The New York Palace Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Palace's famous façade, originally constructed as a private mansion in 1882, twinkles among a sea of Midtown skyscrapers. Its superb holiday decorations (historically among New York City's best) combined with its proximity to Fifth Avenue shopping, ice skating and the famous tree at Rockefeller Center, and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, make the Palace a prime holiday hotel pick.
Bellagio Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Vegas may not seem like an obvious holiday choice (unless you're in the "naughty" column on Santa's list), but Vegas does Christmas bigger and better than just about anywhere. The Bellagio, arguably Vegas' most iconic luxury hotel, has phenomenal decorations in its indoor garden. In 2009, we saw Christmas trees, rocking horses, polar bears, reindeer, snowmen, and tin soldiers -- all on a giant scale. Plus, you can stock up on Christmas presents in the Bellagio's luxury shopping areas: the 42,000-square-foot Via Bellagio (home to Chanel, Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Prada, Fred Leighton and more) and the smaller, five-store Via Fiore.
The Jefferson, Washington DC Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Elegant rooms, warm service, and colonial charm (an intimate library, a working dumbwaiter) make this D.C.'s best boutique hotel. And its location in old downtown is ideal for taking in the holiday decorations: It's easy walking distance to the stunning Christmas trees near the White House (including the National Christmas Tree and the Capitol Christmas Tree), as well as the holiday windows in Dupont Circle.
The Plaza Rating: 5.0 Pearls
It could be said that no other New York hotel is as synonymous with luxury as The Plaza, or has carved out such a place in 20th-century culture. And at Christmastime, the hotel is decked out in lights and garlands, making it even more spectacular. It's across the street from Central Park, where guests can take horse-drawn carriage rides through the snow, and steps from luxury boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman.
Palace Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Boasting ample turn-of-the-20th-century elegance and 550 rooms on only eight floors, the Palace is aptly named -- it is indeed palatial. It's also within easy walking distance of the shopping, giant Macy's Christmas tree, and holiday windows in Union Square.
The Waldorf Astoria Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Built in 1931 (then the tallest and largest hotel in the world), the Waldorf-Astoria retains its stunning art deco grandeur. Every President since FDR has stayed in the presidential suite. The hotel adorns its lobby with poinsettias, garlands, and several Christmas trees during the holidays, and Rockefeller Center, known for its giant Christmas tree and ice skating during the cold months, is a short walk away.
Fifteen Beacon Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Fifteen Beacon is one of the few Boston hotels located in picturesque Beacon Hill, a quiet area with brick Federal-style homes, hidden gardens, and more than 40 antique shops. All of the 60 rooms come with gas fireplaces, making this a particularly cozy winter pick, and Boston Common (home to a big Christmas tree, dozens of trees strung with lights, and ice skating on Frog Pond) is a block away.
Gramercy Park Hotel Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The hip Gramercy Park Hotel's velvet-heavy, bohemian style; plush rooms; and proximity to the Christmas markets at Union Square make it an inviting winter pick. It's a celebrity favorite, so be sure to make reservations if you plan to warm up by the big fireplace in the popular Rose Bar.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills Rating: 5.0 Pearls
One of the best hotels -- if not the best hotel -- in the entire L.A. area, the Peninsula accurately bills itself as an "exclusive oasis." You can stock up on pricey Christmas presents for the really (really) special people in your life on Rodeo Drive, six blocks away.
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Christmas at Disney World is as magical as it gets. The Grand Floridian, Disney's crown jewel, is as elegant as it is expensive, and features excellent holiday decorations, including a soaring Christmas tree in the lobby and a 1,000-square-foot edible gingerbread house. Its prime location on the monorail and the Seven Seas Lagoon also make it an extremely convenient home base for experiencing the phenomenal holiday decorations and shows at Disney.