What a difference a year (of vaccination) makes. During the 2020 holidays, most Canadian hotels and resorts were either closed or operating at a loss owing to pandemic restrictions and advisories against travel. Fast-forward 12 tumultuous months and many lodgings are home to refreshingly merry Christmas and New Year’s Eve packages, such as the nine explored below, for anyone who can prove they’ve been double-vaxxed.
More is merrier at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ont.
The abundance of festive activities at this cottage-country mainstay puts Santa’s workshop to shame. Arts and crafts? Check. Magic shows and seminars? Check. Scavenger hunts? Check. Readings of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? Right beside the towering lobby fireplace. All of this and more is offered from Dec. 18 to Jan. 2 as part of “Muskoka Holiday Magic” packages that reward longer stays with discounts on nightly rates. Deerhurst’s holiday menus are similarly extensive, with Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 featuring buffets, brunches and adults-only prix-fixe feasts, and four- and seven-course dinners offered on New Year’s Eve. From $217 a night, deerhurstresort.com
Elven invasion at Alberta’s Kananaskis Mountain Lodge
Speaking of Santa’s workshop, some of its employees appear to have migrated to the 247-room Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge in the ruggedly scenic park system about 100 kilometres west of Calgary. “Merry Kananaskis” packages give these staff elves plenty to do: Tuck in children, tell bedtime stories, deliver milk and cookies, lead craft workshops, and help guests feed reindeer and take part in guided tours such as moonlit snowshoeing and animal tracking. From $549 a night, explorekananaskis.com/merry-kananaskis
Get your globe on in White Point, N.S.
A 90-minute drive south of Halifax along Nova Scotia’s rugged South Shore, two- and three-night “Christmas at White Point” packages cover all meals at the picturesque seaside resort, including a lavish Dec. 25 dinner buffet, nightly live entertainment in the fireplace-equipped Founder’s Lounge, and holiday activities ranging from mitten- and snow globe-making workshops to festive movie nights and bonfires on the beach. From $155 a night, whitepoint.com
Sweet relief in Vancouver
The “Deck the Halls” package from Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim is ideal for British Columbian families seeking to offload some holiday stress in the wake of an especially stressful year. It includes Nutcracker-themed decor at the entrance of Fairmont Gold rooms and suites, an in-room Christmas tree with a wrapped welcome amenity gift under it, a children’s play tent with a Nutcracker cookie inside, and last but definitely not least, a bottle of sparkling wine. From $899 a night, fairmont.com/pacific-rim-vancouver
All is bright along the St. Lawrence River in Ontario
A new partnership between Via Rail, Toronto’s Landsby travel agency and the regional tourism organization for Southeastern Ontario has produced “Rail & Roam” packages that combine and discount train tickets, accommodations, meals, tours, car rentals and more. From the Via station in Cornwall, for instance, guests can travel west along the scenic St. Lawrence River until they reach Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, which until Jan. 1 is draping the recreated 19th-century settlement in more than a million coloured lights. From there, the historic village of Winchester, and a suite in the country-cozy Terrace Green B&B, is less than 30 minutes away by rental car. From $399 a night, landsby.ca/rail-and-roam
A Ritzy rivalry between Montreal and Toronto
NHL grudge matches can’t hold a candle to the festive one-upmanship that goes on between the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Montreal and Toronto. The former’s “Holiday Magic” package includes $100 and $200 food and beverage credits for nightly room and suite bookings, respectively, which can be put to use on a holiday brunch of bacon-wrapped monkfish, among many other delicacies at celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s namesake eatery. Guests also save 15 per cent on Air Canada’s domestic and U.S. flights, with those staying at least three nights receiving the hottest gift of 2021: A complimentary in-house PCR screening or rapid antigenic test for COVID-19. From $645 a night.
Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton takes a more traditional approach. From Dec. 17 to Jan. 3, “Celebrate Families” combines overnight stays in connecting guestrooms and one-bedroom corner suites with $200 in hotel credits, festive welcome amenities, in-room decorated trees and seasonal floral arrangements, chef-led cookie-decorating classes, visits with Santa, and chestnuts roasting on the open fire in the hotel lobby. From $1,050 a night, ritzcarlton.com
DIY tree-chopping in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan
Until Dec. 23, guests of the lakeside Hawood Inn near the eastern border of Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park can harvest their own Christmas trees from the surrounding woods as part of one- and two-night Christmas-prep packages. After that perfect tree is felled, younger guests can decorate baubles to take home, with rounds of hot chocolate, complimentary cross-country ski use, snowy scavenger hunts and rooftop hot tubs adding to the experience. From $119 a night, hawood.com
A stylish New Year’s at the Drake Hotel, Toronto
New Year’s Eve revellers looking to put 2021 behind them in style should have every opportunity to do so at Toronto’s newly expanded Drake Hotel. Dec. 31 packages, which upon request include a night in one of the new Modern Wing’s 32 gloriously retro guestrooms, include two mini bottles of sparkling wine, a $100 dining credit for the in-house restaurant’s three-course year-end menu, and perhaps most importantly, a late checkout. From $589 a night, thedrake.ca
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