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Summer break and spring break do not have a monopoly on family vacations. In fact, winter holds magic all its own. In fact, the winter months are home to several long weekends, such as Martin Luther King Jr. (Jan. 21) and Presidents Day (Feb. 18) that are perfect for a quick break in the routine. Here are 11 family-friendly winter wonderlands that are great for a long winter weekend getaway.
Get an early start to your long winter weekend with fresh powder in Aspen during its annual Wintersköl. Friday nights honor the Norse God of Snow, Ullr, at Elk Camp with tubing, snow biking, s’mores and hot chocolate. Kids can participate in a Kidsculpt snow sculpting contest, ice skate with Queen Elsa and “ooh” and “aah” over fireworks over the snow during the four-day festival, which begins Jan. 10. Use a Marriott Rewards Category 5 free night certificate to stay at the Westin Snowmass (35k points per night) or splurge for the St. Regis Aspen Resort at 60k Marriott Rewards points per night.
Visit the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania for Woodloch Pines’ first-ever Winterfest. During select weekends (Jan. 11–13, 25–27; Feb. 8–11, 22–24; March 1–3, 8–10), families can enjoy the best of a winter carnival with ice sculptures, midway games, firepits with s’mores and a hot chocolate bar. Young kids can get their faces colorfully painted and snap pics with snowmen, and teens can glide down the slopes on snow tubes. Bakery Wars, Scavenger Hunts and family Winter Olympic games will keep the entire family busy, along with more than 30 daily activities offered during the special weekend event running January through March. Rates for a room that sleeps up to six people are about $450 per night, including accommodations, two meals per day and activities.
Spend your MLK Weekend in the small town of Leavenworth, Washington, which transforms into a Bavarian village for its annual IceFest. More than a half-million twinkling lights illuminate the town filled with snow sculptures, outdoor games, sled rides, ice fishing and grand fireworks show. The event will be held Jan. 19–20 this year. Stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Leavenworth (only Hilton Premium Room Rewards are available as of press time) or the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Leavenworth (15k Wyndham Rewards points).
Stowe Winter Carnival
Skip the MLK Weekend trip to Vermont and save it instead for the following weekend, when the 45th annual Stowe Winter Carnival reveres the season. From Jan. 25–27, 2019, families will find Youth Ice Fishing, Snowgolf and Snowvolleyball tournaments, along with ice carving competitions and demos. Of course, everyone can also enjoy Stowe Mountain’s traditional weekend activities, from skiing to snowboarding and tubing to ice skating. Book an area hotel through Hotels.com/Venture and earn 10x miles when charging the reservation to your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Whitefish Winter Carnival
The first weekend in February doesn’t just belong to the groundhog. In Montana, Feb. 1–3 is dedicated to the annual Winter Carnival, a celebration of the area’s Viking roots. King Ullr and the Queen of the Snows will receive a coronation, and kids can get a Viking Diva kiss to stay safe from Yetis. A Kiddie Carnival, Snow Sculpture Showcase, parade and penguin plunge provide a far-out weekend for the 60th anniversary year in Whitefish, Montana, near Glacier National Park. Stay at the Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge (20k Best Western Rewards points per night) or the Hampton Inn & Suites Whitefish using Hilton Honors points.
Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival
One of the country’s oldest winter carnivals can be found in Steamboat, Colorado, which has been living it up for 106 years this Feb. 6–10. Cowboys race with riders on snow shovels pulled by horses while skiers fly through fiery hoops and the Lighted Man, in a suit weighing 70 pounds, parade during the Night Show Extravaganza. Parent versus child ski events, horse events and a S’more Family Fun Party round out the party. Book a room in Steamboat using points with 35,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night at the Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs or use Marriott Rewards points at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas (35k points per night or an annual certificate from the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card or Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express) or Fairfield Inn & Suites Steamboat Springs (25k points per night).
Quebec Winter Carnival
For an international winter party close to home, Quebec City’s annual carnival runs Feb. 8–17, 2019. In a city covered in snow and ice, you’ll find the carnival’s mascot, Bonhomme, in a grand Ice Palace with a Royal Court. Bonhomme appears again during night parades along the city’s romantic streets, with daytime ice canoe races in the Saint Lawrence River, and live music and shows all set against the city’s magical Old Town backdrop. On Marriott Rewards point, go for the Courtyard Quebec City (25k points per night) or splash out for the Quebec City Marriott Downtown (50k points per night).
Newport Winter Festival
The charming waterfront town of Newport, Rhode Island, brings its annual Winter Festival around Presidents Weekend, allowing families to escape for three days of food, festivities and fun. From Feb. 15–24, 2019, more than 150 events will chase away the winter blues, including a Princess Party, live music shows, beach polo, Teddy Bear Tea and a special Children’s Fair. The Category 6 Newport Marriott makes a good home base (50k points per night).
Just as Presidents Day comes to an end, snow-covered Alaska brings out the big dogs, literally, for its annual 10-day Fur Rendezvous. From Feb. 22–March 3, 2019, Anchorage’s Fur Rondy features the World Championship Sled Dog Race, which brings sled dogs and mushers from around the world to race. Parades, carnivals and originals, like Outhouse Races and the Running of the Reindeer (similar to Pamplona’s bull running), keep families outdoors for tons of fun. Stay at the Hyatt House Anchorage (8k World of Hyatt points per night), Hilton Anchorage (33k points per night), Anchorage Marriott Downtown (35k points per night) or Crowne Plaza Anchorage-Midtown (35k IHG Rewards Club points per night).
MLK Weekend in Atlanta
While perhaps not a Winter Wonderland in the traditional sense, you can truly celebrate the holiday honoring the late Martin Luther King Jr. in the city he called home. The Atlanta History Center and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site offer free admission on his birthday, Jan. 15, and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary offers a commemorative service for King. There are a myriad points hotels to be had in the city.
Presidents Day in Washington, DC
On a day dedicated to our country’s presidents, a weekend in Washington, D.C. can provide your kids with an educational getaway. Explore George Washington’s Mount Vernon, which offers free admission on Feb. 18, while Old Town Alexandria honors the first president with a parade down its cobblestoned streets. Pay homage to the fallen Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater, where the president was assassinated, and then make your way to the National Portrait Gallery for a Presidential Family Fun Day on Saturday, Feb. 16.
You don’t have to wait for warm weather to enjoy school breaks with the kids. Winter festivals and long weekends are there to families shake off cabin fever during the winter months.
For more winter family fun:
- Best Ski Resorts for Families in North America
- 5 Family-Friendly Winter Destinations
- 10 Places to Go on a Family Vacation (That Aren’t Disney)
Featured image courtesy of Greater Anchorage, Inc.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees