Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.



Top 10 Family Resorts Worldwide 2006

Ah, 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.

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UNITED STATES

Crawford
Smith Fork Ranch

www.smithforkranch.com

Situated 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.

Kailua-Kona
Kona Village Resort

www.konavillage.com

Aloha, 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.


Orlando
Disney's Beach Club Villas
www.disneyworld.disney.go.com

Every 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.

San Diego
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
www.loewshotels.com/hotels/sandiego

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.

Santa Ana Pueblo
Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort
& Spa

tamaya.hyatt.com

While 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 place.

Smugglers' Notch
Smugglers' Notch Vermont
www.smuggs.com

Although 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.

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AUSTRALIA

Great Barrier Reef
Hamilton Island
www.hamiltonisland.com.au

Koala 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.

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BAHAMAS

Paradise Island
Atlantis
www.atlantis.com

Because 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.

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FRANCE

Cap-Ferrat
Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat
www.grand-hotel-cap-ferrat.com

There's 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.

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SOUTH AFRICA

Grootbos
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
www.grootbos.com

A 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.


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