Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean that you have to sequester your family indoors. February is a great time to travel due to time off for winter break or an extended weekend off of school for President's Day. But if you're looking for some out-of-the-box ideas, consider adding a twist to the usual plans. If you're going to make a snow trip, try going dog sledding. Or if you want to visit somewhere warm and coastal, consider whale watching instead of just sitting on the beach.
Don't wait until summer for your big family vacation. Make the most of the cold weather—and low-season prices—to travel with your family this February.
Mush! Take the Kids Dog Sledding
Love dogs? Love winter? Dog sledding is a fun and family-friendly adventure that combines these two passions. It may sound like an activity for the tundra of Alaska, but you can actually dog sled in snowy areas all across the country. You'll have a chance to meet the furry athletes, give them head scratches as they get attached to their rig, and either participate as a driver or a passenger as they make their way across the winter wonderland.
Dog sledding is oftentimes offered as an off-mountain activity at major ski resorts, such as those in Breckenridge, Vail, or Durango in Colorado. Around the mountains of New England, check out Muddy Paw in New Hampshire or Peace Pups in Vermont. The Resort at Paws Up in Montana offers dog sledding adventures for the young and young-at-heart.
Family ski vacations are hugely popular, but nobody ever said they were cheap—especially when you start shelling out for lift tickets, lodging, food, equipment, and lessons. Luckily, many ski resorts around the country offer relief to families looking for affordable vacations. It's just a matter of knowing where to find “kids ski free” offers at ski destinations around North America.
A fantastic ski destination is Snowmass in Aspen, Colorado, a place that has kids in mind with easy-to-learn-on terrain, an expert ski school, and free lift tickets for kids ages 7–12 when you stay at the resort. In California, June Mountain earned the nickname "family mountain" for being one of the most kid-friendly destinations, where kids 12 and under ski free all season long.
You don't have to be an athlete to try out some of the sports at Olympic complexes, and an Olympic-themed getaway can make for a fun and active family trip. From coast to coast, there are alpine resorts across North America previously used for Olympic Games. Take the kids on a ski trip to Squaw Valley in California, which hosted the Winter Games in 1960, or to Salt Lake City, Utah, which was the 2002 host city. Lake Placid in Upstate New York has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, first in 1932 and again in 1980.
The most recent North American city to host the event was Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, and a ski trip to the world-famous Whistler would make an unforgettable trip. At the Olympic Park in Calgary, Canada, you can relive the 1988 Games by trying less common sports like bobsledding and luge.
There is perhaps no better way for families to tap into the authentic cowboy culture in Texas than to visit when there’s a rodeo in town. January through March is prime rodeo season in the Lone Star State, drawing crowds from across the country to enjoy this storied Western tradition.
The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo starts in January and continues through February, and it's one of the oldest rodeos in the state—plus it features real-life working cowboys. But the two biggest winter rodeos take place in Houston and San Antonio. The Houston Livestock Show starts in mid-February and lasts an entire month, bringing in headline performers and millions of visitors. San Antonio may be a smaller city, but the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo rivals the one in the big metropolis of Houston.
Are your kids fascinated by whales? Consider planning a whale-watching family getaway to Southern California. You can watch a parade of California gray whales make their annual 5,000-mile migration from the chilly Alaskan seas to the warm water lagoons of Baja California from about December to March.
You can book a cruise to spend the day out on the Pacific Ocean whale watching, or just find a comfortable spot on the beach to see them breaching from the coast. A few spots stand out as prime whale-watching destinations, such as San Diego, Dana Point, and Long Beach.
Where else but "the sweetest place on earth" would you expect to find a month-long event called Chocolate-Covered February? During the annual month-long chocopalooza in Hershey, Pennsylvania, you can take part in events that cater to guests of all ages. Hersheypark is fun all year long with cocoa-themed rides, but kids can dance along during special chocolate parades in February. They'll likely get a sugar high, but candy workshops and special kid-friendly events featuring Hershey products take place all month long.
For the parents, take a decadent trip to the spa featuring pure cocoa products. Afterward, take part in a mixology class to learn how to concoct your own chocolate-flavored martinis.
It's one of the season's most talked-about festivals, not just in Quebec or in Canada, but in the world. Montréal en Lumière is one of the largest winter festivals there is, and the month-long celebration fills the city of Montreal with lights, music, and fun beginning in February. Huge light-up art pieces are installed around the city, bringing a bit of illumination to the dark winter evenings.
In addition to the installation, the nights are filled with special events and programs featuring live music and delicious food. The signature event, however, is Nuit Blanche, or White Night, when galleries stay open from dusk to dawn for an all-night party with an artistic twist.
Don't just survive winter, but celebrate it with a trip to Quebec City. The provincial capital may be cold enough for you in the winter, but you might as well embrace it and stay in a one-of-a-kind hotel that's actually crafted from ice and snow. It's the only lodging of its kind in North America, so bundle up for this totally unique vacation experience.
The themed rooms have sculptures carved into the snow of the walls of your room, which can be extra fun for kids to see. Some of them also have a fireplace to warm up a bit before bed. Of course, staying the night in an igloo isn't everyone's cup of tea, but you can tour the ice hotel for the day as a fun excursion and then spend the night in a (heated) hotel room in Quebec City, just 20 minutes away.