You may feel like winter may just be getting started, but spring break is right around the corner. This year, don’t wait until the last minute to plan an unforgettable trip—start looking now. From all-inclusive fun to the 100th anniversary of the Grand Canyon, make this year’s trip one for the books with one of these impressive vacation packages. Keep reading to see them all.
Culture, Beach Style on Turks and Caicos Islands
There’s more to these islands than bright azure water and fine white sand—travel here, and you’ll be rewarded with rich cultural experiences that come with the conveniences of the U.S. dollar and English language. When the kids return to school, they can tell their teachers that they traveled to where Christopher Columbus first hit land in the Americas and where pirates used to hide out within the 40 small islands and cays.
Play: Sapodilla Bay and Taylor Bay are the best for kids because of the calm waves and shallow water. Go snorkeling for an afternoon at Bight Reef and Smith’s Reef and see an array of colorful little fish and coral. Visit Little Water Cay, also called Iguana Island, and see loads of Rock Iguanas basking in the hot sand. Long Bay Beach is where you’ll see kiteboarders, a shipwreck marooned in the shallow water and beaches full of huge spiny conch shells. For a truly unique island experience, that you can’t find anywhere else, visit Potcake Place, a charity in Providenciales that rescues dogs and finds them forever homes. Volunteers can take a puppy for a walk in the morning and give them love and socialization—not to mention, fresh air and sunshine. Everything will be provided for your day out, and if you fall in love, you can adopt the puppy and bring her home.
Sleep: Ocean Club Resorts (Ocean Club and Ocean Club West), located on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, are perfect for families that want an affordable option with lots of choices. Plus, the pink umbrellas that line the beaches will be great backdrops for your family photos. The two properties are located 15 minutes from each other along the sand, and if you stay at one, you can play at both. Kids can take part in the interactive exploration game, Seafari Kids, where at check-in they’ll be given a kit that encourages them to find and identify indigenous plants and species that are located around the resorts—prizes are awarded for completing the adventure. Tip: Check out the Mangrove Tour.
Eat: Pop into Crackpot Kitchen, where Chef Nik will serve up authentic local Caribbean dishes, passed down from his father, Aulden “Smokey” Smith. Order family style and try a selection of favorites like the Salt Cay Fully Loaded Stew Conch or Smokey’s Loaded Peas and Grits and dine on the rooftop full of locals doing the same.
Island Serenity on Captiva and Sanibel Islands, Florida
Sometimes less is more, and on Captiva and Sanibel Islands, where nothing is built higher than a palm tree and tchotchke shops are few and far between, your family will easily settle into a schedule that revolves around sunsets and searching for seashells. These islands are the sort of places where people laugh easily, wave at each other freely and collectively gasp at dolphin and manatee sightings.
Play: When you’ve explored your home-base beach enough, take a boat excursion with Captiva Cruises to Cayo Costa Island, a state park that is known for excellent shelling. In Sanibel, visit Gene’s Books, a fabulous store full of so many titles that they don’t all fit on the shelves. Kids can get lost in the children’s section, with stacks of books in every direction, which will make finding the perfect book an absolute adventure.
Sleep: Rest your head at the historic Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island, which is located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pine Island Sound. You’ll have access to the beach as well as the marina while staying in one of the brightly colored cottages, named after the resort’s famous past visitors—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, J.N. “Ding” Darling, and Theodore Roosevelt have all stayed here. Borrow a free bicycle and take a ride into town, or paddle in a free kayak around the mangroves.
Eat: T2 Traders, located at The Village Shops on Periwinkle Way in Sanibel, has great sandwiches, flatbreads and salads. The location is ideal because you can do a little shopping afterward. On Captiva Island, be sure to visit the Bubble Room, where kitsch reigns supreme. Order a slice of their famous orange cake, try their bubble bread and bring your camera—you’ll want to walk around and take pictures of the interior. Tween Waters also has great restaurants, namely Old Captiva House, Crow’s Nest and the Oasis Pool Bar.
100 Years of Big Views at Grand Canyon National Park
On February 26, Grand Canyon National Park will celebrate the centennial. This park, full of colorful layers of geological wonders, cliff dwellings, animals, and even waterfalls, is something every family should see together.
Play: The folks at Austin Adventures appreciate history and geology and they will educate travelers about the natural history of the Grand Canyon while also acknowledging the cultural history of the native tribes that call this national park home. Adventuresome kids can hike around with an Austin Adventures’ day pack, which is full of national park keepsakes and treasures, inspiring kids to learn more and explore the park. The trip includes rafting, hiking and biking around the South Rim, Flagstaff, Williams, Prescott, Sedona and Coconino National Forest—what fun!
Sleep: Select trip dates are available for families for this six-day Grand Canyon Family Vacation Package with the expert guides at Austin Adventures. Accommodations include a wide variety of lodges and hotels over the week, including a stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, located next to the train depot, one block from downtown Williams and historic Route 66.
Eat: Dining ranges from high-quality restaurants to picnic lunches to dinner made at a campfire—you’ll enjoy healthy food and snacks all along the way.
Mile High Adventures in Denver
Denver sits one mile above sea level, giving the city its moniker. There is no shortage of things to do here for families and you can expect to have a panoramic view of the mountain ranges while exploring the parks, museums, and attractions.
Play: Visit the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Downtown Aquarium, and take a ride on the Denver Trolley to learn about Denver’s gold rush history. Of course, there’s also the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Denver. Take a trip just outside of the city, and hike around Dinosaur Ridge at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre—you can see Allosaurus and Stegosaurus bones and touch real dinosaur footprints preserved in the sandstone. If a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park is on your travel wish-list, and it should be, make sure you spend some time in Estes Park, the gateway to RMNP. Estes Park has a charming street that runs through the town, with restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops and the like, dotting either side.
Sleep: One of the best places to stay is AC Hotel Denver Downtown, a stylish boutique hotel with top-notch staff that will help your family with anything you may need. The property is well-located, making it easy to get where you need to go on foot and, bonus, you’ll earn Marriott points with your stay. If you have Fido with you, the hotel is pet-friendly as well.
Eat: Enjoy outdoor dining at Corinne Restaurant and be sure to check out the views from the 54thirty alfresco rooftop, the highest one in the city. The AC Kitchen is a great breakfast option. Union Station has James Beard award-winning chefs, Jennifer Jasinski and Alex Seidel, at the helm of Stoic & Genuine, Ultreia and Mercantile (grab and go options also exist).
Latin America Love in Panama City, Panama
There’s so much to do in the consistently warm country of Panama, and with Panama City—the capital and largest city in the country—as your takeoff point, you’ll have access to popular landmarks and attractions.
Play: Don't miss a visit to the Panama Canal, a 50-mile waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, a feat that is one of the most difficult engineering projects ever completed. Kids will love watching the ships raise up in the canal and pass through Miraflores locks, bringing their cargo with them. Visit Casco Viejo “new Panama”, a UNESCO World Heritage site with Spanish colonial architecture, historic churches and plazas with boutiques, restaurants and colorful markets. Make time for a visit to the Sloth Sanctuary and the Gamboa Rainforest. Ride above the tree canopy in an aerial tram, where you may spot a white-faced capuchin monkey or hear the deep guttural sounds of a howler monkey.
Sleep: The Westin Playa Bonita, located only twenty minutes from Panama City and thirty minutes from the Miraflores Locks, is a great place to start your adventure. Romp around on Bonita Beach and cool off in the Pacific Ocean, hike in the nearby rainforests and swim in one of the three infinity pools. Free activities for kids are available every day. Kids can splash around in the Children’s Pool or parents can take kids out on a complimentary kayak. Better yet, mom and dad can enjoy a spa treatment at Sensory Spa by Clarins and relax in the Vitality hydromassage pool, the herbal sauna and the Amethyst steam room, while kids hang out in the Westin Family Kids Club.
Eat: Ocho y Media is a garden-style restaurant that serves global cuisine. Sit outside and enjoy the strung lights overhead while noshing on a slice of warm baked apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Karimar Restaurant serves up traditional Panamanian fare, by the symphonic sea—you won’t want to leave. Take advantage of The Westin Playa Bonita’s restaurants as well—there are six to choose from.
All-Inclusive Fun in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
One of the most well-liked countries in the Caribbean to visit is the Dominican Republic, located on the island of Hispaniola. Picturesque beaches, the highest mountaintop in the Caribbean, year-round golf, and a culture steeped and preserved in history await you and your family here.
Play: The beaches in Punta Cana are warm and sunny and hard to leave—your kids will want to stay for hours, playing in the sand, hitting around a volleyball, going on a banana boat ride and napping under an umbrella. Should you want to leave the beach, however, you can explore whale watching, seek out local amber, or catch baseball fever.
Sleep: Occidental Punta Cana lies right on Playa El Cortesito, one of the top beaches in Punta Cana. The resort has been renovated and the accommodations are surrounded by tall palm trees and beautiful grassy courtyards. Grab a kayak and get out on the water, take part in a poolside activity like a foam dance party, sweat it out at a dance lesson, stretch in a yoga class, and enjoy evening entertainment. Your kids will meet other travelers from all over the world, creating a fun global experience.
Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort is a beachfront property with a long and wide sandbar, protected by a coral reef, which creates the perfect environment for little swimmers. The resort has everything you might need for your family vacation, including non-motorized water sports, a large shopping promenade, a casino, and the Pirate’s Island Water Park.
Eat: While at either resort, you can get any type of food you’re hungry for, at any time, from the familiar to the traditional. Definitely try a few Dominican specialties. And, if you need to cool off, there’s always ice cream available.
Take the Kids to Tuscany
Italy, and more specifically, Tuscany, is famous for not only the Italian Renaissance but also for the countryside. Families can explore at their own pace, traveling from Siena, known for its medieval streets, to San Gimignano, where you can stroll cobblestone streets and order gelato in one of the squares. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is also fun to see, and kids will recognize it right away.
Play: Of course, Tuscany has kid-centered activities that any major city has: zoos, theme parks (Pinocchio Park is one), waterparks, and museums, but there is so much more to experience here with your family in tow. UNESCO has declared seven World Heritage Sites in Tuscany, there are amazing underground cave and grotto systems, 120 protected nature reserves, and families can learn how to make pecorino cheese in Cugusi, the area between Pienza and Montepulciano.
Sleep: Snuggled in the Serchio Valley, between the Apuan Alps and the Tuscan Emilian Apennines, conveniently about an hour from Lucca, Florence and Pisa, sits Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa. A stay here rewards families with easy access to medieval towns, market tours, onsite cooking lessons, an outdoor pool with mountain views.
Eat: It’s no surprise that Italians like to eat well and spending time with family is a big part of the culture. Dining out is part of the experience and kids are welcome—and celebrated—in eateries all over Tuscany. Further, many restaurants have gardens or lovely piazzas where it’s entirely appropriate for kids to run around and play while waiting for dinner to arrive. Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa has a wide variety of dining options as well—La Veranda has traditional favorites available or, better yet, arrange for a day with the chef. Shop in the local market and indulge in a private cooking lesson—you will eat your meal with pride having made it yourself. Kids can also join a cupcake making class and provide the dessert for your family table
The Vacation Spot You Haven't Yet Considered - St. Louis, MO
Play: Numero uno on the list of best places to play in St. Louis no doubt goes to City Museum. It’s an all-ages, city-inspired fun house that will inspire you and get the creative juices flowing as you climb, burrow and snake your way through passageways and shafts. With no maps or any real sense of direction, you’re forced to explore, touch and interact with everything . . . and you’ll be glad you did. Plus, St. Louis boasts more free chief visitor attractions than anywhere else in America, outside of the nation’s capital that is. The Saint Louis Art Museum, Zoo, History Museum, Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Citygarden and more are free of charge and perfect for families that want to see a lot, but not spend a lot.
Sleep: Located in the heart of all St. Louis has to offer, the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis makes a perfect home base for your family getaway. Mini road trippers will be greeted with a Radio Flyer wagon full of toys and a plate with their names written in chocolate and handmade solid chocolate arches standing tall alongside sprinkle-covered marshmallow treats.
Eat: University City and Delmar Loop is about 20 minutes northwest of St. Louis. Here, in this old streetcar suburb, you’ll find Blueberry Hill Pub and Restaurant for American cuisine and pop culture memorabilia, Fitz’s Restaurant and Bottling Company known for their delicious pub grub and house-made soda that churns out on a visible bottling line (a bottle a second!) and Blueprint Coffee with in-house roasted beans when you’re ready for a little caffeine jolt (don’t leave without grabbing a jar of their canned jelly for home).
For a One-of-a-Kind Disney Experience — Oahu, HI
If you want a trip that’s tropical first, Disney second, look no further than Disney Aulani. The resort, which sits on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, gives visitors a truly Hawaiian experience (think hula dancing, ukulele lessons, and Hawaiian canoe racing) while keeping the magic of Disney alive throughout (one word: Moana).
Play: Whether you want to be waited on hand and foot by the pool (this is Disney, after all) or get up and go, the Disney Aulani has you covered. There are tons of activities each day at the resort, including (kid-friendly) snorkeling, catamaran rides, kayaking, and a storytelling hike. Also, the Aulani boasts one of the most impressive kids’ clubs around: Aunty’s Beach House, where there are Hawaiian-themed activities galore.
Sleep: The luxurious rooms at the Aulani, which vary from standard to two-bedroom suites, are all outfitted with Hawaiian flair and touches of Disney magic throughout. And of course, no matter where you stay, you’ll be within walking distance of something special on the grounds.
Eat: In addition to the much-loved Disney culinary experiences (such as a character breakfast), the food at the Aulani is sublime. Restaurants locally-sourced food whenever possible and usually have a Hawaiian touch. Also, you’d be remiss if you missed out on the Ka Wa’a Luau, which includes entertainment, leis, temporary tattoos, and of course, tons of food.
To Get Your Adventure On - Gatlinburg, TN
Looking for a healthy dose of outdoor adventure on your spring break trip? Anakeetsa, a new activity and nature center in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the perfect destination for your family. Not only will you be able to take in the beauty of the nation’s most visited national park, but Anakeetsa is jam-packed with activities for visitors of all ages.
Play: You’ll have a hard time deciding what to tackle first at Anakeetsa, as the outdoor opportunities are endless. In addition to hiking and ziplining, kids will have a blast walking across connecting bridges, exploring treehouses, and trying their hand at gem mining. If you’re looking to get out and explore the area, there’s world-class skiing in nearby Ober, Ripley’s Aquarium, and variety of entertainment shows.
Sleep: If you want to stay nearby, the Greystone Lodge offers spacious rooms (and a free hot breakfast) on the river in downtown Gatlinburg. Cottages are also available at the Greystone for families who are looking for a little more space and privacy.
Eat: Stroll around and stop for a bite to eat in Firefly Village, which is nestled among the treetops in the heart of the Smokies. Depending on what you’re in the mood for—a quick bite or a hearty southern meal—there’s Pearl’s Pie in the Sky, which offers baked goods, ice cream, and (of course) pie; and the Anakeetsa Summit Smokehouse, where you’ll get a dose of mouth-watering barbecue.
For Great Scenery & Small Town Charm - Mammoth, CA
If you're not looking for warm weather just yet, Mammoth Mountain is the ultimate spring break destination for families who want to hit the slopes. And for those times when you just want to kick back and relax, Mammoth is packed with tons of restaurants, kids' activities, and even incredible natural hot springs in the Eastern Sierra.
Play: When you go to Mammoth, you go for the skiing. But even if your kids aren't up to speed on the slopes just yet, with the help of the lessons offered, they just might be by the time you leave. Here, patient pros will help guide the most novice of skiers in small group lessons, as well as kids and adults with disabilities in their Adaptive Ski School. In addition to the skiing, Mammoth has a ton more to offer in terms of winter sports, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and letting loose at Wooly's Tube Park and Snow Play, where kids of all ages will have a blast.
Sleep: For cozy accommodations after a day on the slopes, look to the splurge-worthy Sierra Nevada Resort, which has been a longtime local favorite. The 149-room hotel has a super rustic feel and almost all rooms are appointed for families (with heated bathroom floors and fireplaces!). There's also a shuttle that regularly runs from the hotel to the mountains lodges, as well as to the airport.
Eat: For nights when everyone is exhausted from playing in the snow, Sierra Nevada Resort's Rafters—and all of their local, organic produce—is a fantastic option. When you want to venture out, there are tons of restaurants featuring all sorts of fare to choose from, including Jimmy's Taverna for seafood lovers, Campo to satisfy your hankering for Italian, and The Stove for an unforgettable home-style breakfast.
Waterslide Heaven — Wisconsin Dells, WI
No sun? No problem. At Wisconsin Dells, every day is waterpark weather. A buzzing Midwestern tourist's destination that's located midway between Chicago and Minneapolis, Wisconsin Dells is the self-proclaimed "Waterpark Capital of the World" (21 waterparks and counting!)—and it's got a slew of indoor parks for when the weather isn't exactly bathing suit friendly.
Note: You'll have to stay at these resorts to use their water parks.
Family tapped out on water? There are plenty of other options. Hop on the saddle for a trail ride at the Canyon Creek Riding Stable, speed across 6,000 feet of cables with Big Foot Ziplines (kids must be above 43 inches to zip), or give the kids a fun glimpse at the history of the circus at Circus World.
Sleep: There are so many choices when it comes to kid-centered lodging that it's hard to find a place that won't blow your kids’ minds. But the Great Wolf Lodge, the Kalahari Resort, and the Wilderness Resort top our list because of their sheer number of kid-friendly attractions (think arcades, mini-golf, kids crafts, theatrical shows, etc.) and the special attention both resorts pay to little ones.
Eat: Want your dinner delivered by miniature train? Head to Buffalo Phils, which serves up burgers and BBQ in a bustling Wild West-themed atmosphere. It's also under the same roof as Knuckleheads Bowling & Trampoline Park and right next door to the Outlets at the Dells (with over 75 shops!). Sounds like a play date to us.
Make Like a Cowboy — Tucson, AZ
Google "ranch vacations" and you’ll find a whole heap of ‘em. But the rustic-yet-luxe Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona tops our list because it’s open year-round and has loads of fun activities for little cowboys. Like horses? Your kids can spend all day at the kids club (activities for kids under four are available by request), where they’ll enjoy riding lessons, trail rides, arts and crafts and more. For folks who aren’t keen on giddying up in the saddle, there are other activities including yoga, swimming, fishing, hiking, and a spa.
Play: Besides the plethora of activities at the ranch, you can also venture out into the Tucson area and enjoy downhill skiing, golfing, cave exploring, shopping, and more.
Sleep: After a long day of activities on the ranch, you and your kids will be happy to nestle down in Tanque Verde's modern adobe casitas, all of which boast stretching views of the surrounding desert and mountains.
Note: In keeping with the rustic theme, there aren’t TVs in any of the rooms and the WiFi can be a bit spotty.
Eat: All-inclusive means you and your kids will get three meals a day of award-winning Southwestern cuisine. Want to dine in the Great Wide Open? Sign up for a breakfast ride and feast on blueberry pancakes and ranch-style eggs amid the cacti and tumbleweeds. On Wednesdays and Sundays, the ranch has “cowboy cookouts” that include a tasty barbecue buffet and live entertainment.
Hit the Slopes — Aspen Snowmass, CO
The largest of the four Aspen-area ski mountains, Snowmass is one of the most family-friendly mountains with all kids skiing free up to age seven.
Play: This resort comes in at over 3,300 acres of terrain with 91 trails of groomies, halfpipes, terrain parks and more. Families flock here for their state-of-the-art Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, a gigantic childcare facility for kids ages eight weeks to four years old. With a nurse on staff and themed rooms, this is where your kids will get introduced to skiing. And, once your kids turn two, they’re welcome to enroll in Snowmass’ Cubs on Skis program, a mix of early childhood education and skiing based out of this nature-themed adventure center.
Stay: There's also the brand-new Snowmass Base Village Plaza, which will celebrate it's Grand Opening in December 2018. Families will be able to ice skate, enjoy fire pits, pop-up activities and casual dining. Kids of all ages can also try their skills on the rock climbing wall that adorns the front of the new Limelight hotel built across from the plaza.
Good to Know: The Treehouse at Snowmass isn’t the only spot your kid will love. Pay a visit to nearby Buttermilk Mountain to experience The Hideout, a 7,500 square foot facility just for kids. Don’t blame your kids if they forget they’re in the mountains and get lost in The Hideout’s custom-designed play features like a lookout tower and interactive play room.
Root for Your Home Team at Spring Training — FL or AZ
Daydreaming of hot dogs and Crackerjacks? Take your baseball-loving family on a memorable (and thematic) trip to see spring training in action. Catching a game at Arizona's Cactus League or Florida's Grapefruit League means you can root, root, root for your home team at smaller stadiums before Opening Day. To figure out which teams play where — and when — check out the Cactus League and Grapefruit League websites.
Play: Make sure all of your kiddos are baseball fans because Spring Training is all about the game. The major advantage to seeing teams play pre-season is that you get see games on a much smaller scale. In other words, better seats, cheaper tickets, and the opportunity to see your favorite players up close and personal.
Tip: Get there early, and be sure little ones bring their gloves and/or clean baseballs for scoring autographs
Sleep: Where you shack up depends on your favorite teams. Florida's spring training is spread across the state, with teams playing in four regions: Tampa, Fort Myers, Orlando, and the east coast between Jupiter and Port St. Lucie. If you’re Cactus League-bound, keep in mind that most games are played within a 40-mile radius of the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.
Eat: Pack a picnic! Most Spring Training stadiums offer (cheap!) lawn seats, so the whole family can spread out on the grass while keeping score of the game. The view isn't as good, but you may catch a glimpse of your favorite players as they head in and out of the stadium.
Find a Hidden Gem in The Exumas
For future sun-and-sea-chasing escapes, the 365 islands that make up The Exumas are a well-kept secret reserved for a chosen few.
What to do: Be sure to look for the Hummingbird Hut, next to the infinity-edge pool, where team members are on hand daily from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. to lead kids ages 5-12 years in beach and pool treasure hunts, horseshoes, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, boogie boarding and more. This is also where you can snag a beach towel, pick from a selection of books and games to borrow and swap chats with the friendly staff. Off property, you can swim with pigs (the only place in the world!) and sharks, and feed lizards too!
What to eat: Grand Isle Resort’s The Palapa Grill serves up an authentic taste of the Caribbean made special with tropical cocktails and fresh, local ingredients. They have nightly themes to keep things interesting, like Comfort Food Classics, Bahamian Dinner Night and an Island BBQ & Junkanoo Bonfire on the Beach. Other on-property dining options include room service, a private outdoor dining experience at The Overlook Palapa and Ocean View Terrace for up to 12 people, or an in-villa chef experience arranged by the concierge. Prior to arrival, you can also request groceries to be delivered to your villa to enjoy a home-cooked meal courtesy of you.
Where to stay: Grand Isle Resort resides in the capital and largest city in The Exumas, George Town, located on Great Exuma. The cay is 37 miles in length and is joined to another island, Little Exuma, by a small bridge. Grand Isle Resort does not have the feel of your typical hotel, more like that of an upscale, but laidback, condo community. Each expansive one- to-four-bedroom villa is owned by a person, some of which own many villas, but you wouldn’t know this because of the seamlessness of renting and staying on-property.
Copy by Maria Chambers
—Wendy Altschuler with Melissa Heckscher
Feature photo courtesy Pexels