3 places to visit for a memorable Christmas

St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, one of New York City’s most beautiful churches.
St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, one of New York City’s most beautiful churches. | Dennis Lennox

Christmas may be rapidly approaching, but there is still plenty of time to plan a getaway.

From a semi-crazy experience for the kids with Santa, a spectacular festive spectacle and worship in a magnificent church along New York’s famous Fifth Avenue, this column has you covered with three different ways to create holiday memories you will never forget.


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Swissôtel Chicago, an upscale hotel on Wacker Drive with amazing views of the downtown cityscape, has transformed its presidential suite into the Santa Suite.

The 2,000-square-foot space includes 16 decorated Christmas trees — a décor the hotel admits is over-the-top — and a hot chocolate bar with everything from something called “peppermint puppy chow” to red velvet cheesecake truffles.

Family friendly and aptly named Santa Days run every weekend through Dec. 22 with tickets priced at $15 (children under 2 are free). If you choose to make a weekend out of it, the hotel is also selling what it calls “elf-decorated rooms.”

St. Augustine

One of the country’s oldest cities is all-in on Christmas. Literally.

The charming downtown of Florida’s St. Augustine, first settled by the Spanish in the 1560s, is illuminated by over 3 million lights.

The annual Nights of Lights spectacle runs through Candlemas on Feb. 2. Some of the most beautiful locations include Flagler College and a central square known as Plaza de la Constitución. Just be sure to bring a tripod for the perfect photo.

New York City

There is something about the Big Apple at Christmas. It’s truly special.

One of the best-kept secrets is St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, one of New York’s most beautiful churches. Ignored by most tourists in favor of nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic), the Episcopal parish has a breathtakingly beautiful floor-to-ceiling screen behind the high altar. It also has heavenly choral music.

Advent and Christmas worship programming includes the popular Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols — every bit as good as the more famous rendition by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge — at 4 p.m. on Dec. 22. No tickets are required.

Spires and Crosses is a weekly travel column. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter and Instagram.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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