Andy Williams, the great singer (and a number of other great singers, in their times), said it best. This truly is the Hap-Happiest Time of the Year! Christmas is a time for friends, family...and the friends who are more like family. It's a time of warmth on the hearth and warmth in our hearts (if not always outside!). It's the time of year when we realize what's truly important, and when we take some time to slow down, catch our collective breath, and be thankful for our blessings. And here are my five great 2018 Christmas getaways at which to do it in...
#5 - PERDIDO BEACH RESORT, ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA - Santa trades his sleigh and reindeer for a lighted boat parade and tons of fun, colorful events - outdoors! - along Alabama's Gulf Coast this winter. You won't see snow in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but you will see miles of pristine white-sand beaches. Kids will love the ice-skating at the rink, and adults can enjoy a romantic horse-and-carriage ride along the beach. On the Alabama Gulf Coast, the Christmas fun starts in early-December, and builds and builds until Dec. 25 - and after! Perdido Beach Resort is situated on a wonderful island oasis, right on the Gulf of Mexico. Each of the luxurious guest rooms has its own private balcony, and there are multiple restaurants where you can eat or imbibe, an indoor-outdoor pool and a fitness center where you can work off the calories you gained from eating and imbibing, and hot tubs where you can literally soak away all your cares (if you've still got any cares after arriving at this beautiful stretch of beach). This won't be a white-snow Christmas. But it will be a white-sand Christmas. And once you stick your toes into this sand during the last week of the year, you may want to spend every Christmas here.
#4 - VICTORIAN MANSION-MAIN HOUSE, FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS - Fredericksburg, in the heart of the beautiful Texas Hill Country, was settled by German emigrants in the mid-1800's. And it looks it. The town is filled with quaint little shops and bakeries (you won't be able to resist the aromas), restaurants serving schnitzel and strudel, and tiny little "Sunday Houses" from the early days, when families came to town on Sunday to go to church. German traditions, timeless holiday décor, and festive holiday entertainment make this town special at Christmas time. There's a 30-foot Christmas tree and 26-foot German Christmas pyramid at Marktplatz (Market Square), shopping along Main Street, or enjoying the holiday wine trail, or watching the beautifully illuminated "Light the Night" Christmas Parade, Fredericksburg is the ideal holiday getaway. It's fitting that this town also has a beautiful place to stay right on Main Street...in a gracious old homestead of a German family in the early-20th Century. The Victorian Mansion-Main House is indeed Victorian, from the décor to the lighting fixtures to the bedding to and to the luxury. Guests receive vouchers for breakfast in town. This classic Old-Time home is warm and intimate, and glows with a special warmth at Christmas time.
#3 - HONOR MANSION, HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA - Northern California's Sonoma Wine Country takes on a special glow at Christmas time, adding to its one-of-a-kind status. Here, with a nice nip in the air, people congregate on beautiful village streets made for walking, lined with unique shops and eateries and bookstores and galleries. In villages like Healdsburg, scattered amidst tranquil rolling hills and strands of forest and streams - and some of the most productive wineries in the world - the pace is slower, and people still say hello on the street. And this feeling is at its most beautiful at Christmas. Here, in a town filled with homey B& B's, one has won renown. The Honor Mansion is a historic Healdsburg bed and breakfast inn with 13 unique, luxurious rooms and cottages spread over a beautifully-landscaped four-acre property. . This winter, Honor Mansion will be offering a holiday brunch that includes a bit of both savory and sweet entrees, fruit, homemade scones, local sparkling wine or a handmade array of Mimosa selections. In addition to a gourmet breakfast every morning, guests are treated to wine and appetizers every evening. And Honor Mansion is also offering some special Christmas packages.
#2 - INN AND SPA AT LORETTO, SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - This authentic New Mexico inn has been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of their Readers' Choice Top 10 Hotels in the Southwest and West. And small wonder. The well-appointed guest rooms are in iconic adobe architecture drawing inspiration from the famed, thousand-year-old Taos Pueblo settlement. Ideally located in the heart of downtown, the Inn and Spa at Loretto is home to Santa Fe's only penthouse suite, the award-winning Nidah Spa, superb New Mexico cuisine served in a casual ambience, a year-round heated garden pool, and a number of on-site boutiques and galleries. The adjacent Loretto Chapel of Santa Fe features the "Miraculous Staircase" - an amazing piece of work - with no visible supports - built by an anonymous craftsman in the 1880's whom the nuns believed had been sent by St. Joseph. The Inn's proximity to the historic Santa Fe Plaza also allows visitors immediate access to world-class museums, boutiques, galleries, cuisine, and the Plaza square for unique performances, Indian art markets (the term "Indian" is still used in New Mexico...including by the Indians) and seasonal events. Winter finds the Plaza illuminated with festive lights, and the entire city immersed in the holiday spirit - which pairs perfectly with the special Christmas Eve/Day and New Year's Eve menus that award-winning Chef Sean Sinclair is preparing at Luminaria Restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Loretto.
And now, my No. 1 choice for this year's Christmas Getaway...
#1 - DEVIL'S THUMB RANCH RESORT & SPA, TABERNASH, COLORADO - Devil's Thumb Ranch - which gets its name from a striking geologic feature on a nearby mountain - was recently named by the readers of USA Today as the best cross-country ski resort in North America. In addition, it's recently won honors from The Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast Traveler, and Wine Spectator. And it's No. 1 with us, too. Just stand in front of the main lodge and take in the magnificent panorama spreading out before you; it will take your breath away. Take a stroll past the corral or the barn or the storage shed...and you'll see real cowboys working. Head up to where the horses are in pasture, and you'll come upon a beautiful bucolic scene. (Or mount a horse yourself and take a ride there.) Or, you can always strap on some skis and see just why the resort is No. 1 for cross-country skiing. Later on, maybe soak some of the post-workout kinks away at the Ranch Creek Spa, with breathtaking views of the Continental Divide. After an exciting day, there are two on-site restaurants serving sustainably-focused mountain ranch cuisine and an excellent selection of wines, plus Hallowed Grounds Coffee Shop. Later on, lay back in your Western-but-luxurious room with the finest of everything, and just relax. (But wake up early enough to see the most spectacular sunrise you've ever seen!) There's a special dinner on tap for Christmas Eve at Heck's Tavern here, with a Holiday Prime Rib Buffet. On Christmas Day, you can choose between a special buffet at Heck's or a four-course gourmet dinner at the Ranch House Restaurant. And there are a bunch of dining options for New Year's Eve, as well as a party in nearby Winter Park afterward.
If you have any favorite Christmas getaways, we'd love to hear about them!