There’s no place like home for the holidays—except for a cozy country inn, of course. Just imagine: a crackling fireplace, the scent of gingerbread, and all thoughts of shopping malls and busy airports and car commercials miles from your mind.
So consider this our early gift to you: some top small towns and country inns to spend the holiday season, from the snow-covered slopes of Colorado to the wintry lake shores of New York.
Sayre Mansion Inn, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
What better place to stay for the holidays than a place called Bethlehem? One of the United States’ many Bethlehems—there are at least 10—is this historical Pennsylvania city settled by the Moravians. Situated in the heart of town on a hill overlooking the icy winter river, the Sayre Mansion Inn is a meticulously restored Gothic Revival manse. At this Historic Hotel of America, it’s no surprise that antique-filled rooms span the main building and its adjacent upscale Carriage House. But unexpected perks like a Tesla charging station make the Sayre feel downright modern, too.
In-Room R&R: Watch the snow slowly drift down on the Conservatory Room’s soaring glass ceiling as you listen to the trickle of fountains in the garden-like breakfast nook. Book a massage to relieve muscles made weary shopping nearby Main Street.
Around Town: Bethlehem is nicknamed Christmas City USA for its dedication to citywide decoration and its annual Christkindlmarkt, a European-style Christmas market. Stroll through a maze of shops and food stalls, picking out last-minute gifts, and nibbling strudel and Pennsylvania Dutch fare. Then take a horse-drawn carriage ride through historic Bethlehem to see the elegantly lit Christmas trees all over town.
Violet Hill Bed And Breakfast, Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches (psst, it’s pronounced Nack-a-tish) and its Christmas festival earn accolades as one of the country’s most festive holiday spots. Some 300,000 sparkling lights give the small town its seasonal glow, and the cheeriness continues at the Violet Hill Bed and Breakfast. On the banks of the Cane River Lake, this updated inn is all about its wraparound verandah and covered pier. But when it comes to showy displays, it’s the breakfasts packed with Louisiana flavors that shine brightest. Think croissant bread pudding, spicy cheese grits and baked banana pancakes.
A Perfect View: It’s that covered pier where guests enjoy December temps well into the 60s while catching the Christmas Festival fireworks (it might be one of the best viewing spots in town). Bring a mug of complimentary tea if temps get chilly.
Around Town: The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is this town’s crowning achievement, a six-week-long celebration of live music, caroling, historic home tours, fireworks,Santa photo ops, a parade … pretty much everything you need to celebrate the season in true Creole style.
Antlers On The Creek, Durango, Colorado
The little town of Durango turns into a magical place for the holidays, with glittery snow and twinkly lights all over town (and the ski slopes). Antlers on the Creek, a waterside lodge-style inn just 10 minutes from town, is a perfect home base for your outdoor explorations. Tuck into green chile cornmeal waffles and lattes each morning, nibble from the bottomless cookie jar each day, and join your fellow guests for happy hour, where craft brews and good conversation flow. After long days spent skiing and ice climbing, sink into the gazebo hot tub or swath yourself in the inn’s plush robes.
Savings and Snowshoes: Winter brings the lowest rates to Antlers on the Creek, but you’d be wise to check out the cool specials on offer, including the Snowshoe Mesa Verde Package. (You’ll want a long soak after the peaceful but strenuous trawl through the drifts.)
Around Town: Skiing and snowboarding draw countless visitors to Purgatory’s nearly 90 runs. But there’s more to Durango than high-octane sports during Christmas: Ride the Polar Express, sing with Santa, or catch The Nutcracker between runs.
The Inn at Round Barn Farm, Waitsfield, Vermont
If it’s country you want, it’s country you’ll get at the The Inn at the Round Barn Farm, a 245-acre expanse of mountain meadows and frozen ponds deep in a Vermont valley. Not far from Stowe but essentially in a world of its own, this inn is known for its unique architecture and classy winter weddings. Each snowy morning, tuck into a sumptuous three-course breakfast where both the attentive staff and the on-site organic gardens steal the show. Swim a lap or two in the indoor heated pool, enjoy freshly baked gingerbread cookies by the library fireplace, and relax in this New England winter wonderland, far far away from the maddening crowds.
A Package Deal: Reserve a three-day Country Christmas Getaway package for holiday-cookie decorating classes and sleigh rides. And the Joslin Room, with its rich raspberry-painted walls, antique rugs, and king-sized canopy bed, is decked out in holiday-like finery all year.
Around Town: The Mad River Valley has two ski areas nearby, Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, plus Stowe is just about a half-hour away. Skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even dogsledding are available to adventurous holidaymakers. The open-air ice skating rink in the center of Waitsfield is a low-octane, family-friendly option.
George Washington Inn, Port Angeles, Washington
Headed to the Pacific Northwest for the holidays? Consider the vibrant, outdoorsy town of Port Angeles, located near Olympic National Park, and look no further than this oceanfront B&B. A replica of the first President’s very own mansion, the George Washington Inn sits pretty on its lavender farm, complete with wide-angle views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Past guests have called the inn “a homey version of the Ritz” for its contemporary design, king-sized beds, all-season fireplaces, and most importantly, its innkeepers’ warm service and personal touches. Watch ships and whales, listen to waves, and relax in the warm Washington sun—who said Christmas has to be cold?
At the Inn: From a nine-foot-tall tree dotted with collectible ornaments to an annual Christmas tea, the inn is filled to bursting with holiday cheer and festive decorations. Indulge in lavender bath products and essential oils procured on-site—and consider them gifts for folks back home.
Around Town: The area is known for its outdoor activities, from year-round national-park hiking to skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Downtown Port Angeles has cafes, restaurants, galleries, indie bookstores and antique shops for days.
10 Fitch, Skaneateles, New York
Skaneateles is a charming Finger Lakes village famed for its Dickensian holiday fetes (see below) as well as its proximity to the area’s winding wine trails. And mere minutes away in Auburn, 10 Fitch is one of the most pampering, amenity-filled inns we’ve yet met. Rooms come with fresh flowers, homemade soaps, spa linens and rainshowers. In-room massages are available, as is a “butler’s basket” with complimentary toiletries like razors and toothpaste. And luxurious common areas include a living room, library, and sunroom, all worthy hideaways for a snowy night spent up with a board game, puzzle or book (might we suggest A Christmas Carol?)
Treat Yourself: 10 Fitch might be the best spot for you and your S.O. to recover from jangled nerves and overlong family visits. Add even more indulgence to your wintertime retreat, with in-room massages, rose petal and chocolate turndown service, or chauffered winery tours.
Around Town: Have a very Dickens Christmas this year with a live performance of the author’s best-known holiday tale. Horse-drawn carriage rides, mummer’s plays, figgy pudding tastings, and even finishing-school-style dance lessons round out the fun. Tiny touches like Dickensian newsboys hawking papers and free roasted chestnuts give the whole town a celebratory air.
Thorp House Inn & Cottages, Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Perched on a peninsula, the Door County region is well-known as a summertime getaway, something of a midwestern Cape Cod. But the area comes alive in winter, too, and Thorp House Inn & Cottages is a prime place to bed down for the season. With just five spacious rooms and six cottages on-site, the innkeepers’ attention is personal and warm. Most accommodations have whirlpool baths and crackling fireplaces, well-made for keeping that Wisconsin chill at bay, while every space inside is decorated with beautiful antiques and Victorian flair (especially at Christmas).
A Movable Feast: Thorp House participates in a progressive holiday dinner, during which guests enjoy multiple courses at different B&Bs, capping off the night with live music and horse-drawn wagon rides through the driving snow.
Around Town: The inn is just a block away from Main Street, where Fish Creek’s shops, galleries and restaurants are found. And all of Door Creek gets into the yuletide spirit, with Christmas concerts and gingerbread contests, Santa meet-and-greets, and tree lighting ceremonies.
By Dara Continenza