Where to go this winter?
Looking for a winter escape that doesn't involve hibernating or migrating?
Whether you're keen to swap frigid temperatures for a mega dose of Vitamin D or looking to hit the slopes, here are 25 ideas that will have you eagerly awaiting the chilly months ahead. We've got the best in family vacation ideas!
MacGregor Point, ON
Head to the shores of Lake Huron for a quintessential Canadian experience complete with snowshoeing, tobogganing and camping. Yes, camping! This provincial park (the yurt capital of Ontario), offers 16 heated yurts decked out with lighting, beds and can accommodate up to six people. Ward off winter's chill, cozying up beside outdoor fire pits or skating along paths that wind through the woods and are romantically lit at night.
Say Aloha to the garden isle brimming with lush botanicals, fine, white-sand beaches and views free of concrete condos. The only navigable rivers in Hawaii are found on Kauai, making it easy for families to skim along the jungle-flanked shoreline via kayak or canoe. Babes can splash about at Poipu Beach, or peer into its many tide pools, where turtles tend to congregate. Kids clamoring to be as free as a bird, can do so, ziplining through bamboo forests.
If you're looking for a resort town that hasn't lost its authenticity and is flush with family-friendly accommodation, consider Canmore. Benefiting from being on Banff National Park's doorstep, the un-touristy town offers easily accessible activities for families. Stroll down main street, popping into toy and candy shops, or skate circles around one another at the picturesque, outdoor ice rink. Budget time to glide through the woods at the Canmore Nordic Centre or drive 20 minutes in either direction for world-class downhill skiing.
Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
If travelling with tykes seems more onerous than staying at home, check out the splurge-worthy, Family Concierge services at Paradisus Palma Real. Mom and Dad can hit the links or seek serenity in the spa, whilst wee-ones cocoon with sitters or terrorize the water park, in the 7,880 sq.ft. kid's zone. With your own private pool, sectioned off beachfront and check-in lounge complete with games, movies and snacks to keep kids occupied, you'll return home with your sanity intact.
Photo: Paradisus Palma Real
Charleston: The name conjures up historic plantations, the civil war and mint juleps. But this antebellum city, famed for its southern hospitality, is also a perfect spot for families who like beach combing, historic forts and animal encounters. Embark on a journey through the Charleston area, by having the kids join the Charleston Explorers Club, scouting attractions, collecting souvenir stamps and logging secret codes, turning your visit into a prize-winning vacation.
Marble Mountain, Newfoundland
Canadians could learn a thing or two from the European families that flock to The Rock, each winter to ski at Marble Mountain. Lineups are short, and with over 30 runs catering to all skill levels, you'll spend less time on the lifts and more time on the mountain. Adventurous families can take in the spectacular Humber Valley via zip line or mush through the wilds of Gros Morne National Park, commanding a team of huskies.
Photo: Marble Zip Tours
The kids will be tickled pink at the prospect of building sandcastles with the island's legendary pink sand. This jewel in the Atlantic boasts blissful temperatures, crystal-clear water and sheltered coves where wee-ones frolic safely. Check out the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute for hands-on aquatic activities, or pack it all in at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
Bonus: You can wear Bermuda shorts here and not look frumpy!
You'll experience crowd-free altitude without attitude at this family-friendly, laid back ski resort. Offering serious value and 3,000 acres of terrain, lift tickets lodging and breakfast can be had for less than what most resorts charge for a day pass (sub $100). Kids, armed with quarters, hunt down vintage video games like Pac-Man in the Bierstube, while you enjoy post piste brews.
Photo: Brian Schott/Whitefish Mountain Resort
Looking for an escape from flashy theme parks and expensive excursions? You'll find it at this gem of a beach town, along the Gulf of Mexico. The big draw here is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter, the dolphin without a tail who catapulted to stardom in the movie, A Dolphin Tale. This working animal rescue center, lets families get up close and personal with all kinds of marine life, through animal interactions and behind the scenes tours.
Photo: Jody Robbins
Beaches Turks and Caicos
There's nothing better than the smell of freshly baked cookies, unless of course, your making them with Cookie Monster. Kids of all ages get to live out their fantasies at this top-notch family resort in Turks and Caicos. While you're throwing back something fruity and fun at the swim-up bar, your brood could be happily splashing about with certified nannies, making memories in the Martha Stewart Craft Studio or chilling out in the teen only games room.
Photo: Beaches Resort
Mont Tremblant, Quebec
Looking for European ambiance without transatlantic costs? One of the Laurentians' highest peaks, Mont Tremblant, is a charming, pedestrian-only village, packed with pretty patisseries, bistros and hotels flanking quaint cobblestone streets. The hill has close to 100 runs, making families perfectly positioned to hit the slopes or spend their days soaking up the festive, old world atmosphere. Bon voyage!
Photo: Tourisme Quebec/L Turgeon
Dubbed the Switzerland of Central America, thanks to its natural beauty, peaceful politics and easy lifestyle, Costa Rica is the perfect place for Dora and Diego fans to go to town on their Spanish and quest for cute creatures. Scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, humpback whales, they're all here, along with tropical rain forests, pristine beaches and tree houses to bed down in. It's mind-blowing how much there is to do here, so you'll want to focus on only one or two regions to make it worthwhile.
Park City, Utah
With three massive resorts, just 35 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, families are spoilt for choice at this winter wonderland. Boarders can shred the slopes hoping to catch up to the Park City All-Stars, an elite group of freeriders that tear up the terrain park and pipe everyday. Not a powder hound? Snuggle up on a horse drawn sleigh ride, hit the outlet mall or wander historic Main Street, home to hundreds of shops and family-friendly restaurants.
Photo: Park City Chamber/Convention & Visitors Bureau
The largest English speaking island in the Caribbean, is flush with all-inclusive resorts that cater to families, particularly around Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril. Take a dip under a rushing waterfall at Dunn's River Falls, then meander to nearby Dolphin Cove, for a swim with dolphins and stingrays. For a true break, head to the Franklyn D. Resort & Spa in Runaway Bay, where each family is assigned their own nanny.
Photo: Jamaica Tourist Board
San Diego, CA
With a world famous aquarium and Safari Park, miles of golden beaches, and the best Mexican food in all the US, it's easy to see why families looking to soak up a SoCal experience, make a bee-line for this border town. Teens can act confidently cool inline skating along Mission Bay, while the younger set burn off their energy at LEGOLAND.
Who can say no to sugar-sand beaches, mojitos and kid's clubs galore? Over 500 varieties of fish make the snorkeling sublime, and if you want to dive deeper into the underwater world, there are several sunk Spanish galleons to explore. For an authentic glimpse into everyday Cuban life, day trip to Trinidad, a well-preserved Spanish colonial city, with a compact central core, that makes for easy touring with the tykes.
Photo: Cuba Tourist Board
If your family is serious about winter sports, then Whistler Blackcomb, the largest ski area on the continent, is your Mecca. The mega mountain runs excellent ski and snowboard programs, and childcare is available for 18 months and older. Pooped powder-seekers can rest their legs with an exhilarating slide down the mountain at the Tube Park.
Photo: Tourism BC/Toshi Kawano
Mayan Riviera, Mexico
The Mayan Riviera offers families unlimited ways to recharge (with or without the assistance of Marg and Rita). Dive into schools of colourful fish at the word's second-largest barrier coral reef or explore the underground rivers, part of a large cave system at Xcaret, an eco archaeological park. The Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza, unite history buffs and StairMaster fans during day tours, and for only a few pesos you can fuel up, introducing the tots to street tacos.
Famed for its golf and shopping, this sunny city is also home to one of the top five zoos for kids in the US. Active families can hike along several kid-friendly trails in the McDowell Mountains, or get their fill of exotic cacti at Desert Botanical Garden. Tweens will ogle the Taylor Swift exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum or check out the Phoenix Children's Museum for interactive exhibits.
Paradise Island, The Bahamas
This holiday hot-spot has activities to entertain everyone from tots to teenagers (and their parents). Families can make a splash at the largest water park in the world or play in the dolphin cay at Atlantis. Buccaneers in search of booty will want to check out the interactive exhibits at the pirate museum. Send your water babies to Sea Squirts, a marine program, where kids hand-feed baby stingrays, sharks and schools of fish. There's plenty of family fun to be had in the Bahamas!
Sitting at 8,793 feet above sea level, it's easy for families to get their Rocky Mountain high on, at one of the most picturesque ski towns in North America. With wide, well-groomed trails, the relatively uncrowded ski resort offers a good mix of green, blue and black diamond runs. Tom Cruise has a chalet here, so your kids might run into Suri on the slopes. Don't forget to tell Dad, Colorado boasts more craft breweries per capita than any other state.
Photo: Matt Inden/Miles
Why limit yourself to one destination? This winter give your family a gift that's both nautical and nice, sailing away on the No. 1 Cruise Line, according to the Conde Nast Traveler 2012 Readers' Choice. Set sail down the California coast, Mexican Riviera or amongst the Caribbean islands (including Disney's own private island, Castaway Cay). Shore excursions tailored specifically for families, let you experience the best of each destination, without the hassle of organizing it yourself.
Photo: Disney Parks
Sante Fe, New Mexico
This cultural community is an ideal spot for a laid back, city retreat. Families can spend an entire day in the 5,000-square-foot interactive children's museum or saddle up and explore the surrounding mountain valleys on a Llama trek; where kids lead their own llamas, helping feed and groom the animal. Bond through a GPS mountain treasure hunt, or take it easy on a gentle hike through the preserved property of artist Randall Davey.
Photo: Richard Khanlian
Mini marine biologists dive into Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program at the Ritz Carlton on Grand Cayman. The island becomes a natural classroom as kids (having so much fun they won't realize their exploits are educational), learn about biodiversity. Make a point to visit Stingray City, to view the island's most famous residents. Each day, hundreds of wild southern stingrays, gliding in three feet of clear water, swarm the boaters who call on them.
If ever there was a time to head down under, winter (or summer depending on how you look at it), is the perfect season. Animal lovers can cuddle with a koala at Australia Zoo or make like Nemo, cruising down the EAC towards Great Barrier Reef. The largest coral reef in the world, is home to some 1500 species of marine fish and 30 species of whales and dolphins. Beware - once you've been bit by the magic of Oz, you're sure to boomerang back.
More fun this winter
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