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10 Bucket List Winter Family Vacation Experiences

Get your heart racing or unwind with the kids on a sunny, snowy or culture-filled holiday break.

U.S. News & World Report

10 Bucket List Winter Family Vacation Experiences

Hikers under the northern lights in Iceland.
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(Getty Images)

Plan the ultimate winter getaway with the gang.

While the close of summer often marks the last chance to slip away for an affordable, last-minute weekend escape, the start of a new season doesn't have to halt your vacation dreams. Autumn is the perfect time to start mapping out your winter family vacation, whether you want to visit the great outdoors, experience fascinating cultures or explore distant destinations across the globe. Read on to discover 10 family trip ideas to cross off your travel bucket list this winter.
A fit, female hiker stands atop a snow-covered rocky high point while bathed in the colors of sunset at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed to vehicle traffic in the winter. To experience this solitude, people must hike from the South Rim to the North Rim and back. Hiking Rim to Rim to Rim requires dedication, fitness, and preparation for winter conditions.
Credit

(Getty Images)

The Grand Canyon

In winter, you can embrace scenic hikes and dramatic views at this UNESCO World Heritage site without the intense heat or heavy crowds you'll find in the popular summer months. While the roads to the North Rim are closed during the winter months, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round. Go for a winter hike at Bright Angel Trail, and look out for mule deer, elk, ravens and rock squirrels, among other local residents. Just remember to arm yourself with plenty of layers to prepare for icy temperatures in the teens to high 40s.
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Plan the ultimate winter getaway with the gang.

While the close of summer often marks the last chance to slip away for an affordable, last-minute weekend escape, the start of a new season doesn't have to halt your vacation dreams. Autumn is the perfect time to start mapping out your winter family vacation, whether you want to visit the great outdoors, experience fascinating cultures or explore distant destinations across the globe. Read on to discover 10 family trip ideas to cross off your travel bucket list this winter.

The Grand Canyon

In winter, you can embrace scenic hikes and dramatic views at this UNESCO World Heritage site without the intense heat or heavy crowds you'll find in the popular summer months. While the roads to the North Rim are closed during the winter months, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open year-round. Go for a winter hike at Bright Angel Trail, and look out for mule deer, elk, ravens and rock squirrels, among other local residents. Just remember to arm yourself with plenty of layers to prepare for icy temperatures in the teens to high 40s.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston's pristine beaches alone make this South Carolina city worth a winter getaway. While the water may be chilly, you can still enjoy a sunny stroll on Isle of Palms or Folly Beach. Aside from beach time, another must-do winter activity is a carriage ride tour, where you can learn the city's rich history. And if you're traveling with young kiddos, you won't want to miss the South Carolina Aquarium, a family favorite perched on the historic Charleston Harbor.

Orlando, Florida

If Walt Disney World isn't in the cards, check out Discovery Cove for some snorkeling and the chance to swim with dolphins. While the beach water may be frigid during the winter months, Discovery keeps the water warm and provides visitors with wet suits. If exploring the wilderness is calling your name, hop on an airboat and take a tour of the Everglades. And should the youngsters crave a little Hollywood magic, make your way to Universal's Islands of Adventure to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

San Diego

From whale watching off San Diego's coastline to strolling along the area's 70 miles of beaches, America's Finest City has you and the kiddos covered this winter. After enjoying sun and splendor by the sea, check out the architecture and gardens at Balboa Park or the hands-on exhibits at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. And if you're visiting in December, plan on a stop at Petco Park's Holiday Wonderland, which features a dazzling lights display, Santa and even rides along the Polar Express.

Yellowstone

From cross-country skiing to snowshoeing to hiking along the Lone Star Geyser trail, Yellowstone offers the opportunity for you and the kids to spend quality time in the great outdoors. Plus, you can rent equipment and receive private instructional tours from local hotels. While most park roads are closed in November, the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance remains open. However, you'll want to plan on taking a snowcoach to ensure safety. And while in the area, don't miss the bison and foxes in Lamar Valley – and if you're lucky, you may even spot a pack of wolves in the early morning.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Budding history buffs and culture vultures will love exploring Santa Fe. Don't miss checking out the interactive Santa Fe Children's Museum, which also has its own greenhouse, or the Randall Davey Audubon Center, which sits surrounded by forestland and is ideal for kid-friendly hiking and bird walks. And don't miss a guided tour of the Puye Cliffs, home of the Santa Clara Pueblo people. New Mexico's capital city also has 44 ski runs at Ski Santa Fe. If art is more your scene, visit Canyon Road's art galleries; the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum on Johnson Street is an essential Santa Fe stop.

Chennai, India

One of India's largest cities, Chennai is surrounded by beaches, temples and churches. Apart from Marina Beach – the longest beach in the country – this southern city is also famous for its Vandalur Zoo. Another gem that's unique to Chennai is its Connemara Public Library, which is home to a copy of every publication in India. And a can't-miss attraction in Chennai is Puducherry (also known as Pondicherry), the French colony of India that features old-world charm, colonial courtyards and chic French bakeries and restaurants.

Berlin

Yes, winter in this European hot spot is cold, but don't let chilly weather keep you from experiencing all of the winter wonders Germany's capital city has to offer. As if Berlin's Christmas markets weren't reason enough to visit, Berlin's botanical garden also features winter-themed events. And the kiddos will love Berlin's zoo and aquarium. If you're planning a trip in February, make a sure to swing by Berlinale, a world-famous annual film festival, or visit Berlin's annual Transmediale festival, which blends art, culture and technology.

Mont Tremblant, Quebec

Home to one of the top ski resorts in North America, Tremblant also offers ice skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and tubing. You and the gang can even take a snowshoe tour that ends with a fondue experience in a cozy log cabin. This ski resort village, with its charming cobblestone streets, is friendly toward those who prefer bunny slopes and nonskiers, too. With shops and restaurants across town, there are outdoor diversions geared toward winter enthusiasts of all ages and interests. There's even a local Aqua Club with an indoor play area for little ones.

Iceland

When visiting Iceland for a winter getaway, your main goal should be to check out the northern lights and other natural allures. Your best chance at seeing them is when dark, so winter is a great time to plan a trip. As for accommodations, Hotel Rangá is known for being an ideal spot to see the aurora borealis. Located in the small Icelandic town of Hella, the hotel was the first of its kind in Iceland to offer a northern lights wake-up call. And if you're staying in Reykjavík, watch the lights from the Sun Voyager statue by the sea or from the Grotta Lighthouse.
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