AAA Inspectors Select Favorite Lodgings for 12 Nights of Holiday Magic

Hotels and resorts offer ice skating, winter wonderlands, gingerbread villages and more

ORLANDO, Fla., (Dec. 1, 2011) – For those who wait all year to deck the halls or for Jack Frost to nip at their nose, AAA polled its professional inspectors about their favorite places to find holiday magic. Travelers can find extravagant lighting displays, sensational decorations, traditional Christmas dishes and even indoor snowfalls at hotels, restaurants and attractions throughout the United States and Canada.

AAA inspectors’ 12 favorite lodgings for celebrating the holidays are listed below. Find additional lodgings — as well as restaurants and attractions — that provide an abundance of holiday cheer on the AAA travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

The American Club, Kohler, Wis., AAA Five Diamond Classic Historic Resort Hotel

During the Christmas season this distinguished, world-class hotel wraps its trees in thousands of white lights and features professional carolers. On weekends, rides are offered in heated, enclosed horse-drawn carriages around the beautifully decorated town of Kohler. For the young ones, the hotel offers a variety of fun programs including a breakfast with Santa and ornament decorating.

Embassy Suites Niagara Falls Fallsview, Niagara Falls, Ontario, CAA/AAA Three Diamond Hotel

This hotel offers some of the most spectacular views of Niagara Falls available. Through Jan. 31, 2012, the CAA Winter Festival of Lights fills the city with holiday spirit. Each Friday night a spectacular fireworks display explodes over the Falls – and what better place to view it than from the comfort of your toasty warm room! The festival also includes a massive light display along the Niagara Parkway and at Dufferin Islands and a schedule of special events including concerts and family-friendly activities like ice skating at the TD Rink at the Brink.

The Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta, CAA/AAA Four Diamond Historic Resort Hotel

In the heart of the Canadian Rockies, just a 90-minute drive from Calgary, this beautiful, castle-like chateau is a recreational mecca for families wanting an active holiday vacation. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are available at three area resorts. Beautiful decorations, caroling and holiday receptions make this a winter wonderland. Be sure to book early as the Christmas and New Year timeframe is high season here, and the hotel is usually booked to capacity well in advance.

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle, Wash., AAA Four Diamond Historic Hotel

This historic hotel transforms into Christmas Central for downtown Seattle with the public areas decked out in holiday décor. The hotel has regular holiday activities from Thanksgiving to Christmas including the “Christmas in Venice” gingerbread village, local choirs and a teddy bear suite ideal for themed stories and kids photo opportunities. For a special experience, try the holiday tea or enjoy a holiday meal with the family.

Fitzroy Hall, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, CAA/AAA Three Diamond Historic Bed & Breakfast

During the holidays, the innkeepers lovingly transform this historic property into a portrait of days gone by. With its high-ceilinged rooms decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths and twinkling lights, and the atmosphere pungent with the scent of fir boughs and nutmeg, the effect is both festive and magical. Traditional delicacies such as mincemeat tarts, ginger cookies, and spiced eggnog can be savored by the fire. Stepping out into the twilight of a snowy Charlottetown, guests think they’ve stepped into a Dickens novel.

Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center on Lake Grapevine, Grapevine, Texas, AAA Four Diamond Resort Hotel

Every year this hotel becomes a winter wonderland. The interior is a beautiful sight to see with 1.5 million lights, holiday decorations and children’s activities. The best part is that it doesn’t cost anything to tour the hotel, and you are not in the elements! Using over 2 million pounds of ice, artists have created a unique “Shrek the Halls” theme for this year’s experience. Additionally, they are offering Kung Fu Panda snow tubing with real snow!

Great Wolf Lodge, Lightfoot, Va., AAA Three Diamond Resort Hotel

During the holiday season, Great Wolf Lodge becomes a magical place with extensive activities and decorations. Children can attend special craft and Santa letter writing workshops, North Pole University and Elves Cub Club events. Nightly snowfalls and carols in the lobby are a special treat. New this year, a life-size gingerbread cottage is open for dining. The large resort also offers an indoor water park, spa, teen zone, kids club, arcade and other family-oriented activities.

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, Asheville, N.C., AAA Four Diamond Hotel

Each year, the National Gingerbread House Competition is held at the historic Grove Park Inn. Viewing for this year’s competition, the 19th annual, will be open through Jan. 1, 2012 — from Sunday to Thursday for the public and any time for hotel guests. Competitors at all skill levels and from across the country bring their creations, ranging from quaint cottages to elaborate castles. Wandering among the cinnamon-scented and candy-flecked concoctions is sure to put guests in a holly-jolly frame of mind.

Marriott Kansas City Downtown, Kansas City, Mo., AAA Three Diamond Hotel

The interior of the hotel is decorated for the season, but the most remarkable display appears on the building’s exterior. A 22-story-high light show on the south side of the building is visible from most of downtown. The display rotates through countless holiday scenes, from the lighting of a giant tree to Santa sliding down a chimney, for hours of viewing.

The Saint Paul Hotel, St. Paul, Minn., AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Hotel

This grande dame hotel in downtown St. Paul gets all decked out for the holidays. Go for a skate around the outdoor ice rink, then come in and enjoy afternoon tea by the fireplace. Enjoy an evening stroll under falling snow to see the twinkling lights and giant Christmas tree in Rice Park, followed by a traditional holiday feast at the St. Paul Grill. Top it off with a horse-drawn carriage ride around the downtown historic area.

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, S.C., AAA Five Diamond Resort Hotel

From its oceanfront location to its high-end restaurants and superior service, this property specializes in elegance. During the holidays, the hotel embellishes its elaborate décor with traditional decorations. A collection of gingerbread houses is formally unveiled in early December to much pomp and circumstance, and Saturday means it is cookie decorating time. For the kids, Mrs. Claus offers a holiday storybook tea, including a keepsake copy of the book, while Santa offers early evening tuck-ins.

West Baden Springs Hotel, West Baden Springs, Ind., AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Resort Hotel

The expansive domed atrium of this 1902 historic spa hotel is impressive in its own right, but with the added beauty of a 40-foot Christmas tree and hundreds of twinkling lights, the atmosphere is downright magical. Perfect for a romantic holiday retreat, couples can take advantage of the on-site spa to relax from the stress of the season. This season, families can also take a round-trip ride on the “Polar Express” each weekend in December at the nearby Indiana Railway Museum.

For more AAA inspector picks, insider tips and travel stories, visit AAA’s travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

About AAA Inspections

AAA rates more properties than any other rating entity and is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is one of only two that conduct physical, on-site evaluations. AAA/CAA Approved lodgings and restaurants are assigned a rating of One to Five Diamonds. For 75 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results for member travelers.

Listings of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants can be accessed in the AAA TourBook guides, online at AAA.com/Travel and from smartphones using the free AAA TripTik Mobile app or AAA Mobile Web. In addition, AAA members can download free, digital eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks.

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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