Top 10 Vacation Ideas for Large Groups
Consider one of these trips for your next family reunion or group getaway.
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Sailing: Maine Windjammer Cruises, Maine
Eco-friendly Maine Windjammer Cruises offer nine different tall sailing ships, some of which can accommodate up to 40 people. There's no set itinerary on these three-to-six day sailings since routes are weather dependent. However, the century-old schooners stick to charming Maine ports and islands. Life onboard is simple and varies slightly depending on the ship, but commonalities include fresh baked goods and a traditional lobster bake. (Some cruises hold the lobster bake on a beach.) Otherwise, days are spent as you wish, whether learning the ropes of how to sail, swimming or simply watching harbor seals and eagles.
Amusement Park: Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia
In addition to offering group rates, Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia tends to be a good option for groups seeking fewer crowds and lower prices. It's comprised of both a theme park and water park: The former features themed attractions grouped around different European countries, complete with major coasters for adults as well as kid-friendly rides. Entertainment shows and wildlife attractions are other highlights. New this year is the park's first wooden roller coaster with a 74-foot drop, while its first virtual reality ride will be opening in 2018. Stay in one of the many nearby hotels and resorts, and consider a side trip to Colonial Williamsburg.
Old School: Mackinac Island, Michigan
This car-free island is only accessible by ferry, transporting visitors to an era where horse-drawn carriages still prevail. It's easy to spend days wandering around fudge shops, art galleries, boutiques, historic forts and small museums. The island is also ideal for bikes, especially Mackinac Island State Park. Use the historic Grand Hotel as your base, since activities involve old timey lawn games (croquet, bocce) and afternoon tea. There's also a golf course, daily children's program, pool and spa. Lakeside Mission Point is another great option for families since the gorgeous property offers kite-flying lessons, glow-in-the-dark golf, bike rentals and more. It can even arrange horseback riding lessons.
Winery: Woodinville Wine Country, Washington
Napa and Sonoma are already overrun with large groups. So if everyone in your party is of legal drinking age, escape further north to Woodinville Wine Country just outside of Seattle. The region holds its own with more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms; standouts include Mark Ryan Winery, The Woodhouse Wine Estates, Chateau Ste. Michelle(pictured) and JM Cellars. Just be sure to make reservations for groups larger than eight. Serious aficionados can advance their knowledge by taking wine classes at Columbia Winery. Stay at Willows Lodge, a four-star property that can arrange guided wine tastings.
Ski Resort: Big Sky Resort, Montana
Located at the basecamp of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky is known as the biggest ski resort in the U.S. Even better, it doesn't get as crowded or as expensive as the more popular ones. It's one of the best in the country for every skill level from beginner through advanced, whether skiers or snowboarders. Groups of 25 or more can also get special rates on lift tickets. As for lodging, mountain options include a nice mix of cabins, chalets and condos.
Dude Ranch: Tanque Verde Ranch, Arizona
For something different, Tanque Verde Ranch; offers the activities of a dude ranch, plus the amenities of an upscale resort. A wide selection of daily offerings cater to group interests, such as breakfast and sunset rides, horsemanship lessons, yoga, mountain biking or hiking. There's even a daily kids program that offers fishing, tennis and watercolor classes in addition to rides and lessons. Meanwhile, evenings bring hearty barbeques, live music and line dancing. Since the all-inclusive ranch easily handles groups, everyone can just focus on having fun.
Volunteer: Sierra Club, Nationwide
Sierra Club Outings run a wide variety of year-round service trips across the U.S. that can accommodate up to 20 people. Recent and upcoming examples include restoring trails in Glacier National Park in Montana; working at a wolf conservation center in New York; and clearing weeds from the Honokowai Valley on Maui. Leisure activities, from whale watching to hiking, depend on the locale. Although most trips are for those 18 and older, there are some family options that welcome children too. For example, families can volunteer at a working farm in Pennsylvania, where everyone milks cows, feeds horses and collects eggs. Did we mention the trip coincides with baby goat season?
Camping: Camp Navarro, California
This former Boy Scout camp in Northern California now hosts everyone from corporate retreats to family gatherings. Sure, you can always arrange your own camp outing, but Camp Navarro can customize the logistics if you're wrangling an especially large group. Lodging options on the 200-acre property are plentiful, from traditional cabins (enclosed or open-air) to teepees. Meanwhile, activities encompass everything from archery to yoga. The best part just may be catered campfire meals from chefs who worked in Michelin-starred restaurants
Beach Town: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Just off the coast of South Carolina, Hilton Head Island makes for an ideal respite in the Lowcountry. Popular with families, the laid-back atmosphere is conducive for enjoying 12 miles of pristine public beach and for playing tennis or golf. (There are 24 golf courses on the island.) When your group needs a break, there are more than 200 shops and an even greater number of restaurants. Rent a house, or stay at the beachfront Sonesta Resort Hilton Head (pictured), since it recently underwent a $30 million renovation.
City Break: New Orleans
New Orleans is easy to navigate with a large group, with options to keep everyone entertained. All ages should visit the city's above-ground cemeteries, take a steamboat cruise and ride the historic streetcars. Tour Mardi Gras World to learn about the parade's history and watch floats being built. Kids will especially enjoy Carousel Gardens, a small amusement park in the city, and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. The fun doesn't have to end at night, since children are welcome at some jazz clubs, including the iconic Preservation Hall. Lodging isn't an issue either, as many hotels offer group rates.