If you're looking to kick back with the kids this winter, catch our drift: A snow-covered getaway could be more family-friendly (even with toddlers!) than a beach vacation. But where can you stay comfortably without sacrificing a big chunk of your savings? Our 10 faves may make you want to fly north this winter.
It takes two weeks to build the 3,000-square-foot snow fort on the top of Dercum Mountain, about 50 miles from Denver. Billed as the world’s largest snow fort, this season’s rendition, the sixth annual, includes more interactive features, such as slides, climbing nets, castle towers, and mazes. Keystone will also wow you with its thoughtful conveniences, like loaner red wagons to haul gear and tired kids, free lift tickets for kids 12 and under when you stay two nights or more, and free designated family parking. Consider going between February 9-17, 2018, when the resort will host its first annual Kidtopia Culinary Festival with kids’ cooking classes, chocolate fountains, and fun eats plus all the snowy activities. keystoneresort.com.
Brettonwoods, New Hampshire
At the base of the ski resort in the state’s White Mountains, kids 44 inches tall and over have a chance to zoom around on pint-size snowmobiles—even doing banked turns and small jumps. They wear a full-faced helmet and are buckled in for safety. Afterwards, families can try other fun activities at the mountain base, including a mini zip line, a playground, and snow tubing. If you want time on the slopes solo, the resort offers supervised kids’ programs, including a nursery for babies. omnihotels.com.
Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
Zip down the mountain in a snow tube and float down the lazy river in an inner tube at this ski resort with a massive indoor water park. The resort offers up 42 lanes of snow tubing—making it the biggest in the country—with options for double tubes in case little ones don’t want to go down alone or aren’t tall enough to do it (kids have to be 44 inches.) The resort also has two “magic carpets” lifts up its tubing hill so families can spend more time sliding and less time climbing. After dark, the snow-tubing area goes “galactic” with an LED light show, lasers, and music. When you’re ready to warm up, visit its Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, which has large windows with a view of the tubing hills. There, your fan can grab an inner tube for the slides, wave pool, or lazy river. While the tubing hill is open to the public, the water park is exclusive to families staying at Camelback Lodge. camelbackresort.com.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
This all-inclusive resort, a horseback rider’s delight, is magical in the winter months. Kids ages 6 to 12 go off with professional guides to trot down the snow-covered trails; they even get their own horse for the stay so they form a bond by the end of the trip. While the kids are busy, you can ride yourself, back-country ski, snowshoe, or even go to a wine tasting. Come together in the afternoon for a sleigh ride pulled by a draft horse. vistaverde.com.
At this resort nestled in the state’s Green mountains, children as young as 2 1/2 can learn to snowboard from the instructors at the child-care center. “There are kid-specific Burton Riglet boards with no metal edges; toddlers can pull each other or their stuffed animals around,” says Mike Chait, who managed the snowboarding program for 13 years. Other family-fun activities include bonfires, sing-a-longs, parades, character meet-and-greets, ice skating, and a weekly carnival. smuggs.com.
Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, Ridgley’s Fun Park at this resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers a gentle tubing area with a small hill plus a snow carousel, which spins little ones around in a tube. “The park is a great first tubing experience, and is adjacent to a tubing area for older kids, so it’s easy to split up,” says Erin Gifford, founder of kidventurous.com. wintergreenresort.com.
It's in a great location. The Jackson Gore Inn is just a snowball's throw away from all of the fun family happenings at Okemo, a mountain that ski buffs flock to for its 121 lush trails. A top-notch ski school rents pint-size gear and puts kids on the bunny slopes starting at age 2. Families can get a free, personalized tour of the mountain by visiting Okemo's Ambassador desk. Even if your family doesn't ski, Jackson Gore is still an awesome resort. Right outside the front door, kids can climb on the "ant hill," a giant mound of snow. There are six snow-tubing runs, and some tubes link together so you can slide down as a family. And kids ages 5 to 12 can enjoy a 20-minute, guided snowmobile tour on a Polaris kids' snowmobile. An outdoor rink rents skates and hosts family events like disco skating parties. The excitement continues after dark with moonlit snowshoe treks or Vermont Institute of Natural Science raptor encounters. okemo.com.
The holidays are snow much fun here. A tree-lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving weekend kicks off Winterfest, a month-long celebration with horse-drawn-sleigh rides, Jack Frost storytimes, s'mores roasting in the outdoor fireplace, cookie-decorating classes for the kids, and -- the sweetest of all -- elf tuck-ins. "The elves come to a family's room to read the kids a story and bring them a trinket," says Mike Rayburn, director of sales & marketing. All this, of course, is in addition to the lodge's regular wintertime activities, including cross-country skiing for kids 5 and over, ice-skating, and snow-tubing. An indoor pool with waterslides and mommy-and-me spa treatments are also part of the fun. suncadiaresort.com.
Don't ski? Then this all-inclusive resort is a great choice because it emphasizes other kinds of classic winter fun, with more than two dozen activities being offered daily. Some unique picks: extreme snowtubing, Cupcake Wars competitions, outdoor family Olympics, winter archery tag, and a snowy scavenger hunt. "It's our version of The Amazing Race," says marketing director Rory Ofee. "Kids and parents work together looking for clues all around the resort, and we see which family gets done first." woodloch.com.
The staff seems to have thought of everything. Childproofing supplies? You can pick them up at check-in along with a Westin Family Travel Journal and Local Activity Guide for the kids, giving them hints for exploring the destination. Place to store all your family's wet gear? A valet will whisk away your skis and warm up your boots for free when you come off the gondola or shuttle from nearby Beaver Creek ski area. Extra hand in the morning? The Westin's car-pool service will drive your child to and from lessons at The Ranch, Beaver Creek's incredible ski school that features tepees, wagons, and other Wild West-themed obstacles for beginners. If you can't resist checking out your 3-year-old's first lesson (but don't want her to see that you're around), you can peek out of the school's huge panoramic windows.
Beaver Creek ski area has plenty for your clan to do together, too, like tubing, ice-skating, sleigh rides, afternoon cookie breaks, and a Thursday night fireworks display. When you add that to the Westin's new Family Programming (movie and crafts night, Kids Eat Well menu, heated outdoor pool, and supervised kids' club activities like building snow forts and learning about the area's Native American culture), you'll find that there's barely enough time to sleep in the super comfy Heavenly Beds or cribs. All guest rooms were recently renovated too. westinriverfrontbeavercreek.com.