Looking for more than just a Christmas tree in the lobby in your holiday hotel stay? Parents wishing to impress their children over the holidays need look no further than these 10 hotels. From Maine to Montana and Mexico to France, these resorts and hotels offer some of the most extraordinary perks and activities for kids of all ages. Think personal Santa Clauses, dog sledding, horse-drawn carriage rides through the streets of Paris, and getting tucked in by an elf. Create family memories sure to last a lifetime with our picks for the 10 most exceptional holiday resort offerings for kids.—Devorah Lev-Tov
WHERE: Sea Island, Georgia
A five-star resort on a privately-owned island off the coast of Georgia, Sea Island is home to four unique accommodations: the legendary Cloister, the English manor–style Lodge, hunting lodge Broadfield, and the Cottages, which range from one- to eight-bedroom homes. Special for the holidays, the island’s Beach Club is transforming into Alice in Wonderland, complete with life-size Alice in Wonderland–themed holiday displays and appearances by Alice herself. Activities include a special Mad Hatter Tea Party and Alice-themed cooking and craft classes, where kids can make special ornaments, build Wonderland gingerbread houses, and listen to special book readings.
Insider Tip: For a more affordable vacation, stay at the Inn at Sea Island, located on neighboring St. Simons Island. You can still access Sea Island and its clubs and dining for a fraction of the price.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Coastal Isles and Okefenokee Guide
WHERE: Rancho Palos Verdes, California
If you’re looking for a break from the cold weather, spending Christmas at Terranea, a cliffside resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is an easy getaway (it’s just 30 minutes from LAX). You’ll be greeted by carolers in the lobby when you check in on Friday, December 23, and a 6-foot Christmas tree ready to be decorated awaits behind your door (ornaments included!). You can can arrange for your little ones to be tucked in by a visiting elf that night and then head to Santa’s Workshop in the morning for cookie decorating, wreath making, and other Christmas crafts. You’ll enjoy hot and fresh pastries delivered to your door on Christmas morning and a s’mores kit to use by the fireplace.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Guide
WHERE: Greenough, Montana
Feel at home in your very own luxury cabin at the Resort at Paws Up. Winter activities for kids include tubing, luge-style sledding, horseback riding, dog sledding, snowmobiling, snowman and snow fort building, ice-skating, and ice hockey. The resort’s Christmas package includes a personal Santa for each family, a decorated tree, horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides, a gingerbread house-building contest, and a special Christmas Eve party just for kids.
Insider Tip: Enjoy the extensive game on offer at the resort’s restaurants—after all, you’re in hunting country.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Missoula, Kalispell, and Northwest Montana Guide
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
WHERE: London, England
For a city getaway, enjoy the holidays in the heart of swinging London at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. From now through December 31, the luxury hotel built in 1880 is celebrating everyone’s favorite British bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, with the Pooh Bear package in honor of Pooh’s 90th anniversary. The package includes a Winnie-the-Pooh 30-book box set and stuffed animal and a special Pooh Bear afternoon tea, featuring honey-based treats and children’s hats inspired by the Winnie-the-Pooh characters and designed by couture milliner Emily Baxendale.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Guide
Cliff House Maine
WHERE: Ogunquit, Maine
A luxury hotel perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the recently renovated Cliff House is a magical coastal New England hideout that’s open year-round for the first time in its 144-year history. While gazing out at the icy Atlantic may seem counterintuitive on Christmas, you’ll feel extra cozy as you watch the crashing waves from in front of your fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate. Kids will love being tucked in by a candy-toting elf who reads them a bedtime story and they’ll keep busy during the day with cookie decorating and gingerbread house making. Christmas morning brings a brunch buffet with Santa. And parents will love the excuse to try out the hotel’s new spa, perhaps after a day of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the property’s 44 acres.
Insider Tip: Now’s your chance to visit a New England lobster shack in winter—the hotel’s Nubb’s Lobster Shack is open all year.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Ogunquit Guide
Melia Nassau Beach
WHERE: Nassau, Bahamas
Everything you need, including the beautiful Cable Beach, is at your fingertips at Meliá Nassau Beach. With water sports like snorkeling and kayaking, as well as a Kids’ Club offering daily activities for children ages 5 to 12, families are sure to be entertained. Special for the holidays, activities like a Rudolph mini disco; a Mrs. Claus Pajama Party with dinner, story time, and a candy stocking trail; Bahamian ornament crafting; and Santa’s arrival in a horse and carriage on Christmas morning all promise to make your family’s Christmas one to remember.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New Providence and Paradise Islands Guide
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita
WHERE: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Revel in white sand beaches and turquoise water at Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita. Older kids will appreciate basketball and volleyball courts as well as activities like tie-dyeing and traditional Mexican crafts like ceramic painting and lizard beads, while special amenities and babysitting are available for younger children. Just in time for the holidays, families will witness a Santa skydive, where Santa and his elves will descend on Las Cuevas Beach with piñatas and seasonal treats and gifts.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Puerto Vallerta Guide
WHERE: Santa Cruz, California
Visit sunny California for the holidays and stay at the eco-conscious Hotel Paradox in “Surf City.” Mom can stay in shape with poolside yoga, dad can rent an electric bike, and the whole family will enjoy the heated outdoor pool. Special for the holidays, the hotel is offering a Polar Express package that includes tickets on the Polar Express train on the Santa Cruz Railroad, a keepsake “I Believe” bell, cookies and milk after check-in, and Christmas caroling.
Insider Tip: The family dog can be part of the holidays here as well, with dog-friendly accommodations available that include organic treats from a local bakery and an oversized pet pillow.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Monterey Bay Area Guide
L’Apogée Courchevel and Hotel Le Bristol Paris
WHERE: Courchevel and Paris, France
This might be the most luxurious family Christmas package ever. It combines three nights at L’Apogée Courchevel resort in the French Alps with four nights at Hotel Le Bristol in Paris, both part of the Oetker Collection. In partnership with family travel agency Family Twist, this package is filled with special experiences. In the Alps, kids will enjoy Husky sledding and ski lessons with a ski champion, and then the whole family can head to Paris via helicopter and private jet. Once there, families will recreate an adapted script of the movie Midnight in Paris, which Woody Allen filmed at Le Bristol, to create a lasting memory on film. That evening, a vintage car will take families to the Museum of Fairground Arts, closed to the public, for a magical dinner with live musicians and merry-go-rounds. The next day includes a search for Santa and a horse-drawn carriage ride. On Christmas Eve, families will go on a tour of Montmarte with costumed actors and fortune tellers, sit for a portrait session with a local artist, have a private patisserie class, and enjoy dinner at the hotel’s three-Michelen star restaurant, Epicure. A private chauffeur and guide are at guests’ disposal on Christmas Day.
Insider Tip: Someone in the family not a skier? L’Apogée Courchevel has plenty of other winter activities like a snowshoe safari, sledding, or ice climbing.
Omni Mount Washington
WHERE: Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
A historic and grand ski resort, Omni Mount Washington Resort has hosted presidents, poets, and other celebrities. Winter brings family-friendly activities like downhill and cross-country skiing, flying across the longest zip line in New England (yes, it’s open year-round!), ice-skating, a snowmobile park just for kids, sleigh rides, and tubing. Kids age 4 to 12 are greeted with a complimentary Omni Kids backpack and milk and cookies and young girls can book a special “pedicake” pedicure (with a special fizzy bath tablet) while boys have the Pirate Package. Every day during Christmas break, there is a special Kids Aprés Ski Party with clowns, storytellers, and musicians. Also during the holiday, families can take a wagon ride to nearby Rocks Estate and choose their own Christmas tree to be cut down and put in their room to decorate.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s White Mountains Guide