How to plan a “Frozen”-inspired family vacation
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Norway deserves all the credit and travel love it gets for the spectacular fjordscapes and awe-inspiring Arctic scenery that inspired Disney’s blockbuster 2013 animation film, “Frozen.” But, you hardly have to cross the Atlantic to have some “Frozen”-style fun this winter, with the movie’s sequel set to be released and sure to stoke winter wanderlust.
“Frozen 2” opens in theaters Nov. 22, 2019, with Elsa, Anna, Sven and Olaf all making a return to the big screen. We’re already anticipating the next “Frozen” earworm (can we get a “Let It Go!”?) — for better or for worse. Don’t be surprised, too, if your family members who gravitate toward experiences over things for their holiday gift lists skew extra wintry this year.
Read on for ideas on where to travel with the family this winter for a “Frozen”-themed vacation this side of the icy Atlantic.
Quebec’s Valley of the Phantoms and Saguenay-Lac-St.-Jean
Precisely the Arctic temperatures required for “Frozen”-esque landscapes await during the famously chilly Quebec winters — and as long you’re properly dressed to enjoy being outside, you can look forward to views much like Elsa enjoys on her adventures north from Arendelle Castle. The snow gets so deep in Quebec’s Valley of the Phantoms in Monts-Valins National Park that it buries much of the forest, with the protruding upper branches of the trees so thick with snow they appear ghostlike in their beauty.
Related: Why you should visit Canada in the dead of winter
About four to five hours north of Quebec City in the Saguenay-Lac-St.-Jean region, Contact Nature can show your family the ropes of ice fishing within one of the world’s largest ice fishing villages on the Saguenay Fjord. And, the kids can learn the basics of mushing during dog sledding adventures at Ferme 5 etoiles, a farm stay-style property home to wolves, moose and other animals that fronts the Saguenay Fjord.
Colorado trio: Telluride, Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs
It’s hardly news that Colorado delivers on “Frozen”-style fun — but the good times for families go way beyond the default world-class ski resort destinations that immediately come to mind. Kick off the fun near Telluride in the ice climbing capital of Ouray, known as the Switzerland of America, where the kids can marvel at frozen waterfalls — and even try ice climbing themselves at the Kids Climbing Park here, with nine dedicated routes.
This January is the 25th anniversary of the Ouray Ice Festival, so there will be lots of icy activity around that time, but the park is open all winter long. Warm up with the family in the outdoor geothermal pools at Ouray Hot Springs while admiring the snowy peaks all around you.
In beautiful Breckenridge, a Viking spirit takes over town in December during the annual Ullr Fest, a carnival honoring the Norse god of snow with a parade down Main Street, bonfires and an icy plunge for the bravest in your bunch into Maggie Pond. New hotels opening this season in town include ski-in/ski-out boutique property Gravity Haus and LOGE, which offers regular hotel rooms as well as hostel bunks.
Where to stay on points in Breckenridge
- Use Hilton Honors points at DoubleTree by Hilton Breckenridge (34k–60k points, or use a free Weekend Night Reward)
- Use Marriott points at Residence Inn Breckenridge (Category 5, 30k–40k points, or a 35k free night certificate on standard dates) and Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge (Category 6, 40k–60k points, or a 50k free night certificate on standard dates)
For winter ranch fun, there’s no better family ranch than the all-inclusive Vista Verde Ranch near Steamboat Springs. Sleigh rides, dog-sledding and winter trail are all on offer during dedicated family winter vacation weeks.
Where to stay on points in Steamboat Springs
- Use Hilton Honors points at Hampton Inn & Suites Steamboat Springs (30k–50k points) and Homewood Suites by Hilton Steamboat Springs (33k–60k points)
- Use IHG points at Holiday Inn Steamboat Springs (from 40k points, or use a free Anniversary Night certificate )
- Use Marriott points at Fairfield Inn & Suites Steamboat Springs (Category 4, 20k–30k points) and Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas (Category 5, 30k–40k points, or a 35k free night certificate on standard dates)
- Use Wyndham Rewards at La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Steamboat Springs (15k points)
Ice magic at Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta
January brings crowds to Lake Louise in Banff for Ice Magic, an ice-carving event that draws the most deft, if chilly-fingered, ice artisans in the world. The event’s signature ice castle takes center stage in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and you’ll find an ice bar serving up hot drinks for the kids and other cool carvings all over town.
For kids who are old enough to be active for a few hours in the snow, guided snowshoeing trips with Great Divide into Banff National Park come with interesting nature-interpretation factoids from the guides and breaks to warm up with hot chocolate and herbal tea.
Traditional winter fun at Lake Placid, New York
One of the best East Coast winter wonderlands awaits in Lake Placid, New York, where frozen Mirror Lake is the canvas for all kinds of winter fun. The village plows a two-mile path on the lake so families can ice skate, play hockey or just stroll out for a wintry walk together on the ice. A former ski jump converted into a toboggan chute offers big thrills on repeat as you fly down 30 feet to the frozen lake, where the momentum pushes sledders another 1,000 feet atop the lake’s surface.
Main Street is always atmospheric, but December’s Holiday Village Stroll brings an extra special atmosphere with holiday crafts, free sleigh rides around Mirror Lake, ice sculptures and more.
Where to stay on points in Lake Placid
- Use Best Western Rewards at Best Western Adirondack Inn (32k points)
- Use Hilton Honors points at Hampton Inn & Suites Lake Placid (32k–60k points)
- Use IHG points at Crowne Plaza Lake Placid (from 50k points)
- Use Marriott points at Courtyard by Marriott Lake Placid (Category 4, 20k–30k points)
Ice castles and more in Utah
A fairy tale comes to life in Utah this winter in the town of Midway at Homestead Resort, where the Ice Castles installation showcases hundreds of icicles shimmering with thousands of multicolor LED lights, illuminating tunnels, slides, fountains and thrones — all carved from ice. It will be hard to convince your youngest ones that this isn’t the real Arendelle, so perhaps just let the magic flow. And in Park City, at the new year-round sports resort, Woodward Park City, ride the magic carpets up the hill to fly down the longest tubing runs in the state.
Where to stay on points in Park City
- Use Hilton Honors points at DoubleTree by Hilton Park City – The Yarrow (34k–60k points), Sunrise Lodge by Hilton Grand Vacations (from 58k) and the Waldorf Astoria Park City (72k–90k points)
- Use IHG points at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Park City (from 30k points)
- Use Marriott points at Sheraton Park City (Category 5, 30k–40k points), Marriott’s Mountainside and Hotel Park City, Autograph Collection (both are Category 6, 40k–60k point) and The St. Regis Deer Valley (Category 8, 70k–100k points))
- Use World of Hyatt points at Hyatt Place Park City (from 15k points, or use a Category 1–4 free night certificate) and Hyatt Centric Park City (from 25k points)
Meet a reindeer in Fairbanks, Alaska
High chances of spotting the northern lights during the long dark nights of winter (Fairbanks has a handy Aurora Tracker where you can check the likelihood of seeing them at any given time during aurora season) is just one reason Fairbanks delivers for “Frozen”-inspired fun. A visit to the Running Reindeer Ranch thrills kids with the chance to stroll with Sven the reindeer’s kin during guided walks alongside real reindeer through the boreal forest.
And, from mid-February through the end of March, the World Ice Art Championships takes over town with ice carving and ice slides for kids. About 25 miles from Fairbanks, you can even spend the night inside glass dome igloos at Borealis Basecamp to look for the northern lights while you snuggle up cozy inside — even if the Aurora Tracker says the chances are low for the evening, the kids are sure to feel like they’re on a proper “Frozen” adventure.
Where to stay on points in Fairbanks
- Use Best Western Rewards at Best Western Plus Chena River Lodge (from 16k points) and Best Western Plus Pioneer Park Inn (from 20k points)
- Use Hilton Honors points at Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks (27k–50k points)
- Use IHG points at Candlewood Suites Fairbanks (from 20k points) and Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fairbanks (from 25k points)
- Use Marriott points at SpringHill Suites Fairbanks (Category 4, 20k–30k points)
Chances are your young kids are going to be watching “Frozen 2” on repeat this winter, so why not plan a trip the whole family will love that’s “Frozen”-inspired — but to your own soundtrack, preferably. You could cross the ocean to Scandinavia, sure, but many of the same amazing winter experiences await right here in North America, too.
Featured image by Jason Stang/ Banff & Lake Louise Tourism
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