Written by Amanda Norcross
With another year nearly in the rearview mirror, travelers are laying plans to reconnect with family, friends, and themselves during the 2021 holiday season.
Traditional holiday getaways – like mountain escapes and cold-weather adventures – abound, but these five resorts offer unexpected experiences for seasonal holiday travel – from lakefront lounging to self-care and culinary education.
1. Margaritaville Lake Resort, Lake Conroe – Houston, TX
Trade your winter boots and eggnog for flip flops and margaritas at Margaritaville Lake Resort, Lake Conroe | Houston. This waterfront getaway is made for holiday travelers simply looking for a change in latitude (and, perhaps, a change in attitude). While guests will find classic holiday décor across the resort grounds, it’s Margaritaville’s laid-back spirit and packed list of amenities and activities that will refresh and revive visitors after a long year. So, what’s on a tropical-inspired itinerary this holiday season? Lounging at the St. Somewhere Spa; gaming at the arcade; taking up a game of pickleball, a round of mini-golf or tennis; lake sports; playtime at the resort’s Jolly Mon water park with five swimming pools (two of which are heated), a lazy river, plus a private beach; and, of course, plenty of R&R in Margaritaville’s all-suite, lakeview accommodations.
2. Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa – Lake Arrowhead, CA
Maybe you can’t get to the North Pole… but why not visit Santa and his elves via Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa instead? Guests of the lakefront retreat that sits nearly a mile high in the San Bernardino Mountains enjoy easy access to the nearby Sky Park at Santa’s Village, an iconic Southern California attraction where visitors can catch the holiday bug year-round. Especially festive during the Christmas season with ice skating, storytelling, cookie making and, of course, visits with the big guy in red, this getaway delivers an unexpected treat in this southern region of The Golden State. Looking for a little extra adventure? Head less than 30 minutes from Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa to check out the line-up of winter sports at Snow Valley. Cap off your day with roasting s’mores at Lake Arrowhead’s on-the-sand, waterfront firepit, or indulge in a body treatment at the resort’s on-site spa.
3. Hawks Cay Resort – Duck Key, FL
If your idea of a winter getaway involves an island, look no further than Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. Located on Duck Key, midway between Key Largo and Key West, this resort has a more than 60-year legacy on this famous island chain. Packed with features that include five swimming pools, a marina, a putting course, tennis, a spa, and more, there’s something for everyone at this 60-acre tropical haven. And while average temperatures hover in the low 80s during the latter part of the year, there’s no shortage of festiveness: kids will revel in the joy of ornament making at Santa’s Workshop and with elf bedtime tuck-ins; holiday artistry will be on display with DIY gingerbread house decorating; and sweet tooths will be satisfied by way of story time and hot chocolate with Mrs. Claus. For parents in need of an adult-only break, Hawks Cay’s kids-night-out program affords moms and dads some peace and quiet to enjoy dinner at the resort’s upscale Sixty-One Prime restaurant or a sunset cocktail at Tiki Grill.
4. Garden of the Gods Resort and Club – Colorado Springs, CO
Traditional mountain getaways may be all about outdoor winter activities, but at Garden of the Gods Resort and Club in Colorado Springs, it’s all about wellness. Just 90 minutes outside of Denver and situated at the base of Pikes Peak, this luxe resort is anchored by its STRATA: Med, Body, and Fit program. Travelers craving of an end-of-year reset will find a bevy of offerings, including health assessments, body treatments, an expansive fitness facility, and personal coaching. With endless views of the red rocks in Garden of the Gods Park on display, there is no shortage for New Year resolution-inspiration at this one-of-a-kind retreat.
5. The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa – Burlington, VT
Is learning a new skill on your holiday wish list this year? Check that off by checking in to The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa. Located on 18-acres between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain, The Essex is a true foodie-destination. The on-site Cook Academy will help sharpen a variety of skills for aspiring chefs, including a range of cooking techniques, baking, and, for the holiday season, gingerbread house making, among others. But this culinary-themed resort isn’t all about food: at The Essex, a heated indoor swimming pool and outdoor hot tub for the chilly months, full-service spa and fitness center, plus festive holiday décor and nightly s’mores by the firepit will bring together families, couples, or friends that are hitting the road this holiday season.