Paradise Island, Bahamas
Hang out on the beach at Atlantis Resort, then kick off the season with a traditional Christmas tree-lighting ceremony during which the Jolly Ol' Elf himself--direct from the North Pole--uses his magic to light a spectacular 40-foot tree. Later, guests can track down Santa in his dolphin-led sleigh (yep, you read that right) throughout the resort. At the kids club, children can bake and decorate a variety of holiday cookies with Mrs. Claus and her elves, because let's face it, you can't have the holidays without cookies.
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Dana Point, CA
Yes, Virginia, there really is a Surfing Santa Competition-and it's a fundraiser for some wonderful causes. This year, the event includes divisions for Santa's Helpers (ages 15 and under), Santa's Elves (ages 16 to 20), Toymakers (ages 20 and up), Yule Loggers (open long board) and Flying Rudolph (big air). Afraid of the killer waves? Head up the coast to Newport Beach for the annual Christmas boat parade, which features approximately 200 elaborately-decorated boats and draws more than one million spectators each year.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
This time of year can be ultra-stressful, but the Hacienda Beach Club & Residences turns it around with the Citrus and Spice Holiday Treatment, a massage that incorporates sugar cane, cinnamon, wintergreen oil, and other products to entice the senses. While you're kicking back at the spa, send the little one to the kids club to make piñatas in preparation for New Year's--it's a Mexican tradition.
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This year marks the 17th Annual Festival of Lights, Kauai's largest holiday event. Centered around Christmas folk-art decorations created from recycled materials, it also features caroling by the Kauai Chorale, and Santa leading a wow-worthy countdown to the illumination of the hundreds of thousands of lights that fill historic Lihue Park. The evening ends with the Lights on Rice Parade, a unique showcase of island-lit floats.
Myrtle Beach, SC
Boasting 60 miles of coastline and some of the most breathtaking beaches on the east coast, Myrtle Beach is host to holiday concerts, a renowned Christmas tree exhibit, and--most gorgeous of all--the Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens. Tour the gardens after dark; nothing will get you in the spirit like the thousands of luminary candles, white and colored twinkling lights, special effects, and live holiday music.
At this outpost of the Ritz Carlton, the pastry team leads Gingerbread School, where guests can build their very own creations in Santa's workshop, using the life-size gingerbreads in the lobby for inspiration. Even better, the price includes a $10 donation to the Children's Miracle Network and a personalized brick on Santa's Shop.
Sea Island, GA
At this Forbes Five-Star resort located on Georgia's Golden Isles, guests get in the Christmas spirit with a unique holiday family-style dinner show in the club room, featuring live carolers, a storyteller, a visit from Ole St. Nick and a few other entertaining surprises. Afterward, Sea Island elves deliver baked cookies served with milk as a special bedtime treat. Got little ones along? The elves even read a Christmas bedtime story before performing their signature tuck-in.
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