Heavenly peace at these getaways

The Homestead

Hot Springs, Va.

Feel the tradition of a destination for vacation-goers since 1766 at The Homestead, a towering brick resort snuggled into the Allegheny Mountains four hours from D.C. in Hot Springs, Va. A world of activities awaits, from hay rides to magic shows to horseback riding. 

Over the holidays, the cheer is stepped up with special events. Santa Claus travels all the way from the North Pole to take picture with children. Part of the front lawn is flooded to form an outdoor ice skating rink for all to enjoy. And of course, the main attraction — the ski slopes.

“We have a really family-friendly ski area,” said Ashley Jessee, The Homestead’s social media coordinator. “One of the things people say over and over is they bring their kids here to learn how to ski.”

After a long day of fun, satisfy your appetite and your taste buds by choosing from a diverse array of dining options. The Main Dining Room provides a traditional Virginia setting of stately columns for fine dining, formal attire, dancing and live music. Casual restaurants such as the Casino Club, overlooking the golf course, offer great food in a more laid-back setting.

After dinner, enjoy musical groups brought in to play holiday music while you admire the decorations, which culminate in the Great Hall.

Gaylord National Resort

National Harbor, Md.

This massive three-year-old resort, which rises over the Potomac River just south of the Beltway, takes Christmas decorations to a whole new level. 

A 60-foot glass Christmas tree stands at the center of the 19-story windowed atrium. Every night at 6:30 p.m. is a free tree-lighting show that is open to the public, featuring music, lights and special effects, including an indoor manufactured snowfall. And the tree is not lit by just anyone. DreamWorks characters such as Shrek, Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda assist in the ceremonies. 

“We like to think of ourselves as the capital of Christmas in the Washington, D.C., area,” said Amie Gorrell, Gaylord national’s director of public relations.

It’s hard to argue — in addition to the massive tree, more than 2 million Christmas lights illuminate the hotel. Two million pounds of ice have been sculpted into a walk-through exhibit of larger-than-life ice sculptures complete with two-story ice slides open to children and adults alike.

Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Va.

The whole town embraces the holiday spirit here in classic historical style. 

Listen to music from the time of Thomas Jefferson played on instruments of the kind his family might have owned. Or, take in an 1890s-style shadow puppet show, the kind of entertainment people enjoyed before there were movies and video games. The family-friendly show includes live music and riveting storytelling.

Speaking of storytelling, who better to hear the seasonal classic, “A Christmas Carol,” from than the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens? Enjoy this amazing opportunity while getting into the culture with English afternoon tea.

The historical theme extends even to the holiday decorations lining the streets. “One of the things that is really distinctive is the holiday decorating,” said Colonial Williamsburg spokeswoman Erin Curtis. “They’re all-natural displays. They try to emulate what would have been found in the 18th century there.”

Take a step back in time to enjoy traditional holiday celebrations and escape from the bustle of 21st century life.

The Inn at Perry Cabin

St. Michaels, Md.

Get a taste of life as a wealthy colonial when a piece of this manor house, surrounded by gardens reaching down to the beautiful Chesapeake Bay, becomes yours for a weekend. 

Not only the setting brings serenity, though, because the Inn’s Linden Spa soothes you in every way. Treatments include a clay and flower massage and an ancient recipe of healing herbs.

Just a short walk from the inn is the picturesque town of St. Michaels, Md. Stroll among the great antique shops and art galleries, or travel 10 miles to Easton to find local produce, crafts and more at the Easton Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

Over the holidays, get all of these opportunities at a great price, with 40 percent off your third night’s stay.

Keswick Hall

Charlottesville, Va.

If Thomas Jefferson had been an avid golfer, he might well have moved from Monticello to nearby Keswick Hall. This grand mansion features an 18-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.

When not trying to avoid the slyly placed bunkers, enjoy the beautiful holiday decorations that grace the interior. To get into the season even more, roast chestnuts over a fire and make s’mores, or watch the head gardener give an herbal wreath demonstration. On Christmas Eve, visitors gather in the Great Hall for carols.

For a unique way to enjoy the surrounding scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, take a ride on a hot air balloon that launches from the estate. Or experience the mountains by hiking through them on one of the many trails surrounding the hall. Almost whatever activity you desire, Keswick Hall has it at the holidays.