Even in the dead of winter, cultural life goes on. That's a good thing for holiday travelers.

How best to plug into cultural offerings as you head out for a cool-weather retreat? Keep reading:

· Newport, Rhode Island (Home of The Chanler): Three of Newport's most prominent Gilded Age mansions - The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House - will be decorated for the holiday season from November 17, 2007 to January 1, 2008. Come and enjoy the spirit of Christmas as these opulent summer cottages are transformed into Winter Wonderlands. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.(The Chanler hotel is located at the start of Cliff Walk on Memorial Boulevard offering easy access to all that Newport has to offer. For info and reservations call 401-372-2578 or visit www.thechanler.com)

· Kennebunkport, Maine (Home of the White Barn Inn): In 1982, the village of Kennebunkport, Maine threw its first Christmas Prelude celebration, featuring a tree-lighting ceremony, River Arts concert, chowder luncheon, candlelight caroling, and Santa's arrival by lobster boat. These days, the Christmas Prelude consists of three tree-lighting ceremonies, Arts & Crafts Fairs, programs from the local Historical Society, a dozen dining venues serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, and 12 programs of music celebrating the season. Santa still arrives by lobster boat, escorted by two very special "lobster elves." The Christmas Prelude runs December 10 -December 30, 2007. (The White Barn Inn & Spa is one of the leading Kennebunkport hotels and inns. Make an online hotel reservation enquire online at www.whitebarninn.com or call 207.967.2321)

· Taos, New Mexico (Home of El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa): If you happen to be enjoying a relaxing holiday getaway at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa, head to the base of Taos Ski Valley at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve to watch resort employees holding flares as they glide down Snakedance trail. The undulating ribbon of red is a must see. (El Monte Sagrado, well-known as a leader in alternative energy, blends its commitment to sustainability with a setting of indulgent luxury. For info and reservations: 800.828.8267; www.elmontesagrado.com.)

· Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (Home of Maison 140): The streets of Beverly Hills look better at night than during the day. This is especially true at Christmas time, when the Yuletide displays in the shop windows take on a particularly lovely glow and twinkle-lights adorn the many trees. During the holiday season, Rodeo Drive's center divider is planted with banks of bright red poinsettia flowers, and the trees are tied with matching red ribbons. Some of the stores, such as Louis Vuitton, really outdo themselves with delightful Christmas décor. (Maison 140 is an intimate, 43-room luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills. For telephone reservations call
800 670 6182 (From US and Canada); online visit www.maison140beverlyhills.com)

Source: Hawkins International


Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".