the good old days, when you could pack the kids into
the back seat of the station wagon, ignore them while
they play the license plate game on the way to the resort,
and then toss them a sand bucket and shovel and call
it a family vacation. The short-attention-span, MySpace,
Bart Simpson, Razor scooter generation has new holiday
demands, as do their parents, who expect luscious spa
treatments, championship golf and Ducasse-worthy fine
dining. From adobe building and coconut painting to
Provençal cuisine and gondola wine tasting cruises, hotels and resorts are finding creative
ways to satisfy sophisticated broods. Read on to find
the best places for Tipi camping, frog hunting, snorkeling
and hot-air balloon rides.
Smith Fork Ranch
on the edge of Gunnison National Forest between Aspen
and Telluride, Smith Fork Ranch appeals to parents whose
idea of roughing it includes an old-fashioned swimming
hole, a wine cellar and hand-built cabins decorated
with antiques. Along with fly-fishing, overnight Tipi
camping and frog-hunting, kids will love sitting around
a campfire listening to a local mountain man spin tales
about life in the Old West. Equestrian activities include
team cattle penning and local rodeos, and you can also
bond on guided float trips and riverside picnics.
Kona Village Resort
keiki! That means kiddies in Hawaiian. For island-style
family fun, Kona Village Resort offers hula classes,
fishing contests and marine discovery programs in Kahuwai
Bay, a marine sanctuary populated by green sea turtles.
There's also plenty to entertain I'm-so-bored teens,
from snorkeling tours to tennis lessons. With sundown
comes plenty of dining options. Park the tykes at the
Keiki Dinner, complete with marshmallow roast, while
you enjoy a romantic meal at Hale Samoa. Or gather the
brood for the resort's lu'au, which has been a tradition
for almost thirty years. Please note: This hotel is closed indefinitely due to tsunami damage.
Disney's Beach Club Villas
Disney World hotel is geared toward families, so what
sets this one apart? As a Disney Vacation Club property,
it features one- and two-bedroom apartment-style timeshares
(available for rent to the public) with full kitchens.
This means you don't have to pony up a fortune for three
meals a day during your holiday. The villas are set
on Stormalong Bay, a three-acre, sand-bottom playground
that has the best pool among the Disney resorts. It
features a shallow wading pool where kids can build
sand castles, a deep lazy river and a waterslide originating
from the crow's nest of a wrecked pirate ship.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
Home to SeaWorld, a phenomenal zoo, gorgeous beaches
and the Loews Loves Kids program at Loews Coronado Bay
Resort, San Diego is one of our favorite destinations
for families. The chain's concept is tailored for each
location, so you will find bayside marshmallow roasts
and learning adventure camps near Birch Aquarium. VITs
(very important teens) get backpacks filled with holiday
goodies and a teen closet that can be raided for DVDs.
Sunset sails, gondola wine tasting cruises and an adult
section in the pool area satisfy ma and pa.
Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort
most kids' programs incorporate some unique aspects
of a resort's location, this Hyatt Regency goes all
out to showcase the area's Native American influences.
Situated on the Santa Ana Pueblo along the Rio Grande,
it offers Camp Hyatt, where sessions begin with a Hopa
Circle to introduce local history and culture. Children
make their own adobe, and on Srai-Wi Family Experiences,
they join their folks in making drums or baking traditional
pueblo oven bread. Toss in great golf and daybreak hot
air balloon rides, and a sense of fun meets sense of
Smugglers' Notch Vermont
many aspects of Smugglers' Notch are geared toward children,
there are some notable exceptions. Our favorite: Liquid
Courage Karaoke, for adults only, while toddlers are
in the expert care of the TREASURES child care staff
and teens are gettin' jiggy with it at a DJ dance party.
Activities range from old-fashioned (bingo) to contemporary
(skateboarding). There's even an adult skate park. Why
should kids have all the collarbone-breaking thrills?
Imagine a pursuit, and you'll probably find it here:
high ropes adventure courses, human foosball and ski
lessons for kids as young as 2 ½ during the winter.
cuddlers rejoice! This Down Under destination unites
plenty of resort privilege with nature adventures such
as bush walking in Coral Cove and snorkeling in Bait
Marine Park. The Clownfish Club appeals to children
with beachcombing, fishing and mini golf, while policies
please parents: kids up to fourteen stay free when sharing
a room with mom and dad, and they also eat free at a
variety of dining venues. From go-karting to tours of
the Great Barrier Reef, from picnics to pizza, this
island meets the demands of kids.
the Atlantis resort is fundamentally one big theme park, dedicated
kids' programs seem superfluous. There are already six
marine habitats, water slides and a lazy river for all
ages to enjoy. But if you do happen to be a little one,
you will also find youth SCUBA and snorkeling programs,
afternoon fish feeding for tykes, and the opportunity
to discover the legend of Atlantis by decoding hieroglyphs.
Two of the resort's pools are just for children, and
Club Rush focuses on pre-teens and teens.
Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat
no time like the present to introduce future jet setters
to the French
Riviera. Nearby Monaco trumps Sleeping Beauty's
Castle, and Le Cap is sure to turn your Happy Meal monster
into a mini gastronome. While the private funicular
isn't a head-snapping roller coaster, it does transport
you to one of childhood's greatest pleasures: the swimming
pool. With private cabanas and sea access, this pool
is also the site of swim lessons from legendary Pierre
Gruneberg, who taught the tots of celebrities like Frank
Sinatra and Paul McCartney.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
kid-friendly nature reserve near an internationally
acclaimed wine region … what more could a parent
ask for? Combine a stay in the Cape Winelands with a
stopover at Grootbos, where education meets entertainment
with interactive outdoor adventures. Children and their
parents can sail within meters of awe-inspiring, forty-ton
Southern Right Whales, explore Stone Age coastal caves
with specialist guides and ride horses through an ancient
Milkwood Forest. As little ones gather shells, porcupine
quills and bugs to identify in the activities room,
they also learn respect for the natural environment.
(Updated: 03/21/11 CT)