By Anne Taylor Hartzell, on December 9, 2014

Top city hotels for the holidays

I love staying at hotels during the holidays. A hotel’s style and personality emerges as the lights go up and lobbies are adorned with impeccably decorated trees. The holiday season is somewhat like a “best-dressed” contest for hotels, a chance to go all-out in sequins and bows. Of course it also is a chance for guests to wrap up some festive holiday hotel packages to celebrate the season.

Urban hotels make an excellent home-base for enjoying all of the sights and sounds of a city in celebration. To get into the holiday spirit, my family has made it tradition to spend a weekend in a new city each December. Over the years, we’ve experienced holiday celebrations and have stayed in some fun and festive hotels in downtown Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Victoria, British Columbia; and Honolulu.

Staycations are easier for our family during the holidays, and we are fortunate to have some great holiday hotel experiences near our home in Seattle, and within an easy flight or ferry ride from the Northwest. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite city holiday hotels to inspire your own holiday hotel tradition this season.

Gingerbread at the Sheraton Seattle

The Sheraton Seattle, Gingerbread Village

A surefire way to get into the spirit of the season is to experience one of downtown Seattle’s most beloved holiday traditions, the annual Gingerbread Village display at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. Each year the Sheraton’s culinary team partners with local architecture firms to pull together an incredible gingerbread display in the lobby of the Sheraton Seattle. The holiday tradition draws more than 100,000 visitors annually, and is free to the public (though donations are encouraged, and all donations benefit the Northwest Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). For related diversions, make a reservation to dine at the adjacent Loulay Kitchen & Bar, or walk to all of downtown Seattle’s holiday traditions.

The W Seattle

Wrapping holiday presents at W Seattle


Recently, we spent a night at The W Seattle to experience the property’s “It’s a Wrap” package. During our stay, we marveled at The W’s magnificent modern holiday décor, including the hotel’s impressive holiday disco tree, and enjoyed an evening of shopping and light-seeing in downtown Seattle. Included in our “It’s a Wrap” holiday stay was a $100 gift card and complimentary Mercedes Sprinter shuttle service to University Village, an outdoor shopping mall near the University of Washington. I took the shuttle solo for some “me time,” and had just enough time for a quick facial at a local spa and some holiday shopping. Available only on select Saturdays, the shuttle was a super low-stress way to shop. It is offered on a first-come-first-serve basis for guests of The W Seattle.

When I returned to the hotel, I met up with my family for the hotel’s evening “Wrappy Hour,” a complimentary wrapping service for up to three presents with the “It’s a Wrap” package. We enjoyed waiting while our gifts were wrapped in vibrant pink paper and thick black ribbon. We listened to the live DJ spin holiday tunes. My husband and I even sipped on hand-crafted cocktails and noshed on appetizers from the Holiday Happy Hour menu.

Viewfinder Tip: Look for downtown hotel deals during the holidays, when business travel slows and hotels are eager to fill rooms with leisure travelers.

Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria, British Columbia

Last year, we spent a weekend in Victoria, British Columbia, at the Hotel Grand Pacific. Located right on the Inner Harbor, the property is a majestic hotel just steps away from the Victoria Clipper ferry terminal. Each season, the hotel hosts a breathtaking holiday lobby, filled with festive decorations and fun holiday events for the entire family. The Hotel Grand Pacific is in walking distance to all of the holiday celebrations in downtown Victoria. You also can take a short bus ride to a holiday wonderland in Butchart Gardens, which usually features a magical display of millions of holiday lights and ice skating. Our room at the Hotel Grand Pacific had spectacular views of the Inner Harbor, the Parliament of Victoria building, and The Fairmont Empress, adorned in holiday lights.

Hilton Hawaiian Village, Waikiki Beach Resort, Honolulu

If you prefer to warm up and say, “Mele Kalikimaka,” or, “Merry Christmas,” in Hawaiian, consider the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort in downtown Honolulu. A few years back, our family spent a week at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and loved celebrating the holidays Hawaiian style. My kids call this iconic Waikiki beach hotel the “rainbow hotel,” because of the beautiful rainbow mural that adorns the side of one of the hotel’s tall towers. I still remember the beautiful, white sandy beach in front of the hotel, the sights of pine trees in the hotel lobby alongside the swaying palm trees, the smell of pine mixed with coconut, and the short walk to downtown Honolulu shops all gussied up in holiday lights. At night we’d walk the beach path to nearby restaurants, watch the sunset and enjoy people watching in Waikiki before turning in early with an infant.

No matter where your travels take you this holiday, you can be sure hotels will be dressed to the nines to help you get into the spirit of the season.

What is your favorite hotel and city to celebrate the holiday season?