“Winter vacation” means different things to different families. Some want a beach getaway, some seek out a low-key, local place to relax together. Still others look for cultural experiences, outdoor activities or maybe some extreme water slide fun. No matter what your family looks for in a winter vacation we’ve got something for everyone here—with all of them less than three hours away from NYC. (A plane may be involved in some cases.) Go for a weekend, go for a week—one of these family winter vacation ideas near NYC will keep everyone totally chill this season.
To Chill in Style in The Hamptons: Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa
For a relaxing escape closer to home, try Gurney’s Montauk Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa the only resort in the Hamptons open year round, that happens to be located on prime oceanfront property. Choose from five dining options (from fancy to casual), take a dip in the ocean-fed indoor seawater pool, and sign the kids up for cooking baking at the Kid’s Club (while you sweat it out in the sauna or grab a massage). For indoor fun, check out the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton. Don’t miss the chance to hang out in an igloo with an ocean view. Book a two-hour slot to snack and sip in one of these transparent geodesic domes, each of which is done up in a fun and festive theme including Santa’s Workshop, cozy Log Cabin, Roaring 20's, Astrology and Après Ski. Heads up: A Harry Potter-themed igloo is coming after the New Year. (P.S. the Gurney’s Kid’s Club is running special holiday activities from December 23-28 if you’re looking for a short escape stat.)
Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa
290 Old Montauk Highway
For Festive Fun in the Sun: Baha Mar
A tropical escape that feels farther away than it is (the flight in under three hours from NYC), Bahamian resort Baha Mar pulls out all the stops for the holiday season. It’s called “Festive" here, and happening include an original “glice-skating show” (faux ice that can take the heat), junkanoo (holiday) dancing and parades, family cooking classes and jam-packed activities at the resort’s Explorers Club for kids. (For a look at all the Festive events at Baha Mar, click here .) The holiday happenings go all the way until January 5, but Baha Mar is a great option past that, with Explorer’s Club fun year-round, cool pools for kids, complimentary beach floats, boats and equipment, and an on-site nature sanctuary with up-close-and-personal encounters with flamingos, stingrays, sea turtles and others. Read our full review here!
For Winter Fun with a French Twist: Quebec City
We recommended Quebec City as a fun, year-round family vacation spot this fall, and we’re back to remind you that this Canadian town embraces winter with style and gusto. (Case in point, the city's Winter Festival, which runs February 7 -16 this year, and is one of the biggest seasonal celebrations of iots kind in the world!) The already beautiful city is stunning in snow, and there are both indoor and outdoor activities to keep you and the kids busy. Get a thrill on the ice slide at Terrace Dufferin, or head to a nearby park for skiing. For a unique experience, check out the area’s ice hotel, where you can grab a hot cocoa or stay the night if you’re feeling adventurous. Indoor fun includes the Museum of Civilization (which includes a fun make believe dress-up exhibit); the Musée National des beaux-arts du Québec, where there’s a dedicated Family Gallery and kids under 12 get in free, and the Quebec Aquarium, located 15 minutes from downtown. For Quebec's answer to the Mall of America, head to Mega Parc, an 18-attraction amusement center inside shopping Mall Galeries de la Capitale. Quebec City is a great place to eat in the winter—enjoy fondue, hearty dishes of comfort food, and all kinds of real maple syrup treats. We recommend La Buche or “the log” where the menu includes pork ribs, shepherd’s pie, poutine with a topping of the day and more, in a cozy, wood-filled dining room meant to recall Canadian sugar shacks. There's a special kids' menu here, complete with games and puzzles. And, you can't visit Quebec City without taking in the magical Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, the late-nineteenth century beauty in Old Quebec that anchors the city. (Grab a table at eatery Bistro Le Sam while you're there and take in the views of the St. Lawrence and Terrace Dufferin.)
For a New and Improved Water Park: Great Wolf Lodge
A perennial favorite, this Poconos indoor water park recently wrapped 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 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. To call this place cozy and kid-friendly is an understatement—jammies in the lodge-like lobby are allowed and enouraged—for everyone!
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.
Driving time from NYC: 2 hours
1 Great Wolf Drive
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.
For a Swim & Snow Combo
Can't decide between hitting the slopes and catching a wave? You have options, and both are about a two-hour drive away.
If you'd rather head to the Catskills, the Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark is a good place to land. The waterpark is brand new and the biggest indoor waterpark in New York State. Winter weather fun can be had at Holiday Mountain Ski and Fun Park in nearby Monticello, where there are seven slopes and you can ski and snowtube day and night. They also have a "magic carpet" to transport those new to skiing up the slope. While you're in the Catskills, keep an eye out for the Sullivan Catskills Dove Trail, a collection of 50 hand-painted dove sculptures that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the area's famous 1969 Woodstock Festival. Find the birds perched in villages and towns throughout the region.
The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark
555 Resort World Dr.
Pennsylvania's Camelback Mountain just opened a new trail this year, the curvy "Basilisk", bringing its trail count to 39, the most in the state. Plus, they've upgraded their fleet of 377 snow guns, which now make more snow with less energy. The Pocono ski resort also has a serious snowtubing setup. Pair all that with Aquatopia, the giant indoor waterpark where it's always 84 degrees. Stay overnight at Camelback Lodge and the waterpark is included in your stay!
Camelback Resort Lodge and Aquatopia Indoor Water Park
301 Resort Dr.
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.
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 mascot Squiggles, and then check out the Cents & Sensibility Fun with Money exhibit—its first new permanent exhibit in a decade—all about spending, saving and counting cash. Don't miss the "End of the Day Parade" that closes out every day at the museum, and unlimited carousel rides for $5!
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.
P.S.: There's a LEGOLAND Discovery Center about 45 minutes from Philly center is that's your kid's thing.
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
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
For Amazing Art in the Berkshires: 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.
A new arrival to the area, The Williams Inn in nearby WIlliamstown, Mass is a good choice for a relaxed yet refined stay, with the added bonus of elevated comfort food on site at the property's restaurant and bar, The Barn. More traditional art can be found right in town at the newly-reopened Clark Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art.
Another option is The Porches, a Berkshires boutique inn with retro-industrial architecture and modern comforts located right across the street from the Mass MoCA. 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.
Further afield in the area, but perhaps worth a trip is 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: three hours
1040 Mass MoCA Way
North Adams, MA
231 River St.
North Adams, MA
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
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
For 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.
3 Renaissance Square
White Plains, NY
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 this 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. (There is also an indoor water park at Rocking Horse if you want to swim and slide.) 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
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.
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 Rd.
For a Sunny Escape to the South: Orlando, Florida
As we reported this fall, there's a lot happening in Orlando now: Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is open and mind-blowing, there's a fantastic new Hagrid ride at Universal Studio's Florida Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Toy Story Land is also pretty fresh. A quick escape to this sunny spot for families can be just the thing to shake those winter blahs away. Click here to see all our recs for where to stay, play and eat!
—Lambeth Hochwald & Mimi O’Connor
featured image: Gurney’s Montauk Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa