Design and Construction, Energy Management and Lighting, Sustainability/Business Continuity

8 Must-See Facilities Bringing the Holiday Cheer

Looking to visit extraordinary facilities around the country that will get you in the holiday spirit as we get ready to close out 2023 and celebrate the new year? Facilities Management Advisor has a gift for you: We’re exploring some of our favorite destinations across America where facilities professionals play a key role in helping to bring holiday cheer.

From global holiday landmarks to the world’s largest Christmas store, an eccentric hotel, an iconic racetrack, and more, this list has you covered as you celebrate the holidays.

1. Rockefeller Center

We start with the Big Apple. Home to office buildings, restaurants, shops, and various event spaces, Rockefeller Center’s 19 buildings include the 6,013-seat Radio City Music Hall, known as the largest indoor theatre in the world because of its city-block-long marquee and its auditorium that measures 160 feet from the back to the stage and its 84-foot-high ceiling.

Location: New York City
Size: 22 acres
Opened: 1932 with buildings added in subsequent years.
Owner: Tishman Speyer

Holiday happenings: Considered an international symbol of Christmas by LIFE, this National Historic Landmark has been spreading holiday cheer with its annual tree lighting since 1933, drawing approximately 125 million visitors each holiday season. Now featuring 50,000 multicolored LED lights, the Rockefeller Center tree overlooks an iconic ice-skating rink that has been the setting of countless holiday movies and television shows over the years. Following the 2007 switch to LED lights, energy consumption at Rockefeller Center was reduced to 1,297 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day (previously 3,510 kWh). The 2023 tree that’s currently on display hails from Vestal, New York, and is approximately 80 feet tall and 43 feet in diameter, weighing 12 tons.

2. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

Known as the world’s largest Christmas store and featuring over 50,000 gifts spread across 2.2 acres of shopping space (that’s 1.7 football fields, folks!), Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland has become a holiday staple since opening its doors to residents and visitors of the Great Lakes region in 1945.

Location: Frankenmuth, Michigan
Size: 27 acres
Opened: 1945 (current building opened in 1977, with expansions in 1991, 2000, 2002, and 2003)
Owner: The Bronner Family

Holiday happenings: Open to visitors for 361 days each year, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland receives over 2 million annual visitors and features festive holiday displays that include the half-mile-long Christmas Lane lights display (approximately 100,000 lights); a life-size nativity; and 3 giant, 17-foot-tall outdoor Santas. Although it’s committed to creating Christmas spirit year-round, it’s no surprise that the holiday season is the busiest time for Bronner’s, with 50,000 guests visiting just in the weekend following Thanksgiving alone and 25,000 children visiting Santa between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Because of the sheer size of its 27-acre campus, it would be hard to miss Bronner’s, but you may also recognize its decorations from feature films such as Jingle All the Way (1996) and Jack Frost (1997), or maybe you’ve seen one of its more than 60 billboards adorning U.S. highways as far as Ocala, Florida.

3. Walt Disney World

Known as “the Most Magical Place on Earth,” Walt Disney World has over 58 million annual visitors and is one of the most popular vacation resorts in the world. Featuring 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, more than 25 hotels, over 200 restaurants, and countless shops, Orlando’s feature destination wastes no opportunity to get its guests into the holiday spirit.

Location: Orlando, Florida
Size: Almost 25,000 acres
Opened: 1971
Owner: The Walt Disney Company

Holiday happenings: Ranked as the #2 destination by Parade’s recent “25 Family Christmas Vacations and Getaways for an Unforgettable Holiday Season,” Walt Disney World has endless decorations and festivities that include a special holiday parade, Christmas fireworks shows, and other seasonal entertainment. It would be hard to miss the over 600 Christmas trees decorated throughout the Walt Disney World resort featuring more than 12,000 branches made from more than 110 tons of steel. Decorating all those trees takes more than 15,000 oversize ornaments and an impressive 260,000 lights. And if that isn’t impressive enough, guests of Walt Disney World can marvel at the 1,700 wreaths and nearly 9 miles of garland that are on display throughout the holiday celebration.

4. Madonna Inn

World-renowned for its “timeless elegance and whimsical appeal,” the Madonna Inn has been a unique retreat along the central coast of California since 1958, with an undoubtable passion for the color pink and featuring 110 individually themed guestrooms and amenities. But it’s the inn’s iconic, uniquely lit holiday tree that sits atop Cerro San Luis “Madonna” Mountain that draws attention for those in search of sunshine and some holiday spirit.

Location: San Luis Obispo, California
Size: 1,000 acres
Opened: 1958
Owner: Alex and Phyllis Madonna

Courtesy: Madonna Inn.

Holiday happenings: Staff spend a month decorating the already unique décor in the buildings and grounds with holiday decorations, which, according to SFGATE, includes adding bright white lights to the gold tree in the middle of the steakhouse dining room, 3- to 4-foot-tall nativity figures, 2 dozen trees with big ornaments, and an animatronic deer and a box for letters for Santa. Decorations are put up everywhere, including the guest rooms, each of which has its own Christmas tree. However, it’s the inn’s yearly tradition of lighting its holiday tree, a 30-foot aluminum mast with 11 strands of glowing lights, that’s been a holiday tradition in San Luis Obispo County since the mid-1970s and a destination for hundreds of yearly hikers and adventurers in the area.

5. Biltmore Estate

Regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the United States, Asheville, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate and its 8,000 acres and 250 rooms have become a Christmas staple that offers guests a holiday experience that’s “nothing short of magical.” Originally built in 1895 for George Vanderbilt II, the property regularly sees over 1 million visitors annually taking in the decadent grandeur of the Biltmore Estate, but the holiday season is when its elegance goes on full display.

Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Size: 8,000 acres
Opened: 1895
Owner: The Vanderbilt Family

Holiday happenings: The feature of the 2023 Hallmark movie A Biltmore Christmas, the Biltmore Estate offers visitors both daytime and evening experiences to take in over 100 hand-decorated Christmas trees; nearly 900,000 holiday lights; and over 14,000 ornaments that create an estate-wide spectacle of holiday décor. Requiring 12 months of preparation, not to mention a team of 50 members just to raise and secure the iconic Banquet Hall’s 35-foot Fraser fir Christmas tree, the Biltmore Estate’s Christmas displays create a one-of-a-kind holiday experience that lasts until early January.

6. Las Vegas Motor Speedway

While holiday drive-thru light shows might be a common tradition for those in search of holiday cheer this time of year, how many can say they’ve had the opportunity to drive under millions of holiday lights at one of the world’s premiere motor sports facilities and racetracks? Well, if there were any place in the world where something like that could be possible, Las Vegas would be the place! This one might just leave you with the urge to “burn some rubber” while making those final holiday shopping trips. 

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Size: Over 1,000 acres
Opened: 1972
Owner: Speedway Motorsports

Courtesy: Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Holiday happenings: Considered Nevada’s premier drive-thru light show, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and its annual “Glittering Lights” event have been offering residents and visitors an opportunity to leave downtown Las Vegas to experience bright lights and entertainment since 2000. Located roughly 10 minutes outside the Las Vegas Strip, the iconic venue attracts over 350,000 yearly visitors, who flock to see the 2.5-mile lighting display that showcases an impressive 5 million LED lights and over 600 animated and sparkling displays. But attendees are encouraged to leave their crash helmets at home and save their victory laps for their neighborhood drives, as the lighting display course doesn’t take visitors out on the actual racetrack.

7. Denver Botanic Gardens

Not to be outdone by the impressive holiday displays of New York’s Bronx Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens offers holiday cheer-seekers in the Rocky Mountains its own unique take on the holiday experience with its annual Blossoms of Light and Trail of Lights displays, offered across two locations in the Mile High City.

Location: Denver, Colorado and Littleton, Colorado
Size: 24 acres (Downtown Denver) and 700 acres (Littleton)
Opened: 1951
Owner: Denver Botanic Gardens, Inc.

Holiday happenings: Making the list of CNN’s top nine best places to see Christmas lights in the country, the Denver Botanic Garden’s multilocation holiday lighting displays offer visitors unique experiences at its downtown Denver location with Blossoms of Light and the nearby Chatfield Farms with Trail of Lights. Embracing the holiday spirit since their first illumination event in 1988, these two locations offer visitors unique displays across 50 gardens, illuminated with more than half a million LED lights. The annual installation of lights begins on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and every light is removed by the end of February. Facilities managers who are visiting the Blossoms of Light display should take note of the 100,000-square-foot Freyer-Newman Center, which opened in fall 2020 and uses a solar array providing 93,000 kWh of power annually, earning the building a LEED GOLD certification.

8. Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center

A must-see for visitors to the nation’s capital during the holiday season, the National Harbor’s Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center puts on a full holiday display across its sprawling 2,000 guest rooms; 95 event rooms; 537,430 square feet of meeting space; 7 restaurants; and 20,000-square-foot spa.

Location: National Harbor, Maryland
Size: 41.7 acres
Opened: 2008
Owner: Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc.

Holiday happenings: Recently making USA Today’s list of 20 Festive Family Resorts and Hotels for Christmas, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center features more than 2 million lights; 160 themed Christmas trees; over 10,000 ornaments; and miles of garland. Visitors can enjoy the 20,000-square-foot walk-through adventure, appropriately named ICE!, featuring over 2 million pounds of carved ice sculptures displayed at a frosty 9 degrees Fahrenheit. (Not to worry—guests are provided with parkas to keep warm!) Additional winter activities such as snow tubing, ice skating, snowball-making, a reindeer games scavenger hunt, and a gingerbread decorating corner make this a true winter wonderland. And don’t miss its atrium views of the hotel’s 55-foot Starlight Christmas Tree and nightly laser light show, during which thousands of synchronized lights dance to seasonal songs.

Whether you want to experience holiday magic in one of these iconic places or at a store, theme park, historic mansion, or holiday-themed hotel, our list of facilities provides you with many opportunities for holiday cheer!

Happy holidays from Facilities Management Advisor!

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