As millions of people make plans to travel this holiday season, hotels and restaurants are unpacking decorations and spicing up menus to help their guests get into the holiday spirit. Travelers and diners looking for the comforts of home without the stress of hosting during the holidays can find festive and family-friendly activities, extravagant light displays and décor, sensational seasonal menus and much more at properties across the United States and Canada.
To help those travelers who are looking for a little extra holiday magic, AAA’s professional inspectors, including Inspector 63 and her team of Southern California Inspectors, who conduct annual evaluations of nearly 59,000 AAA Inspected & Approved hotels and restaurants, have selected 16 of their favorite festive Diamond Rated properties to visit this holiday season.
Locally, several AAA Diamond-rated properties offer special ways to celebrate the season, including these inspector picks:
- AAA Five Diamond Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village in Westlake Village, California and AAA Five Diamond Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore in Santa Barbara, California
Both these iconic properties will celebrate the Christmas season in family-friendly style with tree-lighting ceremonies, special holiday dinners, kids’ stories and crafts with Santa Claus and cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus—all amid breathtakingly beautiful surroundings, transformed from Southern California oases to festive winter wonderlands. Events are complimentary for resort guests. –Inspector #546
- AAA Four Diamond Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, California
Holiday magic abounds at the beachfront property, from tree-lighting festivities featuring hot cocoa to seasonal treatments at the spa and celebration-worthy menus at the on-site restaurant. And, what’s that sound? It’s the friendly staff, caroling and bringing cheer to guests throughout the magnificently decorated hotel. –Inspector #546
- AAA Four Diamond Westlake Village Inn in Westlake Village, California
At holiday time, the already beautiful and charming inn shines bright with multiple brilliantly decorated Christmas trees and on-site events including holiday-themed brunches and a New Year’s Eve celebration overlooking the property’s enchanting lake. –Inspector #546
Hotels around North America with Holiday Cheer for the Entire Family – Go ice skating, take a sleigh ride or join in a “reindog” parade. These AAA Inspectors’ picks offer visitors hands-on ways to enjoy the holidays away from home throughout the season.
• AAA Four Diamond The Fairmont Chateau Whistler in Whistler, British Columbia
Set at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, this gorgeous property is perfect for skiers. Activities in the nearby village include sleigh rides, ice skating and plenty of options for shopping and dining. Visitors can also enjoy daily holiday arts and crafts and other family-friendly activities, a special Christmas dinner, as well as an adults-only New Year’s Eve gala. –Inspector #450
• AAA Three Diamond The Inn on First in Napa, California
Northern California’s wine region is open for business – wineries and resorts are ready to welcome visitors this holiday season despite recent wildfires. And one of the best things people can do to support the people of Napa is by spending time in the region, helping local businesses get back on their feet. On weekend afternoons in December, hop aboard a festively-decorated trolley playing seasonal music, which runs between destination spots like the Oxbow Market and Historic Napa Mill. This cozy bed and breakfast, near the heart of Napa, has a cheerful holiday environment with a beautifully decorated tree and miniature town. –Inspector #569
• AAA Four Diamond The St. Regis Aspen Resort in Aspen, Colorado
This property, centrally located in the winter wonderland of Aspen, is lavishly adorned with holiday décor and complete with a mini-gingerbread village. Visitors can enjoy carriage rides through town with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the hotel provides treats for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve. –Inspector #599
• AAA Five Diamond The Cloister in Sea Island, Georgia
This exclusive, luxury resort features a full calendar of family-friendly offerings, including holiday movie screenings, elf tuck-ins, ornament decorating, a “reindog” parade, gingerbread house and ornament decorating, a Christmas Eve yule log ceremony, Christmas Day brunch and much more. –Inspector #43
Bright Lights, Winter Wonderland – Immerse yourself in extravagant light displays and décor that create a magical environment. Decked out with hundreds of thousands of lights, ornaments and garlands, these AAA inspector picks offer a holiday feast for the eyes.
• AAA Three Diamond Inn by the Bandstand in Exeter, New Hampshire
AAA’s inspector recommends planning your visit after the first week in December, when this beautifully restored historic country inn is turned into a holiday wonderland. The public areas and guestrooms are charmingly decorated with decked-out Christmas trees, a not-so-small collection of Santa figurines and a lighted village display. Guests are welcomed with eggnog and holiday-decorated cookies throughout the season. –Inspector #87
• AAA Four Diamond Lotte New York Palace in New York, New York
Located just steps from Rockefeller Center, this hotel is regally decorated for the holidays with its own 30-foot Christmas tree featuring 30,000 ornaments and more than 70,000 lights. Enjoy a cup of eggnog or spiced cider, go for a spin around the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink, and then stroll by the spectacularly decorated department store windows nearby. –Inspector #592
• AAA Five Diamond Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada
With seasonal sculptures created from thousands of fresh flowers and plants, the resort’s 14,000-square-foot conservatory is a floral fairytale. During the holidays, visitors can enjoy the florally crafted enormous polar bears, life-size snow globes and penguins on display. The lobby and shopping areas are also festively decorated. –Inspector #39
• AAA Five Diamond The Breakers, Palm Beach, in Palm Beach, Florida
This luxurious resort creates a winter dreamscape with nearly 200,000 lights, ribbons, garlands, wreaths and gloriously decorated trees. Guests can take part in myriad activities, 12 days of holiday themed events and Christmas Day brunch or dinner. –Inspector #76
Holiday Delights for Foodies and More – Sensational holiday-themed menus and settings at these Diamond Rated restaurants and hotels offer festive treats for the discerning foodie to the casual diner looking for a flavorful escape from the usual.
• AAA Three Diamond Glenlaurel Scottish Inn and Cottages in Rockbridge, Ohio
Each Sunday and Wednesday in December, the inn offers a Dickens Dinner with roast duck and pheasant accompanied by a reading from Dickens' novel, “A Christmas Carol.” Guests can go for a stroll along wooded trails adorned with icicles and lovely buildings set among the Hocking Hills. –Inspector #10
• AAA Three Diamond Westlake Grill in Red Deer, Alberta
The beautiful dining room's upscale western flair is transformed with festive decorations and seasonal menus for the holiday season. Sleigh rides at night take guests through a winter light display, complete with hot chocolate and blankets for snuggling. –Inspector #450
• AAA Four Diamond Circa 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina
This renovated carriage house at the historic Wentworth Mansion offers an intimate dining setting. An annual Dickens Dinner includes a retelling of “A Christmas Carol” with a four-course dinner prepared by the award-winning chef. –Inspector #43
• AAA Four Diamond The Inn on Negley in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This charming Victorian home decorates every square inch with tasteful holiday décor. Diners can warm up and enjoy a holiday-themed tea with options like gingerbread cheesecake and tea sandwiches with roasted turkey and apple cranberry mustard. –Inspector #593
The year-end holiday season is one of the busiest times of year, when millions of travelers take to the roads and air to spend time with family and friends. To help those who will set out on a holiday getaway this year, AAA’s travel experts offer these travel tips:
• Plan ahead – Book early for the best deals and availability on hotels, airfare, car rentals and more.
• Work with a travel agent – Travel agents often have access to extra amenities and added benefits to help plan a magical holiday getaway. They can also be a tremendous help in the event something changes or goes wrong on your trip.
• Be flexible – If your schedule permits, consider traveling on the holiday itself to encounter less congestion and fewer crowds.
• Safety first – Get plenty of rest before setting out on a holiday trip. If driving, schedule breaks every two hours or 100 miles to remain alert and avoid driving drowsy.
• Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready – Motorists should check the car battery and windshield wipers, inspect tires and pack a winter emergency kit containing a snow shovel, flashlight, ice scraper, jumper cables, warning devices and extra warm clothing for everyone riding in the vehicle.
• Be patient – The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year for traveling. Expect heavy crowds and allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely.
For more information to plan a holiday getaway, visit AAA.com/HolidayDiamonds.