Family Ties: 4 Unforgettable Ways to Celebrate the Holidays
These Christmas vacations will inspire your family and build memories to last a lifetime
For many families, the year-end holidays are the perfect time to gather with their loved ones to share the magic of the season. While many do this at home, a growing number are choosing to celebrate Christmas with a meaningful trip to a special location. Here are four vacation options for experiencing the fun of a family holiday getaway and create memories of a lifetime:
Magical Journey on the Polar Express
Every winter the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express takes families on a holiday-themed ride to the “North Pole,” where Santa Claus and his reindeer await with keepsake presents for every good boy and girl. The 90-minute round-trip journey departs each evening from tiny Williams, Ariz., from November to early January. Listen to the timeless story of the classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, while costumed characters on board help bring it to life. Upon arrival at the North Pole, decorated and aglow for Christmas, families can enjoy hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. There’s no better way to watch your children’s eyes light up for Christmas.
A Capital Christmas
Bring your family to our nation’s capital for Christmas and enjoy holiday-themed activities and seasonal performances on a five-day tour, A Capital Christmas, from Holiday Vacations. How easy is it to get into the holiday spirit? Let me count the ways: Admire the towering National Christmas Tree and stroll the Pathway of Peace, a walkway featuring uniquely decorated Christmas trees each representing a U.S. state or territory. Enjoy the U.S. Botanic Garden’s special holiday exhibit displaying model trains and plant-inspired recreations of famous U.S. train stations. Ogle the Christmas displays including enormous decorated wreaths and decked-out halls in Union Station. Explore the Christmas Markets located in front of the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Take in a performance of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, in Ford’s Theatre, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Visit the Kennedy Center for a live performance of its annual NSO Holiday Pops! concert. End with an evening holiday illumination drive by motorcoach with stops at the Christmas tree on the Capitol’s West Lawn. Your family will leave uplifted with yuletide joy.
Ranch in Death Valley
Saddle up and immerse the kids in the lifestyle of the Old West at the 224-room Ranch at Death Valley. This former working ranch has been transformed into the family-friendly hub of the Oasis at Death Valley — the perfect home base for exploring the largest national park in the lower 48 states. During the Christmas season, enjoy comfortably cool temperatures and clear, sunny days when the most of the country is shivering. Take the family on a guided horseback ride into the valley floor where you will get a true taste of the desert. Or hop on an evening carriage or hay wagon ride through the lowest golf course in the world and into the famous Death Valley date palm grove. Swim in a real oasis in the 87-degree spring-fed pool and enjoy the tennis, basketball and volleyball courts as well as horseshoe pits and a playground.
And what’s Christmas without twinkling lights? These happen to be in the sky, which boasts some of the best stargazing in the world and helped earn Death Valley prestigious designation as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park from the International Dark-Sky Association. The kids will leave with stars in their eyes.
Grand Canyon Holiday
Enjoy special holiday meals and a festive atmosphere during Christmas at the Grand Canyon. While the the park is beautiful year-round, during the winter season it really sparkles — its facilities are all decked out in their Christmas finery and its gorgeous vista points and hiking trails are blissfully free of crowds. You may even catch the canyon dramatically blanketed in pristine snow. Garlands and lights adorn the hotels and restaurants, their hearths trimmed with red bows and their fireplaces crackling with winter blazes. Many of the park’s distinctive lodges offer a special menu for Christmas dinner, so be sure to reserve well in advance. And savor a joyous winter vacation in this Natural Wonder of the World.
How to Explore
Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel
In addition to the Polar Express, the Grand Canyon Railway offers daily trips on the historic train to the Grand Canyon. Travel over 120 round-trip miles through beautiful northern Arizona while being entertained by historical cowboy characters and strolling musicians. The Grand Canyon Railway has been departing daily from Williams, Ariz., since 1901. Spend a night in Williams next door to the train depot at the AAA Three Diamond Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Just walking distance from quaint downtown Williams and Route 66, the modern hotel has a grand lobby, indoor pool and hot tub as well as Spenser’s Pub with its handcrafted 19th-century bar. Packages with train travel and overnight stays in Grand Canyon National Park and Williams are available. Visit thetrain.com for more information.
Holiday Vacations is one of America’s most reputable tour companies, with 50 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach, and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals, and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details, assuring you a carefree and memorable vacation. Visit holidayvacations.com for more information.
The Ranch at Death Valley
The 224-room Ranch at Death Valley is situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park, Calif. — just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It’s part of the Oasis at Death Valley, which also includes the historic, AAA Four Diamond, 66-room Inn at Death Valley. The entire resort has undergone a complete renaissance with an extensive renovation in 2018. It includes natural spring-fed pools, an 18-hole golf course, horse and carriage rides, world-renowned stargazing, and is surrounded by Death Valley National Park’s main attractions. Visit oasisatdeathvalley.com for more information or call or call 800-236-7916.
Grand Canyon National Park Lodges
Grand Canyon National Park Lodges provides the premier in-park lodging, managing six distinctly different lodges. From the 1905 El Tovar hotel, long considered the crown jewel of national park hotels, to Phantom Ranch, the only lodging on the floor of the canyon, you’ll find accommodations to help you get the most out of your visit to the Grand Canyon. You can also book rafting, railway, and motorcoach tours. For more information and reservations, visit grandcanyonlodges.com or call 888-297-2757.
For more travel experiences available from the Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/stories.