Relax for the holidays.
While vacationing overseas always ranks high on the most-coveted travel lists, many industry heavyweights find their bliss closer to home during winter break. From wine tasting and meditating to mountaintop luxuriating, these five-star destinations, all less than two and a half hours away, offer endless spoils for a spirited holiday getaway.
Direct flight accessibility (Colorado's Eagle County Regional Airport, EGE, is about 30 minutes away), coupled with 8,000 skiable acres and a high dose of elevated cuisine and shopping, lures everyone from John Wells and the Obamas to Justin Timberlake, Angelina Jolie and Taylor Swift. Powder hounds eager to make the most of their time on the slopes will revel in the latest technology from Vail Resorts, EpicMix Time Insight — where data on snowfall, lift wait times and real-time runs via crowdsourcing is easily accessed. And, while the lively village is packed with lodgings to satisfy discerning tastes, the place to cozy up is The Arrabelle at Vail Square.
Nestled right at the base and boasting a ski valet and storage, book the redesigned 990-square-foot King Suite (from $650/night) or crank up the luxe factor with the Game Creek Chalet (from $1,800/night). Perched 10,500 feet atop Vail Village, this four-bedroom, five-bathroom ski-in/ski-out private residence offers the ultimate in seclusion coupled with all of the hotel amenities, including the option of a private chef, and, of course, Zen-inducing alpine views all to yourself.
Long an adored industry playground (Sofia Vergara, Nathan Kahane, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kobe Bryant), this tony coastal village in Southern California still thrives in December thanks to mostly sunny skies, the luxe-relaxed vibe and easy drive (about an hour from Los Angeles). And, with the arrival of the 30,000-square-foot Miraval Life In Balance Spa at Monarch Beach Resort (from $500/night, monarchbeachresort.com), there's no need to jet off to Tucson for this revered mind-body-spirit retreat frequented by Oprah Winfrey.
Deal-exhausted executives can ring in the New Year with a reinvigorated, healthy ethos after a few days filled with meditation (including Floating Meditation, where guests are nestled inside of a silk hammock and gently rocked to the sounds of crystal bowls), beachside yoga and curative sessions with visiting specialists such as aromatherapists, healers, physical therapists and dietitians. If it’s still possible to peel yourself away from the refreshing dream-like state, local art galleries and waterfront dining beckons in downtown Laguna — sip on a High Tide crafted with rum and fresh pineapple and a dozen oysters at Driftwood Kitchen, where drifting off to the soothing sounds of the waves and salty air is literally a breeze.
Those seeking small-town country charm peppered with sophisticated dining, mild climate and wineries galore head to this haven situated in Solvang, California (just two hours north of Los Angeles), including Steven Spielberg, Bernie Taupin and Dick Wolf, who have all called this idyllic setting home. And, with the devastating fires in Santa Barbara (less than an hour away), many residents have been fleeing to this refuge.
Rollicking family gatherings go full tilt amidst live coastal oaks and down-home Western charm at The Alisal Ranch Guest Ranch and Resort (from $650/night, alisalranch.com). A popular playground for Golden Age screen stars including Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, as well as the younger set (Cobie Smulders and Taran Killam were married on the property), this working ranch draws those seeking an off-the-grid, rustic adventure. Saddle up for a horseback ride and pancake breakfast on the trails, tee off on one of two 18-hole championship golf courses or hit Alisal Lake for an afternoon of fly fishing and canoe rides.
Downtown Solvang is also home to the quaint Danish Village, often referred to as one of the "Most Christmassy Towns in America." It’s impossible not to get swept up in holiday cheer while wandering the streets of this European-designed enclave where Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton have been spotted. Grab a stick of hand-crafted Polkagris (believed to be the original version of a candy cane) and catch a batch of this homemade goodness, in many natural flavors, being whipped up at Swedish Candy Factory. Drop into a wine tasting bar (there’s one on almost every corner), followed by a visit to OstrichLand USA, where visitors can indulge in the thrill of feeding the frolicking ostriches and emus. Make mornings even more memorable with breakfast at The Solvang Restaurant for the local delicacy Aebleskivers (imagine a waffle or pancake formed into the shape of a tennis ball) topped with powdered sugar and raspberry jam. Retreat to one of the area’s most alluring new hotels, The Landsby (from $450/night, thelandsby.com), decked out in sumptuous Scandinavian design, and feast on a cured meat and cheese board at the lobby bar, where merriment abounds.
Of all U.S. ski destinations, this industry-laden hub of Aspen, Colorado, reigns supreme, thanks to the volume of epic terrain (Ajax, Highlands, Snowmass, Buttermilk) coupled with its charismatic authenticity as a silver mining town and palpable swank. It’s where the quaint and cozy Paradise Bakery and Victoria+co are just a few doors down from Prada and Ralph Lauren, and where everyone from Lady Gaga, Dakota Johnson and Rihanna to David Geffen, Peter Guber and Bradley Bell soak up the enduring alpine vibe. As the only ski-in/ski-out, five-star, AAA Five-Diamond hotel in Aspen, The Little Nell remains the chosen spot for Hollywood's elite. With a plush living room lobby that’s bustling from breakfast to après ski and beyond and the home-away-from-home ambiance, this is the epicenter of the Aspen lifestyle.
Book one of the eight Luxury Suites (from $2,000/night), newly refreshed by Champalimaud Design, and glide over to the Ski Concierge, where 10-year veteran Jason Tie will create a seamless ski/snowboard adventure complete with boot fastening/warming, tuneups and storage. And, if you’re in need of an instructor to begin learning from scratch or for some overdue fine-tuning, Annie Black is the beloved queen of the slopes. After a day of tackling the runs, it’s easy to relieve overworked muscles with a visit to RemèdeSpa at nearby The St. Regis Aspen. Massages get the Colorado treatment with the use of healing CBD hemp oil, said to help reduce soreness and inflammation and hopefully allowing for continued merriment on the mountain the following day.