If this is the year that you decide you’ve had it with untangling Christmas lights, fighting mall crowds to find that “must-have” action figure or video game, and fighting over whose turn it is to host the holiday dinner, there is an alternative.
At all of the following destinations, the lights will already be on the tree; the holiday dinner will be handled by a renowned chef, and the angry, shoving mall crowds will be replaced by like-minded guests who have one thing in common: a desire for a hassle-free Christmas celebration.
Traditional: The Home Ranch, Clark, Colo.
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If you hunger for a traditional White Christmas, where bells jingle as a horse-drawn sleigh skims across the snow, this Relais & Chateaux-affiliated guest ranch 18 miles from Steamboat Springs is just the place.
Whether you opt for the Christmas package (Dec. 20 to 27) or the New Year’s package (Dec. 27 to Jan. 3), you’ll find a winter wonderland filled with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and horseback riding across 15 miles of accessible trails on both flat and rolling terrain.
If it’s too cold outside, warm up inside with evening hors d’oeuvres and live music before tucking into the Home Ranch’s signature “haute mountain cuisine.” And if Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a tree, the staff will arrange to have a live one placed in your room or cabin (with lights already untangled.)
At the all-inclusive guest ranch (accommodations are in six lodge rooms and eight cabins), all meals and activities, as well as round-trip transportation from the airport, are included. Take a picture of yourself in this pristine paradise and use it for next year’s Christmas card. HomeRanch.com.
Non-traditional: Belmond Charleston Place, Charleston, S.C.
If your idea of good Christmas weather leans more to sunshine than snow, and where a palmetto is more appealing than a spruce, pack your bags and to South Carolina for the Belmond Charleston Place’s classic holiday package (Nov. 27 to Dec. 27).
There will be no horse-drawn sleigh, but you can take a horse-drawn carriage to colorful Cabbage and Rainbow Rows and the Battery. Your hotel package will include two tickets to historic homes (Aiken-Rhett Museum and Nathaniel Russell House) decorated in their holiday finery.
If you are in town any time through Jan. 1, head out to James Island County Park for Charleston’s Festival of Lights, showcasing 700 spectacular light displays.
Almost as spectacular are Charleston Place’s own extravagant holiday decorations. A grouping of Christmas trees adorns the lobby; the sweeping staircase is swagged with garlands, and the 12-foot crystal chandelier sprigged with mistletoe, while through it all runs a working miniature replica of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express train (the Orient Express previously owned the hotel).
If all that isn’t festive enough, you can pop into the hotel’s Thoroughbred Club for a 21st-century take on wassail, warm hard apple cider crafted from scratch and accessorized with a cinnamon stick. Belmond.com/Charleston Place.
Northeastern Christmas: Nantucket, Mass.
This small island is renowned for its annual Christmas Stroll. This year’s 43rd annual will be Dec. 1 to 4. Carolers throng cobblestone streets; one-of-a-kind boutiques stay open late for shopping, and 80 trees designed and decorated by local artists will be on display at the Whaling Museum. To cap the celebration, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive, escorted by the Coast Guard.
Once ashore, the Clauses make their first official stop at the Jared Coffin House, a historical 18th-century mansion and now a cozy inn. You can toast them with an adult beverage — try the boozy hot chocolate.
If you book the Holiday Stroll package at the harbor side White Elephant Inn, you’ll receive a ceramic white elephant tree ornament, a copy of local author Nancy Mayer’s “A Very Nantucket Christmas,” and red sangria from Nantucket Vineyards.
If you’re bringing the family, opt for the inn’s Easy Street Loft, where accommodations will be in three-bedroom, four-bathroom luxury lofts (the package price includes dinner for six at Brant Point Grill). Whiteelephanthotel.com; Jaredcoffinhouse.com.
Southwestern Christmas: The Inn of the Anasazi, Santa Fe, N.M.
For a completely different perspective on Christmas festivities, head to Santa Fe, where three cultures — Anglo, Hispanic and Indian — have contributed to a holiday season like no other.
From Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day, visitors marvel at the silvery lights strung on every tree surrounding the historic downtown plaza, and the farolitas (luminous bags of candles and sand) that are lit nightly.
A great base for taking in all the festivities is the Inn of the Anasazi, which blends the culture of the American Southwest with Santa Fe’s reputation as an artist colony.
There are activities galore for adults and children. Kids will delight in following daily clues to find Zazi, the hotel’s Elf on a Shelf, who just might pop up anywhere, from the concierge desk to the library’s kiva fireplace. Zazi spotters will be presented with a special prize.
Meanwhile, out on the patio, adults will be presented with their own prize, courtesy of the hot chocolate cart. Rest assured, this isn’t your grandmother’s Ovaltine. Try the La Abuelita, flavored with New Mexican chile; the Ginger Snap, with Domaine de Canton and a ginger snap cookie, or the Kentucky Hot Tub, with Ancho Reyes and a dollop of Jim Beam. Rosewoodhotels.com.
Closer to home: The Galt House, Louisville
Forget the 12 Days of Christmas. Now in its seventh year, Christmastime at the Galt House is a 34-day celebration, and each year it gets bigger and more bodacious. All the usual suspects will be there: the Dancing Bellmen, the Snow Fairy Princess presiding over her afternoon tea, and Santa himself (Nov. 17 to Dec. 24).
But there will be some new wrinkles. The KaLightoscope will borrow from an ancient Chinese art form to present a larger-than-life show featuring more than 200 hand-crafted luminaries made of silk wrapped around LED lights.
Also new is the Galt House’s annual holiday dinner show, which this year takes on a patriotic bent with the Ladies of Liberty and the Soldiers of Swing. Channeling World War II USO shows, it will combine holiday swing, boogie-woogie melodies and big band music.
All this, plus the Peppermint Express Kiddies’ Train, the gingerbread house contest, Winter Wonderlane, the Holly Jolly Elf Show, and a Charles Dickens-inspired dinner served by the author’s Christmas characters. Imagine Ebenezer Scrooge filling your coffee cup or Tiny Tim presenting you with your plum pudding. ChristmasVattheGaltHouse.com.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.