By Randy Yagi
The holidays have arrived and what better way to celebrate this magical time of year than by spending time with your family? Nevertheless, while it’s always fun to simply stay close to home, with presents to open, goodies to eat and carols to sing, it might also be an opportune time to take a budget vacation destination to recharge and get away from it all. Not only will you be able to provide fun and exciting things to do with your children, you’ll also be able to relax, spend precious time with the ones you love and enjoy the best that life has to offer. Here are just five suggestions for an affordable holiday escape with your family.
Disneyland isn’t exactly an affordable place to go over the holidays. But if parents across the country were to ask their children where they would like to go on vacation, the “Happiest Place on Earth” always seems to be at or near the top among the most typical answers. While staying at the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa may not be within the family budget, Anaheim and surrounding Orange County communities like Buena Park and Garden Grove offer several affordable options for overnight accommodations. In fact many of the most reasonably priced hotels have built in family friendly attractions, such as the gigantic indoor waterpark at Great Wolf Lodge and amazing magic shows and the Family Fun Center at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel. Of course, Orange County also features a wealth of a wealth of more affordable options to Disneyland over the holiday season, such as the admission-free Downtown Disney, as well as kid-friendly attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm, Irvine Park Railroad, the 50-foot Christmas tree in downtown Anaheim and the world famous beaches at Huntington, Newport and Laguna.
The Gambling Capital of the World may seem like an odd choice for an affordable holiday escape, especially for families with children. However, Las Vegas doesn’t just cater to gamblers or the college crowd looking for exciting nightlife at trendy nightclubs. Indeed, upon closer inspection, Nevada’s most populous city actually has all sorts of family-friendly attractions, starting with an affordable hotel like Circus Circus, Excalibur or New York-New York. Of all the hundreds of affordable hotels in Las Vegas, Circus Circus is one of the most affordable with some rooms rates around $20 in December and is also by far the most kid friendly, with Adventuredome, an enormous indoor amusement park, live circus acts and arcade games in the famous Carnival Midway. But the city also known as the Entertainment Capital of the World has all sorts of other fun things to do for families and their children. This includes the Fremont Street Experience, Hershey’s Chocolate World, M&Ms World, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, the pirate shows at Treasure Island, ice skating at Holiday at the Park and the High Roller at the LINQ, currently the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. When families and their kids are getting hungry after a fun-filled day, they have multiple low cost dining options. Among the most popular are Mr. Mama’s, Secret Pizza, Earl of Sandwich and Shake Shack.
It might be too cold to get into the ocean waters in December, but that won’t deter families from enjoying a very affordable vacation in Myrtle Beach. Situated along the breathtaking Grand Strand of South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast, Myrtle Beach is one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations, with a very impressive assemblage of affordable beachfront hotels, family friendly attractions, championship-caliber golf courses and miles of white sandy beaches. While the bulk of the city’s 10 million annual visitors will stay during the peak summer months, popular kid friendly beachfront hotel properties like Captain’s Quarters, Caravelle Resort, Landmark Resort and the Crown Reef Beach Resort and Waterpark offer rooms under $60 per night for a family of four in December. In addition to hotel amenities like onsite waterparks and arcade centers along with an assemblage of dazzling holiday lights throughout the city, Myrtle Beach offers many other kid friendly attractions, such as the majestic Myrtle Beach Skywheel, Family Kingdom Amusement Park, WonderWorks indoor amuseument park, Hollywood Wax Museum and Alligator Adventure, known as the “Reptile Capital of the World”. Of course, Myrtle Beach also has an impressive collection of affordable restaurants well known for outstanding cuisine and Southern Hospitality, such as AJ’s Pizza, the award-winning Croissants Bistro and Bakery and Sea Captain’s House.
Anaheim may be home to the Happiest Place on Earth, but Orlando is home to the even larger Most Magical Place on Earth. Arguably the most popular kid-friendly destination in America, Orlando is also correctly known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World”, with more than 12 theme parks, including the massive Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, both of which, will be adorned with a spectrum of brightlhy colored holiday lights. With more than 400 hotels, the city of Orlando and its surrounding areas offer many alternative lodging options to the pricer mega resorts, many of which are of the national chain variety but also independent hotels like the Enclave Hotel and Suites and the Floridian Hotel and Suites. Although the premier attractions in Orlando are obviously Universal Orlando with attractions like The Grinchmas Who-LiDay Spectacular and Walt Disney World debuting its Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs, other more affordable attractions include Aquatica Orlando, Fun Spot America, SeaWorld Orlando and I-Drive 360 an entertainment complex that opened last year and features Sea Life Aquarium, Madam Tussdauds Orlando and the new Coca Cola Orlando Eye. For cheap eats, families on a budget may wish to dine at places like Hot Krust Panini Restaurant, NYPD Sandwich, the Earl of Sandwich and Shake Shack among hundreds of others.
With many of the best kid friendly attractions free and open to the public, the nation’s capital can be a very affordable holiday escape for families. In fact, with iconic monuments and museums like the Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo taking up a signficant portion of a visit, families needn’t spend a dime on entertainment for practically the entire trip. This allows parents to allow more of the budget on affordable lodging on places like Best Western Rosslyn/Iwo Jima, the Embassy Inn and the Baron Hotel, and low cost dining at places like Qdboa Mexican Easts, &pizza and ShopHouse Southeast Asian Restaurant. Families with children can also visit admission free attractions like Sackler Gallery, National Museum of American History, National Archives and must-see spots like the White House, U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court building, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and last but certainly not least, the magnificent National Christmas Tree, located in the north quadrant of the Ellipse, near the White House South Lawn.
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