sedona red rocks in snow

Sedona is even lovelier under a dusting of snow. (Photo: Getty Images)


Ready to Reunite with Family? ‘Tis the Season to Plan a Holiday Getaway All Ages Will Enjoy

With holidays around the corner, thoughts turn to seeing your extended clan — especially if you haven’t recently celebrated with them. Up the ante for family time this season, and plot a getaway to U.S. destinations that make for great multigenerational escapes — from warm weather havens to outdoor adventures and cultural city hubs — all with attractions your whole family will enjoy.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Sedona, Arizona

This gorgeous central Arizona desert town is famous for its red sandstone buttes and water-washed canyons. The center of the action is Red Rock State Park, where the Miller Visitor Center hosts daily guided nature walks and the Junior Ranger program for kids ages 4 to 12.

To cool down on a hot day — a distinct possibility even in winter — throw on your swimsuits and head to the natural water slide in Oak Creek Canyon at Slide Rock State Park.

To enjoy Sedona’s awe-inspiring scenery from a seated position, Pink Adventure Tours offers various two-hour, adrenaline-filled tours of red-rock areas in their distinctive pink Jeeps, while the beautifully restored 1911 Verde Canyon Railroad makes daily trips along 20 miles of otherwise inaccessible canyon.

mom and child looking at holiday lights
Find your joy. (Photo: Getty Images)

For the holidays, the railroad transforms into the Magical Christmas Journey, featuring North Pole highlights along the route and an onboard visit from Santa.

Framed by giant sycamores, Tlaquepaque is Sedona’s popular Mexican-themed arts and shopping village, with retail distraction for the whole family.

A dazzling display of holiday decorations and festive music ring in the season here, with menorah and tree lightings and cheerful caroling during the colorful Holiday Sweet Stroll.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you were so inclined, you could spend a whole week in Minneapolis’ sprawling Mall of America, aside from Christmas Day, when it’s closed.

Get your steps in as you roam for miles, popping into everything from shops to restaurants to kid-friendly hot spots, including a roller coaster, hands-on activities at the Crayola Experience and a 300-foot underwater tunnel at the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium.

minnehaha in winter
It’s a winter wonderland in Minnehaha. (Photo: Getty Images)

You’ll want to explore beyond the mall, though, to experience more of what makes this Minnesota city an ideal family destination.

Explore all three floors of the Minnesota Children’s Museum, discover the likely frozen 53-foot waterfall in Minnehaha Regional Park, go cross-country skiing in parks all over town, and imbibe in beers and/or juice boxes at family-friendly Bauhaus Brew Labs.

During the holidays, walk through the Minnesota State Fairgrounds’ GLOW Holiday Festival — pausing to enjoy the three-story ice palace and bike-powered Christmas tree, and delight in the stunning Winter Lights at the 1,200-acre Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

From the comfort of your car, drive through the Animated Light Show at Valleyfair, an area amusement park, and Nature Illuminated, the Minnesota Zoo’s seasonal display of larger-than-life and lit-up animals from around the world.

Tampa, Florida

Tampa is family travel heaven on the Central Florida coast. The main attraction is Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, a 335-acre Africa-themed amusement park with exciting rides like the Congo River Rapids.

Throughout the holidays, Busch Gardens transforms into Christmas Town, which includes a miniature holiday train ride with close-up views of the park’s resident animals, like giraffes, rhinos and zebras.

Not enough creatures for you? At the conservation-focused Florida Aquarium, visit not only with fish, but also lemurs, river otters and moon jellies.

Or head to ZooTampa at Lowry Park to see endangered species like the manatee and Florida panther — and enjoy the annual Christmas in the Wild, which features several zones of lights and fun family entertainment.

Jacksonville Beach, Florida

jacksonville beach
Make a splash in Jacksonville. (Photo: Getty Images)

A half-hour east of Jacksonville, Florida, this Atlantic coast resort city provides a family pleasing mix of laid-back fun and year-round warmth.

For outdoor explorers, the Jacksonville Beach area is peppered with barrier sea islands with state parks and nature preserves where you can go fishing, kayaking and bird-watching.

Other family activities here include riding horses on 200-acre Amelia Island and beachcombing on Little Talbot Island, which is gently strewn with dunes and seashells.

Too relaxing for your crowd? Descend upon Adventure Landing, a sprawling amusement park that includes a water park, laser tag, go-karts, a huge arcade and (because this is Florida, after all) a small dock for alligator feeding.

In the evenings, head to downtown Jacksonville Beach’s Seawalk Pavilion for Jax Beach Deck the Chairs, a free nightly event featuring holiday-decorated lifeguard chairs, interactive light and music displays, moonlight movie screenings and a creative play space for kids. It’ll be a ho-ho-whole lot of fun for your multigenerational vacation.

Moab, Utah

Two epic National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands, might be the main draws in this arid-desert swath of southeastern Utah, which tends to see lighter crowds in the sunny, occasionally snow-dusted winter.

And surely, exploring and photographing the red-rock arches, pinnacles, buttes, petroglyphs and canyons here could keep your whole family busy and amazed for days.

But also be sure to bring anyone with a dinosaur obsession to see the Moab Giants, a museum with lifelike dinosaur models and a virtual prehistoric aquarium in jaw-dropping 5D.

And 12 miles north of Moab at the Klonzo Mountain Biking Area, take an easy, one-mile hike to the Willow Springs Dinosaur Tracks, made by theropods more than 160 million years ago.

Element by Westin Hotels is making history with the launch of its new room concept, Studio Commons, in select properties. Ideal for groups looking to spend time together in a more private setting, Studio Commons — anchored by four private guest rooms, with shared kitchen and living room — blend the convenience of a hotel with the flexibility and comfort of a home and are ideal for holiday travel with all generations of family.