Under-the-Radar Winter Vacation Destinations for Families

Family looking at the Niagara Falls from a viewing point

These hidden gems will be your family’s new favorite vacation spot during the winter season

Want something different for your winter family vacation plans? We have frozen waterfalls, ice fishing, and even the “Kidarod”—and outdoor adventure experience the kids won’t soon forget. Book yourself a heated igloo and get ready to welcome all the winter vibes.


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Minneapolis | Minnesota

Four children ready to ski
Jayme Halbritter

When the temperatures drop in the Twin Cities, it’s time for the annual 10-day Great Northern Festival which takes place Jan. 25 – Feb. 5, 2023. There are more than 50 events, including art displays, live performances, conversations about climate change, outdoor activities, and events, including the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, and more.

Kids will love: The Luminary Loppet, a night of ice candles, boots crunching on the surface of Lake of the Isles, and fire-lit entertainment; St. Paul Winter Carnival, which includes a spectacular display of ice carvings; and new this year is the YMCA of the North’s Kidarod that offers an unforgettable outdoor racing experience for kids.

Online: Minneapolis.org

Coeur d'Alene | Idaho 

Skier on snow laden mountain slope
Coeur D'Alene

Just 40 minutes from the Spokane International Airport, magical holiday celebrations and snow-capped mountains make Coeur d'Alene easy to get to and hard to leave. You can enjoy winter recreation, holiday shopping, lake cruises, indoor water parks, special holiday festivities, and live performing arts, plus a wide range of restaurants, a local winery, and several local breweries.

Kids will love: Eagle watching, skiing and snowboarding, the holiday lights show and annual lighting ceremony, and a journey to the North Pole cruise experience (Nov 15 – Jan 2) where kids are greeted by name from Santa. Igloo dining (Oct 21- Feb 21) is also available in heated weatherproof igloos with beautiful views of the marina and lake.

Online: coeurdalene.org

Related: This Charming Idaho Town Is an Ideal Destination for Families

Niagara Falls State Park | New York

Family looking at the Niagara Falls from a viewing point
Niagara Falls USA

Take in the sights of a world wonder while snowshoeing in Niagara Falls State Park. Weather permitting, free snowshoe rentals are available at the Cave of the Winds: The World Changed Here Pavilion. When winter comes around, Niagara Falls USA turns into a snowy wonderland that you get to explore sans summer crowds.

Kids will love: Bragging rights that they snowshoed in America’s oldest state park! You can even sign up for free guided winter hikes on the region’s pristine hiking trails. Choose from finding gulls and other birds on Goat Island, identifying trees without their leaves, stargazing, birding on Lake Ontario, and so much more.

Online: thesource.niagarafallsusa.com

Devils Lake | North Dakota 

Two women holding up fish they caught
North Dakota Tourism

Reel in an epic family fishing experience when you bundle up and head over to Devils Lake, known as the Perch Capital of the World, to experience one of the best ice fishing destinations in the nation. Woodland Resort here even offers ice fishing packages complete with lodging, heated fish houses with pre-drilled holes, daily transportation to and from the fish houses, and bait.

Kids will love: If the ice fishing isn’t adventurous enough, check out the wildlife at White Horse Hill National Game Reserve where bison, elk, prairie dogs, and several species of birds call home. Just a short drive away is the city of Fargo, which has the Fargo Air Museum and Red River Zoo, both attractions where you can spend a few hours.

Online: ndtourism.com

Richmond | Virginia

Lit up garden and structure for the holidays
Michael Simon Photography

Ashland’s Light Up the Tracks Celebration is a cute small-town event that features the iconic railroad tracks adorned with twinkling white lights plus local shops in a vintage Christmas village. Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has been named one of the best holiday light shows in the U.S. and includes one million twinkling lights.

Kids will love: The CarMax Tacky Light Run that families can participate in together and enjoy the lights along the way. Kings Dominion Park transforms into a winter wonderland where live shows and strolling performers provide fun and entertainment.

Online: visitrichmondva.com

Fredericksburg | Texas

A decorated vehicle driving down a parade route
Wingman Imagery

The Texas Hill Country has a lot to offer along with a historic Main Street decorated in its holiday best, ice skating for the family, a daily holiday countdown to the New Year, and an artists’ market for all the holiday shopping your family can indulge in together. Fredericksburg has been likened to a holiday Hallmark movie!

Kids will love: The 26-foot carousel-shaped Christmas Pyramid, which is a wooden structure with origins in German traditions, the 30-foot-tall Christmas tree decked in ornaments made by local artists, a Christmas parade, and all the holiday carol singing the festive season brings.

Online: visitfredericksburgtx.com

Scottsdale | Arizona

Family walking toward holiday lights at the park
Jenna McKone for Experience Scottsdale

The Sonoran Desert might not sound like a winter destination, but you will be surprised. The Holiday Lights at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, the world’s largest Christmas lights maze and village with 4 million sparkling lights at Enchant Scottsdale, and the Holiday Extravaganza in Oldtown Scottsdale are just a few of the experiences from a long list to choose from.

Kids will love: The wildlife conservation center which provides sanctuary to many local species such as bobcats and javelinas, the Arizona Boardwalk entertainment complex which houses an aquarium, butterfly park, and many other exhibits, and the Musical Instrument Museum.

Online: experiencescottsdale.com

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