MAGICAL PLACES TO SPEND THE HOLIDAYS ARE ENCHANTING ANY TIME OF THE YEAR

by Karen Rubin

There are picture-postcard places that are purely magical to spend the winter holidays. They are not just places to see, but also afford things to do and experiences to share that make for cherished memories.

Step across the threshold at Astors’ Beechwood into a Victorian Christmas (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

And for the same reasons they are magical during the holidays, they offer enchantment any time of the year.

WOODSTOCK INN, VERMONT

Spend the winter holidays in a quintessential New England village, Woodstock, Vermont.

The heart of Woodstock is The Woodstock Inn & Resort is warm and welcoming with a big fire roaring in the lobby and fun for the whole family, either in town or on the resort’s own ski slopes.

What we love about the Woodstock Inn is that it has the charm and intimacy of an inn and yet is finest, most hotels in the world. Built by Lawrence S. Rockefeller, the 142 rooms have been redesigned by Alexandra Champalimaud & Associates, the interior design firm renowned for their hotel projects (The Dorchester in London, The Berkeley, etc.). We also love the facilities like the indoor pool in the Racquet & Fitness Club, the cross-country ski area, and the picturesque setting in “the prettiest small town in America” with just enough to do.

Woodstock Inn is also distinctive because it has its own ski area, Suicide Six, site of the first ski lift in North America and is also renowned for its cross-country ski and snowshoeing trails. A “Family Ski Package” includes 2 or more nights in luxurious guest room; two adult lift tickets to Suicide Six – children under 14 ski for free when on the ski package; full use of The Resort’s Racquet & Fitness Club; and a Family Movie in the Lobby Floor Parlor every Saturday night with popcorn and pizza (starts at 7 pm). A-la-carte options include spa treatments, ski or snowboarding; court time for indoor tennis or outdoor paddle; and dinner in the inn’s Four Diamond Restaurant (800-448-7900, www.woodstockinn.com).

The historic village of Woodstock, Vermont, is brimming with true New England charm- quaint, self-contained, delightful to walk around and visit eclectic shops set amidst a collection of authentic 19th century Federal-style buildings, white steepled churches, and lovingly restored fine old homes. There is a lot to do in the area, season by season (888- 496-6378, www.woodstockvt.com).

In winter, Newport, RI’s Cliff Walk has a dramatic beauty (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

One of the popular places to visit in every season is the Billings Farm & Museum. The farm dates back to 1871, when native Vermonter, Frederick Billings, set out to build a farm and forestry operation that would serve future generations as a model of wise stewardship. His farm flourished, and today, is still a first-class working farm, operating with a museum of Vermont’s rural heritage. The Billings Farm & Museum is an operating partner of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, the only national park to tell the story of conservation history and the evolving nature of land stewardship in America. Enjoy Christmas at the Farm: visit the authentically decorated farmhouse with preparations underway for the holiday meal and the dairy farm there are holiday programs and activities, like making historic ornaments, traditional music in the parlor on selected days. Horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides are offered when conditions allow (billingsfarm.org).

NEWPORT, RI’S GILDED AGE MANSIONS

Newport, Rhode Island, is magical in winter. Opulent Gilded Age mansions – like the Vanderbilt’s Breakers, Marble House, Belcourt Mansion, Astors’ Beechwood, where there are Dancing to a Big Band and other holiday events (visit www.astorsbeechwood.com for calendar and tickets) – are fabulous to visit, plus there are some activities unique to the season, like the seal tours offered by Save the Bay and ice skating at the harbor rink, all within a relatively small area.

Newport is fantastic for walking, even in winter, and the Newport Historical Society and the Newport Restoration Foundation host many walking tours that originate from the Visitor Center or the Museum of Newport History (127 Thames St.) such as a Lantern Tour of Colonial Newport (reservations, 401-846-0813). We join the “Tastes of the Working Waterfront Walking Tour,” presented by the docents of the incomparable Whitehorne Museum.

No matter what the season or what the weather, for that matter, take time to stroll the Cliff Walk. Newport’s dramatic coastline and natural beauty are nowhere more charmingly on display than on this 3.5-mile paved path. Named one of 50 “Places of a Lifetime” by National Geographic Traveler, the Cliff Walk winds between the sprawling lawns of the opulent Newport mansions like The Breakers and the pounding surf of the Atlantic.

Take a ride on the Old Colony/Newport Railroad, with a 1904 Boston & Maine Railroad coach car and an 1884 Inter Colonial Ry parlor car – an 80-minute excursion that takes you through the U.S. Naval Base (you can see the decommissioned aircraft carriers USS Forrestal and USS Saratoga), and along the coastline along the Narragansett Bay). The trip is offered mainly on Sundays ($7.50/adults, coach; $5/child; parlor car $11, 401-624-6951, www.ocnrr.com).

Take a tour of Belcourt Mansion in Newport (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

You get a glimpse of the social life of America’s aristocrats visiting the International Tennis Hall of Fame. A visit here instantly makes it summer any time of the year. The Hall is home to a comprehensive and interactive tennis museum. This Gilded Age jewel is set on spectacular grounds (reminiscent of Louisville, Kentucky’s Churchill Downs), and was used as a country club and casino for Newport’s aristocrats. The exhibits are presented in a very engaging way, especially for anyone who plays or enjoys the game (194 Bellevue Avenue, www.TennisFame.com).

Built in 1926 by the citizens of Newport, the Hotel Viking offers the perfect Gilded Age atmosphere and has hosted Ella Fitzgerald, Will Rogers, John and Jackie Kennedy. It offers classic Georgian and Queen Anne furnishings, 250-thread count sheets, a world-class Spaterre, and afternoon tea among its accoutrements. A member of Historic Hotels of America, it is part of the Noble House group (800-556-7126, www.hotelviking.com).

Our accommodations at The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina made us feel a part of the America’s Cup tradition – it is literally on Bowen’s Wharf and America’s Cup Boulevard and has its own marina. Newly renovated with 133 guest rooms, all with views of either the harbor or historic Queen Anne Square, it offers a gorgeous heated, indoor pool with a view of the harbor (fantastic way to break up the day), sauna and sundeck overlooking the harbor. The hotel is so centrally located (and has its own parking lot) – a block from the Visitor Center and walking distance of many attractions and restaurants. Getaway Packages includes attractions admissions (800-955-2558, www.newporthotel.com).

The “Christmas in Newport” festival that spans all of December, culminating with First Night Newport is legend. For more information about attractions and packages, contact The Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-976-5122, www.GoNewport.com.

THE EQUINOX, MANCHESTER, VT

Set in one of the most picturesque New England towns, Manchester, Vermont, The Equinox Resort & Spa, has been welcoming guests since 1769, as the Marsh Tavern (during the American Revolution it was a gathering place for the legendary “Green Mountain Boys”). The original Marsh Tavern structure remains, as the restaurant for this phenomenal inn-resort that hosted Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and her children during the Civil War. With 1,300-acres, there is plenty of room to sprawl, and scores of activities for everyone to enjoy.

The Sagamore, a Gilded Age resort on Lake George, is decked out in holiday lights (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

Winter is truly a fabulous time to visit The Equinox. It is in close proximity to major Vermont ski resorts, including nearby Stratton (a three-day ski package is available) and Bromley. In addition, it offers snowmobiling, sleigh rides and snowshoeing through its own woods, cross-country skiing (a major center is at nearby Hildene, the former estate of Todd Lincoln), indoor tennis, ice skating in the nearby Olympic-sized facility at Riley Rink, just a few minutes from the resort (skate rentals available), a major full-service 13,000-sq. ft. spa and indoor pool. Among the more unusual activities offered by The Equinox is its Falconry school (a hands-on introduction is offered at $50/participant), archery, an Off-Road Driving School and fly-fishing (800-362-4747, www.equinoxresort.com).

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Manchester is delightful – scores of outlet shopping places, charming restaurants, classic white-steepled church, and everyone in the family will enjoy taking a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, nearby (802-362-2100, 800-362-4144, www.manchestervermont.net).

CRANWELL RESORT, LENOX/BERKSHIRES

The four-diamond Cranwell Resort & Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America, offers wonderful ambiance in an extraordinary setting. It has 114 distinctive guest rooms, suites, cottages and townhouses on a 380-acre estate centered around a Victorian mansion home overlooking the scenic Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts in historic Lenox. It has a world-class spa offering 50 different services, three distinctive and award-winning restaurants, cross-country skiing on 10 kilometers of groomed trails. It is also a hop, skip and jump from two delightful downhill ski areas – Jiminy Peak and Butternut – featured in its wintertime Berkshire Ski Getaway.

Lenox is famous for music and cultural festivals including Tanglewood, and its cultural treasures are the focus of Cranwell’s Culture in the Country package which features seasonal attractions (one-night resort accommodations; two sets of two tickets to your choice of cultural venues; full Country Buffet breakfast for two; full use of the Spa at Cranwell with heated indoor pool, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and Fitness Center; spa treatments are available on an a la carte basis). During the winter holidays, the package includes admissions to a choice of Berkshire Museum, MassMoCA, Norman Rockwell Museum, and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Cranwell Resort, 55 Lee Road, Lenox, Massachusetts 01240, 800-272-6935, 413-637-1384, www.cranwell.comspareservations@cranwell.com; check the website for special packages and offerings.

The Mohonk Mountain House in winter light (photo courtesy of Mohonk).

The mountain air and stunning vistas drew America’s elite to Lenox where they built magnificent summer mansions (known as “cottages”) – in fact, one of the many cultural attractions in Lenox is the Ventyford Hall Museum of the Gilded Age, housed in the mansion built by Sarah and George Morgan in 1893 (104 Walker Street, 413-637-3206,www.gildedage.org).

Artists and authors have long drawn creative inspiration from the Berkshires and visiting their homes gives you a special understanding of their creative process: Herman Melville’s Arrowhead, Edith Wharton’s “The Mount”, the Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, 413-298-4100,www.nrm.org); Chesterwood, the estate and gardens of Daniel Chester French, who sculpted the Lincoln Memorial (4 Williamsville Road, Stockbridge, MA 01262, 413-298-3579,www.chesterwood.org); and the Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio, the home of American Abstract Artists George L.K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen, set on a 46-acre estate, where you can view their paintings, frescoes, and sculpture; experience their exquisite collection of American and European Cubist Art (92 Hawthorne Street, Lenox, MA 01240, 413-637-0166, www.frelinghuysen.org).

MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), housed on a beautifully restored 19th Century factory campus, is the largest center for contemporary art in the country, exhibiting some of the most evocative and provocative visual and performing art being made today. (Open year round; 87 Marshall Street, North Adams, 413-664-4481, www.massmoca.org).

Families will also enjoy exploring the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, 1500 acres including 7 miles of trails (472 West Mountain Road, Lenox, 413-637-0320, www.massaudubon.org/pleasantvalley/, and Mount Greylock, with marvelous hiking trails. To best experience Mount Greylock, drive up the scenic byway, about seven miles to the summit, with some 11 points of interest and various hiking trails along the way (definitely pick up the Driving Tour map at the Visitors Center, 30 Rockwell Road, Lanesborough, MA 01237,www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/mtGreylock/).

For further information, contact Berkshires Visitors Bureau, 3 Hoosac Street, Adams, MA 01220, 413-743-4500, www.berkshires.org.

THE SAGAMORE, LAKE GEORGE, NY

Cape May, NJ, with one of the largest Victorian historic districts anywhere, is a holiday confection (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

The Sagamore is another Gilded Age masterpiece is a private island resort on the shores of Lake George, a four-hour drive from New York City. The Sagamore’s stunning setting within the six-million acre Adirondack State Park makes it a winter adventurer’s paradise, with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and ice skating and down-hill skiing at nearby Gore Mountain (shuttle transportation provided). Guests have a choice of staying in the historic hotel, or in villa-style Lodges (perfect for families).

Enchanting at any time, The Sagamore is magical during the winter holidays.

The Sagamore is an official landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a member of the Historic Hotels of America (historichotels.org), a recipient of the AAA Four-Diamond Award (800-358-3585, www.thesagamore.com).

MOHONK MOUNTAIN HOUSE, NY

Imagine curling up in front of a fire, or cross-country skiing outside a historic Victorian castle resort, just 90 miles north of New York City, in the Hudson Valley Region. Dating from 1869, Mohonk Mountain House, a National Historic Landmark and Historic Hotel of America, has been making the winter season bright for generations.

Mohonk Mountain House has the largest number of wood-burning, in-room fireplaces of any resort in the United States with 124 out of 265 guest rooms containing this feature. The warming fireplaces are a favorite of Mohonk visitors.

Delight in the choral music at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

A popular destination for family holiday gatherings, Mohonk Mountain House is decorated for all the season’s celebrations, with Victorian swags, kissing balls and intricate gingerbread creations. More than a dozen beautifully decorated Christmas trees grace the House and grounds including a 60-foot-Austrian Pine with 1,440 sparkling lights. Rates begin at only $173* per person, per night based on double occupancy. Rates include two meals (a bountiful breakfast buffet and four-course dinner), along with Afternoon Tea and Cookies, charming accommodations, and most resort activities. Lunch is available for an additional charge.

Mohonk’s award-winning, open-air ice-skating Pavilion is just the place to take in the spectacular scenery. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snow-tubing are also available to overnight guests at no additional fee (weather permitting) and guests can rejuvenate in the comfort of the resort’s 30,000-square-foot Spa wing, complete with a yoga/motion studio, comprehensive fitness facility and indoor heated swimming pool with underwater sound system.

Mohonk is family friendly with a Kids Club (eco-friendly activities are featured) and Teen Scene and Family Reunions programs.

The 30,000-square-foot Spa wing at Mohonk Mountain House features 16 treatment rooms, a solarium, and outdoor heated mineral pool, along with an indoor heated swimming pool with an underwater sound system, comprehensive fitness center, and yoga/motion studio. Mohonk’s award-winning Skating Pavilion is host to special activities including skating lessons and corporate teambuilding programs. For invigorating outdoor fun, guests can enjoy 85 miles of trails for seasonal hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing (800-772-6646 or visit www.mohonk.comwww.historichotels.org).

MOUNT WASHINGTON RESORT, NH

Set at the base of the stunning 6,288-foot Mount Washington and surrounded by nearly 800,000 acres of the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire, The Omni Mount Washington Resort is a stunning place to spend the holidays. Founded in 1876, the Mount Washington became famous for hosting the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference that set the gold standard. In its earliest incarnations, it was open only in warm weather (you can see Babe Ruth’s golf locker at the clubhouse), but more recent owners winterized the property to make it truly four-season. In winter, it offers alpine skiing and snowboarding at its Bretton Woods ski area, literally across the road, 100 km of cross-country skiing, ice climbing), snow tubing, sleigh rides (it has its own stables) and winter hiking trails during the winter.

The Mount Washington is full of surprises, from its Prohibition-era speakeasy (The Cave), to the 1902-vintage indoor pool (one of the first anywhere), to its stunning Victorian atmosphere and circular dining room and a world-class spa.

There’s a lot to do. Bretton Woods is is one of NH’s largest ski areas with 434 acres of skiing and snowboarding, including 101 trails and glades, as well as four terrain parks accessed by 10 lifts, including four high-speed quads, and night skiing!

There is also wonderful outlet shopping nearby at North Conway.

Longwood Gardens in the Brandywine is also famous for its Christmas lights and dancing fountains (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

Holiday Traditions 2009 Package includes accommodations, breakfast, a Christmas tree, a wreath and a sleigh or wagon ride ($179 pp/night, double occupancy); Stay Here, Ski Free offers accommodations and two ski lift tickets (from $89 pp/night/double); Winter Wonderland Inclusive Ski Package includes three meals daily, lift ticket, 1 1/2-hour group lesson, equipment rentals, 50-minute spa treatment, Omni Kids Welcome Gift Bag and cookies and milk for the kids on night of arrival (from $399 pp/night). (800.314.1752, www.mountwashingtonresort.com).

HERSHEY, PA – LAND OF KISSES

For families with young children (especially), what could be better than spending Christmas in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the land of chocolate and candy kisses? Families with young children will delight in traveling through Hersheypark Christmas Candylane where they will be dazzled by more than two million twinkling lights and festive decorations. Visit Santa and his reindeer, enjoy the Music Box Christmas Show, and browse quaint village shops for unique gift ideas. The Park is open on select days through Dec. 31. All rides and entertainment are included in the one-price admission. After visiting Hersheypark, head over to Hershey Sweet Lights, where guests can relax and enjoy nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays from the comfort of their cars while they wind through two miles of wooded winter trails. Sweet Lights is open daily at 5 p.m. through January 1.

A Holiday Spectacular Package features deluxe accommodations, breakfast and dinner in the Hotel Hershey’s famed Circular Dining Room, admission to Hershey Sweet Lights, holiday welcome gift, $50 Hotel gift certificate per adult, and admission to Hershey Gardens and Hershey Museum. A two-night Hershey’s Chocolate World Family Party for New Year’s includes deluxe accommodations at The Hotel Hershey, a New Year’s Eve grand dinner and dessert buffet, entertainment, Hershey’s Chocolate World attractions, a dance party, New Year’s Day breakfast (800-HERSHEY, www.HersheyPA.com).

Hershey Lodge, The Hotel Hershey and The Spa At The Hotel Hershey are offering a variety of ways to celebrate the holiday season.

Colonial Williamsburg is all lighted for the holiday (photo courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg).

Hershey Lodge will present Christmas In Chocolate Town, A Holiday Dinner Musical (through Dec. 28, call 717-508-2697 for reservations); weekends, through Dec. 19, the Children’s Gingerbread Tea at Hershey Lodge gives children the opportunity create a gingerbread house or design and decorate a holiday wreath, and also enjoy holiday story-time, tea, hot chocolate, and a selection of finger foods and desserts ($30 for an adult and one child; each additional child is $20; reservations required, 717-534-8601).

The Hotel Hershey features an assortment of events and activities: The Circular Dining Room at The Hotel Hershey is offering guests the opportunity to enjoy a Holiday Chef’s Table in the famed Circular Dining Room Alcove, a multi-course tasting menu features a variety of holiday-inspired dishes, all with a contemporary flare and plating presentation ($75 pp; reservations, 717-534-8800). “Holiday Spa Day Package” includes an incense-infused massage, a Peppermint Pattie Salt Scrub, Chocolate Fondue Wrap, Peppermint Anti-Aging Facial and lunch Peppermint Pattie Salt Scrub, Chocolate Fondue Wrap, Peppermint Anti-Aging Facial and lunch in the Oasis ($420 for 4 1/2 hours). For more information, visit www.ChocolateSpa.com or call 1-877-772-9988 to schedule appointments.

For information on additional events and activities during Christmas in Hershey, as well as overnight packages, visit www.HersheyPA.com or call 800-HERSHEY (800-439-7439).

HOTEL DUPONT, WILMINGTON/BRANDYWINE

Wilmington and the Brandywine region are spectacular at Christmas. There are so many superb attractions, like Winterthur Museum and Gardens, Hagley Museum, Longwood Gardens, located in Kennett Square, PA (breathtaking; amazing light displays and the “dancing” fountains) and Nemours Museum and Gardens.

Christmas blooms at Longwood Gardens (and is even open on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, making this the most magical place to be). Thousands of poinsettias accented with amaryllis, narcissus, begonias, cyclamen, tulips and many other flowers flourish inside the heated Conservatory. The signature Christmas tree is adorned with elegant red and ivory ornaments and shimmering white lights. Outside, more than 420,000 twinkling lights and sparkling fountains create a magical aura (www.longwoodgardens.org).

Hagley and Eleutherian Mills, the original home of the du Pont family in the Brandywine Valley, is decorated for the holiday season to reflect the taste and style of Louise du Pont Crowninshield, great granddaughter of Eleuthere Irenee du Pont and sister of Henry Francis du Pont, who lived in the house from 1925 to 1958. Yuletide is special at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate, Henry Francis du Pont’s fabulous 175-room mansion, which houses the world’s most extensive collection of American antiquities and exquisitely decorated for the holidays.

Brandywine River Museum celebrates the holiday season with A Brandywine Christmas (610-388-2700,www.brandywinemuseum.org.).

Two million lights grace the 54-acre landscape of the Opryland Resort Hotel, Nashville (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

The Hotel du Pont, in Wilmington, Delaware, puts you in the heart of the historic Brandywine region, so connected to the fascinating du Pont family, dating back to the Jefferson era. A Wilmington landmark since 1913, the Hotel du Pont, was envisioned by Pierre du Pont to rival the best European hotels. It is a Gilded Age masterpiece, with carved woodwork, gilded ceilings and intricate marble and mosaic floors, original paintings including three generations of Wyeths. Broadway-style shows are presented at the 1,250-seat du Pont Theatre, located within the property (that dates from 1913). The grand hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America, offers 217 spacious rooms, valet parking, and fitness club. Its historic Green Room restaurant serving French cuisine, is an attraction in itself. Among the packages available is the Estate Package that includes deluxe overnight accommodations, complimentary valet parking and a $135 dining certificate are packaged with tickets to Longwood Gardens and Winterthur, An American Country Estate (Hotel du Pont, 11th and Market Streets, Wilmington, Delaware 19801, 800-441-9019, 302-594-3100, www.hoteldupont.com.

For more information about visiting Wilmington and the Brandywine, www.visitwilmingtonde.com/ and the Brandywine Valley Guide, www.thebrandywine.com.

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG

At Colonial Williamsburg, a town-sized living history museum, windows in more than 100 exhibition buildings, trade shops, private homes and other Historic Area buildings are lit with more than 1,200 electric or battery-operated candles.

For more than 60 years, Colonial Williamsburg has re-created the Christmas holidays in the 18th century spirit of family and friends. Travel back in time, to the eve of the American Revolution, to explore the homes and exhibition buildings of Virginia’s 18th-century capital, become caught up in the concerns of the men and women of this lively town as they prepare to celebrate this magnificent season and discuss the political climate.

Colonial Williamsburg’s outdoor Christmas decorations are known worldwide for their use of natural materials available during the 18th century. These typically include pine and boxwood wreaths decorated with fresh pineapples, apples, oranges, pomegranates, nuts, pinecones, holly and other materials.

Colonial Williamsburg’s floral staff decorates the exteriors and interiors of exhibition buildings and shops. They produce several dozen elaborate door wreaths and plaques that are checked daily for maintenance. More than 2,550 white pine and Fraser fir wreaths and more than three miles of white pine roping are used to put the finishing touches on doorways, windows, columns and railings. Historic Area residents decorate their homes and a contest is held each year to determine the most imaginative or original decorations.

Guests visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area during the Christmas season hoping to learn more of what the holidays were like in the 18th century.

The Radio City Rockettes, whether in New York City or at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville make the season spectacular (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

Complete the magical experience by staying at the historic Williamsburg Inn, adjacent to the historic area and built in neoclassic style in 1937 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.; it affords 62 rooms and suites, indoor pool and spa. Or, become immersed in the experience by staying in one of the Colonial Houses, scattered throughout Colonial Williamsburg’s taverns and shops, furnished with period reproductions; guest rooms overlook courtyards, gardens and Duke of Gloucester Street.

The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg is open to guests of the resort and to day visitors. The full-service spa exudes Southern charm, harmonizes with its historical surroundings and reflects the personality of its colonial heritage. Extensive research into treatments dating to Native Americans, English settlers, African Americans and immigrants from near and far influenced 21st-century treatments designed to soothe, refresh and calm.

Colonial Williamsburg is open 365 days of the year, so is open for Christmas Day.

Colonial Williamsburg also operates the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg that includes the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. The Wallace Museum displays the Foundation’s exceptional collection of British and American decorative arts, the Folk Art Museum, which recently opened with 11 new exhibitions, and Bassett Hall, the Williamsburg home of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Established in 1926, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64.

For additional information and reservations or to request a free copy of Colonial Williamsburg’s 2007 Holiday Planner highlighting unique holiday programs, concerts and special dining events, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at www.ColonialWilliamsburg.com.

CAPE MAY, NJ

Victorian Cape May is transformed into an old-fashioned winter wonderland for the holidays. The Christmas spirit fills the city as Victorian homes, hotels, churches and inns decorate for the season with twinkling lights, boughs of holly and a wreath at every door. Cape May’s celebrates the holiday season with six weeks of special programming through Jan. 3, 2010.

Cape May’s Holiday Season: Special holiday tours and events including Lamplighter Christmas Tours, Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides, Emlen Physick Estate Christmas Tours, Holiday Inns Tours, Evening Holiday Lights Trolley Rides, Evening Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides, Santa’s Trolley Rides, and more. Sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC). For more information or to make reservations, call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit www.capemaymac.org.

Eric comes under the spell of the unique and spectacular “Ice: A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Opryland Resort, Nashville (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit: An exhibit of holiday traditions through the years complete with a Dickens Village collection, model trains, trees, toys and much more! At the Carriage House Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., Cape May, Friday, Nov. 20 through Sunday, Jan. 3. The Gallery is open daily; hours vary. $2 for adults and $1 for children (ages 3-12) or free with any tour of the Emlen Physick Estate. Sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC).

Cape May’s oldest running and most beloved holiday tour, the 36th Annual Christmas Candlelight House Tours, will take place on Saturdays, Dec. 5, 12 and 19. Each night from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., tour at least 15 Victorian homes, churches, inns and hotels that have been decked out for the Christmas season. Good old-fashioned cheer, Christmas caroling, strolling musicians, warm candlelight and Christmas trees are sure to get you in the holiday spirit. Hospitality centers offer hot beverages of the season and home-baked goodies. Admission is $25 for adults and $20 for children (ages 3-12) and includes entry to the authentically decorated 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., and to “An Old-fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions through the Years” exhibit in the Carriage House Gallery located on the grounds of the Estate, as well as continuous shuttle service on heated trolleys.

For more information on Cape May’s Christmas Tours and Events, call the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC) at 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278, or visit MAC’s Web site at www.capemaymac.org.

Cape May is more than the charm of Victoriania. Enjoy walking on the beach, even in winter, with sunsets to rival Key West, Florida, and explore the Lighthouse and the marshes.

The delight here is to stay at one of the charming bed-and-breakfasts in one of the largest Victorian historic districts, anywhere. Several, like Carol Villa Hotel, Clivedon Inn, Inn at the Park, are family-friendly. For information about restaurants, accommodations and shopping, call the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at 609-884-5508, www.capemaychamber.com.

HOTEL DEL CORONADO, SAN DIEGO

With its iconic red turrets piercing the taut horizontal lines of an azure California skyline, the Hotel del Coronado radiates a gracious Victorian splendor that is without equal.

 

The Hotel del Coronado has been celebrating the holidays in grand tradition since 1888. Famous for its elegant beachside surroundings and lavish service (and for the famous comedy, “Some Like it Hot”), The Del, located at Coronado just outside San Diego, California, is also known for its festive holiday traditions. It was here in 1904, that America was favored with the first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree, setting the stage for a century of holiday enchantment.

Built in 1888, this classic beachfront respite has long been heralded as one of America’s most beautiful beach resorts. A pronouncement underscored by its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Today, The Del offers guests a unique combination of modern luxury touched with the charm and grace of this fairytale castle.

This year’s holiday theme is “Merry & Bright,” and the resort will be decked from head to toe with cheerful holiday décor. Add 100,000 glittering lights illuminating the resort and a spectacular oceanfront ice skating rink, and the Hotel del Coronado will truly be Southern California’s holiday wonderland.

With its iconic red turrets piercing the taut horizontal lines of an azure California skyline, the Hotel del Coronado radiates a gracious Victorian splendor that is without equal.

The Hotel del Coronado is celebrating the fifth anniversary of Skating by the Sea, a unique Southern California experience – outdoor ice-skating overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The oceanfront Windsor Lawn will be transformed into a spectacular ice rink with skating sessions offered daily through Jan. 3. (A portion of the skating proceeds will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of San Diego.)

The Del is presenting the annual production An American Christmas, performed by the award-winning Lamb’s Players Theatre, December 13-27 in the Ballroom (excludes Christmas Day). The Marshall family – played by 30 versatile performers who never miss a beat – welcome you to an interactive lavish feast and celebration set in the year 1909. Beginning with hors d’oeuvres, the Marshalls entertain their guests with stories, songs, dance and laughter, all woven around a sumptuous four-course yuletide dinner prepared by The Del’s master chefs. San Diego Magazine calls An American Christmas “a perfect melding of food, ambience and showmanship.” For information and tickets, contact the Lamb’s Players Box Office at 619-437-0600.

As a special treat for tea lovers, or those who just want to relax and enjoy holiday piano entertainment, The Del serves Victorian Tea throughout the holidays. Ladies and gentlemen, mothers and daughters and good friends will love this charming tradition. Cost is $40 for adults, $20 for children ages 6-10 and free for kids 5 and under. Available on weekends starting Thanksgiving weekend, with extended days closer to Christmas. Call for dates and times.

During the holiday season at The Del, guests of all ages enjoy a variety of activities including guided evening “sleigh” rides through festive Coronado Island, cookie decorating, crafts for kids, and the brand-new Kidtopia Camp with holiday scavenger hunts and family s’mores roasts. Little ones will love the “Elf Tuck-Ins” where they are visited by real elves at bedtime. Teens can hang out at the new Vibz teen lounge, featuring billiards, video games, movie-time media and more (strictly for those ages 13-17).

Spa at The Del offers fabulous ocean-inspired treatments, steam rooms, Jacuzzis and a spectacular outdoor terrace and vanishing edge pool overlooking the Pacific, there’s truly something for everyone. The adjacent Yamaguchi Salon offers Feng Shui hair, nail and make-up services.

The Hotel del Coronado offers special dining for the holidays and closes out the year with a bang with exciting New Year’s Eve Galas. The Ballroom features a lavish dinner, champagne toast and dancing. 1500 OCEAN in the perfect energetic nightspot to ring in 2008. Special parties are available for kids and teens. And, January 1st is kicked-off right with the annual New Year’s Day champagne brunch in the Crown Room.

For more information, Holiday Escape, Family Holiday and Beach Village Family package deals, call 800 468 3533, 619-435-6611 or visit www.hoteldel.comwww.hoteldel.com/holidays.

OPRYLAND’S ‘A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS’

In New York City, enjoy the bustle and lights of the Great White Way (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

Imagine you wanted to give your children and grandchildren the gift of the most magical, the most memorable Christmas. Would it have a fantastical display of scenes of Charlie Brown’s Christmas, with characters bigger than life, carved out of 2 million pounds of colored ice? Would it have the Radio City Rockettes performing their most famous routines, like the Wooden Soldiers? Would it have millions of glittering lights, dancing colored fountains, a showboat that glides along a river resounding with country music? Would it have a famous Country music star performing inspirational holiday songs? And would it all happen in a wonderland almost too incredible to be believed?

All that is Gaylord Opryland, Nashville’s “A Country Christmas at Opryland,” a holiday festival now in its 26th year at the Nashville resort hotel, where your jaw-dropping experience starts the moment you cross the threshold and find yourself in a fantastical “city” under glass with lush gardens, cascading waterfalls, a river, and at Christmas time, tens of thousands of lights, thousands of poinsettias, dozens of decorated trees, hot air “balloons”, four nativity scenes, and the holiday spirit everywhere.

It is no wonder that families have made “A Country Christmas” an annual tradition, returning year after year.

Within the resort and just a short walk outside, there are a dozen holiday attractions, one more spectacular than the next.

The two stand-out highlights are “Ice! Featuring “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Charles Schulz, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the world-famous Rockettes, performed at the great stage of the Grand Ole Opry House.

But there is more, so much more to “A Country Christmas.”

Breakfast with Charlie Brown is available Saturdays and Sundays during A Country Christmas from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (Breakfast is $14.95 for kids 3-11 and $24.95 for adults. Reservations are strongly suggested and can be made by calling 1-888-999-6779); “A Country Christmas on the Cumberland,” presented nightly aboard the General Jackson Showboat, where you can see a special Christmas show and enjoy a finely served three-course dinner as the Victorian-style boat – the largest non-gaming paddlewheeler in North America, glides down the Cumberland into downtown Nashville and then returns; Louise Mandrell’s ‘Joy to the World’ Christmas and Dinner Show® presented in an Opryland ballroom; Gaylord Opryland’s Rock-A-Billy Christmas is a fun and colorful free show, with all of the rockin’ classic Christmas tunes of the 1950′s performed by the live band Hillbilly Casino, dancing girls, plus floating icebergs and Santa’s lost sleigh.

Each night in the Delta Atrium, there is The Brightest Star Fountain Show, a free water show synchronized with colors and holiday music presented nightly in Opryland’s Delta Atrium; A Country Christmas Delta River Cruises take visitors on a 15-minute scenic river cruise on a Mississippi-style river flatboat, on the indoor river in the Delta Atrium.

A Winter Wonderland is a whole area in the convention center part of Opryland devoted to holiday activities. Treasures for the Holidays is a craft show of hand-made and novelty gifts; Hall of Trees is a display of decorated trees, each benefiting charities in and around Middle Tennessee. A highlight within the Winter Wonderland is the Gingerbread Corner, a lovely activity where you can decorate miniature gingerbread house ornaments or gingerbread men ($35 for a kit).

Opryland’s Christmas is infused with spirituality. There is no pretense at a non-denominational, American heritage-style Christmas. The Gaylord Opryland Country Christmas is a manifest expression of faith and devotion.

Opryland is also about 20 minutes from downtown Nashville, Music City itself, with abundant attractions like the Honky Tonk music places (Gaylord has its own Wildhorse Saloon, a fun place where you can take part in line dancing; be sure to try the “fried pickles”); the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium (the “mother church of Country Music” now owned and operated as a performance venue and museum by Gaylord, where the weekly Grand Ole Opry show is performed during the winter season), and so much more.

Tickets to many of the major Gaylord “A Country Christmas” attractions (including Ice and Radio City Christmas Spectacular are included in “A Country Christmas Package,” starting at $339 for a two-night stay at Gaylord Opryland Resort (a fantasy come true). Call 888-OPRY-872, 888-999-OPRY (6779), or visitwww.ChristmasAtGaylordOpryland.com.

A walk in New York’s Central Park in the snow is magical (© 2009 Karen Rubin).

Nashville, Tennessee, known as “Music City,” is rich in historical and cultural attractions: Belle Meade, the Hermitage (home of President Andrew Jackson), Cheekwood Art Museum and Gardens, the Frist Center for Visual Arts, the Nashville Zoo, Adventure Science Center which has a new Sudekum Planetarium (800-657-6910, www.visitmusiccity.com)

HISTORIC HOTELS OF AMERICA

It’s not a surprise that many of our favorite places to spend the holidays involve Historic Hotels of America members. These hotels usually have deep connections to their communities, they are literally part of the history and the story engrained in the heritage.

Historic Hotels of America (www.historichotels.com) is now part of Preferred Hotels, and that company is offering a wonderful deal during the holiday season: book two nights at one of over 180 participating hotels and resorts and your third night is free.

Even better, each booking will automatically enter you for a chance to win a free three-night stay at one of over 30 U.S. and international hotels. Three winners will be chosen every week through December 31. Reserve through your travel agent or go to www.preferredhotels.com.

Tuesday, 8 December, 2009

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© 2009 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit us online at www.travelwritersmagazine.com and at www.familytravelnetwork.com. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com.

This entry was posted in U.S. Travel by Travel Features Syndicate. Bookmark the permalink.

About Travel Features Syndicate

Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including examiner.com, Huffington Post and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate and blogs at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at FamTravLtr@aol.com. 'Like' us at www.facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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