Where should we go in the South for a New Years mini-vacation?
October 17, 2018 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Our family situation is unique: we have two biological kids (in middle school), two recently-placed foster kids (one in middle school and one in preschool with some mild special needs), and a grown woman who we know from previous foster care experience and who is essentially our daughter. She has a fiance and a 2-year-old son. I wouldn't have it any other way, but it makes a traditional new years' getaway a little tricky. We want to drive somewhere south from Chicagoland where it's quasi-warm and there's opportunities for family fun.

[I say drive because buying flights for 9 after christmas will be really expensive. And even if we could fly, any international travel is just about logistically impossible with foster kids (getting permissions, birth certificates, passports, etc.).]

We will be stopping in Southern Illinois to pick up our grown daughter and her family, and going on from there. Ideally, we'd head to a place:

* where we could get a giant house for 9 or a couple of nice cabins;
* where it is nice but not so snooty that they'll turn their nose up at a group like ours;
* where there is something pretty to look at;
* where we could do some (indoor) swimming or sit in a hot tub;
* where we could do fun activities (a hike, or putt-putt, or shuffleboard, etc.);
* where it's not freezing cold the first week of January;
* that is not *overtly* racist (our family is several different races, including black);
* that is 12-15 hours drive from Marion/Carbondale, Illinois.

My budget is not unlimited but I could spend $10,000 or so if it was the right experience. Of course I'd like to spend less if possible.

I was thinking a place kinda like Gatlinburg, TN, but that might be too cold. Or the Outer Banks, but the beach is probably not much fun in January. Do you know the perfect place?
posted by AgentRocket to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (11 answers total)
where it's not freezing cold the first week of January;

OK, north of Florida, or maybe north of about the Savannah or St. Simons Island area of Georgia, you cannot count on this in the South. The first couple of weeks of January are the time of year where you might actually encounter a high of 14 F, or a snowstorm, in the Southeast.
posted by thelonius at 5:42 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is not cabin-y, but... possibly logistically easier than figuring out a location where you have to do a lot of leg work to figure out where to eat and what to do for entertainment. Moreover, there are apparently consultants that you can pay to figure everything out for you.

It might be expensive, but Orlando could work out well for you all. Preschooler and 2 year old categorized together, middle schoolers categorized together (water parks?), and adults in tow.

In my Disney experiences, the customer service is so darn good that it makes traveling with kids much more pleasant. And everyone is tolerant of kid behavior. Special needs kid's special needs will likely be accommodated.

Moreover, any sort of dining with such a big group won't be as much of an issue - Orlando is used to big groups.
posted by k8t at 5:49 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

OBX pretty much shuts down after Labor Day and it can be brutally cold (source: grew up there).

It can get cold in FL in January. The Gulf Coast is going to be in recovery mode. From mid-peninsula South, usually cold snaps only last a day or two. St. Pete is a possibility. Plenty or rentals, decent beaches, restaurants, museums, etc., not too far from Orlando. Further South is better but the drive is a drag.

Or, consider a cruise leaving from NOLA to, say, Jamaica.
posted by sudogeek at 5:54 PM on October 17, 2018

A 15-hour radius from Carbondale gives you a ton of options. I'd explore options on the Gulf Coast, which is a big coast! Pretty much everything from Corpus Cristi to Fort Myers is within your radius and will be balmier and better for a January defrosting than the outer banks. I'd think you'd be able to find someplace to suit your needs in Destin/Fort Walton, just as an example that would minimize drive time, and that area and further west actually didn't get affected much by the hurricane.
posted by drlith at 6:00 PM on October 17, 2018

This is slightly outside your radius but I think the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe just looks so freaking cool that I had to suggest it.
posted by nonasuch at 6:20 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’m going to throw in a vote for Charleston, SC. You could get a beach house that time of year for well below your budget...there are several beaches close
to the city including Folly Beach and Isle of Palms. A little further is Kiawah Island. Charleston itself is fun with great food and lots to do. I live here, so message me if you have any questions!
posted by fresh-rn at 6:38 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Straight shot down to New Orleans, about 9 or 10 hour drive, eat and have fun for a few days, then drive to some bayou beaches or the "cajun riviera," drive back up about 11 or 12 hours home.
posted by nantucket at 8:14 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Santa Fe will be cold in January, its in the mountains.
posted by fshgrl at 1:13 AM on October 18, 2018

What about a family dude ranch in the Texas hill country? I went to this one in Bandera that is 14 hours and 25 minutes from Carbondale, and it was all families, there were horse rides twice a day, there were teen activities, there were lodge activities, there was a pool, there were nightly theme parties, it was a lot of fun! I'd read reviews to get an idea of inclusivity and activities, but the one I linked above was super-inclusive and welcoming (and actually the family who owns it had a lot of experience with fostering and adoption themselves).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Kalahari Resorts in the Wisconsin Dells? I haven't been to that particular one, but my family has been to the one in Sandusky, OH many times and really enjoyed it. It's a huge indoor water park and resort. There's something very satisfying about floating around in your bathing suit while watching it snow outside. They have large suites available with full kitchens if you want that cabin feel.
posted by Otis at 8:45 AM on October 18, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your suggestions! Everywhere we looked was either a gamble for warm weather in late December or was super expensive in the week between Christmas and New Years. So we settled on a place with an indoor waterpark and a nice big suite in the Ozarks. It's not exactly what I had in mind but with some board games and some home cooking and some time in the pool it will be great.
posted by AgentRocket at 6:47 AM on November 27, 2018

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