The pandemic affected luxury destinations here at home.
Many properties and resorts, like Keswick Hall in Virginia, have up-leveled their facilities, experiences, and offerings.
I’m seeing two trends – planning well in advance with up to two-year lead times or extremely last minute.
Let’s plan a fantastic festive trip for 2023. We must be prepared for those plans to change. But don’t worry, planning and making changes to the plan are much more manageable with me by your side.
So, where can you go for Christmas or to celebrate the New Year here in the United States? Here are six exciting options I bet you’ve never heard about.
1 || Climb Ice in Colorado
The Ouray Ice Festival in Telluride, Colorado, gathers ice climbers from around the world every January for four nights. You don’t need to be a professional; novices are welcome too. Ouray is close to Telluride and called “The Switzerland of America”. They spray down the canyon walls, resulting in stunning walls of ice and over 3 miles of icy terrain. You can check out the latest ice tools and gear too. All sorts of skiing are available, from heli-skiing, cross-country, and snowboarding to downhill. Or maybe you’d prefer an exhilarating snowmobile tour or some winter fly-fishing. There are tons to enjoy outdoors.
Festivities abound at Auberge Resorts Madeline. The general manager blows a custom-made Bernatone Alphorn to signal the start of après ski activities, including sunset s’mores, craft cocktails with carols, and holiday feasts. There’s also ice skating at Reflection Plaza and special holiday activities planned, like candle making, mixology classes, sleigh rides, and game nights.
Of course, I love the wellness offerings at this beautiful resort in the mountains. They offer a CBD-infused bath as well as a gemstone healing ritual. Does anything sound better than a session of stretching therapy after a day on the slopes?
2 || Relax in a Hot Tub in Jackson Hole
The backcountry of Grand Teton National Park is spectacular. Imagine exploring the park on snowshoes while on an eco-tour with an experienced naturalist.
Caldera House is located in the heart of Teton Village with Jackson Hole’s peaks as a backdrop, and this boutique retreat features just eight two- and four-bedroom suites, each with their own chef’s kitchen and dining room – although you’ll likely fill up on Italian comfort food at Old Yellowstone Garage.
The terrace’s infinity-edge pool and hot tub call after a day on the slopes; spa therapists use cutting-edge technology to nourish skin in the alpine air. Or therapists can perform cupping to relax your muscles. (I know from experience that cupping works!)
Yes, Caldera House offers typical winter fare such as snowmobiling, dog-sledding, and snow-shoeing, but each comes with a delightful twist. For example, you can encounter the largest migrating Elk herd in America on a sleigh ride. You can book Olympian Bode Miller for coaching and two days of skiing with him. If you do a heli-ski through the virgin snow, you can hire a sports photographer to record your adventure. Or you can do a private landscape and wildlife tour with a photography expert Tom Mangelsen and uplevel your skills.
3 || Hear Jazz in New York City
Christmas in New York City can encompass so much more than the traditional Radio City Music hall Rockettes, the Christmas tree and ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, or Balanchine’s Nutcracker at Lincoln Center (and those activities are all so fun).
But did you know that New York City offers a plethora of its own holiday markets? Yes! At Union Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central, or Columbus Circle.
If you want some other alternatives, try picking up a delicious hot chocolate at Jacques Torres and strolling down Literary Walk in Central Park. Or head to the Met to see their stunning Christmas Tree and Baroque crèche, which captivates with its details. Or check out the model trains at the New York Botanical Gardens.
I’ve got a great new find for New York City. For an exclusive, extraordinary stay, check out the new Casa Cipriani located at the very tip of the island of Manhattan. This spectacular boutique hotel, with only 47 rooms, is also a private members-only dining club for locals. They also have clubs in Ibiza, Monte Carlo, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Riyadh, and Moscow.
The design by Theirry Despont captures the glitz and glamour of Old New York as he restyled an old Beaux-Arts ferry terminal which was originally built in 1906. The hotel includes a landscaped rooftop, a heated pool, the Living Room, and the Club Restaurant, which offers Harry’s Bar classics right in NYC. The Jazz Cafe evokes a supper club of the ’30 and ’40, and the menu there includes decadent items like oysters, caviar, and truffles when in season, together with Cipriani cuisine specialties. Many of the rooms include outdoor terraces and pergolas that offer breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. And the elegant spa offers Reiki, acupuncture, cupping, Thai stretching, lymphatic body contouring, and more.
4 || SunBathe in Miami
Amid the holiday activities in Miami, check out Santa’s Enchanted Forest which runs until early January. This boasts the tallest Christmas tree in South Florida and offers rides, magic shows, and holiday light displays.
The Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale was an annual tradition I loved when my family had a place there. There’s nothing else like it. Basically, everyone decorates their boats with holiday lights and parades down the intercostal canal.
And the Miami City Ballet is one of the best companies in the country, and their production of The Nutcracker is a treat.
But I love heading to Miami for the holidays to escape the hustle and bustle. And one of my most favorite places to stay is The Faena. Once you arrive, you don’t have to leave (unless you wish to).
The Faena is beautiful and unlike any other destination resort in Miami.
The design is a blend of art deco and Latin America that works. Two award-winning restaurants are right on site by celebrated chefs Paul Qui and Francis Mallmann. Their cabaret productions are very creative and very sexy, and every Tuesday, a DJ fires up vinyl records for a really fun gathering.
Finally, their expansive Tierra Santa Spa offers healing therapies that feature indigenous ingredients and healing techniques from ancient South American cultures. Their double-height Hamman is not to be missed.
You could also meet with their certified Shamanic practitioner to heal emotional stress and unhappiness and the ways in which such negative emotions relate to the experiences and destructive behavioral patterns of family members before them, going back as far as three generations or more.
5 || Cozy Up in Vermont
Christmas in Vermont, of course, makes me think of the film White Christmas, a 1954 American musical film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. (It’s a classic for a reason!) And The Lodge at Spruce Peak is a Destination by Hyatt hotel, so the resort embodies the true spirit of the locale.
The Lodge at Spruce Peak is New England’s only luxury slope-side lodging destination and is located in Stowe, Vermont. (And by the way, Maria Von Trapp and her Captain settled in Stowe and opened their own hotel back in 1950!)
The Lodge at Spruce Peak offers rooms and suites in The Lodge and Spruce Peak Penthouses and a luxury collection of stunning rental cabins with private chefs, personal butler service, and an alpine concierge. Imagine cozying up with a delicious book in front of a fire in Vermont like Olivia Pope used to. (That’s a Scandal reference, FYI, wherein Vermont was esteemed as THE destination for romance.)
There’s downhill skiing, cross country, ice skating, guided snowshoe hikes, and snow games for all ages, such as making snowmen, igloos, angels, and more. And sledding.
The resort offers a full-service spa with a Stowe Cider Scrub and T-Shock Cryotherapy, a non-invasive, all-natural approach to body contouring. You can even have a Spa Butler to arrange all your wellness needs, whether that’s a Peloton bike rental or chillax bath time.
Surrounded by nature and views of Mount Mansfield, The Lodge’s outdoor heated swimming pool is open year-round. The pool is the perfect setting for winding down and warming up after a long day on the slopes, featuring a swim-out tunnel and two hot tubs.
6 || International Pleasures In DC
The new Conrad Washington DC is an exciting new addition to the Washington DC luxury hotel repertoire. The location is in the exciting new downtown area, including the City Center.
The City Center installed a giant “igloo” that had unique ice sculptures inside three years ago. And they always feature an impressive Christmas tree (It’s like our Rockefeller Center tree).
Aside from the fantastic shopping that includes Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Tiffany, Vince, David Yurman, and more, there you can find the best ice cream in the city at Dolcezza or enjoy a meal at Centrolina.
The Conrad is spectacular, with stunning art installations and really beautiful outdoor terraces, including their outdoor rooftop bar called Summit. Or, if you prefer to be indoors, you can hang out, eat, and drink at The Lounge, which also overlooks the City Center. They offer a nightly tasting of reserved Japanese whisky at their Sakura Club for hotel guests. And James Beard Award-winning chefs Bryan and Michael Voltaggio showcase flavors of the Chesapeake at the farm-to-table Estuary restaurant. The guest rooms are all exquisite.
DC offers numerous holiday activities, from skating at the Smithsonian Shakespeare Garden to carol concerts at the National Cathedral to the Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center. The National Symphony Orchestra also hosts an Ugly Sweater Concert down at The Anthem, a beautiful concert facility down at The Wharf.
One of my favorite, not-so-well-known, holiday activities is to head to the Hillwood Estate, the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, for the Russian Winter Festival.