On any given day the grandeur of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel is something to behold, but during the Christmas holiday season it’s amplified.
The large, majestic live oak trees draped in Spanish moss are even more splendid during the holidays as many are wrapped with brilliant white lights. A towering evergreen is outfitted in multi-color lights and a giant star—oversize “presents” at its base. A staggering number of decorated Christmas trees adorn the hotel in public spaces ranging from the check-in area to the lobby bar. Wreaths, garland and giant red bows are strewn along porch railings and stairways.
Overnighting at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel keeps one in the midst of the yuletide festivities. The rooms in the historic property bear architectural and design details that reflect its storied past. I recently enjoyed a hosted two-night stay in a junior presidential suite that overlooked the croquet field situated on the hotel’s front lawn. While it was late November, I still was able to relax on the room’s small balcony in 80-degree weather watching people outfitted all in white playing a croquet match. The soft yellow and white suite included all the standard furnishings as well as a vintage-style writing desk, two faux fireplaces, plantation shutters and a collection of vintage black and white photos of the club’s heyday. Modern conveniences such as flat screen TVs and a mini-fridge were also included.
Rooms are available in the main hotel building, its annex, the San Souci building, Crane Cottage and Cherokee Cottage. I counted 20 different room categories detailed on the hotel’s website. Room rates start at $149 during the holiday season.
Founded in 1886, the Jekyll Club, which flourished during the 1930s, was a retreat for some of the wealthiest families in America.
“At the turn of the century, tycoons, politicians, and socialites flocked to Jekyll Island to revel in their own luxury and America’s burgeoning wealth,” states the hotel’s website. “Our historic Georgia Club was described in the February 1904 issue of Munsey’s Magazine as “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.” Its impressive members included such luminaries as J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and other recognizable names on the roster were Macy, Goodyear, and Gould.”
However World War I and II took its toll on the club and in 1947 the state of Georgia bought the island for $675,000, restored it and turned it into a public state park. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Guests can dine (breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea) in the hotel’s Grand Dining Room with its white columns, three fireplaces and furnished in Victorian style. The cuisine is “Southern gourmet.” Another option is the slightly less formal and more intimate Courtyard at Crane, a short walk from the main house, which bears Italian Renaissance style architecture. If the weather is temperate enough, one can chose to have a meal in the outdoor courtyard. Veal Oscar, sweet tea brined pork chop, honey and lemon glazed salmon and baked eggplant are among the dinner options. I dined on an excellent 7-ounce filet mignon with fingerling potatoes and asparagus porcini and a salad with a delicious champagne vinaigrette dressing.
Those fortunate enough to visit Dec. 18-24 may hear the rhythmic sounds of a bagpipe. Tim Adkins, in a kilt and full traditional Scottish regalia, strolls the property from 4:30 to 5:20 p.m. playing his bagpipe.
Other special Christmas events scheduled at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel include Santa at Crane on Dec. 11, Holiday High Tea on Dec. 13, Kids Tea Party and Etiquette Class on Dec. 17 and a Christmas cookie workshop on Dec. 20.
Visitors to the island during the holidays can also spend time at an outdoor “ice” skating rink with a synthetic surface. The Village Skating rink, located at 655 N. Beachview Drive, is open until Jan. 8.
There are also other activities to participate in that take place throughout the year such as tours of the property by tram or horse-drawn carriage and walking tours of the hotel.
Jekyll Island is located on Georgia’s coast approximately 330 miles from DeKalb County. For those who don’t mind an approximately four-and-a-half-hour drive, it makes a getaway that will enhance the holiday spirit.
For details on Jekyll Island Club Hotel and its Christmas activities, go to www.jekyllclub.com.
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