Boxes of tacky wrapping paper, crazed shopping trips, spilled cocoa and icy sidewalks. If the holiday season has you running for the refuge of your TV remote, maybe it’s time to consider an alternative holiday celebration. Enter a fun family road trip. Think about relaxation. A fun destination. Lots of activities. And something the holidays never seem to give you: quality time with the people you love. Here are our top four family road trips for this season.
Hey, even Santa has to fly south sometimes, and you can too. Enjoy mild weather on Florida’s Gulf Coast with average temperatures in the 70’s in St. Petersburg on Christmas day. And St. Pete is not without some holiday magic. Head downtown in December for a free lighted boat parade. The next day, make your way to St. Pete Beach to shop at the holiday market from 10am to 2pm. And don’t miss Largo’s 750,000 lights at the Botanical Gardens from 5:30 to 9:30pm until December 31.
Head even further south to visit Key West. On your way, stop at Fort Myers for swashbuckling adventure aboard a 65-foot replica Spanish galleon pirate ship. Next, explore the Everglades National Park and visit Coral Castle near Homestead, Florida, before driving 113 miles across brilliant blue water on Highway 1 from Key Largo to Key West.
Allow yourself to be lured to the stark landscape of the Southwest. Immerse your family in silvery lights, luminaries and the scent of piñon wood in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Enjoy Las Posadas, a reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging, in the historic plaza. For a special cultural tradition, drive to one of the seven pueblos within an hour of Santa Fe to watch a ceremonial dance, and don’t miss the Farolito Walk on Canyon Road on Christmas Eve.
For an epic ski trip and staggering scenery, head three hours north to Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado. With 421 inches of snow in 2015, the area is primed for energetic skiers and snowboarders. When you little ones get tired, enjoy a dogsled adventure with real Alaskan Malamutes in nearby Pagosa Springs.
Honor the low country’s southern charm with a slow journey from Charleston, South Carolina, to Savannah, Georgia. Start with some great southern cooking: shrimp and grits fritters at High Cotton. See Scuba Claus swim with the fish at the South Carolina Aquarium, enjoy a theatrical portrayal of Christmas in 1860 at the Edmondston-Alston House, or a madcap mystery and appetizers at Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre.
Next, meander to Edisto Island, historic Beaufort and Hunting Island where scenes from "Forrest Gump" were shot. Finally, end your road trip in beautifully preserved Savannah, General Sherman’s Christmas gift to President Lincoln during the Civil War. Enjoy a Lighthouse Christmas, parade and polar plunge on Tybee Island, or indoor ice skating at the Civic Center.
Take a break from crowded beaches and mountains to get a dose of good ol’ fashioned Christmas spirit in small towns in the heartland. Start your trip about an hour and a half from Omaha in Beatrice, Nebraska. Enjoy a horse-drawn trolley ride downtown on before heading to nearby Manley for a performance of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" at the Lofte Community Theatre.
Before leaving Nebraska, warm up in the world-class Desert Dome at the Henry Doorly Zoo and enjoy holiday concerts under a giant lighted Christmas tree at the beautifully restored Durham museum in Omaha. In the true spirit of the season, visit a local giving tree and encourage your kids to buy and wrap a gift to put under the tree. Next, drive two hours east through peaceful rolling hills to Winterset, Iowa. Visit the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum, and explore Clark Tower and charming covered bridges in the surrounding Madison County.