When it’s time to hit the road, just say “no” to bland accommodations. These resorts have so much to offer families that you won’t have to plan a ton of off-property excursions. You’ll find stargazing parties, encounters with rescued dolphins, over-the-top themed rooms and so much more. Your family adventure awaits!
Be a Mermaid Hyatt Regency Maui Resort - Maui, Hawaii
The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort has something for everyone. Adventurous families can feed the resort’s resident African Black-Footed Penguins in the only habitat in the Hawaiian Islands of its kind. Older kids who want to explore Hawaii's natural beauty can get a closer glimpse at the stunning creatures that surround the resort on a wildlife tour. At night, kids will love the Drums of the Pacific Lu’au. For a unique experience, families can participate in a Tour of the Stars activity led by a NASA Solar System Ambassador. This program earned the resort the title of World’s Top Hotel for Stargazing. Then check out the Hawaii Mermaid Adventure that comes complete with insta-ready GoPro photos.
LEGOLAND California – Carlsbad, CA
Whether your child is going through a serious LEGO phase or is more of a casual fan, a visit to the LEGOLAND California Resort is a must-do. Visit the LEGO theme park and splash your way through the water park. Then, head to the LEGOLAND Hotel for even more fun with bricks. Every room features a LEGO theme and kids can choose from Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, LEGO NINJAGO or LEGO Friends. Bonus: each has a separate sleeping area for kids. There are even more LEGO activities throughout the hotel as well as nightly kids' entertainment. Similar LEGOLAND resorts are in Orlando, Florida; Goshen, New York and elsewhere around the world.
Under Canvas - Various National Parks
Give kids the ultimate glamping experience by going Under Canvas. Sleep in a safari-inspired tent in one of several national parks. By day families can enjoy guided hikes, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts and a variety of outdoor games. By night, watch outdoor movies and enjoy live music and fireside chats. Another option is always to just kick back and gaze at the stars. Kids will be having so much fun getting back to nature that they may not even miss their screens.
Be Grand at Moon Palace The Grand - Cancun, Mexico
Moon Palace The Grand believes that more is more! Start your day at the immense water park with simulated surfing, a lazy river, a wave pool and elaborate water slides. Then, kids can try their hand at one of the several rooms dedicated to play that include neon mini-golf, a 3-floor labyrinth, arcade, bumper cars, laser maze, a bowling alley, interactive sports, sky trail, mirror maze and more. There is so much to do that you could never leave the resort and still not do it all, but staff can arrange tours of nearby attractions.
Unleash Your Inner Phoenix and the Phoenician - Scottsdale, Arizona
The Phoenician Arizona is the perfect family escape in the Southwest. With multiple pools and a huge, twisty waterslide it's a great way to get in quality time in the lap of luxury. Once kids are ready to get out of the pool, head to The Kids Zone with a treehouse complete with swaying bridge and a splash pad with spray guns, falling buckets of water and shooting water spouts. There is also an indoor Funicians Kids Club with plenty of activities and a full game room.
Four Seasons Hualali - Hawaii
The Four Seasons Hualali resort in Hawaii has so much to offer that you may never set foot off the hotel's expansive grounds. Go snorkeling with a marine biologist, swim in a 1.8-million-gallon aquarium or watch sea turtles on the beach. If you must see more of Hawaii, the resort can arrange a variety of experiences from tours of nearby farms to a helicopter ride with majestic views of the island's volcanos.
Lots of Laughs at the Cartoon Network Hotel - Lancaster, PA
Fulfill your child's greatest dream and become immersed in the Cartoon Network universe. From Ben-10 and Adventure Time-themed rooms to Powder-Puff Girls water slides, this resort has it all. Of course, lodgings include big-screen TVs with custom Cartoon Network showings, but there is so much to do you won't find yourself spending much time in your room. Enjoy indoor and outdoor pools, outdoor movies, firepits perfect for making s'mores and more. The on-site Cartoon Kitchen features dishes from favorite shows like Total Drama Pizza and Steven Universe's Together Breakfast. If you want to venture out, Dutch Wonderland full of rides of the pint-sized crowd is just down the street.
Graduates Welcome - Various Locations
Graduate Hotels embrace local culture and capture the fun of being in college. These boutique hotels feature game rooms with a billiards table, video games, board games and more. Family suites with bunk beds are a fun way to spend the night and have plenty of space for the entire family to spread out. Some locations have other amenities, like a rooftop pool and bicycle rentals, for even more family fun.
Howl at The Great Wolf Lodge - Various Locations
Great Wolf Lodge resorts were designed with kids in mind. From an enormous waterpark to bowling alleys, laser tag, climbing walls, MagiQuest and nightly dance parties there is non-stop action all day long. It's impossible to wander around the lodge without running into a Great Wolf Lodge character meet-and-greet, storytime, yoga or craft. In the summer, head outside to enjoy a large outdoor pool. When it's time to hit the hay, head to a cozy themed room with bunk beds.
In-Room Glamping at the Canopy - Washington, DC
Just because you are visiting the big city doesn't mean you can't have fun glamping in your room. Book the Urban Camping package at the Canopy located just outside of the nation's capital for a bug-free glamping experience. Kids will catch some shut-eye in sleeping bags in their very own tent. Set up the star machine and make your own treats with an electric s'mores maker. Once the young campers are snoozing away, parents can retreat to their own king-size bed in the suite to enjoy the included bottle of wine. The only problem is that the kids may not want to leave the room!
Explore More with Kimpton - Multiple Locations
Kimptons are stunning, quirky hotels that go the extra mile to welcome families. Each location has its own twist. You will find a fun Little Explorers package at the Kimpton Palomar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania complete with "kid currency" that can be used to buy warm chocolate chip cookies and milk, insta-print camera to capture a kids'-eye view of the city, a scavenger hunt and coloring book. They even throw in a bottle of wine for the parents! The Kimpton Cardinal in Winston-Salem, North Carolina has a huge recreation room complete with a multi-story twisty slide and bowling alley. It's always worth exploring what a Kimpton Hotel at your destination has to offer.
Be a Beach Bum at Beaches - Turks & Caicos
Beaches Turks & Caicos truly has something for everyone. Kids who are part fish will love the watersports including snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking and more. Other kid favorites are Pirates Island, the resort's expansive waterpark including gigantic waterslides, a long lazy river, kid-friendly pools and swim-up soda bars. Need more? Daredevils can try the water cannons, whirlpools and one-of-a-kind Surf Simulator. Land lovers can choose from activities including beach volleyball, soccer, board games and more. Kids who need a break from their parents can head to Beaches' Kids' Club and hang out with their favorite characters from Sesame Street.
Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Honolulu, HI
There are, quite possibly, a thousand great reasons why visiting Disney Aulani with kids should be on your bucket list. For starters, there is a man-made reef, filled with fish, on the premises, that was built solely for your snorkeling pleasure. Kids under 11 must be accompanied by an adult but feel free to swim for however long you want to snorkel to and fro. We also love the Painted Sky Studio where your little keiki (Hawaiian for kids) can get made over into a luau boy and girl. If they want to channel a more Disney-like character, they have Ariel from the Little Mermaid, Moana and more traditional Minnie Mouse Buns they can choose as well.
Of course, no visit to a Disney resort would be complete without QT with the big guy himself, so be sure to make reservations for the Disney Character Breakfast. Before sitting at your table, you’ll be able to grab a photo-op with Mickey himself who personally greets each and every guest before they head to their table and take their first bite. Get more info about the Disney Aulani Resort & Spa by checking out our Insider's Guide here.
Bunk With the Minions - Orlando, Florida
For many families, visiting Orlando is all about the theme parks. But, the themes shouldn't end when you head back to your hotel. Lowes Portofino Bay has a variety of kids' suites meaning you can be fully immersed in the magic throughout your trip. Whether your kids love Minions or the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, they will be thrilled with their unique vacation digs. After a hard day at the parks, enjoy the resort's beach pool complete with a Roman aqueduct-themed water slide and sandy beach. Look for regular poolside activities including a water balloon toss, hula-hoop contests and arts and crafts.
Swim With the Dolphins at Atlantis Paradise Island - Bahamas
Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas is best known for Aquaventure, the resort's iconic water park. With 141 acres of high-speed water slides, a mile-long river ride and 11 swimming pools, everyone will find something they love. But the water activities don't end there. Younger children can participate in Atlantis’ Sea Squirts program where they can hand-feed baby stingrays. Children eight and up can "Snuba"-dive and participate in a safe, modified form of scuba-diving. Families can head to Dolphin Cay where they can swim with dolphins and learn about dolphin conservation, including learning about the dolphins rescued from Hurricane Katrina. For any kid who needs a break from the water, the resort offers tons of other activities, including games, cooking lessons and jewelry making.
Spend the Night in Eloise's Suite at the Plaza Hotel - New York City, New York
In the Eloise Suite, named for The Plaza's famous resident in Kay Thompson's Eloise books, your capricious kiddo will love the outrageous and fun décor by Betsey Johnson. The suite is decorated with an Eloise-approved palette of pink black with her name in big neon lights. Fans will be delighted to find the room stocked with themed books, dolls, and clothing as well as a letter from Eloise, treats and pink lemonade. A night in this one-of-a-kind room includes an Eloise-themed tea, gift bag robe, and other fun Eloise gifts. Just be sure to check the Eloise calendar so you don't miss any opportunity!
Join the Circus at Club Med Punta Cana – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Club Med has been doing the family all-inclusive experience for years, and they've perfected the equation. Why Punta Cana? Possibly the most unique offering at that Club Med is CREACTIVE, an acrobatic playground for adults and children alike that is the result of a partnership with Cirque du Soleil. Cirque-trained performers safely challenge, support, and entertain guests as they test the limits of their comfort zones through acrobatic trapeze, suspended bungee and trampoline. More comfortable with your feet on the ground? CREACTIVE also engages participants in the circus arts, including face painting, choreography and music.
Your kiddos too little to participate? No worries. The resort offers Baby Club Med, where babes ages four months to 24 months are cuddled, fed and put down for naps (their kind of vacay!). For tots two to four years old there’s Petit Club Med with caretaker-led outdoor play including golf and tennis. Mini Club Med is designed for kids ages four to 10, with sports and activities (a fave is kiddie Zumba).
Enjoy the Ultimate Kids' Club at Iberostar Paraíso Complex—Playa Paraíso, Mexico
Iberostar has completely re-invented what it means to go to a kids' club. Star Camp is inspired by the Scout movement and incorporates the theory of multiple intelligences. The new program combines fun with core values and includes a range of activities (over 140, based on age!) that utilize and cater to the different ways kids learn: linguistic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, naturalistic and more. There are 12 different categories including team sports, group challenges, science and cooking activities, board games, arts, crafts, physical leisure and even tech!
Star Camp is cheerfully designed, with many sustainable features, including the outdoor playground made of recycled plastic. There’s an indoor climbing/play structure, puzzles, crafts, Imagination Playground blocks for little kids and a mini trampoline park, climbing wall, lounge chairs and video games for the older crew. Find out more by checking out our insider's guide here.
Climb Walls at the Limelight Hotel - Snowmass, CO
Hotel perks have reached new heights at the Limelight Hotel, located in the Snowmass Base Village Plaza. The plaza is home to an open-air community space where families ice skate (in the winter only), enjoy fire pits, pop-up activities, and casual dining. But even cooler, kids of all ages can also try their skills on the rock climbing wall that adorns the front of the hotel all year long. Six stories up, it's a great way to hang around when not on the slopes or hiking.
Bonus: There's also a kid's room for younger guests inside the Limelight: you'll find toys, books and maybe a new friend or two.
Hang with the Birds at Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino in Palm Beach, Aruba
When you visit the Hilton Aruba in Palm Beach, Aruba, you'll have access to a long list of kid-friendly amenities, including a kids club (at extra cost) filled with incredible activities like cupcake decorating, lawn games, feeding Koi fish, seashell painting and more. But, what really caught our eye was the unique family perks like the daily bird interaction, where guests can have an encounter with the resort’s 11 macaws, and the snorkeling instruction that’s perfect even for beginners. There’s a waterproof library for pool lounging opportunities, a family movie night on the South Pool deck, s’mores and campfire night and even stargazing! If you’re still looking for more, check out their endless list of wellness activities including ping pong, bocce ball and paddleboarding for the older set (16 & up).
—Jamie Davis Smith, Ayren Jackson-Cannady with Gabby Cullen