The Holidays Are Even More Magical at These Wonderful Hotels
The holidays are truly the most magical time of the year. There's simply something about sipping hot cocoa next to a fireplace as Christmas lights twinkle in the night.
And while the season is wonderful no matter where you are, there are certain places that make it all the more precious. If you want to get away and celebrate with loved ones, hotels often have special holiday event calendars. The best part is that you can usually participate even if you're not a guest.
Celebrate the spirit of the holidays at these perfect Christmas hotels.
Location: New York, New York
Christmas at the Plaza is so ethereal, there's a Hallmark holiday movie titled just that. The hotel is famous for its holiday season, which includes an exciting "Home Alone 2" experience, where guests recreate the iconic movie that was filmed at the hotel.
There's also a Tree Lighting Ceremony, a New Year's dinner and much more. Plus, you can go in for Holiday Afternoon Tea or participate in some of the calendar's events without paying steep nightly prices.
Book it: The Plaza
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Location: Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
Sweden's Icehotel doesn't have too many Christmas events because its very existence invokes the spirit of the season.
The property is famous for being made entirely of ice, a concept so cool that it has spurred a number of (still awesome) copycats. Sleep in a bed made of ice (with a layer of warm protection), drink cocktails from small blocks of ice and have full meals at a table made of ice on plates made of ice.
You'll be at the actual North Pole, so this is as close to Santa as you'll ever be. There is also the chance to partake in unique experiences like dog sledding or hunting for the elusive northern lights on a snowmobile.
Book it: Icehotel
Fairmont le Château Frontenac
Location: Quebec, Canada
Quebec is beautiful at any time of the year, but let's just say that we almost cried when we saw it in the winter. Covered in a thick layer of snow, the city's French colonial architecture creates an air of romanticism that infects even the most cynical hearts.
The absolute best place to stay while in the city is the Fairmont le Château Frontenac. A late 19th-century chateau, the hotel is a National Historic Site of Canada and overlooks the old town. Enjoy gourmet buffets, Santa experiences for kids and tours of the famed Quebec German Christmas Market.
Book it: Fairmont le Château Frontenac
Location: Cape May, New Jersey
Jersey Shore is better known as a summer destination, but if you want a memorable Christmas trip, Cape May is just as wonderful in the winter. Stay at Congress Hall, a historic hotel that transforms itself every December with a train, a carousel and a North Pole-themed shopping village.
The hotel is perfect for families, as kids absolutely love exploring the property, making crafts with Mrs. Claus and gazing up at the 30-foot Christmas tree. For a special experience, book a dinner at the outdoor igloo.
And if you want to leave the hotel, you'll find that all of Cape May takes the holidays seriously. Join the traditional Candelight House Tour, and visit several historic buildings while admiring their gorgeous decorations.
Book it: Congress Hall
Location: Gstaad, Switzerland
If we had to imagine a fairytale Christmas setting, it would pretty much look like Gstaad Palace. The palace is fit for a Disney princess and becomes even more magical once winter covers it in a blanket of soft snow.
Guests can enjoy choir performances, five-course dinners, communal Christmas movies and more. Still, find some time to step out of the hotel and enjoy the gorgeous small town of Gstaad. And if you're in the area for New Year's Eve, you'll want to attend the hotel's iconic Gala, held at the Greengo disco, which has hosted celebrities like Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor and Lady Di in its 50-year history.
Book it: Gstaad Palace
Location: Bakewell, England
Any fan of the 2005 version of "Pride & Prejudice" will instantly recognize Chatsworth House as the stand-in for Mr. Darcy's opulent Pemberly. But the property is a rare instance of real life being even more glamorous than movies. The estate has been in the same family for 16 generations and is famous in Bakewell for its absolutely extraordinary Christmas calendar.
Both guests and day visitors can enjoy a stroll along the garden trail, which is beautifully lit up during the season. There is also the Winter Ball, which is the event anyone who's anyone attends. For children, there is story time with Santa Claus (or, as British people call him, Father Christmas) and fireside fairytales.
But the most impressive part of the season at Chatsworth is that the property has its very own Christmas market, which is perfect for souvenir/gift shopping.
Book it: Chatsworth
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
Location: Grapevine, Texas
The Dallas suburb of Grapevine calls itself the "Christmas capital of Texas." And that's in no small part thanks to the Gaylord Resort. An absolutely gigantic property, the resort is designed so that people can get absolutely anything their hearts could desire without ever leaving its doors.
Throughout the year, you'll find so many things to do that you're sure to get dizzy. But during the holidays, the Gaylord takes it up a notch with indoor snow tubing, a holiday escape room, ice skating, snowman making, an ice village and more.
Book it: Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
Hotel Plaza Athénée
Location: Paris, France
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sang about April in Paris, but December in Paris is an amazing (and underrated) time of year. Will the city be gray and cloudy? Absolutely, but you'll forget about that when it lights up at night.
With views of the Eiffel Tower and an interesting holiday calendar, Hotel Plaza Athénée is ideal for a Christmas vacation to France. On any day, anyone can enjoy the special afternoon tea, but a holiday menu spanning six courses is also offered during the season. Plus, the hotel has a skating rink, a Christmas brunch and a fun New Year's Eve party.
Book it: Hotel Plaza Athénée
Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Location: Cologne, Germany
Cologne is famous in Germany and Europe for its large Christmas markets. If you visit during the festivities, staying near the market is an absolute must. At the Excelsior Hotel Ernst, you'll be right in front of the action as well as the astonishing Cologne Cathedral.
Spend as much time as possible perusing the market. But if the cold has you feeling lazy about leaving your hotel, participate in a St. Nicolaus afternoon tea experience or attend the Christmas Piano Concert. And if you're traveling with children, sign them up for Christmas baking classes that'll get them excited about making cookies for Santa.
Book it: Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Royal Mansour Marrakech
Location: Marrakech, Morocco
Spending the holidays in Marrakech is quite interesting (and, yes, we're talking from personal experience). As a Muslim country, most people don't celebrate Christmas. And since the Muslim New Year usually takes place in July, Dec. 31 on the Gregorian calendar also holds very little meaning. So, you won't find that the city (or the country, really) changes at all during the season.
Still, Morocco is a great place to celebrate Christmas because hotels go out of their way to create an atmosphere of celebration for their guests. At the Royal Mansour Marrakech, expect inspiring decor throughout the property as well as Christmas and New Year's Eve menus designed by Michelin-starred chefs. Oh, and a private Christmas market.
Book it: Royal Mansour Marrakech