Q: My husband’s birthday is Christmas Day (really) and I’d love to surprise him with a short family vacation at a resort that our two boys, who are 11 and 6, will like, too. Something we can get to within a few hours’ drive of New Jersey/New York that has a bit of holiday spirit (thinking ice skating and s’mores) would be great. Thanks! — Ellen C.
A: So you want to go away during Christmas? The good news is that there are plenty of options within driving distance of the TriState region. The bad news is that the current weather forecast means you might have to travel pretty far north to get wintery weather. But all is not lost, there’s lots of holiday spirit nearby despite lack of the white stuff.
If you want cooler temps, climb north into New York State to Lake George and historic Sagamore Resort. The sprawling resort has holiday activities for the whole family including holiday movie nights and outdoor s’mores, plus an indoor pool where you can stretch out and relax and an activity center with indoor mini golf. There are several spots with great dining on the property as well, so you can park the car and not worry about leaving for a few days (they currently have availability December 24 through January 30).
There’s no new snow falling in Vermont, but several of the northern ski resorts–Okemo, Sugarbush, Jay Peak—have solid bases of manmade fluff if you want a white Christmas. (You can check the Vermont snow report here.)
Always family friendly Smuggler’s Notch is another resort with a skiable base of snow, and it’s even more fun than usual for families over the holidays with activities such as cookie decorating, “elf” tuck ins and story times, “reindeer games,” outdoor bonfires, and even weekly winter fireworks! (They also have availability throughout Christmas and New Years holiday weeks).
As long as your headed to Vermont, check out quaint Brattleboro with our handy guide, too.
It’s also not too late to road trip to family friendly cities such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia (which hosts a Christmas Village at iconic LOVE Park and a host of other holiday offerings), Boston, or Washington, DC, all great getaways that Georgette and I have personally road tested with our families.
There are plenty of fun options closer to home, too. Consider one of the roaring indoor water park hotels such as Great Wolf Lodge, a great choice for 9 and under, and Kalahari, a top pick for tweens and teens. Both of them deck the halls for the holidays (Great Wolf even has a holiday gingerbread house large enough for families to eat breakfast in!)
Mohonk Mountain House is one of my favorite spots for an easy family getaway, but when I checked the reservations calendar, their only availability is December 22 to 23. Keep trying though, you never know when a hotel or resort might have a last minute cancellation. (If you have your heart set on this, or another hotel that has limited availability, book the night they have free and then call and ask to be put on the waiting list if something else opens up. Having a reservation already on the books will often move you up on the waitlist).
Finally, consider a “staycation” in New York City. Catch a Broadway show such as School of Rock, Matilda, or a concert at Symphony Space, indulge in the hot chocolate menu at Max Brenner (one of my son’s favorite New York spots), and tour the tree at Rockefeller Center and take a spin on the ice or try the holiday village and rink at Bryant Park. Then either head home or make it a real vacation by hitting the hay in a cool NYC hotel—try Le Parker Meridien which not only has an indoor pool, but also poolside room service provided by the hugely popular Burger Joint hidden in the hotel’s lobby (Le Parker Meridien is also home to brunch mecca Norma’s, where the skyscraper stacks of pancakes will keep you full until New Year’s Eve).
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