By Lyn Mettler
With school days behind us and the long days of summer in front of us, it’s the perfect time to travel. School schedules and track meets are long gone yet the kiddos need something to keep them occupied. Here are 7 family-friendly spots that Mom, Dad, the kids — and maybe even Grandma and Grandpa — can agree on.
Marco Island/Naples, Florida
There are usually great airfares to Ft. Myers/Southwest Florida International Airport, sometimes as low as $19 one way on discount carriers like Frontier and Allegiant, making it an inexpensive beach getaway for the family.
The area includes Ft. Myers, Naples and Marco Island, all with gorgeous beaches, turquoise blue waters and calm seas so parents can keep a close eye on little ones splashing in the water. Marco Island Marriott is a fantastic resort in the area with two kid-friendly pools, plentiful shell collecting and on-site dining, frozen yogurt, coffee shop, fire breathers and more. Naples Grande is also a lovely property, formerly a Waldorf Astoria, with complimentary bike rentals, a pool, beach chairs for each guest and a pleasant nature-filled 1-mile walk to the beach (trams are also available to transport guests).
San Diego, California
San Diego is tops on the list of kid-friendly destinations in the U.S., combining beaches with so many attractions like SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND California and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Try dining at family-friendly Brazen BBQ, Union Kitchen & Tap and Brian’s 24.
Hotel del Coronado is a San Diego classic with its historic white spires and rumors of ghosts roaming the halls. The hotel’s beach is quiet and you might even catch the Navy Seals swimming off shore in training! Head for a bike ride around to island to San Diego Bay with rentals from the hotel. For a quieter spot, try the La Jolla area where kids can get up close and personal with sea lions, and families can kayak sea caves with Everyday California along the rocky shore. La Valencia Hotel makes a nice home base in upscale La Jolla filled with boutique stores and local restaurants.
Hilton Head Island
Lovers of the outdoors will enjoy natural Hilton Head Island with its oceanfront golf courses, sea oats swaying in the breeze and abundant hanging moss on old oak trees. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, one of the largest resorts on the island, offers many activities that all ages can enjoy and is an ideal multi-generational getaway.
Rent bikes or kayaks from onsite Hilton Head Outfitters, learn to surf at summertime surf camp, try your hand a pickleball (a combination of tennis and ping pong that is a favorite with families and retirees) or improve your golf game at one of three resort golf courses. Don’t miss HarbourFest during the summer, a more-than 20-year tradition of family-friendly music and fireworks at the resort’s waterfront entertainment district, Shelter Cove Harbour.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
The Rocky Mountains aren’t just for skiing! Summertime is a wonderful season to explore the great outdoors in the Colorado Rockies. The village of Beaver Creek near Vail is made for families with fun base-of-the-mountain activities like rock wall climbing and gem panning, gondola rides up the mountain, a local fishing pond, short and long hikes, jeep tours and even nearby white-water rafting. Beaver Creek has many condos available for rent or you can choose from hotels like the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort, the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa and the Osprey at Beaver Creek. Be sure to enjoy a dinner and tableside magic show at the Vail Chophouse at the base of the mountain.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
From Ripley’s museums to an aquarium where you can pet stingrays to numerous waterparks and even the Alligator Adventure, Myrtle Beach has no shortage of activities to keep kids busy. Stroll down the oceanfront boardwalk, take a ride on the Myrtle Beach Skywheel and go bargain hunting at the abundant outlet stores and speciality shops.
Families who love to get wet can have their fill of water fun at Myrtle Beach’s Crown Reef Beach Resort & Waterpark. The recently renovated beachfront resort has two 4-story water slides, a kiddie slide, the largest oceanfront lazy river in the Grand Strand, a kiddie waterpark and multiple pools and hot tubs. Rooms offer kitchenettes for easy in-room breakfasts and snacking, and most come with ocean views.
If you want to give your kids the big city experience, consider bringing them to Chicago. The city offers some wonderfully educational and entertaining museums like the Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium. Outdoor families will enjoy time at the Lake Michigan beach, riding bikes along the shore or kayaking the Chicago River, taking in the Windy City’s amazing architecture.
ACME Hotel Company is a fun and funky boutique hotel that is centrally located in River North and family friendly with in-room mini-fridges, microwaves and normally-priced minibar items. They also offer Google Glass, traveling hotspots for WiFi on the go and Apple Watches on loan to guests. Nearby restaurants to put on your list include Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse and Gino’s East Pizza.
An easy direct flight from several airports, including Miami, Newark and JFK, Antigua is a relaxing Caribbean getaway for families filled with winding coastlines, dense rainforests and coral reefs perfect for snorkeling.
The Verandah Resort & Spa is a fantastic all-suite, all-inclusive resort tucked away on Antigua’s northeast coast. Each suite at The Verandah Resort & Spa has a private verandah for spectacular views and offers plentiful watersports, like kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing, as well as an 18-hole mini golf course. There’s also a kids club with an adventure playground, a giant jungle gym and a splash pool, as well as a hangout just for teens. Try the resort’s Pink Panther Tours, a full-day jeep tour of the island that includes lunch and a beach swim.
Lyn Mettler is a freelance travel writer and author of “The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning Your Southwest Companion Pass and Flying Free Around the U.S.” She also provides travel public relations services to a variety of companies, including Palmetto Dunes Resort and Crown Reef Resort.