December Family Travel Guide

Ice Motorcycle
Boston's First Night offers a family-centric New Year's Eve festival, with ice sculptures, dance troupes, magicians, and fireworks. (courtesy, First Night/Paul Robicheau)

Fort Lauderdale, Florida
One of Florida's most unique and exciting events is the Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale. A series of boats decked out in Christmas lights cruise the Intracoastal Waterway from Port Everglades north to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano. The nighttime viewing includes musical performances by well-known names such as Frankie Valli.

Dominican Republic
Offering Mexico some well-needed competition, the Dominican Republic is becoming more popular as an affordable family travel destination. On the east coast of the island, Punta Cana is the fastest growing tourist destination in the Caribbean, its palm trees and powdery white sand, soft as sifted flour, extend for miles and make it easy to leave civilization behind. On the north coast, Puerto Plata or "port of silver," as Christopher Columbus called it on his 1492 voyage, has revitalized its historic seaport and added modern hotels north of town.

Harlem, New York
Double Dutch no longer consists of a simple jump over a rope. Nowadays, the sport combines acrobatics, high jumps, and a whole lot of break dancing. See the best Double Dutch teams contend for the world championship at Harlem's Apollo Theater in December. The incredible moves will awe you.

San Antonio, Texas
With candlelight vigils along the noted Riverwalk, mariachis playing at mass, and choirs singing Ave Maria, San Antonio spices up the Christmas celebration with Latino flair. If you can't find the holiday cheer here amongst all this song and dance, then you'll never find it.

Disney World
Disney gets into the Christmas spirit with Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom. The series of fun nighttime events includes holiday shows, fireworks, and magic treats with Minnie and Mickey. At Epcot, Holidays Around the World features international holiday storytellers and a daily candlelight processional..

Stowe, Vermont
It's hard to get a better vista in New England than the one from the lobby of the new Stowe Mountain Lodge. Gaze at Vermont's tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, and the ribbons of ski trails that form the Stowe Mountain Resort, located in a scenic valley. Both sides of the mountain contain uninterrupted forest, a carpet of maples, and pines billowing from ridge to ridge as far as the eye can see. Opened summer of 2008, Stowe Mountain Lodge has one-, two-, and three-bedroom luxury suites, built with the family in mind.

Essex, Connecticut
Throughout late November and December, you can ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus on the North Pole Express. Embarking from Essex, Connecticut, the one-hour ride on a classic steam train features a live musical performance of the "The Night Before Christmas," sing-alongs, hot chocolate, and Christmas cookies.

Saint Genevieve, Missouri
One hour south of Saint Louis, the quaint town of Saint Genevieve, Missouri, celebrates the yuletide with a French spin. In the beginning of December, a Christmas Parade features the Little French Singers, who skip down the street dressed in colonial French attire. A week later, experience early 19th-century French Christmas customs, food, and music at the Felix Valle State Historic Site.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Sixty miles south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen was once a quiet outpost favored by European backpackers. Now it's the gateway to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, snorkeling in Xel-ha, long walks on white sand beaches, and a growing number of new resorts. Many of these resorts are all-inclusive, such as the heavenly Iberostar Grand, perfect for a novice traveler.

Boston, Massachusetts
Unlike many New Year's Eve celebrations, Boston's First Night caters to the family. During the day, circus acts, dance troupes, magicians, and acrobats perform for the kids indoors at the Hynes Convention Center. At dusk, a parade marches down Boylston Street leading past the ice sculptures in Copley Square. Then, at a reasonable hour (7:00 p.m.), fireworks light up the sky over Boston Common.

Boston-based writer Stephen Jermanok has authored or contributed to 11 books on the outdoors, including Outside Magazine's Adventure Guide to New England , Discovery Channel's Backcountry Treks , Discovery Channel's Paddlesports , Outside Magazine's Guide to Family Vacations and Men's Journal's The Great Life . His latest book is New England Seacoast Adventures . His many adventures appear in National Geographic Adventure , Outside , Men's Journal , Forbes FYI , Travel + Leisure , Hooked on the Outdoors , and Backpacker . He can be reached at

Published: 20 Jun 2007 | Last Updated: 22 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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