23 Christmas Vacation Ideas for 2023

Take your pick of one of these Christmas vacations across the United States, from skiing at Lake Tahoe to a festive city stay in Chicago.
Northstar California
Chris Bartkowski/Courtesy Northstar California

Coming up with Christmas vacation ideas for this year? It’s never too early to start the search, especially if you’d like to visit a wintry destination in the United States. Though the weather these days can be rather unpredictable, you can dream of a white Christmas—and see it in person—at these 23 winter holiday hotspots.

Whether you’re taking family trips with the kids over their winter break, or need Christmas vacation ideas for couples, any of these would be welcome excursions. Many of the places below are resorts and hotels that have ample space for dashing through the snow, but there are also cities, towns, and resorts that offer festive fireside tableaus if you’d rather stay inside and get cozy. (If you prefer to get all your gift-shopping done at holiday markets, we've got that, too.) Either way, you can give yourself the gift of a Christmas vacation—the biggest struggle will be picking just one.

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Northstar California in North Lake Tahoe

Chris Leipelt/Unsplash

1. Lake Tahoe

From charming mountain villages to luxury lakeside retreats, the region that surrounds Lake Tahoe is a quintessential holiday escape in the wintertime, with snowy scenes as far as the eye can see. To the south of the lake, there will be a Holiday Tree Lighting at the Heavenly Village Lake Tahoe on Friday, November 24, featuring a tree that stands at 65 feet tall. In the north, Palisades Tahoe will throw its traditional launch party on December 16 and 17 to celebrate the ski season with fireworks, giveaways, live music, and of course snowsports of all sorts.

2. Villa Roma, Catskills, New York

Looking to celebrate a white Christmas in the Catskills? Villa Roma will be one of your best bets. This all-inclusive family-focused resort just outside of Callicoon, New York, and east of the Delaware River boasts plenty of winter activities to keep you and yours entertained. Among them: three slopes for skiing and snowboarding, two snow tube runs, a ski school for beginners, and a ski chalet for some après time with a hot beverage by a roaring fire. Keep an eye on the resort’s events calendar—the property dresses itself as dictated by the holiday-packed fall and winter seasons, and offers special deals and packages for families so broods can celebrate in style and comfort.

3. Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Colorado

There are not a lot of things in the world more fun than a frosty white Christmas in the Rockies. Blankets of snow are all but guaranteed and families can enjoy the festivities on sleigh rides, skis, snowshoes, and scenic tours at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, an eco-luxe resort and spa spread over 6,500 acres of pristine, untamed wilderness in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Ice skating under the lights, enjoying a warm fire outside while wrapped in a cozy blanket under the stars, plus breakfast with Santa, Christmas karaoke, and holiday feasts, all await.

Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah

Courtesy of Montage Deer Valley

4. Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah

The festivities at perennial ski resort fave (and newly renovated!) Montage Deer Valley begin over the long Thanksgiving weekend and include ornament decorating, a holiday bazaar, gingerbread house displays, and the 10th annual tree lighting ceremony on November 25. In December, there will be a Candy Land-inspired experience as well as a red mailbox where guests can drop their letters to Santa bound for the North Pole. The resort’s annual reading of ’Twas the Night Before Christmas returns on Christmas Eve, when three-course prix-fixe dinner will be served (reservations recommended). On Christmas Day, a day buffet and a dinner in the evening will wrap up the festive seasonal experiences—until the New Year’s events kick in.

5. North Pole, New York

Visit the North Pole closer to home—in the Adirondacks. The hamlet of North Pole, NY, leverages its name (their tagline is “Santa’s Home Away from Home”) and transforms into a holiday wonderland each year. The tiny hamlet is a veritable theme park, overflowing with attractions: Check out Santa’s blacksmith, where magical reindeer shoes are made; visit the popular reindeer barn (with live reindeer); stop by the Saint Nicholas Chapel for a quiet meditative moment; and drop in on Santa at his house for a visit with the man himself.

6. North Pole, Alaska

If you want to go even further north of North Pole, New York, might you be interested in North Pole, Alaska? Much like its New York counterpart, this small city of about 2,700 people in Alaska—roughly 1,700 miles south of the actual North Pole—leans into not only its name, but also its icy environs in the winter. It maintains Christmas decorations year-round, even when it’s sunny in July. But come the snowfall, the place takes you to the Arctic and you can visit the Santa Claus House (a store for holiday ornaments and toys), many holiday bazaars, and Santa’s Letters & Gifts, where you can get personalized notes from Santa—there are even ‘Good Girls and Boys Certificates'.

The Resort at Paws Up in Montana

Stuart Thurlkill/The Resort at Paws Up

7. The Resort at Paws Up, Montana

Located on 37,000 acres of pristine wilderness, The Resort at Paws Up has plenty to do around the holidays—including horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides, gingerbread house making contests, cookie decorating, visits with Santa, and plenty of outdoor fun like dogsledding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and winter ATV riding. Just thinking about it is pleasantly exhausting. It’s a fabulous destination year-round too, especially if you like your Montana country with a side of luxury: Outdoor excursions come with plenty of pampering, like elegant picnic lunches on a rafting trip, and massages after a bicycle tour. But this is coddling without pretension: Staff are gracious and chatty, and the decor is all animal-skin rugs and cowboy portraits.

8. Fort Collins, Colorado

Old Town Fort Collins comes alive during the holidays, with thousands of twinkling light and a free ice-skating rink (skate rentals are free, too). The city’s event calendar is already marked with fun festivities locals and visitors can enjoy: a holiday concert, caroling, and even an artist’s market for the weekend of December featuring one-of-a-kind wall art, jewelry, and home décor—all of which could make great gifts. The holiday lighting event downtown is set to take place on November 3, when a display of low-energy LED lights will be activated to illuminate 22 block-faces in the neighborhood (and the lights will stay up until Valentine’s Day).

9. Nemacolin, Pennsylvania

Two million holiday lights will be strung up after Thanksgiving, on Friday, November 24, to illuminate this resort and give it festive cheer. From then on, every Saturday until Christmas, Nemacolin will host a weekly Gingerbread Jam, where pastry chefs will guide guests as they decorate their decadent domiciles (and compete for a prize, if they wish). This year, over the weekend of December 1, Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir will perform at Nemacolin as part of the resort’s Holiday on Ice program. Other season-long festivities include live music performances, festive food and drinks, and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Lightscape, at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Rikard Osterlund

10. Chicago, Illinois

There are few places that do Christmas better than the Windy City. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape is a mile-long path where the night comes alive with color, imagination, and sound, from a choir of singing trees to a spectacular waterfall of light (for the holiday season this year, it runs from November 10 to January 7). Head to Illumination at the Morton Arboretum and drive the two-mile paved path amid interactive lighting effects. Don’t miss ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, running from November 17 to January 7, where you’ll see musical light shows, live ice-sculpting, and train and carousel rides.

At Swissôtel Chicago, the Santa Suite is available for individual family visits this year through the Your Newest Holiday Tradition package, which turns the 2,000-square-foot Presidential Suite into Santa’s Chicago holiday home to host seasonal activities. The package offers a personalized visit with Santa, as well as sweets and treats, including a hot chocolate bar.

11. Mohonk Mountain House, New York

This year, Mohonk’s events calendar is jam-packed for the winter with plenty of ways to celebrate the season. Their Victorian Holidays in New York programming, from November 26 to January 1, features an outdoor immersive holiday light installation where guests can stroll through an open-air, Instagram-worthy winter wonderland illuminated with thousands of sparkling LED lights and Christmas trees. And from December 7 to 15, as part of the Hanukkah celebrations, the menorah will be lit every evening and live music will be performed, led by local musicians and cantors.

The Mountain House will also be decked out in gingerbread houses made by the region’s most creative minds, as part of the resort’s annual Hudson Valley Gingerbread Competition in mid-December. Additionally, Mohonk recently introduced more family-friendly events, such as performances by Victorian carolers and graham cracker house decorating sessions. There will also be winter hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating, along with complimentary house-made hot chocolate and afternoon tea and cookies.

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle

Courtesy Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle

12. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle was built in the 1920s and this massive Italian Renaissance hotel is breathtakingly opulent, as its tasseled sofas, domed ceilings, and gilded chandeliers will attest. Additionally, the friendly front desk staff display the sort of courtly etiquette befitting the palatial surroundings. Now, imagine all that with the lavish energy of the holiday season. The Fairmont decks itself out to the nines, welcoming its guests with beautifully decorated trees and all sorts of festive finery decking the halls. And if the cold starts to bite, head to the hotel’s pool: It’s enclosed in a glass solarium, which means the water stays at a toasty 83 degrees and you simultaneously get your laps in as you soak up some winter sun.

13. Wisconsin

In downtown Milwaukee, look out for the Holiday Lights Festival, which features thousands of colorful and animated displays. Then travelers can hop on the Jingle Bus to experience the scenes around town, including at Cathedral Square Park. In Lake Geneva, bundle up and experience the arrival of Lake Geneva’s giant ice castle, located at the Geneva National Resort: It’s a gigantic frozen funhouse, where visitors can explore tunnels, slides, and other interactive features, all made of ice. For a quintessential downtown experience, join the town of Lake Geneva’s annual holiday tree lighting; keep your eyes peeled for appearances from Santa and his reindeer roaming around the streets of Lake Geneva on weekends in November and December.

14. Everline Resort and Spa, Olympic Valley, California

You might remember this luxury mountain resort in Olympic Valley, California, by another name, but a recent rebranding, thoughtfully designed interiors from the lobby to the bi-level penthouses, and updated modern touches bring Everline into the 21st century. The resort still retains its iconic winter sports facilities, of course—ski-in and ski-out access all day, an on-property ice rink, ski and snowboard rentals, and more—as well as the breathtaking landscape of the Sierra Nevada that you can take in from any vantage point on the property, which stretches across over six hundred acres.

Denver Zoo Lights in Denver, Colorado

Andy Cross

15. Denver, Colorado

Unwrap the magic of the holidays in Denver with millions of twinkling lights and special events. Enjoy a family outing to the Denver Zoo Lights, or a fun day of shopping and ice skating. The annual Denver Christkindl Market, a traditional European holiday market, will return this winter at Denver Civic Center Park. The market will be open daily from November 17 through December 23. Merrymakers can savor the season while enjoying authentic glühwein (mulled spiced wine), Bavarian-style biers, European coffee, or hot chocolate, all while shopping for unique artisan gifts and holiday treats.

Just outside the city at Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, from November 17 to January 1, there’s a festive celebratory experience called ICE! featuring A Christmas Story™, which includes ice slides, tunnels, and larger-than-life sculptures all on display for the holiday season. When all the holiday excitement gets to be too much, drop into the Relâche Spa for an hour (or five) for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

16. The Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Red Lion Inn in idyllic Stockbridge, Massachusetts, transforms into a charming festive scene echoing Norman Rockwell’s renowned 1967 painting Home for Christmas. Decor throughout the hotel includes dozens of live Christmas trees, wreaths, kissing balls (super-sized mistletoe), poinsettias, hundreds of yards of garland, and handmade wreaths crafted from recycled material. For much of December, pianists and harpists in the hotel lobby will play holiday favorites. The Inn’s iconic front porch, dressed for the season, will be home to performances by holiday carolers.

At nearby Naumkeag, a storied country estate that dates back to the Gilded Age, the Winterlights event sparkles with thousands of shimmering, artfully designed holiday lights. Minutes away is NightWood at The Mount—Edith Wharton’s home—a sound and light experience that transforms the place into a fantastical winter landscape for the holidays, from November 17 to January 6. Not to be left out is Hancock Shaker Village, where a pop-up market featuring goods by regional artisans runs throughout the holiday season.

17. The Lodge at Woodloch, Pennsylvania

Located just ninety miles from New York City, this destination spa resort in northeast Pennsylvania has a private lake, plenty of chances to pamper yourself at its extensive spa, and more than 500 wooded acres that can catch and wear the season’s snowfall like the chicest mink coat. In addition to the traditional seasonal festivities you might expect (caroling, the lighting of evergreens, etc.), as well as the usual on-site activities like biking and hiking, The Lodge also offers cool unexpected lessons like birding and archery. Naturally, its spa and salon facilities are ready to welcome you any time for some rest and relaxation.

Sunriver Resort in Oregon

Joseph Howard/Getty

18. Sunriver Resort, Sunriver, Oregon

Sunriver is the real-life embodiment of a picturesque holiday scene—everything is covered in snow and twinkling lights. To accommodate all types of merrymaking, the resort is offering a wide variety of festive celebrations and experiences. For something a little different, check out their Holiday Glow Party at the Cove, a DJ-ed dance party in the resort’s pool area featuring wearable glow sticks and other twinkling gear. For a more classic affair, try a horse-drawn sleigh ride through a wintry, powder-white glade on the property. On Christmas Day, there will be buffets and dinners throughout all the accommodations at Sunriver, but if you need to grab your holiday meal and get back on the road, the resort is selling holiday dinners to-go from November 22 to Christmas Eve. If you’ve got some time to linger, however, you can grab brunch with Santa.

19. Breckenridge, Colorado

There’s plenty to do in Breckenridge, Colorado, where you can easily slide and snowboard into the holiday spirit with the rest of the town. The usual activities include the lighting of 250,000 twinkling LED lights throughout the town in December and a promenade of holiday trees decorated by community businesses. On top of all that, the Breckenridge Ski Resort was voted one of the best ski resort destinations in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler readers in our Readers’ Choice Awards, so you should definitely make a plan to visit. The resort’s ski area spans five peaks of the Ten Mile Range and features 187 trails, from easy-going greens and meandering blues to challenging bowl runs that wind above the treeline—perfect for anyone looking to get a taste of a winter wonderland.

20. Woodstock, Vermont

The Woodstock Inn & Resort decks the halls for the season in such a way that the main lobby resembles a postcard of a Vermont holiday: plush velvet ribbons, a nine-foot wood fireplace flanked by two giant decorated wreaths, and the main evergreen tree, which is grown on property. In fact, the resort prides itself on making decorations from materials onsite, including dried flowers grown at the organic Kelly Way Gardens, as well as natural materials like grapevines, evergreens, birch branches, pinecones, and dogwood, which are harvested from the woods. The resort also builds a life-size gingerbread house in the main lobby, surrounded by a winter wonderland scene of trees and poinsettias.

Go to the nearby Billings Farm & Museum to get a photo in front of the 12-foot Christmas tree. Holiday activities are offered throughout December, including candle dipping and Victorian-style ornament-making. On the property, the Learning Kitchen hosts cooking demonstrations of rugelach and gingerbread ornaments, and the Dairy Bar sells warm drinks and cider donuts. Families can also take part in the sleigh rides on offer.

The Ritz-Carlton in Bachelor Gulch, Colorado

Courtesy The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch

21. The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, Colorado

Nestled sweetly into the slopes of Colorado, between Beaver Creek and Avon, is the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, a stunning wonderland for all winter sports lovers. The resort offers ski-in and ski-out privileges, an in-house outfitter and ticket office, a dedicated ski concierge, and—for anyone inspired by the snowy landscape to begin learning—access to a ski and snowboard school. The holidays are a true treat on the property: Traditionally, the Ritz-Carlton rings in the season with a tree lighting ceremony right after Thanksgiving and even more festive activities in December, including a lighting of the menorah for Hanukkah, as well as their Nine Days of Wonder event, which includes holiday crafts, ornament making, snow globes, letters to Santa, holiday cookies, and guided snowshoe adventures.

22. The Plaza Hotel, New York City

This stately hotel first opened its doors in 1902 and, over a century later, is still one of the most iconic buildings in Manhattan. If you have ever watched Home Alone 2, you’ll recognize The Plaza as the hotel where young Kevin McCallister, while lost in New York, lived lavishly in a posh suite for the holidays. Fittingly, the hotel has a “Home Alone 2: Fun in New York” experience package, offered throughout the year, that lets guests mimic memorable moments from the movie. It includes a limousine ride all over the city to landmarks like Central Park and Radio City Music Hall, a large cheese pizza (to be eaten in the limo, naturally), and the Home Alone sundae, made to fit Kevin’s exacting taste (specifically: 16 scoops of assorted ice cream, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, M&M’s, brownie bits, chocolate, caramel, and raspberry sauce). If a more traditional Christmas is what you’re looking for, there’s also the “Suitest Season of All” package that comes with a seven-foot tall decorated Balsam Hill tree placed directly in your suite.

23. San Diego, California

True, sandy and sunny San Diego isn’t going to offer you the winter wonderland of your dreams, but make no mistake: It is unofficially the Christmas (merchandise) capital of the United States. Long story short, two megastores selling Christmas decorations opened in the area a few decades ago and have built such a fanbase of shoppers obsessed with Christmas decor that they now draw holiday enthusiasts to San Diego year-round. As a result, the city goes ham whenever December inevitably rolls around; you’ll find an ice skating rink by the beach and many a Santa surfing out on the water. Sure, there (probably) won’t be any snow, but a white-sand beach still makes for a good white Christmas, right?