chillin’ in Banff & Lake Louise, Alberta
Spend a day or two in boomtown Calgary (don’t miss the boutiques along hip 17th Avenue SW). Then point your rental car west for the 90-minute drive to Banff and Lake Louise, in the heart of Banff National Park, where over 7,700 breathtaking acres of Rocky Mountain ski and snowboard terrain await.
a perfect day in Banff/Lake Louise
Ski the region’s big three—Ski Banff@Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise—for one price with a multi-day Tri-Area Lift Ticket (800-661-1431, from $93 per kid, $198 per adult for a three-day pass). Get cozy in the heated outdoor pool at Banff Upper Hot Springs as snowflakes drift down around you (403-762-1515, $23 per family). Hop aboard a horse-drawn sleigh and head to a cowboy barbecue with Brewster Lake Louise Stables (800-691-5085, brewsterlakelouisestables.com, $24 per kid, $28 per adult), or yell “Mush!” til you’re hoarse on a trip with Snowy Owl Dog Sled Tours (888-311-6874, snowyowltours.com, from $127 per adult, $85 per child).
where to stay
The artfully rustic Skoki Lodge, features bountiful buffets – but no electricity – for a true wilderness experience. (877-687-7669, skokilodge.com, from $349* per night, including meals.
The Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets offer full kitchens and two indoor waterslides to amuse the kids. (800-661-9267, douglasfir.com, from $123 per night.)
Kids will think the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a castle—and with its four-star dining, gi-normous spa and unparalleled mountain views, you’ll live like royalty (800-257-7544, fairmont.com, from $279 per night.)
Get Canadian-made reversible kids’ clothes at Scallywags (403-522-3929) and yoga gear for you at Kula (403-760-3576). Or get crafty and make your own stuffed animals at Whiskey Jack’s (403-762-8626).
what to wear
Average winter temps range from 1C to -14C, so bring warm outdoor gear (plus one knockout outfit for a splashy resort dinner).
For more info: BanffLakeLouise.com.
-Laura Byrne Paquet
*All rates are base winter-season, based on two parents sharing a room, suite or villa (as noted), with two children.
parkin’ it in Wisconsin Dells
Want to swim in the morning, ski after lunch and gamble all night? Try the Waterpark Capital Of The World, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. With its Ripley’s museum and haunted mansions, it could well be Kitsch Capital of the Midwest too. Fly into Madison and rent a car for the 90-KM drive.
a perfect day in Wisconsin Dells
There’s no point in visiting Wisconsin Dells if you don’t like to get wet; the place is home to more than 200 waterslides. Try the indoor waterpark at Mt. Olympus (608-254-2490, mtolympuspark.com, from $23 per person). When you’ve dried off, drive 15 minutes to Cascade Mountain in Portage (608-742-5588, cascademountain.com) for snowboarding, snowtubing down chutes, and downhill skiing runs ranging from gentle to challenging. Later, hit the slots at the Ho-Chunk Casino in nearby Baraboo, which offers childcare-by-the-hour for kids under 12 (800-746-2486, ho-chunk.com).
where to stay
It’s water, water everywhere at the Wilderness Resort, which boasts three indoor waterparks and TV-equipped poolside cabanas (wildernessresort.coma, from US$109 per night).
If Davy Crockett were alive and pining for a pedicure, he’d head to Great Wolf Lodge, with its elk antler chandeliers and Aveda spa. (greatwolflodge.com, 1-800-559-9653, from US$114 per night).
The Copa Cabana Resort has a no-frills motel-modern decor, but with a restaurant and indoor waterpark, it’s great value (608-253-1511, copacabanaresort.com, from US$49 per night).
Check out Dandelion (608-253-7197, shopdandelion.com) for funky mobiles. The new Tanger Outlet Center (608-253-5380, tangeroutlet.com) includes Disney and Skechers. Try the double chocolate at Swiss Maid Fudge (608-254-7771, dellsfudge.com).
what to wear
Average winter temperatures range from +6C in November to -16C in January, so bring your woollies along with multiple swimsuits. Designer duds not required.
For more info: wisdells.com.
-Laura Byrne Paquet
livin’ la vie en rose in Paris
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Seine – Paris is all about art and amour. It’s also a kid-friendly city the wee ones will love. Two airports serve Paris, Charles de Gaulle and Orly. Alternatively, the Eurostar train (eurostar.com) takes about 2.5 hours from London.
a perfect day in Paris
Museum-hop at the Musée D’Orsay (musee-orsay.fr), the Louvre (louvre.fr), and catch the Balenciaga exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (lesartsdecoratifs.fr) until January 27th. Watch a Guignol (guignol.fr) marionette show – a French tradition for les enfants – at the stylish Jardin D’Acclimatation (jardindacclimatation.fr) amusement park. Take the funicular train up the hill of Montmartre (montmartrenet.com), enjoy the power and the glory of Sacré-Coeur basilica, and drink in the view overlooking Paris.
where to stay
Splurge at the Four Seasons Hotel George V (fourseasons.com/paris, from 710 Euros per night) for its Marie Antoinetteesque décor, huge rooms, and the George the Frog children’s program, with gifts, games, mini-bathrobes and snacks in-room children’s programs.
The sleek Hotel Bel Ami (hotel-bel-ami.com, From 270 euros per night) boutique hotel will arrange babysitting, so you can enjoy its luxe sauna and spa.
Live like a local in a pied-a-terre from Rental France (rentalfrance.com, from 550 Euros per week) – choose from cute apartments in a variety of Paris ‘hoods, like a charmant studio with exposed wooden beams, king-size loft bed, fold-out sofa, and onsite laundry in the bustling Latin Quarter.
From dolls to Dior, Galeries Lafayette (galerieslafayette.com) department store has it, including a chic cafeteria. Cheap’n'cheery housewares and bright clothes are the focus at the Antoine & Lili (altribu.com) hip Quai de Valmy location in the up-and-coming Canal St-Martin neighbourhood. The Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves (pucesdevanves.typepad.com) flea market brims with antiques and vintage toys, clothes, and other goodies. Find that glam retro t-shirt, iPod holder, or Pucci pen at famed boutique Colette (colette.fr).
what to wear
C’est-chouette cashmere scarves, wool coats, dark jeans and sexy boots for you and wellies for the kids. Expect 3 C to 10 C temperatures.
finding bliss in the Abacos islands, Bahamas
Planning a trip to the Bahamas? Skip the Nasseau tourist traps and head to the Abacos islands instead. The small island chain offers picture-perfect beaches and quaint colonial towns that were settled by British loyalists in the 18th century. Stay at a resort in or near Marsh Harbour, or live like a local and rent a house on tiny Elbow Cay. A number of airlines make the short flight from Florida to Marsh Harbour. A 15-minute ferry ride from Marsh Harbour will get you to Elbow Cay and other surrounding cays.
a perfect day in the Abacos
There are some “must dos” when visiting the Abacos. One is limbo night every Wednesday at the Jib Room in Marsh Harbour; book a babysitter and see how low you can go (both the Abaco Club and Abaco Beach Resort offer babysitting services). For a Sunday lunch your family won’t soon forget, go to Great Guana Cay for the pig roast at Nippers Beach Bar & Grill (nippersbar.com). Take the kids to Elbow Cay to climb the candy-striped Hope Town lighthouse. Built in the 1860s, it boasts the world’s oldest kerosene-powered light.
where to stay
For the ultimate in barefoot elegance stay at The Abaco Club (theabacoclub.com) on Winding Bay. The new 520-acre private beachside retreat outside of Marsh Harbour allows non-members to rent one-bedroom cabanas (from $800 US per week) or multi-bedroom cottages (from $1,530 US per week) and access the club’s amenities.
The Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour (abacoresort.com) is located in Marsh Harbour and offers oceanfront rooms (from $264 US per night), one-bedroom suites (from $528 per night) and two-bedroom cottages (from $748 per night).
If you’ve ever dreamed of living on a secluded Caribbean island, live the dream by renting a house on Elbow Cay. Hopetown Hideaways (hopetownhideaways.com) and Elbow Cay Properties (elbowcayproperties.com) are online rental services that offer homes in the colourful, Bahamian island style, ranging from two-bedroom cottages ($1,000 US per week) to six bedroom villas with pools ($5,000 US per week). Local grocery stores, bakeries and a fish market allow you to stock up and feed the family at “home,” or you can dine at one of the child-friendly restaurants on the island.
A number of stores in Marsh Harbour, such as John Bull (johnbull.com) and Abaco Treasures (242-367-3460), offer duty-free deals on jewellery, watches and perfume. Bahama Dawn Designs in Marsh Harbour (242-367-4648) is a working studio selling local quilts and fabrics. On Treasure Cay, Abaco Ceramics (242-365-8489) specializes in earthenware painted with tropical designs. For that last-minute gift, there’s always the ubiquitous Bahamian rum cake.
what to wear
Swimsuits and flip flops are appropriate daytime attire (throw on your favourite cover-up for dining). For nighttime, swap the bikini for casual wear (keep the flip flops) and you’ll get in anywhere. Winter temps range from the mid to high 20s, but pack a sweater for the cooler nights.
make it easy in Orlando, Florida
Before you became a parent, you swore you’d never go. Fast-forward to your new life, mama, and bite the bullet: it’s actually fun. Take advantage of discounted rates to this ever-popular winter destination – it’s warm and you can bribe weeks of good behaviour out of junior. Numerous flights from cities across Canada.
a perfect day in Orlando
The theme parks are probably what made you – sorry, your kids – decide to vacation here, but check out these other options too. Gatorland (gatorland.com), combines kitschy don’t-try-this-at-home entertainment with a world-class bird sanctuary in a naturalized swamp where huge alligators lurk. Next, head over to Discovery Cove (discoverycove.com, 800-403-7406, $150 per person, includes all meals, beverages, snorkeling gear), where you can swim with dolphins, snorkel amongst rays and marine fish, and tube your way down a lazy river, then relax on a white sand beach. After dinner, catch La Nouba, Cirque Du Soleil’s (cirquedusoleil.com) show at Walt Disney World Resort. Brimming with Cirque’s trademark combination of skill and spectacle.
where to stay
The Nickodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn (nickhotel.com, from $169 per night) isn’t going to win any design awards, but your kids’ll love the Nick-themed kids’ bedroom in your two-bedroom suite. With two generously sized outdoor water parks, nightly entertainment (including a supervised activity program so you and your honey can get close sans kids for a couple hours), and near-hourly shuttles to all the major attractions, staying here takes a lot of the work out of entertaining your kids.
Universal Orlando Resort’s Portofino Bay Hotel (universalorlando.com, from $289 per night) offers a more upscale approach with its luxe rooms and suites, which were deemed among the county’s best by the travelistas at Condé Nast Traveler. Designed to replicate a seaside Mediterranean town, it’s got three swimming pools (including one with “Roman aqueduct-styled water slides”!), a myriad of dining options and your hotel room key provides front-of-the-line access to rides and attractions at Universal’s two theme parks.
The Omni Orlando Resort At ChampionsGate (omniorlandoresort.com, from $199 per night) features two Greg Norman-designed golf courses as well as the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. The pool will delight the kids and you, with its luxury cabanas.
Your prize for not blowing a gasket while paying for overpriced theme-park souvenirs is to hit the outlet malls for a bargain or two pour vous. Orlando Premium Outlet (premiumoutlets.com) has Coach and Barney’s for you, and Brooks Brothers for your guy. Hit the Mall At Millenia (mallatmillenia.com) for the Jimmy Choo and Tiffany outlets.
what to wear
Low-fuss cargos and tees will keep you covered; pack a hoodie for the nights. Bring a pair of designer jeans and a sexy cami if you’re hitting the Cirque Du Soleil.
For more info: Orlandoinfo.com