Festive Inns For A Classic Country Christmas

On the first night of Christmas, my true love gave to me ... a cozy inn with a big tree. Christmas is right around the corner, and while raucous family dinners are part of the fun, it can be nice to escape for a night or two to a picture-perfect country inn, where dedicated innkeepers have been perfecting the art of Christmas for generations. The range of Christmas-obsessed inns in the U.S. is as diverse as the gifts of the 12 Days of Christmas. 

From a lobster-pot tree on Cape Cod to a year-round, Christmas-themed resort near Dollywood, to a hotel that boasts 36,000 lights in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, that is), there are plenty of festive inns in the U.S. that are ideal for holidays. Whether you're looking for traditional or classic with a dash of the creative, here are 12 of the most wonderful places to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

Apple Farm Inn

While apples and Christmas may bring New England to mind, the Apple Farm Inn shows that Central California does classic Christmas as well as anyone, with some excellent local wine to boot. The Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo, a handsome Victorian inn located at the southern end of the Big Sur Coast, brings North Pole cheer with festive lights, ornaments, crackling fireplaces, a huge tree, and a visit from Santa Claus himself, who may greet you as soon as you pull into the parking lot. 

From there, step onto the large porch covered in festive lights and garlands. Many more festive lights and garlands, and perhaps some complimentary hot apple cider and chocolate chip cookies, await you as you enter the cozy, elegant lobby. Climb a beautiful, bedecked curving staircase to your room, which features large bay windows, fireplaces, and even more twinkly seasonal decorations. Head back down the main staircase — and take some time to admire the huge tree scaling its entire height — to enjoy a Christmas dinner, shop for wine and gifts in the Marketplace and Cellar, and if you're lucky, enjoy some live carolers.

Cape Codder Resort & Spa

Hyannis is known primarily as a summer destination, but one of its best-kept secrets is that in the winter, it turns into an "enchanted village." For over 20 years, the Cape Codder Resort & Spa has hosted a Christmas Village glittering with thousands of lights, complete with everything from electric model trains zipping through a 32-foot tabletop Christmas village to Santa's workshop, to — this being Cape Cod — a giant lighted lobster pot tree made out of over 70 lobster traps. Naturally, Santa stops by every weekend to visit his workshop, check the letters inside his red mailbox, and then take live gift requests during a photo session with children. If you're interested in maritime merriment, Christmas may be one of the best times of year to visit Cape Cod.

The Enchanted Village may be free, but the Cape Codder is a little pricier. It's well worth the money, however. Enjoy a hint of summer fun in December with its indoor water park and heated outdoor pool, or unwind from holiday stress in its famous spa. There are also countless other ways to enjoy a seaside Cape Cod Christmas, including illuminated sculptures along the main 6A drag, Cape Cod Central Railroad's "Polar Express" train, lighthouse caroling in Falmouth, and meeting Santa at the dock.

The Christmas Farm Inn & Spa

The name says it all, no? In 1941, a man gifted what was then called Perkin's Farm and Cottages to his daughter for Christmas, and she called it her "Christmas Farm." Ever since then, this stately country inn set over 15 acres in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains has more than lived up to that name, boasting everything from a 16-foot-tall tree to a "Journey to the North Pole" train ride through the White Mountains.

To many in the nearby community, the inn is much more than a hotel; it is Christmas itself. Each year, scores of townspeople pack inside the hotel's historic barn, where they enjoy carols, a roaring fire, and storytime with Mrs. Claus under the 16-foot tree. Children dressed in pajamas then board the "Polar Express" train to meet her illustrious husband. The following day, the inn helps organize a Christmas parade, complete with caroling, a horse-drawn sleigh, a tree lighting, and another merry night at the barn.

Guests are welcome to join in any or all of these festivities, or they can retreat to deluxe suites with names like Yuletide, Rudolph, and Mistletoe, or to a carriage barn with 12 suites named after the "12 Nights of Christmas." Guests can also get in the holiday spirit through the resort's spa, pool, gym, or cozy restaurant and pub.

The Inn at Christmas Place

Take the Christmas Farm Inn, add a little bit of larger-than-life, Dollywood-style glitz, and you get The Inn at Christmas Place, a Christmas-themed hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, that celebrates Christmas the entire year. Inside this faux-Bavarian castle, all rooms are decorated with a Christmas theme and include a tree, wreaths, and themed bedding and artwork. Instead of a Presidential Suite, there's a decked-out Santa Suite, with a tree, mantel, wreath over the bed, and a full statue of St. Nick himself. The lobby features hourly performances from a two-story glockenspiel and caroling bells.

It's Christmas all year here, but around December, the hotel kicks into supersize mode with Winterfest. Guests can enjoy an outdoor winter wonderland with lights, garlands, and displays all around the property. If that's not enough Christmas for you, head across the street to the Incredible Christmas Place, the South's largest Christmas shopping village. Yes, it's a whole village, and inside is any Christmas item you could ever want, from mini-Christmas villages, trees, and full nativity scenes to stockings in the shape of every animal on Earth.

If you ever feel like you're on Christmas overload, you have all of Pigeon Forge at your disposal, which offers everything from Dolly Parton's Dollywood to the majestic beauty of the Smoky Mountains, which in winter, turn into a snowy paradise worthy of Santa himself.

Harraseeket Inn

Christmas at The Harraseeket Inn isn't only beautiful; it's strategic. The grand 19th-century mansion with 94 rooms is located steps away from Freeport, Maine's famed outlet stores, so if you need to pop away for some last-minute L.L. Bean flannel gifts, you're in luck. Once you slink back, you'll be treated to a postcard-perfect Christmas hotel: full of trees, wreaths, holly, and a famed Christmas buffet.

About that Grand Buffet on Christmas Day: it's no joke. People come from far and wide to partake in the feast of biblical proportions, offering up everything from prime rib to oysters to Boston cream pie. If you can't make the feast, you can still enjoy Freeport's 30th Annual Sparkle Celebration, a Christmas bonanza lasting from December 1 to 10. The festival includes a Parade of Lights; a "Sparkle Stroll" Christmas walk; a "Sparkle Frosty Frolic" featuring bonfires, vendors, food trucks, and music; and even a talking Christmas tree lit by Santa himself.

Back at the Harraseeket, guests can enjoy a classic, cozy country inn with garlands, wreaths, trees, twinkling lights, tea, cider, scones, and toasty fireplaces. The weather outside is frightful, but the Harraseeket is so delightful.

Historic Hotel Bethlehem

Book early for "Christmas in the Christmas City," or you may find yourself in a Joseph and Mary situation. It's not hard to see why: the Historic Hotel Bethlehem more than lives up to its name with over 35,000 lights, 36 wreaths, six 7-foot toy soldiers, two life-size nutcrackers, a gingerbread house modeled after the hotel, a painted nativity display over the main entrance and, of course, numerous uniquely decorated trees. One of those trees is a 15-foot tree towering over the hotel's historic Grand Ballroom, which is also decked out in garlands and wreaths. If that's not enough Christmas, enjoy the hotel's "Christmas in the Garden"-themed room on the terrace near the restaurant, or take in yet another 15-foot tree in the Mural Ballroom.

But this hotel is just the start of everything that Christmas City has to offer each December. The not-so-little town of Bethlehem offers a Christmas City Village with festively decorated huts worthy of the Three Magi; a live Advent calendar in which a different business or organization offers free treats each day of December; a self-guided "Trees of Historic Bethlehem" tour of 28 trees across five historic sites; the Christkindlmarkt market; and horse-drawn carriage rides. Since Bethlehem is serviced by Lehigh Valley Airport, the inn may be easier to access than other inns on this list — just make sure to book your Christmas flight early. 

The Inn at Manchester

Nestled deep in the Vermont mountains is The Inn at Manchester, home to an idyllic New England Christmas. Christmas at the inn may be more low-key than some of its showier counterparts, but all the right elements of a bucolic, family-operated Vermont bed and breakfast are there: a wide front porch with a rocking chair and blanket, many roaring fireplaces, a cozy pub offering eggnog and hot chocolate, a glittering tree, and, more often than not, blankets of white snow outside. The beautiful, white old house, decked with glittering garlands, wreaths, and candles in the windows, is next door to a classic red barn, and it looks straight out of an old painting. Guests can enjoy spacious suites with stone fireplaces, mountain views, and home-cooked meals.

Manchester, Vermont, is an idyllic New England village in the heart of the Green Mountains with a flowing river running right down the middle. During the winter months, the downtown is also decked in wreaths, garlands, lights, and topped off with a 20-foot tree downtown. Guests can go skiing, snowboarding, tubing, or snowmobiling at many nearby resorts, including Stratton Mountain, Bromley Mountain, or Magic Mountain. The town also offers the Riley Rink, Southern Vermont's only Olympic-sized ice rink, as well as a quaint downtown full of boutique shops, pubs, restaurants, and similarly idyllic inns.

The Milleridge Inn

Why limit Christmas to a day when it can be a whole month? And why stop at an inn when you can have a whole magical Christmas village? Starting in late November, the Milleridge Inn on Long Island opens its famed Christmas Village, and it's everything you'd want it to be: tree lighting, gingerbread house stuffing, a Polar Express train, Santa's workshop, and of course, Santa himself.

A Christmas tree lighting on Nov. 24 will kick off the month of festivities. After that, the North Pole's the limit. Families can decorate cookies or ornaments, jump in a bouncy castle, have breakfast with Santa each weekend, or, if they've been naughty, have dinner with the Grinch.

The Milleridge Inn in Jericho is housed inside a colonial home built in 1672 that first opened up to travelers in 1783. Today, that home has expanded into a large country inn boasting 12 different event rooms, a restaurant, plus a "cottage" capable of accommodating up to 400 guests. The Milleridge also offers a year-round "Christmas Shop" selling Santas, ornaments, nativities, nutcrackers, gingerbread houses, and more. The inn also features an old-fashioned General Store with old-time candy, toys, and knickknacks, as well as a separate Candy Shoppe with even more candy. In short, the Milleridge Inn will assuredly give your kids a sweet, old-fashioned Christmas they'll never forget.

The Red Lion Inn

If you want a perfectly Norman Rockwell Christmas, why not head to his hometown and stay at an inn he painted? Today, the Red Lion Inn doesn't look much different than it did in Rockwell's 1967 painting "Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas:" a large front porch, large windows, festive lights, and wreaths. The stately old hotel, built in 1773, does Rockwell proud with more than 30 Christmas trees and 700 feet of garland adorning its cozy rooms each December. 

Actually, from December 1 to 3, the entire town of Stockbridge does Rockwell proud with a full reenactment of his painting, complete with 1960s cars parked in the same spots they are in the painting. Visitors can also enjoy live performances, historic property tours, holiday markets, and a visit from Santa Claus. Aside from that, the area hosts a number of magical winter activities, from winter lights at Naumkeag public garden, a walk through 15 decorated trees in nearby Lenox, or trees, crafts, and games at Stockbridge Library's Winter Wonderland Walkway.

After the festivities, Red Lion Inn guests can return home and enjoy hearty Christmas fare like roasted native turkey, shepherd's pie, and brown sugar cake next to a crackling fire at one of the inn's four dining spaces. Or, you can retire to one of the well-appointed rooms that over the years have hosted five presidents, celebrities like Paul Newman and John Wayne, and New England luminaries like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The Inn at Round Barn Farm

This 19th-century dairy barn turned luxury country inn has become a one-stop-shop for Christmas thanks to its "Holiday Fun Package" and "Explore Winter on Snowshoes" package. Book four nights at the Inn at Round Barn Farm and they'll take care of the rest. The Explore Winter on Snowshoes Package promises daily breakfast, a Vermont cheese platter, snowshoes, two Vermont craft beers, One Bag Balm moisturizer, and trail maps. The Holiday Fun Package guarantees breakfast, a cookie decorating kit, and a Round Barn Farm mug. 

You'll also enjoy home-cooked, farm-to-table meals, free cookies and canapés, and festive decorations everywhere. A comfy pair of slippers lies outside each of the inn's 12 rooms, which are classically handsome with amenities like a fireplace, wood-beamed ceilings, Tempurpedic beds, and an upper loft space. In each of these rooms, guests can gaze out large windows to overlook the inn's 45 acres of scenic Vermont countryside, with gently sloping mountains in the distance.

During winter days, guests can ski those mountains at nearby Sugarbush and Mad River Glen resorts. Or they can make use of their coupons to tour Waitsfield, which sponsors events like a holiday craft fair, carol concerts, Santa tree lightings, and a Christmas Cocktail Trail through local bars and restaurants.

Welsh Hills Inn

Most Christmas celebrations include a Santa here or there, but how many have 30 years' worth of Santa collectibles? Jeff and Bobbi Noe, the husband and wife team who own and operate the Welsh Hills Inn in Granville, Ohio, have set up a full Santa Claus shrine, full of different St. Nicks from around the world and across the decades. They've assembled a similarly diverse range of Christmas trees all across the inn. Each tree adheres to a different theme, which is reflected in its dazzling ornaments and trinkets from around the world. Each night in December, guests who find a special pickle ornament in the main tree within five minutes will win their own hand-blown ornament.

You'll know you're in Christmas Central the second you step on the inn's spacious front veranda, where you'll see an electric train traveling through an elaborate village, complete with singing carolers. Gaze upward and you'll see lights and wreaths in every window. If you'd like to take a minute to enjoy the lights and carols, grab a warm blanket from a basket and take a seat on the porch rocking chairs.

The surrounding town of Granville is similarly Christmas-crazed. On the first Saturday of December, it hosts a Christmas Candlelight Walking Tour, in which all the shops and churches open to the community for musical performances, sweet treats, and holiday shopping at a Christmas Market. Guests can also enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides and a visit from the Claus family.

White Gull Inn

What better way to endure a Wisconsin winter night than to eat, drink, and be merry? The White Gull Inn, a 128-year-old, family-owned bed and breakfast, partners with the nearby Thorp House Inn & Cottages for two nights of a progressive holiday dinner. This year, progressive dinners are offered on the weekends throughout December and early January, except on the weekends of Christmas and New Year's. 

On Friday night, enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres at each festively decorated inn. Guests can enjoy a complimentary full breakfast in the morning, and hot beverages and cookies Saturday afternoon. On Saturday evening, oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse, open sleigh to the Thorp House Inn for live music and a champagne toast, followed by an exquisite four-course meal at the White Gull. Enjoy a soup, salad, entrée, dessert, and wine to the sounds of a live harpist.

The oldest operating inn in Door County is a picturesque compound. Guests can stay in cheery rooms or suites in the Main Lodge, a big white house often surrounded by white snow, the Welcker House, the Cliffhouse, or one of four cottages. Rooms resemble a quaint, cozy old dollhouse, with colorful wallpaper, French doors, fireplaces, and handsome four-poster beds. Picturesque Door County, a peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan known as the "Cape Cod of the Midwest," is full of Christmas spirit, offering everything from a European-style Christkindlmarkt and a Festival of Trees to several tree lighting events featuring Santa and reindeer.