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Wonderful and wild ways to celebrate the season

The holidays are nearly upon us. Why not kick it off with some out-of-the-ordinary ways to take it all the glory and spectacle of the season?

From dog-sledding to Segway riding with Santa, destinations all over the U.S. are offering guests wonderfully wild and unique was to celebrate the holidays. There are romantic options for couples, adventurous options for thrill seekers, and family-friendly options for the younger set.

And because every destination anxious to garner your tourism dollars, many places are providing discounts and packages that you can only get this time of year. So, whether you live in the heat and want to experience the winter weather or you’re stuck scraping snow and you long for the sun, there’s a unique way for you to get out of Dodge.  

Dolphins and St. Nick

If you’re a sun-seeker but still want your holidays to be merry and bright, Hawks Cay in Duck Key, Fla. just might fit the bill. Get in the holiday spirit with story time and hot chocolate with Mrs. Claus every Saturday at 5:30 in the resort lobby, cookie decorating.  For the adults indulge in the Christmas Spirit Card --which is a punch card that provides you with a sample of a designated Christmas cocktail at each of four bars.

As long as you’re by the water, you might as well enjoy all that it has to offer as well with Hawk’s Cay holiday deals.  Experiences include one free tarpon feeding at the Marina, 10 percent off Dockside Dolphin and Dolphin Discover Programs (through Dec. 21), 15 percent off any 80 minute treatment at Calms Waters Spa, 2-for-1 bike and kayak rentals, 2-for-1 snorkel trips, and more.

Yippie Kay Yay: Cowboy Christmas

There’s no telling what the weather will be at this Central Texas location, but --in true cowboy spirit-- that hasn't stopped to folks at the Westin La Cantera in San Antonio from getting into the holiday spirit.  Seasonal offerings include outdoor ice skating, an elves’ playland with holiday arts and crafts, movies, and games, a kids show presented by the Magik Theatre, and a holiday walking tour with Bandera Cowboy 'Makin' Dust, which ends with a magical snowfall in Plaza San Saba. Guests can also enjoy visits with Santa where kids can share their wish lists, decorate a gingerbread cookie in Mrs. C's Cookie Factory, or build a wooden toy with the elves. 

Visions of Chocolate Santas

What better way to kick off the season than with chocolate --we're talking a lot of it. During the holiday season, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando, Fla. is home to a 1,200-pound, life-size chocolate sculpture of Santa crafted by Chef Laurent Branlard, with 880 pounds of dark chocolate, 132 pounds of milk chocolate, 154 pounds of white chocolate, and 120 pounds of cocoa butter. In case you’re wondering, that’s a 2,956,818-calorie snack. Of course the display wouldn’t be complete without a chocolate fireplace, Christmas tree, and toy train.

You can also meet up with Santa and Mrs. Claus in the lobby all decked out in their tropical best. Guests can even order an elf tuck-in on Christmas Eve, complete with a visit from a costumed elf, milk and cookies, and a bedtime story.  If your kids are worried that Santa won’t be able to find them, tell them to fear not.  They can simply hang a magic key outside their guest room, along with their wish list.

Guests will also be treated to cookie decorating, movies, musical performances, and a nightly tree lighting.  All the fun of the holiday season and none of the cold.
Rates at the Dolphin start at $159.00.

Segways and S'mores

Forget about Santa's sled.  Segways are the only way to go. The Ritz-Carlton Lodge just outside Atlanta lets guests peruse the resort’s decorated grounds on a Segway decked out as a sleigh for a 90-minute holiday tour. Other holiday activities are on offer that would make even Scrooge smile. You can  ice skate without the cold and snow, attend a gingerbread workshop, have an elf read a bedtime story and tuck-in the kids, and enjoy a campfire with s’mores. Even the spa is holiday ready with campfire-inspired spa treatments, like the S’mores Body Glow and the Cider and Cinnamon Pedicure.   

Rates for the Fire and Ice holiday package start at $329.

Jump on the Christmas Express

You don't need the guarantee of a white Christmas to get into the season. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Ariz. kicks off its annual Christmas at the Princess festival, from Nov. 27-Jan. 6, where guests can skate, take in the Lagoon Lights and Princess Express Train, and enjoy other holiday traditions like caroling and decorating stockings.  And, of course, you can have your photo taken with Santa fireside on Friday and Saturday nights ($10 per photo or complimentary after dining in any of the restaurants that evening). And you won’t want to miss the Four-Story Musical Tree, complete with 65,000 LED lights that  twinkle and dance  to 10 holiday songs.

For those who celebrate Hanukkah, there is also nightly menorah lighting with applesauce and latkes (Dec. 8-16) and dreidel-making.

The Family on Ice Holiday Package is available Nov. 27-Jan. 6, and prices start at $279.

Ignite Flames With Fireplace Butlers 

Some of the experiences are particularly quirky and even a little decadent. Guests at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe, N.M. can order up a complimentary visit from a fireplace butler. All you have to do is ring and the fireplace butler, decked out in wintry flannel, of course, will come to your room with a burlap log holder in hand full of  fresh-cut, local wood and lighting supplies. And once the fire is lit, hot-spiced cider or hot chocolate will be served.

Down With Dog-Sledding

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous and are not afraid to brave the cold, how about dog-sledding at the Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, Jefferson, N.H. --the longest dog sled ride in New England. Travel the snow covered trails from behind a team of rescue and second-chance Alaskan huskies at this non-profit sled dog rescue with over 100 dogs currently. Your dog-sled adventure will help to fund this program for these deserving pups.

Take a 1.5-hour introductory tour or venture out on a 50-mile overnight expedition, which includes a stay at the Mahoosuc Inn.  Meet the dogs, harness and hitch the team, and then enjoy some cocoa and the incredible ride. At the end of the tour, a catered dinner, a crackling fire, and a bubbling hot tub await.