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Resorts are a great option when selecting a vacation destination. The combination of lodging and entertainment conveniently located together makes travel planning easier, while reducing the amount of driving time after arriving — and we can all use a little break from the gas pump these days. But not every resort is created equal, and if you are planning a trip that will include young children or grandchildren, choosing the right resort is even more important. Here are our readers’ six favorite family-friendly resorts to consider when planning your next family vacation.
1. Disney’s Beach Club Resort (Tie)
Walt Disney World in Orlando was designed to be the textbook definition of family-friendly fun. While it’s possible to stay in nearby Orlando and visit one of the many parks for the day, it is far easier — albeit pricier — to stay at one of their intricately themed on-site resorts.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort is one such magical option, and just happens to be one of our readers’ favorite family-friendly resorts. What sets Disney Beach Club Resort apart from the rest? Proximity to the parks themselves for one. As an EPCOT area resort, you and your family can casually stroll over to the park and enjoy all of the food and fun that EPCOT has in store without the need of a car.
Choose between traditional rooms and suites, or spring for the expanded amenities of a Villa. All rooms provide access to all of the pools and dining options at the resort, including the best ice cream restaurant at Disney: Beaches and Cream.
Kids and adults alike will adore Stormalong Bay, with its replica shipwreck as the driving force behind its design. Slide down a thrilling 230-foot-long waterslide, relax in the lazy river, or find some down time at one of the “quiet” pools, offering scream-free relaxation. Whether you spend all day at the parks, or never leave the resort, you and your family will have a truly magical time at this New England-style paradise.
1. Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort (Tie)
New Braunfels, TX
To tie for first with a Disney resort is no simple task, and Schlitterbahn accomplished just that in the eyes of our readers. Located within gorgeous Texas Hill Country along the Comal River, near its confluence with the Guadalupe River, the original Schlitterbahn Resort made use of the natural spring waters of the Comal for its earliest attractions.
Over the years, the resort has expanded to include four separate sections, as well as seven unique lodging experiences. From luxury suites just steps away from the water to traditional lodge hotel rooms within walking distance of the park, there is bound to be an option right for your family and budget.
With a “Stay and Play” package, your family will never need to leave the resort. The kids — and kids at heart — can spend hours in the water, zipping and sliding through high thrill, dropping through thrilling tube chutes, or splashing away in one of the many activity areas specifically for the little ones, with no additional cost for the use of tubes! Adults can grab a drink and relax in one of five heated pools with swim-up bars located around the resort. Private cabanas are available for rent that provide a break from the sun while enjoying time with your family.
While the waterpark is seasonal, the resort itself is open year-round, making it a great location from which to explore the rest of New Braunfels and Texas Hill Country. Meal plans are available that allow you to eat all day for one low price, or you can bring your own food and picnic in the park. The resort is a wonderful place for kids and adults alike at a fraction of the cost of a Disney park.
3. JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
San Antonio, TX
Another great central Texan resort is the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. Relax in a private guest room, or entertain a larger group in one of their 2,300-square-foot Grand River Suites. Select rooms offer balconies with fantastic views of the nearby rolling hills and on-site golf courses. Some ground level rooms allow you direct access to the pool.
Two 18-hole golf courses await to distract the golfer in your life. Choose between a more challenging tournament-style course and one that is more player-friendly, depending on your desired challenge. Golf instruction is a great option offered to guests, with choices between one-on-one lessons and group clinics.
Finally, what kid doesn’t love a water park? The River Bluff Water Experience has all of the necessary options to keep the younger ones busy and is one of the most unique resort swimming pools in Texas, according to one of our writers. Tube and body slides offer up ample thrills, while the lazy river and kid’s pool allow more laidback fun for the rest of the family. Don’t forget to make time for the sand beach pool as well: Lined with rentable cabanas, and a sandy beach, the kids can spend hours in the sand while you sip a cold cocktail delivered to your shady oasis.
4. Big Cedar Lodge
Located in the Ozark Mountains of southwestern Missouri — and just minutes south of Branson — Big Cedar Lodge welcomes guests to a rustic hideaway on scenic Table Rock Lake. Enjoy the great outdoors by embarking along one of the many nature trails, enjoy a canoe or paddleboat ride on the lake, or spend time at the beach or go fishing off the pier. After a long day, it is time to rest your body. Choose between private log cabins, quaint cottages, or a more traditional room at one of the on-site lodges.
Enjoy a round of golf at one of five championship courses designed by such famous names as Ben Crenshaw, Gary Player, and Tiger Woods. The courses range in price as well as difficulty, making a round at Big Cedar possible for players of most skill levels. For a short game, try the 9-hole, par 3 Top Of The Rock. Or take a stab at Payne’s Valley, a course that includes a bonus 19th hole as you finish your round. Each course is delicately and purposefully carved into the natural rock and water of the gorgeous Ozark Mountains, creating a breathtaking experience.
5. Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark
Lake Geneva, WI
You will find Timber Ridge in the charming town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, just under an hour from Milwaukee and an hour and a half from Chicago. Choose between one- or two-bedroom suites, all with kitchens and whirlpool tubs. The kitchens allow your family the freedom to prepare your own meals if you desire, or you can choose to dine on-site at Smokey’s Bar-B-Que. If neither option seems particularly appealing, take a shuttle to Timber Ridge’s sister property, Grand Geneva, for surf and turf or a delectable Saturday brunch.
Moose Mountain Falls is the resort’s indoor and outdoor waterpark, and has something for everyone. Guests of the resort will receive one pass each during their stay, with the option of purchasing additional passes for multi-day enjoyment. Toddlers have their own section out of harm’s way from the splashing of older siblings; older kids can make use of the 300-foot-long adventure slides; and the 500-foot lazy river is a great way to unwind — or hide from the family for a short time if the adults in the group need it. Enjoy a round of miniature golf or hours of fun in the arcade to round out your trip.
6. Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa
Beaver Creek, CO
Clearly water parks are a big hit with families, as each of the previous entries on this list made clear. However, some families prefer their water to be of the frozen and powdery variety, and that is where the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa comes in. Located south of Interstate 70, just 20 minutes from Vail, Beaver Creek is easily accessible from the Denver area. Choose between a traditional room, or splurge on a suite for the added bonus of a kitchen and fireplace. Some rooms include balconies for stellar views of the mountains and the nearby village.
During the winter months, hit the slopes with your family, swooping through over 2,000 acres of powdered thrills. There are ample challenging trails for the more advanced skier in the group, but there is a place for even the most novice of skiers as well. If you tire of skiing, try your hand at snowmobiling on a backcountry tour with the whole family. Beaver Creek is not just a winter destination; as the snow melts, it makes way for beautiful hiking and golfing opportunities. In addition, the nearby rivers are great locations to try your hand at whitewater rafting, and the Vail Valley is at the ready for you to explore.
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