Christmas fireworks at sunriver resort
Courtesy of Sunriver Resort

9 Hotels with Over-the-Top Holiday Experiences

During the holidays, plenty of hotels get into the festive spirit with seasonal touches like lights, Christmas trees and menorahs. But some take “deck the halls” to the next level. 

They’re setting up life-size gingerbread houses, expansive skating rinks and enticing light shows. You and your family may not be able to take a trip to Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, but these hotels offer the next best thing with immersive, magical winter experiences.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Scottsdale, Arizona

Christmas tree at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess

For over a decade, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has made itself a memorable place to celebrate the season with its six-week-long Christmas at the Princess festival. Your family may have a hard time deciding what to do with so many enticing attractions, including two 6,000-square-foot ice skating rinks, an ice maze, a 120-foot ice slide, and Twinkle Town—a kid-friendly area filled with glittering lights, fire pits, and rides. Make sure to watch the musical tree’s animated light show, which synchronizes 70,000 LED lights to holiday music. For another beautiful display, hop aboard the Princess Express train, which takes passengers on around the Lagoon Lights.

Gaylord Texan

Grapevine, Texas

Holidays at the Gaylord Texas

Christmas at Gaylord Texan is simply spectacular. For its iconic ICE! holiday tradition, artisans turn over two million pounds of ice into an immersive 17,000-square-foot attraction that includes ice slides and tunnels. This year, the theme is The Polar Express, and don’t worry about catching a chill—the hotel provides parkas for guests checking out the extravagant display. More ways to celebrate at the property include a snow tubing hill, light show, ice skating rink, Christmas carousel, and toy workshop.

The Little America

Flagstaff, Arizona

Santa at Little America Flagstaff Santa
Courtesy of North Pole Experience

Pretend you’re in Santa’s land with a stay at The Little America hotel in Flagstaff, which is marking a decade hosting the North Pole Experience. Starting at the trolley launch station on the property, you can embark on a family-friendly ride through the forest, which is decorated with over a million Christmas lights. Soon, you’ll be at Santa’s workshop where you can check out a toy hall of fame, snack on cookies, and meet Jolly St. Nick. For more time with the big man in red, you can even book breakfast with Santa.

Congress Hall

Cape May, New Jersey

Congress Hall Christmas

The oldest seaside resort in the country, Congress Hall is famous for celebrating the holidays in style. Highlights include taking a ride around the property on the Congress Hall Express, having a go on the carousel, and exploring the vendor village, where you can shop for gifts or grab some hot cocoa. During the weekends, your family can have breakfast with Santa and sit in on storytime with Mrs. Claus (complete with milk and cookies). On Saturdays, there’s also a holiday cabaret in the Grand Ballroom, with a kid-friendly seating earlier in the evening.

Sunriver Resort

Sunriver, Oregon

Sleigh ride at Sunriver Resort
Courtesy of SunRiver Resort

For more than 50 years, Sunriver Resort has been putting on their holiday Traditions experience. Transforming its 3,300 acres into a winter wonderland, the property offers a holiday light show, horse-drawn sleigh rides, brunch with Santa, dog sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling, and guided snowshoe tours. If you’re still looking for more to do with your kids, pick up a gingerbread decorating kit at the gift shop or bring them over to meet and take a photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus. You can also preserve all your memories with a family portrait from the hotel’s on-site photographer.

The Equestrian Hotel

Ocala, Florida

holidays at the equestrian hotel

If you decide to stay at The Equestrian Hotel in Central Florida, you’ll be near all the action that is the World Equestrian Center’s Winter Wonderland Spectacular. There’s ice skating, outdoor holiday movies, a giant gingerbread display, s’mores stations, a Christmas tree maze, and over a million Christmas lights to enjoy. Throughout the weekend, different performers like carolers and balloon artists also make an appearance. If you need to buy any last minute gifts, you can check out a variety of vendors on the grounds, and don’t leave without taking a photo with Santa Claus.

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

Greensboro, Georgia

ritz carlton lake oconee

Located about halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee invites guests to make some unforgettable holiday memories at its Winter Forest, where you can skate a 5,000-square-foot ice rink, sip hot cocoa served up from a retro trailer, and take pictures at the Snow Globe Photo Booth. You also can’t miss seeing the life-sized Gingerbread Cottage that the hotel’s pastry chef and team create in the lobby. Keep an eye on the property’s calendar for festive events like breakfast with Santa, ornament making, caroling, and storytime with Mrs. Claus.

Lakehouse Hotel & Resort

San Marcos, California

indoor igloo at lakehouse hotel

There’s lots for you and your kids to love at Lakehouse Hotel & Resort’s Winter Wonderland—like the 140-foot light tunnel that leads to a 30-foot Christmas tree for example. Really, there’s no reason to get bored with on-site activities like a lakeside ice skating rink, the Polar Express hayrides, and the opportunity for private dining within an illuminated igloo. The property offers a family Winter Escape package, which comes with four tickets to the ice skating and four hot cocoa vouchers per day.

Hilton Americas-Houston

Houston, Texas

Nutcracker_courtesy of Hilton Americas-Houston_6
Courtesy: Hilton Americas-Houston

Anyone who loves the holidays and has a sweet tooth will be in heaven at the Hilton Americas-Houston, which is known for its incredible, festive chocolate displays. This hotel, which is the largest in Houston, is using 900 pounds of dark chocolate, 1,000 pounds of white chocolate, 850 pounds of gingerbread, 600 eggs, and 400 pounds of sugar icing to create a life-sized, Minion-themed display. Book their ‘Tis the Season package and you’ll also get a ticket to ice skating at Discovery Green and cookies upon arrival. Come on a weekend in December, and you get the chance to have Breakfast with Santa.

Cindy Brzostowski is a freelance writer covering food, travel, and other lifestyle topics.