Top 10 Family Vacation Spots
It used to be difficult to find a vacation destination that would please the entire family. These days, family-friendly resorts provide a multitude of options, so that folks can entertain their tots, relax with their spouses, and enjoy the fabulous North American outdoors -- all from the creative comforts of man-made African safaris, lost continents and even a Wild West dude ranch. Competing for your attention, modern family resorts have upped the ante in entertainment: swimming with dolphins, circus clown training and even sleeping in trees are real-life resort activities.
We've left no stone unturned as we unearthed these amazing resorts filled with off-the-chart family fun. Let the games begin!
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Discover a lost civilization this vacation, and let your family act as the explorers! The $850-million Atlantis Resort recreates the infamous lost continent, filled with adventure and intrigue. This mecca of family fun features over 20,000 guest rooms, 38 restaurants and countless activities, including 11 exhibit lagoons and over 50,000 animals such as sharks, lionfish and stingrays.
Water enthusiasts can visit miles of beaches, take a dip in one of 11 pool areas, or play on 7 different water slides. Leave your fears at home, though & the Mayan Temple's Leap of Faith slide features a 60-foot drop into an acrylic tunnel submerged in a shark-infested lagoon.
Check out Atlantis Paradise Island.
Getting around Paradise Island, Bahamas.
If the sight of snow gets your family excited, grab a pair of skis and head to Snowbird for a wonderful, wintry vacation. The resort rests in Little Cottonwood Canyon, which offers 3,240 feet and 5,000 acres of mountain to explore, and whose proximity to the Great Salt Lake ensures over 500 inches of snow falls annually.
Thirty years after being founded, the resort now features 10 lifts, 85 runs and an uphill capacity of 16,000 people. Beginner skiers, from ages 3 to adult, can learn skiing and snowboarding at the Snowbird Mountain School. Love the outdoors but not a fan of the slopes? The resort offers ice skating, snow tubing, snowshoe tours and luge sleds. Parents can unwind with a stone massage or herbal wrap at the luxurious Cliff Spa, or hit Snowbird's shops, selling everything from ski clothes and boots to Chinese silk rugs.
City slickers and country folk alike will enjoy their stay at the Tanque Verde Ranch, a family resort aiming to lasso the cowboy outta everyone. Literally meaning "Green Pool," the 640-acre Tanque Verde Ranch is a serene oasis nestled into the Sonoran Desert and adjacent to Saguaro National Park. With over 120 horses, it's no surprise that this dude ranch offers ample riding opportunities. Specialty rides such as the Breakfast Ride (to a meal at the Old Homestead), 6-hour-long Day Rides and Picnic Rides with lunch in Cottonwood Grove are all available. Newcomers can take riding lessons at a variety of levels.
Naturalist guides offer hikes through the desert wilds, exploring canyons, cacti and even secret waterfalls. The popular Kids Program offers little cowpokes (ages 4 - 11) the chance to "ride 'em cowboy!" Children are divided into 2 age groups -- the Buckaroos and Wrangler Kids -- and treated to riding lessons, tennis, swimming and arts and crafts.
If your family is looking for an island excursion to get away from it all, the Hilton Waikoloa Village promises endless activity and unprecedented luxury. Parents hoping to find a child-friendly haven can sign their tykes up for Camp Menehune. This day and night camp allows kids to feed koi and swans, hunt for treasure, and explore tidepools Tropical gardens, saltwater lagoons and 2 golf courses are tempting, but the resort's most popular retreat is Dolphin Quest, providing guests with a variety of interactive dolphin programs.
The many activities include Dolphin Training Adventures, a Dolphin Family Program and a Dolphin Twilight Camp for kids. At Waikoloa's 4-acre lagoon, water lovers can schedule kayak trips, snorkel sails and seasonal whale-watch sails. After dark, attend the Legends of the Pacific Luau to experience traditional island dancing and music, as well as a buffet dinner.
Stretching over 3,000 acres of Virginia wilderness, Kingsmill Resort boasts its own long list of recreational activities as well as close proximity to the fun found in nearby Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. Active families can enjoy the resort's 3 18-hole golf courses, 15 tennis courts and Sports Club featuring indoor and outdoor pools, exercise classes, personal trainers and a billiards and game room.
Stop by the concierge desk for special Junior Guest Registration: children receive a Kids Fun Pack introducing them to the resort. Kids Camp is the perfect opportunity for 5-12 year olds to play tennis and golf, swim, fish, have theme days and make arts and crafts. Don't forget to sign little ones up for Kids Night Out, a pizza and game party that allows for a parents' romantic date night at 1 of the resort's 6 signature restaurants.
The biggest permanent big top in the world can be found rising in all its colorful glory here in Las Vegas. At Circus Circus, over 3.5 million people per year stop by to experience the live entertainment and whimsy the Circus has to offer. The resort lies on 70 acres of land, and with 3,800 rooms, it's the fifth largest resort-casino in Vegas.
"Ooh's" and "ahh's" fill the air every half hour at Circus Circus, as performers engage in airborne stunts on the resort's center stage. Surrounding the stage is Midway, an enormous carnival filled with over 200 arcade games, carnival games and wandering clowns. Possibly the world's biggest funhouse, the excitement continues at the indoor theme park Adventuredome, home to over 20 rides, miniature golf and laser tag.
Head to the circus.
Something extraordinary is afoot in the woods of Oregon. Strung high above the earth, nestled into treetops and branches, is 1 of the world's most unique resorts: Treesort. This high-in-the-sky treehouse-resort proves that trees aren't just for the birds. Fourteen treehouses comprise Treesort, and sleep 2 to 8 people.
Getting to your room is half the adventure -- guests climb stairs, ladders, even a 90-foot-long suspension bridge. Once there, the wonder begins. At the Swiss Family Complex, a swinging bridge separates child and adult units, and a fire pole and rope swings provide kids with ground access. Luxury lovers will enjoy the Tree Room Schoolhouse Suite, which sleeps 4 and has a bathroom, kitchenette, master bedroom, sitting area and loft.
Guests allow fantasy to become reality at the Treehouse Institute, which teaches techniques in treehouse building. A self-described summer camp for families, Treesort also features horseback riding, rafting, ropes courses, pools and arts and crafts classes. Tree climbers face the challenge of scaling Treesort's 51-foot rope-climbing tree and discovering a treetop pool made of river rocks.
Take your family South of the Border for some Club Med-style family fun. The charming Club Med Ixtapa Village quickly woos kids and parents with its seemingly endless roster of activities for all ages. Situated on 37 acres along Mexico's western coast, Ixtapa plays host to over 20,000 visitors a year, 60% of whom are under age 11!
A variety of clubs are designed to entertain children throughout the day. Divided by age groups, Baby Club, Petit Club and Mini Club keep kids ages 4 months - 13 years busy with outdoor activities, shows and crafts. Even mealtime is a child's fantasy - Ixtapa features a kids-only dining area. While the kids are away, the parents will play! Ixtapa offers adult activities including tennis, scuba, archery, kayaking, water polo, volleyball and picnics. Families venturing off the resort property can visit Ixtapa Island or take sunset cruises, fishing trips and even excursions into the Mexican fishing village of Zihuatenejo.
Most commonly associated with its 2 PGA Championship golf courses and a world-class spa, La Costa Resort now earns itself a new reputation: Family Resort.
Tucked among the resort's rolling greens, Jim McLean Golf School, and 21 tennis courts is a world of activities designed for little ones on retreat. At Camp La Costa, children experience the resort's magnificent facilities in a kid-friendly environment while parents pursue their own activities without worry. Kids ages 5 - 12 spend the day at the camp, where they engage in tennis, croquet, hiking, swimming, nature walks, crafts and ping-pong. While the kids are making friends and having fun, parents indulge in the body- and soul-soothing luxury that defines La Costa. Whether taking yoga at health guru Deepak Chopra's Chopra Center or soaking away worries in Spa La Costa's Roman pools, adults relish the relaxing treatments. As darkness falls, parents can opt to spend a romantic evening together while sending their children off to Night Camp, which includes dinner, story hour and a scavenger hunt.
At Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, families experience the thrills of an African safari without ever leaving their lodging. If a trip to the Serengeti is out of your price range, a visit to this wild lodge will more than suffice.
Guests initially greet the 33-acre property through the lobby's awe-inspiring 65-foot window. Strolling throughout the property's savannahs are over 200 animals representing more than 100 different species, including antelopes and gazelles. Many suites and rooms overlook the resort's savannahs, and balconies afford families an opportunity to come face to face with a giraffe. Rooms are decorated with a traditional African ambience: earth-tone walls, handcrafted furniture, tapestries and mosquito nets abound, but true historical value can be found in the 4,000 native handcrafts placed throughout the lodge. Featured within the lodge are 380 museum-quality works of art including authentic Kinta cloths, woodcarvings and a 16-foot, 240-lb. Nigerian ceremonial mask. When it's time to dine, experience the tastes of Africa at one of the resort's 2 inspired restaurants, Jiko or Boma, which feature wood-burning ovens and thatched roofs.