Sure, there may be plenty of hustle and bustle and holiday cheer these days, but you know how it always goes–soon December will have come and gone and we’ll be left with that dreaded three-month stretch of gray, frigid winter. The good news? January and February, with their long weekends and midwinter school breaks, are great months for family getaways! To jump start your winter vacation planning, we’ve assembled a list of some of our favorite destinations. Whether you’re looking to go hot, cold, near, or far, you’re sure to find some vacation inspiration here.
Smuggler’s Notch Resort; Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont
This resort offers three big mountains of skiing and snowboarding, tube sliding and dog sledding, plus amenities for families like babysitting, children’s lessons and two tween-only centers. For indoor play, families will love the FunZone, equipped with a 45-foot obstacle course, a giant double-lane slide, volleyball and mini-golf.
Okemo Mountain Resort; Ludlow, Vermont
Okemo Mountain Resort was created with families’ needs in mind. Kids can choose from skiing, snowshoeing, snowtubing, wagon rides and moonlight snoeshoe tours, or take refuge from the cold at the indoor pool and golf course. Families will also love Saturday movie nights, s’more-making at a local tavern and nightly bonfires. Plus, the resort offers free skiing and riding for children 6 and under.
Stowe Mountain Resort, Stowe, Vermont
If you’re looking to stay on the East Coast, Stowe Mountain Resort is a great place to take the kids for some cold weather fun. Stowe has 46 trails for skiers and snowboarders, a terrain park and two half pipes for snowboarders, which are usually covered in snow from November through April. Plus, Stowe offers great deals, including the “First Tracks Special” and “Discount Lift Tickets & Family Vacation Deals.
Ski Big Bear/Woodloch Resort; Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania
Ski Big Bear and Woodloch Resort together offer a discounted Family Ski And Stay Package, which includes everything from lift tickets to nightly entertainment. The slopes offer skiing, snowboarding and tubing, but families can also check out The Eagle Institute (to scout for bald eagles), NorthEast Wilderness Experience (for hiking, snowshoeing and climbing) and Triple W Riding Stables (which offer horseback riding on a secluded and spectacular mountain top.
It’s the ultimate primer on our nation’s history. Pay a visit to Capitol Hill and take a walk through Arlington National Cemetery. Kids will love touring the regal rooms of the White House and visiting one of the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums. While you’re there, take some time to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, dedicated to remembering the Holocaust and fighting genocide in the present and future.
Steamboat Ski & Resort, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Located in the heart of the snow-capped Rockies, Steamboat Ski & Resort is a sustainable resort that offers tons of fun for the whole family. While parents ski on the risky slopes, kids can enjoy ski programs, kids-only terrain and lifts, and the Kid’s Adventure Club—just a few reasons why Steamboat is rated North America’s #1 Family Resort. Plus, kids can ski for free, so book your reservations now! For more information about vacation packages and specials, visit their website.
Snowmass; Aspen, Colorado
Boasting a terrain garden and 22-foot snowboard superpipe, Snowmass offers some of the best skiing in the Aspen area. Families can choose from a variety of discount packages, and when it’s time to head inside, parents can visit the nearby village (filled with great shopping and restaurants) while kids explore the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, which features interactive themed rooms and movie nights.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The winter wonderland known as Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers endless possibilities for skiing, snowboarding, shopping and spa treatments. The best part is that with a special deal going on right now, kids under 12 can fly and ski for free with the purchase of an adult American Airlines plane ticket and lodging! For more information, call the Jackson Hole Central Reservations at 888-838-6606.
Northstar-at-Tahoe; Tahoe, California
This resort is perfect for adventure-loving families, and it’s a great destination to try new things. For the slopes, families can (temporarily) forgo their skis and try out snowscoots, snowbikes, tubes and the skifox. Kids will also love the resort’s live music, free ice skating and bungee jumping, and indoor activities like jewelry and candle making.
Squaw Valley; Olympic Valley, California
The site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, Squaw Valley offers visitors breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and a dose of US Olympic history. High Camp at Squaw Valley boasts an ice rink perched at the top of the upper mountain, a gentle beginner terrain and the “Ski with a Pro” program for kids. There’s also a climbing wall, cable car rides, snowtubing and snowshoe tours.
Ober Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
You may not think of Tennessee as a go-to winter vacation spot, but there’s actually a great skiing destination in this friendly Southern state! Head to Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park in the Smokies, where you can ski, snow tube, and snowboard for hours no matter the weather—they make their own snow if needed. They also have indoor ice skating, an Aerial Tramway that takes you 2.5 miles up the resort, a carousel, an arcade and more.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Looking to try something different? Visit Montreal on a weekend in winter and celebrate “La Fete des Neiges,” an outdoor winter festival with shows, ice skating, tube sliding, kick sledding and more. Then escape to a balmier climate with a visit to the Montreal Biodome. For family-friendly accommodations, try Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth—it’s connected to Underground City, the largest underground complex in the world.
Charleston, South Carolina
Known as the site where the first shot of the Civil War was fired, Charleston has a deep and rich history. Come see the pre-Revolutionary Magnolia Plantation and its famous gardens, which bloom year-round; browse the Old City Market; eat some of the best seafood South of the Mason-Dixon line; and walk the Garden District and the colorful Rainbow Row. Visitors can also take a tour of Fort Sumter, which offers a breathtaking view of Charleston and its harbor. Kids will love the South Carolina Aquarium, the Children’s Museum of the Low Country, the Cypress Gardens, Folly Beach Country Park, the Old City Market, and dozens of other fun attractions and places to visit. Family-friendly accommodations include the Best Western Charleston Downtown, the Marriott Courtyard Charleston Riverview, the Wild Dunes Resort and the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando, Florida
Move over Mickey Mouse! Florida’s latest attraction is the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, located in Orlando’s Universal Studios. Designed to look exactly like Hogwarts and the village of Hogsmeade, the park allows families to shop at Ollivanders, Honeydukes, or Zonkos. If thrill rides are more up your alley, take a magical journey through Hogwarts on “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” or tackle dragons with the high-speed thrill ride “Dragon Challenge.” Three hotels allow families to stay close to the action: the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Resort, or the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Families who stay on-site and show their hotel room key can skip the regular lines and use the Universal Express lines all day!
Loews Miami Beach Hotel, South Beach, FL
Of all the Art Deco gems in South Beach, this hotel is the most family-friendly, boasting an attentive staff, a kids’ camp, a kids’ menu and a huge, glistening pool. Games and DVDs, tours and activities will keep kids happy, and parents can indulge in a couples massage at the hotel’s Elemis Spa.
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
The oldest city in Puerto Rico is its most popular tourist destination for a reason! Explore Old San Juan’s historic streets, plazas, and forts, browse the artisan displays and enjoy shaved ice topped with tropical fruit syrup. Don’t miss the statue of Ponce de Leon in the center of the Plaza de San Jose, and stop in at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña or the San Juan Museum of Art and History for some culture. Family-friendly hotels include the Sheraton Old San Juan and Casino near the Condado Beaches, which offers a babysitting service; the El San Juan, which offers an expansive pool complex and access to Isla Verde Beach; Hotel El Convento, located in the heart of the city; and the Ritz-Carlton San Juan Spa and Casino, which offers a host of activities for kids, a kid’s meal plan, beach access, a pool, spa and tennis courts. Or, visit vrbo.com to live like a local and book your very own apartment in the heart of the city!
Tortuga Lodge, Costa Rica
Nestled in Costa Rica’s northeast Caribbean coast, Tortuga Lodge is a great destination for families who to get back to nature and explore Costa Rica’s lush rainforest and exotic wild life. The resort’s 146 acres of private bliss include 26 deluxe rooms, an eco-friendly pool and acclaimed restaurant and bar, plus tons of adventure-filled amenities, like boat tours, bird-watching, kayaking on rain forest creeks and more.
Club Med Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic
Club Med Punta Cana is situated on the largest beach on the island and features 75 acres of breathtaking tropical gardens. This all-inclusive, kid-friendly resort offers programs for children of all ages: Petite Club Med offers stimulating activities, walks and outside play, balanced lunches, creative activities and nap time for kids ages 2 to 4, while Club Med Passworld gives tweens and teens an exclusive area to meet up, enjoy sports and artistic activities like dance lessons, video editing, DJ lessons and more. For parents, the resort has plenty of amenities, such as an open-air nightclub, two bars, trapeze and windsurfing lessons, aqua fitness classes and much more.
The island of Oahu (meaning “The Gathering Place”) has been the traditional hub of all the Hawaiian Islands for almost 200 years—at least 80 percent of the state’s population lives there. When not lazing beachside, visit Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, or the Polynesia Cultural Center. Take the family hiking or on a tour of Oahu, and top it all off with a trip to Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park! Family-friendly hotels include the Prince Resorts Hawaii, which has a swimming pool, a whirlpool, beach access, resort shopping, a fitness center, and a spa; the Waikiki Hotel Resort and Spa, located across the street from the famous Waikiki beach; and the Turtle Bay Resort, with rooms, suites, beach cottages and villas and offering horseback riding, surfing, hiking trails, kayaking, helicopter tours, a fitness center and a spa.
Rancho Valencia, San Diego, California
Set in the heart of Southern California, the 49-bedroom Rancho Valencia boasts an award-winning restaurant, full-service spa and plentiful outdoor activities like croquet, bocce ball, volleyball and badminton, in addition to its renowned tennis program. And if the resort itself didn’t have enough amenities to keep your family blissfully busy, it’s also conveniently located to the Del Mar Race Track, Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club and numerous championship golf courses and local beaches.
Curtain Bluff, Antigua, West Indies
This memorable family-run Caribbean resort (a top pick in the Conde Nast Traveler Reader Choice Awards) attracts many of same family guests year after year, delighted by the solicitude, facilities and pervasive family-friendly vibe. Plus, their inclusive package is a bargain on the luxury end.
The Veranda Resort, Turks and Caicos
The Veranda Resort in Turks and Caicos is a luxurious beachfront playground prepared to cater to your family’s every whim. Parents and kids can relax on the beach, swim in one of three pools (including one just for children), or partake in the various beach-related activities, such as snorkeling, horseback riding, water and jet skiing. Or mom and dad can book some spa or alone time while kids from 3 to 12 can join the Kids Club for supervised educational fun. Teens can participate in “extreme excursions,” such as scuba diving and parasailing. This resort is a perfect blend of family fun and romantic moments.
One of the most popular resorts in the Bahamas, Atlantis has a variety of accommodation choices and tons of activities for vacationers of all ages. The Dolphin Cay allows animal lovers to get up close and personal with dolphins and sea lions. Families can visit the different lagoons to see sea creatures in their natural habitat as well. The one-of-a-kind 141-acre water park boasts high-speed water slides, a mile-long river, 20 swimming areas, a kid’s water-play fort and 11 pools. Other activities include a library, pottery making, rock climbing, shopping and visits to the spa, tennis courts, or the fitness center. A variety of kid and teen-friendly activities are offered. Club Rush allows teens and tweens to hang out with “no parents allowed,” Gamer’s Reef lets kids test their video game skills, and Atlantis Kids Adventures lets kids participate in a wide variety of activities, including smoothie-making!
Fira Palace, Barcelona, Spain
This kid-friendly hotel in the heart of downtown Barcelona offers spacious rooms, an indoor pool, a gymnasium and two on-site restaurants, along with a nearby tennis club, horseback riding, a golf course, not to mention the gorgeous Barcelona Beaches. Sightseeing families will love the Barcelona Aquarium and Zoo, the National Museum of Catalan Art, the Picasso Museum, and the MACBA museum. Kids will be enthralled by the marionettes, clowns, trapeze artists and animated films at the Jove Teatre Regina, the Spanish Village, and the Poble Espanyol.
The Sky Grand Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand
Thinking of heading halfway across the globe for your family’s winter getaway? Stay at New Zealand’s Sky Grand Hotel, offering 316 guest rooms and a variety of restaurants. Amenities include professional babysitting services, a hotel doctor on call, a gymnasium with a 25-meter heated lap pool, spa, sauna and spa pool. Restaurant choices within the hotel are incredibly varied, with Fortuna, a buffet-style restaurant; Jade Dragon, offering Cantonese-style cuisine; the Sky Lounge Café and Bar; and Blend, a café and juice bar.
Attractions include the Sky Theatre and the Sky Tower, offering a breathtaking view for almost 80 kilometers in every direction. Families can also visit the North Head Historic Reserve, go snorkeling at Goat Island Marine Reserve, visit the Otara Market, the world’s largest Polynesian market and more!
– With reporting by Amanda Ferris and Katie Garton
Pictured: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Daniel Hautamaki.
For more inspiration, check out these helpful family travel roundups from around the web:
America’s Favorite Cities from Travel Leisure
Top 20 Hotels for Kids from Babble
Best Family Ski Resorts from the Travel Channel
Top Amusement Parks In The U.S. from Family Travel Forum
11 Tips For Flying With Kids from Time Out New York Kids
For more great destinations and tips, check out a few of our favorite travel sites: