December adventures don’t just have to be all tinsel and tree lightings — research suggests we may even need a break from unwrapping gifts. As it turns out, when compared to tangible presents, experiences actually have a longer-lasting impact on our happiness. So as the holidays approach, we’ve picked out five unbeatable destinations that can make the month shine and your memories last long after the new year.
As if relaxing beachside at Maui’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property weren’t enough, from December 5 through 7, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea will host its third annual Vintage Wine Weekend, where you can enjoy peaceful stretches of the Wailea coast and sip wines from some of the world’s most exclusive vintners. Choose from an array of festivities over the long weekend: Friday’s Oceanfront Gala will feature more than 40 esteemed labels (Brewer-Clifton, Patz & Hall), a performance from legendary slack key guitarist Makana and a menu from Four Seasons’ master executive chef Roger Stettler. Saturday’s Private Wine Cellar Tour will pit vintners, guest sommeliers and hotel patrons in a tasting competition, and the person who brings the bottle voted best will win a three-night stay and $500 on his next visit at the resort. When you’re not enjoying vino, dive into the adults-only Serenity Pool or take a drive to Haleakalā National Park, the world’s largest dormant volcano.
Thanks to polar-vortex-sparked conditions, Colorado ski season is predicted to be spectacular this year. Of course, that makes Four-Star Hotel Jerome’s deal for early birds who book three nights or more through December 19 all the sweeter. In addition to the resort’s newly renovated interior and breathtaking mountain views, this package includes daily breakfast and lift tickets for two. If you’d rather pass on black diamond hills, the resort offers an array of other snowbound adventures, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing and even twilight dog sledding led by an experienced musher and his team of huskies. No matter which you choose, make sure to relax in the evening at the hotel’s iconic J-bar, where locals and visitors alike nosh on duck chili and sip on Mile High Clubs (gin, St. Germain, vanilla syrup, mint, lemon juice, prosecco) après-ski.
Pittsboro, North Carolina
Located along idyllic green acreage near Raleigh, North Carolina, the Five-Star Fearrington House Inn pairs the comforts of luxury amenities with the peace of farmstead life. On December 4, join Fearrington’s wine director, Maximilian Kast, to explore the new tastes of old Bordeaux — including red, white and sweet wines, paired with a delectable cheese plate. The following weekend (Dec. 6-7), Magaschoni, a luxury cashmere-focused fashion brand, will visit the property and display its newest collection, giving you the rare opportunity to order from its extensive library of custom garments. Later in the month, on December 13, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg will stop by McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village to discuss his new work of nonfiction, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, provide an inside look into his process and tell stories the rock ’n’ roll legend shared with him over the course of two years together.
On December 14, 1773, the Sons of Liberty staged a dramatic political protest, dumping an entire shipment of tea into the Boston Harbor in response to the oppressive British Tea Act. This year, on the anniversary of that monumental event that later sparked the American Revolution, Four-Star restaurant L’Espalier will host a dinner to remember with tea sommelier Cynthia Gold and the founding editor of Tea magazine, Pearl Dexter. Not only will you partake in a five-course dinner (Nantucket Bay scallop chowder, West Coast king salmon) and have tea cocktails, but you will also try the very teas that were destroyed in the harbor more than 200 years ago. With that history in mind, don’t forget to walk Boston’s Freedom Trail, visit Old North — the church where Paul Revere warned his compatriots of the British advance — or simply enjoy the liberties they fought to win by strolling with a cup of chamomile through the posh Back Bay neighborhood.
While most people wait until the New Year has passed to get started on their fitness goals, Four-Star The Breakers’ December-opening, 6,000-square-foot health center is making it easier than ever to burn off holiday calories. Book a session with an onsite personal trainer, go for a long treadmill jog on the 1,700-square-foot oceanfront terrace or take part in one of 45 rotating weekly classes (including cycling, Pilates, Zumba and ballet barre). When your workout is complete, a sports massage at the Four-Star spa can loosen muscle tissue, help you tone and relieve any built-up lactic acid. But if you’re on a strict calorie-counting diet, stay clear of The Seafood Bar because the yellowtail snapper (drizzled in a citrus, corn and mushroom sauté) is impossible to resist.