Big enough to offer kids plenty to do—but small enough to keep schlepping to a minimum—Crystal Mountain is a primo family spot. The compact layout puts lifts, ski school, condos and restaurants within an easy, five-minute walk. And when that seems too taxing for little legs, resort shuttles bridge the distances. Crystal’s lack of sprawl also allows older kids a measure of independence, since the short commutes don’t always require an adult chaperone for safety. 

Beginner slopes are appropriately mellow. Cheery holiday lights bedeck the outdoor ice rink at night. An indoor pool lets kids splash in warm water after a day on the snow. Horse-drawn surreys pull families through snowy scenes. And extensive child care services give parents some date time: Camp Nursery welcomes infants and toddlers with cribs, and the evening Campfire Kids program entertains four to 12-year-olds with playground games, arts and crafts, and roasted hot dogs. In-room babysitting is offered as well.

And on December 24, Santa takes on all comers at the NASTAR course: Anyone who beats Saint Nick gets a prize from his sack. On New Year’s Eve, fireworks explode in the Michigan sky. Click here for more information.