From ski slopes to winter festivals to ice skating rinks, there are so many ways to make the most of a New England winter with kids. In fact, tons of places throughout the region offer great activities for families throughout the colder months. Whether you’re enjoying refreshments at the lodge bar while your tikes learn to ski, or you’re snow-tubing down the mountain right next to them, you’ll find that New England is a place that caters to all ages in winter – even when bad weather requires staying indoors. For all the best ways to get through the snow season sans temper tantrums and pouty faces, scroll down for our family guide to winter fun. (Need more seasonal inspiration? Check out “Guided Winter Adventures” from the January/February 2019 issue.)
A Family Guide to Winter Fun in New England
Courtesy of Sunday River/David McLain
Best New England Ski Mountains for Families
SUNDAY RIVER | Newry, ME
From a kids’ buffet on select nights and holidays to live entertainment like magicians and bubble masters, Sunday River is all about fun for the whole family. Eddy the Yeti is the resort’s huggable ambassador who can be found greeting visitors at the base area, and skiers and boarders can even visit Eddy’s “special home” on the Enchanted Forest Trail on North Peak. (He’s been known to pay a visit to reserved family dinners at the mid-mountain Peak Lodge, too; check the resort’s events page for dates) During the Children’s Festival in January, kids get to ski free and stay free, and they’ll receive free lessons and rental equipment. And with eight different peaks and 135 trails, there’s skiable terrain for all levels.
SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH | Jeffersonville, VT
Smugglers’ Notch is a self-described “family vacation paradise.” For kids ages 3 to 20, there are numerous ski-instruction programs that cater to different age groups and ability levels, ensuring that each pupil feels comfortable and confident while learning to stay upright on skis. For the tikes not ready to hit the slopes, child care is available, allowing parents to enjoy the snow. And on bad-weather days, hit the FunZone 2.0 Family Fun Complex, which features activities like ping-pong, mini golf, a giant slide, a pirate ship, an obstacle course, and a climbing wall.
GUNSTOCK MOUNTAIN | Gilford, NH
Gunstock Mountain is a small, family-friendly mountain within 90 minutes of Boston with 227 skiable acres, 55 trails, snow tubing, a mountain coaster, a children’s center, and a lesson and learning center. Far less intimidating than what you’ll find at bigger resorts, the mountain has plenty of easy trails to choose from – perfect for a child learning to ski. And once everyone’s ready, the whole family can ride the lift to the summit and make their way down the mountain while taking in magical views of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.
Courtesy of Okemo Mountain Resort
Best New England Ski Resorts for Families
OKEMO MOUNTAIN RESORT | Ludlow, VT
Snow Stars Ski Camp (Okemo’s ski and snowboard programs for kids ages 2 to 14) runs all season long, and Kids’ Night Out (a fully state-licensed childcare facility and activity center) allows parents to enjoy the slopes at their own pace as well as a date night out. Plus, this resort has a whopping 667 acres of skiable terrain, plenty of slopeside condos, kids’ snowmobile tours, Snowcat excursions, snow tubing, a mountain coaster, a skating rink, a pool, and a fitness center.
BRETTON WOODS | Bretton Woods, NH
Experience family-friendly luxury at New Hampshire’s largest ski resort, where the views of the Northeast’s highest peak and the iconic Omni Mount Washington Hotel are unbeatable. The mountain has 464 acres of skiable terrain and some of the best grooming in the region, providing great conditions for beginners and experts alike. There are group and private ski lessons, a children’s program, and every other imaginable winter activity: Nordic skiing, canopy tours, dog sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, snowmobiling (and a kids’ snowmobile park), tubing, skating, and a climbing wall.
JAY PEAK | Jay, VT
With 79 ski trails (and, historically, the most snow in the Northeast), Jay Peak is the Vermont destination for serious ski families. It’s got downright-fun skiing and riding, plus a full ski school for lessons, slopeside lodging, and an ice arena. And when the kids are tired of the cold, check out the brand-new recreation center or head to the incredible 60,000-square-foot waterpark, complete with a 65-foot waterslide, stand-up surfing, a big river for lazy floating, a kids’ play area, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs.
Best New England Family Winter Events
DARTMOUTH WINTER CARNIVAL | Hanover, NH
The college town of Hanover hosts what may be the best known of all New England winter celebrations: the venerable Dartmouth Winter Carnival. Since 1911, the Ivy Leaguers of Dartmouth College have invited the community to join in on a weekend of winter activities, including polar bear swims, ice sculpting contests, races, and skiing for 99 cents at the nearby skiway.
GREENFIELD WINTER CARNIVAL | Greenfield, MA
This western Massachusetts festival has been serving up family fun for all ages for almost 100 years. Activities include ice sculpting contests, fireworks, fire dancers, breakfast with Disney’s Olaf the Snowman, a cardboard sled race, a sleigh bell run, sledding, and skating.
BRATTLEBORO WINTER CARNIVAL | Brattleboro, VT
This popular Green Mountain State event has so many activities scheduled, it takes place over an entire week. Look for concerts and shows, the Queen’s Pageant, cook-offs, a pancake breakfast, sporting competitions, skiing, skating, snowmobile rides, sleigh rides, family games, bowling, movies, and more.
Courtesy of Nashoba Valley
Best New England Snow Tubing Destinations
GRANITE GORGE | Roxbury/Keene, NH
There’s snow tubing, and then there’s cosmic snow tubing. The Granite Gorge ski area in western New Hampshire offers some of the state’s best snow tubing, with the unique added fun of neon lights, disco balls, glow-bead necklaces, and a DJ on Saturday nights – perfect wintertime fun for all ages.
MAGIC MOUNTAIN TUBE PARK | Londonderry, VT
Magic Mountain is committed to family-friendly policies like affordable all-day tubing rates for a trio of 400-foot lanes served by a tow-handle lift, plus tubing under the lights on Fridays and weekends. The tube park is located directly uphill from the base lodge, meaning parents can enjoy après-ski music and drinks at a windowside table in the Black Line Tavern while keeping an eye on the kids.
NASHOBA VALLEY SKI AREA | Westford, MA
Nashoba Valley Ski Area happens to have New England’s largest snow tubing complex: a 15-acre site with its own entrance, parking, and lodge, plus four lifts and 18 lanes. The groomers at Nashoba have mastered the art of sculpting tubing terrain, so no two descents are the same. It’s the perfect spot for families with kids 6 years old and up (per mountain policy).
SEE MORE: Best 5 New England Snow Tubing Parks
Best New England Ice Skating Rinks for Kids
BOSTON COMMON FROG POND | Boston, MA
You don’t have to miss out on cold-weather fun just because you’re in the city. At Frog Pond on Boston Common, one of the region’s most recognizable outdoor ice skating rinks, rental skates are available as well as lockers, skate-sharpening services, and skating seals (helpful for kids and newbies).
THE PROVIDENCE RINK | Providence, RI
Open seven days a week, the rink at the Alex and Ani City Center in Providence offers private skate lessons throughout the season for individuals as well as groups, and rentals are available. Or try the “bumper cars on ice,” where participants can do full 360-degree turns and bump opponents out of the way.
LABRIE FAMILY SKATE AT PUDDLE DOCK POND | Portsmouth, NH
Located on the grounds of the Strawbery Bank Museum in Portsmouth, this quaint outdoor rink is open daily (in season) for skating. Rentals are available — plus it’s close to downtown Portsmouth, so you can make a day of it with skating, shopping, and café-hopping.
Courtesy of Museum of Science/Nicolaus Czarnecki
Best Winter Indoor Destinations & Activities for Kids
Enjoy a fun and educational day at these Boston museums where kids will be thrilled to learn new things and try new activities.
Sick of the cold weather? These family-friendly activities will let you escape the snow and warm up in creative ways (think: indoor sky diving, rock climbing).
If you’re just wanting to enjoy a day at home, this is the perfect activity to keep the kids entertained as they try out a classic New England treat.
Where’s your favorite family-friendly place in New England in winter? Let us know!
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Snow Tubing at Pats Peak in Henniker, New Hampshire