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Best Holiday Vacations

hg-1Getting away for the holidays is always great whether it’s going to a place to relax and unwind in the lap of luxury or to relatives to celebrate with a few extra toasts. Whether you’re considering a trip abroad or not, some of the best holiday vacations to spend Christmas and New Year’s don’t take days to travel to but are closer to home.

Santa Barbara, California is one of the most popular U.S. destinations. If you’re looking for a glimpse of historic California, check out the nearby San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito. The peaceful rural setting features rustic touches with wood-beamed ceilings, yet it’s only a short drive from downtown Santa Barbara. Fun things to do include sampling the cuisine at one of the area’s many world class restaurants or go for a wine tasting. Experts recommend the Summerland Winery, but there are several others to choose from.

If you’re looking for some old fashioned Southern Hospitality Charleston, South Carolina offers Christmas season tourists a bright assortment of activities, including lots of holiday decorations. Local traditions include pecans roasting on an open fire and eggnog spiked with bourbon.

If you want to live like Rhett and Scarlett for a few days, check out the Wentworth Mansion. The Victorian bed and breakfast features two grand Christmas trees and magnolia wreaths. Impeccable services include chocolate truffles on your pillow every day. For dinner, drop by the Peninsula Grill. Acclaimed chef Graham Dailey serves up such delicacies as bourbon glazed grilled shrimp and steak with brandy peppercorn sauce.

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If long distance travel is possible, Amsterdam is where a lot of America’s Christmas traditions, including Santa Claus, began. The city comes alive for the holidays, with ice skating, champagne, and fireworks for New Year’s and lots of different cuisine. The place to stay is the Canal House, which combines three authentic 17th century homes into a modern bed and breakfast. The views of the canals are impressive. Amsterdam is perfect for a quiet holiday getaway and an authentic European Christmas.

Provence, France features two of Europe’s grandest hotels, the Couvent des Minimes Hotel & Spa and the Terre Blanche Resort, which offer everything for a traditional French Christmas. If you want something more down to earth, try renting a farmhouse. Gourmands shouldn’t miss the “gros souper” (or Great Supper) traditional Christmas Eve dinner at Bistro Mogador in the Chateau d’Estoublon.

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Edinburgh is the Scottish capitol and it puts on a magnificent Christmas celebration that includes fireworks and bagpipe players. It also offers visitors two magnificent hotels, including the Caledonian Hilton Edinburgh. The landmark Balmoral Hotel features Number One, a Michelin-starred restaurant and fireplaces that are constantly kept burning. It’s easy to find, being next to the main train station.

The Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses on New Zealand’s Kaikour peninsula combine luxury and eco-tourism. You can enjoy one of the world’s great beaches and a wonderful dinner menu that includes such local favorites as wild venison. Things to do include whale watching and kayaking. The only drawback is that you cannot ski because Christmas is in the middle of summer in New Zealand.

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