15 Best Christmas Destinations That Look Straight Out of a Holiday Postcard
Normal Rockwell, Currier and Ives, H. Hargrove and Thomas Kinkade all conjure instant visions of the holiday seasons in our heads. Why? Well, because with snow and icicle-dusted roofs, twinkling lights, wreaths and garland, plus convincing scenes of families and friends making the most of the season, they represent the idyllic holiday we all hope to have each year. And let’s face it, we could all use a bit of fantasy this 2020 holiday season.
While many of us stay put this year to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we thought it’d be the perfect time to virtually visit the real-life places of these iconic holiday and Christmas scenes that were painted to perfection by brushstroke.
1. Nestlenook Farm (Jackson, NH)
Horse drawn carriages adorned with jingle bells and comfy blankets, a picturesque skating rink with an arched foot bridge and hanging garland and trees with twinkling lights make this farm in New Hampshire a holiday delight. There’s a warming hut with a burning fireplace for when you’re doing gliding around the ice, and in the main building, they serve some pretty serious hot cocoa, too.
2. The Nassau Inn (Princeton, NJ)
If you're looking for the setting of a real-life Hallmark holiday movie, Princeton, New Jersey is as good as it gets. The picturesque stone façade of the Nassau Inn sits at the center of Palmer Square, the crown jewel of the university town where a popular tree lighting ceremony takes place each year—don’t worry folks, it’s happening virtually in 2020. During the lighting, people generally buzz around the boutiques, restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops that line the square where it’s expected you’ll find the yuletide spirit in that first sip of cider or hot cocoa. Inside the colonial building, a roaring fireplace upstairs is Nassau Inn’s very magical spot to take in a cocktail and sit in the comfy red leather chairs and couches. Downstairs at the Tap Room restaurant, there’s even a large mural by Norman Rockwell himself behind the bar, proving this place is the real deal.
3. Suncadia Resort (Cle Elum, WA)
A forested mountain landscape is the backdrop for this ice skating rink lit up by night by strings of hanging lights. With the Cascade Mountains producing plenty of snow, it’s also an ideal spot for a pretty epic snowball fight, if we do say so ourselves. Suncadia Resort is popular for their holiday activities and experiences each year, like a path that leads to a Candy Cane Forest Tree Lot filled with Christmas trees.
4. 33 Main (Lenox, MA)
A white blanket of snow against this eight-room luxury inn in Lenox, MA creates the perfect Christmas scene. The white, Federal-style building is outfitted with two large wreaths, each with a red bow, and rocking chairs on the front porch. Simple and elegant on the outside, snapshot-worthy holiday vignettes are carried throughout inside, with contemporary holiday trees that complement the beautiful furnishings and décor of the inn.
5. The Lowell (New York, NY)
Silver bells—it’s Christmastime in New York City at The Lowell, a historic, stylish hotel on the Upper East Side that’s nearby to Central Park and looks like the ideal filming location for the upcoming Gossip Girl reboot. What this hotel does best around the holidays is dress up a fireplace mantle in-room, conjuring a familiar smell and scene from many a holiday painting.
Behold—the roaring fire, which “Fire Butlers” at the hotel can light for you if you were to ever stay. Your mantle might be adorned with monochrome silver and white branches, bulbs and candelabras; there’s also a setup with nutcrackers, sparkly red holly branches and bulbs and pine green needles. Whatever your holiday style and taste, something tells us you’ll be dreaming about scenes from this posh palace for seasons to come.
6. American Club (Kohler, WI)
Storybook, holiday trimmings including 40 miles of twinkling lights, horse-drawn carriage rides, crackling fireplaces, games of the Bavarian curling and ice bowling variety, and much more, make this resort-hotel one jolly spot.
Come the holidays, the backlit vintage stained-glass windows at the Greenhouse garden cafe will have you feel as if you’ve stepped inside a frosty snow globe. Luckily, this snow globe serves Rossi Tea, Irish coffees, and a cocktail called “Whistling Straits”—made with homemade vanilla ice cream, espresso and Baileys Irish Cream.
7. Beach Plum Farm (Cape May, NJ)
This farmer’s market located in a beautiful Amish barn looks like something out of a country Christmas painting, and it of course sells all the holiday time, vintage and farm-inspired gifts you could ever dream of. Outside of the market, Beach Plum Farm is a working farm with an *actual* chicken coup and adorable farm swing. Whether you’re already “safecationing” with family or friends for the holidays, or just looking for inspiration for your future travels, the farm also offers luxe, boutique cottages for rent that are peek levels of hygge.
8. Rosewood Miramar Beach (Montecito, CA)
A massive Christmas tree decorated in bulbs and gold ribbon, a curved staircase outfitted in complimentary gold ribbon and garland lights, and perfectly tied gold-wrapped gifts stacked under the tree, we’re wondering if you’re starting to see a trend here…No, it’s not Kris Jenner’s foyer during the holidays, it’s actually the luxe little holiday paradise of the Rosewood Miramar Beach in prime Montecito. This is how we imagine the Rockefeller’s did the holidays.
9. Eden Rock (Saint Barthélemy)
Close your eyes. Bing Crosby is singing “Mele Kalikimaka,” and you’re instantly dreaming of a tropical holiday scene with the ocean waves crashing beside you. Now, open your eyes. Outfitted in red flowers and white candle-lit globes—complete with unique and playful ornamental chandeliers made of bamboo that depict birds and monkeys and other exotic animals hanging from the ceiling—the Sand Bar restaurant at the iconic Eden Rock hotel has been transformed for all your holiday desires. It’s also St. Barth, so the holiday decorations are by Chopard, naturally, and the New Year’s Eve celebration is one of the most sought-after parties (in normal times) in the world. Hey, we can dream about 2021, can’t we?
10. The Drake (Chicago, IL)
Dressed up in its holiday best, a giant holiday tree sits in the grand foyer of this Chicago institution, decorated with large bulbs and Santa ornaments of varying sizes and shapes. Located in the arcade, this elegant hotel is also home to an art gallery that houses holiday paintings of the jolly variety. Mangel Florist, which is celebrating 100 years at the hotel, has incredible holiday decorations and holiday gifts and decorates their window shops in past years with beautiful wreaths, garlands, birch trees and other snow dusted greenery. Swoon.
11. La Quinta Resort & Club (La Quinta, CA)
If you’ve ever watched It’s a Wonderful Life, you know it’s like a Norman Rockwell holiday painting come to life on the big screen. La Quinta Resort & Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort traditionally does their holiday décor based on the film, which writer/director/producer Frank Capra worked on while staying at the property. And while this year’s trimmings will look a little different due to the ongoing pandemic, you can still find yourself under the spell of a nostalgic holiday scene by watching Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in the holiday classic.
12. The Jefferson (Richmond, VA)
Imagine hundreds of poinsettias, yards of garland and ribbon, and dozens of toy soldiers, plus strands of glimmering lights set against a gorgeous Beaux Arts building—which was notably designed by the same folks who did the famous 5th Avenue library in New York City—and you’ve found yourself at The Jefferson during the holidays.
During the season, the landmark hotel’s culinary team uses “thousands of pounds of gingerbread, royal icing and candy to create a child-sized depiction of a classic holiday scene for the hotel’s annual Gingerbread Display,” a rep tells us. And all the sudden we are craving something sweet...
13. Cliveden House (Taplow, UK)
The pinnacle of holiday luxury, Cliveden House is an Italianate mansion and stately hotel surrounded by some 376 acres of National Trust formal gardens and woodland. Dimmed lighting creates a romantic holiday mood, with large Christmas trees and twinkling lights set against traditional British furnishings that will make you feel like you’re experiencing the holidays at Downton Abbey. Adding to the spirit is an annual Christmas House Party, carol singers and festive tea services dressed up by red bows and sprigs of holly. (Psst: Harry and Meghan have actually stayed here—so you know it’s good.)
14. Courtyard by Marriott Greenville Downtown (Greenville, SC)
Those sparkling scenes of families, friends and lovers taking a twirl around an ice-skating rink come to life each November through January when a greenspace that sits adjacent to the hotel along Main Street is transformed into a winter wonderland, called Ice on Main.
Just like a mini Rockefeller Center, you’ll also find tree-lined sidewalks twinkle around this fast-growing South Carolina city with an abundance of Christmas lights, Santa’s motorized sleigh—a converted 1993 Ford Aerostar that glides down Main Street with an elf in tow—and carolers harmonizing in the streets.
15. The Red Lion Inn (Stockbridge, MA)
What could be better than visiting the actual site of a famous Norman Rockwell holiday painting, where a now-classic red car sits out front of the all-white main inn building with a Christmas tree fastened to its roof? At this iconic Berkshires hotel, known for its unique accommodations including a historic firehouse with its very own Rockwell painting entitled “The New American LaFrance is Here,” you will certainly get in the spirt of the season quite quickly. And during normal times, art buffs can partake in a very pleasing scavenger hunt of Rockwell works in his hometown of Stockbridge or by visiting the nearby museum in his honor.