Enchanting Light Displays to Visit this Holiday Season

By BT Editor
December 13, 2023
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Holiday lights adorn city buildings and trees by From Marwool - Unsplash

When the days get shorter, every small town and big city break out the lights for park trees and main streets. One of the best pastimes of the season is taking in the magical scenes of classic, neighborhood displays as well as special installations at local landmarks and businesses. Take a look at the list below for inspiration on where to go for some of the most enchanting sights of the season this year across the US.

Head underground to this sparkling cavern

Lights under Louisville - courtesy of Kentucky Department of Tourism

When the temperature goes down, the cheer and warmth of Louisville, Kentucky welcomes visitors to experience the holiday spirit through captivating light displays and decorations. Downtown Louisville brightens up the state with millions of sparkling lights, but none more exciting than the annual Lights Under Louisville at the Louisville Mega Cavern, happening from November 10th to January 1st. Drive through the MEGA Cavern to witness the world's only underground holiday light show, featuring 40 themed displays, over 900 lit characters, and more than 6.5 million points of light. It's a one-of-a-kind Christmas experience!

    See New York City landmarks at their brightest

    Grand Central station in New York at Christmastime by Johnell Panell - Unsplash

    New York City's holiday season is a spectacle of lights, cheer, and joy, and Like A Local Tours invites visitors and locals alike to experience this wonder firsthand with their exclusive Private Fifth Avenue Lights & Sights Holiday Walking Tour. This 3-hour tour is an invitation to experience the holiday magic of Manhattan like never before. Starting at the iconic New York Public Library, at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, guests will embark on a 1.5-mile walk, guided by an experienced, local guide. This tour is an intimate exploration of the city's festive heart, perfect for families starting new traditions, friends seeking adventure, or those welcoming out-of-town guests. Tour highlights Include:

    • Iconic Landmarks: Marvel at the majestic Rockefeller Center, home to the famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink.
    • Holiday Markets and Treats: Explore the Bryant Park Winter Village and Columbus Circle Holiday Market, featuring unique gifts and treat yourself to one of NYC's most Instagrammable doughnuts and warm up with mulled wine or hot cocoa.
    • Spectacular Window Displays: Fifth Avenue's renowned store windows are a must-see, showcasing creative and awe-inspiring holiday designs.
    • St. Patrick's Cathedral's Holiday Spirit: Visit the stunning St. Patrick's Cathedral, beautifully decorated for the holiday season, and take a moment for reflection.
    • Educational and Entertaining Stories: Learn about the history and traditions of New York City's holiday season.

    The Private Fifth Avenue Lights & Sights Holiday Walking Tour is more than a sightseeing experience; it's a journey into the heart of New York City's holiday spirit. Create cherished memories and enjoy the essence of the holidays in one of the world's jolliest cities this time of the year. Reservations for the tour are now open. Experience the magic of New York City's holiday season and make this year's festivities unforgettable.

    Marvel at the spirited sights of horse country

    Southern Lights at Kentucky Horse Park - courtesy of Kentucky Department of Tourism

    In Lexington, Kentucky, visitors can enjoy a drive through light display in the heart of horse country. Celebrating its 30th year at the Kentucky Horse Park, Southern Lights Holiday Festival is one of the top light shows in the Southeast. From November 24th - December 31st, Lexington showcases the best of Kentucky’s famed horse country with a holiday influence in this elaborate three-mile seasonal display. At the end of the route, the Kentucky Horse park invites visitors to park and explore the Holiday Village (included in admission) where guests can enjoy a petting zoo, train ride and meet-and-greet with Santa.

      Explore Rock City's enchanted garden

      Venture through the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennesee. Christmas spirit shines bright at Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights. From November 17th to January 6th, journey through magical realms of winter wonder as over one million LED lights illuminate Lookout Mountain's most iconic attraction. Grab a picture with Santa at the North Pole Village thru Dec. 23 and decorate Christmas cookies with Mrs. Claus. Hot chocolate and other delicious treats including fudge and fried cookie dough make the nights even sweeter. Pets are welcome. A portion of ticket proceeds benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga.

      Experience magic at Hogwarts Castle

      Hogwarts Castle lit up during the holiday season - courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort

      Head to Orlando, Florida to Universal Studios for truly fantastic lights and decor. Holiday magic fills The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as the streets of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade transform into a wizarding holiday wonderland overflowing with festively themed décor, lights, garland and more. The nighttime spectacle, “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” returns to Hogsmeade at Universal Islands of Adventure bringing to life a stunning projection show highlighting Christmas moments and holiday spirit inspired by the beloved characters and stories of the “Harry Potter” films. The Frog Choir, comprised of Hogwarts students and their giant croaking frogs also returns to Hogsmeade with a special holiday-themed performance, plus guests can groove to the music of the wizarding world’s most popular singing sensation, Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, in Diagon Alley.

      Take it slow through the Bristol Speedway

      The Speedway in Lights is a breathtaking holiday spectacle that illuminates the Bristol Motor Speedway near the Virginia and Tennessee border, transforming it into a mesmerizing winter wonderland. As visitors drive through the speedway's grounds, they are greeted by a dazzling array of more than two million twinkling lights, forming intricate displays and enchanting scenes that capture the spirit of the season. The meticulously crafted light displays range from vibrant holiday-themed exhibits to whimsical depictions of popular characters, creating a captivating journey that evokes wonder and joy. In addition to the enchanting light displays, Bristol's Speedway in Lights often features special themed nights, live entertainment and opportunities for visitors to engage in festive activities, making it a must-visit destination during the winter holiday season.

      Marvel at a coastal wonderland

      Lights in Gulfport, Mississippi - courtesy of Play Coastal Mississippi

      Experience the 9th Annual Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival, named the 'Most Magical Show in Mississippi,' on the coast of Mississippi through December 31st, from 5:30 – 10:30 pm. The celebration includes new light shows, rides, live entertainment, and more. Closed Christmas Eve, Open Christmas Day.

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        Heat Things Up at These Romantic, Warm-Weather Winter Destinations

        Looking to heat things up this winter? It may be a long way until summer is here, but there's plenty of sunshine and fun to be had at the southern destinations below. If you're looking for the perfect honeymoon spot or couples getaway, there's something for every type of traveler at the destinations below: from a tropical island paradise and beachside adventures, to a unique desert oasis and a vibrant city center. Book a romantic getaway to St. Barts The Christopher Hotel in St. Barthelemy by Shanna Camilleri - Unsplash Located in the French West Indies, St. Barts invites couples of all interests to relax and experience true romantic bliss with the island’s vast selection of excellent accommodations and numerous hotel honeymoon offerings - ensuring a true lover’s paradise. With some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, there is no spot more romantic to enjoy with a loved one. See below for details on each of these St. Barts hotels, their romantic packages, experiences and why they are prime destinations for the dreamiest honeymoons. For dreamy and indulgent experiences, stay at Cheval Blanc — Discover one of the most beautiful bays of the Caribbean - Colombier Bay - aboard your choice of a private yacht, a sailing boat or a catamaran. The sunrise to sunset "Great Blue' sea experience, offers guests of Cheval Blanc St Barth the privacy of the ocean and its most pristine, quiet beaches while in the hands of the Maison's team of 'Ambassadeurs' to cater to every need. The day starts with a snorkeling experience among sea turtles and exploring all the underwater sights of the island, before dropping anchor near the pristine white beach of Colombier Bay, where an elaborate picnic display of French-Caribbean delicacies and Champagne awaits. At sunset, sip a last cocktail accompanied by delicious amuse-bouche facing the sublime white sandbank of Colombier. Sail back along the coastline before returning to your room or to enjoy the tranquility of the Maison’s tropical gardens with a Guerlain spa treatment in the Tropical Pavilion. For the eco-minded and adventurous, try Le Barthelemy — Nestled on a quiet bay, set back from the island buzz, Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa, is the quintessential milieu for honeymooners. The conscious wellness-minded couple will love it here, with private yoga sessions overlooking the Natures Reserve, ethically-sourced cuisine and zero-waste cooking classes with the head chef at AMIS St. Barth, ancient water healing experiences like Janzu, Nordic water therapy and aquatic sound therapy and sailing and snorkeling trips around the island on the resort’s private boat. Le Barthelemy’s long-standing partnership with Coral Restoration St. Barth not only supports the regeneration of the surrounding natural reef but creates a special undersea adventure for couples to snorkel and dive to replant coral and leave their mark in St. Barts forever. The hotel’s butler-style service creates an elevated sense of personalization, including everything from monogramming bathrobes to delivering champagne to the suite with a touch of a button--literally there is a ‘champagne please’ button on the room phone.Foodies will love a trip to Rosewood Le Guanahani — Epicurean couples can embark on a romantic culinary journey imbued with the flavors of the Mediterranean with the resort’s bespoke dining experience. In this one-of-a-kind offering, Chef Ollivault and his team will create a custom menu for couples to enjoy in their preferred venue, from aboard the resort’s pontoon boat overlooking Margot Bay to the beach with their feet in the sand. The resort’s culinary master classes welcome couples to join the world-class culinary team of Beach House St. Barth to learn new skills, or sharpen existing ones, in a fun, interactive atmosphere centered around the art of island cuisine. This is an incredible opportunity for couples to live in the moment, sip a glass of wine or mocktail, and create a delightful dish of their choosing, all while surrounded by the island’s stunning natural beauty. Similarly, the team at Bar Mélangé offers mixology classes for couples to broaden their knowledge of cocktails and learn the art of mixology under the guidance of professionals. From the fundamentals of ingredients to the proper handling of utensils, this class imparts couples with new skills to share on their next adventure behind the bar.The ultimate in relaxation can be found at Hotel Christopher — Hotel Christopher offers the ultra-unique, ultra luxurious Journey for Two spa experience. Combining different massages, rituals and relaxation techniques, a romantic experience is guaranteed. The Sisley Spa has been elected Caribbean’s Best Hotel Spa and St. Barts Best Hotel Spa by the renowned World Spa Awards and offers a selection of different experiences sure to promise unparalleled relaxation. For more information regarding the romantic Journey for Two Package visit here. Splurge on a wilderness retreat in Death Valley, California The rolling, sandy hills of Death Valley, California by Nick Ricket - Unsplash Ancient waters bubble up from the ground to support an entire ecosystem at the Oasis at Death Valley, a secluded resort tucked into one of the world’s most dramatic desert settings, the 3.4-million-acre Death Valley National Park (the largest park in the Lower 48). This wondrous winter vacation destination in America’s great desert is just two hours from Las Vegas and a little more than four hours from Los Angeles. It offers spring-fed pools averaging a comfortable 87 degrees, the lowest USGA golf course on earth, cascading bougainvillea-adorned Xanadu Gardens, and spring-watered groves of stately date palms. It’s also a natural haven for wildlife: kit fox, desert cottontail, coyotes, roadrunners, and various species of birds all thrive on or near the oasis. Dating to 1927, the historic property encompasses two lodgings: the luxurious AAA Four-Diamond The Inn at Death Valley and the family-friendly The Ranch at Death Valley, both part of the recent $200 million renovations. The historically accurate restoration preserved the original design, materials and colors of the buildings, while updating the infrastructure to modern standards. Also, for the most budget-friendly option, try a stay at the property's third lodging option: the Fiddlers Campground. The result is a return to the elegance of Old Hollywood, when the Inn attracted likes of Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, and Carole Lombard — and more recently, the cast and crew of Star Wars. Accommodations at the 66-room Inn marry classic decor with modern amenities. Fine-art color landscape photographs bring the splendor of Death Valley right into the rooms. Want total privacy? Stay in one of 22 new Inn casitas or 80 new Ranch cottages. In the evening, dine on classic fare regionally flavored with cactus, citrus, date, and even pomegranate from the garden, while gazing at the desert salt pans and majestic Panamint Mountains. Watch a glorious sunset from one of the stone patios or admire the Milky Way from the Stargazers Deck in this internationally recognized Gold Tier Dark Sky Park. And hoist a cold one at the Last Kind Words Saloon, a cowboy paraphernalia-festooned throwback to the Old West. No wonder basketball Hall of Famer and broadcaster Bill Walton has been a regular guest at the Inn for more than two decades. “It’s everything I love. I love nature, I love the changing light, I love the desert air here,” he says. “The spring that feeds this resort is just phenomenal. The quality of the water.” “They took paradise and they made it better,” he adds. “They’ve made the hotel even nicer while maintaining the culture and the tradition and the history, the architecture, and the stonework. “Every time I come here, it’s such a healing place, it’s such an inspiring place…a place of enlightenment and imagination and creativity. You’re just awestruck by the magnificence and the grandeur of nature in Death Valley.” Enjoy seasonal festivities in Mexico City, Mexico Christmas decor in Mexico City, Mexico - courtesy of Mexico City Tourism Board Secluded retreats into the wilderness or on an island may be a travel dream for many couples, but not for the most social pairs. If you're looking for a bustling and vibrant city to explore in the winter, look no further than Mexico City. This colorful metropolis will show off its best during the December season with more than 264 must-see events and activities for national and international tourists of all ages. Head to the "City that has it all" for some of the most exciting celebrations of the Christmas season. There will be posadas and pilgrimages in the 16 neighborhoods that make up Mexico City, at no charge from December 16th to 23rd, with traditional Mexican fruit punch and the symbolic 7-spike piñatas. On Paseo de la Reforma, the emblematic avenue of Mexico City, the Christmas Eve Flower Festival will take place, with the presence of flower farmers who will dress the city in red and offer unbeatable prices; Let us remember that 59% of the land in Mexico City is conservation. Also in Reforma, the Christmas Tourism Festival will take place from December 12th to 17th, with all 32 States of Mexico bringing their crafts and cuisines. At the Casitllo de Chapultepec, the Amalia Hernández Folkloric Ballet will perform, with the show titled “Christmas in Mexico.” The Christmas Craft Festival will be held at the Casa del Risco Museum; and the Coffee and Chocolate Festival, at the Palacio de Minería. In the heart of the Historic Center, visitors can enjoy the Verbena del Zócalo, with its Christmas fair and its spectacular and colorful Christmas lighting; live music and pastorelas, which will be free and will start mid-December and run until the first days of January 2024, from Monday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. To end the year, the countdown will be celebrated in Latin Times Square style, at the Ángel de la Independencia, with music, food, plus the must-see New Year's Eve concert. Santa Fe, Paseo de la Reforma, Chapultepec, Zócalo, the Monument to the Revolution, Coyoacán, San Ángel and the Basilica, as well as Xochimilco and Polanco, are some of the metropolitan areas with the greatest tourist attraction and have prepared recreational activities. Sports Tourism has been growing in Mexico City and will be represented with the “Santa Run” race, which will be attended in costumes and with a mascot. The Christmas Bazaar will also be held at the World Trade Center, an emblematic business location; and where the famous San Silvestre race will take place. Additionally, about six million parishioners are expected to attend on December 12th, to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe, in La Basílica, the second most visited Marano temple in the world. Six Flags, one of the busiest amusement parks and known by national and foreign visitors, began Christmas celebrations on November 24, 2023, and will be running until January 14, 2024. On Christmas Day, the amusement park with its stages, lighting and ornaments inspired by Christmas in which the music, songs and dances are enjoyed, as well as the Mexican traditions of the season – posadas and piñatas, included.


        5 Things to Add to Your Winter Break Bucket List

        Winter break is just around the corner! No matter what you celebrate, where you live, or whether you're traveling or staying close to home, there are plenty of ways to enjoy time off from school and work. If you're looking to book a last-minute day of fun (or simply need ways to get out of the house before everyone gets bored of each other) try some of the activities below. With a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, they're all well-suited for family outings, romantic dates, and fun get-togethers with old friends. See a light show Holiday lights in Columbus Commons - courtesy of Experience Columbus The days are short—but nearly everyone has decorate their house or business with lights! No matter where you live, there's sure to be a festively-decorated neighborhood or main street in town; many places offer guided light tours. Botanical gardens, museums, zoos, and public parks put on fantastic light displays and shows throughout this time of year. Columbus, Ohio is an especially great place to see light shows—the city was named one of the best in the country for holiday light displays by Best Life. Utilize the Experience Columbus Holiday Lights Pass for discounted admission to some of these bright attractions. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens hosts its annual Conservatory Aglow through January 7, enhancing the gardens' year-round beauty with immersive light displays, outdoor games, a lively dance celebration, festive igloos and a life-size gingerbread house. Finally, one of the Midwest's favorite family holiday traditions, Wildlights, returns to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for its 35th year. Happening now through January 7th, the yuletide season comes alive with millions of LED lights, animated musical light shows, performances by local bands and choirs and visits from Santa and his reindeer. Downtown, the free Columbus Commons Holiday Lights powered by the AEP Foundation features more than 400,000 LED lights aglow through New Year's Day. Visit a small town The Miss Beehaven storefront in Georgetown, Kentucky - courtesy of Kentucky Department of Tourism There's nothing quite like a quaint town's main street all decorated for the Christmas season, with small family-owned shops, hidden-gem restaurants, and friendly locals. If you live in a big city, try heading out of town to find a great small community to support while doing holiday shopping. You might even feel like you're in your own Hallmark movie! Georgetown, Kentucky is a great option if you're nearby. Georgetown pulls out all the stops to celebrate the holidays. In this picturesque and walkable Victorian-style downtown, visitors are whisked away into a quaint and joyful Christmas town. Shoppers can check off every item on their holiday lists at the one-of-a-kind locally-owned shops and boutiques lining Main Street: Georgetown Antique Mall; Heirlooms & Gretchen’s stained-glass studio; Birdsong Quilting, Embroidery and Crafts; Hockensmith's Fine Art Editions Gallery and Press – featuring the works of world-famous equine photographer John Stephen Hockensmith – and so many more. The local businesses celebrate all season long with festive decorations and holiday specials. Go ice skating in a city park An aerial view of The Rink at Campus Martius Park - courtesy of Visit Detroit This time of year, many cities open up an ice skating rink in a park. It's a lot more magical than a typical indoor rink; there's nothing quite like gliding around in the chilly air as the sun sets and glistens against skyscrapers. In Detroit, Michigan, visitors and locals can enjoy The Rink at Campus Martius Park. Michigan's premier family-friendly outdoor ice rink located right in the heart of Downtown welcomes nearly 100,000 people annually. Following its festive opening weekend, The Rink will be open daily, including holidays, through March 3, 2024. Skating with Santa, ugly sweater parties, and learn to play clinics will be held throughout the season as well. “Winter in Detroit is a magical experience for both residents and our millions of visitors,” said Claude Molinari, president and CEO of Visit Detroit. “That is why Visit Detroit is proud to continue collaborating with the Downtown Detroit Partnership to support The Rink at Campus Martius Park. Nothing epitomizes the enchantment of Detroit during this season more than skating outside with family and friends.” Have a tea party An afternoon tea setup by Sebastian Coman Photography - Unsplash Cozy up indoors for a festive drinks and treats with an afternoon tea at a local restaurant. It's a great excuse to wear fancy holiday attire one more time, and can be an especially fun activity for young kids. Pair it with a matinee or evening performance of The Nutcracker or other local holiday shows. In Colorado, the Trinidad History Museum hosts "The Nutcracker" Tea Party with Trinidad Tea Company teas, as well as Victorian Christmas Tea Party events offering traditional and themed tea foods promising a historic holiday experience for all. Spend the day at an amusement park Christmas decorations adorn a theme park food stand by Arthur Edelmans - Unsplash This time of year, theme parks go all out with special decor, events, food and treats, and more. In Tennessee, Dollywood goes all out for the season with their Smoky Mountain Christmas. The spirit of Christmas shines merry and bright during at Dollywood from November to January, and the new Joyful drone show adds even more holiday fun for guests to enjoy. The 15-time winner for Best Theme Park Christmas Event boasts more than six million shining, shimmering lights throughout the park, but the newest ones will fly above the park each evening as part of a stunning holiday drone show. This larger-than-life display embraces the season with hundreds of drones soaring in the air and displaying festive reds, greens and whites in a captivating show sure to delight every guest. Smoky Mountain Christmas captivates visitors with the rich essence of the holiday season thanks to its gleaming holiday lights, award-winning stage productions, Christmas culinary masterpieces and warm family customs that have enriched the festival for more than three decades.


        Plan an Epic Winter Vacation to the Rocky Mountains

        Colorado has long been renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and year-round outdoor adventures, and during the holidays, it transforms into a winter wonderland. Colorado's allure during this special season lies in its ability to seamlessly combine timeless traditions with thrilling new adventures. From annual events to celebrate the season and memorable winter activities to festive lodging packages and dining experiences, Colorado is the place to celebrate the most magical time of the year. See magical sights and light displays Snow, Christmas lights, and the tree during the day in Denver, Colorado by Colin Lloyd - Unsplash Most trips begin with a flight into Denver, Colorado. Make sure to take in all the magical sights that the Mile High city has to offer this time of year. Stop by Denver's Union Station for a glance at the 40-foot tall Christmas tree. Just south in the suburb of Littleton, visitors can see the Trail of Lights at Chatfield Farms (November 24 – January 1), a 1-mile path that is illuminated with thousands of Christmas lights and epic lighting displays synchronized to music, creating a magical atmosphere on the 1880s Hildebrand Ranch homestead. Then, on December 10th is the Cherry Creek Chanukah Celebration; an outdoor menorah is lit and attendees can enjoy festive treats, face painting and crafts. Also, through January 7th, the Denver Botanic Gardens hosts Blossoms of Light, an annual holiday light extravaganza that transforms the gardens into a shimmering wonderland with a 360-degree immersive light experience. Don't miss The Colorado Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, a cherished holiday tradition offering joy and merriment to visitors as they kick off the season. Several holiday markets also pop up across the state during the holiday season. The Denver Christkindl Market (November 17 - December 23) transforms Civic Center Park into a miniature German village with live music, holiday shopping and food vendors serving traditional German Christmas market specialties such as gingerbread biscuits, grilled sausages and the beloved gluehwein. Heading north from the city, be sure to stop at the Garden of Lights (December 8 - 23) in Fort Collins, one of Northern Colorado's favorite holiday traditions featuring a half-mile loop of perennial flower beds, sculptures, a holiday village and other garden creatures—all crafted entirely from holiday lights. There's also Loveland's Winter Wonderlights (November 18 - January 1), a captivating free light show that enchants visitors with over 200,000 lights, live reindeer, ice sculpting, music and dance performances. Over in Telluride, the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade showcases ski resort employees gliding down the mountain with torches, making it a unique and unforgettable spectacle. Take a mountain train ride Telluride, Colorado turns into a winter wonderland in the snow by Thomas Kelley - Unsplash For a touch of nostalgia, Colorado's historic trains take travelers on a journey through winter wonderlands. The Leadville Railroad Holiday Express offers a magical ride through snowy mountains with scenic views. The Santa Express Train with the Royal Gorge Route Railroad leads passengers to the North Pole and back, complete with a visit from Santa. The Polar Express Train Rides at the Colorado Railroad Museum and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, both offer unparalleled holiday experiences. The Georgetown Loop Railroad's Winter Holiday Trains are one of Colorado’s most authentic living history experiences and offer timeless adventures through scenic vistas decorated with more than 300,000 holiday lights. Experience the Royal Gorge Bridge at its most festive For the second time, America’s highest suspension bridge will become a winter wonderland. In December, the Royal Gorge Bridge will transform into an interactive drive-thru holiday lights experience, The Bridge of Lights. Cookies and cocoa are also available for purchase as you enjoy the drive across the sparkling bridge. Stay a night in the backcountry A trail through Crested Butte, Colorado by Taylor Brandon - Unsplash In Crested Butte, those seeking outdoor adventures can embark on a cross-country ski or snowshoe trip into the serene backcountry. The Magic Meadows Yurt, heated by a wood-burning stove, is accessible only on skis or snowshoes through a 1-mile groomed trail. Visitors can warm up with cocktails or enjoy local brews while savoring a Colorado-inspired meal and live music. For equally festive accommodations that are less rugged, the C Lazy U Ranch transforms into a snowy paradise for the holidays offering a delightful combination of Rocky Mountain scenery and festive fun, including gingerbread house making, Christmas karaoke and a special visit from Santa via horse-drawn sleigh. Enjoy merry, seasonal dining experiences Indulge in a unique Snowcat Dinner at Aspen's Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, where a picturesque cabin in the Rockies serves exquisite dishes with breathtaking views. If you find yourself in Arapahoe Basin for New Year's, try the New Year's Eve Moonlight Dinner Series; it combines chairlift rides, chef-prepared global cuisine and mountain vistas for an unforgettable celebration. In Grand Junction, The Hotel Maverick’s restaurant, Devil’s Kitchen will transform its rooftop terrace into an amazing snow globe dining experience against panoramic views of the Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument. Cozy up and enjoy a festive meal of regionally inspired dishes and specialty craft cocktails in private illuminated igloos and gondolas. There's also Miracle on 7, Estes Park's own Christmas-inspired pop-up cocktail bar that transforms Cousin Pat's Pub & Grill into a festive atmosphere with kitschy holiday decorations, expertly crafted cocktails and more. The Ramble Hotel in Denver will transform Death & Co’s intimate Suite 6A into an elegant holiday bar with floor-to-ceiling décor and a festive selection of specialty cocktails and bites only available in the pop-up ski lodge-inspired suite. Also in Denver, The Brown Palace is an iconic hotel renowned for its holiday offerings including a traditional holiday afternoon tea (November 13 – January 21) and special Christmas and New Year's Eve dining events. Get a taste of holidays past with historic activities A cold winter evening in Glenwood Springs, Colorado by Nate Hughes - Unsplash The historic Fort Restaurant in Morrison, designed to resemble an 1800s fur trading post, offers a unique holiday dining experience serving traditional dishes like bison and game meats. Also in Morrison, the Tesoro Cultural Center's Las Posadas (December 24) is an annual Christmas Eve celebration that reenacts Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, featuring children's participation, traditional music, piñatas and complimentary treats like biscochito cookies and Mexican hot chocolate. For a cozy and rustic adventure, 2 Below Zero in Frisco offers mule-team-driven sleigh rides with chuckwagon dinners and live music, while Steamboat Springs provides a Wild West touch with its Haymaker Sleigh Ride Dinner. In Glenwood Springs,Hotel Colorado provides an enchanting and classic Colorado Christmas experience, where visitors can immerse in the rich holiday tradition that dates back to 1893 featuring beautifully decorated fir trees, half a million holiday lights, an annual tree lighting ceremony, breakfasts with Santa and festive touches around each corner. Celebrate the holiday season in Victor and Cripple Creek as the Gold Camps come alive with dazzling holiday lights adorning mine headframes (November 24 – December 31). Enjoy a festive self-guided tour, complete with holiday music and beautiful light displays in this historic mining region. Finally, experience the unique charm of the holiday season in Denver before 1924 by touring the beautifully decorated Center for Colorado Women's History and enjoying a delightful tea service during their Holiday Tea special events (November 25 – December 16). Head outdoors for snowy excursions A herd fo elk in Estes Park, Colorado by Greyson & Thomas - Unsplash Located in Granby, between Winter Park Ski Resort and Rocky Mountain National Park, true to its name, YMCA of the Rockies -Snow Mountain Ranch is the ultimate winter wonderland. The 5,100-acre property offers Nordic skiing and snowshoeing on 85K of groomed, world-class terrain, private and group cross country ski lessons and rentals, dog sled experiences, winter horse drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, indoor archery and rock climbing, indoor swimming, nostalgic roller skating, and much more. Accommodations include hotel-style lodge rooms starting at $104 per night and Nordic ski-in and ski-out, pet-friendly cabins starting at $199 for a 2 bedroom. There are several activities to participate in during the winter season: New this year, the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center will offer full moon ski and snowshoe experience, with lights on the trail and hot chocolate.. The full moon events will take place on Friday, January 26, 2024 and Friday, February, 23, 2024.The Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center offers 85K of groomed, world-class country ski terrain meandering through pine forest, wide meadows and along a mountain creek. An annual tradition for many families and friends is the Christmas Tree Cutting Experience. Purchase a tree-cutting ticket and head out on a winter adventure to find the perfect Christmas tree. Overnight guests can cut down a tree for free.Meet the team, including the six new Snow Mountain Ranch dog sled puppies, and tour the beautiful property on a Snow Mountain Ranch dog sled adventure. Reservations are required for both the long and short sled dog rides. There's also the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center (in Estes Park). Guests can enjoy a number of on-site, seasonal activities during the day – including sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, roller skating, indoor swimming or rock climbing and more – and return to their cozy lodge room or private cabins at night. And the town of Estes Park itself is a must-visit winter destination – with its annual Catch the Glow holiday festival, local boutique shops, and charming restaurants. Ice skating is a favorite winter tradition at the Estes Park Center. This year, guests can grab their free skate rentals and twirl, glide, and jump to their heart’s content. For a warm-up on select dates, they can stop by the new rink side Hot Cocoa Truck (the resort’s winter iteration of its popular summer ice cream truck).The Mootz Family Craft and Design Center will feature seasonal crafts alongside their popular regular offerings. So, guests can make a holiday-scented candle, mosaic, or piece of jewelry for a gift that really comes from the heart. And, new this year, the craft center will offer gift wrapping. YMCA of the Rockies is known for its guided hikes, included with a stay. Area experts will lead guests through the winter wonderland of Rocky Mountain National Park on snowshoe adventures that range from beginner to expert. At the end of the day, guests can relax and share stories of their day around a private bonfire with hot cocoa and s’mores. — Colorado invites all to embrace the holiday spirit and create treasured memories in a snow globe setting. For more details, please visit www.colorado.com.


        Charming Hotels to Visit for Christmas

        "Home for the holidays" might be the preferred plan for some, but these hotels go all-out when it comes to celebrating Christmas day. With life-size confections and incredible gingerbread displays, shows and performances, beautifully-crafted decor, Santa (and reindeer!) appearances, and so much more, visitors will be hard-pressed to find a more magical palce to spend the Christmas season. Hotel Bennett (Charleston, South Carolina) Kids get hot cocoa from a life-size gingerbread house in Hotel Bennett - courtesy of Hotel Bennett Warm your heart and your spirit this holiday season and create cherished memories with loved ones at Hotel Bennett in Charleston, South Carolina. In 2022, Hotel Bennett unveiled a spectacular addition to our holiday decor – an enchanting life-sized gingerbread house. This masterpiece was meticulously crafted using a staggering array of confections: 2 lbs of candy corn, 10 lbs of marshmallows, 10 lbs of candy canes, 25 ft of rock candy, 95 lbs of gummy bears, 105 lbs of Rice Krispies, 364 ft of red liquorice rope, 672 jolly ranchers, 1428 skittles, and adorned with 3000 twinkling red and green lights. Nestled in the welcoming embrace of our first-floor lobby, this Gingerbread House promises an enchanting experience for all. Elves will be on hand to serve steaming cups of hot cocoa, making it a heartwarming treat for families and guests alike. Ensure you don't miss this captivating destination, perfect for creating cherished holiday memories. Enjoy a whimsical "Tea with Santa," held on weekends through the holiday season, that will transport you and your loved ones to a world of magic and wonder with an array of delectable, holiday-inspired treats and a visit from Santa Claus himself. Sip on a selection of whimsical teas with champagne available for grown-up guests; plus, receive a keepsake to commemorate the special day. Holiday teas geared more towards adults are also served Thursdays and Fridays. On December 23rd, guests can also book a magical Breakfast with Santa in the Crown Ballroom. If you can't be home for the holidays, Hotel Bennett will try to be the next best thing. Experience the magic of the season with an enchanting "Home Sweet Hotel Bennett" package. Unwrap the joy of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, adorned with twinkling lights and festive ornaments, right in the comfort of your room. And to make your stay even sweeter, enjoy a special Hotel Bennett keepsake ornament to commemorate your holiday getaway. (Reservations even include complimentary hot chocolate from the Life-Size Gingerbread House!) Book this special package now through December 25, 2023, for stays until January 3, 2024 (blackout dates apply). Snowvillage Inn (Eaton Center, New Hampshire) Winter at The Snowvillage Inn - courtesy of the Snowvillage Inn The Christmas decorations at the Snowvillage Inn are a sight to behold, transforming the inn into a festive wonderland that exudes warmth and holiday spirit. Visitors can find beautiful, handcrafted wreaths adorning the entrance, each one uniquely decorated with traditional holiday elements. The inn's exterior is adorned with twinkling lights that outline the building, creating a magical, wintry ambiance as soon as you arrive. Inside, the cozy fireplaces are decorated with garlands and their crackling fires invite guests to snuggle up with a warm drink while enjoying the festive atmosphere. The heart of the inn is graced by the presence of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Get into the holiday spirit with a pre-Christmas getaway to the Inn. This exclusive package gives you the official Snowvillage Inn Holiday Ornament, romantic dinner for two, and more. Be sure to visit the nearby Stone Mountain Arts Center. Their December schedule is packed with Christmas cheer including: the SMAC Craft Fair on December 3rd, a Christmas luncheon on December 6th with a Christmas concert performed by owner Carol Noonan, and Stone Mountain LIVE December 15th-16th. With the lights all strung and garlands galore, Stone Mountain LIVE at Christmas takes all the best aspects of this special place on the hill and packs it into one fun festive night! The Aspen Meadows Resort (Aspen, Colorado) This year, The Aspen Meadows Resort will debut a new holiday reindeer village complete with carolers along with snowmen building and s'mores by a cozy firepit. On Friday, December 22, the iconic Anderson Park will transform into an enchanting winter wonderland and the magical world of the North Pole will come to life with a meet and greet of Santa’s reindeer from Colorado Reindeer Ranch. An outdoor bar serves steaming hot cocoa and mulled wine. There are also sleigh rides, gingerbread house and cookie decorating, plus special holiday menus. The resort celebrates all eight nights of Hanukkah with menorah lightings and traditional latkes (from December 7th-15th this year). Holiday movie nights as well as happy hours are planned for December 9th, 24th, 27th, and 29th. A special Christmas dinner will be held on the big day, and New Year's Eve will feature a fireworks extravaganza and an elegant four-course prix fixe dinner at Plato's Restaurant. The Westin Anaheim Resort (Anaheim, California) The Westin Anaheim Resort during the holidays - courtesy of Wincome Hospitality From festive décor and delectable holiday dining to special events and interactive family activities, The Westin Anaheim Resort has curated a wonderland of experiences to make this holiday season truly extraordinary. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a captivating display of twinkling lights on the grand entrance, wreaths, and illuminated Christmas trees. Guests staying at The Westin Anaheim Resort December 13th – 31st will be welcomed with a complimentary holiday arrival beverage, Sweet Orange Tea Elixir. This nourishing elixir is infused with antioxidant-rich oranges and spiced with aromatic turmeric, ginger and honey— long renowned for their many health benefits. From December 22nd - 24th, guests will also enjoy melodious carols and the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked Christmas treats and hot cocoa in the lobby. In the hotel lobby, view Santa’s Chocolate Workshop. Acclaimed Pastry Chef Andy De La Cruz and his talented pastry team have meticulously recreated Santa’s chocolate workshop, a confectionary wonderland filled with the sweet aromas of the season. Over 100 pounds of chocolate were used in building the workshop’s festive scene, where life-sized elves toil to create toys for boys and girls. The display was built by a team of eight, and took over two weeks to construct. In addition to the hotel’s regular Westin Family activities, (Storytime, Art Quest, Yoga and more) throughout the month of December, children can embark in magical ornament decorating, while adults can indulge in Holiday-themed Crafted at Westin cocktails. Santa Claus will also visit Blossom Café on December 17th from 11 am – 1 pm, and inside the lobby December 22nd from 6 pm – 8 pm. Santa’s Holiday appearance will include holiday hot cocoa station and Christmas carolers. The Tangerine Room, the resort's signature restaurant, will host a sumptuous Christmas Day buffet December 25th from 12pm to 6:30pm featuring an array of holiday delicacies. For a more casual experience, families can opt for Blossom Market and Café which offers sweet confections from the bakery and gourmet Christmas coffee including the Gingerbread Espresso Latte and the Cool Yule Peppermint Mocha. The Flamingo Resort (Santa Rosa, California) During the holiday season, the iconic resort will be transformed into a tropical winter wonderland full of retro tiki holiday décor. Upon entering, visitors are welcomed with a beautiful, elevated Hawaiian holiday display in the porte-cochere. Get lost in the whimsy of Sippin' Santa, the Lazeaway Club's holiday themed cocktail pop-up. Envision Santa on a surfboard instead of a sleigh, replace the classic pine tree with palms decked with ornaments, and hang hibiscus garlands alongside tinsel—in essence, that is the Sippin' Santa spirit. Those looking for festive family fun at the Flamingo Resort will enjoy Festive Ornament Decorating on Thursday afternoons and Holiday Cookie Decorating on Saturday afternoons through December. The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, Colorado) The historic Broadmoor hotel - courtesy of Matt Inden/Miles and Colorado.com In Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor blends timeless tradition with enchanting elegance as guests start their holiday season amid millions of dazzling holiday lights, an extravagant gingerbread display and a wide range of family-friendly holiday programming. This year's special piece in the gingerbread display is "A Lightning Bug Boat" that pays homage to the canopy boats that once cruised on Cheyenne Lake when the resort opened its doors in 1918. Enjoy a Broadmoor Hall Brunch on Christmas Day, and the resort's "12 Days of Christmas" with special events from December 20th to January 1st. The Broadmoor's annual Holiday Show is a family-friendly dinner show filled with seasonal favorites presented in a variety show format, sprinkled with a few surprises. Back by popular demand, singer Debby Boone returns to headline. Joining Boone are Broadway star Marcus Lovett and his daughter, Cathryn Lovett; the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale; and Ken Miller and The Broadmoor Pops Orchestra. This year, te Holiday Show takes place December 15, 16, 22, 23, and 24, 2023. Additionally, the Broadmoor hosts a New Year's Eve Gala and New Year's Eve Bash.