September 10, 2013 11:18 am
Updated: September 10, 2013 11:14 am

Seven fall destinations for families

Photo credit: Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau

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When there’s a chill in the air and the back-to-school excitement has worn off, families are often wondering, what’s next? With idyllic temperatures, few crowds and lower fares, autumn is an ideal time of year for a quick family getaway. Here are my favourite family-friendly places to get to before the snow flies.

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario

Photo credit: K-W Oktoberfest Inc.

K-W Oktoberfest Inc.

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Roll out the barrel and experience traditional German culture at Canada’s largest Bavarian festival. Boasting several wunderbar family activities, there’s the famous Thanksgiving parade and midway rides in downtown Kitchener. Dress up in a drindl (or lederhosen) and traipse to a Festhallen on a family day for hearty fare such as sausages and sauerkraut and of course, cold steins. Here, you’ll be entertained by oompah bands, Bavarian dancers and who knows, you just might muster up the courage to try your hand at a polka. Prying little fräuleins and herrs away from the festivities might be tricky, but promises of pretzels for the car ride home should do the job. More info: www.oktoberfest.ca

Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo credit: Las Vegas News Bureau

Las Vegas News Bureau

If you think Vegas is an adult-only playground, think again. With plenty of kid-friendly restaurants, animal habitats and pools galore, it’s a wonder more families don’t take to the strip. Thrill seekers should head straight to the AdventureDome, America’s largest indoor theme park, where North America’s only double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster boasts a 90 foot high view. But wannabe astronauts interested in experiencing G-forces should make a beeline for the Stratosphere, where they’ll be whisked 160 feet in the air in 2.5 seconds. Just out of town, families can explore the wild west via a cowboy trail ride, dune buggy adventure or canyon jeep tour. For some quiet time alone, it’s easy to find a licensed nanny through your hotel or drop-off junior at Kids Quest, an hourly childcare center. More info: www.visitlasvegas.com

Eastern Townships, Quebec

Photo Credit: Stéphane Lemire

For a stunning symphony of colours, head East out Montreal and hike through the sugar maples in Parc-national du Mont Orford. There are several equestrian centers offering horseback or carriage rides through tree plantations or zipline through the maples as you finish off an aerial rope course. Kids can discover the natural world at the Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum or tour Granby Zoo, the largest zoo in La Belle Province. It’s seems ridiculous to start thinking about Christmas markets  now, but you’ll want to plug a few into your calendar when they begin in mid-November. More info: www.easterntownships.org

Orange County, California

Photo credit: Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau

You don’t have to be a Real Housewife to enjoy the many benefits of Orange County. With perpetual sunny skies, you’ll find it’s a world of laughter when you leave the crowds behind and visit the many theme parks in the vicinity off season. Halloween and Christmas collide in the Magic Kingdom with the transformation of The Haunted Mansion into a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. Sports fans can catch the Anaheim Ducks in action or brave the waves at Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City, USA. There’s also Laguna Beach, home of over 100 boutiques, galleries and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. For more retail therapy, be sure to hit the posh shops at South Coast Plaza while the loonie remains strong. More info: www.visittheoc.com

Las Cabos, Mexico

Photo credit: Cabo Adventures

With endless sunshine, no rainy season and the most diverse collection of marine life on the planet, families will have no trouble finding activities to satisfy every age group. Tourists don’t arrive en mass until Christmas and bargain accommodation is abundant at both condo’s and all-inclusives. The water is deliciously warm in the fall, allowing kids to snorkel off the beach to view the wrasse and angel fish that cluster about. Swim with the dolphins or watch turtle hatchlings make their way out to sea right from your very own beach. Be sure to rent a surf board at one of the many of the beach front restaurants along the coast, where kid’s menus and playground equipment are plentiful.  More info: http://www.visitmexico.com/en-i0/los-cabos

New York City, New York

Photo Credit: Alex Lopez NYC and Co.

Smack dab between the summer tourists and holiday crowds, the air is crisp, the subway no longer resembles a smoldering furnace and New Yorkers are in a surprisingly good mood. Take a carriage ride through Central Park to view the stunning elms, maples and oaks, feast in Little Italy and get cultured at one of the many borough museums.  Need I mention this is a fantastic destination to get leg up on our holiday shopping? If FAO Schwarz and American Girl Place don’t tempt, trot over to Eataly, Mario Batali’s food and wine emporium for those hard to find foodie gifts (and a snack break). For a quintessential Big Apple experience, The Rink at Rockefeller Center typically opens mid-October, and Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes begins in early November. More info: www.nycgo.com

Niagara on the Lake, Ontario

Filled with charming B&B’s, eclectic boutiques and sweet candy shops, did you know this is reputed to be the most haunted town in Canada? Fort George offers guided candlelit ghost tours or walk the Barracks during daylight to get a feel for life during the War of 1812. Local’s dine at Stone Road Grille (try the homemade maple cotton candy), The Old Winery Restaurant, a family-friendly trattoria and The Little Red Rooster for diner breakfasts. Work off the food by renting a bike and trailer at Zoom Leisure, to cycle between vineyards or take one of their organized tours. For a romantic views of the area, clip through the leaves on a horse drawn carriage ride or pack a picnic lunch and stop anywhere along the picturesque Niagara Parkway for pinnacles of colour. More info: http://www.niagaraonthelake.com/page/Featured_Events

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