Now that you have a clearer idea of what’s in store for traveling with young ones…where do you go? Here’s a quick tour of family-friendly locales, hotels and events that are perfect for holiday visiting. Many offer great promotions at this time of year! This year could be the year to start a family tradition!
Both parents and kids are able to enjoy their own vacations on Oahu. From surfing lessons to learning about Oahu’s rich cultural history at world-class museums, here are some activities designed exclusively for kids, both public and at resorts. At The Honolulu Zoo, children can spend an exciting week or day exploring the wild animals of Honolulu Zoo. This “day camp” offers a partial day session and an all-day session. The short session focuses on the care of zoo animals, behind-the-scenes encounters and the importance of conservation and saving endangered wildlife. Longer sessions may include animal games and art projects. www.honoluluzoo.org
Daily Dolphin Quest programs at the Kahala Hotel & Resort provide an array of activities with dolphin education as the focal point. Each child is provided an opportunity to interact with these amazing animals in the comfort of the shallow waters through touching, feeding, and game playing. www.kahalaresort.com. The Waikiki Aquarium makes learning about the aquatic life of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific fun and exciting. The Waikiki Aquarium offers a variety of classes and programs including overnight sleepovers and excursions. www.waquarium.org. Honolulu Academy of Arts has created seven themes for kids to choose from including “Animals,” “Heroes,” “Landscapes,” and more. Each child is given a custom kit that makes exploring the museum fun and enjoyable. www.honoluluacademy.org
At the Dole Plantation, families can learn about Oahu’s agricultural history and contemporary landscape. Ride the Pineapple Express, a vintage-style train that takes guests through working agricultural lands with spectacular views. Then, spend the rest of the day tackling the Pineapple Garden Maze, a more than two-acre botanical maze named the largest in the world by the Guinness Book of World. www.dole-plantation.com
Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii offers a variety of age-appropriate slides and attractions, making it the perfect place to enjoy safe, secure and extreme fun under the sun. The park, which is located in the city of Kapolei, about 30 minutes from Waikiki, is Hawaii’s only water park. www.wetnwildhawaii.com
Hotels and Resorts Keiki (Children) Programs The new Aston Hotels & Resorts’ Kids “Stay, Play & Eat Free” program offers children ages 12 and younger free activities, meals and merchandise (when accompanied by a paying adult) to top family attractions, restaurants and Hawai‘i retailers. www.astonhotels.com
With the Aloha program at Starwood Hotels, children between the ages of five through 12 can spend part of their vacation doing fun, educational and cultural activities like hula and lei making, catamaran sailing and surfing in the morning. Excursions will take keiki to such places as the Honolulu Zoo, Bishop Museum and Waikiki Aquarium. www.starwoodhotelshawaii.com
Hilton Hawaiian Village’s year-round children’s program, Rainbow Express, is offered daily for keiki, ages five to 12. Activities include arts, crafts, nature walks, wildlife feedings, fishing, and visits to Bishop Museum, Waikiki Aquarium and the Honolulu Zoo. www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com
Celebrate the vibrant wonder of youth with the Keiki Beachcomber Club at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort. Activities include treasure hunts, hula dancing and crafting lei to Karaoke, sports and crafts. Children will engage in diverse activities while making friends with other children from around the world. www.ihilani.com
Outrigger Hotels and Resort’s Island Explorer program is designed to get kids and their parents out discovering Hawaii’s unique natural environment. Kids and their parents will learn nature skills, such as how to conduct ecologically-safe explorations, identify the myriad of nature’s gifts that wash up along the shoreline, prepare for a hike, and recognize the many friendly critters that make their home in Hawaiian rainforests. Upon arrival, kids will receive an Island Explorer Kit that includes a backpack, sunglasses, pen, binoculars, and Reef Adventure Guide/Let’s Explore Hawai‘i Guide. www.outrigger.com
The Keiki Turtle Club at the Turtle Bay Resort offers Hawaiian projects, arts and crafts and outdoor activities for kids including building gigantic, exploding volcanoes out of sand, lei making and hula lessons, exploring the tide pools for underwater creatures, and a night at the beach complete with a campfire and s’mores. Full-day and half-day programs are available. www.turtlebayresort.com
San Diego, California
The San Diego Museum of Art has some great special events happening throughout the holiday season that are very family-friendly.
The Target Free Family Day and Festival (November 21, 1-3 p.m.) features art-making, performances, special tours and more, all inspired by the Museum’s collection and the special exhibitions Generations: Paintings by Raul Anguiano and Dreams and Diversions: 250 Years of Japanese Woodblock prints.
The Museum also is participating in the 33rd-annual December Nights celebration on December 3 and 4. This free festival – in which participating Balboa Park museums open their doors from 5-9 pm – will have entertainment, food and unique gift shopping. In addition, the Museum will be holding concerts on both days.
Family Drop-In Day takes place Dec. 19 from 1-3 p.m. Families can explore and learn about the art on view in the Museum, through family-friendly tours and art-making. Family Drop-In Day is recommended for families with children 6-12 years old and is free after Museum admission. www.sdmart.org
Looking for a family-friendly hotel in the San Diego area? That’s It Mommy recommends Embassy Suites in San Diego/La Jolla. We really enjoyed our stay. Nice looking hotel with comfy rooms so very close to major highways and attractions. The extended buffet breakfast is a huge bonus and free happy hours for the adults. The hotel staff, from the front desk to the bartenders, were very helpful and friendly. Make sure you ask to feed the fish! http://embassysuites1.hilton.com
Santa Monica, CA
So often, Angelenos don’t realize the great resources they have in their own backyard. The Santa Monica Pier is one of those gems and a great place to spend the entire day with your family. Pacific Park has a Ferris wheel, miniature golf course, several kids rides and carnival games. Don’t miss the Playland Arcade and historic 1922 Carousel on the Pier. At the Pier Aquarium, kids can discover marine animals and plants through interactive displays, touch tanks, habit tanks and more. The original Hot Dog on a Stick is located just south of the Pier and their cherry lemonade is one of our favorites!
Not on the pier but close by is Magicopolis which stages live magic shows for both kids and adults.
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel welcomes kids 10 and under with open arms, gifts, and special menus. And with a great location near the beach and Santa Monica amusement pier, the hotel couldn’t be better situated for families in search of surf and sun. www.santamonicaloewshotel.com
For more information about Santa Monica, visit www.santamonica.com.
With miles of trails twisting over hillsides and waterfront boardwalks for quieter strolls, family time at Cavallo Point Lodge connects kids and parents with the natural and man made wonders of the Golden Gate region.
Take in a weekend guided walking tour under the Golden Gate Bridge and learn about the local habitats, environmental efforts and history of the park and Fort Baker. Check out the parade ground in front of the lodge offers a grassy open space for playing tag, catch or flying a kite. (The Cavallo Reception area has a Toy Box with a variety of toys, including kites, for families to use during their stay.) Just steps from the lodge is the award-winning Bay Area Discovery Museum, a one-of-a-kind indoor/outdoor children’s museum.
The lodge’s concierge can arrange these activities to nearby attractions like Alcatraz, the Exploratorium and Muir Woods. They can also offer babysitting services so parents can enjoy a romantic dinner or time at the spa.
The Lodge recently introduced a new offer: $50 credit per night stayed, applicable toward the restaurant, bar, room service, spa or mercantile. For details, click here: www.cavallopoint.com/limited-time-offers.html. This offer is valid through Dec. 30, including over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weekends.
The whimsical and welcoming Maxwell Hotel is located at the base of Queen Anne Hill and across the street from Seattle’s favorite family attractions – including the Pacific Science Center, Seattle Children’s Theater and Space Needle. Parent will like the extras: complimentary afternoon cupcakes and coffee in the lobby, board games and DVDs in their guest room. The hotel also has a complimentary bike program allowing guests to check out bicycles for trips around town or along the 18 mile scenic (and paved) Burke-Gilman Trail and the Maxwell welcomes four-legged family members. www.themaxwellhotel.com
Las Vegas, Nevada
Trump International Hotels recently started Trump Kids at their current hotels in Las Vegas, New York City, Chicago and Waikiki. The service provides everything for baby from food and diapers waiting in your room (you choose the brand) to PlayStation hooked up and ready to go! You can also request a stroller, baby monitor, a kiddie cocktail menu, nanny services, coloring books, swim lessons, board games and cribs with plush linens and more (they all come with a fee, of course!) The best benefit? If you have little ones, they can child-proof the room before you arrive!
Currently the Las Vegas property is offering a Fall Getaway Sale – 15 percent off a 2 night stay, 20 percent off a 3 night stay and 30 percent of stays 4 nights or longer. Good for stays through December, 29,2010 (some black-out dates apply). For reservations, visit www.trumphotelcollection.com. View the full list of Trump Hotel Collection’s special offers at www.trumphotelcollection.com/Special_Offers/Special_Offers.asp.
If your family loves to ski, the Mountain Lodge at Telluride has a great Thanksgiving weekend deal going on. Stay three or more nights between Wednesday, Nov. 24 and Sunday, Nov. 29 and Thanksgiving Day night is free. In addition, guests can get 20 percent off a two-day lift ticket at Telluride Ski Resort if requested from Mountain Lodge 72 hours in advance.
Additionally, if you make your reservation by Nov. 15, 2010 you can save 20 percent with a 21-day advance booking, and 15 percent with a 14-day advance booking. This special is good for stays through April 23, 2011 and is based on availability. Prices start at $199/night, but with the discounts provided, you can get a room priced as low as $120.80 a night. Options range from a luxury junior suite to a 6-bedroom cabin. www.mountainlodgetelluride.com
What we like?? No traffic: The town is free of traffic; there is no need for a car upon arrival, making it easy for families. A free, continuously running in-town shuttle (which runs on non-toxic, biodegradable, vegetable oil-based diesel fuel) is available for those who prefer not to walk in the Town of Telluride, and the world’s only free, energy efficient gondola that runs continuously from early morning til midnight daily to connect the two towns with a 13-minute scenic ride. (Well-behaved pets are welcome on both the gondola and shuttle.)
Keystone Resort, CO
Keystone Resort is honoring its “Winter on Us” package during this holiday travel time. Rates start at $119 per night December 18 through December 25, 2010; $191 per night for stays December 26, 2010 – January 1, 2011.
Guests can also take advantage of big savings with the Adventure Passport, a coupon book filled with free activities given to all resort guests. Ice skate rentals, geo-cache tours, intro to snow biking lessons and more are all available.
Also, if you stay during one of Keystone’s Kidtopia Festivals, kids can participate in some nifty activities including: a glow stick parade down the mountain, disco tubing, glow bug skate night on North America’s largest outdoor rink and an on-mountain barbecue night. Plus, Keystone introduces the ULTIMATE winter play area with the world’s largest snow fort at the top of Dercum Mountain. The fort will be 60 by 40 feet with 12-foot walls, complete with a drawbridge, lookout tower, and its very own dragon. Kidtopia Festivals will take place: Dec 27 – Jan 2; Jan 14 – 17; Jan 29 – 30; Feb 18 – 21; and March 12 – 20.
Visit www.keystoneresort.com for more information or call (877) 204-7889 and mention the “Winter on Us” lodging offer when booking.
Nestled in the heart of Montana’s Rocky Mountains, the Resort at Paws Up offers an educational “Kids Corps of Discovery” program held seven days a week where kids ages 5-12 can join in a daily themed adventures. For example, Wednesday’s “A Day at the Ranch” engages kids to visit a petting zoo, paint their own cowboy hat to wear, take a pony ride, go on a guided nature hike and even paint a real horse!
Nanny service is also available for kids 5 and younger.
For more information, visit www.pawsup.com.
McCurtain County, OK
McCurtain County’s Beavers Bend State Park has several free family-friendly activities like watching for bald eagles, checking out dinosaurs or touring a pecan farm. The whole family will enjoy watching a live radio show, feeding goats or listening to campfire stories at Beavers Bend Nature Center. Visit McCurtain County’s website www.mccurtaincountygetaways.com or call (800) 528-7337 for lodging and family adventures. There’s lodging/cabins for every budget.
Also check out this list of 25 free things to do in McCurtain County, www.mccurtaincountygetaways.com/free_things.php
West Townshend, Vermont
The Windham hill Inn is a gorgeous Relais & Chateaux property in Southern Vermont. It’s an ideal spot for children because the property has 160 private acres for children to run free.
Windham Hill Inn’s “Kid’s Time” program involves leaf collecting, healthy cooking classes, nature tours and more. Once the snow comes, sledding, sleigh rides, snowman building. cocoa by the fire and gingerbread house decorating are on the agenda.
Upcoming dates for “Kid’s Time” are November 21-28, December 19-26, February 15-28, 2011 (with more to come). Pricing starts at $315 per night for a family of three. For more information, visit www.windhamhill.com.
Goat Island in Newport Harbor, RI
The Hyatt Regency Newport coordinates an array of organized events, including watercolor painting lessons, s’mores by the fire, live music, arts & crafts, yoga, trivia, movies – and for the adults, there’s wine-tasting and mixology sessions.
Rates start from $109 (off-season), peak season $199; and Christmas weekend $119. www.newport.hyatt.com
Maryland has plenty to offer for family looking for sight-seeing and historical and scientific adventures. Families can spend a fun afternoon at Port Discovery Children’s Museum or the Baltimore Maritime Museum, which includes a submarine, ship and lighthouse. Historic St. Mary’s City – where Maryland began – is one of the best-preserved English settlements from the 17th century. The Star-Spangled Banner Trail passes by sites related to the War of 1812 along
a 100-mile route between Baltimore and Solomons. The Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium in Baltimore – both located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor – are two exciting places to spend the afternoon and watch an IMAX film or a dolphin show. For a more jet-age experience, students can try a flight simulator while touring the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Lexington Park. Also, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt has a visitor center that includes a rocket garden.
The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel is ideally located in downtown Baltimore – a walking distance from the Inner Harbor, the Baltimore Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, just to name a few. The Renaissance also sits atop a shopping mall and eatery.
The Wisp Resort in McHenry, Maryland is another great option for a family-friendly hotel. This hotel is Maryland’s only 4-season ski, golf and recreational destination resort. Situated on Deep Creek Lake, this resort offers fly fishing, tubing, skiing and more. There is even a spa for the adults to get away and relax for a few hours while the kids are out having fun.
Visit the Maryland Office of Tourism site for more information. www.visitmaryland.org
Callaway Gardens offers Fantasy in Lights, the largest light display in the Southeast, that features more than 8 million lights along five miles of wooded scenery. Told like a Christmas storybook, each of the 12 “chapters” paints a unique, vivid picture. Guests drive a personal vehicle or ride along in the Callaway Gardens Jolly Trolley.
Displays include: a Snowflake Valley, Santa’s Workshop, The Twelve Days of Christmas and The Night Before Christmas. Check out the special Fantasy in Lights package, with rooms starting at $159 per night. More information can be found here: www.callawaygardens.com
EPIC Hotel in Miami is a boutique waterfront hotel that offers several family-friendly amenities and services. (They are also pet-friendly, so your furry family can stay, too!)
For babies and toddlers, they provide in-room child safety kits, along with cribs and playards. Older kids receive a KimptonKids treasure chest as well as suggestions on local kid-friendly activities in the area. The concierge can also arrange babysitting services along with other family needs. www.epichotel.com
Bal Harbour, FL
This classic Floridian resort features a Bal Harbour Beach Camp for kids that offers daily workshops guaranteed to engage today’s over-stimulated young minds. Sample workshop themes include “Absolute Artists,” “Green Team” “Around the World in Five Days” and “Movin’ & Groovin.”
Nearby, the Bal Harbour Shops features the delighful Books & Books, a dedicated kids book store that often hosts in-store activities and author events. The Shops include an array of special kid-friendly menus at restaurants and several children’s-wear stores. www.balharbourflorida.com
This classic family Ritz-Carlton resort located in the scenic Paradise Coast pulls out all the stops to give kids a vacation like no other.
Led by a team of certified Master Naturalists, the interactive “Nature’s Wonders” program takes inquisitive minds on an aquamarine adventure that includes a sailing excursion with sea turtle and dolphin spotting throughout the Mangrove Islands, eleven aquariums (and touch tanks) filled with jellyfish, alligators, sharks and numerous fish, and a small lab stocked with microscopes, slides and Petri dishes to help a budding marine biologist perform science experiments and explore an unknown water world.
The Center also houses a Nature Vision Theater that shows National Geographic specials and Disney movies where the whole family can relax. Learn more at www.ritzcarlton.com/naples
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
WaterColor Inn and Resort has been named by Travel + Leisure and Golf for Women as the No. 1 family resort in the country. (It’s easier to get to these days since Southwest Airlines now offers service to the exotic locale.)
WaterColor Inn and resort provides luxury accommodations and a plethora of child and family oriented activities. The resort’s children’s program – “Camp WaterColor – Kids” – features a range of activities from treasure hunts to nature hikes.
WaterColor’s golf collection also features the unique concept course, Origins Golf Club, which is tailored for family outings, children and beginning golfers. The Origins Course plays as a six-hole regulation, nine-hole executive or 10-hole par three layout through the use of alternate greens and tee boxes.
Kids Night Out service is Friday nights for ages 3-12 when kids can enjoy dinner, crafts, games and a movie. Learn more at www.watercolorresort.com/resort.