6. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, FL
The flexible -- and ever-evolving -- family activities at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in northeast Florida benefit from the resort's beachfront location and mystique. "This used to be a bustling harbor with pirate ships, and galleons sank off the coast," says hotel manager Steven Schaefer. So in addition to water sports like fly-fishing, kayaking, and family sailing as well as beach games such as horseshoe-toss and croquet, the resort plays up the pirate theme.
On many weekends, counselors (one for every six children) dress like pirates or their princess companions for sing-alongs and storytime by a bonfire. Costumed staff may roam the lobby and are usually available for tuck-ins that include a pirate story and a treasure chest of trinkets. The theme continues with pirate hayrides around the property, puppet shows, and, new this year, a real parrot mascot.
A majestic U-shaped building with 397 rooms (400 sq. ft. each) and 47 suites (starting at 1,073 sq. ft.) features ocean views from all rooms
Year-round kids' program for 5- to 12-year-olds with daytime and evening sessions; private babysitting with screened nannies; outdoor pool with shallow play area; childproofing kits; kid-size furniture; cribs with custom linens; playground
Championship golf course; romantic chiminea (clay portable fireplace) bonfires for two with a gourmet food basket; sunrise tai chi on the beach; 32,500-sq.-ft. indoor/outdoor spa expected to open in December
- Schedules professional 8" by 10" family portraits taken on the beach; one photo is free
- Sets up a check-in desk in the lobby where kids learn about fun activities at the property and enjoy a cookie, which can be personalized with a child's name if requested in advance
- Gives families a five-mile boat ride to Cumberland Island National Seashore, where wild horses run free in the marshes