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14 Best Winter Getaways for Families in the U.S.

Winter can be a great time to enjoy a break with the family, whether you’re looking to escape the cold and soak up some sunshine or revel in a snowy wonderland. In some places, it’s the off-season, bringing the opportunity for a more budget-friendly trip while avoiding the crowds. Whether you’re looking for an affordable destination, plenty of luxuries, or something in between, among these destinations across the U.S., you’re sure to find the perfect pick.

Jackson, Wyoming winter in Jackson, Wyoming
Credit: winter in Jackson, Wyoming by © Noblige - Dreamstime.com

Jackson, Wyoming

Nestled in Wyoming’s famous Jackson Hole Valley, home to three ski areas, the town of Jackson offers it all for families craving outdoor adventure and breathtaking scenery. With the Teton and Gros Ventre mountains rising in the distance, the opportunities for world-class skiing and boarding, and sleigh rides through the National Elk Refuge, it’s hard to beat when it comes to magical winter wonderland getaways. After any day of play, you’ll find a thriving apres-ski scene. The Town Square, with its iconic arches made from antlers, is home to many bars and eateries, including the renowned Mangy Moose, an authentic Western Steakhouse that’s ideal for families. If you want to base yourself in Jackson Hole, you’ll find an array of family-friendly hotels and rental accommodations to choose from.

Keystone, Colorado Keystone Resort
Credit: Keystone Resort by Keystone Resort

Keystone, Colorado

You’ll find some of the best family-friendly skiing in the U.S. at Keystone Resort, which features more than 3,000 skiable acres of terrain and a Kids Ski Free Program. But there’s a lot more to do here, including ice skating on one of North America’s largest outdoor ice rinks, spread over five acres while surrounded by the breathtaking peaks of the Rockies. Other activities include snow tubing, snow biking, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. The kids will love the Kidtopia Snow Fort, the largest of its kind in the world, with great photo-ops, mazes, and slides.

San Diego, California Surfing lessons in San Diego
Credit: Surfing lessons in San Diego by © Dobino - Dreamstime.com

San Diego, California

San Diego offers a classic family winter escape for those seeking sunshine and lots of things to do. It offers pleasant weather year-round with mild temperatures ideal for tranquil strolls on soft, family-friendly beaches, and those who want to learn to surf will find plenty of opportunities as well – just keep in mind that you’ll need a wetsuit as the ocean will be chilly. Whale-watching tours are fantastic this time of year, and there are world-famous attractions like the San Diego Zoo and LEGOLAND, just 30 miles north in Carlsbad.

Mount Hood, Oregon Mount Hood Christmas Train
Credit: Mount Hood Christmas Train by verdecanyonrr.com

Mount Hood, Oregon

Mount Hood is only 90 minutes from Portland and offers an enchanting winter playground ideal for families. That includes opportunities to sled, ski, snowboard, and even snow tube after dark surrounded by color, something referred to as “cosmic snowtubing.” If you’re up for snowshoeing, head to the 3.2-mile loop of White River Trail. Those who prefer a more relaxed experience perfect for celebrating the holidays might take a scenic ride on the Mount Hood Christmas Train. The 75-minute train ride departs from the town of Hood River and includes special treats like hot cocoa and cookies, along with dancing elves.

Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming/Montana/Idaho Emerald Spring at Norris Geyser Basin trail area, during winter in Yellowstone National Park
Credit: Emerald Spring at Norris Geyser Basin trail area, during winter in Yellowstone National Park by © Atmosphere1 | Dreamstime.com

Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming/Montana/Idaho

The vast majority of visitors to Yellowstone arrive in the summer, but a family trip in the winter not only brings the chance to enjoy it without the crowds but geysers like Old Faithful that appear even more dramatic while wildlife is more easily spotted, including wolves, moose, elk, grizzly bears, and bison. It’s a spectacular snowy wonderland with activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing taking the place of hiking. The colorful mineral pools and frozen waterfalls are just some of the other magnificent photo-ops.

Palm Springs, California Palm Springs
Credit: Palm Springs by bigstock.com

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs is not only home to a long list of resorts with gorgeous pools (and kid-friendly perks like water slides) for taking advantage of winter sunshine, but it also offers many other things to do with kids. You might visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, a combination zoo with over 500 animals and botanical gardens dedicated to the deserts of the world. Don’t miss a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway that will take you on a 2.5-mile journey alongside the dramatic cliffs of Chino Canyon to the unspoiled wilderness in Mount San Jacinto State Park. There’s plenty right in town too, including artsy shops, trendy cafes, and a wide variety of restaurants.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells
Credit: Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells by Kalahari Resorts & Conventions

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

As the world’s undisputed waterpark capital, Wisconsin Dells is a popular destination among families. In the winter, you can take advantage of the indoor waterparks, which are perfect during the region’s frigid winters. Head to Kalahari Resort, Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park, Chula Vista Resort, or Wilderness Resort Waterpark. When you’ve had enough of all the water fun, you might enjoy the Asgard Underworld Arcade or some friendly competition at the Chalet Lanes bowling alley.

Kauai, Hawaii Lydgate Beach

Kauai, Hawaii

Any island in Hawaii is likely to thrill everyone in the family, but if you’re looking for more tranquility with plenty of things to do and epic scenery, consider Kauai. Poipu Beach is a popular snorkeling spot where Hawaiian sea turtles are often spotted. It’s also ideal for kids of all ages, including beginners thanks to the super calm, clear waters. Lydgate Beach Park is another popular option, adjacent to the Wailua River on the east side of the island, with rock-enclosed ponds creating a safe place from the open ocean waves. With a wide variety of fish and a lifeguard on duty, it’s an ideal beginner beach for snorkeling. There are free and authentic hula shows at the Poipu Shopping Village to experience, opportunities for zip lining, hiking, ATV waterfall tours, and great whale watching, with winter the peak time to marvel at the many humpbacks who migrate here during the season.

Stowe, Vermont Stowe Mountain Ski Resort
Credit: Stowe Mountain Ski Resort by stowe.com

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe offers one of the best family vacation destinations in the winter. One of the oldest ski resort towns, Stowe is a magical winter wonderland town in the U.S. and offers just about every snow sport imaginable, far beyond skiing and boarding these days. One of the must-dos is a sleigh ride led by Percheron and Belgian draft horses that wind through the snowy forest with the sleighs beautifully illuminated. On the mountain, the Kids Adventure Zone offers gentle slopes and freestyle terrain that’s ideal for beginners. In the downtown area, the streets are lined with well-preserved historic buildings that house interesting shops and eateries with menus focused on dishes made with locally grown ingredients.

Puerto Rico Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Head to Puerto Rico for an exotic, tropical vacation without the need for a passport. Along with kid-friendly hotels, there are a ton of things for families to do here, going well beyond the quintessential beach getaway. Of course, there are opportunities for fantastic snorkeling everywhere, from Crash Boat Beach with hundreds of colorful fish beneath the famous pier to Cayo Aurora, AKA Gilligan’s Island, part of the Guanica Forest Biosphere Reserve. Delve into history with a visit to the Old San Juan forts like Castillo San Felipe del Morro, splash around at a water park, hike to waterfalls in the rainforest, and whiz across a zipline in Rainforest Zipline Park.

Key West, Florida Fort Zachary Taylor Park, Key West
Credit: Fort Zachary Taylor Park, Key West by © SimonDannhauer | Dreamstime.com

Key West, Florida

Winter is peak season in Key West, offering a beach paradise with opportunities for snorkeling, diving, paddle boarding, dolphin-watching sailing trips, kayak tours through the mangroves, and much more. You might visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to see more than 50 species of butterflies and over 20 exotic bird species and explore the Hemingway Home & Museum. This was where the literary icon once lived with his family, from 1931 to 1941, with around five dozen six-toed cats, descendants of Hemingway’s former pet, Snow White, still roaming the grounds. At the end of the day, head to Mallory Square to watch an epic sunset while enjoying a wealth of entertainment from jugglers to musicians in a vibrant, carnival-like atmosphere.

Charleston, South Carolina Charleston, South Carolina
Credit: Charleston, South Carolina by © Sean Pavone | Dreamstime.com

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is known for its historic sites and fantastic restaurants that attract foodies from across the countries and beyond, but it’s also a great destination for families, and in the winter, the tourist crowds are much thinner than they are the rest of the year. You might visit the South Carolina Aquarium, which offers a lot more than your typical aquarium, with more than 5,000 animals that include everything from sharks and dolphins to sea otters and bald eagles. There’s also a touch tank for a hands-on experience with sea urchins and hermit crabs. Folly Beach is just a short jaunt from downtown with a gorgeous white sandy beach ideal for relaxing and building sand castles. Explore history by visiting Fort Sumter and plantations like McLeod, and perhaps embark on an unforgettable cruise aboard the Schooner Pride, a 3-mast, tall ship.

Orlando, Florida Swan boats on Lake Eola
Credit: Swan boats on Lake Eola by © viavaltours - Dreamstime.com

Orlando, Florida

Orlando is an obvious choice for a family vacation in the winter, and if you wait until after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, you’ll enjoy a more budget family trip with mild temperatures and fewer crowds. While theme parks like Disney and Universal are the top draws, there are many other things to do, like a visit to the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium or the Orlando Science Center. Adventurers will love the Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park with an aerial obstacle course for ages six and up, a 425-foot zipline, and much more. There are many free things to do as well, like feeding the swans and walking the trails in Lake Eola Park.

South Padre Island, Texas South Padre Island
Credit: South Padre Island by © Amy Nicolai | Dreamstime.com

South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island is popular among spring breakers but if you visit during the winter you can enjoy a more laid-back atmosphere that’s perfect for families. The blue gulf waters are relatively warm all year long, averaging around 70 degrees in the winter, but if that’s still a bit chilly for you, kayaking, sailing, and jet skiing are all possible. Horseback riding on the beach, zip lining, and fishing can all be enjoyed too. Gravity Park offers miniature golf, go-karts, thrill rides, and kiddie rides, while Sea Turtle, Inc. is a must-visit in any season where you’ll learn all about sea turtles and the younger ones can take part in various kid-friendly activities.

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