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Holiday delights even Scrooge would love


Check out these destinations for a Christmas that even Scrooge would love

If this is the year that you decide you’ve had it with untangling Christmas lights, fighting mall crowds to find that “must-have” action figure or video game, and fighting 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 tree; 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 — a desire for a hassle-free Christmas celebration.

» Staying in town? We've got your ultimate holiday guide of what to do, where to eat and what to buy.

For the traditionalist: The Home Ranch, Clark, Colo.

If you are one who hungers for a traditional White Christmas, where sleigh bells jingle as a horse-drawn sleigh skims across the snow, then this Relais & Chateaux-affiliated guest ranch 18 miles from Steamboat Springs is just the place.

Whether you opt 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, snow shoeing, 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.” And if Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a tree, the staff will arrange to have a live one placed 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 included. Take a picture of yourself in this pristine paradise and use it as your next year’s Christmas card. HomeRanch.com.

For the nontraditionalist: Belmond Charleston Place, Charleston, S.C.

If your idea of good Christmas weather leans more to sunshine than snow, and where a palmetto is more appealing than a spruce, pack your bags and head south — 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 (Aiken-Rhett Museum and Nathaniel Russell House) decorated in their 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 light 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 and the 12-foot crystal chandelier sprigged with mistletoe, while through it all runs a working miniature replica of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express train (the Orient Express previously owned the hotel).

As if all this isn’t festive enough, you can pop into the hotel’s Thoroughbred Club for a 21st century take on Wassail, warm hard apple cider crafted from scratch and accessorized with a cinnamon stick. belmond.com/charleston-place

For a Northeastern Christmas: Nantucket, Mass.

This small island is renowned for its annual Christmas Stroll — this year’s 43rd annual will be held Dec. 1-4. Carolers throng cobblestoned streets; one-of-a-kind boutiques stay open late for shopping, and 80 trees designed and decorated by local artists will be on display at the Whaling Museum. To cap off the celebration, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive, escorted by the Coast Guard.

Once ashore, the couple make their first official stop at the Jared Coffin House, a historic 18th century mansion and now a cozy inn. You can toast them with an adult beverage — try the boozy hot chocolate.

If you book the Holiday Stroll Package at the harbor side White Elephant Inn, you’ll receive a ceramic white elephant tree ornament, a copy of local author Nancy Mayer’s “A Very Nantucket Christmas,” and red sangria from Nantucket Vineyards.

If you’re bringing the family, opt for the inn’s Easy Street Loft where accommodations will be in three-bedroom, four-bathroom luxury lofts (the package price includes dinner for six at Brant Point Grill). whiteelephanthotel.com; jaredcoffinhouse.com.

For a Southwestern Christmas: The Inn on the Anasazi, Santa Fe, N.M.

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 the farolitas (luminous bags of candles and sand) that are lit nightly.

A great base for taking in all the festivities is the 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 children alike. Kids will delight in following daily clues to discover the location of Zazi, the hotel’s Elf on a Shelf, who just 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 — this isn’t your grandmother’s ovaltine. Try the La Abuelita, flavored with New Mexican chile; the Ginger Snap, with Domaine de Canton and a ginger snap cookie, or the Kentucky Hot Tub, with Ancho Reyes and a dollop of Jim Beam. rosewoodhotels.com

A Southern Spectacle: The Galt House, Louisville, Ky.

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 (Nov. 17-Dec. 24).

But 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 luminaries 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.

All this, plus the Peppermint Express Kiddies’ Train, Gingerbread House Contest, Winter Wonderlane, the Holly Jolly Elf Show, and a Charles Dickens-inspired dinner served by the author’s Christmas characters. Imagine Ebenezer Scrooge filling up your coffee cup or Tiny Tim presenting you with your plum pudding. christmasatthegalthouse.com

(Patti Nickell is a Lexington, Ky.-based travel and food writer. Reach her at pnickell13@hotmail.com.)


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