Beach ....... Local ........ Cheap ......
Rent snowshoes at the Adirondacks’ Gore Mountain ski center, gear up the gang, and follow an iced-over stream for two-thirds of a mile. Eventually you will arrive at Falls Brook Yurt’s two backcountry huts, equipped with bunk beds, futons, kitchens, and—this is important—gas heating ($95 for two, $10 each additional person; 518-761-6187 or fallsbrookyurts.com). Hikes are modest in duration and doable for most kids, who will either love or hate the yurt’s bathroom facility—a shingle-roofed outhouse. Ice-skating at the Minerva Recreation Center, however, is a sure thing. By night, it’s board games and hot cocoa or bust.
After a reasonable, two-hour drive from the city, check your family into the Kaaterskill, a local bed-and-breakfast on a farm with chickens, rabbits, Thoroughbreds, and a miniature potbellied pig named Apple who will sniff your shoes. Allen Hirsch, a downtown artist, rescued this playful farm from bankruptcy a few years ago as a sanctuary for painting. There are six suites, all outfitted with working fireplaces and Jacuzzis. To use the kitchen, dining room, and gaming rooms, you have to rent the whole barn at $1,500 a night. Otherwise, it’s $155 a night, and skiing at Hunter Mountain is a twenty-minute ride away (518-678-0026 or thekaaterskill.com).
Put your kids face-to-face with giant jungle ants, poisonous trees, baby caimans, squirrel-sized monkeys, and killer piranhas (which they’ll fish for—safely) at the Ariaú Amazon Towers. The sprawling complex of lodges is built on stilts above the river; buildings are connected by a network of wooden catwalks suspended in the air (three days all-inclusive for $470 per person, kids under 10 pay half-price; 305-371-7871 or ariautowers.com).
Deer Valley—Park City
Drop the kids off at Park City Mountain Resort, where your snowboarding teens can perfect their switch rodeo maneuver at Jonesy’s while neophytes learn how to board in small classes. Meanwhile, you can schuss off to nearby Deer Valley, one of only four U.S. ski areas where snowboarders are verboten. Or bring up the whole family for a snowmobiling adventure on Deer Valley’s 7,000 acres of open, hilly backcountry. Stay at the new 33-unit Skylodge (opens December 26, high-season rates start at $925; 435-658-2500 or theskylodge.com) in the center of historic Park City.
The Big Island’s beautiful, recently renovated Polynesian-themed resort, Kona Village, has sea kayaking, coconut painting, and sailing classes catered to children. The whole family can share a thatched-roofed hut, and keeping everybody fed is easy since it’s an all-inclusive package (starting at $650; 808-325-5555 or konavillage.com). Crafts instructor Lani Opunui will help channel the kids’ creativity to make their own ti-leaf skirts and flower lei, then teach them how to hula. Parents can applaud the results as their kids perform the opening number at the luau on Wednesday or Friday.
Wildlife Expeditions’ safari biologists—all charming, in the spirit of Steve Irwin—take kids and adults into Grand Teton (by sleigh) and Yellowstone National Parks. Spot moose, wolves, bison, bald eagles, and bighorn sheep. Parents should provide their offspring moral support (in the midst of thousands of hungry elk) as well as blankets and a container of hot chocolate. Then find your own refuge at The Four Seasons Resort (day expeditions from $165 per adult and $132 per child under 12; 307-733-2623 or wildlifeexpeditions.org; rooms from $250; fourseasons.com/jacksonhole or 307-732-5000).