Even in winter, you and the kids can always enjoy a little warm sun or wet fun. The United States has many destinations where water temperatures stay warm enough to swim at any time of year. And when you can’t get away, pretty much every corner of the country has an indoor water park. Here are some of America’s favorite destinations for winter family fun.
Beach Getaways Any Time of Year
Nothing works better to take the chill off a long cold winter than a few days of warm and sunny weather. Thankfully, the US has several areas that enjoy mild temps and abundant sunshine all year long. Here are some of the most popular.
Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel Island boasts three gorgeous beaches – Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s Beach, and Blind Pass Beach – with powder-white sand and clear, turquoise waters. Thanks to Gulf water temperatures that rarely drop below 68 degrees, you and the kids will be able to ride the waves, soak up the sun, and build sandcastles until the tide comes in. The island also has several marinas that rent boats, wave runners, kayaks and even parasails. Family-friendly restaurants on Sanibel Island serve up everything from conch fritters to Key-Lime Hurricane flavored ice cream.
Texas may not be the first place that comes to mind for a beach vacation. But thanks to its location on the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston stays warm enough for a swim any time of year. Galveston has three popular beaches: East Beach (beware the spring break crowd in March), the more secluded West Beach, and the beach at Galveston Island State Park. Galveston also has a charming downtown historic district with numerous shops, restaurants, and galleries housed in restored 19th-century buildings. If the weather’s not quite warm enough for outdoor swimming, the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Indoor Waterpark features water chutes, a wave pool, speed slides, and heated, hot tub-like pools with swim-up bars.
The Emerald Coast, Florida
Florida’s Emerald Coast runs for about 50 miles along the panhandle from Panama City Beach to Destin. The stretch has a dozen or so little towns that pop up every few minutes as you drive along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A. Each town has its own charm, and each has a gorgeous sugar-white sand beach with turquoise waters (thus the name “Emerald Coast”). Panama City Beach alone has seven different amusement parks, including Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, Shipwreck Island Waterpark, and Gulf World – a world-class aquarium and sea life habitat. Just about half way between Panama City Beach and Destin, the town of Seaside was recently named as having “the Best Beach on Earth for Families” by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Along with its gorgeous beach, Destin also has several amusement/water parks, plenty of family-friendly attractions, and a bustling downtown harbor area.
Vero Beach, Florida
Facing the Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s east coast, Vero Beach has all the right ingredients to whip up a perfect winter getaway. Vero’s wide oceanfront beaches feature warm water temps, fine sand, and gentle waves. A variety of shops, museums, and family-friendly restaurants make downtown Vero Beach perfect for an evening out with the kids. Several major league baseball teams hold their spring training within a two-hour drive of Vero in February and March. Other nearby attractions include Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center and Disneyworld.
America’s Favorite Indoor Water Parks
When you can’t get away, the U.S. has dozens of indoor water parks sprinkled about that offer the perfect opportunity to dip your toes even on the coldest winter days.
Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin
The sprawling Wisconsin Dells resort area boasts one of the country’s largest indoor water parks: the 125,000-square-feet Kalahari Resort. Along with water rides and slides for every age group and level of thrill seeker, the water park also features an underwater virtual reality experience, an indoor/outdoor spa, and a 3,000-square-foot activity pool. Far more than just a water park, the Wisconsin Dells resort area has a large arcade section, an escape room, and “The Arena” – a multi-player, warehouse-scale, virtual reality gaming experience. (If you’re going to a people-intensive place, you can be sure the areas will have pandemic safety procedures in place and it’s always a good idea to get a rapid test for your family before you leave home.)
Massanutten Resort, Virginia
Virginia’s massive Massanutten Resort area includes two golf courses, a ski area, and an indoor/outdoor water park. In a 2018 poll by USA Today magazine, Massanutten won the title of “the Second Best Indoor Water Park in America” against huge competition. Three stories of gift shops and restaurants overlook the water park area and offer a bird’s eye view of the action below. The resort area features various dining options, plenty of shopping, a day spa, and a wide range of lodging options.
Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s Polynesian-themed Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park earned fourth place honors in a USA Today poll of the country’s best water parks. Splash Lagoon features seven thrilling slides, including the Black Hole – where riders get shot from a pitch-black tube into a large lagoon below. Splash Lagoon maintains a summer-like indoor air temperature of 84 degrees, year-round. For the littlest guests, the Monkey Shines Island play area has several shallow pools with gentle slides – a great place to continue the swimming lessons that pediatricians now recommend for all children, from as young as one year old. On the dry side, the Splash Lagoon complex also features an arcade, a three-story-high ropes course, and various virtual reality games suitable for all ages.