Hearts, flowers, and chocolate may reign supreme in a number of households to celebrate February 14th – but not mine. Romance can seem difficult to achieve in the middle of winter for those of us who hate the cold, dreary gray skies, piercing weather and layer upon layer of clothing.
As a family that likes to stay active, we try to take advantage of the unique activities that winter, alone, can offer. Instead of hunkering down on the couch with a box of Russel Stover – why not glide down mountains in snow tubes or explore museums?
The best part of our alternative Valentine’s Day festivities? Off-season rates. Beat the crowds with reduced pricing during the winter months. That’s got to give you some motivation, right?
Whatever your motivation, it’s a good idea to keep your family moving and doing through winter. Here are 5 family-friendly, mini vacations to help you and your loved ones beat the winter blues and celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that’s uniquely you:
The best of winter can be found in Vermont with rolling mountaintops for fine skiing, snowboarding and sleigh rides. Busting at the seams with winter activities, this resort-filled town is also bursting with history — the kind that will have you singing like Maria from “The Sound of Music.”
And as you climb every mountain to see the beauty Stowe has to offer, be sure to check out the Trapp Family Lodge, settled by — you guessed it — the Von Trapp Family Singers, whose life was immortalized in the somewhat-close-to-the-actual-story movie about the family.
Once your history lesson is over, you and your family can sign up for a rousing round of skiing and snowboarding lessons, which will give you reason after reason to hit the hills yodeling.
2.New York City, NY
If fresh country air isn’t your thing, take the family on a trip to New York City. The Big Apple has plenty to offer, both indoors and out, and with easy access from surrounding cities, there’s no reason to feel overwhelmed with the prospect of driving through the Lincoln Tunnel.
A walk through the park will get you some fresh air, and the kids will surely love skating the ice rinks at Central Park or the Rockefeller Center. While at the latter, take your builders to the Lego Store, where they can build a minifigure in their own image.
A ride up the elevator of the Empire State Building will give your kiddos a rousing site of the city, or you can try taking a peek at one of the city’s newest structures, the One World Observatory, housed at the site of the World Trade Centers.
Broadway shows and the one-of-a-kind Times Square will give your family a trip worth remembering for years to come.
Another great place to explore in winter, Washington D.C. is full of history and exciting adventures. The National Mall boasts of some of the nation’s greatest monuments and is the seat of the Nation’s leaders. Interested in showing your kids a bit of their country’s past? Pack in as many of these kid-friendly museums as possible:
- International Spy Museum. You and the family will get a look into the life of a spy — and even be able to have your own spy adventure with their Operation Spy program.
- Museum of Natural History. Are your little ones interested in dinosaurs, fossils or the natural world around them? Help them explore the past and engage in the future of our world at this free museum.
- Museum of American History. As with all of the Smithsonian museums, admission to the Museum of American History is free. See the Star-Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s famous red slippers and Kermit the Frog, among many other famous works of interest to every old and young lover of American history.
- National Air and Space Museum. Your aeronautical engineers will love seeing flight history come to life in this museum with two separate locations. See the Wright brothers’ airplane from 1903 and the space capsule from the Apollo 11 mission.
One last thing: If you’re interested in a tour of the White House, you’ll need to reserve your tickets several weeks in advance. They’re free, but everyone wants a chance to see the historic house, so book early.
4.Staycation at Your Place
It’s not always possible to spend your mini-vacation away, whether it’s a restraint from time, money or both. A staycation from the comfort of your own home may be the ticket to avoid spending the over $4000 that a family of four pays, on average, for a seven day vacation.
You may have heard the term “staycation,” but maybe you don’t know how to go about planning one. The idea is simple: Plan day trips around your time off or set aside time to simply be home with no distractions. Limit time on your devices, setting auto-replies to let others know you are out of reach.
A staycation is the perfect time to quiet the busy world and explore areas around your town that you’ve always wanted to see.
History buffs will have a field day in this small town, which was the setting of one of the most historic battles in the American Civil War. Avoid the summer crowds by touring the battlefield in winter, taking time to tour the Visitor’s Center, and getting dressed up in Civil War garb for an authentic tin-type at a local photography studio.
If you find the paranormal of interest, you and your family can participate in one of the town’s many ghost walks. For wine lovers, check out a few of the local wineries. If you’re interested in something a little off the beaten path, a trip to Mister Ed’s Candy Emporium and Elephant Museum will live in your family’s memory forever.
Winter doesn’t have to be spent beneath a pile of blankets and in front of the TV — though there’s definitely a time and place for that, too. Instead, welcome the greatest gifts winter has to offer: the great outdoors, museums and reduced rates.
With all of that, your family is sure to have a wonderful mini vacation this winter to celebrate Valentine’s Day – or to make any long weekend a reason to celebrate with your family.