From Sick Slopes to Hippy Hangouts, We’ve Got You Covered
As we gear up for the holiday break, life often feels over-the-top hectic. From gift buying and company parties to family commitments and neighborhood shindigs, your calendar is likely chock full. Whether you want to sneak in a break between Christmas and New Year’s or unwind after the holiday rush, these family-friendly getaways assure that your kids will have something awesome to reply to the inevitable, “What did you do on your winter vacation?”
The Icon: Aspen, CO
Known worldwide for its luxe resorts and restaurants, Aspen is a first-class ski destination. If you have newbie skiers in tow, take the time for a lesson. Learning from a parent is great, but learning from an expert can be game changing—maximizing your kids’ time on the slopes, how much fun you can have, and everyone’s safety. Other great activities include tubing on Snowmass Mountain and scenic sleigh rides along the Roaring Fork River in Aspen’s backcountry. You can also make great family memories with T-Lazy-7 Ranch’s snowmobile tours to view Maroon Bells, hot chocolate included.
Prefer to stay downtown? Aspen has two indoor ice-skating rinks, plus the Silver Circle outdoor rink backdropped by Aspen Mountain. When you’ve had enough fun on the ice, visit the numerous specialty shops offering everything from local art to local beer. Enjoy the cozy atmosphere and easy slope access at hotels like The Gant and The Little Nell.
The Charmer: Stowe, VT
Tucked into Vermont’s highest peak, Stowe is a veritable winter wonderland, with the best skiing on the East Coast set against a picturesque New England town. Besides great skiing, this winter charmer is a destination for dogsledding, fat biking, snowmobiling, and sleigh rides.
To experience Stowe’s winter landscape in a novel way, book an ice-climbing tutorial with Sunrise Mountain Guides, which offers options for everyone in the family, regardless of ability. Spend an afternoon ice-skating in the middle of the Village at Spruce Peak, backdropped by the snow-capped Green Mountains, and then grab a cup of cocoa and made-to-order s’mores at La Shack, an alpine snack shack. The historic village offers more restaurants, both upscale and laidback, and shops where you can stock up on outdoor gear. For stunning mountain views and inviting interiors, consider The Lodge at Spruce Peak or the Trapp Family Lodge for your stay.
The Thrill Seeker: Gatlinburg, TN
With its close proximity to family destinations like Dollywood and Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg attracts millions of visitors each year. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, this popular town blends an Old-World vibe with main-strip tourism and plenty of winter activities for families. Visit Tennessee’s only ski area, Ober Mountain, for loads of laid-back family fun. Sure, it’s not the biggest mountain, but your kids can still board, tube, ice-skate, or—and we love this—hop in ice bumper cars.
For more high-altitude entertainment, take a ride on the Chondola, a four-seater chairlift, from downtown Gatlinburg to Anakeesta, where you’ll find mountaintop villages with panoramic views of the Smokies from the observation tower. If the weather is agreeable, check out the two single-rail, heart-pumping mountain coasters, or hit up the continent’s longest tree-based skywalk at night for a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s breathtaking anytime of year, but in December Anakeesta comes alive with millions of twinkling lights, holiday decorations, Christmas carolers, and Santa visits.
Lean into the rustic feel by booking your stay at the Bearskin Lodge on the River. Or check out the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park featuring a heated indoor water paradise that includes a lazy river, interactive treehouse, and twisting slides.
The Purist: Jackson Hole, WY
Unspoiled beauty? Check. Incredible skiing? Check. Access to Yellowstone and Grand Teton? Oh yeah. Jackson Hole is one of the world’s most renowned ski and snowboard destinations for good reason. Before you come, choose from three major ski areas, one of which is Wyoming’s first. Located in the Grand Tetons, the award-winning Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers winter adventures of all kinds including free family-friendly apres-ski events like skate nights, evening sledding, and a scavenger hunt on the slopes.
Snowmobiling, dogsledding, and cross-country skiing are also popular. In nearby Jackson, your family can take a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge, where you’ll see the native wapiti along with foxes, bald eagles, and coyotes. When you’re ready to refuel your crew, grab lunch at Snake River Brewing Company, a family-friendly favorite near Town Square. Take a few hours to wander through the square’s shops filled with outdoor gear and souvenirs, and then enjoy the eclectic Mangy Moose for dinner.
For great stays near the slopes, choose Amangani, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, or the Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, a luxuriously rustic retreat with alpine views.
The Eclectic: Asheville, NC
Blending hippy, hipster, and mountain posh vibes, Asheville is a mecca for artists and foodies. From crunchy cafés and Southern soul food restaurants to fine-dining venues and international eateries, this eclectic town has it all. A top contender for having the most breweries per capita in the country, Asheville also offers kid-friendly joints like Asheville Pizza and Brewing, Highland Brewing, and Whistle Hop Brewing Company. Outside the downtown River Arts District, you can visit the North Carolina Arboretum for their “Winter Lights” display, a maze of holiday exhibits with nearly a million twinkling lights. Want to sneak in a game of golf? Springdale Country Club, Cummings Cove, and Maggie Valley Club, all less than an hour away, offer year-round golfing on great courses.
A must-see destination about 10 minutes from downtown, George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate is the largest private home in America. This sprawling property is perfect to see any time of year, but it’s particularly picturesque during winter, when you’ll find stunning decorations like larger-than-life Christmas trees and special events like Candlelight Christmas Evenings, filled with live music and flickering light displays.
Treat yourself to a holiday stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate® with four-star dining and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For even more winter fun, take your kids to see the National Gingerbread House Competition running from the end of November to the beginning of January at the Omni Grove Park Inn. This storied hotel boasts crackling stone fireplaces, an award-winning spa, and gourmet dining you’ll be coming back for again and again
The Winter Enthusiast: Lake Geneva, WI
Lake Geneva embraces the cold like nobody’s business. For winter sports, you’ll find great skiing at two locations, The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort and Wilmot Mountain, offering a combined 45 runs. And local parks and nature areas like Big Foot Beach State Park provide frosty blankets perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Visit in early February to hit WinterFest, and check out the US National Snow Sculpting Championship, where sculptors create larger-than-life works of amazing art. It’s the only competition of its kind in the country. The festivities also include the Downtown Ice Sculpture Walk with more intricate creations and bonfires on the beach.
When you want a break from the outdoors, you can warm up with some Vegas-style entertainment at the equestrian show at The Dancing Horses Theatre or an astonishing performance by magician and illusionist Tristan Crist. Stay near all the winter action at Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark or the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa.
So grab your hat and gloves and check out one of these destinations with your family this winter season. The snow won’t last forever, but the memories will.