4 Unforgettable Family Vacations to Take This Holiday Season

Christmas decorations

 

Thanksgiving will be here before you can blink, and you know what that means: the holiday rush is nigh. Most folks will tell you that the holidays are all about spending quality time with your family, but who can do that when there are meals to cook, relatives to host, presents to wrap, and a million other little tasks on your plate? This season, give your kids the gift of travel – and yourself the gift of less stress – by leaving the holiday rush behind and enjoying a family adventure on the road.

New York City

If your little ones can’t wait for Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Festivus) to come, let them kick off the holidays the American way: at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You’ll have to get up at the crack of dawn if you want to snag one of the coveted viewing spots along the two-and-a-half miles of parade route between Central Park West and Herald Square, but the infectious energy of Thanksgiving morning will keep even the staunchest anti-morning people bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Kids will love seeing their favorite characters in larger than life balloon form. After Santa’s sleigh makes its final stop in Herald Square, pay a visit to the Rockettes. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a true New York holiday celebration made for families’ bucket lists. For a different take on Thanksgiving dinner, hit up Ellen’s Stardust Diner. A prix fixe holiday menu will keep your budget and your stomach happy, as your working actor servers serenade the dining room during your meal.

Christmas lighting at Radio City Music Hall, New York, Flickr © Khush

Finland

Santa comes to you every year. Just this once, take the kids to visit him. Bundle up in your warmest clothes and venture deep within the Arctic Circle to Finnish Lapland. Take a sleigh ride through a frosty pine forest to the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. Open daily, this ultimate Yuletide headquarters will bring the kids’ favorite fairy tale to life as they visit the jolly guy himself, tour Santa’s post office, and give the elves a little much-needed holiday help. If you’re really lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the famed Northern Lights before the trip is over.

Santa Claus Office, Rovaniemi, Finland, Flickr © jechstra

New Zealand

Not into cold weather? Escape to the southern hemisphere, where the north’s winter holidays fall at the height of summer and commonly observed with a backyard barbecue. Kaikoura, New Zealand is a particularly special destination for anyone looking to get a little off the beaten track and especially for animal lovers. This incredibly diverse marine environment is home to dolphins, fur seals, and multiple kinds of whales. Hop on a boat and see how many you can spot. If you don’t have any luck on the water, you can still enjoy plenty of family outdoors time with a hike through the mountainous rainforest nearby.

Kaikoura, New Zealand, Flickr © René Andritsch

North Carolina

So a big overseas trip isn’t in the works this year. You can still treat your family to a magical holiday season, even in a smaller domestic town like McAdenville, North Carolina. Or, as they officially change the town’s name come December, Christmas Town USA. When it comes to the most wonderful time of the year, it’s go big or go home for the folks in McAdenville. Explore the 450,000 lights illuminating this little village 20 minutes outside Charlotte. Make sure you start the evening early – the first 1,000 visitors each night receive complimentary kettle corn and hot chocolate.

Christmas lights in McAdenville, North Carolina, Flickr © Kreg Steppe