6 Magical Fairytale Family Vacations To Take With Kids

These destinations all around the country will bring fantasy to life for your family.

French Renaissance Chateau Bitmore landscape sunrise
Photo: Courtesy of The Biltmore Company

In these six spellbinding spots, your kid's most-loved storybooks and fantasy films come to life. Visit while they're still young enough to get swept up in the magic.

Feels like Beauty and the Beast

Asheville, North Carolina

An 8,000-acre French Renaissance château in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore has "Disney vibes for sure," according to South Carolina mom Mollie Phillips, who visited with her 1-year-old, Bella. The 3-mile drive in from the main entrance is mysterious and forested, with wild deer and turkeys occasionally peering out of the evergreens. The historic property, a former home of the Vanderbilt family, warrants a full day since there's so much to do: horse-drawn carriage rides, archery (for kids 8 and up), hiking, a playground with climbing logs, an animal farm with goats, lambs, and hens, and horseback riding.

Biltmore entrance
Biltmore. Courtesy of The Biltmore Company

The next day, swing by the Western North Carolina Farmers Market (open daily) to pick up picnic fare. The AVL Cake Lady, a Black-owned business, serves up yummy red velvet and strawberry crunch cake slices for dessert. Take the goodies to Bullington Gardens, in Hendersonville, about 20 miles outside of town. It's saturated with botanicals, including red roses. On June 1, its fairy trail, dotted with tiny houses and doors on trees that kids can peek inside, reopens for the season.

Beat the heat in the air conditioning of the imagination sparking Hands On! Children's Museum. At The Play Stage exhibit, kids put on a costume, open the red curtain, and perform. Rest weary heads at The Omni Grove Park Inn, which looks like a medieval castle. Starts at $259 per night.

whimsical themes bedroom suites The Roxbury at Stratton Falls
The Roxbury at Stratton Falls. Courtesy of The Roxbury

Feels like Cinderella

Catskill Mountains, New York

Imagine a silken 18-foot ball gown floating as if suspended in the beaks of bluebirds over a fanciful bed, and a glamorous bathroom with gilded swan faucets fashioned inside an enormous pumpkin carriage, vines winding up the walls. That very Cinderella fantasy is reality at The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, where each of the multibedroom suites and cottages have such whimsical themes as The Faerie Forest and Crown of the Pendragons. From its fantastical décor to the lush surroundings, complete with a massive waterfall, The Roxbury "inspires wonder and delight in a way that very few other properties do," says We Are Not Like Them coauthor Jo Piazza, of Philadelphia, who spends three months of the year with her family restoring a cabin in the Catskill Mountains. The cabin is filled with "every imaginable woodland creature. A direct quote from my 4-year-old: 'Do fairies live here?'"

bluestone quarry turned sculpture park
Opus 40. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism

Five minutes away, the Plattekill State Forest stretches for 1,700-plus acres. And in nearby Saugerties, Opus 40, the late Hudson Valley artist Harvey Fite's masterpiece of a 6.5-acre bluestone quarry– turned–sculpture park makes for a wondrous place for creative minds to wander. Rates at The Roxbury at Stratton Falls start at $95 per night.

Danish village Solvang California
Solvang, California. Delray77/Getty

Feels Like Thumbelina Meets The Little Mermaid with a sprinkle of Pinocchio

Solvang, California

This Danish village built in tribute to legendary author Hans Christian Andersen is storybook perfection. In Solvang, just outside of Santa Barbara, families can pass under a castle arch to a lush park named for the fairy-tale master, say hello to a replica of the famed Little Mermaid sculpture atop her fountain, and visit one, two, or all five of the Danish bakeries to pick up sweet aebleskiver (round balls with raspberry jam and powdered sugar) to nibble in the town's flower-filled courtyards or take on a horse-drawn trolley. "We made our own scavenger hunt to find several windmills downtown," says Portia Gorman, founder of the Inspired Chick Blog.

happy family outside solvang bakery
Solvang Bakery. Courtesy of Portia Gorman

Channel Rapunzel by staying in the grand and vibrant Clock Tower Suite at the boutique hotel The Winston, built inside the village's intact historic Old Mill Clock Tower, a replica of those found in Copenhagen. It features a clockface mural so you'll never forget where you're staying, and small kids can sleep in a pop-up tepee. With high vaulted ceilings, wooden beams, and kitschy décor, other guest rooms feel fantastical too. Starts at $325 per night; the Clock Tower Suite is $645 per night.

Ennis, Texas wildflowers lake overlook
Ennis, Texas. Jaime Hudson/Travel Texas

Feels like The Legend of the Bluebonnet

Ennis, Texas

Nothing guarantees a good mood like a giant field of wildflowers. Every April, Ennis—Texas's official bluebonnet city—doles out happiness and channels the happy ending of this Comanche tale retold by the legendary children's author Tomie dePaola. In the story, a girl sacrifices her doll to end a drought, and the next day, the land is covered in bluebonnets.

Thirty-two miles south of Dallas, the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails are an annual attraction, featuring more than 40 miles of driving trails where the delicate blue blooms are prolific, as are horses, sheep, and donkeys. "My kids learned about bluebonnets in school, but they never imagined there would be so many," says Dallas mom Kiran Syed. "They ran around in a field with the flowers nearly waist-high and would stop every now and then just to get a whiff of their light aroma."

The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival takes place the second or third weekend (April 8 to 10 this year), with souvenirs and treats emblazoned with bluebonnets plus live entertainment and arts exhibitions. Afterward, take a nature hike at Kachina Prairie or, on a festival weekend, a guided Wildflower Walk there. And catch a fairy-tale or superhero flick at the authentic Galaxy Drive-In Theatre, a charmingly retro destination. Stay in an Airstream camper next to a twinkle-lighted porch at The Range Vintage Trailer Resort. The property has a private entrance to hiking trails and a pool. Rates start at $198 per night.

child sitting in tree olympic national park
Olympic National Park. Ferrantraite/Getty

Feels like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Port Angeles, Washington

Hauntingly beautiful and dripping in moss-draped flora, the old-growth forests of Olympic National Park feel as if they could be home to Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy. Part of the allure is the fact that the park has three distinct ecosystems—and so much to do that a family could spend weeks scouting it all out on winding scenic drives and on foot. "You can hike Hurricane Ridge and look out across snow-capped mountains, kayak in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Crescent, wander through a rain forest with incredible biodiversity, or spend hours exploring tide pools along Ruby Beach," says Jeremy Puglisi, coauthor of Where Should We Camp Next? and dad of two.

Another kid-approved activity: hiking to the Sol Duc Falls (the Enchanted Valley in the park is known as the "valley of 10,000 waterfalls" for a reason). And don't miss the Hurricane Ridge Trail for subalpine flowers such as lupine, Indian paintbrush, and avalanche lily.

Book the Lake Quinault Rainforest Tour led by interpretive guides to learn about the Quinault Indian Nation's history, and take a kayak or pontoon boat tour on Lake Crescent for more captivating stories and legends. John's Beachcombing Museum in Forks makes for a delightfully quirky stop. Stay at the park's Kalaloch Lodge, which is open year-round. Rates start at $173 per night.

Child enjoying ice castles Midway, Utah
Ice Castles. Mary Siversten

Feels Like Frozen

Midway, Utah

Home to Ice Castles, a one-acre mecca of ice caves, frozen slides, tunnels, fountains, thrones, caverns, and slot canyons open from January to March, this small mountain town could be mistaken for the Austrian village in which Anna and Elsa grew up. And the horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Wasatch Front valleys along an illuminated forest trail might conjure another magical locale for your crew: "My kids said it was like visiting the north pole," says Lorena Billups, a Chicago mom of two.

Ice Castles is part of the larger Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, which has thrill-a-minute snow tubing within walking distance in the longest lanes in Utah. And to warm up, head to Homestead Crater for swimming around a geothermal hot spring within a massive limestone dome. Since it's 65 feet deep, everyone receives a floatation device to wear. If you have kids or teens with more energy to burn, there's Park City Mountain about 30 minutes away by car. High Meadow Park learning and family ski area is like stepping into a snow globe, with adventure trails featuring hidden wooden carvings of native wildlife for families to discover as they explore the terrain. Stay in a newly renovated room at Homestead to be in the center of all the action. Some have built-in bunk beds for kids. Two-bedroom condos are also available. Starts at $209 per night.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's January/February 2022 issue as "Vacations With Fairy-Tale Vibes." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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