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Traveler of the year

Christmas, By Land or By Sea

by Carley Wade

Dec 12, 2017

© Grace Hotels


Trying to plan every last bit of vacation time you have left this year for some last-minute fun with the family? Whether near or far, there’s plenty of holiday cheer worth checking out!


Just imagine traveling back in time to Norman Rockwell’s day and experiencing a bit of Americana when the snowy scene of Downtown Everytown USA is re-created in Stockbridge, Mass. The village-scape used as his muse for the artist’s most famous Christmas portrait looks much like it did then, but residents go as far as clearing out Main Street for an antique car parade so it’s like stepping back in time for old-fashioned fun including carols, face painting, visits with Santa and Christmas story readings at the Stockbridge Library. There are sleigh rides at a nearby farm and several historic homes and inns open up their doors for tours of festively decked halls. The first weekend in December also sees special events including holiday cardmaking at the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum.

NEW YORK - DEC 28: Famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree as seen from 5th Avenue on December 28th, 2011 in New York

Photo: Triumph Hotels


Just a couple of hours drive but a world away, New York City awaits, and this year Triumph Hotels — a collection of historic properties across Manhattan — put a special holiday spin on its complimentary walking tour program with a specialty “jingle bell walk” edition highlighting the iconic holiday window displays. Since Lord & Taylor debuted its first Christmas-themed windows in 1938, Fifth Avenue stores have competed for the best displays. Guests will also get to see some other iconic New York Christmas favorites like the tree at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park’s holiday market.


New England pulls out all the stops and there’s plenty to do even if the snow doesn’t fall. At the Omni Mount Washington Hotel, a skier’s delight, there’s enough to keep you busy all day long inside and the weekend of Christmas, Dec. 22–25, Bretton Woods, N.H., is especially festive. Kids can enjoy a special guided hunt for the Elf on the Shelf throughout the resort, be read a story in Santa’s Toy Room, enjoy holiday movies, play Christmas carol trivia, bake and decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus and more. A special holiday treat for parents: The Christmas buffet means no cooking, and no cleanup!


Santa’s not the only guy who’s large and in charge, and President Trump will likely kick off the holiday season during the National Christmas Tree Lighting in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30. Families not lucky enough to score tickets can trek to the capital for some holiday cheer. The Willard — which has its own Kids Concierge program — offers special packages that include its annual presidential holiday ornament as a keepsake, right in the heart of the city. There are daily holiday concerts nightly in the lobby for December, including both adult and children’s choirs, and holiday teas most afternoons with gingerbread scones and spiced crumb cake. Don’t miss the illuminated National Zoo all month long, outdoor holiday markets near the Smithsonian American Art Museum or Mount Vernon by candlelight with 18th-century dancing and fireside caroling.


Photo: Grace Hotels


Into the glitz and glam? Newport, R.I., gilds the lily at the Breakers, Elms and Marble House mansions with glittering holiday decorations that would put the Kardashians to shame. The Breakers features a 15-foot-tall poinsettia tree and model trains harkening back to the Vanderbilt family’s New York Central Railroad. At The Elms, the ballroom transforms into a Gilded Age streetscape, complete with sleighs, a topiary horse, trees and mannequins dressed in period costumes. New this year, each house will have a huge gingerbread house model of itself displayed in the kitchen. Kids can get a taste of Christmas each weekend in December with a cookie-decorating afternoon each Sunday at the Grace Vanderbilt Hotel (open to non-guests), also hosting a special Christmas Day dinner.


If Newport’s nautical flair is of interest but colder climes aren’t in your travel forecast, a trip to Florida may be in order. Boca Raton and Boynton Beach hold illuminated boat parades, West Palm Beach offers up nightly “snowfall” at CityPlace Plaza with a flake fountain nightly through December and Delray Beach hosts a month-long celebration with Santa lighting a 100-foot Christmas tree. Santa visits take place in a Key West-style house and there’s ice-skating, mini golf, a reindeer barn, Santa’s Workshop, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas House and the Train House.


A perfect suburban Christmas awaits in Rockford, Ill., where It’s a Wonderful Life is recreated via radio play at Rockford University. There are holiday concerts and shopping events downtown all month, including sweets for the suite — a performance and dessert extravaganza at Klehm Arboretum on Dec. 3. Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens pulls out all the stops with sparkling holiday lights and beautiful floral displays inside the warm tropical conservatory and decorations outside. Kids can enjoy breakfast with Santa on weekends through Christmas, or ride an old-fashioned trolley car resplendent with sprigs and bows, the All Aglow Express.


In for more high-speed thrills? Check out the rides and roller coasters at Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town in Williamsburg, Va., and you can also witness the largest holiday light display in North America, with more than 8 million twinklers. A boat parade, fife and drum music, tree ceremony and Holiday Park at 45,000-square-foot Yankee Candle Village are all in order in Greater Williamsburg.


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