A tropical vacation may be high on your list as the temps begin to plunge, but if that’s not in the cards, take heart: There are so many adventure-filled winter getaways that are within just a few hours of New York City. If you’re looking to book a fun long weekend getaway with the family this winter, check out these 12 spots you can get to in three hours or less. 

For a New and Improved Water Park: Great Wolf Lodge

A perennial favorite, this Poconos indoor water park is wrapping up a major upgrade and renovation—the most extensive since its debut in 2005. Improvements include an overhaul of all guest rooms, new attractions (such as the interactive mining experience, "Oliver's Mining Company") and fresh food and drink options. (The entirety of the changes will be concluded in early 2019.)

The indoor water park provides over 80,000 square-feet of fun, including both extreme slides and mellow slides, chutes, a wave pool, water fort tree house and hot springs. When everyone's worn out by all that swimming and sliding, there's a bowling alley just for toddlers plus story times, rope courses, and game centers. Other diversions: PJ parties, dance parties, and character breakfasts, as well as dry play "Paw Passes" for an extra fee, which include a MagicQuest game, a Creation Station (make-your-own-stuffie), glitter tattoos, and more.

For the ultimate in indulgence, unwind with your little one at the ice-cream-themed spa, designed especially for kids. Decked out in a tiara and candy pink robe, the princess in your life can enjoy a flavored manicure and pedicure with a sherbet scrub. Then escape to the lodge’s Element Spa Salon for some much needed R&R and time for yourself! Win, win. (Need to escape now? Looks like they're having an end of year sale.)

Driving time from NYC: 2 hours

1 Great Wolf Drive
Scotrun, PA
570-688-9899
Online: greatwolf.com

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photo: Delamar West Hartford

For Pet-friendly Connecticut culture: Delamar West Hartford

Not familiar with West Hartford? Maybe you should be; it was recently named one of the best places to live in Connecticut. It's cute, and charming, and has just enough to keep you and the kids busy for a weekend. At the shiny new Delmar Hotel in West Hartford, your family can book luxury rooms with two double beds and refrigerators to truly feel like you’re staying in your home away from home and your pet (under 100 pounds only) is welcome here, too, and will receive a comfy bed, a personalized welcome kit and bowls with bottles of water for a nightly $50 fee. With complimentary hot cocoa available in the lobby and a perfect location for culture cravers—the hotel is located within a 10-minute ride from The Mark Twain House and The Connecticut Science Center and p.s. there’s a Tesla Model X to shuttle you—you’re getting a truly culturally enriching experience just a few hours from NYC.

Driving time from NYC: 2 hours 49 minutes

1 Memorial Road
West Hartford, CT
860-937-2500
Online: delamar.com/west-hartford

photo: Belleayre Facebook page

For an Immersive Ski Experience: Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, New York

Sure, there are tons of slopes in the Tristate area, but Belleayre Mountain’s Kidscamp teaches little ones ages 4 to 12 how to ski or snowboard in a no-pressure group setting (kids 4 to 6 $102, 7 to 12 $112). The camp includes four hours of lessons, rentals, a lift ticket, and a filling lunch. Need to brush up on your slope stylings? Lessons for adults—group or private—are available as well. Once everyone is up to speed, there are 50 trails to choose from, as well as a terrain park, and six miles of cross-country skiing trails. If making the trek back to the city seems like too daunting of a task after such an action-packed day, there are Ski and Stay packages available for nearby lodging.

Driving time from NYC: 2.5 hours

181 Galli Curci Rd.
Highmount, Ny
845-254-5600
Online: belleayre.com

For a Trip Back in Time: Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

If you're going to leave the city, why not go all out and leave this century, too? The Mystic Seaport Museum allows you to step back in time to a recreated 19th century seafaring village and a working shipyard in this quaint seaport town. You and your little sailors can climb aboard and explore historic wooden vessels dating all the way back to 1841. At the Children's Museum designed for kids seven and under, visitors can experience the life of a sailor. Show your little seafarers what real chores are by having them swab the decks, move cargo, cook in the galley, and sleep in sailor bunks. Additional family activities are offered seasonally. 

Then head over to the Mystic Aquarium to see African penguins, beluga whales, sea lions and seals, dazzling tropical fish, and more. Then crash at the nearby Hyatt Place featuring new, regionally-inspired breakfast menus and rooms with separate living and sleeping areas so parents can have some alone time after the little ones finally fall asleep. 

Driving time from NYC: 2.5 hours

75 Greenmanville Ave.
Mystic, CT
860-572-0711
Online: mysticseaport.org

For a Great Museum, History, and Food: Philadelphia

A true getaway awaits in the City of Brotherly Love. That’s because you’ll get everything here—culture, history, Greenwich Village-like shops, boutique hotels and a burgeoning food scene. And, yes, you could spend your entire time at tourist spots like the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, the Benjamin Franklin Museum and Independence Hall, but that’s just the one facet of this awesome city to our south.

A favorite destination for kids seven and younger is the Centennial District's Please Touch Museum, which (you guessed it) encouraged kids to explore, learn, and play with interactive exhibits. Stop by and meet the new mascot Squiggles, and then check out the  Thomas & Friends "Explore the Rails" exhibit, which is there there until early January. Also of note: the museum will host a special Family Festival on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

No trip to Philly is quite complete without eating a cheesesteak—the overstuffed local faves ‘wit’ onions and Cheez Whiz at Pat’s King of Steaks are a great place to start—and then you’ve got to watch as your kids run the 72 steps brought to life in the Rocky films right outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Driving time: 2 hours

Please Touch Museum
Tickets: $19/adults and kids one and older; free/kids under one year old
4231 Avenue of the Republic of Philadelphia
215-581-3181
Online: pleasetouchmuseum.org

photo: Howe Caverns

To Go Spelunking: Howe Caverns

Stay warm exploring the underground attractions at the stunning Howe Caverns. Here, visitors go 156 feet underground for an adventure through a six-million-year-old cave. The Flashlight Tour is a favorite with families: Kids are given souvenir helmets and headlamps and get to travel through a living limestone cave, which finishes with a boat ride on an underground river. The Howe Caverns Motel on the estate has rooms and once you've graduated as a pro spelunker, there's plenty more entertainment above ground including zip wires, climbing, rope courses, and bungie fun.

Driving time from NYC: 3 hours

255 Discovery Drive
Howes Cave, New York
518-296-8900
Online: www.howecaverns.com

For Amazing Art and a Cool Place to Crash: Mass MoCA

For cultural enrichment and cool digs, consider a trip top Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. The massive contemporary art center is home to 250,000 square feet of open gallery space filled with thought-provoking and often large-scale works of art. (The center houses several works by light artist James Turrell, and its three floors of Sol Lewitt galleries are impressive. Also: don't miss the Laurie Anderson VR experiences, which you need to sign up for in advance.) Mass MoCa also has a Kidspace with rotating exhibits and programming, allowing kids to get in on the art-making action. Lots of performing arts events such as concerts, film fests, and talks happen here, too, as well as free days; check the calendar to see what's on tap. 

For easy access, book a room at The Porches, a Berkshires boutique inn with retro-industrial architecture and modern comforts located right across the street from the museum. The revamped mill workers' homes are connected by (you guessed it) porches, and have all the comforts of home as well as an all-season pool with a heated deck, hot tubs, saunas and a fire-pit for s'mores.  For a museum dedicated to art just for kids, head to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst (about 90 minutes away). Dedicated to the author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this art center has three galleries, a hands-on studio, films, lectures and live theatre running in the auditorium and a library full of favorites.

Driving time from NYC: 3 hours

Mass MoCA
1040 Mass MoCA Way
North Adams, MA
413-662-2111
Online: massmoca.org

231 River St.
North Adams, MA
413-664-0400
Online: porches.com

photo: Hershey Lodge

For a Taste of the Sweet Life: Hershey Lodge, Pennsylvania

Oh, chocolate. This #1 favorite treat has its headquarters in Hershey and, while many families only think to visit Hershey in the warmer months (when it’s not just open on weekends), Hershey Lodge, which is part of Hersheypark, is our idea of a perfect winter getaway. Here, kids can catch a sugar rush at Hershey’s Chocolate World, where they get to see, smell, and of course taste chocolate before heading into the kitchen to create their own custom candy bar. Then at the hotel, which features an indoor water park, kids get to feel like grownups when they check in at the kids’ concierge—before enjoying a game of Chocolate Bingo, of course.

Driving time from NYC: 3 hours

325 University Drive
Hershey, PA
844-330-1802
Online: hersheylodge.com

For a Breath of Fresh Air: Mohonk Mountain House, New York

While kids will get a kick out of Mohonk’s uncanny resemblance to a castle, adults will be impressed with the fact that five U.S. Presidents have stayed here since it opened its doors in 1869. Perched by a mountain lake and surrounded by acres of nature, little ones and grown-ups alike will instantly relax and sigh with relief at the beauty and openness the area has to offer. Of course, if exploring and wandering around aimlessly for hours on end isn’t your family’s thing, there’s also skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, and ice skating. And making your life easier, two to three meals and most activities are included in the cost of an overnight stay.

Driving time from NYC: 2 hours

1000 Mountain Rest Rd.
New Paltz, NY
855-883-3789
Online: mohonk.com

For a LEGOs and Luxury: Legoland Discovery Center and The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester

Something for them, something for you: Head just 30 minutes from Manhattan to Westchester, where the kids can get their brick on at Legoland Discovery Center and you can relax in style at the Ritz-Carlton. The hotel—about a 20 minute drive from Legoland—offers a variety of five-star services and amenities, and most importantly, an indoor rooftop pool. Another fun feature for budding young cooks: Junior Chefs Academy, where on certain dates (as posted online) kids ages 11 to 18 can participate in a series of seasonal baking workshops with Ritz-Carlton pastry chefs. An added plus: Classes take place in the hotel’s pastry kitchen and kids will learn everything from kitchen safety to technique.

Driving time from NYC: 30 minutes

Legoland Discovery Center
Tickets: Starting at $15.95/person; free/kids under 2 years old)
39 Fitzgerald St.
Yonkers, Ny
Online: legolanddiscoverycenter.com

3 Renaissance Square
White Plains, NY
914-946-5500
Online: ritzcarlton.com

For Horsing Around: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, New York

Giddy up to this all-inclusive dude ranch. Junior wranglers can visit the resort’s pony ride area while kids 7 and up can take part in the year-round trail-riding program. There’s so much to do on thie 500-acre spread in the heart of the scenic Hudson River Valley so, if you'd rather a professional take the reins, there are horse-drawn sleigh rides, and for those who prefer two legs over four, ski lessons and ice skating—or put your feet up entirely with some tubing action. A favorite spot at the resort is the fun barn, decked out with climbing walls, a bounce structure, and air-powered Nerf Cannons. After a full day of fun, the evenings are packed with entertainment from jugglers, magicians, Wild West shows, and circus acts. It’s ideal for cooped-up kiddos looking to get the wiggles out.

Driving time from NYC: 1.5 hours

600 State Route 44/55
Highland, NY
845-691-2927
Online: rockinghorseranch.com

photo: Skytop Lodge

For an Active Winter Mix: Skytop Lodge, Pennsylvania

Skytop Lodge in Pennsylvania is another spot for active families wanting to get their winter on. Activities at the luxury resort include skiing (both downhill and cross-country), snowtubing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing, as well as ice skating, and even ice-fishing! (Many activities are for kids four and up.) Tackle the outdoors then unwind from it all with High Tea at 4 p.m. each day, then head to the indoor pool and spa for more chillaxing. 

Driving time from NYC: 2 hours

1 Skytop Lodge Rd.
Skytop, Pa
855-345-7759
Online: skytop.com

photo: Woodloch Pines Resort

For Non-Stop Action: Woodloch Pines Resort, Pennsylvania

To say that Woodloch Pines Resort boasts an impressive roster of family-friendly activities would be an understatement. You and your little ones will be busy from morning ‘til night at this all-inclusive Poconos retreat. Anything from pony rides at the petting zoo to wiffle ball to family bake-offs to go-karting is at your disposal when you stay here. And of course, there’s an indoor pool if you’re not up for the winter sports available here. We’re talking endless trails for skiing, sledding and tubing. Sweetening the deal, Woodloch offers all-inclusive packages, and on certain days, kids even stay for free. The evening entertainment is packed with themed characters, jugglers, comedians, music and magic. Just make sure to make time for your own R&R at the spa down the road at The Lodge at Woodloch.

Driving time from NYC: 2.5 hours

731 Welcome Lake Road
Hawley, Pennsylvania
570-685-8000
Online: woodloch.com

—Emily Myers & Lambeth Hochwald

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