If the words “mountain vacation” conjure up thoughts of arduous hikes, drafty cabins with no running water, and remote areas not suitable for a family vacation, well, you couldn’t be more wrong. The United States has a wealth of mountain vacation destinations that offer easy access to their natural beauty, stunning scenic drives, and activities that won’t tax your energy or your family’s patience. Here are five of America’s favorite mountain destinations with just the right ingredients to create the perfect family vacation.
Straddling Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers families a wide range of activities and attractions matched by few other mountain destinations. The park itself has numerous scenic drives that let you easily enjoy its incredible natural beauty, as well as hundreds of miles of gorgeous trails amid a variety of plant and animal life so diverse that the UN designates this area a unique global ecosystem. Nestled in the mountains, Gatlinburg is the gateway town to the national park on the Tennessee side, and shares with its neighboring town of Pigeon Forge a vast range of attractions and entertainments, all designed to keep kids excited for every minute of their stay. And for the grown-ups too, the towns offer great family-friendly nightlife, as well as eateries and shops. Gatlinburg also hosts year-round festivals and events geared towards all ages. For fun the whole family will enjoy, rent an area cabin. Thanks to amenities like gourmet kitchens, hot tubs, arcade games and free Wi-Fi, Gatlinburg cabins offer the perfect mix of modern convenience and mountain living.
Jackson Hole, WY
Nestled between the Gros Ventre and Teton mountain ranges, Jackson Hole is a popular family vacation destination because of its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the National Elk Refuge. Jackson Hole offers some of our country’s best skiing during the winter months. Summer fun includes horseback riding, rafting, and biking. The Grand Adventure Park, located in Teton Village features bungee trampolining, rock climbing for kids, and the Ropes – an aerial adventure course with wobbly bridges, cargo nets, and balance beams. Open year-round, Jackson Hole’s Aerial Tram provides 360-degree views of the Tetons, Jackson Hole valley, and surrounding mountain ranges.
Lake George, NY
Surrounded on all sides by New York’s gorgeous Adirondack Mountains, Lake George offers year-round family fun. Miniature golf courses on every corner, along with a variety of attractions, arcades, and souvenir shops, make downtown Lake George a hit with families. The nearby Great Escape amusement park has rides for all age children, as well as one of the largest wooden roller coasters in the country. Lakeside fun includes jet skiing, boating, swimming, fishing, and parasailing. An authentic sternwheel paddle steamer, the Minne-Ha-Ha runs tours of the lake’s southern basin throughout the day. Head up to Fort Ticonderoga located at the northern tip of the lake for stunning views as well as a historical look on the area’s strategic importance for early settlers. Nearby Lake Placid has several world-class ski facilities remaining from the 1980 Winter Olympics. The original stadium where the U.S. men’s hockey team pulled off the “Miracle on Ice,” still stands in the center of town.
Park City, UT
Park City’s charming main street, excellent skiing and snowboarding, and proximity to the Salt Lake City airport make it perfect for some relaxing family time together. Getting around Park City is easy thanks to a trolley that runs up and down the center of town. Along with a variety of restaurants, shops, and unique galleries, Park City has a ski lift that leaves right from the center of town. For ice-skating fun, the Park City Ice Arena boasts an Olympic-size rink, seasoned from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Soldier Hollow, located in the nearby town of Midway, has a small slope with a tow lift that’s perfect for sledding and tubing. If you can sneak off from the kids for a little while, enjoy a couples massage at the Spa at the Waldorf Astoria, or some hot-stone therapy at the Rocksports Spa.
Colorado Springs, CO
A unique blend of historic charm, traditional mountain activities and natural beauty make Colorado Springs a great place to spend some quality time with the family. Pikes Peak, the area’s outstanding attraction, draws millions of visitors each year. The area’s other main attraction, the Garden of the Gods, features beautiful, naturally-sculpted sandstone red-rock formations, many that rise 30-stories high. Downtown Colorado Springs has several attractions that everyone in the family will enjoy. The Space Foundation Discovery Center houses the world’s first dynamic spherical projection system, Science on a Sphere. The Western Museum of Mining and Industry chronicles the lives of turn-of-the-century prospectors through thousands of artifacts on display, as well as a working ten-stamp ore mill. Other popular family stops include the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, the Ghost Town Museum, and the May Natural History Museum.