By Rhonda Carrier
Christmas is family time – time to focus on the people and things that really matter – and to do that, you might need to get away from it all. Or perhaps you just want a break from the rampant commercialism of the festive season, or a simple change of scene.
Whatever your reasons, Christmas can be a great time for a family holiday or break, whether you head to the beach, ski slopes or snowy wilds, or to a sparkling city – not least because you’ll get a break from routine and hopefully the chores. And if the kids are worried about Santa not knowing where to bring their presents, see our feature with ideas for the best Christmas family holidays and breaks.
Twelve days of Christmas at this award-winning family resort on the island’s famous 7km-long beach pack is huge amounts of fun, usually including Parang (popular Caribbean folk music traditionally performed at Christmas time), a beach carnival with a fire show, festive treasure hunts, a Sesame Street parade, outdoor Christmas movies, and a Christmas Village with local crafts, jewellery and carvings. On Christmas Day itself, Santa and Mrs Claus appear on the beach to hand out gifts, and there’s also a festive steel band performance and a Christmas party in the teens-only Club Liquid. See our feature on a family holiday at Beaches Negril, including a Christmas toy drive with the charitable Sandals Foundation.
Christmas in this UAE is certainly different - and also hugely fun, with surprising festive touches, including Santa’s grottos, winter souks and even snowy fun at Ski Dubai with its very own penguins! One of the most popular hotels with our readers, Atlantis the Palm sets up a festive village with seasonal feasts in its several restaurants, activities galore and the chance to meet Father Christmas. All this and the beach too!
Open year-round, this five-star resort (formerly the TUI Sensatori) with chic Fendi interiors has a nursery and kids’ club, making it a great bet if you want a sunny Christmas but are happy with mild weather. There’s also a spa with treatments for the whole family plus an indoor pool, and special Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals.
All of the Luxury Family Hotel group are splendid places for a cosy family Christmas, and this handsome Georgian manor with views over Chesil Beach hosts as fabulous four-night Christmas House Party including carols, candlelight, fine food, kids’ club sessions, movie screenings and a visit from Santa - plus a complimentary half-hour treatment for each adult.
Close to several spectacular golden beaches, this upmarket holiday village with its indoor waterpark becomes ‘Christmasland’ for the season, with an interactive experience called Kingdom of the Elves, plus a panto and a light show.
A 1.2km toboggan run, husky-driving, reindeer sleigh-rides and mini-snowmobiling are just some of the unforgettable activities available during a family break in Saariselkä – the closest holiday resort to Korvatunturi Fell, where Father Christmas is said to hail from. Esprit's Santa's Lapland three/four-night breaks before, during or after Christmas, or over New Year, include a private meeting with Santa.
For a real get-away-from-it-all Christmas, these wooden cabins with private saunas and wood-burning fires, sleeping up to 12, are hidden away among the trees yet within easy reach of the slopes and ski school of Geilo, and also right next to the kindergarten for those with kids too young to ski. Guests can also use the pool, spa and playroom at a nearby hotel. All Christmas stays include a decorated tree.
With seasonal fairgrounds, festivals, ice rinks and special shows galore, the British capital is a classic venue for a winter family break. Book one of our hand-picked family-friendly hotels or check into an apartment if you want to cook your own turkey. Things to do on Christmas Day itself include watching the Peter Pan Cup (a swimming race across the icy waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park) and ice-skating on the JW3 rink. City Cruises also runs Thames trips, one including a traditional Christmas lunch, the other one-hour sightseeing tours including mulled wine and mince pies (with under-5s travelling for free).
Free carousels, eye-boggling window displays, glittering ice rinks and Christmas trees wherever you turn your head – the French capital is a fun alternative to London at Christmas. But it’s the day-trips that make it special – Disneyland Paris is open on Christmas Day and has special decorations, parades and firework shows. Or for something more low-key head to Chantilly (in Picardy) with its fairytale castle and former royal stables with their winter-themed equestrian show.
The Big Apple is at its most delicious at Christmas, with ice rinks, festive markets, fabulous window displays and wonderful events at museums. See our feature on Christmas in NYC.
The Austrian capital with its cosy coffeehouses comes into its own in winter, with Christmas visitors treated to festive markets (don’t miss the one at Schönbrunn Palace), ice-skating rinks, classical concerts and the annual Wiener Volksoper opera for children, plus a whole range of fun in the funky Museumsquartier, usually including Alpine booths and ice pavilions, street art, installations, light projections, remote-controlled car races and curling competitions.
The Danish capital oozes festive atmosphere, especially in the Tivoli Gardens with its rides, illuminations and Christmas market. Meanwhile, quaint Nyhavn has beautifully decorated quayside stalls, the iconic Hotel d'Angleterre and Magasine du Nord department store both have fabulous illuminations, and Frederiksberg Rundell has an ice rink. See our feature on a Christmas family break in Copenhagen including an evening at the Tivoli Gardens.
Center Parcs Woburn Forest
Like other members of the popular holiday village group, the Bedfordshire Center Parcs hosts an annual Winter Wonderland with a visit from Santa and his reindeer, seasonal activities, a treasure trail, festive dining and fireworks. Lodges can be decked out with trees and decorations. Read about a family break at Center Parcs' Winter Wonderland.
Jet off to Florida’s top theme park and you can enjoy the Macy’s Holiday Parade with its spectacular floats, the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, plus special holiday buffets and Santa’s visits in on-site hotels.
Read more about our favourite family winter sun holidays and our top family skiing holiday recommendations.