Winter Weekend Getaways

Don't let the season stop you from taking a mini-vacation. We found four destinations with something for grandchildren of all ages.

By Kara Williams

There's no reason to let cooler winter weather stop you from bundling up your grandchildren and packing the car for a quick weekend trip to the mountains, an urban escape to the big city, or an adventure in the desert. Consider these options:

Destination: Boston, Massachusetts

[photo boston max-width=150 align=right]What to Do: Founded by the Puritans in 1630, this capital city is rich in American history. On a 90-minute walking tour that costumed docents of the Freedom Trail lead, learn about the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Or visit the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the United States. Weather's crummy? Head indoors to the New England Aquarium or the Museum of Science. Any of these activities are so fun, your grandchildren won't even realize they're learning along the way!

Where to Stay: Both the Boston Marriott Copley Plaza and the Hyatt Regency Boston have downtown locations close to "The T" subway stops, discounts for seniors, and kid-magnet indoor pools. Business travelers flock to both properties during the week; rates drop considerably on weekends.

Where to Eat: You can't go wrong with any of the casual restaurants in the North End's Little Italy; what child doesn't like pizza or pasta? Decision-making sometimes is tough at the Quincy Market Colonnade, where vendors offer everything, including take-out deli sandwiches, Chinese food, Indian specialties, and Beantown's beloved seafood chowder.

Destination: Palm Springs Area, California

[photo california max-width=150 align=right]What to Do: It's a popular desert respite for snowbird retirees, but the Palm Springs area — about two hours from Los Angeles — also has loads for grandkids to do. Take the rotating tram car at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, for instance. At the 8,516-foot peak, the weather is decidedly cooler, so dress accordingly — even be prepared to throw snowballs! Preschoolers can spend hours watching the intricate network of model trains on 3,000 feet of track at The Living Desert. See if you can pull them away to visit the giraffes, zebras, bighorn sheep, and other animals on display. The Palm Springs Air Museum and the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert are other highlights.

Where to Stay: Visiting children give Rancho Mirage's Rancho Las Palmas a huge thumbs up for its new Splashtopia outdoor water-play area. The lazy river, 100-foot slides, waterfalls, sandy beach, and a huge pool are open year-round. This luxury resort underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2007. Grandparents appreciate the brand new spa, 27 holes of golf, and 25 tennis courts.

Where to Eat: Sit on the award-winning outdoor patio and fill up on authentic Mexican
dishes at Las Casuelas Nuevas in Rancho Mirage. The Delgado family, with restaurant roots in the area dating back to 1958, operate it. Kids' menus are available. Classy Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro is appropriate for older or restaurant-savvy grandkids who appreciate crispy, gourmet pizza. Matchbox refers not to the little toys, but to the restaurant's wood-fired oven.

Destination: Winter Park, Colorado

[photo colorado max-width=150 align=right]What to Do: If you're a skiing family, drive an hour and a half into the mountains from Denver to the Winter Park Resort. With more than 3,000 acres of ski and snowboard terrain — easy bunny slopes, double black-diamond moguls, and everything in betweeen — there are trails for everyone. Nonskiers can enjoy the high-Alpine scenery on a chairlift ride or guided snowshoe tour. Your grandkids will think you're incredibly cool if you join them at the Fraser Tubing Hill where a towrope pulls you and your supplied inner tube up the massive hill — no trudging required!

Where to Stay: Book a multi-bedroom condominium, townhome, or private house through Vacations Inc.The rental agency offers accommodations in all price ranges; most of them are in town, but a few condo buildings are within walking distance of the slopes. If ski-in/ski-out access is key for you, consider the slopeside Zephyr Mountain Lodge.

Where to Eat: Think Cajun in Colorado. Fontenot's Seafood & Grill consistently receives rave reviews for its crawfish etouffee, gumbo, pecan-crusted catfish, and key lime pie. A children's menu is available. Kids get a kick out of coloring dollar bills and sticking them on the wall at Hernando's Pizza & Pasta Pub. Both restaurants fill up quickly in the high season; get there early to avoid a long wait.

Destination: Dahlonega, Georgia

[photo georgia max-width=150 align=right]What to Do: The southeast gateway to the Appalachian Mountains, Dahlonega is only about an hour's drive north of Atlanta. It's an easy-to-moderate walk to see cascading water in Amicola Falls State Park or Anna Ruby Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Dahlonega pays homage to its heritage as the site of America's First Gold Rush in 1828 with an interesting Gold Museum and really cool underground mine tours.

Where to Stay: The eight rustic log cabins at Cavender Creek Cabins are set in the woods outside town. Each cabin has central heating as well as a gas fireplace to keep you toasty in winter months. Two-bedroom cabins can sleep six to eight, with bunk beds or loft twin beds for your grandchildren.

Where to Eat: It's Southern cooking defined at the The Smith House in downtown Dahlonega: fried chicken, fried okra, ham, steamed veggies, candied yams, and corn muffins, all served family style at communal tables. The Crimson Moon Cafe features live music most nights, and a vast menu of pizzas, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and entrees like Grilled Meatloaf and Smoked Mountain Trout. Items on the kids' menu, such as grilled cheese or pasta with butter, are just $4 each.


Read more about visiting the Boston Children's Museum, touring the Chattahoochee Valley, and enjoying outdoor winter fun in Colorado.


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