8 family-friendly hotels for the holidays in the southeastern states

Your daughter’s eyes beam with delight at the falling snow. Your nephew shrieks in glee at Santa waving from a Polar Express steam engine.  Christmas is a time for families, and children – with their belief in the magic of the holiday – are the shining stars of the season.  Treat the entire family to an enchanting escape this year at one of these eight luxury accommodations in the southeastern US.

Biltmore Estate

Known as one of the Southeast’s most beloved and storied holiday travel destinations, Biltmore House beckons the holiday season with a 35-foot tall Fraser fir towering over the Banquet Hall, and guests delight in a Victorian era-inspired display of holiday finery. This year, visitors see 56 trees throughout Biltmore House, each intricately designed and hand-decorated. Miles of fresh garland and wreaths create a yuletide scent throughout the House, with nearly 1,000 red and white poinsettias in the Winter Garden and other areas. Throughout the holiday, guests can also take advantage of themed events such as visits with Santa, decorating seminars, and a Gingerbread House Tea at the Inn. Christmas at Biltmore runs through 12th January 2014. Candlelight Christmas Evenings with nighttime candlelight tours (with musical choir performances) of Biltmore House take place through 4th January 2014.

Barnsley Gardens Resort

Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this romantic, resort is famous for its premiere golfing and hunting.  At Christmas, the resort transforms into a magical oasis with more than one million twinkling lights and festive décor lighting the 1800’s manor ruins and English-style village. Along with the extravagant lighting of the gardens and ruins there are Santa encounters for the kids, wreath-making classes, a Gingerbread Workshop (hosted by the resort’s famed Fairy Godmother), elaborate holiday dining presentations, and marshmallow toasting and s’mores making at numerous fire pits. Additional celebrations make guests’ days merry and bright.   To take advantage of this special experience, the Light Up the Holidays promotion is available for overnight stays thru December 30, 2013 and includes luxurious cottage accommodations, a keepsake Barnsley Resort ornament, and $50 resort credit for parent activities such as spa treatments, sporting clay instruction, horseback riding or gourmet dining.

The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island

Imagine a drive of palm trees, adorned with festive Christmas lights.  Once you arrive, a 17-foot Gingerbread Pirate Ship awaits you in the lobby! Made with 1,200 pounds of sugar and 3,000 eggs, this behemoth chocolate sculpture beckons kids of all ages.  Families enjoy Santa’s Storybook Tea, or warm up to hot chocolate and cookies at the 17th annual tree lighting, benefiting the local YMCA Scholarship program for families in need.  Be sure to ask about Santa’s Tuck In.  The Jolly Elf visits your room with cookies and milk, reads a holiday story, and presents your little one with a gift on Saturdays in December.

The Cloister at Sea Island

The Cloister, coastal Georgia’s five star luxury resort, abounds with holiday activities for the entire family. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride, led by a tuxedo-clad carriage driver, or get into the spirit with a Dicken’s Christmas Dinner Show.  Cast your vote at the reindog parade, and don your chef hat at a workshop to bake and decorate sugar cookies. Try your hand at the Gingerbread decorating class; see if you can replicate a mini version of the life-size gingerbread house located in the lobby of the main house. Little ones will love the Princess Tea Party or the Pirate Party with games, crafts, and a treasure hunt.  Take the kids to the Children’s Christmas Party where the family can enjoy crafts, snacks, and live entertainment.  Finally, to top off the night, schedule an Elf Tuck In with milk and cookies, and a special story.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

What little boy or girl doesn’t dream of Christmas at Disney? Disney Swan and Dolphin is the ideal holiday location for the whole family. Mr. and Mrs. Claus return, decked in their Florida resort attire.  These cold-weather escapees will help you enjoy the season with fun events like Santa and Mrs. Clause meet-n-greets under Santa’s Tiki hut, including photo ops complete with reindeer, palms trees, and flamingos.  Get a peek at Santa’s Suite, and learn about how he prepares for the Big Day.  Take in the Dancing Lights Shows on the causeway, or check out the 1,200 pound life-sized chocolate sculpture of Santa. Also in the lobby on select nights, carolers, choirs, and musicians sing sweetly the tunes of the holiday season.  Don’t miss the tree lighting ceremony, dessert decorating, and in-room holiday movies for the kids.  On Christmas Eve, schedule a special Elf Tuck In with cookies and milk, a special gift, and a story. Before you say, “Good night” hang your special Magic Keys for Santa outside your room; with no chimney, Kris Kringle is going to need a way inside!

WDW Swan and Dolphin

Omni Grove Park Inn

Grove Park Inn is home to the annual National Gingerbread House Competition, currently in its 21st season. Guests can enjoy the 200 gingerbread houses on display until the new year.  To further the Christmas cheer, there are over 80 decorated Christmas trees throughout the property.  A roaring fire and snow on the mountains ensures a romantic, old-fashioned holiday experience.  The Christmas in the Mountains 2013 package provides 3 nights’ accommodation, daily breakfast, Christmas Day Grand Buffet, a Grove Park Inn keepsake ornament, and a decorated tabletop Christmas tree for your room. Prices start at $511.50 per night for two adults.

The Omni Grove Park Inn

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Celebrate Christmas like the Rockefellers on the island of Jekyll. Jekyll Island Club was a haven for William Rockefeller and his family, and now it is open for everyone to enjoy.  December’s events include a chef’s demonstration with tastings and wine pairings. At the Christmas Cookie Workshop, guests can decorate a dozen cookies to take home, while enjoying punch or mulled cider. Listen to the seasonal Scottish melodies of The Christmas Bagpiper and visit with Santa at Crane Cottage.  Through the month of December, the Nights Before Christmas package is available starting at $159 per night.  It includes traditional or Clubhouse accommodations, the breakfast buffet, and a special stocking filled with goodies.

Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation

Pamper the family this Christmas on Lake Oconee at the AAA Five Diamond Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Plantation. Visitors to the resort can skate on the 6,000 square foot ice rink (complimentary for resort guests,) admire the Linger Longer Express recreated in gingerbread, or create a masterpiece of their own at a gingerbread decorating workshop.  Overnight resort guests can take a complimentary ride around the grounds on the festively adorned Linger Longer Express. Saturdays in December will make for a memorable family experience. Start the day with a Pajama Breakfast with Santa and His Elves. Sit for an afternoon story with Mrs. Clause and Dooley, the chocolate lab resort mascot, and finish the day with holiday movies and fresh-popped popcorn.  An Elf Tuck In provides your little ones with milk and cookies, and a special story. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can drop the kids at Ritz-Kids Elves in Training to craft their own toy. The cost includes activities, materials and dinner, and provides you time to indulge at the spa. The Fire & Ice Package includes unlimited ice-skating, breakfast for two, s’mores kits for use at the nightly campfire, turndown service, and valet parking. Prices start at $349 per night ($369 per night on weekends.)

Comments (1)

  1. Great post with some excellent suggestions! For the Walt Disney World option, my favorite luxury recommendation for families during the holiday season (and any time for that matter) is Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. There is really no comparison to any other resort on property and during the holidays in particular they go all out with experiences that are unmatched across the “World.” Definitely worth consideration.

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