The Holidays Are Almost Here—Plan a Trip to These Family-Friendly Destinations
Traveling with kids is no easy feat, but it’s not impossible. Just ask Caroline Makepeace, one half of the couple behind the travel site yTravel Blog. She and her husband started the blog to document their adventures traveling with kids with the goal of helping other families escape the chaos of everyday life. The Australian couple has been traveling since 1997, and having two kids hasn’t slowed them down one bit. “It became our mission to prove that travel does not have to stop after kids,” says Makepeace. So far, the couple has lived in five countries and traveled through 52 (their daughters—ages 10 and 6—have already been to 12 countries).
As you begin to plan your own family’s holiday vacation, allow the Makepeace family to provide some seasoned advice. “When planning a winter vacation, the number one thing to consider is the interests of all members of the family,” Makepeace says. She suggests doing the research and planning your adventure together. Despite the cold weather, Makepeace believes winter can be a magical time to travel with the kids. “Not only will they love skiing, tobogganing, and making snow angels, they will adore cozying up to you by the fire with a hot chocolate and a game of Clue. It can be a wonderful bonding experience,” she says.
Grab the family—these are the best destinations for winter vacations in the U.S., according to a family of pro travelers.
The Location: You’ll be greeted with a winter wonderland of snow-covered church steeples and colonial homes. Makepeace says it looks like something out of the pages of a children’s book. Prepare for skiing, dog-sledding, carriage rides, cider mills, and breweries (if you can snag some time away from the little ones).
The Pro Tip: Makepeace recommends finding Stowe Recreation Path for a 5.3-mile bike ride through the valley near Little River. If it’s too chilly out for biking, you can still enjoy the trail by cross-country ski or snowshoe.
Snowmass Village, Colorado
The Location: Snowmass is a family-friendly ski destination that’s not too far from the luxe Aspen scene. “[It’s] where families and those looking for a more laid-back and quieter ski experience come,” she says. Make it a point to stay at the Viceroy Hotel where you can ski in and out from your room right to the slopes.
The Pro Tip: For an unforgettable experience, take the family on a dog-sledding excursion through the alpine meadows. You can also see the terrain on snowshoes to take in the surrounding nature by foot.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
The Location: If you’re dying to escape the cold, head to Clearwater Beach, Florida, for some much-needed sunshine. You’ll experience the beach and be able to visit downtown for a little shopping or a night on the town.
The Pro Tip: According to Makepeace, you can’t leave this beach town without catching a sunset from Pier 60. Enjoy the view, and be entertained by fire eaters, artisans, and musicians who set up near the coast.
The Big Island, Hawaii
The Location: This tropical destination will take you right out of a winter state of mind. Defrost at the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Makepeace recommends seeing the glow of the volcanic lava at night), or visit one of the many waterfalls and beaches covering the island.
The Pro Tip: Swimming with manta rays during your trip is a must. “It’s one of the best wildlife encounters I’ve had,” says Makepeace.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The Location: “Winter in Yellowstone means fewer crowds, steaming geysers, and a chance to step back in time.” You’ll likely have to explore on snowcoach or snowmobile due to closed roads, but this will make for a memorable experience in the historic park.
The Pro Tip: There are only two lodges open in the wintertime, so make your reservations now. The limited accommodations mean your family will have a more private experience of the park, perfect for unplugging in nature and seeing wildlife like bison and bighorn sheep.
Pack Your Bags
Yosemite National Park, California
The Location: Makepeace describes Yosemite in the winter as “frozen waterfalls, frazil ice, snowy reflections, frosted coated trees, and the valley blanketed in white.” This is the perfect winter vacation destination because the park will be free of the big summer crowds and high prices they bring.
The Pro Tip: Enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, stargazing, and ziplining. You’ll also want to check out the outdoor Half Dome Village Ice Rink located in the park.
Lake Tahoe, California
The Location: Lake Tahoe is just as enticing in the winter as it is in the summer months. While you won’t want to take a dip in the ice-cold water, the lake makes for some dreamy winter vista views.
The Pro Tip: Book your stay at the family-friendly Northstar California Resort, and take a trip to the hot springs at the Grover Hot Springs State Park.
New York City, New York
The Location: If nature and exploring the outdoors aren’t really your family’s niche, flee to the city for an urban winter vacation. Enjoy sparkling Christmas lights, holiday window shopping, and, of course, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
The Pro Tip: If the crowds at Rockefeller center are too much, go ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. “It’s a much quieter and more natural experience than ice skating at Rockefeller. Santa may even glide on by next to you,” Makepeace says.
The Location: “Sedona has a reputation for magic dusted with a little zen.” Take a long winding drive for endless views of red rocks, and hop out when a trail calls your name. There are also plenty of spas for a quick escape from the desert landscape.
The Pro Tip: Once you’ve made it to Sedona, you’ll only be a 100-mile drive to the Grand Canyon. Makepeace suggests ending your trip with a drive to the snow-covered canyon for an extraordinary view.
The Location: Perhaps the ultimate winter vacation destination in the U.S., Alaska provides festivals, ski races, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, ice skating, and views of the northern lights. If your family is brave enough to endure the cold weather, you’ll be delighted by this adventurous location.
The Pro Tip: Stay at the Chena Hot Springs Resort. It’s just an hour and a half from Fairbanks, and offers an outdoor hot tub perfect for taking in a view of a star-covered sky or even the northern lights.
Where do you and your family travel to for winter vacations in the U.S.? Share your favorite destinations in the comments below.