Tired of decking your own halls for Christmas, but want to experience a season with your family that’s merry and bright? Top family resorts around the country are lighting up their properties and turning them in to holiday wonderlands.
The Travel Channel ranks these resorts as the most memorable getaways for the family.
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Nashville, TN
Book by Cyber Monday for a discount on this resort’s Country Christmas pack-age, offered on select dates from Nov. 9 to Jan. 1. Billed as one of the most “Christmassy destinations in the country,” the resort is offering special attractions like an Elf on the shelf scavenger hunt, a Build-A-Bear Workshop, a General Jackson Showboat holiday cruise and much more. ICE!, a popular, annual attraction, opens Nov. 9 to Jan. 1. It uses over two million pounds of ice, hand-carved by Chinese artisans, to depict scenes from a different Christmas classic each year. Visitors can walk through this frosty winter wonderland, but bring your coats and mittens; it’s kept at 9 degree F. Don’t miss the Nativity scene, also carved in ice, and glide down one of four, two-story tall ice slides. There’s more to do, including snow tubing and ice skating. Adults 21 years or older can warm up later at the bar with specialty drinks like the Jolly Mint or Merry Margarita.
The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough, Montana
Come to The Resort at Paws Up for an old-fashioned tree-trimming party, a gingerbread house contest, cookie decorating, dog sledding or a horse-drawn sleigh ride. This luxury resort is about 35 minutes from Missoula, in Blackfoot Vally, and sits on a 37,000-acre working cattle ranch.
Christmas packages run for five nights and include meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. Santa shows up, of course, at a festive party on Christmas Eve. Elegant vacation homes and luxury tents are also available, but you have to inquire about the availability.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
Overlook the glittering Vegas strip from the ice rink at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. It’s actually the resort’s Boulevard Pool, frozen into more than 4,200 square feet of ice from late Nov. through early Jan. See the website for a “fore-cast” (actually, a schedule) of light snow showers; they occur every 30 minutes on select days. When you get chilly, toast marshmallows for s’mores at an out-door pit. Adults can indulge in holiday-themed cocktails like The Griswold, Naughty or Nice?, Scrooged and Egg Noggy Nog.
Great Wolf Lodge Snowland Celebration (Locations in N.C., Ohio, Washington, Texas, Kansas, Massachusetts, Ontario, Pennsylvania, California, Michigan, Virginia, and Wisconsin)
Snowland celebrations begin at Great Wolf Lodges across the U.S. in late Nov (check your desired location for end dates). Each will have indoor snow showers (the flakes melt as they land in the lodges’ water park features, kept at a balmy 84 degrees F). Kids can also enjoy visits from Santa, Polar Wolf Walks (educational walks to learn about wild animals), and fun things to do at North Pole University, where they’ll earn a “Snowploma.” Book early to reserve a Snowland Suite; a limited number are available. Each is furnished with a decorated Christmas tree, twinkling lights and other decorations. At bedtime, lodge mascots like Violet the Wolf or Wiley stop by with milk and cookies to tuck in the little ones.
Hershey Park, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Hershey Park sweetens the season this year with A Music Box Christmas, a show for kids of all ages, as well as cookie workshops and holidaythemed roller-coaster rides. Kids can also share their Christmas wishes with Santa and meet his nine live reindeer, including Rudolph. Later, hop in the family car and drive through two miles of wooded trails to experience Hershey’s “Sweet Lights,” a festive display of over 200,000 lights that “dance” to popular Christmas tunes.
See the website for dates, times and more details.
Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia
Step back in time at Colonial Williamsburg, and let the kids discover how early colonists celebrated the season. Grand Illumination takes place on Dec. 2; this 18th-century custom is a spectacular display of fireworks and the firing of guns. Join carolers at the Courthouse, catch a candlelit concert at the Governor’s Place, warm up with hot cider after a spin on the ice skating rink, or share a holiday feast and other events with the whole family.
Grand Wailea, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii
There may be a shortage of chimneys on Maui, but Santa still shows up, riding in a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe. On Dec. 4, children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui will throw the switch for the Grand Wailea’s 25-foot Christmas tree. It will sparkle along with more than eight miles of white lights in the monkeypod trees lining the resort’s driveway. They call the theme of December the “Tis the Season of Aloha,” and the Club children will build a gingerbread village to celebrate. Of course, you’ll also want to hit the beach to paddleboard, kayak and take in more sun and fun.
The Roosevelt, a WaldorfAstoria Hotel, New Orleans, Louisiana
The kids will be awed—and so will you—when you step into this hotel’s blocklong lobby, decorated with 60,000 sparking lights, 46 Christmas trees, 22 birch trees, and 30-feet of garland. Reserve your spot early for the Teddy Bear Tea, where Mr. and Mrs. Claus will stop by as the kids enjoy Christmas goodies and the adults toast with Champagne. Holiday brunch is a tradition at the Roosevelt, with a Christmas Day feast that includes traditional breakfast fare as well as Louisiana specialties like crabmeat eggs Benedict and shrimp and mirliton au gratin. Ask about special Papa Noel rates, based on availability from Dec. 1-29, when you book.