Beaches Negril/Steve Sanacore
After two years of dreaming about travel, you might actually want to take a big family trip this summer or fall. There’s only one question: Where are we headed?
Behold this list of family vacations spots. These destinations used the downtime from the beginning of the pandemic to rethink, renovate or both. Many upgraded their pools, some refreshed guest rooms, others re-thought the activities. A few were even built from scratch in an eco-conscious way. With loads of outdoor fun, they’re all ready for families like yours. Whether you’re looking to chill out at an all-inclusive resort, get active in the great outdoors, thrill to the new attractions at a theme park, hit the beach or cozy up in a cabin, there’s a destination or experience to match every mood. And, since inter-generational travel is still a trend, we’ve found options that will please everyone from the youngest traveler to the oldest.
One thing to note: With the COVID-19 pandemic still an ongoing concern, it’s possible that activities or offerings have changed. It’s smart, especially when you’re traveling with kids, to verify with your resort or destination that everything you want to do is open or available before booking.
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Spend your days rolling in the waves, relaxing by the pool or enjoying some quiet time (thanks to some superior kids’ clubs) at these island resorts.
Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and Riviera Maya, Mexico)
Sure, the kids have it made at these sister all-inclusive resorts — both with massive waterparks, daily slimings and Nickelodeon characters galore. But grown-ups aren’t left out of the fun. Tequila tastings, spa treatments and romantic dinners can be on your agenda thanks to the supervised club for kids ages 4 to 12. And while you probably wouldn’t be booking a SpongeBob-themed room if you didn’t have the kids in tow, the decor is as mod and classy as it can be. All the accommodations are suites that sleep up to five and have two bathrooms. In the Riviera Maya location, all suites have direct access to the pool from the balcony. All-inclusive rates that are part of the brand’s Summer of SpongeBob promotion start at $193 per person per night.
RELATED: Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana Is the Best Place to Travel With a Baby and a Sibling
Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda (Dominican Republic)
Movies under the stars, trapeze lessons, windsurfing — with cool activities like these, kids will never want to leave this newish resort in the lush, away-from-it-all part of the island. Supervised clubs for babies through teens keep the good times rolling while you’re at the adults-only Zen pool or doing treetop yoga (yes, that’s a thing). Solar panels, recycling, plastic-free water bottles and other sustainable initiatives are part of the eco-minded resort culture. All-inclusive rates start at $173 per person per night, $77 per night for each child ages 4 to 11
Beaches Negril Resort & Spa (Negril, Jamaica)
While this all-inclusive resort on the island’s idyllic 7-Mile Beach genuinely caters to all ages, toddlers and preschoolers will be star struck. Sesame Street characters entertain them with story times, dance parties, puppet-making and even tea! That’s on top of the mini water slides, splash areas and a playground that make little ones squeal with glee and wear them out so they’ll hit the sack early. Private childcare and supervised kids’ clubs (for babies through teens, including those with special needs) are an option when you want a spa treatment, a quiet dinner or just to read a book on the beach. All the rooms and suites got a glow-up in 2020, so they’re thoughtfully designed for families. All-inclusive rates start at $356 per person per night for adults and $68 per night for each child ages 2 to 15.
Fairmont Mayakoba (Playa del Carmen, Mexico)
When it comes to baby and kid gear, this resort has you covered. Need a bottle warmer? They got it. How about a step stool for a toddler to reach the sink? Yours for the asking. With these worries aside, you can concentrate on the beauty of the surroundings (the resort is surrounded by a lush mangrove forest) and incredible bucket-list activities, like Mexican fiestas, kids’ carnivals and night kayaking. Half of the 400 guest rooms are already renovated, and the rest will be complete by the end of the year. Rates start at $361 per night.
Rock House Resort (Turks & Caicos)
Your family may never leave the water at this Mediterranean-inspired oasis, which opened in May 2022. In addition to a full kitchen and spacious living room, many of the villa-style accommodations feature a spacious private pool. (No way! Yes way!) And if your crew ever tires of it, fun awaits at the resort’s oceanfront infinity pool and stretch of white-sand beach, which is just for resort guests. While a cliffside setting makes the resort incredibly picturesque, it’s impossible to navigate with a stroller. Bring the tweens, teens and even grandparents if they don’t have trouble climbing stairs. Rates start at $655 per night.
Lakes, lighthouses and hiking trails make New England a great place to visit in almost any season.
Quisisana Resort (Lovell, Maine)
Kids will get a screen detox at this all-inclusive lakefront resort, and they’ll be too busy playing to miss their devices. Without TV or a Wi-Fi signal in the comfortable, air-conditioned rooms and cabins, they’ll be fully immersed in the slew of included activities — from paddle-boating to tennis to sandcastle-building. They might even learn to kayak or catch their first fish. At night, music fills the resort. Broadway-style shows, held in a new outdoor theater, entertain all generations. There’s something about the fresh air and a choice of lollipops that keeps most kids from getting too wiggly and the caliber of the performances is at least on par with good community theater. The three included daily meals — with menu items like lobster rolls and Maine blueberry pie — will leave your crew’s bellies happy and full. And if you do need Wi-Fi occasionally, you can pop in the main lobby for a signal. Shh: The kids will be fine without it. All-inclusive rates start at $470 per night.
RELATED: Tips for How to Travel With Kids That Will Save Your Next Family Vacation
Smugglers’ Notch Resort (Jeffersonville, Vermont)
Nestled in the Green mountains, this resort is just as fun in the summer months as it is during prime ski season. Besides eight heated pools (some with waterslides!), the action-packed lineup of family activities has plenty to do whether you’re traveling with a toddler, teen or both. Sing-a-longs, magic shows and scavenger hunts keep little ones entertained while older kids will welcome the chance to take a guided hike, design and launch a water rocket or play glow-in-the-dark volleyball. Condos with up to five bedrooms make it possible for extended family and friends to stay together. Rates start at $174 per night.
Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club (Brewster, MA)
Beach, pool, eat, repeat — that’s how your crew will spend laid-back days at this Cape Cod gem. The private beach has gentle surf and at low tide, kids can spy little sea creatures in the tide pools. When the tide changes, head to the heated outdoor or indoor pools. Outdoor movies are the perfect wind-down to bedtime. And if you can pry the kids out of the water, activities like scavenger hunts, curated by the resort’s new director of fun (for real!) await. Stay in the “mansion” section of the resort because that’s the part with private beach access. Rates start at $279 per night.
RELATED: The Most Quaint and Charming Beach Towns in America For Your Best Vacation Yet
Sebasco Harbor Resort (Phippsburg, Maine)
Kids will never forget sleeping in a lighthouse next to the ocean. The resort’s 1945 lighthouse contains recently renovated guest rooms with amazing views, sea breezes and conveniences like a fridge and microwave. The lighthouse rooms are also near the resort’s iconic oceanfront saltwater pool, which got a makeover for this season. A vintage bowling alley, weekly pirate cruise and old-school kids’ club add to the charm. Rates start at $299 per night.
Choose your California adventure: You can find bustling cityscapes, tranquil trails, beautiful beaches and even a fairytale castle.
Can’t decide between heading to the beach or exploring a big city? San Diego has the best of both worlds, with near perfect weather to boot. Make your home base a beach resort like the Loews Coronado Bay. It’s a short walk or resort shuttle ride to Silver Strand Beach — the spot is named for the silvery oyster shells that cover the beach and dune. Intersperse oceanside fun with short drives to the city’s famous zoo and cultural attractions. New for summer 2022: The San Diego Zoo’s Wildlife Explorers Base Camp has four nature play areas, the highly anticipated Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park wows superhero fans and a newly opened Sesame Place entertains toddlers. Rates start at $250 per night.
The No. 1 reason to book a vacation in this coastal town: the aquarium. Yes, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is that good. It levels up the typical touch tank experience by letting little kids crawl through tunnels surrounded by tropical fish displays and use squirt toys to learn how animals stand up to big waves. There’s even a padded zone with eye-level exhibits for toddlers! And the whole family will be wowed by the aquarium’s newest exhibition, “Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean.” Some of the creatures in the 21 live exhibit areas are newly discovered and haven’t even been named yet. Mind blown! Stay at the hotel next door, InterContinental The Clement Monterey. Rates start at $343 per night.
Tweens and teens won’t roll their eyes if you suggest a vacay in L.A. — where, trust us, they’ll ask you to eat at In-N-Out-Burger. (Look cool and say you already had it on the list.) Some more must-dos: the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where anyone 17 and under gets in free. Visit the Griffith Observatory for the out-of-this-world exhibits and a stellar view of the Hollywood sign. Some outdoor shopping at The Grove L.A. and a beach day in Santa Monica with a spin on the iconic wheel at the Santa Monica Pier will get you more well-deserved parent cred. The new Thompson Hollywood exudes a laid-back California chic vibe — don’t be surprised if your teen wants to make TikToks from the rooftop pool. Rates start at $289 per night.
Disneyland Resort and California Adventure (Anaheim, California)
For a Disney trip with young kids, the Disneyland may edge out an Orlando vacay. Here are some reasons why: You can get on more rides without as much walking in California, so that means less tired and cranky kids. Summer weather is usually better in Anaheim than hot and humid Florida. And rides like Radiator Springs Racers, which looks like it’s right out of the movie Cars, is a Cali-exclusive. You can walk to the parks from the new Westin Anaheim, especially if little ones are in a stroller. Rates start at $330 per night.
Redwoods National and State Parks (Crescent City, California)
The fairytale-like setting and beginner trails at Redwoods National and State Parks make it a great spot for hiking. For instance, you can hop on the stroller-friendly Prairie Creek/Foothills Trail Loop where kids will be in awe of giant Redwoods and babbling creek. Junior Ranger programs, for children ages 7 to 12, take place from mid-May to mid-September. If you don’t want to camp, stay at the nearby Hotel Arcata. On Saturday mornings, Arcata hosts the oldest farmers’ market in California. Rates start at $185 per night.
Outdoorsy families can participate in a variety of sporty activities at these mountains — and then head back to these resorts for some cozy quality time.
Margaritaville Resorts (Gatlinburg, TN and Pigeon Forge, TN)
Located by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, these action-packed resorts includes pools, access to kid-friendly hikes and close proximity to mountain-top theme parks with breathtaking views, like Anakeesta. The Gatlinburg resort is on a bustling downtown street just minutes from the park entrance, while the Pigeon Forge Island Hotel location is about 20 minutes north in an entertainment complex with rides, restaurants and shops. Rates start at $179 per night.
Keystone Resort (Keystone, Colorado)
Snow-tubing in summer? Believe it! Families can take a trip up the River Run Gondola to access the same tubing hill that operates during the winter. The resort gathers snow from around the mountain to maintain the tubing hill so that guests can cool off from the summer heat and get that winter fix. Lakeside fun including biking and paddle boarding is also on the summer agenda. Rates start at $175 per night.
Sunriver Resort (Sunriver, Oregon)
It’ll be impossible not to reconnect with nature at Sunriver Resort, set in picturesque central Oregon and not far from rivers for tubing or mountains for hiking. The Cove Aquatic Center — a hub for indoor and outdoor pools, waterslide and a nature walk — opened last year. There’s also a horse stable, four golf courses, a pool with private cabanas and multiple restaurants. Rates start at $279 per night.
The Greenbrier (White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia)
Tucked away in rural West Virginia near the Allegheny Mountains, the Greenbrier has been welcoming guests looking for a little bit of R&R since 1778. These days, the grand resort offers something for everyone in your crew: world famous golf courses, a full-service spa, a bowling alley, tennis, horseback riding, falconry and much more. A supervised Adventure Zone program keeps 3- to 12-year-olds busy with pond fishing, laser tag and a trip to the on-site greenhouse so the adults can enjoy a spa treatment like the Mint Julip Body Bliss or a round of golf. Rates start at $409 per night.
Under Canvas (multiple locations)
Once you camp at this resort — now with 10 locations from Maine to Montana — you’ll be spoiled for life. The upscale canvas tents, with housekeeping upon request, have private bathrooms. There’s even an option to get a “Kids’ Tent” next to yours so you both have some more privacy. Programming includes bingo, movie nights, scavenger hunts and guided hikes. You can’t go wrong with any location, but a solar-powered spot about 15 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah sounds amazing. It opens on June 2, 2022. Rates start at $329 per night.
The thrills of the theme parks, the serenity of the beach and everything in-between.
Walt Disney World Resort (Orlando, Florida)
The Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster launches on May 27, 2022, setting the tone for super summer at Epcot and the rest of the Disney theme parks during a year-long 50th anniversary. New shows, like Mickey’s Celebration Calvade on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, help mark the occasion. Another reason to celebrate: character hugs, after being on hold during the first two years of the pandemic, are back. You need to make reservations for specific parks in advance, so don’t forget to check availability before you book a flight and hotel. Stay in the recently renovated rooms (some with Princess Tiana theming) at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside. Rooms start around $290 per night.
RELATED: Why Spending Christmas Day at Disney World Is Truly as Magical as It Sounds
Universal Orlando Resort (Orlando, Florida)
Accio, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It’s the best reason to make Universal all or part of your Orlando vacay. Your mini muggles will have their minds blown taking the Hogwarts Express, drinking butterbeer and using interactive wands to unlock magical experiences. The most recent addition, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, has a cool twist. (Avoid reading online spoilers about the coaster.) Overall, it’s the most immersive experience of any theme park, right down to hearing Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom. Stay at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, where resort guests can enter The Wizarding World an hour before it opens to the public. Rates, which include theme park tickets, start at $99 per person per night, based on a family of four.
The Grove Resort & Water Park (Orlando, Florida)
If you’re doing some Disney, some Universal, maybe a day at SeaWorld, stay off-property at a resort that will give you more space for less money. Featuring only two- and three-bedroom suites, all with in-room laundry and a full kitchen, this place is a spacious home base for your crew. Be sure to set aside a day for the kids to splash around its water park, complete with a lazy river, kids’ activity pool, and surf simulator. Or rent swan paddle boats and fishing poles at the resort’s Lake Austin Pier. Rates for the Fifth Anniversary Package, which include a $55 resort credit, start at $399 per night.
Beachside Hotel & Suites (Cocoa Beach, Florida)
A 1965 motel got a colorful renovation, and the kids are going to love it! The retro rooms exude happiness, with pops of bright hues in the curtains and seating. Your crew will soak up the fun at the pool, lazy river, the beach — just 300 feet away. Drive about 20 minutes to Kennedy Space Center where kids can get up close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis and blast off in the Shuttle Launch Experience. Rates start at $239 per night.
Hawaii: Pineapples, Rainbows and Beaches
Who could want anything more?
Turtle Bay Resort (Kahuku, Hawaii)
In a word: paradise. Filmmakers (including the Hunger Games crew) have long flocked to this oasis on Oahu’s North Shore for picture-perfect landscapes — Banyan trees, sea turtles and both tranquil and big-surf beaches. Thanks to massive transformation, the rooms, restaurants and pools are every bit as stunning as the natural surroundings. New ocean bungalows have a naturalistic design and fab lanai with a hanging egg chair swing. A guest room redesign is in its final stages. Professional surfer Jamie O’Brien leads its surf program — and, yes, even kids can take lessons. Stand-up paddleboarding and horseback rides are among the other bucket-list activities you could do as a family. Rates start at $699 per night.
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa (Lahaina, Hawaii)
The pool area at this recently renovated resort in West Maui entertains all ages. A sandy-bottom “keiki lagoon” with a waterslide and squirting animal sculptures has the hearts of the younger crowd, while daredevils gravitate to the giant lava tube slide. Kids can sign up for swim lessons from a mermaid (and wear a tail)! Rooftop stargazing, penguin feedings and lei-making are also popular with families. Rates start at $349 per night.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (Kohala Coast, Hawaii)
By day, this resort’s crescent-shaped, white-sand beach has a treasure trove of shells, lava rocks and tide pools to explore. At night, the Big Island paradise shines floodlights in the water, which attract plankton and, ultimately, the manta rays who feed on it. It’s so fun to spy them from look-out points! The resort’s impressive collection of art and artifacts from the Pacific and Asia is another stand-out feature — older kids might want to listen to the podcasts about some of the pieces. Rates start at $999 per night.
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa (Ko Olina, Hawaii)
A chill, theme-park-free way for your kids to meet some of their favorite Disney characters, this resort on Oahu makes a Hawaii vacay even more magical. The resort’s award-winning kids’ club, Aunty’s Beach House, re-opens on May 25, 2022 with themed activities and surprise visits from Mickey and friends. You can also book character breakfasts and dinners with photo-ops. Be warned: With a lazy river, rushing rapids, saltwater snorkeling lagoon and rainbow water jets, your kids may never want to leave the pool area. Rates start at $574 per night.
Sheraton Waikīkī (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Ideal for larger groups, the newly renovated two-bedroom Ohana Suites sleep six comfortably. They have views of Diamond Head crater — be sure to make a reservation to enter the state monument. The resort is in a perfect spot on famous Waikīkī beach, and its pools (one with an interactive fountain for kids and 70-foot water slide) overlook the ocean. Ukulele lessons take place daily in the lobby and a supervised kids’ program offers activities for children ages 2 ½ to 12. Contact the resort for rates.
Pull on your cowboy boots and get ready for boating, theme parks and live music.
With lots of outdoor music and beignets as a breakfast stable, NOLA is surprisingly kid-friendly. A dreamy day starts with a trolley ride from your hotel to City Park. That’s where your fam can have the warm, airy powdered sugar-topped treats at Cafe Du Monde. (It’s far less crowded than its French Quarter location.) From there it’s just a short walk across the greenspace to the newish Louisiana Children’s Museum, whose original location was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Both the indoor and outdoor exhibits are creative and reflect the community — for instance, instead of the typical play space supermarket, there’s a Creole Kitchen. After lunch, walk to another City Park landmark: the New Orleans Museum of Art. While older kids will want to explore the collection — a wonderful sampler of many kinds of art — little ones may be content meandering in the free outdoor sculpture garden. You can catch impromptu jazz performances on the street, or make a reservation for Preservation Hall, a music venue that allows kids. End the night with an all-ages, stroller-friendly Ghosts of New Orleans walking tour. You’ll visit famous haunted locations in the French Quarter, but it’s not scary. Stay at One11, the newest hotel in the French Quarter. Once a sugar mill, it has an appealing vibe, convenient location and, most importantly, a pool. Rates start at $193 per night.
Lakeway Resort and Spa (Lakeway, TX)
Just outside of Austin, on the shores of Lake Travis, sits this Texas Hill Country resort. Of the three big swimming pools, you’ll probably spend most of your time at the one with the big Adventure Waterslide. Kids even score free chocolate chip cookies and ice pops to enjoy poolside. If you want to get out on the lake, you can rent boats, jet skis or pontoons. End a great day with free s’mores around the campfire. Rates start at $172 per night.
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee)
With Flying Elephants, a Piggy Parade and Lucky Duckies, Dollywood’s Country Fair section couldn’t be more adorable if it tried. The Gazillion Bubble Show: Aurora also makes little ones squeal with glee. After a day at the park, check into the on-site resort which keeps the fun going thanks to a fort-style playground, bedtime stories and a splash pad. Resort guests have priority access to some rides, free shuttle to the park and early admission on Saturdays. Rates start at $379 per night.
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (Nashville, Tennessee)
It’s hard to find a vacation spot that grandparents genuinely enjoy as much as the grandkids, and this sprawling resort is one of the rare gems. Top of the kids’ list: the Soundwaves water attraction, which boasts a massive outdoor wave pool and indoor surf simulator. Grandparents will go for the Delta Riverboat Tours inside the resort’s atrium. Everyone will adore the fountain show as well as the animal encounters. Rates, which include some kids’ activities, start at $324 per night.
Explore Victorian enclaves, learn about our nation’s history, sleep under a ball gown or visit a chocolate-themed hotel — or road trip between them all!
Congress Hall (Cape May, New Jersey)
With its Victorian mansions, red-and-green trolleys and nostalgic candy stores, this beach town on the southernmost tip of the state is a throwback in the best way possible. Congress Hall, the oldest seaside resort in the country, provides a convenient and charming place to stay. It’s just a few blocks to downtown shops and the beach. The resort’s attendants will set up your family’s beach chairs, umbrellas and towels. Make sure your stay includes a Monday, when the resort hosts a weekly carnival with kiddie rides, games and food on its sprawling front lawn. Rates start at $539 per night.
The Hotel Hershey (Hershey, PA)
Check-in at this resort near HersheyPark sets the sweet tone for the rest of your stay: Each family member receives a full-size Hershey bar. Hop on the free shuttle to HersheyPark, where a Jolly Rancher-themed coaster with music and a flavor tunnel opens on May 28, 2022. After a full day of riding — there’s plenty for toddlers to thrill-seekers — retreat to the hotel where several pools including one with a kiddie spray deck await. The next day, head to Hershey’s Chocolate World to learn how the candy is made and create your own chocolate bar or peanut butter cup. Rates start at $499 per night.
Woodloch Resort (Hawley, Pennsylvania)
Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, this all-inclusive retreat packs your family’s vacation with fun activities. There are more than 30 ways to play — from bumper cars to paddle boats, zombie bowling to archery. New for summer 2022: an adventure playground featuring a low ropes course with climbing ladders and play structures. Rates start at $144 per adult and $45-$63 per child/teen per night.
RELATED: The Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts That Make Vacationing a Breeze
The Roxbury (Stratton Falls, New York)
Fairytale vibes are strong at this quirky retreat in the Catskills. Multi-bedroom suites and cottages have fantastical themes like Crown of the Pendragons, the Faerie Forest and the ultimate kid-pleaser, Cinderella’s Gown. An 18-foot ball gown serves as a canopy for one of the beds. Plus, the bathroom is built inside an enormous pumpkin carriage. The whimsy continues outside to the heated pool area, with twisted poles and a crooked roof on the changing rooms. Rates start at $104 per night.
Washington, DC and Outskirts
The best things to do in the nation’s capital are free. See the newly refurbished Lincoln Memorial, National Museum of African American History and Culture or the largest library in the world — The Library of Congress. (FYI for your wannabe astronauts: The National Air and Space Museum is being completely reimagined and will be closed through fall 2022.) If you plan, you can also book a free tour of the White House. Just a half-mile walk from the White House, the Washington Marriott at Metro Center is a convenient place to stay. (Rates start at $199 per night.) Balance all the educational activities with a few days of play in the DC outskirts. The National Harbor area is a waterfront wonderland, with a carousel, giant Ferris wheel, summer concerts, outdoor movie nights and boat tours. Stay at the newly renovated Gaylord National Harbor & Convention Center. It features an indoor pool, outdoor kids’ splash zone and “Summer of More” activities, including scavenger hunts and animal encounters. Rates for the Summer of More, which include overnight parking and a $50 restaurant credit, start at $329 per night.
Kingsmill Resort (Williamsburg, Virginia)
After a day of learning about the founding fathers (and the meaning behind those lyrics from Hamilton), families can retreat to Kingsmill to cool off and unwind. Your crew can paddleboard on the James River or float in the pool’s lazy river. Most accommodations are multi-bedroom condos with a kitchen, making it easy to cook some of your own meals. Wear the kids out before bed by running around on the sprawling green space or heading to the resort’s playground. Rates start at $209 per night.
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