Making the most of the wintry weather with destinations that were made for it!
Despite our oldest two being born in London, they have lived most of their little lives in the desert so hearing my brother and sister-in-law were going to be wed in Alberta, Canada, in January, outside, took us a little off-guard. We were slightly worried how the Globetrotters would handle both the extreme climate and timezone change, but what we got was an utterly magic white winter adventure that we are certain they will not forget.
It came as no surprise then when I asked my team of family travel bloggers this month where there favourite cold weather destinations were around the globe that Alberta came up twice! As well as winter sporting activities in North America, we also had some fabulous suggestions for how to get the most out of the European winter too. Come and enjoy our 6 best cold weather destination ideas for families.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
Amy from Passports and Pigtails
There are certain places on Earth that seem to have been created for winter. Places where the snow and cold are not only endured, but embraced. Located in Banff National Park, Canada, the town of Banff is winter in its most glorious moment. Tourists meander down shop-lined streets, the brave ones don swimsuits to submerge themselves in the upper hot springs, and rosy cheeks head down the slopes of the Rockies for that last run of the day. Travelers come from around the globe to nestle into the world famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel or overlook the infamous view from Chateau Lake Louise.
Offering three massive resorts, it is a ski and snowboard dream destination. Travelers can indulge in unique activities such as dog sledging, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, a game of curling or even watching a massive elk strut down the middle of the street.
The drive along the world-renowned Icefields Parkway towards Jasper is absolutely breathtaking, and the experience of standing on the ancient Athabasca Glacier is well worth the trip. To top off the perfect winter day, you can dine on a perfectly aged Alberta steak, relaxing over a glass of wine or a local craft beer, enjoying majestic views from every corner.
Banff is wanderlust-inspiring year round, and the magic of this beautiful town will find you leaving a piece of your heart buried in its snowy peaks.
Celine from Baby Can Travel
We are fortunate that our favourite winter destination, Canmore, Alberta, is so close to home. It has a wonderful laid-back feel and you don’t have to look very far to find a winter activity that everyone can enjoy – from skiing to skating and everything in between.
Canmore has a beautiful pond turned skating rink surrounded by a 360-degree view of mountains. If cross-country skiing is what you are looking for, then the Nordic Center (host site of the cross-country skiing events in the 1988 Winter Olympics) is just outside of town. Within close driving proximity are multiple ski hills or a multitude of trails for winter hiking or snowshoeing. You can even add ice fishing, dog-sledding or ice climbing to the list of activities.
Long before we had kids, we would pack up the dogs on the weekends and drive to the mountains for a day of snowshoeing (our activity of choice). Now that we have a toddler and an infant, our snowshoeing has definitely been scaled back, but we still try to do what we can. We make use of gear like the Chariot with a ski attachment, so we can still get out snowshoeing, even if our outings aren’t that epically long anymore.
This winter with a 2.5 year old, we are enjoying new activities together like skating and tobogganing. We even bought our daughter her first pair of snowshoes. We are looking forward to spending this winter enjoying being outside as a family.
Virginie from Travel with my Kids
Winter in Stockholm is the perfect time and place to practice awesome outdoor activities with kids! One of the most popular is skating on frozen lakes, resurfaced by ice machines, such as ice rinks. Just follow the Swedish families who know better the ice thickness! You can even also skate on the sea with a guide… As soon as the snow falls, old tires and yellow mattress bloom on park’s trees: they are protective for sledding. Every evening, parents and children tackle the hills and run down the slopes. The most landscaped park is Vasaparken.
What about skiing in the city center? Don’t expect the Alps or the Colorado, but the kids really enjoy it a lot! You can practise at Hammarby Fabriksväg. For the fishing lovers, try ice fishing with kids: it’s free on Lake Mälaren, you just need to buy a small fish pole (sold in Stockholm), then spot a fisherman and use its holes… it bites!
Need some rest? Have a (mini) cruise in the Stockholm Archipelago. Through breath-taking scenery, the ferry slowly cleaves the icepack, going from island to island, dropping off passengers in front of red huts…. Then spend the night in an island’s traditional inn (vandrarhem): basic comfort but warm atmosphere. This is the place to go for a sauna, of course followed by a quick dive in the sea: the ultimate Swedish experience!
Claire from Tin Box Traveller
Despite being the UK’s coldest season, there’s nothing quite like winter to give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. For me, it’s a time for tradition and family. That’s why I love visiting the Christmas markets that pop up in every city from mid-November and going to festive-themed events at beautiful historic houses and attractions.
National Trust properties in particular put on some great family-friendly Christmas trails. In December we visited Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire where we walked through scenes from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It was like stepping back in time.
If you enjoy traditional Christmas fun then Santa trains run on preserved steam railway lines across the country. On the Watercress Line near Alresford the big man meets families as they travel in 1940s carriages enjoying wine, mince pies and carol singing. Christmas markets are something that have really taken off in the UK during the past 10 years.
We’ve always had farmers markets here, but seasonal stalls selling gifts, roasted chestnuts and hot pork rolls are now just as popular during the winter months. They’re often accompanied by temporary ice rinks like the one we visited in November at Winchester Cathedral. Even if you’re not a skater it’s great fun watching the more adventurous visitors wobble around the ice in thick coats and bobble hats. If you want to experience the type of winter you see on traditional Christmas cards, then a visit to the UK is a must.
Whitefish, Montana, USA
Nicole from The Passport Kids
If you are considering a family ski vacation this upcoming winter, Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Montana, USA may be the place for you. The resort offers many family friendly amenities and activities including daycare and kids ski & ride school directly on the resort. Enjoy some outdoors winter fun with snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing or sledding; then cozy up by the fire with some hot chocolate.
The resort and city of Whitefish offer a small town American feel where life slows down for a while but still offers great selection of hotels, restaurants and shopping. The beauty of the natural wilderness is breathtaking and your family will be able to explore the mountain together as they “Ski the Fish”.
Holly from Four Around the World
When thinking winter destinations, the first place that will always come to mind for us is Zakopane in Poland. We spent our first white Christmas in Zakopane with Simon’s extended family a few years back and it is one of those experiences that stays with you. Our own kids weren’t born yet, but we travelled with younger siblings and family friends, plus being in the snow tends to bring out the child in most of us… yes, there were snowball fights!
There is so much to do when travelling with kids in Zakopane. Only a short drive from Krakow, Zakopane is surrounded by the majestic Tatra mountains and is a popular holiday destination for Poland and surrounding countries, with an array of winter sports being very popular in the picturesque town. But what really stands out are the beautiful wooden cottages and white lined streets.
Zakopane sits at the bottom of Mt Gubalowka, which is a smaller mountain with plenty to see and do at the top, with market stalls, great food and amazing views. And if you are really keen, you can always ski back down again. We choose the funicular to go up and down. Zakopane taught me that I am pretty much useless at winter sports! But if looking for a perfect winter destination, it should be on your list!
I’m not sure The Globetrotters are complete cold weather converts just yet, but I can definitely see why it is so much fun for the family and definitely recommend any of you living in warmer climates to experience the benefits of embracing the cold.
Now let’s hear it from you! Where are your favourite destinations to enjoy the best of the cold weather?
Looking for more family travel destination ideas? Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best beach destinations and the best city destinations for family travel