Lapland, Finland. Winter midday on the Arctic Circle
© Michele Vacchiano/iStock/Thinkstock

13 Festive Places to Spend the Holidays

September 1, 2018

The holidays wouldn’t be the same without the traditions you are accustomed to. But it could be argued that some destinations around the world do them better than you ever could at home. Many hotels and resorts will tailor an unforgettable Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year's specifically for the needs of you and your family. Here are 13 places we recommend for a festive getaway.


Rent one of the 28 vacation homes set on the 37,000-acre Resort at Paws Up, which has a full program of special events for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus comes to each home to deliver gifts and stockings, and each home also has a Christmas tree that you can either decorate yourself or have pre-decorated. Take a sleigh ride through the forest or go ice skating on the rink — use of the rink and rental skates are complimentary.

Winter sleigh ride Photo courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up

Travel tip: Christmas sells out every year. Book as early as possible.

Sydney, Australia

Spend New Year’s in Sydney, enjoying the fireworks over the harbor and the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Harbor Bridge & Opera House Hai Linh Truong/flickr

Travel tip: Get a front-row seat to all the festivities at the Park Hyatt Sydney. In years past, guests have gotten a special New Year's Eve dinner, access to the boardwalk and a rooftop cocktail party.


As soon as Thanksgiving is over, Blackberry Farm gets to work trimming trees and stringing lights. This country house hotel, set on 9,200 acres of rolling foothills in the Smoky Mountains, offers plenty of family-friendly and kid-friendly activities during the holiday season, from a gingerbread house workshop and cookie-decorating events to family game time and visits from Santa.

Christmas at Blackberry Farm Photo courtesy of Blackberry Farm © Beall + Thomas Photography

Travel tip: Blackberry Farm only requires a three-night stay, which is perfect for a brief Christmas getaway.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

New Year’s is summer in Brazil and the city puts on one of the largest fireworks displays in the Southern Hemisphere over Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. It’s traditional in Brazil to dress in all white clothes to represent the beginning the New Year with a clean slate.

Botafogo and Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro Getty Images/iStockphoto

Travel tip: Pack your best whites and stay at Belmond Copacabana Palace or Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro.


A favorite place for Christmastime is in Germany visiting the Christmas Markets. Nürnberg’s Christkindlesmarkt is the largest, while Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is the oldest (dating from 1434). Besides lights, you’ll find handmade ornaments, local crafts and indulgent holiday treats at these festive outdoor markets.

Travel tip: Start your visit in Heidelberg for a few days, then go to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, visit Nürnberg and then end in Munich. Or follow this three-country Christmas Market itinerary, taking you through Dresden, Prague and Vienna.

Bath, England

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, a distinguished 18th-century manor house hotel in Bath, has a lovely Christmas and New Year’s program, making it a very festive and lovely Victorian holiday reminiscent of Downton Abbey.

Ducks on pond in Bath, England © Toby Parkes/flickr

Travel tip: The property has wonderful restaurants, a cooking school, spa, equestrian center and more. Even very particular clients report that Lucknam is superb.


Finland’s pristine landscape, flocked and shimmering with snow, will instantly transport you into the Christmas spirit. Go ice-fishing, snowshoeing or on a husky safari by day and spend evenings at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, watching the aurora borealis flicker overhead as you drift off to sleep in a glass igloo. For those with kids (or those wanting to relive their childhood dreams), visit Santa Claus’ red chalet home, located just five minutes from the resort.

Santa's Home at Kakslauttanen © Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Travel tip: Start your trip in Helsinki, Finland, where we recommend the Hotel Kämp or Oslo, Norway, where we recommend the Hotel Continental. Keep in mind that winter is (obviously) the chilliest time to be in Lapland, so make sure you pack durable, warm winter gear that can withstand the elements. It is worth the effort, as the freezing temps coincide with the best time to experience the Northern Lights and activities like dogsledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The Serengeti

There is no more exciting — or perfect — way to spend Christmas than staying at Singita, a place whose name means “place of miracles.” And Africa is a wonderful place to spend the holidays experiencing the warmth and generosity of spirit. It’s also a great time to witness the Great Migration in the southern Serengeti and see all the baby animals being born!

Exterior of Sasakwa Lodge Photo courtesy of Singita Sasakwa Lodge

Travel tip: Stay at the luxurious Singita Sasakwa, set on a hilltop overlooking the Serengeti plains. Just be sure to book early! The holidays fill up fast, especially for the best safari camps.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley at Christmas is as charming as the village under your Christmas tree, and it has no shortage of holiday traditions. Along with skiing, there are numerous family activities, from sleigh rides and ice skating to mountainside dining and torchlight parading on Christmas Eve.

Sun Valley around Christmas © LifeDesign HQ/flickr

Travel tip: Stay at the Sun Valley Lodge of course. Due to snowstorms, try to plan flights at least a day before or day after the time you actually want to leave and/or arrive. Sun Valley/Ketchum is remote!


Enjoy wood-burning fireplaces, hot apple cider, Champagne breakfasts and traditional holiday dinners at Sheen Falls Lodge, a lavish manor set on 300 acres above Sheen Falls and Kenmare Bay.

Exterior of Sheen Falls Lodge Photo courtesy of Sheen Falls Lodge

Travel tip: Two-night or three-night options are available. Or spend five lovely nights in one of Sheen Falls’ charming thatched-roof cottages.

Southern California

If you want to avoid a winter wonderland, Southern California is warm during the holidays. But being that it’s still the holidays, Pelican Hill will handle all the decorating for you. Simply select from a menu of holiday décor and they put up a tree, dress the mantel or deck out your entire villa or bungalow.

Newport Beach, Crystal Cove Photo courtesy of The Resort at Pelican Hill

Travel tip: For families with kids, Disney, Knott’s Berry Farm and Hollywood are not too far.


London is a wonderful city in which to spend Christmas with children. The elegant 69-room Goring will set up a Christmas tree in your suite and the concierge can help you choose Christmas events that would appeal to your children.

Christmas at The Goring © Telegraph Media Group

Travel tip: Get the best of both worlds by having Christmas in the country at Cotswolds’ Slaughters Manor House and extending your stay in the city with a side trip to London.


Spend your holiday in the Spanish colonial town of Antigua, and stay at Posada Del Angel, an intimate seven-room colonial casano on a quiet cobblestone street. Instead of getting a tree and taking all your gifts overseas, draw names and give everyone a set amount in local currency. Then use that money to shop the local markets for a gift for the person whose name you drew. You can make it simple but festive by having a wonderful meal and exchanging gifts. Spend Christmas morning zip-lining through Finca after all your gifts have been exchanged.

Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua, Guatemala Hvalur/iStock/Thinkstock

Travel tip: Guatemala is not for everyone, but the more intrepid Hideaway Report traveler interested in visiting should check travel warnings via the State Department.

To book your holiday vacation, contact the Andrew Harper Travel office at (800) 375-4685 or [email protected].

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