Why take chances with festive merriment? These destinations will keep the brood in line, writes Adam Bisby, long after the wrapping paper is cleared away
Santa-based bribery and elfin surveillance can keep youngsters in line, but what happens once the gifts are unwrapped?
Sure, the holiday loot will probably keep the brood occupied for a while and, if you're lucky, some freshly fallen snow will do likewise. Still, wouldn't it be nice to have some festive backup in your stocking this year, what with white Christmases melting away almost as fast as children's attention spans?
That's where the getaways listed here come in. These four North American destinations are home to new and notable diversions that should keep families merry and bright long after the final call to tech support. And if one of these trips gives you an ironclad reason to skip the obligatory holiday rounds, well, you have been awfully nice this year.
QUEBEC: Dogsled from your luxe log cabin
You know you're in snow country when dogsledding can be booked at check-in. Such is the case at Au Chalet en Bois Rond, a four-season resort village an hour's drive east of Quebec City. Since 1997, the densely forested 400-hectare property on the banks of the St. Anne River has grown to include 54 luxurious log cabins – most with outdoor hot tubs, fully equipped kitchens and wood-burning stoves or fireplaces – an extensive network of snowshoe and snowmobile trails, and four artificial lakes to supplement the natural Lac Heron.
On-site dogsledding launched at Au Chalet en Bois Rond this year, with a team of 28 huskies available for 75-minute excursions that include mushing instruction from a professional guide, time with a litter of puppies, and après-sled hot chocolate. In the extremely unlikely event of insufficient snowfall, a two-wheeled "dog scooter" is also available.
A few chalets are still available over the holidays, but you don't have to be a resort guest to go dogsledding or use the outdoor facilities. If you book for at least two nights, a "Winter Family Fun" package parlays dogsledding with all the equipment needed to toboggan, skate, snowshoe and ice fish on the central Lac des Loutres. (Note: There's a five-trout limit if you crave something other than turkey.)
The resort offers three don't-do-it-yourself dining options: Prepared meals delivered straight to a chalet's fridge; hot and cold catered buffets; and a private-chef service featuring menu items such as smoked-duck magret rolls, elk Wellington, and Grand Marnier-infused chocolate eclairs.
Dogsledding and scooting costs $74.50 for adults, $37.25 for children six to 12, and is free for children three to five. The "Winter Family Fun" package starts at $300.50 for two adults and two children.
More information: auchaletenboisrond.com
COLORADO: Defend the world's largest snow fort
There's no obvious reason to refute Keystone Resort's claim that the snow fort taking shape atop Dercum Mountain will be the largest on Earth. Past incarnations, after all, have sported sculpted turrets, fortified walls and undulating slides and have maxed out at more than 3,000 square feet.
There's certainly no denying the family appeal of the ski area's new Kidtopia event series, which will feature three separate free events over the winter. The first of these, the Kidtopia Spectacular, kicks off on Dec. 15 with Santa Claus himself leading the Kidtopia Village Parade before riding the River Run Gondola to the snow fort for a mountaintop celebration and lighting ceremony. There will be more parades, fireworks, ice sculptures and Santa sessions throughout the holidays, with the Keystone Chocolate Village installing a chocolatier-crafted miniature working gondola and a 320-kilogram Christmas tree, among other high-calorie scenes, to the lobby of the Keystone Lodge and Spa.
Another holiday freebie at Keystone: child lift tickets. Families booking two or more nights of lodging through the resort will receive complimentary passes for any child 12 and younger.
More information: keystoneresort.com; accommodation starting at $129 (U.S.) per night.
ONTARIO: Surrender to the wintry spell of Lumina Borealis
Moving from enormous snow forts to Ontario's largest real fort, the Fort Henry National Historic Site in Kingston is again hosting the spellbinding Lumina Borealis multimedia installation.
Created for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission by Moment Factory – the Montreal-based company behind eye-catching projects such as the $39.5-million illumination of Montreal's Jacques Cartier Bridge – last winter's inaugural run proved so popular that it was extended by more than a month. And for good reason: While strolling through the fort's dry moat and courtyard, visitors encountered wintry wonders such as a glowing field of icebergs, an evergreen forest clad in iridescent icicles, and towering stone walls animated with fanciful animals and swirling colours. Who needs snow, after all, when you've got $3-million worth of audio-visual gear?
St. Lawrence Parks spokeswoman Susan LeClair reveals that the route is longer this year owing to "a more engaging storyline that will include experience markers along the tour that will draw people into the story and encourage them to look for different features and characters." There are also more warming areas such as firepits, huts and patio-stand heaters, she said, along with a new 1860s-style bakery serving snacks and refreshments. Local hotels such as the Residence Inn by Marriott Kingston Water's Edge, meanwhile, are again likely to package discounted tour tickets with accommodations.
Lumina Borealis will open from dusk until 9 p.m. on select nights between Dec. 1 and Feb. 19 (closed on Dec. 24 and 25). Admission is by timed entry and costs $16 for adults and $12 for children six to 12. Children five and younger get in free.
More information: luminaborealis.com
NEW YORK: Learn to ski (and ignore the exchange rate)
With many Canadian schoolchildren out of class until Jan. 8, the first week of 2018 is likely to test parents' patience and pocketbooks. That's where "Canadian Friendship Week" comes in. From Jan. 2 through Jan. 8, all lift tickets and equipment rentals at the Holiday Valley ski resort in Ellicottville, N.Y., will be sold at par for Canadian cash. And as of Jan. 1, two-night mid-week packages at the slopeside Inn at Holiday Valley start at $520 (U.S.) and include accommodations, lift tickets for two adults and two children, and continental breakfast.
Steps from the hill, Ellicottville will have its festive finery on, with costumed carolers, a three-storey Christmas tree, and horse-drawn wagon rides.