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It's beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas, as resorts around the country are already preparing for the busy holiday season. With most children around the country enjoying nearly two full weeks of school holidays, families are increasingly using Christmastime as a chance for a vacation. This year, a number of resorts are planning over-the-top events that promise more bang for your buck during the holidays. Here's a selection of nine getaways offering a huge dose of affordable Christmas cheer:

Gaylord National (www.gaylordhotels.com)
Where: National Harbor, MD
Why: Because this kid-friendly Washington, D.C.-area resort packs a wow factor for the holiday season. The award-winning ICE! exhibit is a hand-carved winter-wonderland constructed from two million pounds of ice that that retells the classic story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Families can wander among the bronze sculpture garden filled with Dr. Seuss's classic characters, skate on a green rink, gaze up at the 60-foot glass Christmas tree and colorful fountain show, or take in a musical dinner performance. Kids can meet Santa and the Grinch during breakfast and brunch, or find hidden items in a resort-wide scavenger hunt. The Christmas Memories package starts at $99 per adult and includes overnight accommodations, the $15 resort fee, the $19 parking fee, admission to ICE! (regularly $24/adult) and a holiday souvenir.

Coeur d'Alene Resort (www.cdaresort.com)
Where: Coeur d'Alene, ID
Why: Because the 161-foot Christmas tree at this lakefront resort is twice as tall as the tree at Rockefeller Center. Families can hop aboard a 40-minute cruise across the lake to the "North Pole," where Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be waiting in the toy workshop. The Holiday Lights Bed and Breakfast package costs $155 a night and includes two cruise tickets (a $32 value), and two breakfast entrees. Kids 12 and under cruise for free.

The Galt House (www.kalightoscope.com)
Where: Louisville, KY
Why: Because this downtown Louisville favorite is debuting its first-ever Christmas light display, and it is making quite the impression on families. Twelve sparkling scenes reaching up to 24 feet in height depict Santa's reindeer-drawn flight, Toyland, and the Nativity scene, all inspired by ancient Chinese art. There's also a life-sized, edible gingerbread village that would befit Wonka's candy factory. In addition, guests can enjoy a holiday dinner show and several events hosted by a special VIP guest (we mean Santa), including a story time reading, breakfast, and a kids' Christmas party. The Kalightoscope Overnight package is priced from $129 and includes accommodations plus two tickets to the exhibit (regularly $17.95 each).

Hershey Lodge (www.hersheypa.com)
Where: Hershey, PA
Why: Because Hersheypark's 30 themed amusement-park rides beckon, Hershey characters get decked out in their Christmas finery, and you can take in "Christmas in Chocolate Town," a holiday dinner and musical performed at the Hershey Lodge (see WeJustGotBack.com's review). Kids can also visit with Santa's reindeer who will be gearing up for the big flight. Of the handful of packages available over the holidays, we like Breakfast with Santa, which starts at $329 a night and includes accommodations, breakfast buffet with Santa, and admission to Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, Hershey Gardens, the new interactive museum on Chocolate Avenue, and Hershey's Sweet Lights Show.

Sunriver Resort (www.sunriver-resort.com)
Where: Sunriver, OR
Why: Because the popular "Traditions" program is back again this year with a sleigh full of family activities. Kids can make teddy bears and crafts in Santa's workshop, watch a magic show, and test out some sweets at the candy factory. On Christmas Eve, there is a special holiday celebration with caroling and trivia, followed by a Christmas brunch with Santa and a classic dinner in the Great Hall. There will also be gingerbread homes on display as part of an annual charity contest, family sleigh rides, and elf tuck-ins. The Sugarplum special starts at $149 a night, and is available from Thanksgiving through New Years. The package combines lodging and a $50 credit toward any of the 150 "Traditions" activities.

Copper Mountain
 (www.coppercolorado.com)
Where: Copper Mountain, CO
Why: Because this kid-friendly ski resort (see WeJustGotBack.com's review) hosts a fabulous "En Fuego" celebration several times during the holiday season. At nightfall, there will be bonfires, brilliant fireworks displays, and a Santa-led parade of torch-carrying skiers winding down the slopes. In addition, there's a chance for kids to meet Santa, go snow tubing, ice skating, dog sledding, snowmobiling, roast s'mores by the fire pit, or attend a free Kids' Night Out camp. Book two nights of lodging and Secret!Pass VIP lift tickets by December 5 and receive third night free. Rates start from $74 per person, per night. Kids 12 and under ski free.

Callaway Gardens (www.callawaygardens.com)
Where: Pine Mountain, GA
Why: Now in its 19th year, the Fantasy in Lights display has become a favorite family tradition. More than eight million lights shine in the wooded landscape and along Robin Beach. Returning favorites include life-sized scenes depicting the "March of the Toy Soldiers," and "Twas the Night Before Christmas," plus an enchanting drive through "Snowflake Valley," the wintery blizzard of lights. Families can also explore the resort's butterfly center or warm up in the Christmas village, where kids can get their photo taken with Santa. The Fantasy in Lights package starts at $159 a night and includes the light show, a Christmas ornament, breakfast for two, and admission to the butterfly center and other resort attractions.

Chateau on the Lake (www.chateauonthelakebranson.com)
Where: Branson, MO
Why: Because this four-diamond resort is the perfect base for a magical Christmas spent in family-friendly Branson. The famous Silver Dollar City amusement park is transformed into a whimsical holiday kingdom featuring a Broadway-style production of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," a holiday light parade, and a five-story Christmas tree as the centerpiece. Back at the resort; expect carolers, bonfires, a giant puzzle, a gingerbread village, and family-rated movies at Sassafras Theater. The Ozark Mountain Christmas package is priced from $425, and bundles two nights' accommodations, tickets to the Silver Dollar City (valid both days), an ornament, and a $50 resort credit.

Great Wolf Lodge (www.greatwolf.com)
Where: Grapevine, TX
Why: Because during the holidays, this giant rustic-themed lodge and indoor waterpark transforms into "Snowland" with thrice-a-day snowfalls in the lobby while temperatures inside the adjacent waterpark remain downright tropical. Kids can visit with Santa, go on a "Polar Wolf Walk" each morning to learn about penguins and polar bears, have story time with Rowdy the Reindeer, or make presents and cards at Santa's workshop. On select days, families can watch the "Sounds of the Season" musical performance. Rates start at $199 a night throughout December. Keep in mind that popular weekends will fill up quickly.

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