Home (Away from Home) for the Holiday's

Biltmore – Asheville, NC George Vanderbilt introduced his new home to guests on Christmas Eve 1895 with a lavish celebration that still continues today. Each winter, America’s largest home is extravagantly decorated with dozens of Christmas trees, hundreds of wreaths, bows, and poinsettias, miles of evergreen garland and thousands of delicate ornaments – all the more breathtaking when enjoyed by the warm glow of firelight. Crowds of revelers clamor for tour tickets to experience the home’s quintessential traditional spirit of the holidays, though a lucky few can enjoy their long winter’s nap and visions of sugarplums right on property. A stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate’s 8,000-acre estate’s 201 guest rooms and nine suites offers a vibe of relaxed elegance with snowy woodland and estate views of the famed home. Guests enjoy exclusive rights to treatments at The Spa with hints of pumpkin, nutmeg and peppermint to further ring in the season.

Home (Away from Home) for the Holidays

Home (Away From Home) For the Holiday’s

By Sascha Zuger

Over the meadow and through the woods …

Truth be told, many of us might ditch Grandma’s for a more indulgent holiday getaway this year. Room service and eucalyptus steam rooms are fab, but these escapes also offer those little touches of home that make for a truly memorable holiday.

Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort and Spa – Marco Island, Gulf Coast

With fabulous views down the coast, a wide swath of perfectly groomed white beach filled with fun activities for families (laser tag, rock climbing, floating trampolines!), thatch-roof chickee huts shading loungers as they sip their piña coladas, and sport fish boats silhouetted by a stunning sunset, this resort is pure Waikiki without the jetlag. Kids will love a morning at the Tiki Tribe Discovery Day Camp learning about manatees while mom and dad hit the Balinese-style spa.  After a poolside seafood lunch, a catamaran awaits to transport the whole family to the shores of nearby deserted islets for incredible “first footprint” shelling opportunities.

* Feel at home at the Christmas Eve reading of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas complete with cookies and milk (although Santa’s official arrival by jet ski or parasail might be slightly less traditional!).

MarcoIslandMarriott.com

Biltmore – Asheville, NC

George Vanderbilt introduced his new home to guests on Christmas Eve 1895 with a lavish celebration that still continues today. Each winter, America’s largest home is extravagantly decorated with dozens of Christmas trees, hundreds of wreaths, bows, and poinsettias, miles of evergreen garland and thousands of delicate ornaments – all the more breathtaking when enjoyed by the warm glow of firelight. Crowds of revelers clamor for tour tickets to experience the home’s quintessential traditional spirit of the holidays, though a lucky few can enjoy their long winter’s nap and visions of sugarplums right on property. A stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate’s 8,000-acre estate’s 201 guest rooms and nine suites offers a vibe of relaxed elegance with snowy woodland and estate views of the famed home. Guests enjoy exclusive rights to treatments at The Spa with hints of pumpkin, nutmeg and peppermint to further ring in the season.

* Feel at home at the Gingerbread House Tea with a Biltmore Pastry Chef by your side to help build your own gingerbread house before indulging in a special tea service including an assortment of delicacies and finger sandwiches. 

Biltmore.com

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas – Bahamas from Cape Liberty Port, NJ

There are few experiences more stressful than air travel during the holidays. Between the risk of snowstorms, canceled flights and overbooking, most travelers are left feeling anything but jolly by the time the plane actually takes off. If you are dying for a little barefoot sun and surf but loathe to take off your shoes for security to get there, consider sailing into the sunset on a holiday cruise just a short drive from the city. School holidays are a reality this time of year. Luckily, kids can take over the activity-and-sports-driven Adventure Ocean Clubs onboard. Adults have their own pool, spa, restaurant, bar and club areas that are off limits to the short set, ensuring everyone has exactly the vacation they need to come back refreshed (and humming a little Marley).

* Feel “winter wonderland” inspired despite the balmy weather and swaying palms outside as you take a few spins around the Explorer of the Seas ice rink. Or better yet, sip a hot toddy as you wait for the “Spirit of the Seasons” ice show to start (pick up complimentary tickets early – this popular show is a can’t miss).

RoyalCaribbean.com

Omni Mount Washington Resort – New Hampshire

Holiday shopping for teens is tough enough, but traveling without earning yourself a surly sigh or virtual lump of coal can be even trickier. New Hampshire’s Omni Mount Washington Resort might be a perfect solution. With 434 acres of skiing and snowboarding, including four terrain parks, experienced swishers and newbies will find a trail or glade to their liking. They might pass on the resort’s Elf Tuck-Ins, but affordable “Be a Boarder” packages let teens 13 and up try their hand at riding with two lessons, lift pass and rental included. Worried about under-21 evening entertainment? Night skiing, moonlight snowshoe treks, swimming in an outdoor heated pool and snow tubing under the stars make good alternatives to the resort’s evening family movie and stories with Santa. Parents might appreciate fine dining and strolling the same halls as Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth and three U.S. Presidents in this century-old grand hotel, but young adrenaline-junkies can get their extreme fix while dog sledding, rock-climbing, backcountry snowshoeing or even skimming the treetops of the White Mountains on a zip-line.

* Feel at home as you argue with your teen over who takes the driver seat. Snowmobile rentals and tours are available for those 16 and over with a license (14 with OHRV license). If this thought terrifies you – head to the impressive 25,000-square-foot spa to find your Zen.

OmniMountWashington.com

Cotton Tree – Grand Cayman

Escape the crush of holiday resort crowds at a private cottage property featuring four island accommodations bordering a fresh water pool and lush tropical surrounds. Classic pastel-hued, plantation-style cottages delight visitors with surprisingly modern and chic interior décor; complete with plasma TVs, WiFi, Apple TV, gourmet kitchens, spa bathrooms … all the conveniences necessary to put this relaxing luxury getaway firmly on the Nice List.

* Feel at home with concierge service that not only arranges bicycle tours through the national park or treatments in the private open-air spa pavilion, but also delivers a live, ready-to-decorate Christmas tree with all the trimmings.

CaymanCottontree.com

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – Orlando, FL

All the romanticismo of Italy, with a decidedly toastier climate, can be found in the heart of Orlando’s theme park nirvana. Modeled after Steve Spielberg’s favorite holiday escape (as he reportedly mentioned to the concierge during a stay), Portofino Bay Hotel is a convincing homage to the best of the Mediterranean. Among its many highlights: the tri-colored buoys and boats that bob in the harbor before a cobblestoned courtyard (dotted with Vespas, no less), the clink of wine glasses and silverware from an outdoor café and the live opera and Musica della Notte performed nightly from one of many wrought iron balconies overlooking the piazza. Several pools cater to individual tastes, though the waterfall beach pool is so inviting that you couldn’t be blamed for sinking into a cushy chaise and forgetting the world for a day. And make munchie time merry with poolside table service that includes complimentary frozen fruit skewers and lemon-laced ice water.

* Feel at home as you raise a frozen eggnog to toast compromise with la famiglia . You might have dreamt of wine tasting in a quaint Med seaside village, but the kids wanted nothing more than a frog choir serenade as they knocked back a non-alcoholic butter beer.  Luckily, this resort offers complimentary gondola taxi service direct to the Universal Orlando Theme Parks along with early admittance and “skip the line” access by flashing a room key.

LoewsHotels.com/Portofino-Bay-Hotel

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