Travel & Leisure
updated 12/7/2011 5:49:22 PM ET 2011-12-07T22:49:22

After sipping wine by the fireplace and tree, you sit down to a seven-course Christmas Eve dinner. It all sounds just about perfect—and it gets better. There are no dishes to clean and no unexpected relatives dropping in. Why? You’re celebrating at Seattle’s chic Hotel Vintage Park.

Getting away for the holidays can be the best gift of all. And while it’s not always easy—you’ve got to contend with potential foul weather and crowds—once you arrive, there’s nothing to do but soak up the festive atmosphere and experience how another place celebrates. From Charleston to Yosemite National Park, we’ve found appealing lodges, hotels, and historic inns with holiday goings-on to suit any personality.

If you love the cool bite of frost, head to New Hampshire’s quaint Bedford Village Inn, where local designers work their magic annually to deck the halls, and chefs concoct the prix fixe menu and mom-daughter teas. But if what your family really wants for Christmas is sand and sun, check in to Honolulu’s Outrigger Reef on the Beach, where kids can dine with Santa himself (even Kris Kringle needs to defrost a little) and pose for photos. Root for staff as they compete in a gingerbread-house-making contest.

Christmas gets a more grown-up, southwestern treatment at the landmark Taos Inn, decorated with old-world furnishings and farolitos, lovely paper lanterns traditional to the area. Guests can belly up to the Adobe Bar for killer margaritas and Yuletide Salsa nights with live music.

For others, Christmas is merriest at its most traditional, with the trappings of gingerbread, candles in the window, and the kind of Victorian-era traditions associated with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Madrona Manor in California wine country brings those visions to life with its annual Dickens Dinners, hearty feasts complete with carolers dressed in 19th-century garb.

Like it or not, Dickens’s classic helped popularize the holiday as a secular time to enjoy with loved ones, let the wine flow, and seek inspiration and new beginnings in the dark days of winter.

Here’s hoping that even the Scrooges among us find the perfect place to spend the holidays.

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