Why stay home for the holidays when so many resorts go above and beyond to create an enchanted holiday celebration for their guests? I’ve researched the hotels with the most unique, lavish and fun family offerings so that you don’t have to. Each of these resorts offers a one-of-a-kind holiday experience with a little something for everyone.
Check out these 12 outstanding family resorts that go above and beyond to make sure guests have an unforgettable holiday stay.
Imagine cozying up for the holidays at the North Pole (aka Montana) at The Resort at Paws Up – The Resort at Paws Up has all of your holiday needs handled. Whether it’s Meadow tubing with your own snowmobile chauffeur, cozying up for a Gingerbread house decorating contest, or sampling some of their signature “Montana’s Mixology,” the resort has the dreamiest lineup for a festive family winter vacation.
- New this year: Chef Mindy Segal, winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, will serve as Paws Up’s rock star pastry chef-in-residence this winter. Also the owner/chef of Chicago’s ever-popular Hot Chocolate restaurant, she authored Cookie Love, the go-to reference for baking cookies that turn out perfectly each time. Segal will lead a cookie making class at Paws Up and create a featured dessert for guests to enjoy at Pomp. A Hot Chocolate bar in Tank will serve Segal’s signature hot chocolate concoctions.
- Treasured traditions: Every year, Santa’s sleigh makes a stop at the resort, surprising children with presents. Following the kids’ Christmas party with Holidays Around the World kids crafts and cookie decorating, Santa comes directly to each luxury home.
- Don’t miss: Fireside s’mores with the resident s’moreologist. The s’moreologist can create different varieties of s’mores. From traditional to creative, they have the perfect treat for you!
Celebrate in the Miami sunshine at Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach – Ring in the holidays building sand castles and playing by the pool with the family at the ultra luxe Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach. Kids will love the special holiday activities: crafting their own ceramic holiday ornaments, decorating gingerbread houses, face painting, crafting wooden nutcrackers, watching magic shows, learning sand volleyball skills and more.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, foodie families will love holiday brunch at AQ Chop House by Il Mulino. And on New Years Eve, the entire family can choose from two festive parties on site.
Ring in the New Year at Il Mulino New York, savoring Chef Michael Mazza’s specially curated four-course dinner menu with premium open bar and live music. AQ Chop House by Il Mulino is also hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner with live music, a DJ and spectacular ocean views. Enjoy a premium open bar and the most exquisite buffet, featuring lobster, caviar, oysters, snow crabs, and much more.
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai – Gather your ohana and travel to Hawaii Island for a stay at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Partake in festive seasonal activities with the spirit of aloha by unwinding at the beach, snorkeling with thousands of tropical fish in Kings Pond, or playing with the kids by the pools and breathing in the fresh island air.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai has a full itinerary of daily activities for all ages, including special holiday events such as a fabulous luau and Polynesian show, complimentary s’mores and stargazing, a Christmas feast at Ulu Ocean Grill, and an Alice in Wonderland themed New Year’s Eve gala under the stars complete with fireworks.
Spend the holidays in the Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona at The Phoenician Scottsdale – S’mores and desert stargazing, hot air balloon rides, elf magic tricks, breakfast with Santa, menorah lighting, storytime with Mrs. Clause, and flying trapeze are just a few of the dozens of holiday activities available to guests at the freshly redesigned Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale.
Party with Mickey Mouse and friends at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort –
Everybody loves Walt Disney World at the Holidays. And it’s so wonderful to get out of the crowds in the park and come home to a luxury stay at Fours Seasons Resort Orlando. Families will love a stay in the park view rooms, which offer prime viewing of the nightly fireworks from a spacious furnished terrace.
After a day in the parks or playing in the resort pools, holiday treats are always a hit. From peppermint s’mores at PB&G to holiday gelato flavors of chocolate cinnamon, gingerbread, and crushed candy cane at Lickety Split, the holidays are the perfect time to indulge. The whole family will enjoy complimentary cookie decorating with Chef Saber, offered to resort guests on select dates.
The Kids For All Seasons complimentary kids camp, has an array of organized activities for resort guests throughout the festive season: candy cane scavenger hunts, animal visits, snowflake water games, make-your-own reindeer food, snowman sack races, face painting and much more. Kids will love the poolside viewings of holiday movie classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Elf, as well as making gingerbread houses and writing letters to Santa.
Bundle up for a journey abroad at the Winter Express at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa – Throughout December, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa brings a nostalgic Winter Express-themed wonderland to the Coachella Valley. The transformation features snow-kissed décor with twinkling lights and sparkling blue and silver hues of the season.
The adventure begins upon check-in, when each guest receives a train ticket to a collection of holiday experiences, including train-themed gondola rides through the resort’s waterways, a tour of the Gingerbread North Pole with hot chocolate, photos with Santa, and interactive experiences in the Family Activity Zone.
The new Conductor’s Cabin room package includes Frosty’s Flight, a train-style cart loaded with an array of classic festive drinks and toppings; a spread of holiday sweets and DIY activities; a private Winter Express gondola ride; and tickets to Zoo Lights at the Living Desert.
Deck the halls in Chicago this holiday at Peninsula Hotel Chicago – The holidays are nothing short of spectacular at The Peninsula Chicago, with delicious cuisine, festive décor, joyful celebrations, a visit from Santa and Peter Bear, and The Peninsula Sky Rink’s seasonal return—all providing the perfect backdrop for this festive season.
Take the family ice skating at The Peninsula Sky Rink perched above Chicago’s bustling Michigan Avenue surrounded by the city’s skyscrapers and twinkling lights. Enjoy the spirit of the season with the holiday afternoon tea at The Lobby amid live music around The Peninsula’s joyous Christmas tree. Indulge in special delicacies, including house-made scones, finger sandwiches and pastries.
Guests can begin their New Year’s resolutions after savoring the extravagant New Year’s Day brunch in The Lobby, kicking off the New Year to the sounds of a string quartet with an indulgent feast of festive foods.
This year ask Santa for a tan at Eau Palm Beach – Press pause this holiday season with a family getaway to Eau Palm Beach Resort. Go for a swim with Santa, and be sure to take the whole family out for the Tired Elf Scavenger Hunt.
Relax back in your exclusive club-level accommodations, or sign the kids up for special kids club programs (such as an ugly holiday sweater making party) while you relax, sip champagne and nibble on cupcakes at the Forbes Five Star Eau Spa.Stay for New Year’s Eve and Toast Around the World with a glass of bubbly each hour till midnight oceanside at Breeze Ocean Kitchen while the kids party the night away at AquaNuts New Years Eve Party.
Ski into the holidays at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole – Ski all day, and then head home to Four Seasons Jackson Hole for festive activities the whole family will love: holiday caroling, a visit from Santa and delicious holiday meals. Ring in the New Year with a Children’s Glow Worm Parade, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Torchlight Parade and Fireworks, and a complimentary children’s New Year’s Eve party complete with dinner, crafts, photo booth, movies and more!
Head towards San Diego, and ring in the New Year California-style at Hotel Del Coronado – Experience the magic of the holidays when America’s beachfront legend transforms into a whimsical winter wonderland. Families staying at The Del will love ice skating by the sea on the beach front ice rink, brunching with Santa, and gathering at sunset in Santa hats to roast holiday s’mores with your toes in the sand for the Jingle Roast.
Kids and teens can ring in the New Year in style at The Del. The party includes dinner, ice skating, special shows, games, s’mores roast, and a midnight toast with sparkling cider. Teens ages 13-17 can also hang out in their own lounge and watch movies. Hotel del Coronado’s magnificent Crown Room will turn into ‘Club Crown’ to ring in 2018. Adult party guests will enjoy dancing to music from DJ Hevrock, dessert, midnight champagne toast and a cash bar.
Enjoy southern holiday traditions at Sea Island Resort – From elf tuck-ins and live carolers to Santa sightings, there are many reasons to head to Sea Island Resort this Christmas holiday.
Festivities include a Reindog Parade for the family pups dressed up in their Christmas best, the Sea Island famed Bingo, building gingerbread houses, a pheasant shoot and a culinary trip to Italy during the “Feast of Seven Fishes” dinner in The Cloister Wine Cellar. On Christmas Eve, grab your antlers and sleigh bells for the Reindeer Dash Family Fun Run. The annual Children’s Christmas Party begins at 10 a.m., where the biggest wonder of the day will be Santa’s gift.
Gather as a family for the Christmas Eve Buffet in Mizner Ballroom then attend the annual Yule log ceremony later that evening. On Christmas day, special brunches and dinners are on tap, along with a white Christmas at the Snow Day at Retreat.
Surf like Santa at Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel – The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel invites guests to experience the surprise and delight of the holiday season as the resort transforms into a holiday wonderland with sparkling lights, sweet treats and special events.
A few of the unique holiday family events include a stand-up paddle boarding and surfing competition where men, women and children dress as holiday-inspired characters and surf or stand-up paddle board to benefit Surfers Healing. A holiday surfboard auction with dozens of surfboards also will be on display throughout the resort lobby for bidding. Other fun family activities include a holiday tea, gingerbread extravaganza, holiday storytelling, and a bountiful Christmas buffet of homemade favorites.
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Photos courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up, Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, The Phoenician Scottsdale, Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, Peninsula Hotel Chicago, Eau Palm Beach, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, Hotel Del Coronado, Sea Island Resort, Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel