We love the nostalgic fun of Christmas and Chanukah traditions, but there are old standbys you certainly can skip on occasion—for starters, automatically heading home for the holidays. Going on a real holiday during the holidays has its perks, such as having someone else put up the tree or letting them clean up all the dishes after Christmas dinner.
These five properties across the US really go all out in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Day, decking their halls and walls in full regalia, and arranging holiday-themed adventures, activities and meals that are guaranteed memory makers for the whole family. Not sure if St. Nick can still find you so far from home? Tell the kids not to fret: even if your room doesn’t come with its own fireplace, Santa’s reindeer (and his GPS, of course) will ensure he makes a perfectly timed appearance during your stay.
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The Sagamore Resort; Lake George, NY
When the snow falls over Lake George in New York’s Adirondack Mountains—practically a daily occurrence in December—the entire area transforms into a real-life winter wonderland. Soak in the natural beauty at the Sagamore Resort, a gorgeously restored Victorian-era hotel property that sits on its own island on the western shore of the lake. Each year, families return to celebrate the season with activities steeped in tradition (think: decorating gingerbread houses, singing carols, and sipping hot chocolate by the fire). Should the weather turn frightful, there’s still endless fun to be had: The Sagamore boasts a heated 40-foot indoor pool, and a 10,000-square foot recreation center that features a mini golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall, table games, playground equipment and an indoor movie theater playing (what else?) a marathon of classic holiday flicks. Packages start at $149 per night.
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Some lighting displays are worth returning to year after year—and this is one of them.
The Festival of Lights at Mission Inn is a five-week-long holiday extravaganza featuring one of the nation's largest holiday light collections. Attracting more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world, Festival of Lights was created by property owners Duane and Kelly Roberts and commences every year with the famous "Switch-On Ceremony," in which the hotel is illuminated with more than 4 million holiday lights followed by a full fireworks display. The hotel’s winter wonderland includes more than 400 animated figures including angels, elves and Dickens carolers; appearances by Santa Claus; the world’s largest manmade mistletoe measuring 12’ x 8’; horse-drawn carriage rides; elf tuck-ins; freshly-fallen snow; elaborately decorated Christmas trees in the lobby and throughout the hotel; delectable holiday confections at the famous Casey’s Cupcakes; and an outdoor ice-skating rink.
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If you’re an adventurous type who dreams of celebrating the holiday season in the great outdoors, there may be no cooler spot than The Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre authentic working cattle ranch in rural Montana. Here, you’ll experience a luxurious version of a real western-style holiday, complete with horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides through frosted forests, cross-country skiing, skating on an outdoor rink, dogsledding, snowmobiling, and tubing. Indoors, families can get collaborative with gingerbread-house building contests, cookie-decorating events, and tree-trimming parties. Guests who opt for a holiday package get their very own decorated tree, in-home visit from Santa, a feast the eve and night of Christmas, and a Paws Up signature stocking. Packages start from $631 per person per night.
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The Mohonk Mountain House in New York’s Hudson Valley is a getaway that will make your spirits bright upon first sight: The property is decked out with handmade wreaths, kissing balls, gingerbread houses and Christmas trees, including a 60-foot Austrian covered in 1,500 sparkling LED lights.
Besides the festive setting, there are plenty of family-friendly holiday activities to be had, including a family Yule Log hunt, where teams go on a scavenger hunt through the mountain house to find the Yule Log; a tree-trimming party that involves making decorations to adorn the Christmas tree and signing carols; reindeer tracking through the woods in search for reindeer and sleigh tracks led by a naturalist guide; nightly Menorah lighting during Hanukkah; and elf hunts for the kids with chances to win a special prize. Room rates start at $676 per night, based on double occupancy.
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You won’t encounter any unexpected blizzards in the desert, but you can count on the holidays arriving in a flurry of activity at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The merriment centers around the property’s 6,000-square-foot outdoor Desert Ice Skating Rink (surrounded by fire pits for roasting s’mores) and its four-story Christmas tree illuminated with 70,000 LED lights that twinkle and shimmer in time to 17 classic songs. Families can stroll or ride the holiday Express Train along the resort’s lagoons featuring larger-than-life illuminated displays (including swans, mermaids, toy soldiers, dreidels, skating penguins, a candy cane forest and a buccaneer pirate ship) or get their photos taken with a cast of North Pole characters (such as Christmas Princess Noel, Peppermint Penguin and Selfie Elfie). Packages start at $219 per night.