If An Amusement Park And Ski Resort Had A Love Child:
Okemo Mountain Resort, Ludlow, VT
There’s no need to choose between Disney and Whistler at Okemo Mountain Resort (okemo.com), where skiing programs for kids as young as three come hand-in-hand with roller coasters and snow tubes. The resort is known for its excellent snow grooming, and 96% of its grounds is covered by choice powder. Bonus: Kids under 12 get free lodging at Okemo Mountain’s slopeside condos and at the Jackson Gore Inn when sharing a unit with their parents.
Olympic Skiing For Mere Mortals:
North Lake Tahoe, CA
There’s something for everyone in North Lake Tahoe, which is easier to access than its southern counterpart. Top ski resorts like Alpine Meadows (skialpine.com) and Squaw Valley (squaw.com), host to the 1960 Olympics, have terrains for every level from beginner to Games-hopeful—and the density of resorts in the area means less overcrowding at each individual spot. If you don’t want to ski, tubing, sledding, and, for the adults, gambling are aplenty. Families can either rent cabins for a home-away-from-home or indulge in stays like the beloved Ritz-Carlton (ritzcarlton.com).
The Ultimate Winter Carnival:
Steamboat Springs, CO
You know the slopes must be stellar in the city of the longest continuously operating ski area in Colorado. Steamboat Springs (steamboat.com) comes alive especially during its Winter Carnival in February, when snow sweeps the main street for powdery three-legged races, ramp-jumping, obstacle courses, and more. After a day in the cold, families can bond over a relaxing soak in the mountain’s hot springs—some, like Old Town Hot Springs (oldtownhotsprings.org), even boast waterslides.
SAND & SUN
A Magical Kingdom South Of Orlando:
Boca Beach Club, Boca Raton, FL
In America’s favorite warm weather state, Boca holds the title for the ultimate beach. Book your room at the Boca Beach Club (bocabeachclub.com), which has numerous award-winning children’s programs and even a Dr. Seuss-inspired library. Here, fun in the sun includes kite flying on the beach, hair braiding by the pool, and a story time corner with costumed staff. If you want to venture beyond hotel grounds, visit the sea turtles at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center or get hands-on at the Boca Raton Children’s Museum.
Those Amazing Mayans:
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Go south of the border for everything from nature to history to adventure. The Mayan Ruins from the 1200s will impress any kid, especially when they can make a game out of spotting the iguanas lounging around. For an awe-inspiring experience, visit a cenote, a.k.a. a sinkhole. Options abound, but try Casa Cenote (casacenote.com), where families can swim, snorkel, and even kayak. At the end of the day, retire to a traditional palapa roof cabana at Casa Violeta
Where The Best Amenity Is Local Flavor:
The Somerset on Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
While full-service resorts can keep guests corralled in a dream paradise, The Somerset on Grace Bay (thesomerset.com) makes a conscious effort to bring local culture to the guests. Its Kids Club employs local teachers to lead little ones in crafts like shell jewelry-making and junkanoo costume-decorating, not to mention its own version of the traditional Caribbean celebration of Junkanoo Bonfires. The resort is elegant but relaxed, so families can dress up or dress down as per their whims.
Zipping Through Nature:
It’s ecosystems galore in this small country that packs a big wildlife punch. Animal lovers can’t miss the incredible biodiversity of Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, where there are plenty of opportunities to zipline over canopies and gorges. Over in La Fortuna, you might see lava spewing from Costa Rica’s most active volcano on clear nights, and the Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui is home to monkeys, sloths, and crocodiles that kids will love spotting on boat rides. To make the most of your trip, hire a driver or guide who knows the roads and local haunts. (visitcostarica.com)
Another Kind Of Metropolis:
San Francisco, CA
Believe it or not, Manhattan isn’t the only wonderful city in America. Broaden your metropolitan horizons by rolling down the streets in an iconic trolley or enjoying fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf (fishermanswharf.org). Make sure you hit up Lombard Street for the crookedest walk in the world, or visit the Exploratorium (exploratorium.edu) for a science adventure. The icing on top of the cake: Drive out to Muir Woods to take in the awe-inspiring redwood and sequoia giants.
Enroll In Cowboy School:
White Stallion Ranch and Rancho de los Caballeros, Tuscon and Wickenberg, AZ
Experience a completely different pace of life on a dude ranch. On top of everything you’d expect of a classic hacienda, White Stallion Ranch (whitestallion.com) in Tucson boasts riding lessons, nighttime rodeos, line dancing, and astronomy fun with cowboys. For a more camp-like treat, Rancho de los Caballeros (ranchodeloscaballeros.com) in Wickenburg has a wonderful kids program—think crafts, tennis, hiking, and scavenger hunts—that gives grown-ups some solo time in the morning before bringing the family back together to enjoy the afternoon.
RESORTS & PARKS
Off To Be A Wizard:
Universal Studios Orlando, FL
By now, everyone’s heard of the real-life butterbeer available at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando (universalorlando.com), but did you know many have a preference for the frozen version? Try both, then hit up faves like the Hippogriff roller coaster, the 4D Forbidden Journey tour through a Hogwarts replica, and Ollivander’s show for a chance to find the right wand for you.
Best In Slime:
Nickelodeon Hotel, FL
Conveniently located near Orlando’s big theme parks, the Nickelodeon Hotel (nickhotel.com) is great for kids who love slime—and is tolerable for parents who don’t! The grown-ups can get a little privacy by booking a three-bedroom suite, featuring a separate kids room decked out with Dora or Spongebob accessories. While kids enjoy a dinner, a Studio Nick show, and SLIME fun as part of the supervised Nick After Dark program, parents can sneak off and take advantage of the city’s nightlife.
ABOVE & BEYOND
A&K Antarctica Cruise
Witness Happy Feet scenes in action in Antarctica during the last two months of the year, when penguins begin building nests and glaciers break up to provide awe-inspiring views. Try Abercrombie & Kent’s cruise (abercrombiekent.com), where little shutterbugs can learn about wildlife, pick up professional photography tips, and get up and personal with arctic creatures. Oh, and did we mention the man-made snow slide on the December itineraries?
BONUS: LOCAL SKIING UNDER 3 HOURS AWAY
Luxury Living: Hunter Mountain, Hunter, NY
New Yorkers can expect no less than breathtaking vistas and indulgent spas at this Catskills respite, where 14 family- and beginner-friendly trails await. (huntermtn.com)
Learn To Ski: Windham Mountain, NY
Our editor’s kids learned to ski in just three days at Windham, which also boasts an adventure park with eight whole lanes of snow tubing for when you want a break from the 49 trails. (windhammountain.com)
Hone Your Skills: Camelback Mountain Resort, PA
Lessons start at age 6, and the CamelCare Adventurers nursery program gets kids as young as 3 comfortable with being out on the snow. (skicamelback.com)
Budget Best: Frost Valley, NY
Great for novice skiers, this 6,000-acre YMCA camp offers maple sugaring, equestrian programs, and indoor sports like archery and wall climbing alongside the usual back-country skiing. (frostvalley.org)