(photo: petercruise/Flickr Creative Commons)
'Tis the season for family togetherness and, hopefully, a chance to get away with the kids for a few days. Here are five places that make for an unforgettable December escape.
New York, New York
The magic of the holiday season is easy to find in New York City, from the elaborately decorated storefronts on Fifth Avenue to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center to the Rockettes Christmas spectacular. A December visit may not be cheap, but it will surely be memorable.
Park City, Utah
(photo: Enjayfilmz/Flickr Creative Commons)
This beautiful ski town is renowned for its annual holiday festivities, which kick off this year on Dec. 15 with Santa and his reindeer descending via a sleigh chairlift from above Park City's historic Main Street, while free hot chocolate and cookies are served below. You can also spy Santa shooshing down the Park City Mountain slopes throughout the day on Christmas Eve, before he leads more than 100 skiers in the traditional torchlight parade down the mountain at nightfall.
Less than a two-hour flight from Northeast gateway cities, Bermuda not only makes for an easy escape, but it is more affordable nowadays, too, thanks to a sweet promo from the Bermuda Department of Tourism. Book now and receive a third, fourth or fifth night free at 14 participating resorts on the island, based on the best available average daily rate. Properties offering a third night free include the Fairmont Southampton, Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Rosewood Tucker's Point Resort, Grotto Bay Beach Resort, and Elbow Beach Bermuda. This offer can be booked through April 25, 2014 for travel through April 30, 2014.
Channel Islands National Park
(photo: jpmckenna - Back from Boston/Flickr Creative Commons)
Made up of five islands off the coast of Southern California, this national park's famous gray whale-watching season begins in mid-December. A whopping 27 species of cetaceans -- that's about a third of the world's species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises -- can be viewed here throughout the year, but winter belongs to gray whales. For optimal viewing, take a whale-watching cruise. Some of the best shore vantage points are Point Dume in Malibu, the Palos Verdes Peninsula near Los Angeles, and Point Loma in San Diego.
For the 20th year, one of the most picturesque towns in New York's Finger Lakes region is celebrating the Dickens Christmas festival, taking visitors back to 1842, as Charles Dickens is gathering research for his soon-to-be-written classic, "A Christmas Carol." Every Saturday and Sunday through December 24, Dickens and his cast of more than 50 characters in period dress interact with passers-by in the town's streets, stores, and restaurants. Highlights of the festival include a Christmas parade, Christmas carol sing-alongs, street performances of A Christmas Carol, horse-drawn wagon rides and free refreshments.