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Budget-friendly destinations for the holidays

December 13, 2010|By Ken Van Vechten | Special to the Los AngelesTimes
  • Ojai offers perks through December, including resort credits, free breakfast or half-off on second rooms.
Ojai offers perks through December, including resort credits, free breakfast… (Ojai Valley Inn & Spa )

Tired of the same holiday traditions? Is the neighbor's decoration aesthetic too Barnum & Bailey? Had it with the drunken Dec. 31 frat scene on the Las Vegas Strip? We took a gander across the West and came away with some dollar-wise travel that packs enough holiday cheer to please Scrooge.

Festival of delights

With its welcoming Spanish California style, monument oaks, golf course designed by the guys who did the Riviera and Bel-Air and special powers emanating from the vortices of the Topa Topa Mountains, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa might be the quintessentially "So Cal" resort. Ojai offers perks through December, including resort credits, free breakfast or half-off on second rooms. Seasonal rates from $350.

Poinsettias, not Rosebud

William Randolph Hearst apparently loved the Yule season and would deck the halls of his little shack with more than a few boughs of holly. Led by docents in period costume, the "Christmas at the Castle" evening tours take visitors back 80 years to a festive Hearst holiday with all the trimmings (adults, $30; children, $15). Stay-and-tour packages at the Morgan Hotel — named for Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan — include one night's lodging and two tickets to the castle experience (daytime) tour. $150-$250 to Dec. 31.,

Deck the halls with Cabernet

We can have the trappings of winter, which is the idea behind Yountville, Calif.'s WinterScape. There's an ice rink, carriage rides, wine tastings with Santa as sommelier, performances of the "Nutcracker" and the Oak Ridge Boys' Christmas Show, vintage toy exhibit, and later-into-the-evening hours at this cute little wineburg's shops, galleries and eateries. A number of area properties, including Villagio Inn & Spa, Napa Valley Railway Inn, Bardessono and Napa Valley Lodge, are offering special packages; prices vary.

A true shopping trip

Do not retaliate for Aunt Zelda's knitted delights by calling on Hickory Farms. Go to Tubac, Ariz., buy good stuff at the Holiday Artisan Market and Members' Juried Exhibition. The weather is great, the verdant desert river valley setting is gorgeous and the place crawls with history and great horse and hiking trails. Play a round of golf at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, part of an old land-grant rancho. From $129.,

Red-rock revelry

Ignore the TV, Times Square and the silly ball. Ring in the near year at Utah's Zion National Park, beneath 3,000-foot sandstone monoliths tinted in Mother Nature's neon hues. Everything you can do in summer you pretty much can do in winter with no fear of heatstroke or buses spewing hordes of knee-socks-and-shorts-wearing tourists. New Year's packages for two at Zion Lodge are $290 to $310, with dinner, champagne toast and two breakfasts.

Sleep with the fishes

OK, you won't face the Mafia. You also won't get a hangover. The doors open at 7 on New Year's Eve for a family sleepover at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. With special behind-the-scenes activities, midnight-at-9 p.m. cider toast, late-night nature movie and your choice of where to bed down — hmm, with the sea otters or jellyfish? — and a continental breakfast, this is one New Year's celebration your neighbors have never tried. $75 for aquarium members; $95 for nonmembers. BYO sleeping bags.

'Magical' Squaw

It's Christmas, where's the white stuff? Come on. Where is it? How about at the Resort at Squaw Creek? Known as one of the most massive ski mountains, and one-time host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw is pulling out all the stops with "Magical Memories." This six-week-long program features everything from breakfast with Santa and moonlight snowshoe tours to a film festival and polar bear plunge Jan 1. Prices vary.

Royal fun

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort in Arizona is taking a "more is more" approach to the holidays. Check out the accommodation packages, such as "All Wrapped Up," with a tree brought room-side for decoration, and "Family Traditions," with gifts of chocolate gelt and dreidels and a menorah ceremony. The resort's celebration will include carolers, a four-story-tall musical tree, fishing, basketball and tennis tournaments, and spa, golf and dining specials. Take a toy or a book, because the resort accepts donations for Toys for Tots. Prices vary.

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