THE BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
Two active volcanoes, a tropical rain forest, and beaches as far as the eye can see. This is the biggest, most ecologically diverse island in the chain, with every climate zone represented and waterfalls galore.
WHERE TO STAY
In a Maori-style bungalow or thatched hale at the Kona Village Resort, where you can ogle manta rays, join Santa for a canoe ride, and learn to toss a Hawaiian fishing net.
Olde-tyme–meets-tropical at Pahu i’a, the beachfront restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Belly up to turkey with macadamia-nut stuffing, or poke with soy sauce and seaweed.
In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a two-hour drive from Kona Village, hike through fern forests to the steaming floor of Halemaumau Caldera, a crater near the summit of Kilauea volcano. Come nightfall, drive down Chain of Craters Road for spooky views of glowing orange lava. Minutes from the park, the Kilauea Lodge is a cozy post-and-beam hideaway.
Join the Christmas Eve crowd at the 1835 Mokuaikaua Church on Kailua Bay. The choir sings nightingale-sweet hymns in Hawaiian and dancers swing in the holiday with yule hulas.
Kona Village Resort Kailua-Kona; 800/367-5290; konavillage.com; rooms from $580.
Pahu i’a Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Ka’upulehu-Kona; 808/325-8000; dinner for four $186.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 808/985-6000; nps.gov.
Kilauea Lodge Volcano Village; 808/967-7366; kilauealodge.com; cottages from $205.
Mokuaikaua Church Kailua-Kona; 808/ 329-0655; Christmas Eve service at 9 p.m.
Hear-ye! Hear-ye! This restoration of Virginia’s first capital—in which carriages replace cars, and costumed interpreters play silversmiths, wigmakers, and tavern keepers—makes especially merry at Christmas. Expect fife- and-drum parades, bonfires, and a wreath-decorating contest—the doors here sport peanuts, fruit, clay pipes, and playing cards.
WHERE TO STAY
To feel as if you’re living in the 18th century, not just visiting it, book one of the 26 colonial houses. You’ll be able to walk the crushed- oystershell paths before the hordes descend.
At the columned 1937 Williamsburg Inn, the big meal is a grand affair—Virginia-raised turkey, Sally Lunn bread pudding, and everyone in black velvet.
If your kids are itching to try on a muslin gown or shoulder a musket, sign them up for the costume-rental program. Outfitted like proper Colonials, they’re dispatched on errands, such as carrying news of the Boston Tea Party from the Post Office to the printer.
Though the historic district feels blessedly noncommercial, there are plenty of opportunities to buy tricornered hats, quill pens, and beginner’s quilting sets to take back with you to the 21st century. —Jane Margolies
Colonial Williamsburg 134 N. Henry St., Williamsburg, Va.; 757/229-1000; colonialwilliamsburg.com; general admission for adults $29, children $15; colonial houses from $199 a night, with a three-night minimum from Dec. 22–26; Christmas dinner at the Williamsburg Inn, $280 for a family of four; costume-rental program, $19.95 per child.
The city’s incomparable sparkle could put any Scrooge in touch with his inner Cratchit. Watch a pantomime at the Hackney Empire—a thousand rotten jokes and a happy ending guaranteed. Tour Charles Dickens’s holly-swagged house. And take care of your gift list at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s new state-of-the-art shop.
WHERE TO STAY
Father Christmas delivers sweets to the canopied bedsides of lucky guests at the Knightsbridge, a town-house hotel (with mulled wine and mince pies in the library for exhausted parents). Or deck your own halls when you rent from the Landmark Trust: how about a flat at Hampton Court Palace?
ICE IS NICE
Go for a spin around one of the many ice rinks: Somerset House has the grandest; Kew Gardens, the most tranquil.
At the Goring hotel, there’s turkey, sausages, and brussels sprouts, plus exploding holiday crackers and paper hats. Afterwards, tradition demands a brisk walk followed by reverent contemplation of the queen’s speech on the telly.
MAKE IT LAST
A Christmas pudding (from Marks and Spencer, Harvey Nichols, or Fortnum and Mason) keeps until it’s time to celebrate next yea
Hackney Empire 291 Mare St.; 44-20/8510-4500; hackneyempire.co.uk.
Charles Dickens Museum 48 Doughty St.; 44-20/7405-2127; dickensmuseum.com.
Victoria and Albert Museum Shop Cromwell Rd.; 44-20/7942-2687; vandashop.com.
Knightsbridge Hotel 10 Beaufort Gardens; 44-20/7584-6300; knightsbridgehotel.co.uk; doubles $340.
Landmark Trust 44-1628/825-925; landmarktrust.org.uk; flats from $1,900 per week.
Somerset House Strand;44-20/7845-4600; somerset-house.org.uk.
Kew Gardens At Victoria Gate; 44-20/8332-5655; kew.org.
The Goring Grosvenor Gardens; 44-20/7396-9000; goringhotel.co.uk; dinner for four $560; doubles from $540.