5 destinations to make the holidays special with that special someone

Traveling during the winter holidays does not have to be the same, predictable trip “back home” to see family. The season can be a great opportunity to travel, not just take a trip.

Travel means much more: It is exploring a new destination, and any destination will have some extra pizzazz when dressed up with holiday decorations, with the spirit of the season in the air.

To celebrate the winter holidays in style, here are our top 5 recommendations for great places to visit:

New York

New York has world-famous symbols of Christmas celebrations: there are the big displays, like the tree at Rockefeller Center, the red and green colors of the Empire State Building’s lights, and the department store windows along Fifth Avenue.

 
 
 
 
 
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But the true spirit of the winter holidays are in the little details, like decorations on lampposts and colored lights hanging from apartment balconies, and the red and green pastries on display in the bakeries of Little Italy.

 
 
 
 
 
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For the 2019 season, New York received an early Christmas present from France: 30 authentic French wooden chalets were shipped over and rebuilt at Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan. The Strasbourg-Alsace Christmas Market, or Marche de Noel, will sell knicknacks and authentic pretzels and warm beverages through Sunday, Dec. 22.

Asheville, N.C.

Asheville is a fun little town in western North Carolina, a couple hours away from Charlotte, hidden away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. During the holidays the town turns on the holiday charm, and the Holly Jolly Trolley meanders down the street, but the star of the show is the Biltmore Estate.

 
 
 
 
 
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This historic mansion is the U.S.’s version of Downton Abbey, with grand halls adorned with priceless furniture and art, and in December the property is transformed into a winter wonderland with 55 Christmas trees and luxe decorations from floor to ceiling. As a bonus: Touring the estate includes a visit to the Biltmore wine cellar, with a complimentary wine tasting. That’s worth the price of admission.

 
 
 
 
 
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Las Vegas

Of course in Las Vegas, where too much is never enough, the Christmas decorations will be as dazzling and gorgeous as the city itself. Casinos on The Strip have their buzzy lobbies decorated like luxe Christmas parlours, where even Ebenezer Scrooge would want to sneak a selfie. For 2019 the Aria Resort and Casino installed a life-sized gingerbread house.

 
 
 
 
 
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Another favorite is the beautiful display in the Bellagio:

 
 
 
 
 
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Washington, D.C.

The National Christmas Tree in D.C. is always a stunner, but there is much more to see in our nation’s capitol during the winter holiday season. The Georgetown GLOW installation puts a contemporary spin on holiday lights:

 
 
 
 
 
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This is a great time to visit the nine museums that are part of the Smithsonian’s D.C. campus, mainly because there aren’t school groups filling the buildings. After a day perusing the museums, walk outside to the Downtown Holiday Market, a fun place to browse for ornaments and other gorgeous things, and who doesn’t love those little donuts?

Palm Springs

Looking for a romantic, low-key Christmas? Go to Palm Springs. The winter holidays are a quiet time for this resort destination, and that means hotel rates can be a great bargain: for example, rooms at the ultra-luxe Villa Royale are literally 50% lower in December than in February. Splurge and get a suite.

 
 
 
 
 
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The cooler weather and occasional cloudiness are perfect for hiking in the nearby canyons, and if there has been any rain, the Tahquitz River will push water into beautiful waterfalls.

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There is still lots of sun, of course, and pools at resorts like INNDulge are gently heated, and perfect for swimming. To get the true winter wonderland experience, take a trip up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which leads to Mouth San Jacinto State Park, where snow covers the walking trails and the vista views are stunning. But be prepared: it is not chilly up there, it is cold, so bring a heavy coat.

For families with kids, the JW Marriott in nearby Desert Springs has published a holiday activity guide, with arts and crafts projects in the hotel and gondola tours around the lagoon. These special events run from Dec. 21-31.