America's 10 Best Family-Friendly Resorts
Wonderful resorts for an unforgettable family vacation By Holly Rosen Fink
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate (Courtesy Omni Hotels)
If you’re looking to get away with the family, you probably have certain expectations you want fulfilled by the resort you choose to stay at. Your requirements might include on-site dining, a kid’s club, activities for kids, childcare, water activities or amenities like a crib or highchair. Whatever the case, it’s important to keep your own needs in mind, too. You want the whole package – activities for adults and kids, great food, classy accommodations and resorts that come recommended.
That’s what we have for you – a list of 10 highly recommended family-friendly resorts in the U.S., handpicked by one of our family travel experts who has personally experienced each one.
OMNI ORLANDO RESORT AT CHAMPIONSGATE IN KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate in Kissimmee, Florida is a lovely hotel ducked behind formal arches. The welcoming lobby is adorned with fancy chandeliers and a marble floor, and it overlooks an 850-foot lazy river (with unlimited use of inner tubes), pools, a water slide, whirlpools, cabanas, an outdoor playground, an indoor video arcade and Champions 9, the resort’s lighted golf course. The hotel consists of 16 stories, six ocean view restaurants, and two-and-three bedroom villas off to the side with full kitchens and washer/dryer. The hotel also has free shuttle service to the Disney theme parks and is only 20 minutes from Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld.
ST. REGIS MONARCH BEACH IN DANA POINT, CALIFORNIA
St. Regis Monarch Beach (Courtesy St. Regis)
St. Regis Monarch Beach is a Forbes five-star rated resort in Dana Point, California. The resort has six ocean view restaurants, a private beach, three swimming pools, programs for kids, babysitting service and, get this, butler service. Upon arrival, kids get a robe, sink-side stool, a beach scavenger hunt map, and a keepsake. The Sandcastle Kid’s Club entertains children 5-12 years with creative and busy activities. They also offer Monarch Beach Golf Links golf for 18 and under free prior to sunset when playing with an adult.
The NONANTUM RESORT IN KENNEBUNKPORT, MAINE
The Nonantum is ideal for a family trip, as it offers a long list of kids’ activities (there’s a special tent dedicated to them - complete with a popcorn machine, movie screen, and arts and crafts), sports (everything from kayaking to shuffle boarding), a heated swimming pool, and biking. Your family will love staying so close to the water, and the hotel’s decor is cozy and nautical enough to create a distinct seaside vibe. There are also good on-site restaurants and a casual pub. Breakfast is complimentary and sublime with homemade muffins, oatmeal and more. Family suites are available and include air conditioning, cable television, telephones and free WIFI. The resort is also conducive to walking through the town of Kennebunkport, through souvenir shops, homemade ice-creameries and more.
ESSEX CULINARY RESORT & SPA IN ESSEX, VERMONT
Essex Resort (Courtesy Essex Resort)
The theme of Vermont’s Essex Resort is cooking. There are special touches like whisks on the doors to the rooms, daily tastings in the restaurants, cooking classes for adults, a cooking camp for kids and two award-winning restaurants that use local ingredients. Guest rooms range from studios, mini-suites and spa suites to deluxe one-bedroom suites and premier one- and two-bedroom suites for extended stays. The resort offers a plethora of activity choices for adults and children alike, from swimming (there are outdoor and indoor pools with Jacuzzis), bicycles and basketball to Frisbee, a life-sized checkerboard and tennis. The resort is also convenient to Mount Stowe, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour and more.
OMNI RANCHO LAS PALMAS RESORT & SPA IN PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa is a Mediterranean-style, family-friendly resort located in the heart of Palm Springs. It’s also the only area resort to have its own water park with water slides and a lazy river called Splashtopia. There’s a small beach for young kids and a Jacuzzi for everyone in the pool area, as well as a water play area with fountains and sprinklers. The property’s restaurant, blueEmber, serves all three meals, complete with a kid’s menu. The River, a duplex full of restaurants and shops, is across the street. Rooms are spacious with a desk, cozy reading chair, mini bar, free high-speed internet, a large flat-screen TV with cable/satellite, bathrobes, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, small fridge, and an in-room safe. Pack-n’-Plays are available at no charge, and there are a limited number of suites for families who need space.
THE ARABELLE AT VAIL SQUARE, A ROCK RESORT
Between the service, décor and proximity to central Vail, the Arabelle is wonderful for families in both winter and summertime. The property is steps from the Eagle Bahn gondola and Born Free Express lift, and a short ride away from Vail Village. There are also plenty of great restaurants bar and shops nearby. The hotel has a wide variety of guest rooms, including chalets and luxury condos with complete kitchens. There are free shuttles that go around Vail, and strollers are easily transportable. Tavern on the Square is a family-friendly restaurant in the hotel that’s a mountain American grill inspired by farm-to-table ingredients and lots of affordable options for everyone. Besides skiing, there is the Colorado Snow & Ski Museum and a Children’s Museum in Beaver Creek.
OCEAN EDGE RESORT IN BREWSTER, MASSACHUSETTS
Ocean Edge Resort (Courtesy Ocean Edge)
Ocean Edge is a beautiful Cape Cod property that was built over 100 years ago. It has been renovated several times since and the experience it offers its visitors is nothing less than transporting. From its nautical décor to its position on the water, the owners have taken great care to make the hotel an ultimate place to stay for families on the Cape. From s’mores on the beach to cocktails on the terrace overlooking the bay to strolls on the beach to bike riding on the Cape Cod Bike Trail to eating homemade ice-cream in the middle of town, the hotel welcomes families like home.
MOHONK MOUNTAIN HOUSE IN NEW PALTZ, NEW YORK
Mohonk Mountain House is located just 90 miles north of New York City in the Hudson Valley. The resort consists of 2,200 acres. The property adjoins 6,400 acres of the Mohonk Preserve, which is crisscrossed by 85 miles (140 km) of hiking trails and carriage roads. The grounds feature well-maintained gardens, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, 85 miles of trails for hikes, a skating pavilion, an indoor pool, stables for horseback riding, a kid’s club, boating, fishing and over 40 theme programs including cooking classes, gardening workshops, music festivals and nature programs. The resort’s restaurants use the freshest ingredients and offer a variety of ingredients, many of which are picked from surrounding farms. Best of all, there’s a Kid’s Club with morning, afternoon, and evening sessions.
1000 ACRES RANCH RESORT IN STONY CREEK, NEW YORK
1000 Acres Ranch (Courtesy 1000 Acres Ranch)
Located on the banks of the Hudson River just over 200 miles from New York City, in the heart of the Adirondacks, this 70-year-old resort is bringing back the traditional dude ranch and staying faithful to who they are. There is much to fall in love with at this simple but action-packed resort. The ranch employs real cowboys and offers a multitude of activities from morning to night. It feels like camp – for kids and adults of all ages. Weekends on the resort are all-inclusive. There’s a daily schedule that lets you know exactly what is going on, and there’s really something for everyone to do at the resort: canoeing, swimming, a human rodeo, pig barbecues, cook-outs, tennis, shuffle boarding, table tennis, hiking and races. Every night at 8:30, they light a bonfire and give out marshmallows to roast S’mores by the river.
HAWKS CAY RESORT IN DUCK KEY, FLORIDA
Hawks Cay boasts a total of 402 villas and hotel rooms, four restaurants, a saltwater lagoon, five swimming pools and an award-winning spa, as well as onsite water sports, fishing charters and Dolphin Connection facility. The Indies Club for kids offers activities with educational components. Kids can participate in noodle races as well as arts and crafts activities, play video games, or just chill out with a fully trained staff. The resort also offers bike rentals, sports fields, and volleyball and basketball courts, and the Dolphin experiences are top-notch for kids. There are 90-minute sunset boat rides that serve as a good orientation to the Keys. There’s also snorkeling, Segway tours, mini golf, beach volleyball, SNUBA courses (for kids ages 8 and up), feeding the resident tarpon, or taking a fishing trip and then eating the caught fish for dinner — what the resort calls “Hook & Cook.”