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13 Best Winter Vacations With Kids Under 13

From Costa Rica to Colorado, these winter escapes will pique all family members' interests.

U.S. News & World Report

13 Best Winter Vacations With Kids Under 13

Families on vacation in warm and cold weather.
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Picking a family-friendly winter escape

Choosing a winter getaway that suits your style and budget can be a challenging proposition in itself. But finding a place that fits the needs and interests of the whole gang – including fickle tweens – is another task altogether. While youngsters and grade-schoolers may yearn for plenty of playtime and adventure, teens may be happier traveling on their own and snapping Instagram photos for online bragging rights than enjoying a digital detox or family bonding. For this reason, we've pinpointed enticing winter escapes that cater to travelers of all ages, with the right combination of natural beauty, relaxation and age-appropriate activities. Here are 13 top vacation picks for families itching to get away together this winter.
Next:Montana
A man skis down a mountain slope at sunrise.
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(Getty Images)

Montana

If you're traveling with outdoorsy types, Montana's abundance of ski resorts may be the perfect retreat. For instance, The Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre property in the Blackfoot Valley, northeast of Missoula, offers a Ranch and Ski family package that includes lodging, dining and one winter adventure (think: horseback riding, ice-skating and cross-country skiing) each day. Plus, the resort offers a Kids Corps of Discovery Program with age-specific activities designed for ages 6 to 12 and 13 to 17, such as go-kart racing and paintball wars. Meanwhile, Big Sky Resort, in southwest Montana, offers special discounts on activities and lessons.
Next:

Picking a family-friendly winter escape

Choosing a winter getaway that suits your style and budget can be a challenging proposition in itself. But finding a place that fits the needs and interests of the whole gang – including fickle tweens – is another task altogether. While youngsters and grade-schoolers may yearn for plenty of playtime and adventure, teens may be happier traveling on their own and snapping Instagram photos for online bragging rights than enjoying a digital detox or family bonding. For this reason, we've pinpointed enticing winter escapes that cater to travelers of all ages, with the right combination of natural beauty, relaxation and age-appropriate activities. Here are 13 top vacation picks for families itching to get away together this winter.

Montana

If you're traveling with outdoorsy types, Montana's abundance of ski resorts may be the perfect retreat. For instance, The Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre property in the Blackfoot Valley, northeast of Missoula, offers a Ranch and Ski family package that includes lodging, dining and one winter adventure (think: horseback riding, ice-skating and cross-country skiing) each day. Plus, the resort offers a Kids Corps of Discovery Program with age-specific activities designed for ages 6 to 12 and 13 to 17, such as go-kart racing and paintball wars. Meanwhile, Big Sky Resort, in southwest Montana, offers special discounts on activities and lessons.

Mont-Tremblant, Quebec

Kyle McCarthy, co-founder and editor of Family Travel Forum, suggests cold-weather enthusiasts consider retreating to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. With promotions, such as a deal where children 17 and under can stay at the property for free when joined by an adult, Mont Tremblant offers an enticing value proposition. Snow bunnies and experienced powder hounds can join skiing and snowboarding lessons designed specifically for kids ages 3 to 16. And as McCarthy points out, the resort is pretty self-contained, so when ski time is over, parents can feel comfortable with letting younger kids roam on their own.

San Diego

For a warm-weather getaway to remember, pack up the kids and head to San Diego. Here, little ones can build sandcastles along the beautiful beaches in La Jolla or get acquainted with more than 3,700 animals, including lions, polar bears, elephants and other specifies at the San Diego Zoo. Plus, the zoo offers plenty of enticements for the preteen set, too, with a safari park that features a zip line and a ropes course. For those craving more pampering, the Hotel del Coronado offers teen-designated spa treatments and packages, a like a "Teen Spa Sundae" complete with an ice cream bath. Those in search of more activity can head to LEGOLAND California, which boasts outdoor amusement areas and whizzing roller coasters.

The District of Columbia

The District of Columbia is an ideal choice for families on a tight budget. With an abundance of free attractions – like the National Mall, the Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo – there are plenty of amusements here that won't cost you a dime. An added bonus: From Nov. 27 to Jan. 1, the National Zoo gets into the holiday spirit with bright neon light displays for ZooLights, a yearly tradition that includes musical shows and festive snacks. Plus, there are a myriad of museums ideal for older kids, like the Newseum and the International Spy Museum. What's more, the city boasts an inexpensive and easily navigable public transit system, making getting around a cinch.

Costa Rica

Ziplining through canopied rainforests, climbing active volcanoes and admiring colorful local residents like monkeys and toucans at wildlife reserves are just a few selling points of a family trip to Costa Rica. Every member of your group is bound to enjoy the abundant wildlife and natural splendors here. Costa Rica also offers exhilarating adventures along sandy shorelines that are practically made for winter-weary visitors, such as white water rafting and surfing along large swells in the Central Pacific region. Best of all, parents can find kid-friendly accommodations that are geared toward larger groups, like the Peace Lodge inside La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which boasts spacious villas with connecting rooms, dining areas and a living space.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas, with its family-centric, all-inclusive resorts, is a compelling choice for groups looking to trade winter coats for swimsuits this winter. Though pricier than retreating to a warm-weather domestic locale, Atlantis Paradise Island caters to all visitors with age-specific programs for toddlers, preteens, teens and parents. While little ones enjoy swimming with dolphins and snorkeling, kids ages 9 to 13 can retreat to a private nightclub (complete with video games and opportunities for karaoke), catch recent flicks at an on-site movie theater or whizz around the water slides at the island's 141-acre water park. "It's kind of like a big playland," says McCarthy, who adds that the resort's 40-plus dining areas and lounges appease parents, too.

Maui, Hawaii

It's tough to match the valuable bonding time for families along the awe-inspiring Road to Hana or climbing across the Haleakala, the biggest dormant volcano in the world. Whether the kids want to frolic along the beach or splash and surf along gnarly waves, you'll find plenty of outdoor island attractions that appeal to the young – and the young at heart. You'll also find a bounty of family-focused hotels along the shores of Waikiki, like the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The property boasts special perks for kids like pingpong tables, video game rooms and poolside classes such as necklace- and lei-making.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Families looking to strike the right balance of adventure and relaxation should head to Punta Cana's Club Med, an all-inclusive resort that offers a roster of things to do plus tranquil nooks to unwind. Here, parents can hit the links or enjoy a rejuvenating massage while youngsters splash around the waterpark or enjoy windsurfing. Plus, the resort recently rolled out the CREACTIVE program, which encourages kids and adults to take part in more than 30 activities, including flying trapeze, juggling and dancing. As McCarthy puts it, the resort encourages kids to try something out of their comfort zone.

Colorado

You might foster a long-lasting love of winter sports by planning a trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado. Here, youngsters can hit the slopes for the first time with a professional, while older kids can master snowboard tricks. If shredding powder isn't your thing, you can enjoy ice-skating in Beaver Creek Village together, sampling chocolate cookies each day at 3 p.m., and savoring memorable family meals at one of the area's plentiful kid-friendly establishments. Other Colorado ski areas to consider are Snowmass, Vail and Breckenridge, which all offer family-friendly perks and cater to powder-seekers of all skill levels and ages.

Sedona, Arizona

If your children enjoy communing with Mother Nature, consider retreating to Sedona for a family getaway that offers the perfect setting to relax, explore and enjoy spectacular scenery. Even if the kiddos aren't aspiring geologists, they'll be wooed by the fiery red rock formations and unique trails. And when you're not checking out the nearby vortexes, you and the kids can kick back at a family-friendly retreat like the Enchantment Resort, which offers special family packages for stays that are three nights or longer and an on-site camp designed for kids ages 4 to 12 that offers scavenger hunts, guided nature tours and pottery sculpting classes.

London

If you're traveling with budding history buffs or culture vultures, it's hard to beat London. You won't have to worry about navigating a new language, and there are myriad intriguing sights that kids of all interests will love, from the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, which offers a rare peek inside the detailed sets of the Harry Potter films, to the Imperial War Museum. And should the kiddos tire of sightseeing, there are plenty of shows to see, parks to stroll and family-friendly hotels to unwind in. What's more, many attractions are easily accessible thanks to the efficient London Underground.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands offer a surprising number of kid-centric activities. While youngsters can get a kick out of swimming next to magnificent stingrays at Stingray City and touring the Cayman Turtle Farm on Grand Cayman, older kids can stretch out along the coral sands of Seven Mile Beach or hike along the challenging yet picturesque Mastic Trail. Plus, the Cayman Islands are extremely accessible and are chock-full of all-inclusive kid-friendly resorts like the Wyndham Reef Resort Grand Cayman, which boasts outdoor pursuits like standup paddle boarding, jet skiing, sailing and snorkeling. Plus, the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort offers special family promotions, and the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman offers customized eco-adventures such as mangrove kayaking and stargazing.

A cruise

While finding a ship and itinerary that caters to families of all sizes and age groups can present a challenge, there are many benefits to planning a cost-effective family cruise. For one, many cruise lines feature kid-friendly services and inventive kids' programs that are designed with youngsters and teens in mind. Take Royal Caribbean, for example, which boasts ships with teen-designated hangout areas, rock climbing walls and spa treatments specifically created for teens. Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line caters to the preteen and teen set with youth centers split by age group and filled with activities such as sports, arts and crafts and scavenger hunts.
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