'Tis the season when top destinations and family resorts are decking their halls and making the season merry and bright. With children around the country enjoying as much as two weeks off of school due to holidays, many families will turn Christmastime into an opportunity for a vacation. These destinations and resorts promise a festive and memorable holiday getaway.
Many holiday events have been scaled back or canceled for the 2020 holiday season, so be sure to confirm the most up-to-date offerings with individual resorts or organizers before planning your trip.
Savor the Season at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai
Reconnect with your family this winter season by slowing down and indulging in a luxury stay at Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Your family can learn how to hula dance, play the ukulele, and string a lei at the resort's cultural workshops. Or, for a little adventure, take the UTV cultural tour of the island where you'll cross the red dirt landscape, full of spotted deer and wild turkeys, tasting mangoes and lemons off of trees as you go. Definitely take a snorkel and sail cruise on the resort's 50-foot catamaran. Winter is the best time to spot and hear humpback whales. Are there horse lovers in your family? Visit Lanai Ranch and ride through changing landscapes. Your kids will love playing with the goats and the mini horses after their ride. Finally, don't miss the multi-hued sunrise at Pu'u Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock, which is within walking distance from the resort.
Snowland at Great Wolf Lodges
Every day's a pool day at Great Wolf Lodge, even during the Christmas season, North America’s largest indoor waterpark with locations all across the country. They celebrate the holidays with its annual Snowland event, complete with life-size gingerbread houses, letters to Santa, caroling, and other festivities. Of course, families also get unlimited access to an enormous indoor waterpark with water slides, raft rides, interactive splash pads, surfing simulators, a lazy river, a wave pool, and more, in a building comfortably heated to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Holiday Sparkle in the Big City
The holiday season can be a wonderful time to visit a big city when it sparkles the brightest and brims with lively shopping and festivities. Beginning in mid to late November, many cities are transformed into festive holiday destinations with special decorations, events, and traditions. Consider spending part of the Christmas season in New York City, Philadelphia, Denver, Boston, or your favorite metropolis.
Soak in Vitamin Sea at Barcelo Aruba
Travel to Aruba with your family in tow and stay at the all-inclusive Barcelo Aruba, located on one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, Palm Beach. The resort makes vacationing with your family easy, with six different restaurants, a huge swimming pool, direct access to the beach, and a kids club with activities. For the best-of-the-best, reserve the Royal Level for a room located on one of the top floors, access to the Royal Level Lounge, complimentary WiFi, and other perks. There are almost always special offers during the holiday season, with savings up to 40 percent off the regular price.
Island highlights include the Aruba Ostrich Farm, snorkeling and swimming at Baby Beach, Arikok National Park, Aruba Aloe Factory, and the Donkey Sanctuary. DePalm Tours can arrange full or half-day tours for your whole family.
Holiday Magic at Smugglers' Notch
Voted the No. 1 Kid-Friendly Resort in the Eastern United States & Canada by SKI Magazine readers, at Smugglers' Notch Resort in northern Vermont you can enjoy a variety of special holiday activities throughout much of December.
These activities, designed for all ages, include cookie decorating, craft workshops such as sock puppet making and snow art, and themed family challenge races, all of which are included in the resort's vacation package.
Smugglers' vacation packages also include mountainside condominium lodging, lift tickets, snow tubing, ice skating, use of the indoor pool and hot tub, and an indoor FunZone with climbing inflatables. In addition, there is family and adult entertainment.
A visit to Colonial Williamsburg during the holidays offers a wonderful chance to step back in time to see how Christmas was celebrated two centuries ago. The living history park's historic buildings are decorated with wreaths, garlands, and candle-lit windows that add a warm glow to evening walks. The season's calendar is filled with hundreds of special events, activities, and dining experiences.
Congress Hall in Cape May, New Jersey
Providing hospitality since 1816, Congress Hall is America’s oldest seaside resort and is located in the heart of the historic Victorian district of Cape May. During Winter Wonderland, Congress Hall’s grand lawn is transformed into a winter snowscape, over 20 vendors come together to make a holiday shopping village, and Santa meets with kids in his workshop. Meanwhile, the Congress Hall Express train travels around Cape May’s North Pole.
The Holidays at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys
Looking for a Christmas getaway in the Florida Keys? The 60-acre Hawks Cay Resort, a premier family destination in the Florida Keys, offers a seasonal Hawks Cay Christmas program of activities and a special holiday package.
Seasonal activities for kids include Christmas cookie decorating, hot chocolate and story time with Mrs. Claus, writing letters to Santa, creating family holiday cards, and meeting Santa, who is known to hang out at the resort on vacation before he prepares for the big day.
A Town Called Santa Claus
One of the "10 best places to spend Christmas," according to CNN, the tiny town of Santa Claus, Indiana. It boasts the world's only post office offering a "Santa Claus" postmark. Street names include Christmas Boulevard, Candy Cane Lane, and Mistletoe Drive, and you'll find over 20 statues of Santa around town, offering many seasonal photo ops. In true Christmas spirit, visitors can also attend the Festival of Lights and a tree-lighting ceremony to round out the holiday experience.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Christmas at the Princess returns to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona, from Thanksgiving to New Year's. Enjoy all of the holiday festivities, including more than three million twinkling lights, fireside S'mores, outdoor ice skating in the desert, a visit to Santa's workshop, and more. There are several special packages available for this event to help sweeten the deal.
Winterfest at Suncadia Resort
From late November through early January, Suncadia Resort in Washington's Cascade Mountains is getting in the holiday spirit with its annual Winterfest celebration packed full of cold-weather fun, including tubing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, carriage rides, snowmobile tours, and even winter fly fishing. Holiday traditions include visits to Santa's Workshop, elf tuck-ins, and a Christmas Day buffet.
Chocolate Town USA
What could be sweeter than spending Christmas in the so-called Sweetest Place on Earth? At Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, located just 14 miles outside of Harrisburg, Hershey rolls out the red carpet for the holiday season. Hersheypark Christmas Candylane is the marquee event, featuring over 5 million twinkling lights, visits from Santa, decorated trees, and lots of holiday chocolate Kisses to enjoy.
Santa's Workshop at the North Pole, New York
Since 1949, countless families have visited Santa’s Workshop and experienced the magic of an old-fashioned Christmas at the North Pole. It is located just minutes from Lake Placid in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. During the Christmas season, families can meet Santa and his reindeer, tour the storybook village and shops, and pose for a photo next to the Frosty North Pole. The Village of Lights helps set the stage, and you'll truly feel like you've been transported to the real North Pole.
Mohonk Mountain House
The uber-family-friendly and all-inclusive Mohonk Mountain House is putting on an Olde-Fashioned Holiday on weekends in December. Highlights include a festival of lights, fireworks, holiday scavenger hunt, traditional yule log hunt, gingerbread wars, ornament making, and more.
Less than two hours north of New York City in the Catskills, all-inclusive Mohonk Mountain House is a Victorian castle in the sky that's perfect for an escape during the holiday season. During the Olde-Fashioned Christmas, the resort decks its halls with spectacular handmade swags, elaborate gingerbread creations, and decorated Christmas trees.
The December Delight package includes accommodations, two meals per day plus afternoon tea and cookies, and most activities.
Theme and Thrill Parks in Orlando
There is perhaps nowhere better to celebrate the holidays with kids than Orlando during the Christmas season. You can get festive with Mickey and the gang at Walt Disney World and then head over to celebrate à la Grinch and Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. America's number one family destination decks the halls and pours on the cheer during the Christmas season, so you really can't go wrong with a Christmas trip to Orlando.
Christmas With ICE! at Gaylord Resorts
The Gaylord Resorts are open, but ICE! at the Gaylord Resorts is canceled for 2020.
The holiday season kicks off in mid-November at five Gaylord Resorts with the return of ICE!, the award-winning icy attraction and six-week-long Christmas celebration. ICE! is hand-sculpted by 40 international artisans and kept at a chilling 9 degrees. With more than two million lights and enormous Christmas trees plus the wonderful ICE! exhibitions, families will feel at home for the holidays during their visit to any of the five Gaylord Resorts located in Nashville; Orlando. Washington, D.C; Denver; or Dallas/Ft. Worth.
The Polar Express
The Polar Express train rides on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad are both canceled in 2020. Confirm that your train of choice is running in the 2020 holiday season.
The magic of Christmas exists for those who believe. That’s the theme of The Polar Express, the beloved children's book, and a popular holiday movie. Over the past decade scores of Polar Express trains have popped up all over the country, such as the Adirondack Scenic Railroad in Utica, New York, or the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Peninsula, Ohio. These festive train rides offer families the opportunity to recreate the magical Polar Express experience through readings of the story, music from the movie soundtrack, cups of cocoa, and, of course, meetings with Santa.
Very Merrytime Cruises on Disney Cruise Line
All Disney Cruises are canceled until summer 2021.
Very Merrytime Cruises take place on most voyages aboard all Disney Cruise Line ships from late November through early January. Available sailings range in length from three to seven nights with itineraries to the Caribbean and Bahamas, including Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. Onboard, families are treated to special activities, events, entertainment, food and beverages, and other holiday festivities.