By: NY Times
February 1, 2012
SUDDENLY it’s the end of January and you realize the children will be off for Presidents’ Day next month — an ideal opportunity to squeeze in a short family vacation.
But coming so soon after the holidays, you don’t want to travel too far. After all, there is still spring break and summer vacation to plan. Ideally, your destination should be somewhere you can reach in an easy drive or on a nonstop flight and that will have enough activities to occupy the children — or at least wear them out — so the grown-ups can actually relax and have some fun, too.
How about Scottsdale, Ariz., where children can enjoy mornings spent horseback riding cowboy-style or exploring nature trails in the Sonoran Desert, followed by a mellow afternoon at the pool for the grownups and gallery hopping in the evening? Or go your separate ways — the children to ski school, while you hit the spa— in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Want something you will all enjoy together? Explore ancient Mayan temples in Mexico, bike along Miami’s shore or ice-trek through gorges in Banff, Alberta. Since you don’t have time to research all of that, I’ve done much of the heavy lifting for you. Here are 10 family-friendly winter escapes you can run off to for a weekend or longer at a range of prices.
For the Kids: Spotting wolf tracks on snowshoe tours, yelling “mush!” from a dogsled and trying out gentle slopes for beginner skiers and boarders. For ages 8 and up, there are also ice walks through frozen gorges. Banff Adventures Unlimited offers four-hour ice walks through Grotto Canyon, past unusual rock formations, Native rock art and icefalls (40 Canadian dollars for children 8 to 12; 62 dollars for adults; Canadian dollars are about the same in value as U.S. dollars).
For the Grown-Ups: Three ski areas (Mount Norquay, the Lake Louise Ski Area and Sunshine Village) in a Unesco World Heritage site, Banff National Park. After a day on the mountain, adults can enjoy some farm-to-table dining or soak their sore muscles in hot springs. Family rates for two adults and two children (17 and younger) at Banff Upper Hot Springs, where temperatures are kept between a steamy 98 and 104 degrees, are 22.50 dollars.
Where to Stay: The Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets, about four minutes from downtown Banff, has two indoor water slides and offers rooms with full kitchens and fireplaces, from 109 dollars a night including free unlimited use of the Town of Banff shuttle bus. The Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise, just outside Banff, offers supervised activities in their playroom during ski season for ages 3 and up. Rates start at 279 dollars a night; children 5 and under eat free.
Getting There: Nonstops under four hours are available from major United States cities including Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago and Phoenix, into Calgary International Airport, less than two hours from most ski resorts.