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Away from home for the holidays

Whether you prefer to partake in old-fashioned holiday traditions or create shiny new ones, there are themed packages and special offers to fit the bill for you and your family.
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It’s beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas, as resorts around the country are ramping up for the busy holiday season.

With most children around the country enjoying nearly two full weeks of school holidays, families are increasingly using Christmastime as a chance for a getaway.

Whether you prefer to partake in old-fashioned traditions or create shiny new ones, there are themed packages and special offers to fit the bill.

Here’s a look at what’s going on at some family-friendly resorts around the country:

Hershey LodgeWhere: Hershey, Pa.

Why: Because Hersheypark’s 30 themed amusement-park rides beckon in “the sweetest place on Earth,” and you can take in “Christmas in Chocolate Town,” a holiday dinner and musical performed at the Hershey Lodge. Of the handful of packages available over the holidays, we like “Breakfast with Santa,” which starts at $345/night and includes accommodation, a breakfast buffet with Santa, plus admission to Hersheypark and “Hershey’s Sweet Lights Show.”

Great Wolf Lodge, WilliamsburgWhere: Williamsburg, Va.

Why: Because this giant rustic-themed lodge and indoor waterpark (see our review) is transformed into “Snowland” during the holidays. Snow will fall in the lobby three times a day, while the balmy temperatures inside the adjacent waterpark remain downright tropical. Kids can meet Santa, have storytime with Rowdy the Reindeer, make presents and cards at Santa’s workshop and then head to the “North Pole University” to earn mittens filled with arcade tokens. Rates start at $199/night for Sunday to Thursday stays.

Where: Copper Mountain, Colo.

Why: Because this kid-friendly ski resort (see our review) hosts a fabulous “En Fuego” celebration several times during the holiday season. Once evening falls, there are bonfires, street entertainers, fire performers, a brilliant fireworks display and a parade of torch-carrying skiers who wind their way down the mountain. Holiday packages including accommodation and lift tickets start at $160/person per night.

Evergreen LodgeWhere: Yosemite, Calif.

Why: Because this historic hotel offers a timeless Yosemite experience, without roughing it. Your family will stay in a comfortable cabin, enjoy delicious food, and partake in many holiday festivities. There will be campfires and s’more-making, crafts workshops, a tree lighting ceremony, a sunset hayride, bingo and movie nights, and the Evergreen tradition of making your own Christmas flamingo to take home with you. Two-night family packages, including accommodation, all meals, your choice of guided excursions, and a menu of activities start at $425.

The HomesteadWhere: Hot Springs, Va.

Why: Because this historic, luxurious resort is a wonderfully festive place to spend all or part of the holidays, thanks to Christmas lights twinkling around the grounds, a 30-foot Douglas Fir in the Great Hall, and visits from Santa. The award-winning kids’ club offers a wide breadth of activities, including science workshops, crafts, storytime, ice skating, and downing mugs of hot cocoa. Halfboard packages, including accommodation, daily breakfast and dinner, and free nightly movies, begin at $565/night.

Vista Verde RanchWhere: Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Why: Because this upscale yet kid-friendly dude ranch offers an old-fashioned Rocky Mountain Christmas for the whole family. Think one-horse-open-sleigh rides through the snow, plus horseback riding, dogsledding, cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowman-making contests. If you spend Christmas at the ranch, you can pick your own Christmas tree, create decorations, and enjoy a traditional Christmas feast. On Christmas night, you can join the staff in raiding the refrigerator for leftovers, just like you would at home.

Callaway GardensWhere: Pine Mountain, Ga.

Why: Because, along with myriad opportunities for recreation and nature discovery, this 13,000-acre resort’s “Fantasy in Lights” extravaganza is Georgia’s largest light display, with seven miles of illuminated classic Christmas scenes. You can visit the Christmas village for some holiday shopping, and pop into the Fantasy Food Court for freshly baked items made by Mrs. Claus herself. The resort offers many accommodation options; rates at the Mountain Creek Inn start at $157/night in December.

Woodloch PinesWhere: Hawley, Penn.

Why: Because this exceptionally family-friendly resort (see our review) pours on the holiday fun throughout December, with horse-drawn sleigh rides, snow tubing, ice skating, Christmas caroling, yule log hunts, visits to a tree farm, a festival of lights and even a visit from Santa and Rudolph. Two-night holiday weekend packages, including six meals and all activities, start at $395/adult. is an authoritative online guide to family trip-planning. The site features reviews of kid-friendly hotels and resorts, expert planning advice, readers' travel tips, destination insider guides, vacation deals, and more. Subscribe to our newsletter to hear about resort specials and exclusive, money-saving offers.