Dec 14 2013




Last week I was in Washington, D.C. and stayed at the Willard Hotel. Without question, it was an incredible holiday experience. Upon arriving during lunch hour, there was a choir singing in the lobby which was decorated from top to bottom. The Willard Christmas tree is a delight. The Pastry Chef made a huge gingerbread replica of the United States Capitol. In the evenings, there was tea in the lobby and another choir was singing carols.

The entire stay was a spectacular holiday experience.

Afterwards, I was thinking what other hotels might offer such joy at the holidays and Travel + Leisure came through with a great list. Here are my favorites in addition to my extraordinary stay at the Willard.

Liberty Hotel


Boston Six decked-out Christmas trees hang upside-down from the ceiling of the Liberty’s 90-foot rotunda. The attention-grabbing installation required workers to dangle from safety harnesses as they affixed the trees to the ceiling’s lofty rafters. It’s an inspired new spin on holiday décor—and appropriate for a building that did a 180 of its own by transforming from a jail into a luxury hotel.

Bellagio Resort & Casino, Las Vegas


Las Vegas knows how to put on a show, and no hotel does Christmas better than the Bellagio. Its famous fountains dance to special holiday tunes, and festive decorations take over the Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. Just consider these by-the-numbers highlights: Vegas’s largest indoor tree (a 42-footer); an 8-foot-tall reindeer coated in chocolate; a life-size candy house and snow globe; 34,000 fresh poinsettias; and a family of topiary polar bears made from 24,000 white carnations.

Coeur d’Alene Resort, ID


For more than a quarter of a century, this lakefront resort has transformed into a watery winter wonderland. This year, holiday guests can expect a 1.5-million-light show—the largest in the country—accompanied by a 160-foot-tall living Christmas tree, a 3,000-pound wreath, and more than 400 animated holiday figures. Be sure to board a cruise boat for the ride to the “North Pole,” where Santa’s workshop awaits.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, AZ


A white Christmas comes to the desert thanks to snowfalls, an ice-skating rink oasis (christened in 2013 by Olympian Dorothy Hamill), and oversize outdoor displays that include 14-foot poinsettias and a candy-cane forest. There are no fewer than 180 illuminated Christmas trees; a whopping 1.8 million holiday lights fringing the resort’s lagoons; and a special holiday “train” to take it all in from. Plus, all the usual Christmas standbys: hot cocoa, carolers, and the jolly big fellow himself—Santa.