These kid-friendly resorts are fantastic any time of the year, but they offer something extra-special around the holidays. Now's the time to plan for winter break, and here are venues the whole family will enjoy:
Beaches Turks & Caicos
Picture heaven on earth for the teen and under set and you have Beaches Turks & Caicos, an all-inclusive resort with a Sesame Street theme. From baking cookies with Cookie Monster to bird watching with Big Bird, tykes are entertained from morning til night, when Sesame Street shows and parades top off the day. Older children who have outgrown their affection for Elmo can visit the X-Box Garage, while teens meet and mingle at the alcohol-free Club Liquid. Parents will appreciate a little me-time by dropping their sprouts off at the gratis Camp Sesame where, among other amusements, tots practice numbers with the master mathematician himself, The Count. The ultimate holiday surprise for bambinos at bedtime? A tuck-in, courtesy of their favorite Sesame Street character.
Disney's Contemporary Resort, Orlando.
With so many hotels from which to choose at Disney World, why The Contemporary? Location, location, location. The Contemporary is the closest visitors can stay to The Magic Kingdom, which means less time for tantrums on the monorail ride home after an exhausting day. The resort also houses Chef Mickey, so families can kill two birds (not Daisy and Donald!) with one stone: eating a meal and getting photos with the whole Disney gang. Don't miss Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a jolly extravaganza running on select nights in November and December at the Magic Kingdom.
The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Destin,
Love Florida but want a winter getaway that, unlike a hectic trip to Disney, is filled with relaxation? Then the Sandestin, recently named "one of the best beaches for families" by ivillage.com and situated along Florida's enchanting Emerald Coast, is just the place. With accommodations ranging from studios to town homes, the Sandestin is also home to the Village of Baytowne Wharf, a lively town square comprised of restaurants, amusement rides and, during the holidays, an outdoor ice rink. From Nov. 24 through December, Santa is available for house calls to read a bedtime story.
El Conquistador, Puerto Rico
Visitors feel a bit like JLo as they cruise over to El Conquistador's private sanctuary, Palomino Island, easily one of the prettiest beaches in Puerto Rico. The calm, clear waters are perfect for toddlers perched on the huge turtle floats available for daily rental. The on-site Coqui Water Park offers the spine-tingling "speed slide" for daring teens (and parents!), while the lazy river, rope bridge and zero-depth entry pool make a great splash with the preschool set. The New Years Eve fireworks are a breathtaking treat to ring in the new year.
Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville,
If warmer weather is not a priority, this pristine resort about a four-hour drive from Chicago and voted one of the 50 best places to stay and ski by Conde Naste readers, is an exquisite winter retreat. Home to the Crystal Coaster-Michigan's one and only Alpine Slide-this sanctuary offers scenic horse-drawn surrey rides, dog sledding, ice hockey and outdoor paintball games in addition, of course, to skiing.