12 best hotels for Christmas celebrations

(CNN) — Twinkling lights, glitter, Champagne and petit fours. We could all use a little holiday glamor right about now.

Hotels serve up a low-hassle way to brighten up the festive season, whether for a couple of nights or an elegant afternoon tea.

While many would-be jet-setters are sticking closer to home this year, these spots are worth bookmarking for a look at their stunning holiday decorations, a spur of the moment escape or a future Christmas splurge.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated. The agency is also recommending boosters for everyone 18 and older.

The Fife Arms: Braemar, Scotland

This cozy outdoor courtyard awaits guests at The Fife Arms in the Scottish Highlands.

This cozy outdoor courtyard awaits guests at The Fife Arms in the Scottish Highlands.

The Fife Arms

Fishing, foraging and hiking are just outside at The Fife Arms, an antiques-packed 19th-century retreat within Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands.

The hotel is nine miles from Balmoral, the Royal Family’s residence in Scotland.

Guests can wrap themselves in sheepskin blankets and sip mulled wine in a twinkling courtyard warmed by fire pits. Festive afternoon tea is served in the Clunie Dining Room. The hotel’s public bar — The Flying Stag — will offer a Christmas Day menu for about $93 per person.

Double occupancy rooms start at about $600 in December.

A three-night package over Christmas includes a five-course feast, a reindeer parade, a local piper’s performance and more. Package prices for double occupancy in the hotel’s Nature & Poetry rooms start at $3,895.

The Fife Arms, Mar Rd, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, AB35 5YN, Scotland

Hotel Plaza Athénée: Paris

A skating rink for kids surrounded by tiny white lights is sure to bring a bit of extra winter magic to Christmas at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris.

Festive afternoon tea will be served in La Galerie through January 9 (starting at about $80 per person).

And a lavish six-course menu from chef Jean Imbert is available on Christmas Eve at Le Relais Plaza (starting at about $315). Christmas brunch and New Year’s Eve festivities are also on the holiday agenda.

Room rates start around $1,245 per night.

The Plaza: New York

Teatime in The Palm Court

Teatime in The Palm Court

The Plaza – a Fairmont Managed Hotel

Tea time and Christmastime coincide at The Plaza’s elegant Palm Court, where four holiday tea menus will be available through January 9.

The Manhattan Tea ($99) features savories and sweets, including a Bailey’s Irish Cream Bûche de Noël, with the option to add a glass of Champagne for an additional cost.

Eloise, the hotel’s famous fictional resident, lends her name to a children’s tea available for $80 per child.

Rooms on weekends in December and peak holiday dates are sold out or close to it, but there’s still some availability for weekdays in December, with rates starting at $1,095 per night.

The Plaza, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, New York

Ojai Valley Inn: Ojai, California

“Serenity Season” is right on time at Ojai Valley Inn, where spa treatments, golf, tennis, yoga and more can be incorporated into a restorative stay at this 220-acre coastal valley resort.

On December 24, there’s a Jingle Bell Jaunt and story time with Santa’s elves. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner will be served at The Oak and Olivella, and there’s a grand buffet on Christmas Day at The Farmhouse ($160 per adult, including wine; $55 for children 12 and younger).

December room rates start at $619 per night.

Royal Mansour: Marrakech, Morocco

The Royal Mansour is ready for holiday guests.

The Royal Mansour is ready for holiday guests.

Isaac Ichou/Royal Mansour

The holidays are a gourmet affair at the Royal Mansour in Marrakech.

A Christmas Eve menu from Michelin-star chef Massimiliano Alajmo will be served at Sesamo, while Yannick Alléno, another Michelin-star chef, will create Christmas dinner at La Table.

The hotel will host a Christmas market in its lobby on December 13 with handmade crafts, Christmas sweets and Royal Mansour gift items for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to local charities.

Hotel rates start at $1,725 per night.

Royal Mansour, Rue Abou El Abbas Sebti, 40 000, Marrakech, Morocco

Willard InterContinental: Washington

The Willard is hosting holiday choral performances every evening through December 23.

The Willard is hosting holiday choral performances every evening through December 23.

Willard InterContinental

In the United States capital, the Willard InterContinental will host free performances by local choral and vocal ensembles in the lobby from 5:30 to 7:30 nightly through December 23.

Signature holiday cocktails — a Poinsettia, “Tippecanoe” Spiced Cider or a Grand Centennial — will be available in the famed Round Robin Bar

Holiday afternoon tea — with finger sandwiches and pastries — will be served every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through December 26 ($79 per person or $89 with a glass of champagne).

Room rates in December start around $325.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: Scottsdale, Arizona

Families will find a whole host of holiday activities at the Christmas at the Princess festival.

Families will find a whole host of holiday activities at the Christmas at the Princess festival.

Rebekah Sampson

An animated holiday light show, a four-lane ice slide, VIP igloos, two skating rinks, trains and more than 6 million lights: It’s safe to say that the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess doesn’t believe in holding back for Christmas.

The resort’s Christmas at the Princess festival is open to the public. Free for hotel guests, the entrance/parking fee for up to four non-hotel guests is $72 for self-parking.
Rooms are about $600 a night for the weeks surrounding and including Christmas. There are also several holiday packages available.

The Balmoral: Edinburgh, Scotland

The Balmoral opened in 1902 as a railway hotel.

The Balmoral opened in 1902 as a railway hotel.

Rocco Forte Hotels

In Edinburgh, The Balmoral is offering personalized “festive gatherings” (for a minimum of 12 people), served with views of the city’s fortified hilltop castle.
The hotel’s clubby Bar Prince is hosting live music sessions through December 9.

Opened in 1902, the imposing Balmoral — with its ornate clock tower — was once owned by the North British Railway Company. Because of its original role as a railway hotel, the clock has always run three minutes fast so that people wouldn’t miss their trains.

A two-night holiday season package starts at about $1,425.

The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH2 2EQ, United Kingdom

The Broadmoor: Colorado Springs, Colorado

A stay at The Broadmoor in Colorado could up your chances of a white Christmas.

A stay at The Broadmoor in Colorado could up your chances of a white Christmas.

The Broadmoor

Set against the Rocky Mountains, The Broadmoor has a 10-foot-tall “Gingerbread Chateau,” plus gingerbread decorating classes for kids and breakfasts with Santa.

But perhaps the most alluring attraction for kids — and kids at heart — will be The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which will offer photo ops with Santa at the depot on the first three weekends in December. Tickets for the train are available online.

The Broadmoor also puts on a holiday dinner show in late December, headlined this year by singer Sheena Easton.

Claridge’s: London

"The Celestial Snow Globe," by Dior designer Kim Jones, is this year's lobby tree at Claridge's.

“The Celestial Snow Globe,” by Dior designer Kim Jones, is this year’s lobby tree at Claridge’s.


Guests at Claridge’s will be treated to horse-drawn carriage rides and carol singing over Christmas.

Three-night Christmas packages feature those festive events, plus Christmas lunch, Champagne, a visit from Father Christmas, stockings for all and a full English breakfast each day.

There’s still some availability for the holiday packages, which start at about $6,000 for a superior king.

Claridge’s enlists celebrated designers each year to create an eye-catching lobby Christmas tree.

This year’s tree, featuring holographic projections, was created by Kim Jones, artistic director of the Dior men’s collections.

The Cloister at Sea Island: Sea Island, Georgia

The Cloister is part of a private-island resort in Georgia.

The Cloister is part of a private-island resort in Georgia.

Eliot VanOtteren

This elegant private-island resort founded in 1928 boasts five miles of coastline, golf, fishing and an array of activities for kids.

Each afternoon through December 24, Sea Island “elves” will open another door on the life-sized gingerbread Advent Cottage to reveal a new baked treat.

Christmas Eve dinner will be served in The Cloister ballroom ($95 for adults, $30 for children).

Rates start at $599 per night in December.

The Breakers: Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers dates back to 1896.

The Breakers dates back to 1896.

The Breakers

Founded by Standard Oil Co. magnate Henry Morrison Flagler in 1896, The Breakers Palm Beach carries its lavish traditions right through the holiday season.

The oceanfront Italian Renaissance-style resort dazzles with sparkling lights, and holiday tea is available at HMF on select days in late December for $115 per person.

Nearly every room has already been snapped up this December, but holiday tea and meals make for a festive taste of the striking hotel.

A version of this story has been published in years past. This version has been updated with 2021 holiday programs and pricing as well as new hotel entries.

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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

I have 26 years of experience as a professional writer and editor and have been working as a full time freelancer since 2011. I am originally from Casablanca, Morocco, and I graduated from Qatar University with a degree in journalism. I have worked for newspapers, magazines, news agencies, websites. I speak fluent Arabic, French, English, Russian and Spanish.

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