For lots of families, Christmas is not only a time to gather but a time to travel. There are several properties across America that are legendary for their celebrations of the holiday season. In New York City, there’s the Plaza; New Orleans is home to The Roosevelt and Chicago is home to the Waldorf Astoria. These resorts are just a few of the best Christmas hotels for a multi-generational family holiday visit.
Christmas time in the Vail Village is a charming experience. Photo Credit: Four Seasons Vail
How to Choose Christmas Hotels
This has been a very long year for my family and honestly, we’re looking to do something very different by actually traveling on Christmas Day. It’s a great way to create a new tradition or at least something new this year. There are certain criteria that we need to have for our resort:
- A variety of activities – We want to make sure there’s something for everyone to do, from the most active to the most relaxed members of our family. My tween son is all about adventure and outdoors. My mother is looking forward to sitting by the fire.
- A central shared experience – As much as we like splitting up, we want to create a holiday memory with one central experience. We haven’t decided if that’s driving to look at Christmas lights, a gingerbread house decorating experience or group caroling. We just know that it needs to be together.
- A Christmas WOW moment – Traveling for Christmas is new for my family so we need to be wowed by Christmas hotels. Over the top holiday decor, Elf on the Shelf, Santa Claus, we want it all!
Read More: 4 Tips for Traveling with Elf on the Shelf
A Luxury White Christmas at Four Seasons Vail
For the family that loves snow, there’s no better place to experience a winter wonderland than in the Rockies at the Four Seasons Resorts and Residences Vail in Colorado. The Christmas hotel celebrations begin in early December with a proclamation to honor the home of the Grinch, “WhoVail” and the unveiling of a 100-square-foot gingerbread house.
Outdoors, ice-skating and hot cocoa are sure to warm you if you don’t hit the slopes. The whole family can meet up poolside for complimentary hot chocolate and s’mores. And The Elf on the Shelf will make special appearances in the week leading up to Christmas with visits from Santa Claus and live music courtesy of the Dickens Carolers on Christmas Eve.
Four Seasons works for families of varying sizes because you can choose accommodations ranging from standard hotel rooms through four bedroom resort residences. Guests in the Residences can even order Christmas Trees to be sent to their rooms along with a special Christmas dinner in or dining at the Christmas Day buffets. Throughout the season, the Four Seasons offers a complimentary childcare program, Kids for All Seasons, for ages 5 to 12. Put the kids there while you take a cooking/beverage class or spend time at the Five Star Spa.
An ICE! Christmas at the Gaylord Hotels
Christmas is a frozen paradise at each of the four Gaylord Hotel properties through their award-winning ICE! attraction. Visitors to ICE don a blue parka to walk through a frozen wonderland filled with ice slides, hand-carved ice sculptures and live carving zones, all at 9 degrees.
My family spent a weekend at the Gaylord National to help us get into the holiday spirit and we loved it. The nightly light show, evening story time and teddy bears from the onsite Build-A-Bear helped us create incredibly special memories. The wonderful thing about Christmas at any of the Gaylord properties is there are plenty of activities. From gingerbread houses to ice-skating and Christmas Day buffets, there is plenty for families to enjoy before Santa makes his way back to the North Pole.
ICE! comes alive through a distinct theme at each. Gaylord Opryland (Nashville, TN) will feature the story of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and celebrate a Country Christmas with live performances of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical? at the Grand Ole Opry House. The Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas, will feature “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in its ICE! experience. “A Christmas Story” will be main attraction at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida, while the Gaylord National right outside of Washington, D.C will showcase “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Christmas in California at the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco
Christmas at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco is not only first among California holiday legends but legendary among Christmas hotel destinations. Fairmont San Francisco transforms the hotel’s grand lobby into Christmas central with life-sized Gingerbread House. This house is more 25 feet tall and 35 feet wide! For a super fun special treat, children can stay in the Santa Suite. The Santa Suite is the specially decorated “home” of Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Fairmont when they’re in California. To round out the experience, you can choose from the Gingerbread Holiday afternoon tea or a special private dining inside the Gingerbread House.
Christmas in the Mountains at the Omni Grove Park Inn
I have wanted to visit the Omni Grove Park Inn in Ashville, NC for years because of the magical gingerbread house displays. Annually, the hotel hosts Christmas in the Mountains for families to come and celebrate. The Grove Park Inn is the home to the Annual National Gingerbread House Competition and they certainly bring the WOW as a Christmas hotel.
Over the Christmas weekend, the Inn will host several different activities including family movie screenings, live music and a Yule Log Ceremony to welcome Santa on Christmas Eve. For TravelingMom Sherry Boswell and her family, the big event was “the Champagne Sunday Brunch in the Blue Ridge, aptly named for its amazing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. ” She loved the eggnog stuffed French toast, which certainly says holidays.
The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs
The Broadmoor Hotel is a favorite of several TravelingMoms but it becomes extra special at Christmas time. Each year, the hotel hosts “The Broadmoor Holiday Show.” This live music show featuring Debby Boone includes dinner and a “White Christmas”-style show straight out of the movies. Unique holiday events include a life size gingerbread house, warm wassail and a hike to the Frozen Falls. Don’t miss the special culinary twist on the 12 Days of Christmas.
If you win a lottery, seriously consider the Broadmoor’s Christmas at Cloud Camp, which starts at $50,000 for 3 or 4 day packages. Cloud Camp is an all-inclusive seven-bedroom private retreat for a family or group of friends. The staff at Cloud Camp will create a week catered to your family. Options for activities include wine tasting, cookie making for Santa, and hiking through the Rockies. Cloud Camp can be as active or relaxed as you choose. However, one can’t miss experience is sitting around the fire pit watching the twinkling white lights of the stars and making s’mores.
The remote location makes for an amazing display of the stars because of the elevation. Because the experience is privately curated for your family, you can bring your own holiday décor and traditions along. If that means elf tuck-ins and bedtime stories or your holiday decorations and special Santa plate that’s been passed down, the staff at Cloud Camp is prepared with their own Christmas magic to make it all happen. You can even have a horse-drawn carriage ride.
How to Celebrate Christmas Away from Home
With all the places to go, there’s always a concern about how to actually celebrate with presents. Do you ship them in advance or take in a suitcase and hope TSA doesn’t open them? How far in advance do you go? Is Christmas Eve too late and you might end up with a delayed flight or bad weather? Do you stay for New Years?
The best advice I can give is plan in advance (like now) and look at every situation. I have fond memories of my grandmother flying in to see us Christmas morning. She would do Christmas morning in Minnesota with my cousins and then the afternoon in California with our family. It felt like a special delivery.
However you choose or wherever you go, let me be the first to tell you Merry Christmas! (I know it’s early but I’m in the spirit!)