Should you stay or should you go? For many, deciding whether to trust a hotel or resort with their winter holidays, instead of celebrating at home, is a common dilemma.
If you are considering taking the plunge and spending your cherished holiday time somewhere other than home, there are many factors to consider—like how far you want to travel, whether you’re going with family and what, if any, special holiday details are being offered.
To help with this difficult determination, we’ve rounded up five super places to consider this holiday season. From sandy beaches to sin city, we’ve got you covered for everything happy and the merry.
The Emerson Resort and Spa is a great place to get cozy in upstate New York © Tobey Grumet / Budget Travel
Emerson Resort & Spa, Mt. Tremper, NY
Location, location, location. Sitting directly between the most sought-after vacation towns in New York’s Catskill mountain range, like Woodstock and Phoenicia, this sprawling resort is just a two-hour drive from NYC, offering a family- and dog-friendly, cold-weather sanctuary from the city. In addition to cold weather pursuits and a weekly bonfire, you can try other included resort activities like a Winter Guided Nature Walk, an ornament making class and Storytime in the Great Room with a delicious hot chocolate bar on hand.
The Emerson Resort and Spa is also home to the world’s largest kaleidoscope, and a Holiday Kaleidoshow is being planned for guests. Interested in a little relaxation? Hit the spa and reserve a treatment with its Peppermint Rosemary aroma and signature tea—or get a 20% discount on any manicure through December. The onsite Woodnotes Grille will also be offering holiday-inspired specials, like the Edge of Esopus cocktail and a pan roasted porterhouse pork chop with apple sage butter, roast potatoes and braised red cabbage.
Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas has something for everyone when it comes to the holidays. And though you may come for the mild the desert weather, you’ll stay for the shows, restaurants, nightclubs and family activities—including the massive Strip-wide fireworks show on New Year’s Eve. As a home base, the Bellagio is a working winter wonderland you won’t want to miss. In addition to the 42-foot white fir tree with five-car motorized train in its Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, you’ll want to stop and gawk at the polar bear-escorted ice queen, dressed in a couture gown created from preserved roses, silver palmetto leaves, hydrangeas and orchids.
Nearby, there is also a Gothic castle and connected passageway inspired by New York’s Central Park. In fact, over 34,000 flowers and 28,000 poinsettias will be on display around the exhibit. Don’t forget to visit restaurants like Spago, New York’s Soho darling Sadelle’s, and the iconic Le Cirque. New Year’s weekend will also herald the opening of The Mayfair Supper Club, a classic dinner and a show experience with the well-known Bellagio fountains dancing in the background.
Gaylord Palms Resort, Kissimmee, FL
Nobody does family time better than central Florida. And though Disney may be the draw, this Marriot Bonvoy resort is offering holiday fun for all ages. The popular ICE! Exhibit has a Polar Express theme this year and includes hand-carved sculptures and displays made from over two million pounds of ice, while the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped stage show is a combination of a circus and Broadway-style revue.
The Gaylord Palms Resort's on-site Alpine Village brings a little bit of cold weather fun to the tropics and the whole family can tube down eight lanes of real snow, while the Santa’s Snow Throw exhibit lets you pound Santa’s Elves with buckets of snowballs. Christmas trees abound in the Evergreen Atrium, a perfect place for a leisurely stroll and the Relache Spa is offering seasonal treatments for adult relaxation. Christmas and New Years buffets are available for brunch and dinner, and kiddos might enjoy the Elf on the Shelf Character breakfast. Christmas packages are now 20% off.
The northern lights dance over the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, which is located within a UNESCO World Heritage Site © Tobey Grumet / Budget Travel
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Alberta, CA
Do winter right at this Canadian lodge located directly inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jasper National Park. With 700 acres to explore, activities are diverse and include hiking, sledding, tobogganing, snowshoeing and, of course, skiing. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge's Festival of Christmas includes Santa’s Cabin with sleigh and reindeer, and the Winter Wonderland will be set up with all the equipment you’ll need to enjoy the amenities—including fat tire bikes for hire. Hit the Lake Mildred Ice Park, surrounded by Rocky Mountain views, to join a game of hockey, try your hand at figure skating or just tool around the 1km loop.
Kids can also check out the indoor Christmas Carnival, decorate their own stockings on Christmas Eve, drop-off letters to Santa and enjoy s’mores under the stars on Lac Beauvert’s frozen shores. Of course, adults can have some fun too by joining a mixology class, beer tasting or cooking demo—all exploring holiday flavors. The Spa & Salon is featuring 24K gold manicures and pedicures for the season as well as an Express Holiday Makeup service if you want to get glam. Best of all, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance to catch the stunning aurora borealis over the lake.
Half Moon, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Enjoy your holidays island style at this festive Jamaican stunner in popular Half Moon. Named for the crescent, white sand beach it cradles, the resort’s open-air lobby and Cedar Bar are the social center of the property—and here you’ll be able to enjoy the “Chrismus breeze,” clink festive cocktails and dance to the seasonal, live music and tribute concerts. A curated Christmas program also includes a tree-lighting ceremony, ice-sculpting lessons and a holiday-themed sandcastle building competition—created specially for bragging rights.
Of course, Jamaican Santa doesn’t deign to come by sleigh, so kids can catch him as he flies into Half Moon by parasail. Book a villa in the Rose Hall section of the resort and you can organize a floating feast in your private pool, and have staff customize your decorations and lights. Other family friendly activities include goat races and pony rides, and you can use golf carts or bikes to get around the resort’s 400 acres. Golf and tennis are complimentary, and the Fern Tree Spa is offering a free body exfoliation when you book the therapeutic massage. A Gentleman’s Spa is also available for that guy who has everything.