I was recently scrolling through YouTube videos to get an idea of what would be the hot gift ideas for this holiday season. As expected, there were the usual suspects—all manner of state-of-the-art electronic gadgets and gear, athletic shoes that cost almost as much as the down payment on a car in days gone by, and for the kids, larger and more elaborate toys.
However, there was one video that caught my eye—one that suggested giving not an object, but an experience—and a travel experience at that.
That got me thinking about some of the special places I've visited over the years that could be wrapped up in a bow and given to family members and friends. Here are a few places guaranteed to appeal to everyone on your shopping list.
FOR THOSE WHO THINK CHRISTMAS SHOULD BE LIKE A HALLMARK MOVIE
If you've been dreaming of a holiday destination where the snow falls in perfect, lacy flakes; candles glow in subtle contrast to the dazzling light displays, and a storybook inn will put you in mind of that holiday film classic "White Christmas," then Nantucket might be just the place you're looking for.
A tiny island located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., Nantucket offers up a traditional Christmas like no other—from the 80 trees decorated by local artists on display at the Whaling Museum's Festival of Trees to its popular Christmas Stroll, which is equal parts enchanting holiday storybook scene and jolly block party filled with old-fashioned fun.
For the past 45 years, the annual Stroll has been the island's last hurrah to lure mainland shoppers before the stores close for the season. This year's event (Nov. 30—Dec. 2) will feature activities such as an Ugly Sweater Competition, a Christmas Craft Show, and curated events (and sales) at the town's one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques. Of course, there will be the arrival of Santa (Dec. 1) via Coast Guard vessel where he will be escorted to his nautical sleigh—a vintage whaling boat.
Where to Stay: The White Elephant, the quintessential Nantucket inn, is offering a Christmas Stroll package which in addition to accommodations, includes daily breakfast for two at the inn's Brant Point Grill, two festive scarves, and to complete that Hallmark movie scene, a bottle of Nantucket Sleighride local wine where you can toast each other under the in-room mistletoe. whiteelephanthotel.com
FOR THOSE WHO WANT A LIGHT EXTRAVAGANZA LIKE NO OTHER
If Christmas just isn't Christmas without a litany of lights, then pack up and head for Barnsley Resort in the foothills of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains. On Thanksgiving, they flipped the switch on the more than 1 million lights in the gardens of the resort's Manor House Ruins, turning it into a wonderland of color. The lights will remain twinkling through New Year's Night.
While the lights will surely bedazzle even the grinchiest scrooge, there are a host of other holiday activities and themed events including gingerbread house and wreath making classes, cookie decorating and campfire stories in addition to an elaborate holiday dinner buffet.
Barnsley's "Light up the Holidays" promotion includes accommodations in one of the resort's 90 cottages; a $50 dollar credit that can be used for dining, spa treatments, activities such as clay shooting or horseback riding, even shopping in the well-stocked boutique. Package is valid through Dec. 27. barnsleyresort.com
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO CHANNEL THEIR INNER COWBOY/COWGIRL
There's no place like Home for the holidays—the Home Ranch, that is. This 14-room, all-inclusive Relais & Chateaux property outside of Steamboat Springs, Colo., is tailor made for those who want a Christmas filled with skiing (both downhill and cross country), snow tubing, dog sledding, winter horseback riding and sleigh rides.
The property's 4,000 acres, at an elevation of 7,200 feet, are set against the Western Continental Divide, with the Rockies and Upper Elk River Valley as scenic backdrops.
The Home Ranch offers two holiday packages for snow bunnies. The Christmas Week Package (Dec. 20-27) is a seven-night stay that includes accommodations, all activities and meals, caroling and a live tree in each guest room and cabin (decorations are provided or you can bring your own favorites).
The New Year's Eve Package (Dec. 27—Jan. 3) will feature a full schedule of snowy activities capped off by a festive New Year's Eve dinner and New Year's Day lunch (live music and dancing provided). Each package requires a five-night minimum stay. homeranch.com
FOR THOSE WHO WANT
A CLASSIC CHRISTMAS
What could possibly be better than spending the holidays in the Big Apple with its iconic tree in Rockefeller Plaza, carriage rides in Central Park and dazzling window displays at Bergdorf-Goodman, Tiffany's, Barney's, Bloomingdale's and Macy's? This is Christmas in the classic sense.
As such, you will be wanting a hotel that is an American classic in its own right, and the Lowell on the fashionable Upper East Side more than fills the bill. You can check in alongside countless world leaders, industry titans and celebrities who consider the Lowell a home away from home.
This holiday season it is offering the Very Lowell Holiday Package. Immaculately decorated suites will take on seasonal touches such as lit trees and stockings hung with care, while other amenities include afternoon tea in the Pembroke Room (tea sandwiches, fresh baked scones with Devonshire cream and holiday inspired sweets for four guests) and VIP tickets to the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park.
The package also features milk, cookies and a selection of classic holiday story books for children and a bottle of Pommery champagne for adults, along with a daily full American breakfast for four in Majorelle Restaurant or the privacy of your suite. lowellhotel.com
This year why not forget the gaudy trainers, overpriced gadgets and impersonal gift cards and give your loved ones a Christmas experience to remember?