Sometimes the hotel is the destination. Why fly to luxuriate in Cancun when you can drive to revel by a fire, sweat in a spa, and entertain the kids with wintry activities? You’ll find great food, ample activities, comfortable rooms, and a hot tub and fireplace all in walking distance from your room, and a drive from home. For once, the less logistically challenging trip is the higher quality trip vacation. Clearly a winter resort is the place to be right now. The only question remains: Where to go?
From Northern Michigan to Southern California and Montana to the Florida Keys, we mined our well-placed sources for the most memorable winter family vacations that bring the best boutique lodges and luxury hotels that make wintertime family travel as relaxing, adventure-filled and low-stress as possible. So pick your latitude and get ready to get rid of the winter blues.
Pennsylvania’s Nemacolin is an ideal family retreat for outdoor winter fun — with plenty of hot chocolate breaks and spa time. There’s an outdoor ice-skating rink and, when the snow cover is deep enough, you can ride around the property in a sled pulled by the resort’s dogsledding team.
Other winter family adventures here include snowshoeing, snow tubing and skiing and snowboarding the six slopes at The Peak. Inside, the property’s excellent Woodlands Spa offers decadent treatments along with some solid down time after in the steam room, sauna and indoor soaking pool (provided, of course, you can leave the kids to their own devices for a spell).
You can have one of the most idyllic Chesapeake Bay inns in Maryland pretty much to yourself when you stay at Inn at Perry Cabin during the wintertime.
This historic hotel in St. Michaels on the Miles River opens to guests Thursday through Sunday only from late January until April. And wintertime activities stay nice and low-key – think fireplace s’mores, sip and paint classes, and cookie decorating.
Bikes are available to pedal around the property and the spa opens to winter guests, too, with treatments that wrap you in soothing CBD oils and botanical therapies inspired by the inn’s gardens. If you’re looking to truly connect and unwind, this is the spot.
Mohonk Mountain House is a luxury resort that knows how to make the most of a Hudson Valley winter. Activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter hiking (complete with spikes for your boots) and ice skating make it easy to bundle up and get outside to enjoy all the snowy season brings with it.
The famous, family-owned Victorian-style castle in New Paltz, New York, overlooking Mohonk Lake pours on the cozy winter vibes with themed events, too–perhaps a mystery-solving weekend, a jazz festival or winter cultural and wellness offerings.
Most of Pennsylvania’s best lodges are found in the Pocono Mountains, but when you want to treat the whole family to a winter wellness escape, it’s hard to top The Lodge at Woodloch.
As long as you don’t mind a heavy dose of, let’s call it “wellness-oriented” family fun, there’s lots to do here all day long – from geocaching in search of gnomes together to custom zodiac sign painting classes and chakra bowl demonstrations. For the parents, the resort’s adults-only spa is a necessary indulgence during your stay, with a co-ed Himalayan salt sauna and an aqua garden with massaging waterfalls among its perks for post-massage relaxation.
That’s not to say this is a spa vacation only. Campfire stories, winter birding outings, fatbike outings and drumming fitness classes will keep everyone busy.
In the town made famous for the 1980 Winter Olympics, this iconic Adirondacks resort is for soft-core fans of winter fun, too. Mirror Lake Inn’s tennis court turns into an ice skating rink come wintertime, and if the lake itself is solidly frozen you can head out onto it to practice your pirouettes. There’s snowshoeing right from the inn and a cozy library, too, with a roaring fireplace and board games at the ready.
The indoor pool and hot tub make it easy to warm your bones before heading outside to the hotel’s fire pits for — what else? — s’mores.
Level Up: For a thrill the kids won’t soon forget, take them tobogganing down a 30-foot high icy shoot that spits them out onto frozen Mirror Lake. When the lake ice is slick enough, they might fly along for another 1,000 feet (before asking you to do it all over again).
This Austrian-inspired resort that sprawls across 2,500 acres in Stowe, Vermont is as close as you’ll get to the Alps on the East Coast–but with better beer (come at us, Austria).
You can earn those beers (not to mention get the kids extremely worn out) by trekking atop snowshoes together three miles from the resort to the Slayton Pasture Cabin. A bowl of chili in front of the fireplace after the hike will have you feeling like proper pioneers.
Some 40 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails, sleigh rides through snowy pastures and brewery tours await once your back to homebase.
Level Up: Kids love up-close encounters with the resort’s herd of Highlander cattle during self-guided tours to the Orchard Pasture. The cows stay outside in the snow all winter, with two layers of hair to keep them warm, and look particularly cute when the flurries fall.
This spot near Atlanta delivers all the southern lakefront adventures you can ask for – without the summer crowds. At the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, its still warm enough for kids to learn to build tents and perfect their fishing techniques at the Ritz Kids camp while you hit the tennis courts or tackle some 99 holes of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio-designed golf holes.
Kayaking or canoeing is still in-bounds as is shooting clay targets or bend the archery bow before ducking off to the spa to recover. Nightly s’mores around an open fire brings everyone back together in these pretty, piney parts.
Want a beach vacation in Florida’s toniest locale, where no one has to lift a finger for fun? The Breakers is your spot. The oceanfront resort’s four swimming pools include a dedicated adults-only infinity pool as well as a family one where the kids are free to be their rambunctious selves. Onsite watersports – including kayaking, paddleboards and Hobie Cats you can take for a spin — are in the mix, too.
The hotel’s Seafood Bar is a must as it overlooks the ocean and, for the kids to gawk over, has an aquarium built right into the bar top. And there’s a safe and scenic biking trail to enjoy round Palm Beach, too, the 5.5-mile-long Lake Trail, where you’ll see some of the island’s most monstrous and historical waterfront homes.
Level Up: The hotel’s Italian Restaurant dishes up family-style Italian fare in a setting right next to a dedicated play area for kids that’s glassed in–so you can keep an eye on them enjoying themselves while enjoying a digestif or two.
With one of the softest sandy hotel beaches in an island chain made mostly of limestone, Baker’s Cay Resort comes at you like a Caribbean escape.
Scavenger hunts, foam parties, pool games and trivia nights are among the family offerings if you don’t mind being out among the general populace. But you might be just as happy to explore the hotel’s shallow bay alone with the family by kayak or jet ski. You can duck off campus, too, to see all greater Key Largo has to offer —from snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and kayaking through mangrove tunnels to spotting owls and hawks at the Florida Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.
Luxury dude ranches aren’t just for summer adventures. As long as you don’t mind not being able to go horseback riding along mountain trails (that’s for warmer months only), Vista Verde Ranch near Steamboat Springs, Co., which opens to families from President’s Day through mid-March for the winter season, promises a snowy getaway for the books.
Individual cabins surrounded by peaky summits come with crackling fireplaces and bubbling hot tubs for your own private escape when you’re not taking the kids snow tubing, riding horses in the arena or testing your ice fishing skills on a frozen lake. There are fat biking and snowmobiling tours, too.
Level Up: In the late afternoon, the horses come in to feed and you can all clamber atop a horse-drawn sleigh with a rancher to spread hay around the pasture as they trot in from all directions to feast. It’s tons of fun.
At one of Scottsdale’s most scenic family resorts, the casita-style suites are surrounded by cacti and succulents, with sweeping pastel-hued views of the Sonoran Desert. It’s a nice scene to take in from the heated outdoor pools, nearby hiking trails, or onsite pickle ball courts. And the property’s complimentary shuttle is ever-ready, too, to whisk the golfers among you off to 18-hole championship courses.
Level Up: Ready to get the kids hooked on golf? This is the place, with the Junior golf program at Camelback Golf Club available to young resort guests.
A Via Ferrata alongside a replica of a dinosaur dig is just one of the amenities that screams awesome family adventure at this luxe Utah desert camp. That “camp” in the name is a bit misleading. The ten canvas-topped tents (called pavilions) at Camp Sarika by Amangiri are as far from actual camping as you can get, with private plunge pools and luxe outdoor showers surrounded by towering mesas that drop you in the middle of a quintessential Old West scene.
Kids six and older can challenge the property’s Canyon Crossing Via Ferrata, overlooking the Colorado Plateau, where you can also set off horseback riding or hiking through the nearby Navajo Nation Slot Canyon to feel like a regular Indiana Jones.
Level Up: Feeling extra indulgent? Helicopter tours and hot-air ballooning excursions launch from right at the resort to tour you over the surrounding wilderness and national parks.
Once you make it to the Black Hills of South Dakota – home to five national parks and monuments, including Badlands National Park – you might wonder why you’ve spent all your life overlooking this most underrated stretch of the country.
You can make up for lost time adventuring in the most thrilling wilderness in the Midwest at Spearfish Canyon Lodge, where the powdery surrounds are a playground of 350 miles of snowmobiling trails that stay open through the end of March.
It’s a great spot to get the family hooked on fat biking and snowshoeing, too, too, before heading back to the lodge for a group hot tub session with those undulating Black Hills views.
Northern Michigan’s winters reach peak family coziness at this beautiful property along Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, near the charming town of Charlevoix.
The Inn at Bay Harbor has an outdoor hot tub on the lakefront that’s open year round, free skates to make use of at a new outdoor skating rink lined with fire pits and complimentary snowshoes you can strap on to adventure to the hilltop golf course and nature preserves surrounding the inn.
At Boyne Mountain Resort, 20 miles away, Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark will warm everyone up – and predictably tire them out, too – during an afternoon at Avalanche Bay, with its surf simulator, lazy river and other rides.
Towering prehistoric sand dunes surround this golf resort that morphs into an all-out winter wonderland under the snow. And that Sand Valley is located on 12,000 acres in Central Wisconsin, of all places, makes it all the more of a thrill to share with friends once you’re back home.
Whatever the thermometer is threatening during a midwest winter, you’ll be tempted to spend most of your family time outside here maximizing the winter adventures, where ice fishing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, ice skating and cross-country skiing and themed winter wellness weekends await. The resort has a fleet of sleds at the ready, too, for the best kind of old fashioned winter fun there is on the surrounding hills. And pond hockey games and a brews and brats pop up are among the winter shenanigans.
Level Up: Guests can book a private Wim Hof Weekend here, even when it’s not officially offered. You’ll learn about the health benefits of cold water therapy and exposure during guided activities.
The quintessential San Diego surf and chill vacation awaits on Coronado Island at this historic property that dates to 1888.
Family beach bonding is intuitive here. The Hotel Del’s beachfront setting beckons for family surf lessons, sand castle competitions or, at the very least, shelling together along the shoreline.
La Jolla Cove for snorkeling, the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park are all just a short drive away, too.
Level Up: What spells simple family bonding more than a bonfire on the beach? The hotel’s concierge can build a private one for you, with all the s’mores fixings included, so you can spend the night telling campfire stories to the sound of the Pacific Ocean before retreating to your comfortable room to sleep.
With an iconic clifftop setting and easily one of the splashiest (by which we mean prettiest) pools in the U.S., the Montage Laguna Beach is made for kicking it with a backdrop of classic Southern California grandeur. If you’re looking for a beach vacation that doesn’t require getting too sandy, this is the spot.
There are plenty of adventures out the door, too, and the concierge can arrange whale watching outings and snorkeling trips and point you to the best area hiking trails, too.
The hotel’s Spa Montage is worth splashing out on for a couples’ spa treatment that wraps in botanical bubble baths and scalp massages.
It’s an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles to breathe in the beauty of the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach in Dana Point.
Hang out at the hotel’s beach club all day, playing Jenga by the shoreline, daring eachother to run into the chilly Pacific or testing your balance on a SUP, when the ocean is calm enough for it.
The hotel’s kids club will look after your 5 to 12 year olds should you want to sit with a quiet ceviche lunch in a poolside cabana or to take in a round at Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s Scottish links style course, Monarch Beach Golf Links.
Level Up: Winter is prime time to see gray whales migrating along the coast here, so if the kids haven’t been whale watching before, this is the spot. Let the hotel concierge arrange a private boat trip for you to make things easy.
Soft adventures in plush surrounds lure Portlanders two hours west of the city to this divine coastal resort in Oregon’s Pacific City.
You can spend your days on a geological scavenger hunt with the kids–hunting for pieces of agate that wash up on the rugged beaches here. Or, for more of a challenge–and some fun rolling back down–hike up the massive coastal dune at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, right astride the hotel.
The oceanfront resort’s on-call “adventure coaches” are there to take the planning part out of your hands and lead you out on fatbike rides, build a beach bonfire for your crew or even arrange a fishing trip on a local dory boat.
There’s no lovelier Idaho mountain town base for winter than along the shores of frozen Payette Lake in McCall, 100 miles north of Boise, where the Shore Lodge beckons with saltwater immersion hot tubs and a heated outdoor pool surrounded by snow.
You can go snowshoeing across the lake, right out the lodge door, or walk to town, where a winter carnival sees the streets lined with fabulous ice sculptures. Brundage Mountain’s ski slopes are a short drive away.
Level Up: For the ultimate family winter adventure, ride snowmobiles with a guide on an all-day trip through the Salmon River Mountains to ridiculously scenic Burgdorf Hot Springs to dip in the same rustic pools where miner’s once bathed.
Pronghorn Resort is just the kind of place to get your kids hooked on the great wintry outdoors while delivering all the craft beer inspiration you’ve likely also come to Bend to enjoy.
You can spend a few days riding or boarding with the kids at Mt. Bachelor, or ditch the slopes entirely for the hotel’s naturalist-led snowshoeing tours through the forest to a bonfire circle or cross-country ski outings to a waterfall.
Nobody would blame you, either, for just holding down the fort fireside with some board games or manning the hot tub for the apres-ski arrivals.
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