Updated November 2020
December is the time to deck those halls, trim those trees and make lots and lots of gingerbread. Or you can just book a stay at a hotel and let them handle all the Christmas cheer.
These ten hotels from across the U.S. really go out of their way to be festive during the holiday season—even in 2020— and are easily worth an overnight stay.
This year’s Christmas-season rates are bit more enticing than they might be in other years. And the holiday cheer could be worth traveling for (nearby and safely). Or book one for a festive holiday-season staycation.
The Best NYC Christmas hotels.
Top U.S. Hotels For Christmas Decorations & Activities
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- Top U.S. Hotels For Christmas Decorations & Activities
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1. Amelia Island, Florida
The Ritz Carlton on this Florida island usually taps into local maritime culture with a giant gingerbread pirate ship made with more than 600 cookie pieces; its a nice change from the usual cottage.
They say this year, though, “the pirate ship is in drydock.” However, the fondant pirates that normally crew the ship will be hiding throughout the hotel’s decorated lobby. A scavenger hunt will lead guests to them; find them all and collect a tree ornament.
The hotel will still celebrate all season long with afternoon tea or breakfast with Santa and gingerbread-house building with a hotel pastry chef.
2. Cascade Mountains, Washington
Suncadia Resort, 80 miles southeast of Seattle, will still stages its popular winterfest through November and December, but will a smaller collection of activities and some new rules.
Guests will need to make reservations for ice skating and tow-rope inner-tubing. The farm’s enchanted forest will light up in the evenings, and the farm will have some activities during the day including ax-throwing, snowball-launching, snowman-building and hot toddies and cocoa by the fire.
They’re replacing craft-making sessions with craft kits that are for sale; they include kits to build gingerbread houses, decorate cookies or make ornaments. Ambitious families can ask for a winter tie-dye kit.
3. Chapel Hill, NC
For 23 years now, the Carolina Inn has lavishly decked its halls to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas in grand Southern style. And it will do so again this year, with some changes.
Through December you can enjoy the decorations when you come for events like the teddy bear tea (BYO teddy) or brunch with Santa.
Guests can also join classes to build gingerbread houses and decorate cookies. The inn asks that one adult accompany your kids to these events this year to allow for social distancing.
If you prefer to celebrate the season in your room, away from other guests, you can ask for a cookie decorating kit or holiday tea kit to go.
New: This year the hotel is also offering family photo sessions by local photographers at the fully decorated inn.
4. The Swan & Dolphin, Orlando, FL
When it comes to creating Christmas cheer, it’s really hard to outdo the Swan & Dolphin Resort’s giant Christmas scene made of milk, dark and white chocolate.
This 2,000-pound, one-million calorie creation is a feast for the eyes only. While it’s entirely edible, there’s no sampling.
But there are other ways to indulge in holiday-season cheer at this Disney World resort. On select dates guests can meet Santa and Mrs. Clause in the Florida vacation togs, and take Christmas photos that mingle the Clauses and their reindeer with palm trees and flamingos.
There’s also cookie decorating, a nightly outdoor light show and in-room access to holiday-themed movies. Kids staying over for Christmas Eve can hang magic keys on their doors to make sure Santa stops by.
5. Gaylord Resorts
Gaylord Resorts are known for filling their soaring atriums with holiday lights, soaring trees and ice sculptures that make them destinations in themselves.
This year four of the five hotels are replacing their giant indoor ICE parks with Christmas at the Gaylord, a series of holiday activities that better lend themselves to spical distancing.
Expect some combination of ice skating, snow tubing, ice bumper cares, seasonal movies, gingerbread crafting and special holiday lights at night at all of the hotels except the National in Maryland.
In additon, book a dinner show with the Oak Ridge Boys, breakfast with Charlie Brown or Christmas-themed carriage rides at Opryland.
Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fl is offering a seasonal Cirque Dreams show, a feast with the Grinch and an interactive snowball factory.
At the Texan resort outside Dallas there’s breakfast with Elf on the Shelf, snowman building and a holiday-season escape room.
Have brunch with Charlie Brown, ride a snow carousel or walk through a giant light installation at the Rockies, outside of Denver. This is probably the most innately Christmasy of the four resorts given the giant fireplace, a nature-inspired lobby and the possibility of real snow outside.
6. Jekyll Island, Georgia
Jekyll Island shines all month long with letters to Santa, Candyland-inspired mini-golf, tours of the island’s historic cottages in their Christmas trimmings, and nighttime trolley tours of the island’s twinkling holiday lights.
Look for fireworks and a Christmas parade on specific weekends.
The upscale Jekyll Island Club Resort has a discount and a package built around all these activities (the rates apply through December 23).
7. Woodstock Inn & Resort, VT
The Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, VT offers such a true New England Christmas you expect Bing Crosby to stroll into the lobby singing White Christmas.
From the front deck through the front doors and across the first floor you’ll see evergreen swags, plush velvet ribbons, a fireplace flanked by giant decorated wreathes, and trees of all sizes that were grown right on property.
The swags, wreathes and tree decorations incorporate pointsettias, grapevines, pine cones and dogwood, birch and evergreen branches from the inn’s gardens.
Nestled amid the greenery kids love to discover the seven-foot-tall gingerbread cottage that would make Hansel & Gretel’s witch envious.
8. Richmond, Virginia
The Jefferson Hotel fills itself to the brim with Christmas spirit, along with countless pointsettias, pine garlands, ribbons, lights and wreathes. The lobby feeatures one tall, decorated centerpiece tree and several smaller ones along the main staircase.
The hotel’s popular lobby concerts and the tree lighting are on hiatus this year. And to view the decorations you must be staying in the hotel, enjoying afternoon tea or a meal at the hotel’s restaurant or attending a private event.
They are offering a couple of packages to entice guests to visit.
9. Palm Beach, FL
I think Jimmy Buffet inspire the gingerbread display at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa.
The cookie-based beach hut that Pastry Chef Kursten Restivo created definitely has me thinking of flip flops and boat drinks.
The gingerbread beach house will have surprise interactive elements that guests can discover when they unveil the gingerbread beach scene on November 27.
10. The Barnsley Resort, Adairsville, GA
The sprawling upscale Barnsley Resort, in northern Georgia, strings lights all over its 3,000 acres.
The Inn’s main building and surrounding cottages, the central green and the gardens along with the ruins of an older manor house light up every night for guests and a limited number of visitors.
The holiday cheer continues with trees and more decorations in the Inn’s common rooms and restaurant.
Guests can enjoy the lights while toasting s’mores at the outdoor fire pit. Or choose one of the cabins with a working fireplace to bring the holiday cheer into your private space.
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Photos are courtesy of the hotels.