December: the official month of over-the-top parties, luxe decorations and bountiful merriment. The country’s top luxury hotels are in a class by themselves, offering meals with America’s top chefs, bubbly by the glass, and reindeer games for the kids. From sunny oceanside beach resorts to snowy country inns, here are nine great places to spend the holidays:
The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel is synonymous with luxury, and this year Chicago gives that elegance a modern twist with its Not Your Aunt Sally’s Holiday Afternoon Tea, featuring traditional cucumber sandwiches and deviled eggs paired with its restaurant Allium’s take on tea: lobster cannoli, BLT push-ups and homemade Pop-Tarts. Special on Allium’s beverage menu for the month: Dom Pérignon Brut by the glass and Mexican hot chocolate (served with a shot of tequila).
Clifton Inn, Charlottesville, Va.
At this charming 100-acre property, The 12 Days of Christmas at Clifton are gastronomy-inspired, with a dozen special culinary events through December 24. But even if you can’t make it to the Charlottesville hotel before Wednesday, you’ll still find culinary cheer around the property thanks to a three-course meal on December 25 from award-winning chef Tucker Yoder that will feature such items as caramelized mushroom soup with braised short rib, herb-roasted rockfish with roasted fennel, and milk-poached Guinea hen.
Enjoy the holidays in New York City as only a local can with the Holiday Treasure Trove — your room decorated by a Trump Attaché with a five-foot-tall Christmas tree and custom stockings or a menorah, dreidel, and chocolate gelt. Book the penthouse suite at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel, and a full-sized tree will grace your space. SoHo offers some of New York’s best boutiques such as Mulberry and Stella McCartney, but avoid the crowds with Trump’s Shopping in Bed offer, which provides you with a personal shopper to execute your holiday shopping, along with having the gifts wrapped and delivered to your room.
Snow isn’t required to have a festive holiday. In addition to evenings of poolside live music and complimentary sparkling wine, the Four-Star Halekulani offers tropical snow cones (strawberry, banana, vanilla, or a blend of all three), limousine rides to the legendary Ala Moana Center for last-minute gift buying, and Santa’s Christmas Eve arrival on Waikiki Beach by outrigger canoe for a lavish guest reception and children’s party.
The Townsend Hotel, Birmingham, Mich.
This Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star boutique hotel lavishes trees and greens around its enormous stone fireplace and mural drenched sitting rooms for the holidays, and shows them off with a series of teas. Unleash your inner Downton Abbey with a refined daily tea served in the English tradition with loose Harney & Sons teas, finger sandwiches on tiered serving china, and orange-cranberry scones. For a full meal, the Townsend’s Forbes Travel Guide Recommended restaurant, the Rugby Grille, was recently renovated and serves a slew of tasty plates ideal for the winter season such as Scottish salmon with melted leeks, king crab risotto and watercress bouillon, as well as ravioli with butternut squash, pomegranate brown butter and kale sprouts.
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai, Calif.
Holiday shopping and frenzied commitments can stir the calmest soul, so Ojai Valley Inn & Spa has declared December the Serenity Season on its grounds, offering special activities for the whole family to bring guests back to center. Drop the kids at daylong Camp Oak to engage in scavenger hunts and celebrate global holiday traditions while the adults take art or tennis classes, taste tequila flights, and make New Year’s resolutions with the inn’s spiritual counselor. In the evening at the Four-Star hotel, relish a family horse-drawn carriage ride, menorah lighting, and elf cookie delivery.
Capella Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Capella Hotels & Resorts prides themselves on providing guests more than a hotel room; they provide an experience. Escape the chilly temperatures and head to sunny Cabo San Lucas for a festive getaway. Each reservation comes with a personal assistant, who calls before arrival to discuss your holiday preferences, then decorates your room to your specifications for the season. Full family Christmas dinner served in your room, with sommelier service? Done. And of course, Santa brings a gift for each child — he just arrives on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, Las Vegas
What’s a few more lights in Sin City? A lot, when it’s the incredible displays along the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel’s Grand Canal during its Winter in Venice festival (through January 5). Carolers serenade guests zipping around the ice skating rink or sipping hot chocolate on the cobblestone streets of the hotel’s recreated Venetian streets and Grand Canal, where the gondolas are all decked out for the holidays.
The Breakers Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Fla.
The Breakers Palm Beach means serious business when it comes time for the holidays. Scavenger hunts, nightly bonfires on the beach and brunch with Santa are December bonuses for this classic Italian-Renaissance Four-Star property. Partake in making a gingerbread house on December 24 or watch a movie under the stars on the front lawn on December 30. There’s no denying that traditional decorations and lighted poolside palm trees give this escape a tropical elegance. If you stick around post-Christmas, snag a ticket to The Breakers Fantasy Ball on New Year’s Eve — the bash inside the hotel’s Ponce de Leon Ballroom includes a cocktail reception, four-course dinner and midnight champagne toast.
Photos Courtesy of The Clifton Inn, Halekulani and The Townsend