection of wines. And from December 15 to 24, you can have a Christmas tree set up in your room for the duration of your holiday stay at The Primland. Cocktails and live music at the Great Hall are a prelude to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day prix fixe dinners.
24. The French Quarter Inn
Charleston, South Carolina
Lowcountry charm and Southern hospitality are on full display during the holiday season at Charleston’s French Quarter Inn. When Christmastime arrives, the hotel decks the halls with its famed Sleigh Bell Suite, which is decorated with a Christmas tree, garland, lights, and even mistletoe.
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Every evening, freshly baked cookies with milk can be enjoyed next to the roaring fireplace. And for something a little stronger than milk, there’s also a bourbon-spiced eggnog station right in the room.
25. The Driskill
Austin’s The Driskill has been welcoming guests to the city’s downtown since 1886. This holiday season, the hotel will start decking the halls for Christmas with a tree lighting ceremony accompanied by live music and cocktails on December 1. The 16-foot tree keeps the lobby jolly and bright all season long, and kids will love mixing and mingling around the lobby’s gingerbread village, decorated by the children at Dell Children’s Hospital and the hotel staff.
Over the holidays, the hotel’s famous Afternoon Tea service gets new seasonal flavors paired with bottomless tea. As night falls, adults can head to the Driskill Bar for seasonal cocktails and live music.
26. The Roosevelt
New Orleans, Louisiana
A beacon of the holiday season in the bayou, the opulent Roosevelt New Orleans is decorated to the nines with rows of sparkling lights and trees (to say nothing of its holiday brunches). But what really makes this one of the best hotels for the holidays is its signature Teddy Bear Tea, in which families are greeted by Santa and Mrs. Claus before sitting for traditional tea service.
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During the tea, which features sweet and savory delights as well as sparkling wine for the adults, Santa and friends will share stories and take photos with the kids. At the end of the celebration, each child gets a Roosevelt teddy bear to take home.
27. The Plaza New York
New York, New York
Already one of the most iconic hotels in the country, The Plaza New York goes above and beyond with its annual holiday season festivities. But what else would you expect from the hotel made famous to moviegoers everywhere with its starring role in the Christmas classic, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York?
This Christmas season, the celebration kicks off on November 28 with the hotel’s Christmas tree lighting. Throughout November and December, guests can partake in holiday afternoon tea and browse at a pop-up shop themed to the beloved story Eloise at The Plaza. (For an extra dose of storybook charm, book a stay at the hotel’s popular Eloise Suite.)
Staying at The Plaza also means you’re in the middle of the best of what New York City has to offer for the holidays, including the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting (November 30) and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes.
28. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Nowhere else in the world celebrates the holidays quite like the Orlando theme parks. At Walt Disney World, whimsical theme park decorations and very merry Christmas celebrations take center stage, and the Disney hotels in Orlando always get in on the seasonal fun too.
At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, guests are greeted by the smell of fresh gingerbread and a towering Christmas tree as they enter the lobby. There’s a full-sized gingerbread house decorated by Disney’s talented pastry chefs, which doubles as a fun place to get holiday treats like Mickey-shaped gingerbread cookies.
29. InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C.
Stepping into The Willard during the holidays is like stepping into a scene from a Christmas movie. Strands of lighted garland, bright red poinsettias, and towering Christmas trees fill the hotel, and at the Round Robin Bar guests can delight in holiday cocktails, including an exclusive in-house barrel-aged bourbon Negroni.
Thanksgiving and Christmas Day will see a full brunch spread for guests. If you plan on staying anytime from December 1 through 23, you can enjoy a full choir singing the songs of the season each night from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
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Megan duBois also contributed to this article.
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