Anyone who’s ever done battle with strands of tangled Christmas tree lights will appreciate the effort that goes into creating a truly magical holiday tableau. While many businesses decorate for the festive season, some hotels and resorts really go over the top, turning their properties into proper winter wonderlands. There may be no place like home for the holidays, but there’s also no place like these lavishly decorated hotels. Here are six of our favorite places for soaking up the holiday spirit.
The Lotte New York Palace - New York, New York
This iconic Manhattan hotel — formerly the neo-Italian Renaissance residence of a railroad tycoon — overlooks St. Patrick’s Cathedral and commands a prime Midtown location. Always unrestrained in its opulence, the Palace goes into overdrive during the holiday season. Guests can chat and take photos with Santa and the world-famous Radio City Rockettes, and marvel at the enormous gingerbread reproduction of the Gilded Age hotel, one of the last remnants of Old New York. If you have $100,000 to drop for a good cause, book the holiday package that includes three nights in the 5,000-square-foot Champagne Suite penthouse, tickets to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, a private Toy Soldier tour of FAO Schwarz, a sunrise experience and breakfast at Top of the Rock, and more — 100% of the package price supports the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, helping families dealing with pediatric cancer.
The Gaylord Rockies - Aurora, Colorado
The Gaylord Rockies Resort in Aurora, Colorado — just outside Denver — dares you to not have the most fun ever at ICE!, their annual themed holiday extravaganza. A team of 40 artists from Harbin, China, (home to the largest ice festival on the planet) transform more than two million pounds of ice into sculptures depicting scenes from the holiday classic A Christmas Story, Leg Lamp and all. There will also be two-story ice slides, ice tunnels and arches, a snowball fight area and a “Naughty or Nice” escape room, where participants must solve clues to make their names disappear from the naughty list. "Cirque: Spirit of Christmas" will entrance young and old with dazzling costumes, breathtaking aerial performances, and gravity-defying stunts. Guests of the hotel receive ticket discounts and a “Chill Pass,” allowing expedited entrance, but the public may also purchase admission.
The Broadmoor - Colorado Springs, Colorado
Down the road in Colorado Springs, legendary destination resort The Broadmoor turns its 5,000 Rocky Mountain acres into a holiday paradise with millions of twinkling lights. Singer Debby Boone headlines a family-friendly dinner variety show throughout the season, joined by Broadway star Marcus Lovett, the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale and the Broadmoor Pops Orchestra. There are also lavish meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas, a black-tie New Year’s Eve Ball, and an over-the-top gingerbread display.
Hawks Cay Resort - Duck Key, Florida
If your ideal Father Christmas wears flip-flops, this laid-back but luxurious resort in the middle of the Florida Keys is the place for you. Here the reindeer are replaced by the smallest deer species in North America, and Santa’s sleigh will be pulled by dolphins. Blessed with sunshine and sparkling seas, Hawks Cay nonetheless channels the North Pole spirit with Florida flair. Elf tuck-ins let children get a bedtime story and an early present from one of Santa’s elfs, and guests can order up carolers to pay a tuneful visit to their room or villa. At the Pilar Bar, adults can learn how to make seasonal tiki cocktails, enjoy Key West-distilled rum and cigars, while snacking on conch fritters and sugar cane-skewered grilled shrimp. On Christmas Day, revelers can gather around the campfire after savoring a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes or other holiday delicacy.
Historic Hotel Bethlehem - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
What could be more fitting for Christmas than visiting the number one historic hotel in America (named by USA Today) located in the heart of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Christmas City? Visitors will enjoy a spectacular display with 35,000 sparkling lights, a multitude of decorated trees, 36 wreaths, a patrol of seven-foot-tall toy soldiers, two life-sized Nutcrackers and a gingerbread house modeled after the hotel. The Hallmark Channel dubbed the historic downtown a “Hallmark Holiday Hometown” — be sure to take a horse-drawn carriage ride and don’t leave town without a tin of the hotel’s famous peppermint bark.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Scottsdale, Arizona
Snow in the desert? Anything is possible during the Southwest’s most spectacular holiday experience at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a six-week extravaganza featuring 7.5 million lights, a 6,000 square foot ice skating rink, and a Ferris wheel that rotates 95 feet above the enchanted plaza. Keep an eye out for Shivers the Yeti when careening down the 120-foot ice slide on Snow Mountain. This season, the new Princess Express Train takes you through the resort’s majestic lagoons where graceful swans abound and a 17-foot infinity tunnel is illuminated by 256 million color combinations from special LED bulbs.