Have you ever wanted to totally immerse yourself in Christmas? We're talking a super over-the-top professionally decorated gingerbread house, garland and ribbon-trimmed staircases, a holiday village complete with a toy train running through the town, and an exquisite tree. Well, you don't have to kill yourself with decor at home as many hotels and resorts pull out all stops to create that dream Christmas. So with no work, and just the cost of a drink at the bar (or splurge on a hotel room), you can indulge in Christmas cheer as much as your little heart desires! You can stay local with three of our options, or plan a quick day trip to visit the other three.
This December, see The Willard lobby’s iconic Christmas trees decorated exclusively with the White House Ornament Collection. In 1981, the White House Historical Association started this very special holiday tradition of honoring a different President or special White House event each year in the form of an ornament. This year’s Christmas ornament honors the Herbert Hoover administration (1929-1933). It’s inspired by the fire engines that responded to the 1929 Christmas Eve fire at the White House and toy trucks presented to children by the Hoovers the following Christmas. Afterward take a walk down Peacock Alley, the thoroughfare between the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance and F Street entrance to see the numerous Christmas trees that line the hall. Stop for Holiday Tea, or treat yourself to a Jingle Bell Julep or a Harrison’s Spiced Cider. And if you’re there between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., stay for one of the many Choral Concerts through December 23.
The resort’s Christmas on the Potomac is definitely an over-the-top extravaganza. A sensory overload, it’s sure to delight everyone. Just look at these numbers and goings on: two million lights are used to decorate the resort; 12 trees adorn the main check-in lobby; there’s a kid’s Christmas Corner with The Polar Express movie and mailbox for letters to Santa; a Christmas Village, complete with gingerbread decorating, cookies with Mrs. Claus, a carousel and a Build-A-Bear Workshop; and hundreds of poinsettias around the hotel. The annual celebration includes the 55-foot-tall Star Light Christmas tree that is suspended from the atrium ceiling and featured during the nightly laser light show. There is even snow! Shows are every hour on the hour from 6 to 9 p.m.
Elegant is what comes to mind when walking into the lobby of the luxurious Jefferson Hotel, built in 1895. And for Christmas, it’s ratcheted up even more. Imagine hundreds of poinsettias, yards of garland and ribbon draping the grand staircase’s banister, thousands of twinkling lights and dozens of toy soldiers that adorn the public spaces. In the Palm Court lobby, you’ll find a huge gingerbread house made of hundreds of pounds of gingerbread, royal icing, and candies.
Who needs a gingerbread house when you can have a walk-in gingerbread bakery? This year, the pastry team along with the carpentry shop created a “bakery” made from real gingerbread that’s in the lobby of Chateau Lafayette. Measuring 12 feet tall, 14 feet long and 12 feet deep, this confectionery structure is big enough for guests to walk inside. And inside you’ll find an actual baker decorating gingerbread cookies and offering samples. If you’re wondering what went in to it, here’s a sampling: 500 pounds of flour, 600 pounds of powdered sugar, and 200 pounds of assorted candy for the décor. See the breathtaking Chandelier Christmas Tree and so much more. During the holidays, there are gingerbread house workshops, live carolers, bonfires with S’mores and holiday movie marathons. At the spa, the holiday experience continues with a Mint Chocolate Mistle-Toes Pedicure, Cranberry & White Tea Facial, and Holiday Hot Stone massage.
Can’t fit a huge live tree in your house? Then come and enjoy the 23-foot tall (before being cut) and 15-feet wide Fraser Fir in the Great Hall. The tree is decorated with 2,000 ornaments and 1,250 LED lights. You can see even more lights by taking the “Homestead Holiday Express Hayride” where you’ll join the conductor and one of Santa’s helpers and travel through the resort’s incredible light display before warming up with hot chocolate and s’mores. Activities continue with the “Fireside Chat” where you’ll learn about Santa or partake in the Holiday Cookie Decorating and Gingerbread House Workshop. Then head outside for the nightly tree lighting.
At The Biltmore Estate, Inn, Winery and The Biltmore House, Christmas is everywhere. Stop by the winery where they offer free tastings including the Christmas commemorative wine. On weekends, there are carolers and Santa makes an appearance in the village. Inside the hotels, fireplaces are glowing, trees are decorated and there are gingerbread houses and toy soldiers.The pièce de résistance is The Biltmore House, “America’s Largest Home.” Here guests get to experience this incredible masterpiece and see how one of America’s richest families lived. And at Christmas time, you can marvel in the grandeur of its holiday décor. Get ready to see the 62 intricately decorated trees, including a 35-foot tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall that has 500 ornaments, 500 LED Edison bulb-style electric lights that decorate the tree and 500 gift boxes. In addition, there are hundreds of poinsettias and garlands. Outside is a 55-foot-tall Norway spruce illuminated by 55,000 lights and 20 other illuminated evergreens. There are more than 20,000 lights on the surrounding trees and shrubs and 300 luminaries that line the driveway.