You may feel like winter may just be getting started, but spring break is right around the corner. This year, don’t wait until the last minute to plan a run-of-the-mill trip—start looking now. From a visit to a real dude ranch to a hotel made completely of ice, make this year’s trip one for the books with one of these epic vacation packages. Keep reading to see them all.
Whether you’ve had a change of plans or a change of heart, we know that Spring Break is pretty much here (or coming really, really soon). But even if you didn’t book a year in advance, there are plenty of last-minute Spring Break deals and vacation packages (yes, you can have a beach vacation after all) that will give you an epic family vacation with next-to-no-planning. .
photo: Maria Chambers
Play: Numero uno on the list of best places to play in St. Louis no doubt goes to . It’s an all-ages, city-inspired fun house that will inspire you and get the creative juices flowing as you climb, burrow and snake your way through passageways and shafts. With no maps or any real sense of direction, you’re forced to explore, touch and interact with everything . . . and you’ll be glad you did. Plus, St. Louis boasts more free chief visitor attractions than anywhere else in America, outside of the nation’s capital that is. The , , , , , and more are free of charge and perfect for families that want to see a lot, but not spend a lot.
Sleep: Located in the heart of all St. Louis has to offer, the makes a perfect home base for your family getaway. Mini road trippers will be greeted with a Radio Flyer wagon full of toys and a plate with their names written in chocolate and handmade solid chocolate arches standing tall alongside sprinkle-covered marshmallow treats.
Eat: University City and Delmar Loop is about 20 minutes northwest of St. Louis. Here, in this old streetcar suburb, you’ll find for American cuisine and pop culture memorabilia, known for their delicious pub grub and house-made soda that churns out on a visible bottling line (a bottle a second!) and with in-house roasted beans when you’re ready for a little caffeine jolt (don’t leave without grabbing a jar of their canned jelly for home).
Copy courtesy Wendy Altschuler
If you want a trip that’s tropical first, Disney second, look no further than . The resort, which sits on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, gives visitors a truly Hawaiian experience (think hula dancing, ukulele lessons, and Hawaiian canoe racing) while keeping the magic of Disney alive throughout (one word: Moana).
Play: Whether you want to be waited on hand and foot by the pool (this is Disney, after all) or get up and go, the Disney Aulani has you covered. There are tons of activities each day at the resort, including (kid-friendly) snorkeling, catamaran rides, kayaking, and a storytelling hike. Also, the Aulani boasts one of the most impressive kids’ clubs around: Aunty’s Beach House, where there are Hawaiian-themed activities galore.
Sleep: The luxurious rooms at the Aulani, which vary from standard to two-bedroom suites, are all outfitted with Hawaiian flair and touches of Disney magic throughout. And of course, no matter where you stay, you’ll be within walking distance of something special on the grounds.
Eat: In addition to the much-loved Disney culinary experiences (such as a character breakfast), the food at the Aulani is sublime. Restaurants locally-sourced food whenever possible and usually have a Hawaiian touch. Also, you’d be remiss if you missed out on the Ka Wa’a Luau, which includes entertainment, leis, temporary tattoos, and of course, tons of food.
Looking for a healthy dose of outdoor adventure on your spring break trip? , a new activity and nature center in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the perfect destination for your family. Not only will you be able to take in the beauty of the nation’s most visited national park, but Anakeetsa is jam-packed with activities for visitors of all ages.
Play: You’ll have a hard time deciding what to tackle first at Anakeetsa, as the outdoor opportunities are endless. In addition to hiking and ziplining, kids will have a blast walking across connecting bridges, exploring treehouses, and trying their hand at gem mining. If you’re looking to get out and explore the area, there’s world-class skiing in nearby Ober, Ripley’s Aquarium, and variety of entertainment shows.
Sleep: If you want to stay nearby, the offers spacious rooms (and a free hot breakfast) on the river in downtown Gatlinburg. Cottages are also available at the Greystone for families who are looking for a little more space and privacy.
Eat: Stroll around and stop for a bite to eat in Firefly Village, which is nestled among the treetops in the heart of the Smokies. Depending on what you’re in the mood for—a quick bite or a hearty southern meal—there’s Pearl’s Pie in the Sky, which offers baked goods, ice cream, and (of course) pie; and the Anakeetsa Summit Smokehouse, where you’ll get a dose of mouth-watering barbecue.
If you’re looking for the best of both worlds (think active family fun and romantic nights out for two), has you covered. Set on the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, this all-inclusive resort is packed with activities for little ones and grown-ups alike.
Play: One of the most unique offerings at Club Punta Cana is Creactive, which is a Cirque du Soleil-sponsored acrobatic playground for children and adults. Performers challenge and entertain guests by (safely) testing the limits of their comfort zones. And for those who feel more comfortable on the ground, there’s also face painting, choreography, and music to enjoy.
Sleep: The rooms at Club Med Punta Cana are clean, spacious, steps from the beach, and run the gamut from single rooms to “Zen Deluxe” rooms. The resort may feel massive to kiddos, but little legs (and strollers) will have no problems navigating the grounds.
Eat: You’ll have no problem solving the “where should we eat” question with the three restaurants and three bars at the resort. Cuisine ranges from simple American fare (burgers and fries) to more gourmet options (grilled lobster and fruit petit fours). The restaurants open according to a schedule, but there are always available options for snacks, a la carte offerings, or beach cook-outs.
Named one of the best beaches for families by both USA Today and Parents, this is more than just a place to build a sandcastle. Located along the Gulf of Mexico amid a West Florida county park that stretches more than 1,000 acres across five interconnected islands, North Beach is the perfect spot for kids because of its adjacent pirate-themed playground and a lagoon that doesn’t get deeper than three feet.
Play: The biggest draw to North Beach is its huge, shallow lagoon, which allows newbie swimmers to play without parents worrying about big waves or deep drop-offs (Be on the lookout for shells and giant sand dollars!). When you want a break from the sand and sun, explore the Fort De Soto Museum, where kids can check out the old artillery and firing cannons; stroll the seven miles of paved beachside trails; or rent a kayak and paddle the waterways.
Eat: The tiny beach towns of and are the closest to Fort De Soto, so when your family is ready for some grub, that's where to head. There, you'll find a slew of beachside bars and cafes offering a variety of cuisines.
Sleep: If you’re up for splurging, kids will love the chance to stay at the Loews Don Cesar, a that has been serving visitors for almost a century. For a cheaper option, the adorably homey offers studios and one-bedroom suites in downtown Pass-A-Grille.
If you're not looking for warm weather just yet, is the ultimate spring break destination for families who want to hit the slopes. And for those times when you just want to kick back and relax, Mammoth is packed with tons of restaurants, kids' activities, and even incredible .
Play: When you go to Mammoth, you go for the skiing. But even if your kids just yet, with the help of the offered, they just might be by the time you leave. Here, patient pros will help guide the most novice of skiers in small group lessons, as well as kids and adults with disabilities in their Adaptive Ski School. In addition to the skiing, Mammoth has a ton more to offer in terms of winter sports, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and letting loose at , where kids of all ages will have a blast.
Sleep: For cozy accommodations after a day on the slopes, look to the splurge-worthy Sierra Nevada Resort, which has been a longtime local favorite. The 149-room hotel has a super rustic feel and almost all rooms are appointed for families (with heated bathroom floors and fireplaces!). There's also a shuttle that regularly runs from the hotel to the mountains lodges, as well as to the airport.
Eat: For nights when everyone is exhausted from playing in the snow, Sierra Nevada Resort's —and all of their local, organic produce—is a fantastic option. When you want to venture out, there are tons of restaurants featuring all sorts of fare to choose from, including for seafood lovers, to satisfy your hankering for Italian, and for an unforgettable home-style breakfast.
No sun? No problem. At , every day is waterpark weather. A buzzing Midwestern tourist's destination that's located midway between Chicago and Minneapolis, Wisconsin Dells is the self-proclaimed "Waterpark Capital of the World" (21 waterparks and counting!)—and it's got a slew of indoor parks for when the weather isn't exactly bathing suit friendly.
Play: Families with wee ones will want to hit the or the , both of which cater to smaller visitors.
Note: You'll have to stay at these resorts to use their water parks.
Family tapped out on water? There are plenty of other options. Hop on the saddle for a trail ride at the Canyon Creek Riding Stable, speed across 6,000 feet of cables with (kids must be above 43 inches to zip), or give the kids a fun glimpse at the history of the circus at Circus World.
Sleep: There are so many choices when it comes to kid-centered lodging that it's hard to find a place that won't blow your kids’ minds. But the Great Wolf Lodge, the , and the Wilderness Resort top our list because of their sheer number of kid-friendly attractions (think arcades, mini-golf, kids crafts, theatrical shows, etc.) and the special attention both resorts pay to little ones.
Eat: Want your dinner delivered by miniature train? Head to Buffalo Phils, which serves up burgers and BBQ in a bustling Wild West-themed atmosphere. It's also under the same roof as Knuckleheads Bowling & Trampoline Park and right next door to the Outlets at the Dells (with over 75 shops!). Sounds like a play date to us.
For a truly unique—ahem, frozen—spring break experience, take the fam to the , North America’s only frozen hotel (rebuilt every year!), located in Quebec. The Hotel de Glace, which is constructed completely out of snow and ice, is (understandably) only open from Jan. to Mar., but it’s is a sight you’ll remember all year long.
Play: In addition to having your mind blown over the incredible décor and attention to detail, there are plenty of activities to keep your blood flowing. Nearby in Valcartier Vacation Village, there are loads of trails for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, dog sledding, and one of the highest slides in North America—The Everest. If you’re looking to toast up, there’s an old-school game area, and perhaps more exciting, an indoor water park.
Sleep: You’ll obviously want to pack warm clothes if you’re spending the night at the Hotel de Glace, but you can rest easy knowing each room is outfitted with a special Nordic sleeping bag. Packages vary from the affordable to the splurge-worthy, but every guest has access to the Nordic relaxation area and is treated with a Winter Activities passport. Breakfast also is included (as is a special welcome cocktail served in an ice glass!).
Eat: Don’t worry, you won’t freeze while eating your food, as all of the restaurants in or near Hotel de Glace are not made of ice. Five restaurants and bars are on-site if you’re looking to keep things local, but if you want to head off-campus, nearby Quebec City boasts tons of restaurants and cafes, ranging from the super fancy to the uber-casual.
Google "ranch vacations" and you’ll find a whole heap of ‘em. But the rustic-yet-luxe in Arizona tops our list because it’s open year-round and has loads of fun activities for little cowboys. Like horses? Your kids can spend all day at the kids club (activities for kids under four are available by request), where they’ll enjoy riding lessons, trail rides, arts and crafts and more. For folks who aren’t keen on giddying up in the saddle, there are other activities including yoga, swimming, fishing, hiking, and a spa.
Play: Besides the plethora of activities at the ranch, you can also venture out into the Tucson area and enjoy downhill skiing, golfing, cave exploring, shopping, and more.
Sleep: After a long day of activities on the ranch, you and your kids will be happy to nestle down in Tanque Verde's modern adobe casitas, all of which boast stretching views of the surrounding desert and mountains.
Note: In keeping with the rustic theme, there aren’t TVs in any of the rooms and the WiFi can be a bit spotty.
Eat: All-inclusive means you and your kids will get three meals a day of award-winning Southwestern cuisine. Want to dine in the Great Wide Open? Sign up for a breakfast ride and feast on blueberry pancakes and ranch-style eggs amid the cacti and tumbleweeds. On Wednesdays and Sundays, the ranch has “cowboy cookouts” that include a tasty barbecue buffet and live entertainment.
After a trip to Beaver Creek, your kids will be well on their way to becoming the next Lindsay Vonn or Bode Miller. This 1,800-acre ski resort is consistently ranked as one of the , thanks to the gentle beginner slopes filled with tunnels and teepees, kid-sized gondolas, and daily free cookies at the bottom of the mountain. Even if your kids aren’t ski bunnies now, they will be by the time you leave
Play: Kids can sign up for various ski schools based on age and ability. Got a little girl who wants to learn the sport from fellow female skiers? Beaver Creek's Ski Girls Rock program offers instruction for girls, from girls: Its mission is to improve skills while building self-esteem and empowering girls through skiing.
Tip: Lift tickets are free for kids 5 & under all season long.
Sleep: Book a splurge-worthy room at the Osprey if you want to stay steps away from a chairlift (it's officially the closest hotel to a chairlift in the United States.). Osprey guests are also given a "ski valet" who can help kids put their ski boots on before heading to the slopes (a godsend for parents!). If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly hotel, head 10 minutes out of town to the small but charming town of Minturn, an old mining village that's equidistant between Vail and Beaver Creek.
Eat: Diners at Beaver Creek Chophouse are treated to complimentary tableside magic almost every night of the ski season. And as if that’s not impressive enough, kids always get crayons and coloring pages with pictures of snowmen, skiers, and holiday scenes, and kids 12 & under get a free sundae for dessert.
Daydreaming of hot dogs and Crackerjacks? Take your baseball-loving family on a memorable (and thematic) trip to see spring training in action. Catching a game at Arizona's Cactus League or Florida's Grapefruit League means you can root, root, root for your home team at smaller stadiums before Opening Day. To figure out which teams play where — and when — check out the and websites.
Play: Make sure all of your kiddos are baseball fans because Spring Training is all about the game. The major advantage to seeing teams play pre-season is that you get see games on a much smaller scale. In other words, better seats, cheaper tickets, and the opportunity to see your favorite players up close and personal.
Tip: Get there early, and be sure little ones bring their gloves and/or clean baseballs for scoring autographs
Sleep: Where you shack up depends on your favorite teams. Florida's spring training is spread across the state, with teams playing in four regions: Tampa, Fort Myers, Orlando, and the east coast between Jupiter and Port St. Lucie. If you’re Cactus League-bound, keep in mind that most games are played within a 40-mile radius of the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.
Eat: Pack a picnic! Most Spring Training stadiums offer (cheap!) lawn seats, so the whole family can spread out on the grass while keeping score of the game. The view isn't as good, but you may catch a glimpse of your favorite players as they head in and out of the stadium.
Do you have a favorite spring break destination? Share it with us in the comments below!
—Nicole Fabian-Weber & Melissa Heckscher