Any parent knows how much work goes into holiday preparations and planning. Why not treat yourself this season with a stay at a resort for Christmas instead? At the best all-inclusive resorts for Christmas, someone else does most of the planning and preparing – and with a ready-made list of holiday activities and amenities, no one in the family will whine about being bored.
All-inclusive resorts are great options for families at any time of the year, but they make especially great hotels for Christmas because of all the extras. Think dazzling decorations, festive events and foods, and lots of face time with Santa. With all the holiday cheer these resorts offer, it would be hard for anyone to feel grumpy during their Christmas vacation. Here are my picks for the best all-inclusive resorts for Christmas this year.
1. Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts
Locations in the Dominican Republic and Mexico
Make your kids' Christmas dreams come true at Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya in Mexico. In addition to the two resorts' year-round character meet-and-greets, family slimings, water park time, and other outsize fun, the Nickelodeon Holiday Extravaganza offers all kinds of seasonal extras from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2.
The seasonal festivities include a tree lighting ceremony, character breakfasts with holiday-themed menus, pineapple decorating, magic shows, sand sculpture contests, singalongs, and visits from Santa. And the whole family can count down on New Year's Eve at a party at the resorts' Plaza Orange.
More about Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts:
2. Beaches Resorts
Locations in Jamaica and Turks and Caicos
If the kiddos can’t imagine a holiday getaway without their scout elves in tow, Beaches Resorts is the place to be this holiday season. A new partnership with Elf on the Shelf brings lots of holiday magic to these ultra-kid-friendly all-inclusive resorts for Christmas in Jamaica (at Beaches Negril and Beaches Ocho Rios) and Turks and Caicos (at Beaches Turks and Caicos).
Book a butler-level room and bring your elf along for the trip to enjoy "V.I.E." (Very Important Scout Elf) service that includes moonlight milk and cookies, marshmallow bubble baths, and a holiday movie. Butlers will also be outfitted with Santa-approved gloves and magic elf-moving tongs should your elf require a little extra assistance. That’s just the start of the festive fun, which also includes holiday story time sessions and weekly holiday parties featuring The Elf on the Shelf characters, build-your-own cookie bars, and arts and crafts stations.
More about Beaches Resorts:
3. Club Med Quebec Charlevoix
Spend the holidays in a winter wonderland at Club Med Quebec. With all the ingredients for a white Christmas, this all-inclusive resort in Canada's Charlevoix Region offers more than 300 acres of snowy fun, from skiing (lessons included with your stay) and ice skating to dog sledding and a luge track. Special holiday activities add to it all with chef-prepared feasts, holiday-themed shows, meet-and-greets with Santa, and all kinds of vibrant decorations.
Club Med’s stellar kids programming keeps toddlers through teens engaged in an array of winter activities at this all-inclusive resort for Christmas, and your family can gather in the evenings for a hearty meal and a lineup of evening entertainment. Cozy rooms feature modern design with nods to Québec's First Nation heritage, with some offering views of the St. Lawrence River.
More about Club Med:
4. Hacienda AltaGracia, Auberge Resorts Collection
Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica
This 50-casita resort set on 180 acres helps you connect with nature and embrace wellness. During the holiday season at Hacienda AltaGracia, that means experiences like a guided sound bath on Christmas Eve, along with a dinner with live music and menu items spotlighting Costa Rican ingredients and traditions.
Christmas Day starts out with chakra energy yoga, followed by an opportunity to give back to the local community by helping to deliver food and necessities to a nearby orphanage. There are also special New Year’s activities, along with the resort’s year-round offerings like the Junior Adventurers’ Club, children’s rope course and play area, butterfly garden, pools, and array of nature-related activities you can opt to take part in.
More about Costa Rica resorts:
5. Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels
St. James, Barbados
Holiday festivities at Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels incorporate Barbados island traditions in the resort’s "Christmas in Bim" celebrations and activities. Seasonal happenings include a tree lighting ceremony, gingerbread-house making, a build-your-own-gnome workshop, and shopping trips to local markets.
You can get photos of the family with Santa and his elves on Christmas Eve, then enjoy a buffet lunch on Christmas Day with a steelpan orchestra playing tunes. Young guests will love spending time at the Flying Fish Kids Club, and the whole family can head to the beach for some snorkeling or kayaking, float around the lagoon-style pools, or take a water taxi to enjoy meals at nearby sister resorts.
More about Barbados resorts:
6. C Lazy U Ranch
A family trip to C Lazy U Ranch is a good idea at any time of the year, but it's even more special to visit this all-inclusive dude ranch resort at Christmas when there's caroling, a visit from Santa on a horse-drawn sleigh, and a traditional holiday dinner served in the dining room on Christmas Eve with a turkey for each table.
C Lazy U Ranch is known for its excellent kids and teens programming. While the kids are enjoying those activities, the grownups can go cross-country skiing, ice skating, or horseback riding (riding is a focus of the resort). At the end of the day, the whole family can cozy up in one of the resort’s luxe cabins – most have stone fireplaces, and they’re adorned with a tabletop Christmas tree for a festive touch during the season.
More about dude ranches:
7. Delta Hotels by Marriott Riviera Nayarit, An All-Inclusive Resort
Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Get away from it all by staying at an all-inclusive resort for Christmas at Delta Hotels by Marriott Riviera Nayarit. Situated in the Sierra Madre Mountains yet still close to the beach, it’s an ideal spot for some family togetherness over the holidays. Events throughout the season include cooking and mixology classes, a Oaxacan craft market, and sound healing sessions.
On Christmas Eve, you can choose from a Teppanyaki dinner experience or locally inspired Huichol Artisan cuisine, and Santa joins guests for brunch on Christmas morning. Well-designed guest rooms and suites serve as a relaxing home base for days spent by the pools, at the beach, or splashing around the new Aqua Jungle and River water park.
More about Mexico vacations:
8. Grand Velas Los Cabos
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
There’s holiday magic for everyone in the family at Grand Velas Los Cabos. On the activity schedule this Christmas season? Gingerbread decorating, caroling, daily themed shows, and pictures with Santa, who makes his arrival at the resort by helicopter. You can also arrange for an in-suite Christmas tree that’s either pre-decorated or delivered with ornaments to decorate as a family and also make arrangements for gift-wrapped toys to be delivered to your suite for the kids on Christmas morning.
All year long, the teen lounge offers special events like nonalcoholic mixology classes and an Instagram photo tour along with video games and karaoke, while the new treehouse-themed kids club features an illuminated dance floor, a cinema with tiered seating, arts and crafts sessions, Spanish lessons, and other fun activities.
More about Los Cabos:
9. Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz, New York
One of the best family resorts in the United States, Mohonk Mountain House embraces its Victorian-era roots during the holiday season. Vintage meets modern-day with activities like ice skating, campfires, visits with Santa, holiday musical performances, and 19th-century-style crafts. And with the all-inclusive resort’s setting in New York’s Hudson Valley, a white Christmas is a total possibility.
At Christmastime, your whole family can enjoy productions of "A Christmas Carol," selections from "The Nutcracker Ballet," the self-guided Evergreen Christmas Tree Tour, the lighting of the menorah during Hanukkah, and the dazzling outdoor winter lights display, along with winter activities like snow tubing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
More family resorts:
10. Moon Palace Cancun
With amenities like pools and beaches, kids and teens clubs, a spa, and a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, Moon Palace Cancun has lot going on no matter the time of year. But the all-inclusive resort really steps things up over the holidays when it unveils its popular Christmas Village.
You can step inside the centerpiece Christmas tree made of LED lights for photos with Santa and The Grinch or snap selfies at several other fun spots throughout the space. Festive treats are available and a miniature train offers rides for kids and adults around the village. Don’t miss witnessing how Santa makes his arrival on Christmas Eve – in past years he’s parachuted into the village and roared in by Ferrari.
More Cancun vacations:
11. Woodloch Pines Resort
A perennial family favorite, Woodloch Pines Resort makes a dreamy all-inclusive resort for Christmas vacation. Outdoor fun includes snow tubing, ice skating, marshmallow roasting, a holiday-themed scavenger hunt, New Year’s Eve fireworks, and wagon rides through the resort’s Festival of Lights display (where the kids just might spot Santa).
If you’d rather be cozy indoors at this Poconos Mountains family resort, there’s holiday-themed "bakery wars," games and crafts, family-friendly live entertainment, and an indoor pool and splash park. Suites and rooms are done up in woodsy cabin style and often have lake views.
More from FamilyVacationist:
FamilyVacationist.com and TourScoop.com are owned and operated by Vacationist Media LLC. FamilyVacationist covers family vacation ideas; family vacation spots; all-inclusive family resorts; and theme park vacations for families. TourScoop covers guided group tours and tour operators, tour operator reviews, tour itinerary reviews and travel gear recommendations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Family friendly all-inclusive resorts to have a beachfront Christmas