Smart Winter Getaways
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Winter is a great time for families to take a break from everyday routines and explore new destinations, while getting some hands-on learning experiences. Many hotels, resorts and airlines offer package deals that make planning a breeze. If you have some flexibility about when you travel, discount rates and off-season bargains can make your trip more affordable. Here are 6 vacation ideas to cure cabin fever:
- Check out Columbia State Historic Park’s Annual “Lamplight Docent Tour” (Dec. 6-7). This living history museum is California’s best preserved gold mining town and gives visitors the opportunity to go back in time. During this tour, costumed guides lead visitors by lantern light through the historic streets of Columbia, while a progressive play unfolds at each stop along the route. This year, visitors will see the children's tale of “Stone Soup” set in 1850s Columbia. The tour culminates with a historic ball, where visitors are invited to join in the revelry and enjoy a generous helping of good cheer. Tours are $28 per person and your money goes towards the Friends of Columbia State Historic Park. Reserve your tickets at www.columbiagazette.com/lamplight.html
- Explore Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and sign up for the winter Lodging and Learning Program (Dec.24-Feb. 25), a perfect mix of recreation and education. Packages include lodging, meals and activities like snowshoeing, wildlife viewing and ice-skating, plus day and evening lectures led by naturalists from the Yellowstone Institute. www.yellowstoneassociation.org
- Tour the Grand Canyon in Arizona and enjoy lower prices, fewer crowds and packages that include lodging, in-park transportation, meals and activities. www.grandcanyonlodges.com An evening ride on the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express (November-January) offers kids a chance to experience the storybook tale come to life as they travel to the magical “North Pole” to see Santa and his reindeer. www.thetrain.com
- Play in the snow at the Winter Carnival in Saint Paul, Minnesota (Jan 23-Feb.3). The oldest and largest winter festival in the nation features incredible ice sculptures, parades, sleigh rides, snow bank treasure hunts, and a glittering ice palace among other attractions. www.winter-carnival.com
- Bundle up the family for a few days of outdoor fun at Breckenridge, Colorado. Located about 100 miles from Denver, it’s a quaint Victorian town with an ice skating pond, charming shops and eateries, plus a ski resort with 146 trails and more than 2000 acres of terrain suitable for a variety of ski levels. A snow sculpture event takes place in January, and the Kids Night Out Program at the Mountain Top Children’s Museum is jam-packed with interactive exhibits like the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Exhibit and a mini planetarium. www.breckenridge.snow.com
- Do some winter beachcombing this year on Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia. The island has commissioned a group of highly skilled artisans from across the U.S. to create an array of stunning, hand-worked glass creations, like starfish, sand dollars and other pieces. From January 1 - February 28, these beautiful art pieces will be placed above the high water line for your treasure hunting family to find. And, yes, finders keepers. Not only is this fun, but your family will be recreating a part of nautical history. Glass fishing floats were used by Norwegian, European and later Japanese fisherman. These hand-blown glass pieces would often break away from the nets and they still ride the world's ocean currents. Most fisherman use plastic floats today, making these glass pieces rare and highly sought after. Let your child experience some of the joy of finding artwork from the sea--even if someone planted it there. Check it out at www.jekyllisland.com/islandtreasures
Whether you're planning a seven-day holiday or a quick weekend getaway, there are many destinations in a variety of price ranges perfect for creating winter memories your family will talk about for years to come.