- From skiing to sleigh rides, many inns and resorts across the United States offer festive activities and experiences.
- These venues have restaurants that are open to the general public and/or special events that everyone can enjoy.
It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to hunker down and stay indoors until spring! A host of inns and resorts across the United States welcome the season with great panache. You’ll find go-to pastimes, such as skiing and ice skating (even in the desert!), but you’ll also experience unique outings, including dog sledding and sleigh rides. And, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the seasonal decorations and holiday lights: Each venue has restaurants open to the general public and/or special events that everyone can enjoy throughout the winter.
IN THE NORTHEAST
1. Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York
Photo courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House
Perched above Lake Mohonk in the Hudson Valley, this Victorian castle is a National Historic Landmark that has a rich offering of winter activities at an all-in-one price. From late November to late March, get out and explore by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, take a spin on the ice rink or zip down a hill on a snow tube. Once you work up an appetite, indulge in a three-course dinner, buffet breakfast, afternoon tea or cookies—all included in the nightly rate. But, have no fear. If this resort is a bit too spendy, you can stay nearby at a less expensive lodging and enjoy activities here as a "day guest" for an a la carte price. Think ice skating ($17–$23 per person), cross-country skiing ($21–$26 per person) and snowshoeing ($21–$26 per person). Or, just stop by for brunch or dinner.
2. Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, New York
The stunning lodge right on the shore of Lake Placid offers 13 elegant guest rooms plus 17 cabins. The lodge has a multitude of winter activities from November through March, from cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to ice skating, ice fishing, downhill skiing, bobsled rides and more. Each evening get toasty at a lakeside snow bonfire, where you’re served hot chocolate and s’mores. Splurge and stay here overnight or just book a dining reservation and select a more budget-friendly accommodation nearby.
IN THE SOUTH
3. Amelia Island Williams House, Amelia Island, Florida
Winter is a sweet time to visit Williams House due to its participation in the popular Holiday Cookie Tour of Inns, which is held every December. You’ll sample holiday treats at 6 of the town’s inns and you can travel by horse-drawn carriage or trolley from place to place. Afterward, work off a few calories by borrowing bikes from the Williams House to cruise through downtown or to the beach. You can stay on property or simply book tickets for the Holiday Cookie Tour of Inns, which also visits Williams House, and then book a nearby accommodation that will leave more spending money in your pocket.
4. Omni Homestead Resort, Hot Springs, Virginia
Photo courtesy of Omni Homestead Resort
This resort in the Allegheny Mountains dates back to the 1700s, when the first hotel was built on the site. Since then, 22 U.S. presidents have visited, including Thomas Jefferson, who came to enjoy the healing properties of the hot springs. Visitors enjoy all types of winter activities from November to March, including skiing and snowboarding trails. You can also ice skate to the music of the season, surrounded by holiday lights. Or, be brave and take a dip in the outdoor heated pool. If you reserve a room far enough in advance, you can snag rates as low as $180 per night. Otherwise, dine here and check out nearby lodgings.
IN THE MIDWEST
5. Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, Ely, Minnesota
Photo courtesy of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge
If you’re looking for a doggone unusual winter retreat, head to Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge from early December to late March. Here’s your chance to try your hand at dogsledding—no experience required. Stay at the cozy lodge or even do camping trips with your sled dog team. It’s an expensive experience but is worth the splurge: a half-day tour is $175 per person for adults ($125–$150 per child, depending on age) while full-day tours are $300 for adults and $200–$250 for children. If dogsledding is too costly, visit the nearby International Wolf Center instead. The organization works to support the survival of the wolf population. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors 60+, $7 for kids 4–12 and children 3 and under are free.
6. Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Here’s your chance to visit a German-style Christmas market without heading abroad. The Osthoff Resort opened during the Gilded Age of the late-1800s. Each Christmas season from early to mid-December, it hosts the Old World Christmas Market. You can buy Czech glass ornaments, German nutcrackers, savory bratwursts and a whole array of holiday items. You do not have to stay at the hotel to visit the holiday market. Admission is $7 per adult. Children 14 and younger are free when accompanied by a paying adult. On weekends the little ones can take part in ornament making, cookie decorating or even eat breakfast with Santa. After the holidays, visitors partake in a variety of wintertime recreation like ice fishing, ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing, dogsledding and more.
IN THE SOUTHWEST
7. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale, Arizona
Photo courtesy of Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
This luxury hotel offers a unique holiday experience in the desert from mid-November through year’s end. The season kicks off with a Christmas tree lighting and a visit from Santa and his elves. Lagoon Lights features more than 4.5 million LED lights in displays featuring poinsettias, menorahs, a fishing Santa and more. Book a dining reservation at one of the hotel's restaurants so you can enjoy the holiday lights for yourself. Hotel guests can also take a spin on the ice-skating rink or toast marshmallows around a campfire.
Less expensive lodgings nearby: Red Roof Inn Phoenix North-Bell Road (be sure to use your NEA Member discount!) | Courtyard by Marriott Scottsdale Salt River | Holiday Inn Express & Suites Scottsdale-Old Town
8. Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, Grapevine, Texas
Photo courtesy of Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
It may feel more like fall outside, but it’s completely Christmastime at the Gaylord Texan’s Lone Star Christmas, which kicks off in mid-November and closes shop on January 1. Wear your winter jacket for ICE!, which features 2 million pounds of ice sculptures and five 2-story-tall ice slides. The resort is decorated with more than 2 million lights and an abundance of holiday decorations. Kids keep busy with gingerbread decorating classes or can relax with Mrs. Claus over milk and cookies. You do not have to be a guest of the Gaylord Texan in order to take part in some activities. Book tickets for a gingerbread-making workshop ($30 to $70, depending on the type of cookie kit you purchase). Rudolph's Holly Jolly character breakfast at Zeppole restaurant costs $39.99 for adults and $24.99 for kids 4–11. Snow tubing runs $19.99 and ice skating, at the hotel's 6,000-square-foot outdoor skating rink, will set you back $17.99 for all ages.
IN THE WEST
9. The Osprey at Beaver Creek, Beaver Creek, Colorado
You’ll have plenty of traditional pastimes to choose from at this mountain ski lodge, just steps from downhill skiing at Beaver Creek Resort. There’s a dedicated park for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with trails stretching more than 32 kilometers. You can also get a different perspective of the area with a snowmobile or dog sled excursion or by hot air ballooning over the area. Winter activities get into swing at the end of November and continue through mid-April.
10. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside, California
Photo courtesy of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
The history of this stunning hotel stretches back to the 1870s. It has welcomed 10 presidents, and each year it hosts the Festival of Lights starting right after Thanksgiving and going through early January. The hotel is decorated with more than 4 million holiday lights, and Santa makes an appearance. See real snow, take a horse-drawn carriage ride and ogle an opulent Christmas tree in the hotel lobby. The hotel boasts multiple restaurants. If you don't stay on-site, be sure to dine here so you can see all of the holiday decorations in their glory!