Best Luxury Family Winter Vacation Spots
The Luxist Awards' Readers' Choice nominees for the Best Luxury Family Winter Vacation include a luxurious family safari in Kenya where you'll see the wilds up close. The second nominee is a family trip to the Rockies in Colorado where just about every winter sport can be enjoyed. The third nominee is a paradise for families located in a picture-perfect stretch of beach on the Big Island's Kona Coast. The fourth nominee offers a once-in-a-lifetime educational cruise to the Galápagos Islands. The final nominee is nestled in a rugged 2,500 acres of native forest on the edge of the Mamaku Plateau in New Zealand; it boasts a game reserve, seven trout streams, four lakes and more than 70 kilometers of hiking trails.
Abercrombie & Kent Family Safari in Kenya, Africa
For families with a thirst for adventure, a safari trip to Africa may be the ideal cure to the winter blues. Leave the planning to Abercrombie & Kent, a luxury travel company that's been at it for half a century, now nominated for a Readers' Choice Award in the Best Luxury Family Winter Vacation category.
Founded in 1962 by a British family living in East Africa, Abercrombie & Kent offers an unparalleled family safari in Kenya. The 11-day itinerary starts with a flight to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya and cultural, economic and political hub of East Africa. Once there, you'll start your journey with a visit to Daphne Sheldrick's Baby Elephant Orphanage, where keepers sometimes sleep with lonely animals at night. Proceed to the Giraffe Center, where you'll feed long-necked beauties from the palm of your hand.
Next, you'll head out into the wilds with a drive to the Sweetwaters Reserve, one of the best places to spot a rare chimpanzee or black rhino. Then delve deep into bush country with a trip to the Samburu game reserve, rife with buffalo, lion, leopard among others; meet with members of the nomadic Samburu tribe and track game, catch butterflies, or even ride a camel.
The next day, you'll spend the first of three days on the Masai Mara Game reserve, sleeping in tents near the Talek River and witnessing the vast expanse of the African savannah. Travel to a nearby village to learn about tribal culture and discover the proper way to throw a spear or light a fire with sticks. For amateur aviators, consider the optional hot air balloon safari before heading home.
Vote now for what you believe is the best international ski destination. Readers' Choice Awards for the Best in Winter Travel will be announced on February 1st.
If escaping to warmer weather isn't your optimal idea of a vacation, head west to the Rockies for a family ski trip. There, the air is clear, the powder is fresh, and the amenities are plenty. For the best of all three, try Beaver Creek and Vail – both of which are up for a Readers' Choice Award in the Best Luxury Family Winter Vacation category.
Perhaps the most famous of America's ski resort towns, Vail has its reputation for good reason. Vail Mountain, at 5,289 skiable acres, is the largest single mountain ski resort in the U.S.; the town of Vail is a luxury ski bum's dream. The area, which is reminiscent of renowned resorts such as Switzerland's St. Moritz, Italy's Cortina and Spain's Val d'Aran, it is a year-round destination for families with plenty of activities geared for all ages. Its legendary ski slopes make Vail the ultimate place to enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding in addition to Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating. Kids ages four and under ski free; children's lift tickets start at age five and go to age 12. Nightlife includes world-class theater productions and some of the best dining in Colorado.
A few miles away, tucked away in the mountains, is neighbor Beaver Creek Village. This tony enclave offers a village-to-village ski experience with Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead and turns into a miniature cosmopolitan center every night, playing host to live jazz concerts, Broadway-level theater, visiting symphonies, films and other attractions. Bars and taverns line the warmly lit streets. For kids, there's a four-lane tubing hill and an ice skating rink, in addition to one of the best ski schools in the country, if not the world.
Four Seasons Hotel in Hualalai, Hawaii
Perhaps the most kid-friendly of Luxist's best winter family vacation nominees is the Four Seasons Hotel in Hualalai, Hawaii. The island resort, which sits on a picture-perfect stretch of beach on the Big Island's Kona Coast, and its surrounding areas, offer a range of experience that will suit everyone from baby to grandma.
Situated between the roaring Pacific Ocean and a lush jungle with volcanoes beyond, Hualalai makes for quite the dramatic setting. Nearby attractions include an on-site beach, spa, and two restaurants including the elegant beachside Pahu i`a. Guest can work off dinnertime decadence at the Hualalai Sports Club, which boasts cardio equipment, free weights, basketball courts and a 25-meter outdoor lap pool. There's also a private 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed signature golf course that winds over 7,100 yards.Myriad options beckon beyond the bounds of the Four Seasons' grounds. A half hour drive takes you to Kauna`oa Beach and its snorkeling and surfing opportunities. Those willing to endure a 2.5-hour car ride can explore Volcano National Park, home to Mt. Kilauea, the world's most active volcano. The 11-mile Crater Rim Drive is a scenic attraction for all ages; the more adventurous can spring for a helicopter ride over the crater. Local legend says the volcano erupts whenever the goddess Pele is angry, and she must be livid – Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983.
Lindblad Expeditions Cruise to the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Lindblad Expeditions, in partnership with National Geographic, offers a cruise to the Galápagos Islands that is a Readers' Choice Nominee for Best Luxury Family Winter Vacation.
Lindblad Expeditions offers this educational 10 day expedition to the Galápagos Islands, also known as the "Land of Darwin", which are located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. The islands are a natural habitat for some of the world's most interesting and unusual animals. Only in the Galápagos can you come face to face with wildlife up close that has never developed a fear of people, from the diverse bird life to the giant Galápagos tortoise. The Galápagos are one of the most fascinating travel destinations in the world both from a geographical and a wildlife perspective.
The itinerary includes visits to seven or more islands, including Floreana where guests can snorkel and observe a large colony of sea lions. At Fernandina, guests will see flamingos, visit a tortoise breeding center, caves and beaches. On the excursion to Fernandina Island, the youngest island in Galápagos, guests will observe marine iguanas and see dramatic volcanoes. Activities include Zodiacs and kayaks that take guests to the volcanic shores and pristine beaches. There's also an undersea program that utilizes underwater video, glass-bottom boat and hydrophone that bring seldom seen or heard worlds to life.
Treetops Lodge & Estate, New Zealand
Some families prefer the beach, some the ski slopes. But for those who find solace in the forest, it's hard to beat Treetops Lodge & Estate in New Zealand, a Luxist nominee for Best Luxury Family Winter Vacation.
Nestled in a rugged 2,500 acres of native forest on the edge of the Mamaku Plateau, Treetops boasts a game reserve, seven trout streams, four lakes, over 70 kilometers of hiking trails, plus mountain biking and horse riding opportunities. Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest, is less than an hour away by car; Cape Kidnappers, with its dramatic seaside golf course, is a three hour drive.Located 140 miles southeast of Auckland, Treetops is the gem of greater Rotorua. The area is a trout-fishing mecca and is also home to some of the most colorful geothermal features in the world – bubbling mud pools, volcanic craters and geysers. Some of New Zealand's best vineyards – Craggy Range, Te Mata, Sileni – are a stone's throw from the lodge. The area is also a major hub of the Maori, New Zealand's aboriginal inhabitants, whose carefully carved meeting houses dot the landscape.