Let’s face it, vacationing as a family can present a lot of challenges. You have to pick locations that are affordable for the whole crew (no easy feat during holidays!), you have to decide if you want to fly or travel by car or train, you have to decide how long you can be gone that doesn’t interfere with school and work schedules, you have to decide what to pack and what to leave home and so much more. Like we said—challenges!
During the winter season especially, it can be hard to get away and enjoy some quality time with family. That’s why we’ve put together a short list of our favorite family-friendly winter vacation destinations, in hopes of eliminating at least one challenge, so you can get on with the business of having a great time with your loved ones. Get your kids packed up in their JuJuBe backpacks and get ready to jet set across the country for some winter festivities!
Best Family-Friendly Vacation Spots During Winter Season
This is a great location for a Christmas family-friendly vacation. It’s a quaint town with lots of colonial-style homes and high church steeples, which makes it about as picturesque as a Christmas postcard, or perhaps one of those cute little ceramic Christmas towns you put up on the mantle each year. Even better is how surprisingly quiet Stowe is during the winter months.
Activities include plenty of ski opportunities, as well as fun toddler winter activities, like horse-drawn carriage and horse-drawn sleigh rides (and even dog-sledding!). There are tasty restaurants , cider mills and breweries to warm up in, and plenty of snow-shoe hiking to be done. This location is perfect for all of you cold-weather lovers who want to teach your kids how to make snow angels and engage in legit snowball warfare.
South Lake Tahoe, California
The California shores of Lake Tahoe have long been a premier vacationing mountain getaway for families, no matter where you choose to stay. A lot of guests that stay in Lake Tahoe are multi-generational, meaning they vacationed there as kids and then carried on the tradition with their own families. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t still vacation there if you’ve never been; it just makes it even more ideal!
During the winter months, you’ll find plenty of snow for opportunities like cross-country skiing, hiking, and sledding. You can rent skis, sleds and snowshoes, or bring your own. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful spot to commune with nature, teach the young ones how to build a cozy fire in the fire pit, take a short drive to find a skating rink or discover some great snowmobiling options for the more adventurous in the family. If you want to relax, make yourself some hot cocoa and sit by the fire. All of these features make Lake Tahoe a wonderful family vacation spot to visit in the winter!
Silver Mountain, Idaho
Silver Mountain can be found near Kellogg, Idaho, an historic mining community. It’s an excellent winter family vacation spot loaded with trails and snow. You can take the youngsters on gondola rides and enjoy the beautiful scenery, try snow tubing, and even pass the time in a large indoor water park. There are plenty of historic silver & gold mines for explorers to check out, as well as activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, with special passes and multi-day discounts available for ski rentals. With all that, it’s easy to see why Silver Mountain one of the most popular vacation spots!
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite is a winter wonderland for families, with all the outdoor hands-on activities you might expect. Skiing, snowboarding, and even zip-lining are popular choices. Or you can take the family on scenic snowshoe hikes and check out the beautiful views of frozen waterfalls, frost-tipped trees, exciting wildlife, and a gentle white blanket enveloping the entire valley. Winter season is the one everyone keeps hush-hush about, lest more people awaken to Yosemite’s cold-weather charms. So, don’t tell anyone we spilled the beans!
Though you can visit and explore Gatlinburg just about any time of year and have a blast with the family, winter is especially picturesque, with mountain tops covered with snow, plenty of places to eat and shop, and lots of family-friendly activities to round out your vacation experience. You can find opportunities for skiing, tubing, and snowboarding in Ober Gatlinburg Mountain, along with offerings of an ice skating rink and an alpine slide. Gatlinburg has something for visitors of all ages and persuasions, and some hotels even offer a kid-friendly indoor pool if you just want to spend the day relaxing and resting while the kids expend all that pent up energy. There’s really no better place to enjoy winter fun with the whole family.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Okay, so not everyone loves winter wonderland travel destinations for their family vacation. Some folks have had enough of that and would rather trade up for somewhere with plenty of warm sunshine. What better place than the Sunshine State itself? Though there are many scenic beaches you can visit in Florida, Clearwater is a family fan favorite. Soft, white sand blankets the three-mile-long Clearwater beach, with crystal clear waters you can actually see your toes in.
You’ll find plenty of activities too, from kayaking and surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, jet skiing and scootering around the downtown shopping district on motorized scooters. There are also plenty of places to indulge in delicious seafood when you’re hungry, including all-you-can-eat-buffets, not to mention long walks on the character-filled pier to work off those shrimp and lobster meals. Did we mention you can even charter deep sea fishing excursions? This is one family winter vacation destination you won’t want to pass up.
Located just north of Atlanta, Ellijay is a little mountain town about an hour and a half away from the big city. While you won’t find much snow, it’s just cold enough to feel like winter, but warm enough that people from colder states consider it to be almost balmy. There are lots of outdoor activities to be found, such as hiking one of 11 mountain trails nearby, or biking along one of 59 mountain biking trails. There are also beautiful and impressive waterfalls with amazing winter views, plus lots of places to eat and shop. Make sure to clear space on your phone’s photo roll, because we guarantee you’ll be snapping a lot of pictures!
Of course, what family vacation list would be complete without mentioning good ol’ Orlando, Florida? Not only is this vacation spot much warmer than say, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, it’s home to lots of theme parks with family-friendly activities. Depending on where you stay, you might not even have to leave your hotel! For instance, the Hilton Orlando has its own zero-entry swimming pool, lazy river, and winding water slide, along with a spray ground, splash pad, and expanded pool deck. There are countless options for family-friendly cuisine, lots of shopping locations, and overall, Orlando is just a great place for families to have a little warm-weather winter fun together.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
You don’t have to have warm beach weather to enjoy the Gulf Shores or Orange Beach in Alabama. There are plenty of other family-centered activities to do, like kayaking, biking, zip-lining, and even embarking on a dolphin cruise. You’ll find plenty of tasty places to stuff your face, and if you like a bit of unique history with your family vacation, you can visit the Historic Fort Morgan. Alternatively, take the kiddos on an excursion at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo where they can feed the monkeys! (You can’t ever go wrong with letting kids feed monkeys, am I right?). Whatever family adventures you choose to embark on, Alabama is a hot spot for winter shenanigans.
Santa Maria Valley, California
Last but not least, why not give the Santa Maria Valley a go during the winter months? It’s great for nature enthusiasts, with 24 hikes and 13 beaches all within a 30-minute drive of each other. Riding dune buggies and taking group bike rides are big family favorites here. However, the highlight of the Santa Maria Valley during the winter season is the thousands of Monarch butterflies that can be seen in the eucalyptus groves each year. It’s truly a sight to behold and makes the Santa Maria Valley one of the best winter vacation spots for families you’ll find in the U.S.
These are just a handful of family winter vacation destinations that are perfect for families with kids of all ages. Some places are colder than others, so make sure you pack weather-appropriate clothing and gear and don’t forget your baby’s diaper bag with all the essentials. If you look for accommodations that cater to families with children, we can guarantee you’ll have the time of your life at any one of these winter vacation locations. Just make sure you know how to keep a newborn baby healthy if it’s your family’s first holiday with a baby.