10 Magical Holiday Hotels to Check off Your List

By: Mauri Elbel
December, 2021

If you’re searching for a nearby getaway this holiday season where merry memories come with the stay, look no further than these 10 festive hotels that are making the holidays bright with everything from Santa encounters and reindeer meet-and-greets to magical light shows and cookies with Mrs. Claus. The best part? No need for a long sleigh ride –– each resort is just a jingle away. 

Celebrate the holidays at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort, which transforms into a winter wonderland this time of year. Credit Lauren Petrowski

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort

If you like the holidays with a Texas twist, saddle up and ride out to Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort. Sitting on more than 400 gorgeous acres fringing the banks of the Lower Colorado River just a half hour from Austin, this luxurious wilderness retreat is the perfect family escape during the most magical time of the year. Throughout the holidays, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with a nightly Holiday Light Stroll where guests can wander along an extravagant light display featuring more than 150 LED flood lights, over 3,000 twinkling holiday lights and a 20-foot animated holiday tree now until Jan. 1. Guests can also soak in spirit and snap holiday photos at the resort’s Christmas Tree Grove brimming with more than 30 decorated live cut trees, experience horse-drawn hayrides taking place every half hour between 5 and 10 p.m. from Dec. 18 to Jan. 1, or pick from a festive lineup of holiday activities spanning family movie screenings, letters to Santa, cookie decorating classes and more.

Snap photos with the resort’s adorable animal mascots dressed in holiday attire this time of year. Contributed by Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort

Just last week, we stayed at the recently renovated property to dabble in diverse year-round experiences that pleased our whole crew, including horseback trail rides at Renegade Trailhead, rejuvenating spa treatments at Spa Django, golf at the championship Wolfdancer Golf Club, and meet and greets with the adorable animal mascots like resident alpacas, Yogi and Booboo, and the aptly named pygmy goats, Hank, Willie, Waylon and Johnny, who tend to don their finest holiday attire this time of year. On Christmas Day, tuck into traditional holiday dishes paired with Texas favorites at the Firewheel Café (reservations required), or stick around to ring in 2022 with the resort’s annual celebration and New Year’s Eve fireworks display. More at https://lostpines.regency.hyatt.com  –– Mauri Elbel

From special holiday s’mores to hot cocoa bars, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa is full of cheer this time of year. Photo by Kristin Finan

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa

When it comes to holiday magic, there’s no place more, well, magical than the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa, which transforms each holiday season into a winter wonderland that’s brimming with the types of excursions, experiences and encounters that candy-cane-fringed dreams are made of. From animatronic penguins and reindeer crooning classic carols ranging from “Little Drummer Boy” to “Carol of the Bells” to an Elf on the Shelf Family Scavenger Hunt (warning: it’s hard) to special holiday s’mores and hot cocoa bars, there’s something to satisfy every snow-loving soul. Want to stay awhile? Now through Dec. 31, the resort is offering a holiday vacation rate; book a two-night stay and receive 20 percent off using booking code HOY. More at www.jwsanantonio.com. –– Kristin Finan

RELATED: Birthday Bliss at JW Marriott

Thompson Dallas’ 12 Days of Thompson is a 12-day series that includes daily activations, live music and giveaways from Dec. 12-24. Contributed by Thompson Dallas

Thompson Dallas

Making up for lost time, the Thompson Dallas, which opened in November 2020, isn’t holding back this year in the jubilation department. Prepared to knock your Christmas stockings off the mantel, they invite one and all to indulge in their “Bigger than Texas” festivities. An artistic installation to celebrate the holidays, this mindbogglingly glorious extravaganza makes use of more than 12 miles of LED lighting, an excess of 17,000 ornaments and 35 Christmas trees. Adding to the allure, 11 types of fresh pine perfume the hotel and add green glam, while a soaring 55-foot tree greets guests at the hotel’s front door. As if the visual stun factor weren’t enough to engender cheer, Thompson Dallas chases away any lingering quarantine Scrooges with its 12 day party: 12 Days Of Thompson. From Dec. 12-23, the hotel welcomes imbibers and other wassailers to its lobby bar for wintery cocktails, hot cocoa and live music amongst the ornamentation. Every drink consumed becomes an entry for the urbane hotel’s daily contest, which yields prizes as grand as two-night stays, spa certificates, dinner coupons — and, wait for it — a $500 gift certificate to Lucchese, which has a store in the lobby. Now, that’s the ultimate stocking stuffer. More at https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/texas/thompson-dallas/dfwth – Becca Hensley

The hills are alive with… Christmas. Credit Omni Barton Creek Resort

Omni Barton Creek Resort

Sure, you might live just a few miles away, but a stay at Omni Barton Creek Resort during its annual Holiday in The Hills will transport you straight to the North Pole. Gather your little elves and head to this luxurious 4,000-acre resort to delve into an impressive slew of merriment going on through Jan. 3. Each night, feel the spirit of the season at Holiday in the Hills Light Trail, featuring beaucoups of sparkling lights and glow-in-the-dark miniature golf at Santa’s Magical Toy Shop. Snap your Santa pics as Cowboy Santa stories are read around the fire pits (Dec. 4, 11, 18 and 24), take part in caroling and cocktails (Dec. 3, 10 and 17), write letters to Santa, and celebrate the wonder of the season during Holiday in the Hills Snowdown –– a spellbinding production of lights and a flurry of snowflakes on Lady Bird Lawn. Book your magical stay now until Dec. 31 to take advantage the Holiday in The Hills package which includes a $50 resort credit per room, complimentary 2:00 pm late check-out and one s’mores kit, and one hot chocolate per person. More at www.omnihotels.com/hotels/austin-barton-creek. –– Mauri Elbel

RELATED: Slipping into resort life at Omni Barton Creek 

Sample gourmet s’mores made with Texas-shaped chocolate at Four Seasons Austin. Contributed by Four Seasons Hotel Austin

Four Seasons Hotel Austin

If you’re seeking family friendly fun that’s close to home, don’t miss the lineup of activities at Four Seasons Hotel Austin this holiday season. For example, the hotel’s beloved Gingerbread Village returns this year with an intricate and enchanting lobby display that includes 11 edible “houses” ranging from Santa’s Workshop to an Elf Dormitory to a Town Square decked out with a large Christmas tree and a countdown to Dec. 25. The display is up now through Dec. 28. Want to satisfy your tastebuds? Sample the hotel’s list of gourmet s’mores, which includes flavors such as mint marshmallow and cinnamon marshmallow on house-made graham crackers with Texas-shaped chocolate. The s’mores are on offer now through Jan. 2; they are free for hotel guests and $10 for non-guests. Want to stay overnight at the hotel? Room rates are 20 percent off now through the end of the year. More at https://www.fourseasons.com/austin/. –– Kristin Finan

Dive into Texas Winter Lights at Marriott Marquis Houston this season. Credit: Marriott Marquis Houston

Marriot Marquis Houston

Famed for its jaw dropping Texas-shaped lazy river pool and stellar location, Marriott Marquis Houston invites guests to float beneath thousands of twinkling lights this winter to celebrate the season. Besides submerging in ever-80-degree-heated water, holiday revelers can stroll across a bridge of lanterns and sway in an illuminated swing, or pop up and down on a seesaw during the hotel’s rollicking Texas Winter Lights program, scheduled now through Jan. 3. Interactive, complete with happily corny holiday movies, larger-than-life glow-up yard games, photo booths, fire pits prime for s’mores making and holiday-themed cocktails, the nightly fete takes place at the sixth floor at Altitude Rooftop & Pool, part of the hotel. An Instagrammer’s dream, the hot spot has more than 20 photo ready areas, including a stunning “Grove of Trees.” Nightly snowfall and a winter-themed dining menu seals the yuletide deal. (Note: the weekend experience is reserved for hotel guests only, and access to Winter Lights is included when guests book their stay.) More at https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/houmq-marriott-marquis-houston/. – Becca Hensley

Celebrate holidays in the Hill Country. Contributed by Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa

Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa

What’s more magical than celebrating the holidays in the Hill Country? At Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, sitting just 20 minutes from downtown San Antonio, you can have s’mores with Santa and Mrs. Claus and meet their reindeer, too. This holiday season, the resort will welcome Santa’s reindeer as they make the long voyage from the North Pole to San Antonio, host Santa and Mrs. Claus and cook up delicious holiday feasts. On Dec. 3 and 10, meet the reindeer up close, snap some photos and learn more about the animals from their dedicated handlers. Every Fri. and Sat. evening in December leading into Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus will welcome families around the resort’s oversized lobby fireplace to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. During Christmas week, the resort will debut a “Family Fun Room” outfitted with a bounce house, games, arts and crafts projects and movie screenings. Then, instead of cooking on Christmas Day, enjoy an elaborate holiday buffet complete with seasonal dishes and a carving station at Springhouse Café or tuck into a four-course, family-style meal at Antlers Lodge (reservations required). More at www.HyattRegencyHillCountry.com. – Mauri Elbel

An enchanting cruise along the colorfully lit up River Walk comes with your stay this month at Hotel Valencia Riverwalk’s Light Up The Night package. Photo by Mauri Elbel

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

For a romantic holiday stay on the San Antonio River Walk, treat your mistletoe partner to a night at Hotel Valencia Riverwalk. The hotel puts a festive sparkle in the holiday season for couples now through Jan. 2 with its “Light Up The Night” room package, which includes luxury accommodations for two, complimentary valet parking for one vehicle, two complimentary signature holiday “Light Up” cocktails in Dorrego’s Bar and two complimentary river boat tickets where you can take a twilight cruise beneath the spectacular twinkling lights draped over the towering trees fringing the famed River Walk. Bring a new and unwrapped toy to donate to the resort’s new non-profit partner, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Antonio. More at www.hotelvalencia-riverwalk.com. –– Mauri Elbel

Meet the Grinch himself at San Antonio at La Cantera Resort & Spa. Contributed by La Cantera

La Cantera Resort & Spa

For the best tree lighting ceremony in Texas, grab your own Whovilles to meet the Grinch himself in San Antonio at La Cantera Resort & Spa. Taking place Dec. 2 from 6-9 p.m. in the hotel’s Plaza San Saba that overlooks the Hill Country, the event promises to transform the outdoor area into a festive romp through a storybook. To the saxophone tunes of contemporary jazz musician and composer Nelson Rangell, the soirée will showcase a visit from the grumpy Grinch and his personal dancing troupe: the lovely Grinchettes. Santa arrives next, just in time to turn on the Christmas tree’s glittering lights in a grand finale to welcome to the season. Nosh light bites and sip holiday cocktails, as children cavort among kid-themed activities or shop from holiday huts. Photo ops with jolly St. Nick are a given. During your stay, take part in other activities sure to please the Ghost of Christmas Present, such as Santa letter writing seminars, reindeer scavenger hunts and Christmas storytelling by the fire. Last but not least, reserve a seat at the hotel’s Grinch-themed brunch at Sweetfire Grill on Dec. 4, where dishes such as green eggs and ham keep the storybook vibe alive. Note: 100 percent of the tree lighting proceeds benefit the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas. More at https://www.lacanteraresort.com/. – Becca Hensley

RELATED: Splash into summer at La Cantera Resort

Cozy up at Commodore Perry Estate, steeped in vintage character and charm this time of year. Contributed by Commodore Perry Estate

Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resort Collection

Celebrate the holidays at this treasured Austin landmarked re-envisioned with modern glamour to experience everything from the traditional Mansion Lighting to gifts from Santa on Christmas Day. Holidays at The Estate is sure to spark holiday cheer with its Mansion Lighting Festival on Dec. 3 –– an immersive, artist-created festive illumination of the side of the Mansion, the lighting of the Estate’s Heritage Oak, holiday crafting for the kids, and carols led by Austin-based musicians. Stay the night during the Estate’s Vintage Movie Series (Dec. 6-8), or spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here, reserving a table at the Christmas Eve Feast & Fete featuring a decadent dining experience and after-dinner fun for both adults and kids (think milk and cookies and letters to Santa). On Christmas Day, The Mansion will serve a special Yuletide Feast and curated wine pairing, but don’t miss Santa’s arrival when he hands out presents from his vintage car. More at www.aubergeresorts.com/commodoreperry. –– Mauri Elbel

If You Go

Info:

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort, Lost Pines https://lostpines.regency.hyatt.com  

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio www.jwsanantonio.com

Thompson Dallas, Dallas https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/texas/thompson-dallas/dfwth 

Omni Barton Creek Resort, Austin www.omnihotels.com/hotels/austin-barton-creek

Four Seasons Hotel Austin, Austin https://www.fourseasons.com/austin/

Marriot Marquis Houston, Houston https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/houmq-marriott-marquis-houston/

Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio www.HyattRegencyHillCountry.com

La Cantera Resort & Spa, San Antonio https://www.lacanteraresort.com/ 

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, San Antonio https://www.hotelvalencia-riverwalk.com/ 

Commodore Perry Estate Auberge Resort Collection, Austin www.aubergeresorts.com/commodoreperry

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