HAMILTON, Bermuda, Nov. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --The holiday season is supposed to bring "good tidings of comfort and joy," but these days, the (ever earlier) appearance of holiday decorations in stores is more likely to bring feelings of pressure and stress. The savvy alternative to escape the retail frenzy: a quick hop to a low-key, laid-back destination steeped in holiday charm.
The beautiful island of Bermuda is an out-of-the-ordinary antidote to the holiday grind, offering an accessible escape to connect with who and what really matters most in your life.
Located east of North Carolina's coast, Bermuda is just two hours from most major eastern US airports. And the island's December temperatures usually hover in the 70s – making it a comfortable and civilized place to exhale and unwind.
The island blends British charm and island soul to create experiences that are distinctly Bermuda (the holidays are no exception). Traditions like Christmas strolls and parades are joined this year as one of the world's most iconic holiday figures – one red-nosed reindeer – marks his 50th anniversary on-island.
WHAT TO DO
Every December, millions watch Arthur Rankin's still-delightful 1964 stop-motion animation television special, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer®. What most don't know is that Rankin was a longtime Bermuda resident (he passed away in early 2014) who loved the island so much that he became a full-fledged Bermudian citizen. His legacy is honored through Celebrating 50 Years of Rudolph and the Works of Rankin/Bass, an exhibition at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, on view December 6, 2014 through mid-January 2015. This perfect-for-the-holidays show features more than 50 dolls, scripts, photographs and other tools used by Rankin and partner Jules Bass to create their beloved works. Yes, the original Rudolph model will be there! [General admission is $5, children under 12 are free].
Some of the island's hotels are getting into the red-nosed spirit, too. Rosewood Tucker's Point is offering a special Rudolph at Rosewood overnight package that includes tickets to the Masterworks exhibition, a collector's edition DVD and much more. Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa, meanwhile, is changing its welcome cocktail, the Cambridge Blue, to a Red Reindeer, among other Rudolph-themed fun. (see Where to Stay)
The holiday season in Bermuda kicks off in a positively Dickensian fashion with the Bermuda National Trust's yearly Christmas Walkabout in St. George on December 5. The Town of St. George, one of the oldest established towns in the new world, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with historic homes, some dating all the way back to the 17th century. The town gets gussied up for the Walkabout; several homes, complete with lavish seasonal décor, are open to the public, historical re-enactors roam the candlelit streets, and the sound of classic carols fills the air. Sip a hot toddy and slip back in time.
Rudolph's pal Santa Claus leaves his chilly North Pole digs behind for a tropical trip during the annual Hamilton Christmas Parade on December 15. Dozens of festive floats, performers and thousands of spectators give a warm welcome to Jolly St. Nick. We're surprised he ever leaves.
Take an evening stroll full of holiday cheer. Head to Bermuda's charming parishes and ooh and ahh at the houses all dressed up with lights and holiday-themed decorations, many given a tropical twist. And make some time to check out the festive and whimsical holiday displays in the City of Hamilton's shops. It's a competition, so the displays get more elaborate with every year. Also in Hamilton, join Bermuda radio personality Power Girl for a Christmas Carol sing-along (date TBA). Don't forget to wear your Santa hat! You'll also want to see the Fairmont Southampton and Fairmont Hamilton Princess all decked out for the holidays – last year, the Southampton impressed with an enormous gingerbread house made with 80 pounds of ginger cookie dough and 50 pounds of royal icing.
In a nod to the island's British heritage, the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society stages a traditional UK pantomime performance every December. Expect wild plot-twists, festive costumes and Chaplin-esque slapstick, all without the aid of the spoken word.
The fun doesn't end after Christmas. Boxing Day – the UK's public holiday on December 26 – is given a very Bermuda twist each year, as traditional Gombey troupes decked out in colorful costumes dance down the streets to the infectious sound of goatskin drums, beer bottle fifes and tin whistles. We could tell you how much fun a Gombey (derived from an African word meaning "rhythm") performance is, but it's probably easier to show you.
The Big Apple has the ball drop to ring in the New Year. Bermuda has the onion drop. On New Year's Eve, head to St. George's or Hamilton for an only-in-Bermuda tradition, which celebrates the island's longtime association with onions. The Big Onion comes down at midnight to ring in 2015, and is preceded by parties, live music and more. Feel like dancing? Catch a case of Saturday Night Fever at the Fairmont Southampton's New Year's Eve Disco Party, with live tributes to the Bee Gees and Abba.
WHERE TO GO
Christmas Day at the beach? It's a Bermuda tradition. Hundreds of locals, ex-pats and visitors gather at Elbow Beach in Paget's Parish every year on December 25 for a truly international celebration. The water is a bit cooler than in summer months, of course, but plenty will take the plunge. Post an Instagram shot of you and your loved ones enjoying a glass of bubbly while opening presents in the pink sand and your friends back home will turn green with envy (a la The Grinch)– instantly.
No matter what time of year, no trip to Bermuda would be complete without a little golf – it boasts the highest concentration of golf courses in the world, after all. Over the holidays, the island's best courses host the Bermuda Goodwill Golf Tournament (December 8-12), the oldest Pro-Am tournament in the world, with teams from the U.S., Canada and England all participating against gorgeous coastal backdrops.
Want to celebrate Christmas or Christmas Eve in a church? The island's houses of worship have plenty of experience; some of them have been here for more than 400 years. The Heydon Trust Chapel is the smallest church on Bermuda – and one of the oldest, having been built in the early 1600s. The Holy Trinity Church boasts 28 beautiful stained glass windows and a history that stretches back to the 1660s. The Gothic Revival-style Bermuda Cathedral in Hamilton is a stunning structure constructed mostly out of Bermuda limestone. St. Peter's Church in St. George's is believed to be the oldest continually-used Anglican church in the Western hemisphere – it celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2012. For an atmospheric Christmas Eve, the Devonshire Anglican Church hosts a popular candlelight service every year – visitors are welcome!
A restored 17th century farmhouse on St. David's Island, the Carter House Museum is full of good cheer over the holidays, with the arrival of Father Christmas, a museum open house and a picture-perfect holiday lighting ceremony.
WHAT TO EAT
Cassava pie has been the Bermuda national dish for more than 300 years, and it's an essential part of any Christmas dinner on the island. Cassava is a sweet cake made with butter, eggs, vanilla, and shredded cassava root layered with meat and chicken. You're going to want seconds.
For dessert, don't miss a Bermudian holiday tradition – the Christmas pudding. Made with cherries, candied citrus peel, raisins and spices, it's a delicious treat. But the presentation is half the fun: the pudding is drenched in rum or brandy, set on fire and brought to the table flaming. Hot stuff.
WHERE TO STAY
Rudolph at Rosewood: Join Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer® on a Bermudian adventure at Rosewood Tucker's Point this holiday season. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the beloved reindeer, the resort is offering a special overnight package that adults and children alike are sure to enjoy. Bermuda resident and animation legend, Arthur Rankin, created the iconic reindeer for the television special in 1964 and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art will be showcasing an incredible display of his work beginning in December.
- Four Tickets to the Arthur Rankin Exhibition at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art
- Two "Red Rudolph" cocktails at Tucker's Bar – and "Rudolph's Nose" mock-tails for the kids!
- 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer® 50th Anniversary itty bittys® Plush
The Rudolph at Rosewood package is available from December 6th, 2014 through January 18th, 2015. Rates begin at $335 per night and are based upon availability. For reservations, please call 441.298.4000 or visit website.
The Point at Rosewood Tucker's Point is dishing up an intimate Christmas Day cocktail reception, followed by a four-course luncheon specially prepared by Chef Brambilla. In the evening, the regular a la carte dinner menu is available.
The Reefs Resort & Club: Holidays are extra festive at The Reefs Resort & Club, offering a Christmas Eve tree-trimming event with a special holiday bar menu, a Christmas day Prix Fixe meal and more. Now until December 26, The Reefs is offering a midweek special of 25 percent off rates.
Fairmont Southampton: The Fairmont Southampton is once again hosting the annual 12 Days of Christmas holiday festivities, including gingerbread houses, family activities, and holiday cheer galore.
- On the night of November 30, enjoy the lighting of the Fairmont's spectacular Christmas tree, welcoming the holiday season to Bermuda's sunny shores.
- Every Sunday in December, visit the hotel's Jasmine Lounge for a holiday-themed afternoon tea with none other than Santa Claus!
- The Fairmont Southampton & 441 Productions are excited to host another fabulous New Year's Eve Disco Party featuring from Toronto, ABBA Mania and Night Fever with tributes to ABBA and The Bee Gees.
- The Fairmont Southampton offers the 3rd night free. Package valid until March 31, 2015 and rates start a $279 for double occupancy in a moderate room.
Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa: It's Rudolph-mania at Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa. You'll find a reindeer-themed Christmas Tree in the main house, reindeer decorations in the main lobby, reindeer cookies during afternoon tea and even a special reindeer chocolate turn down service. The hotel is also changing its welcome cocktail, Cambridge Blue, to a festive Red Reindeer; and its Executive Chef will offer a special reindeer-themed dessert added to all dinner menus.
Elbow Beach Resort: Located on one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in Bermuda, Elbow Beach Resort is offering a special holiday package, starting at $1299 for 2 people. The package includes:
- 3 nights room accommodation
- Full Daily Breakfast for 2
- 2 tickets to Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art
- Surprise Rudolph holiday amenity
- $100 Spa Credit
- Upgrade to next room category at the time of booking
- Late checkout 4 p.m.
SOURCE Bermuda Tourism