4. Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa, San Diego
Child ranked Loews the best hotel chain for families in 2003, and its Coronado Bay Resort & Spa offers all the brand's kid-friendly features and more in a relaxed beach setting. Last summer, Loews piloted parent-attended playgroups for children ages 6 to 18 months and 19 to 36 months at the resort before launching them chainwide. During the 45-minute sessions, toddlers spend "A Day at the Castle," hearing fairy tales and trying on dress-up clothes. Infant sessions focus on movement and creative play with baby toys.
For children ages 4 to 12, the resort offers 50-minute kickboxing and yoga classes at the on-site spa and a camp, with one counselor for every four kids, during the summer and on school holidays. Campers decorate and fly kites, swim, and learn origami. Family activities include a baking class with the resort's pastry chef, poolside workshops on creating healthy kids' drinks, and family bingo. All programs reflect the resort's philosophy about its young guests: "In traveling with my family, I've been struck by how many resorts aim to keep kids quiet and out of sight," says Kathleen Cochran, general manager. "Here, we want kids to be seen and heard."
Nestled on a private 15-acre peninsula bordered by the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, 408 guest rooms (at 450 sq. ft. each) and 32 suites (starting at 700 sq. ft.) are nonsmoking and were renovated in 2005
Seasonal kids' camp all day and some evenings; private babysitting with screened sitters; private pedestrian underpass to the beach; families' and kids' heated pools; dive-in movies; toddler beds; childproofing upon request; free meals for children under age 5 at all restaurants; discounted second rooms
One of the few spas in the country offering Watsu (water-based massage); farmers' market trips with the resort's head chef
- Offers innumerable family conveniences -- from for-keeps items like sunscreen and baby shampoo to loaner baby swings, cameras, toys, and rain gear -- at no charge through its kids' programs and Did-You-Forget? Closet
- Serves healthy, three-course meals for kids at its gourmet restaurant; nutritious options -- including a free appetizer of veggies and dipping sauces -- are offered at all on-site eateries
- Greets children with a welcome gift bag, which includes an inflatable beach ball, a rubber bracelet entitling them to free beverages during their vacation, an age-appropriate toy, and a scavenger hunt game