Tis the season for all things merry. Maybe though, you’re thinking of doing something different this year. Instead of giving gifts, you’re in the mood for making memories. Experiential gifts are trending, and a family vacation will give you the gift of quality time with each other. Why not start a new tradition?
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
With traditions such as farolitos, Las Posadas, biscochitos, cozy fireplaces ablaze with fragrant pinon wood and meals of tamales smothered in red chile, consider visiting Santa Fe, N.M. Do the holidays Southwest style.
The city merges Native-American culture, Spanish Colonial heritage and the Old West pioneer spirit, ensuring a unique, rich Yuletide celebration. Who knows, it might even snow. If it does, the legendary adobe buildings will look like gingerbread houses with a layer of snow creating a “frosting” look on the roofs and ledges. How’s that for an IG moment?
Hit the slopes with your skis. Or if you’re into something more sedate and sweet, you’ll love the hot chocolate elixir drinks in the craft chocolate shops along the Santa Fe Chocolate Trail. Santa Fe, which means “Holy Faith,” welcomes visitors of all faiths to celebrate the season with a cornucopia of traditions and celebrations of food, song, dance and light displays. What you don’t want to miss is the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road. You’ll always remember walking with the masses along this famous road that is decorated with hundreds of farolitos (small brown sacks filled with sand and holding a glowing candle inside, often called “luminarias” in other parts of the for country).
You’ll cheat yourself if you don’t experience the musical holiday tradition featuring classical pieces and traditional Christmas carols in the historic Loretto Chapel, performed by the Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each evening, Dec. 20 to Dec. 24.
The holidays are all about food. Sign up your family for a hands-on experience at the Santa Fe School of Cooking for a Traditional New Mexican Christmas cooking class, which includes preparing shredded pork tamales and poblano and corn tamales, both served with red chile sauce, hearty holiday posole with green chile, calabacitas and the state’s official cookie, bizcochitos.
National Harbor, Md.
Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is “Christmas Central.” You’ll want to check out Christmas on the Potomac, which features more than a dozen holiday activities, including the resort’s award-winning ICE! attractions, showcasing a spin on the beloved “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with 2 million pounds of larger-than-life ice sculptures hand-carved by artisans from Harbin, China, and the new Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, a Christmas fable featuring acrobatic acts and aerialists from seven countries.
There’s also a new Merry Snoop Christmas Scavenger Hunt, and an interactive character experience, Breakfast with Charlie Brown & Friends. The Christmas Village has an ice skating rink, gingerbread decorating, stories and carols with Mrs. Claus and Santa. The resort’s luxury spa, Relâche Spa, will be getting into the holiday spirit with chocolate-themed treatments. The best way to ensure visitors get a full holiday experience with the greatest value is through the resort’s packages, the Christmas on the Potomac Package and the ICE! Is Nice Package.
Because you’re so close to Washington, D.C., it’s also worth a visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico
If your family is looking for sunshine and fun, make it easy on yourself at the all-inclusive Hotel Xcaret Mexico. You’ll love all that you get. The list includes Experiencias Xcaret’s eight nature parks and tours, free airport transfers, concierge services and unlimited Wi-Fi, among other perks, elevating the all-inclusive experience for families traveling during the holidays.
Not only will you feast on elegantly crafted cuisine but also there’s so much to do everybody will be happy. Mom and dad can pamper themselves at Muluk Spa, with cocktails at the rooftop bar, while children can get their playtime in at the Xiquilos Kids Club, and if you and your family want some together time, there’s the Xiipal Family Club, the resort’s infinity pools and coves, zipline and guided adventure tours, or visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá, and explore four kinds of cenotes that are located in the Mayan jungle.
Tel Aviv, Israel
It’s fitting to celebrate the holidays in the Holy Land. Travelers of all religious backgrounds can join in the Christmas Eve Parade along the main streets of Nazareth—a tradition that draws more than 30,000 people. For the culinary explorer, Jaffa Port Christmas Market in Tel Aviv is the perfect place to taste traditional holiday fare and wines from around the world. Appreciate religious and cultural diversity at The Holiday of Holidays, a weeklong festival in Haifa where Jews, Christians and Muslims gather at events such as art galleries, museum exhibitions, antique fairs, concerts, children activities and open-air festivities.
Hilton Head, S.C.
Ring in the holidays on Hilton Head Island. Think 70 degrees and sunny. Wind down the year playing tennis, biking, eating good grub and enjoying festivities such as the Dove Street Festival of Lights at Shelter Cove Towne Center, the Winter Wonderland Festival at Shelter Cove Community Park and the Harbour Town Lights at The Sea Pines Resort. If you’re wondering where to stay, one option is the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, where all of the activities are easily accessible.