Madeira, Portugal's Monte Cable Car Image by: Associação de Promoção de Madeira
Has yuletide lost its lustre since the kids hit their teens? Buck tradition, schedule a gift embargo and funner your time and funds into a family adventure! Here are seven destinations perfect for couples or families with grown kids to make the season merry and bright in a brand-new way.
IF YOU HAVE 2 OR 3 DAYS
Don't have time to plan an elaborate trip but still want the relaxation and bonding opportunities that a family vacation offers? Take the scenic one-hour drive from Quebec City to Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa, nestled in a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The modern retreat, which is located just north of the St. Lawrence River and a few minutes from Le Massif de Charlevoix ski resort, boasts two farm-to-table restaurants, a bakery, a Nordic spa and the option of dormitory-style rooms with four single beds—ideal for families with teens. Over Christmas, choose from a range of free activities, such as yoga, ice skating, culinary workshops, guided snowshoe hikes and marshmallow roasting.
Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa in Quebec Image by: Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa
• Family fun
• Ski retreat
• Spa Getaway
Known for its covered bridges, quaint inns and antiques shops, New Hampshire is a charming destination for a low-key getaway. Start in the town of Franconia, which borders the picturesque White Mountains; bundle up for a sleigh ride at Franconia Notch Stables, learn dogsledding at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in nearby Jefferson and head back to Franconia to rest your head at The Horse & Hound Inn. Extend your trip with a two-hour drive to Portsmouth, taking Route 4—also known as Antique Alley—through towns filled with antiques dealers. Drop by the Strawbery Banke Museum, a collection of 36 historic homes—five of which showcase Christmas through the centuries on a holiday house tour during the last week of December.
• Road trip
• Antiques shopping
• Historic charm
From Calgary, take the drive of a lifetime through Banff National Park along the breathtaking Icefields Parkway to Jasper before bunking down at Bear Hill Lodge, which offers cozy rooms right in town. Plan a day or two to carve up the slopes at Marmot Basin ski resort, a hidden gem with minimal crowds and a 360-degree view of the Rockies from Marmot Peak. For a totally unique tour of the area, splurge on a flight with Rockies Heli Canada to witness six spectacular glaciers from the air. Remember to clear a night to study the skies; Jasper National Park has a Dark-Sky Preserve designation, meaning it's a stargazer's paradise.
Bear Hill Lodge in Jasper, Alta. Image by: Hugh Lecky
• Ski adventure
• Hidden gem
• Glacier spotting
This former Victorian mining town perched in the San Juan Mountains is worth the trek for its powdery skiing and Old West vibe (in 1889, it was the site of Butch Cassidy's first bank robbery). Enjoy Telluride Ski Resort's vast property, and be sure to schedule a lunch at Alpino Vino, the rustic cabin restaurant off the See Forever run at 3,647 metres. For a special treat, book a night at The Observatory at Alta Lakes, a gorgeous backcountry cabin that sleeps 10. Telluride Outfitters offers snowmobile tours of the region, so bring your winter boots and a camera!
The Observatory at Alta Lakes in Telluride, Colo. Image by: Brett Schreckengost
• Historic town
• Mountain dining
• Snowmobile tour
IF YOU HAVE 1 WEEK
Summer may be Budapest's busiest time, but in December, the city transforms into an idyllic Christmas village with ice rinks, trams covered in twinkling lights and holiday street markets (like the Vörösmarty Square Christmas Fair) lined with local craft and food stalls. Steep in tradition at one of the city's many public baths, then indulge in sweets at the Gerbeaud Café or a classic Hungarian meal at the New York Café—each with ornate turn-of-the-20th-century decor. Score a deal on accommodations with Airbnb's "Opera Downtown Loft" listing, a two-bedroom apartment with brick walls and high ceilings close to the opera house and architecturally rich Andrássy Avenue.
Gellért Baths in Budapest, Hungary Image by: Hungarian Tourism Agency
• Winter wonderland
• History & architecture
• Urban escape
An island cluster located off the coast of Morocco, Madeira is known for steep cliffs, lush vegetation and mild winters. For a scenic introduction, hike the Levada "walks" (a series of pathways along the rural irrigation system) or, if you have an adrenaline junkie in your midst, try canyoning. Stay at the Meliá Madeira Mare Resort & Spa, which is close to the centre of Funchal (the capital of the region), and explore the Mercado dos Lavradores (a.k.a. farmers' market), ride a cable car and ogle the elaborate New Year's Eve fireworks display. If you have time, board the ferry to Porto Santo Island and spend a day on its golden beaches.
Porto Santo Beach in Madeira, Portugal Image by: Greg Snell
• Exotic escape
• Beach getaway
• Activity & adventure
IF YOU HAVE 10 DAYS OR MORE
South Island, New Zealand
New Zealand's South Island is the optimal vacation spot for active families who get a high from fresh air and otherworldly scenery. Spend a few days along the northern tip kayaking through Abel Tasman National Park, sipping Sauvignon Blanc in the Marlborough wine region (for the 18-plus crowd) and cozying up at Honeywell Hut, a one-room cabin on a sheep farm in Motueka. Toward the centre of the island, Lake Pukaki—a backdrop in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films—has vast walking and cycling trails, while Milford Sound, with its inky waters surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and rainforests, is the perfect spot for a boat tour farther south.
New Zealand's Abel Tasman National Park Image by: Getty Images
• Hiking & cycling
• Wine tasting
• Water activities