12 best festive hotels for celebrating the holidays

Ready or not, the holidays are here, and that means twinkling lights, garlands, hot cocoa, decorated trees, menorahs and — for many people around the world — travel.

Are you looking to make a stop somewhere this year that really gets in the holiday spirit? Why not head to a hotel that takes the season seriously by decorating every square inch in tinsel, serving classic and modern holiday meals, inviting Santa to come say hello and maybe even transforming the grounds into a winter wonderland?

From hotels with ice skating rinks to holiday-themed igloos serving seasonal drinks, here you’ll find some of the best hotels to celebrate the most festive time of the year.

Sun Valley Lodge: Sun Valley, Idaho


There’s nothing quite like the magic of a cozy ski town blanketed in fresh snow during the holidays. This iconic lodge — at one of America’s best ski resorts — becomes a veritable winter wonderland (it’s actually called the Winter Wonderland!) the moment that snow begins to fall in the storied Idaho village of Sun Valley.

They take the holiday spirit very seriously here, and guests staying locally can look forward to shopping at the European-style holiday market, listening to carolers sing classic holiday songs throughout the month, photos with Santa himself and fireworks on Christmas Day. This year in particular, Sun Valley is celebrating with festive events like gingerbread house competitions throughout December, a tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 16 and a special Christmas Eve ice show at the Lodge’s very own outdoor skating rink.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives: Lankanfushi Island, Maldives


Who says you have to embrace winter in order to celebrate holiday festivities in style? For those who prefer to enjoy the holidays paired with a healthy dose of vitamin D, Gili Lankanfushi is the way to go.

This private island paradise goes all-out for the festive season, with nine full days of cheerful experiences like gingerbread house decorating for the little ones, a traditional Maldivian parade that concludes in a celebratory tree lighting and even tennis with Santa, all while luxuriating in all this bucket-list-worthy property has to offer (including overwater bungalows and luxe wellness treatments galore).

Related: Dreaming of the Maldives? These new and updated points resorts are waiting for you

Fife Arms: Braemar, Scotland


No one does the holidays quite like the Scots. For those in search of a grand experience in a palatial setting, Fife Arms, in Scotland’s breathtaking Cairngorms National Park, is just the ticket. The historic property embraces a traditional Victorian approach to Christmas celebrations, decorating the sumptuous rooms and manicured grounds with locally foraged plants and holiday decor. Guests have the opportunity to listen to stories read aloud next to a roaring fire in the forest while roasting chestnuts on Christmas Eve.

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Mince pies and mulled wine, which are best enjoyed while listening to a live performance of traditional carols, are features of the property’s holiday menu. On Christmas Day, after a proper Scottish breakfast, little ones can embark on a treasure hunt to see what Father Christmas has brought for them.

Lotte New York Palace: New York City


Ah, Christmastime in New York City — it’s simply too iconic to pass up. And Lotte New York Palace might just be one of the very best places in the city to embrace the festive season. Those passing through can enjoy a signature hot chocolate at Winter Bar (open Wednesday through Sunday), but those who plan to stay overnight — and really want to do it up big — have quite the opportunity in store.

This year, the hotel is debuting The Ultimate NYC Holiday, a $100,000 package that includes a three-night stay in the 5,000-square-foot Champagne Suite, tickets to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, a private in-suite performance by Steven Cohen, a private toy soldier tour of FAO Schwartz and so much more. The icing on top? All proceeds will go directly to the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, which provides financial and emotional support to children battling cancer.

Related: The best hotels in New York City, from luxury stays to points properties

The Peninsula Chicago: Chicago


If you’re willing to brave the Windy City during the holiday season’s blistering cold and snow, The Peninsula Chicago, off the Magnificent Mile, is a top-tier hotel to make a home base.

This year, the hotel is celebrating the season with a handful of jolly good offerings. Consider booking the Holly Jolly Family Holiday Package, which features an in-room tree or menorah, daily breakfast for four and access to the hotel’s library of holiday books, movies and games.

Related: The 17 best Chicago hotels

Mohonk Mountain House: New Paltz, New York


Mohonk Mountain House is already one of the most magical resorts in the entire U.S., and it only gets better during the holiday season. An all-inclusive resort tucked inside a castle that’s an easy commute from New York City, Mohonk Mountain House celebrates the “Victorian Holidays” throughout the month of December.

During this time of year, guests can enjoy ice skating and snow tubing, as well as take tours to see the hotel’s displays of Christmas trees and gingerbread houses. After a long day of exploring the (hopefully) snow-covered grounds, escape into your room warmed by a fireplace to reflect on the spirit of the season with your loved ones.

Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center: Philadelphia


Of all the world’s Four Seasons hotels and resorts, the one in Philadelphia (in the city’s tallest building) might just be the most spectacular. While it’s got a lot going for it — including an indoor infinity pool on the 57th floor with incredible views of Philly — the place takes on a whole new level of grandeur during the holidays. This year, the hotel’s artistic director, Jeff Leatham, is bringing the season to life with modern and edgy decorations, such as a mirrored polar bear and a life-size geometric reindeer, in the Sky Lobby.

To best experience Four Seasons holiday magic in Philadelphia, head up to SkyHigh on the 60th floor for special brunches and holiday dinners with live music, Christmas carolers and holiday-themed cocktails like a hot apple toddy. Come for Christmas brunch, but stay long enough to celebrate the new year because this incredible hotel is also one of the best places in town to catch fireworks over the Delaware River.

Related: The 16 best Four Seasons in the world, according to travel experts who have stayed at them

Whiteface Lodge: Lake Placid, New York


You’ve probably heard of Lake Placid, New York, thanks to its reputation as the host of the 1980 Winter Olympics. In the Adirondack Mountains, Whiteface Lodge is one of the most charming places to stay during the holiday season, and it goes all-out in decorations and activities. Expect milk and cookies with Santa on Christmas Eve, and a Christmas train ride around the Adirondacks, among other offerings.

Outside of taking in the decor and eating all the food, guests can celebrate the season by hitting the ice skating rink, swimming in the indoor pool and relaxing with s’mores by the fire. In Lake Placid, go bobsledding with a professional, visit Santa’s workshop at “the North Pole,” take a scenic gondola ride or enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride.

Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek: Dallas


Texas may not be the snowiest place in the world, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a little holiday magic in the air. At the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, a luxury hotel tucked between some of Dallas’ most popular neighborhoods, The Mansion Restaurant brings a new sense of grace and elegance to the holidays.

With silver and white Christmas trees, ornaments and garland, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported back into the golden days of the holiday season. Newly redesigned suites also offer guests the opportunity to have an in-room tree decorated and waiting for them, or they can have it brought up and left to decorate themselves.

The Roosevelt New Orleans: New Orleans


New Orleans might be most famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations, but at The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Christmas is about as glamorous as it comes.

It’s part of the Hilton Honors family, so guests who spend the holidays at The Roosevelt can earn and redeem points while soaking up the sparkle of the block-long hotel lobby’s ornate decorations, a tradition dating back to the 1930s. To put it in perspective, the display includes 44 Christmas trees, 135,572 lights, 3,328 feet of winter branches, 2,200 glass ornaments and 698 hand-tied bows.

Related: The best hotels in New Orleans, from the French Quarter to the Garden District

Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo: Monaco


Opulence is key in Monte Carlo — and that’s exactly what the Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo delivers with its annual over-the-top holiday displays. In them, you’ll find life-size sleds for family photos, giant polar bears, hundreds of Christmas trees and more.

A stay here during the holidays offers plenty for the kids, including the chance to make their own ornaments and the opportunity to meet Santa. This year, the hotel will host a luxurious Christmas Eve dinner with a seafood-themed menu and tastings of pastry chef Patrick Mesiano’s holiday yule log.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center: Nashville


For a really unique take on Christmas, why not make it a little country with a trip to Nashville and the larger-than-life Gaylord Opryland Resort? There, check out the property’s holiday decorations while enjoying a boat ride down the indoor river, take a thrill ride in a bumper car specially designed for the ice rink (or just go ice skating) and go ice tubing.

For country music fans, The Oak Ridge Boys have taken up residency for a holiday-themed dinner show that everyone will love. There is also a gingerbread-making station and an interactive experience where guests can join Buddy the Elf on a mission to save Christmas. If that’s not enough, skip the winter cold and hit up the indoor section of the resort’s water park, Soundwaves.

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