8. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai, CA
Many of the activities at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa's camp for kids ages 5 to 12 draw on the traditions of the Chumash Indians, who flourished on the central California coast before the European settlers arrived. Counselors -- one for every five campers -- lead nature hikes to the Chumash Indian Hunt, where kids hear stories, sing, and create talking rain sticks and rock art.
The property also boasts an 800-acre Ranch & Stables, featuring a big red barn, an active silo, a petting farm, and 36 horses. Wranglers take kids on pony rides, emphasizing safety while teaching riding techniques. "Horses are haltered with a lead rope, and kids are educated in how to approach a horse," says Peter Bowen, director of revenue. All kids come home with a photo of themselves, framed with the name of the horse they rode, a bandanna, and a horseshoe.
On 220 acres surrounded by mountains, 19 buildings with courtyards, walkways, or fountains house 236 rooms (starting at 460 sq. ft.) and 72 suites (starting at 625 sq. ft.), all nonsmoking; in 2005, the resort, located 35 miles south of Santa Barbara, was restored to its original Spanish colonial style with red tiles, carved wood, and designer fabrics
Year-round kids' camp with daytime and evening sessions; private babysitting with screened sitters; outdoor heated pool and baby pool; playground; baby toiletries; family golf and tennis lessons; free use of bikes, including ones with training wheels
Championship golf course; 31,000-sq.-ft. spa; art studio; gourmet restaurant; apothecary-blending lab where guests can create their own lotions expected to open by summer
- Serves as a retreat for many celebrity parents, like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas
- Entertains family groups of 20 or more with a Western hoedown, including a chuck wagon barbecue dinner and dancing in the barn
- Gives kids a wooden nickel to exchange for old-fashioned candy in the property's general store