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Best Family Winter Vacations
School's out for the holiday season and work hours have finally let up, so why not gather the whole gang for a family-friendly winter escape? Using reader votes and expert opinions, U.S. News rounded up this list of winter vacations suitable for the whole family. Whether you're craving adventure travel, warm temperatures or cultural immersion, you'll find a range of options on this ranking. Ask the kids to help you vote for the top spots, and help us decide next year's list.
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Orlando, Florida's world-renowned theme parks make it the dream vacation destination of families across the globe. With the addition of new attractions, such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Toy Story Land, there's even more kid-friendly entertainment to satisfy your little ones for weeks. Plus, Orlando boasts comfortable daytime temperatures in the 70s come wintertime. However, this season is the city's busiest time of year, so finalize your lodging and flights months in advance to secure lower rates. For slightly shorter lines at the parks, arrive in January or February after the holidays.
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Ideal temps (hovering in the 70s) and a decked-out Disneyland for the holidays are just two reasons why Anaheim is a great family vacation spot in the winter. Although you could easily spend your whole trip at Disneyland, save time for dining and shopping in the Anaheim Packing District. If you're planning to visit during a school break, book well in advance to snag accommodations at reasonable prices.
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While you'll run into expensive lodging rates and lift tickets on the weekends and around the holidays, if you visit midweek you may be able to snag deals. Breckenridge, Colorado, is a prime place to ski, sled, snowboard, snowshoe and fat bike, among other kid-friendly activities. Plan your trip for late January to feast your eyes on the creations at the International Snow Sculpture Championships.
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Popular Bahamian resorts like Atlantis, Paradise Island have kid-approved amenities like children's play areas, marine habitats and video arcades. Additionally, the islands offer all kinds of thrilling family-friendly activities, including snorkeling and boating, as well as stunning beaches ideal for building sandcastles, swimming and more. Add in the reprieve of warm weather and the islands' close proximity to the U.S. and the Bahamas is perfectly suited for winter family fun.
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The Honolulu Zoo and several family resorts help make Waikiki Beach an especially kid-friendly part of Honolulu. Plus, children of all ages will love cooling off with Hawaiian shave ice after a long day of play. But the island's biggest wintertime appeal lies in its warm weather: High temps hover in the upper 70s. Just keep in mind that you won't be the only family vying for space on the sand.
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Families with a wild side will want to book a winter trip to Jasper National Park, Alberta. Snow blankets this national park's peaks and forests, creating a winter wonderland atmosphere. Pass the time hiking, skiing or ice skating before enjoying a family drive on the Icefields Parkway. During the scenic excursion, you and your little ones can take in incredible mountain vistas and look for wild critters like mountain goats, deer and bighorn sheep. But remember to rent a car with snow tires since the park requires that all vehicles have them from November to April.
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Spanning thousands of acres in California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe appeals to budding skiers and their parents. Choose from either downhill or cross-country skiing, both of which can be enjoyed in the northern and southern halves of Lake Tahoe. Available lodging options range from luxury resorts with ski-in/ski-out access to bed-and-breakfast accommodations to cabin rentals. Avoid weekends and the busy holiday season to save some coin.
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Art-loving families will relish vacationing in this Florida town 24 miles southwest of Tampa. Visit the Dalí Museum, which features a vast collection of Salvador Dalí's works, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Chihuly Collection. Kids will also enjoy playing at the Great Explorations Children's Museum. After spending a few days indoors, go for a walk through the Sunken Gardens or the Weedon Island Preserve.
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Winter vacations in this Tennessee town revolve around the Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area. Apart from enjoying winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing, families can take in the views from the aerial tramway. Other must-dos include going up the Gatlinburg Space Needle and visiting the popular Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Arrive before February to also take part in the festive Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights.
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In addition to offering traditional winter activities like skiing and snowmobiling, this mountainous region in New York hosts a variety of winter carnivals. Each carnival offers a little something different (think: ice carving demonstrations, s'mores making and fry pan tosses) but is sure to delight your family. What's more, the Adirondacks area boasts an array of unconventional pursuits for aspiring adrenaline junkies, such as dogsledding, luging and bobsledding.
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Winter activities abound in Whistler, British Columbia. The town's enormous Whistler Blackcomb resort has enough space for families to ski, zip line, snow tube and more before sipping hot chocolate by the fire or playing video games in one of two Nintendo Gaming Lounges. If little ones are eager to spend some time off of the mountains, Whistler Village also offers plenty of attractions, including Olympic Plaza, which shows off mementos from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
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If you've come to Aspen, Colorado, to teach your little ones how to ski, experts recommend hitting the easy slopes at Snowmass and Buttermilk mountains. Should you need a break from shredding powder, you and your kids can go zipping down the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, take a horse-drawn carriage ride around downtown Aspen or enjoy the indoor pool, waterslides and rock climbing wall at the Aspen Recreation Center.
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