Predictability can be such a bore. In anticipation of winter and spring breaks, I spoke to U.S. News + World Report about some of my favorite off-the-beaten-track destinations that are both fun and culturally enriching. Here are my picks as well as their slideshow

Norwegian Adventure Cruise with Hurtigruten

From Bergen through Sweden  to the Arctic Circle. Days feature outings to isolated beaches with wildlife, kayaking amongst the fjords and icebergs and Viking history. A Young Explorer’s program with daily on and off board activities including community service projects.

Paul Gaughin Cruises to Tahiti and Society Islands 

Visiting islands like Bora Bora, and Motu Mahana, hiking, boating exploring marine habitats and water sports. A new partnership with Wildlife Conservation Society called Stewards of Nature (for kids 7-17)  offers astronomy talks with an onboard telescope, swimming with sting rays, hands-on wildlife talks , etc. 

Middle Eastern Escapade, Tel Aviv

Hit the markets and beaches, swim in the Dead Sea, ride camels in the  Negev Desert (stay in a luxury  bedoin tents ), see the famous Ramon Crater (The Moab of Israel) and then go to the Crusader city of Akko and have a Game of Thrones moment in the underground Templar Tunnel

Off-The-Grid In Patagonia 

On the island of Chiloé, off the coast of Northern Patagonia, the just upgraded (new spa + Family rooms)  24 room Tierra Chiloé has kayaking in wetlands, exploring the island by horse, boating through fjords on traditional“Williche.” and hiking the “Sendero de Chile” trail. 

Spring Skiing in Niseko, Japan

There are no 14,000 foot peaks. Or, turbo charged resort scene. Yet this mountain town (the highest peak is 4300 feet) -on an island- in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido has a cult following drawn to legendary powder and a town with the charm of Telluride and food on par with Tokyo’s sushi shrines. There are steep discounts starting in February for lift tickets and lodging.


This Story Originally Appeared in 50 Unexpected Family-Friendly Vacation Destinations from U.S. News & World Report