These 9 Hotels Go All Out for the Holidays in the U.S.By Kara Williams
What better way to take a break from gift shopping, cookie baking, party planning and other hectic holiday prep than to enjoy a relaxing getaway brimming with festive cheer?
With glittering, over-the-top decorations and entertaining on-site activities for the whole family, these nine hotels shine extra bright during the winter holiday season.
As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.
Take in Twinkling Lights in Houston
The rooftop Texas-shaped lazy river at the Marriott Marquis Houston is a scenic spot to float all year long. But the pool deck is especially enchanting during the holiday season with its twinkling displays and upbeat evening programming courtesy of the hotel’s Texas Winter Lights celebration.
Snap your selfie with more than 20 different shimmering light activations, including an archway of lights and an illuminated grove of trees. Book a cabana and cozy up with winter cocktails and DIY s’mores kits. Get especially merry on ugly-sweater and silent-disco theme nights, listen to concerts under the stars or challenge friends to a poolside curling match.
See Extraordinary Ice Sculptures Near D.C.
Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland with a visit to ICE! at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. You’ll don a provided parka to fully enjoy this chilly experience composed of giant sculptures, tunnels and slides carved from more than 2 million pounds of colorful ice.
Lively entertainment abounds at this resort near Washington, D.C. “Cirque: Spirit of Christmas” is a stage performance featuring acrobatics and high-flying stunts. Nightly light shows in the 19-story glass atrium culminate in a brilliant tree lighting. Visitors can build real snowballs and compete to hit targets at the Snowball Build and Blast.
Enjoy the ‘Winter Forest’ Fun in Lake Oconee
The Winter Forest is the vibrant focal point for seasonal fun at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. Here, take a few spins around the 5,000-square-foot ice rink, order a hot toddy at the retro trailer, kick back on the plush sofas at the Ice Lounge and capture memories at the Snow Globe Photo Booth.
Pint-sized guests will enjoy singing along to Christmas favorites aboard the Linger Longer Express train, eating breakfast with Santa, listening to stories with Mrs. Claus and even getting tucked into bed by one of Santa’s elves.
Visit a Gingerbread Village in Seattle
A beloved community event for more than two decades, the annual Gingerbread Village at Sheraton Grand Seattle is a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and research around Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Each year, the Seattle hotel partners with local architect firms that design and build the magnificent gingerbread structures.
Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite creation with a $5 donation to the charitable cause.
Meet Santa on Christmas Day in Maui
At Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, Maui, Santa swaps his sleigh for a canoe to make a grand arrival on the beach on Christmas morning. Then there’s a spirited parade with elves followed by opportunities to take family photos with the jolly man himself, plus milk and cookies for everyone.
Throughout the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, holiday activities are plentiful, including sugar cookie decorating, gingerbread house making, and holiday movie screenings, plus seasonally themed yoga and hula classes and live music by the pool.
Sip Afternoon Tea in Denver
The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, Autograph Collection in downtown Denver dazzles with elaborate and ornate decor in its multilevel atrium lobby. A glimmering 25-foot chandelier decorated with crystal beading and shiny ornaments is installed just for the season. The glowing centerpiece is accompanied by wreaths, garlands, bows and still more lights that brighten grand arches and second-story railings.
The best way to take in the splendor? Grab a seat at the traditional Afternoon Tea with scones, finger sandwiches and pastries presented with holiday flair.
Explore a Huge Gingerbread Display in Sarasota
The hotel pastry team at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota uses more than 400 pounds of gingerbread, 250 pounds of royal icing and 100 pounds of candy to create a life-size “Gulf Pole” gingerbread display. You can order a Christmas tree to decorate in your room or have a Hanukkah Celebration Bundle delivered to mark the Festival of Lights with a small menorah, dreidel and candy gelt.
More timely fun: a Peppermint Mocha Pedicure at the spa, a Twelve Days of Champagne Pairing in the Club Lounge and a Holiday Gnome Scavenger Hunt throughout the property.
Enjoy Classic Christmas Decor in Greenville
In honor of the hotel’s namesake, Joel Poinsett, botanist and diplomat who brought the bright-red poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico in 1825, dozens of poinsettias flank the lobby’s main staircase at The Westin Poinsett, Greenville. Fresh green wreaths and red velvet bows adorn the exterior windows, and the massive lobby Christmas tree is always picture-perfect.
The Westin Poinsett, Greenville has seasonal offers that may include the Greenville Home Alone Experience, with an in-room “Home Alone” movie marathon accompanied by sumptuous ice-cream sundaes; a limousine ride around town for pizza and ice skating; and a trip to the local toy store.
Spend a Snowy Holiday in the Mountains of Park City, Utah
Nestled in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, The St. Regis Deer Valley celebrates the festive season from mid-December through early January. That means the nightly Champagne sabering ritual at this ski-in/ski-out property near Park City features not only the traditional flute of bubbly, but also live music, caviar and cheese.
Meanwhile, guests can create their own decadent snacks at the lobby’s S’mores Bicycle, which is stocked with resort-made confections. There’s also a decorative gingerbread house so large that guests can walk through it and even gather around its fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa.