With the first snow of the season upon us, I find myself fantasizing about leaving the shovel and brown street slush behind. But instead of hopping a flight to the Caribbean, what if we embrace the cold and actually seek it out!?
In case you're intrigued, or need some convincing, I've put together my list of the 7 best family friendly winter wonderland weekend getaways from NYC and New Jersey. My requirements include that the hotel has kid-friendly outdoor activities (ex. ice skating and snow tubing), water activities (heated indoor or outdoor pools and hot tubs), and is within a 4.5 hour drive of Newark NJ. With bonus points going to those with kids club! So... LET'S SNOW! I mean GO!!!
Type: All-Inclusive Resort (160 guest rooms and 70 privately owned vacation rental homes)
Location: Poconos (2hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: on-property snow tubing & lake ice skating (and synthetic skating)
Other Family Fun: Nightly entertainment and shows, indoor pool + water slide / climbing gym playground / bumper cars / toddler room / arts & crafts room, tons of outdoor activities, go carts, archery, and 30 scheduled activities a day!
Noteworthy: AH-may-zing (not buffet) food! Like, SO good, and included in your meal plan (can choose 2 or 3 meals a day). Voted #1 Family Resort in the US in 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023! My family has been to Woodloch 3 times (summer, winter, and fall - read about these stays here!), I cannot recommend it highly enough! Always SO much fun!!! Watch my winter getaway video below (but do note, it's from 6 years ago, we obviously need to go back for an updated video ASAP!)
Type: AAA Diamond Luxury Condo Hotel
Location: NW New Jersey (1.5 hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: on-site glice (synthetic ice) skating; just 2.5 miles from Moutain Creek for Skiing and Snow Tubing; hot cocoa, fire pits, and marshmallow roasting
Other Family Fun: Indoor pools (1 has a slide), swim out heated outdoor pool & hot tub, lots of organized activities for kids and adults (some free, some fee based); on site cafes and restaurants; great fitness club with fun classes guests can take for free.
Noteworthy: I've stayed at Crystal Springs 4 times, it's one of my favorite resorts of all time! I've been with my family in summer and winter, and gone on a "moms getaway" in winter as well. We always get a suite at Grand Cascade Lodge - with a full kitchen, fireplace, balcony - so much fun for adults and kids. Just paradise!! Watch our family winter getaway at Crystal Springs video below, or read through all of my Crystal Springs blog posts here!
Type: All Inclusive Resort
Location: Hudson Valley New York (1hr 40min drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site skiing (rentals and instructions included!), snow tubing, and ice skating - all included in your stay!
Other Family Fun: Indoor pool with water slide and swim out heated outdoor pool and hot tub, organized activities, live shows and entertainment.
Noteworthy: Meals, activities and horseback riding are all included with your stay!!! We went back in 2018 in the fall and had a blast - check out our video below or read about it here! At the time they had a free drop off kids club, but I can't find it on the site anymore so I'm not 100% sure they still have it.
Type: Mountain Lodge Resort with 105 suites
Location: Cortland NY (3.5 hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: take a shuttle to nearby Greek Peak Mountain Resort for skiing, snow tubing, Mountain Coaster, cross country skiing, and more.
Other Family Fun: on-site Cascades Indoor Water Park is amazing with a wave pool and water slides! You can get a hotel package that includes water park admission, skiing, or whatever extras you like! Kids arts & crafts room open (not for drop off) Fri-Sun.
Noteworthy: we had a mini family reunion here in 2019 that was so much fun!! We got adjoining rooms with a full kitchen and really enjoyed the water park and mountain coaster - fun for the whole family!! Watch our highlights video below or read about it on the blog here!
Type: Mountain Resort with Luxury Suites
Location: Lake Placid / Upstate NY (5hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site ice skating, campfires and s'mores. Nearby: skiing, XC skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, dog sledding, 30' high toboggan chute that spits you 1000 feet over frozen Lake Placid.
Other Family Fun: Heated indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, movie theater, family game room, ice cream parlor, bowling alley. Free summer camp; $25/hr babysitting.
Type: 5,500 Acre Mountain Resort
Location: Poconos (2.5 hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site (fee based) ice skating, snow tubing, skiing, show shoeing, treetop adventure course, ice fishing and more.
Other Family Fun: Lots of indoor and outdoor organized activities.
Type: All Inclusive Resort
Location: Hudson Valley New York (2hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site ice skating, snow tubing, XC skiing, and snow shoeing - all complimentary to overnight guests.
Other Family Fun: Nestled in 40,000 acres of forest with 85 miles of hiking trails. Indoor heated pool. Meals are included, as well as organized activities, live entertainment, indoor archery, yoga and fitness classes, and drop off KIDS CLUB for kids ages 4-11 (daily in summer, only weekends/holidays otherwise).
Noteworthy: Voted #1 Resort in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region by CondÃ© Nast Traveler in 2023 and #2 Best All-Inclusive Resort by USA Today 10Best in 2023.
So what do you think!?? Have you been to any of these? Ready to book one!? Did we miss an amazing one? Let us know in a comment below!!!
Disclaimer: We were provided tickets in exchange for sharing our experience, but all thoughts and opinions are our own.
We moved from Brooklyn to Hudson Valley a year ago, but last summer was pretty much a wash for any kind of theme park experiences. Thankfully everything is opened back up now and we are HERE. FOR. IT!!! Yesterday we ventured half an hour up to Fishkill, NY to spend the day at SplashDown Beach Water Park and had the best day everrrrrr!!! Be sure to watch our highlights video here, and read on for details!!
We arrived at 11AM, got our bags checked, tickets scanned, rented our locker for the day (you get a handy wrist band you simply scan to open the locker), and rented our Cabana, which is an extra splurge but I highly recommend it - it was so nice to have a quiet shaded spot to come back to for a break. There's a buzzer so you can easily call your waiter and order food and drinks to be brought to you. You need a special wrist band to enter the private cabana area, so we felt safe leaving our clothes and water bottles and sunblock and other non-valuables there with no worries, just putting wallets and keys in a locker (in another area). We had a cheese pizza delivered for lunch and it was delicious!!!!
Those 48" and above can do all the rides, though 42" and above can do pretty much do everything, sometimes solo and sometimes needing to pair up with an adult. There are some HUGE and terrifying slides (like Humunga Halfpipe and Megalodon), some medium thrill ones (like Bullet Bowl and Arctic Plunge), and some super chill ones safe for babies and babies at heart (like the lazy river, regular pool, and wave pool), and even some areas just for smaller kids.
One of our 5 year old twins was too scared to do a solo ride at the start of the day, but after doing several rides with a partner she was ready to try again at the end of the day and SUCCESS! She loved it and begged to ride again and again!!! So, my tip, if you have a more nervous kid like her, do parter or group rides first to get their confidence up a bit, and avoid any potential tears and inner conflict!
They have complimentary coastguard certified lifejackets available throughout the park - for adults (over 90 pounds), youth (55-88 pounds), child (33-55 pounds), and infant. Our kids can't swim yet so having them wear these helped me feel more reassured.
I was really impressed with the lifeguards, too. At the pool, you can see them scanning in very strict grid patterns - each line up and down the pool from one side to the other, the perimeter, and back to start - they obviously have very detailed training and when one of my kids had trouble exiting from a water slide at one point that lifeguard did not hesitate to blow her whistle, jump in, and rescue my little one who had been sucked back to the corner by the current (you can see the action in our video). While she luckily hadn't been in any real danger, it was amazing to see how confident the lifeguards are in knowing exactly what to do. So so so important at any water park, and this was the first time I ever got to see their training in action!
They have changing rooms, bathrooms, lots of dining options inside and outside. We left when they closed at 6pm, after a full 7 hours there, and honestly, still hadn't had enough LMAO!!! It is a SUPER FUN day out and I can't recommend it highly enough!!
LOCATION: 16 Old Route 9 W, Fishkill, NY
TICKETS: from $29.99 - $49.99 per day (half day, weekday, weekend/holiday rates vary), infants 2 and under free (but first visit you must purchase their reusable swim diaper cover for $9.99), $129.99 season's pass.
Quick shoutout to some items that made our day in the sun even better:
For more NY / NJ area reviews and recommendations, be sure to check out our roundups:
Parents are always asking where they can escape the city with their kids to pick apples, see farm animals, wander through a field of sunflowers or corn maze, indulge in fresh apple cider donuts, or take a hayride and go pumpkin picking. There are an overwhelming amount of farms you'll see pop up on a Google search, but I'm here to give you my family's 10 thumbs up on such a family-run destination we just visited yesterday: Barton Orchards!
Disclaimer: Tickets were provided in exchange for this review but all thoughts and opinions are completely my own. We're no sell outs - quite honestly, this place was amazing!!
Barton Orchards is a 175-acre apple orchard and vegetable farm located in Poughquag, NY (Dutchess County), run by the Barton family for over 40 years. While many pick-your-own fruit spots offer only that, Barton Orchards goes above and beyond, providing a variety of activities that are fun for all ages, most of it included in admission. For the full experience, be sure to watch our video highlights here and read on for more details about our trip to their 2nd Annual Sunflower Festival and what you can expect on your visit!
2020 was Barton Orchard's 2nd Annual Sunflower Festival. It's quick, held over just 2 weekends in August so you better pencil it in now for 2021 so you don't miss it! You can walk to the field but it's much more fun to hop on their complimentary hayride to the 5 acre sunflower field which was simply spectacular! They give you cutters (based on your ticket type you either get 1 flower or a vase with 6 flowers, and pay for extras picked) and a plastic bag. You wander through the field, taking a million photos and at least a handful of selfies, am I right!? You pick your flower, put it in the bag, and fill it a bit at their water station, tying it off with a rubber band hoping it doesn't leak on the trip home. Our kids were REALLY into the super big job they each had to pick out their own sunflower. It was such a special time watching them wander, considering what makes the perfect sunflower, deciding which one to choose and take home. There's no storage so I recommend doing like we did, saving the sunflower picking for the last activity before you head home, otherwise you'll be carrying them around (and likely a couple of bees will be your companions while doing so).
The Kids' Fun Park
I was expecting a generic playground, but what we found was so much more! A tractor-drawn children's train, rope climbing, a hay chute slide, pedal go carts, barrell pong, a swing, rock maze, hop balls, mini golf, and probably some other things I'm forgetting. My kids (and us parents) had an absolute blast, even in the rain!
Live Music & Entertainment
They have 4 stages for live music, there was a band going in the food court area which was nice while we scarfed down the (most amazingly soft and delicious) apple cider donuts! There was also a band playing in a gazebo up at the sunflower field, which really added to the ambience! But what really blew us away was the Bubble Bus, blowing bubbles and foam across an entire field. You really have to watch my video to see how cool this was, my kids could have played and danced there all day!
Whether you are looking for a meal, a snack, some booze, or treats to take home, you'll find them in abundance at Barton Orchards! After seeing their unique sundaes on social media, we decided to get the Apple Cider Donut Sundae and a half-dozen box to share of Apple Cider Donuts ($1 each but half dozen was the minimum purchase - we saw many people buying 3 dozen!!). I will say, hands down, one of the best donuts I've ever had! They were SO fresh, soft, simply scrumptious!!! Do not miss out on these when you visit!! They also have the Tap Room with lots of great beer and hard cider on tap, but due to covid, the system of ordering alcohol is a bit tricky. You're required to purchase with food, so basically you buy your food and tell them how many drink tickets you want, and purchase all together, then you bring your drink ticket to the Tap Room and get your drink. Not too much run around, but I had never experienced the new covid drinking-with-food rules before so it was new to me!
They had lively goats, curious llamas, a huge peacock, a couple of bunnies, a duck, and more! We didn't spend too much time here but did enjoy seeing all of the animals, petting some, and getting a surprise tongue bath by one LOL!
Other Family Fun:
In September and October they have pumpkin picking and a haunted house, "Rotten Core Manor". Their website also mentions a dog park, a corn maze, 120 acres of pick-your-own veggies and apples starting from end of July (see what's available for picking now), and Tree Tops Adventures ropes course!
Notes for those with strollers & babies:
There were gravel paths around, which don't scream stroller-friendly, but it is completely doable and wouldn't deter me from making a visit with a stroller or wagon, though you may want to consider also bringing a baby carrier to wear your baby in the fields and less accessible areas. There were porta-potties with hand sanitizers, a handwashing station in the foot court area, and we saw a changing table by the petting zoo.
Visit their website to learn more and don't drag your feet, go ahead and plan your family's visit now! You won't regret it!!
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!