I’m watching children –– several who are sporting sticky s’mores smiles –– spin and dance to the tunes of “Frosty the Snowman” as snow flurries fall from the sky and Cowboy Santa waves to the crowd at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa.
Here in Austin, Christmas magic doesn’t get much more palpable than this.
But that’s the whole point of a holiday stay at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa. This time of year, the 4,000-acre luxury resort tucked into Austin’s Hill Country transforms into the North Pole with its annual Holiday in the Hills celebration.
I was invited to come experience the holiday festivities with my family, so we dashed right over the first available December weekend we had. Luckily, Austin’s weather cooperated with the timing of our visit, and Friday’s record-breaking warmth was replaced with chilly weekend temperatures that beckoned us to break out our coats and set the scene for a true winter wonderland.
If you’re looking for a nearby holiday-themed getaway, the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa’s Holiday in the Hills is prepared to provide seasonal memories with each guest’s stay –– here are five ways families can capture the spirit of the holidays here this month.
Write letters, hear stories and snap photos with Cowboy Santa
Cowboy Santa and Mrs. Claus make a few jolly appearances at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa around this time of year to read Christmas stories and listen to the holiday wishes of the little ones who come to greet them. Christmas’ favorite couple can usually be seen gathering around the fire pits of Lady Bird Lawn, but the day we were there, the North Pole-like temperatures moved the magical meet up inside.
As kids whisper their wish lists to Santa, who proudly dons a crimson cowboy hat, and listen to Christmas stories read by Ms. Claus, parents can casually snap candid photos to capture the magic. Each year, we scout out a spot to see Santa, and I have to say this experience –– which comes without lines or overpriced photo packages –– was one of the most low-key and enjoyable.
Cowboy Santa and Mrs. Claus will return to the resort on Dec. 18 and 24. But don’t worry if you miss them –– just grab a letter writing kit at the concierge desk and send your letter straight to the North Pole by placing it in the bright red “Letters for Santa” mailbox stationed in the lobby.
S’mores and snow
What’s better than s’mores? S’mores enjoyed with a side of snow, of course. On Sat. evening, as we were roasting marshmallows over the flames, a flurry of snowflakes whirled through the skies above Lady Bird Lawn. It’s all part of the resort’s Holiday in the Hills Snowdown –– a spellbinding production of festive lights, dance-worthy holiday music and a flurry of snowflakes that combines for a perfect snow-laced Texas photo op.
Trail of Lights and glow-in-the-dark mini golf
Pre- or post-dinner, take a stroll through the Holiday in the Hills lighted trail which illuminates the resort each evening from 5 to 9 p.m. with larger-than-life flowers and arches, a towering 40-foot Christmas tree decorated with shimmering ornaments and 15,000 feet of string lights draped from the branches of the oak trees. We finished up the trail experience playing a game of glow-in-the-dark mini golf, putting our way through Santa’s Magical Toy Shop lit up with colorful displays of illuminated teddy bears, toys and presents.
Holiday-themed classes and activities
Holiday-themed activities spanning Gin’gerbread Cocktail Classes for mom and dad to holiday cookie decorating workshops for the whole family and Mrs. Claus Tuck-Ins for the kids abound at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa throughout the month. Find the full lineup at: https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/austin-barton-creek/things-to-do/resort-activities/holiday-activities.
Sunsets, heated pools and stress relief
Of course, a holiday stay booked here comes with all of the other resort perks offered year-round.
Splash in the resort’s palatial pools, which remain heated and open even in the winter months, soak in a stunning Texas sunset while sipping a handcrafted cocktail or treat yourself to a rejuvenating treatment at Mokara Spa. Before we made the long 15-minute journey back home on Sunday morning, I booked Mokara Spa’s signature Barton Springs massage –– a Swedish-style massage perfect for promoting relaxation. After all, couldn’t we all use a little stress-relief this time of year? I assure you, this is the perfect place for it.
More info: The limited Holiday in The Hills package (book by Dec 31/ Starting at $254) includes a $50 resort credit per room, complimentary 2 p.m. late check-out, one s’mores kit, and one hot chocolate per person per stay.