Check out these destinations for a Christmas even Scrooge would love.
If this is the year you decide you've had it with untangling Christmas lights, fighting mall crowds to find that "must-have" action figure or video game, and arguing over whose turn it is to host the holiday dinner, there is an alternative.
At all of the following destinations, the lights will already be on the trees; the holiday dinner will be handled by a renowned chef; and the angry, shoving mall crowds will be replaced by like-minded guests who have one thing in common - the desire for a hassle-free Christmas celebration.
If you hunger for a traditional white Christmas, where sleigh bells jingle as a horse-drawn sleigh skims across the snow, this Relais & Chateaux-affiliated guest ranch 18 miles from Steamboat Springs is just the place.
Whether opting for the Christmas package (Dec. 20-27) or the New Year's package (Dec. 27- Jan. 3), you'll find a winter wonderland filled with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, and horseback riding across 15 miles of accessible trails on both flat and rolling terrain.
If it's too cold outside, warm up inside with evening hors d'oeuvres and live music before tucking into the Home Ranch's signature "haute mountain cuisine." If Christmas just wouldn't be the same without a tree, the staff will arrange to have a live one put in your room or cabin (with lights already untangled).
At the all-inclusive guest ranch (accommodations are in six lodge rooms and eight cabins), all meals and activities, as well as round-trip transportation from the airport, are covered. Take a picture of yourself in this pristine paradise and use it as your next year's Christmas card. Visit HomeRanch.com.
If your idea of good Christmas weather leans more to sunshine than snow, where a palmetto is more appealing than a spruce, pack your bags and head to South Carolina for the Belmond Charleston Place's Classic Holiday Package (Nov. 27-Dec. 27).
There will be no horse-drawn sleigh, but you can take a horse-drawn carriage to colorful Cabbage and Rainbow Rows and the Battery. Your hotel package will also include two tickets to historic homes (the Aiken-Rhett Museum and the Nathaniel Russell House) decorated in holiday finery.
If you are in town any time through Jan. 1, head out to James Island County Park for Charleston's Festival of Lights, showcasing 700 spectacular displays.
Almost as spectacular are Charleston Place's own extravagant holiday decorations. A grouping of Christmas trees adorns the lobby; the sweeping staircase is swagged with garlands; the 12-foot crystal chandelier sprigged with mistletoe; and through it all runs a working miniature replica of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express train (the Orient Express previously owned the hotel).
As though all that isn't festive enough, you can pop into the hotel's Thoroughbred Club for a 21st-century take on wassail, warm hard apple cider made from scratch and served with a cinnamon stick. Visit Belmond.com/charleston-place.
For a completely different perspective on Christmas festivities, head to Santa Fe, where three cultures - Anglo, Hispanic, and Indian - have contributed to a holiday season like no other.
From Thanksgiving Day to New Year's Day, visitors marvel at the silvery lights strung on every tree surrounding the historic downtown plaza, and at the farolitas (luminous bags of candles and sand) that are lighted nightly.
A great base for taking in all the festivities is the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, which blends the culture of the American Southwest with Santa Fe's reputation as an artist colony.
There are activities galore for adults and or children alike. Kids will delight in following daily clues to discover the location of Zazi, the hotel's Elf on a Shelf, who may pop up anywhere, from the concierge desk to the library's kiva fireplace. Zazi spotters will be presented with a special prize.
Meanwhile, out on the patio, adults will be presented with their own prize, courtesy of the Hot Chocolate Cart. Rest assured, it's not grandmother's Ovaltine. Try La Abuelita, flavored with New Mexican chili; the Ginger Snap contains Domaine de Canton and a ginger snap cookie; the Kentucky Hot Tub has with Ancho Reyes and a dollop of Jim Beam. Visit Rosewoodhotels.com.
Forget the 12 days of Christmas. Now in its seventh year, Christmas at the Galt House is a 34-day celebration, and each year it gets bigger, better, and more bodacious. All the usual suspects will be there, from the Dancing Bellmen to the Snow Fairy Princess presiding over her afternoon tea to Santa himself (through Dec. 24).
There will be some new wrinkles, as well. "Kalightoscope" will borrow from an ancient Chinese art form to present a larger-than-life handcrafted luminary show featuring more than 200 luminaria made of silk wrapped around LED lights.
Also new is the Galt House's annual holiday dinner show, which this year takes on a patriotic bent with the Ladies of Liberty and the Soldiers of Swing. Channeling World War II USO shows, it will combine holiday swing, boogie-woogie melodies, and big band music.