6 Vacation Destinations for Active Families
These vacation spots are tops for high-energy broods.
Does the thought of spending your vacation laying on a beach make your family cringe? Nothing against a little relaxation in the sun, but if your gang is a little more high-energy, check out these family vacation spots that will keep your brood moving and grooving until their heads hit the pillow.
Club Med Cancun Yucatan Mexico
Club Med has packed both open access and organized play opportunities for kids and adults throughout this lively 22-acre resort on the northeast tip of of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Water-lovers can swim, snorkel, sail, waterski, wakeboard, windsurf, and kayak in the Caribbean Sea, while landlubbers can enjoy archery, flying trapeze, tennis, basketball, beach volleyball, dance classes, and cooking demonstrations. Of course, there's also a large main pool as well as a kids' pool with slides and sprinklers. Exhausted thinking about keeping up with your children? No worries: Three kids' clubs serve kids ages 2 to 17. Just drop your kids off with the G.O.s (what Club Med calls its enthusiastic staffers) who will take your kids to the activities while you sip cocktails on the beach or enjoy a massage at the Comfort Zone spa.
The all-inclusive price includes all activities as well as meals at any of the three on-site gourmet restaurants and a full open bar. For an additional cost, book an excursion to the nearby ancient ruins of Chichen Itza or Tulum. Accommodations at the new Aguamarina building feature 60 ocean-view "family rooms" with separate bedrooms and bathrooms for parents and kids, while traditional hotel-style rooms are available in the resort's other locally inspired buildings. Before you hit the hay, don't forget to catch the nightly shows the G.O.s perform in the resort's theater and learn Club Med's signature "Crazy Signs" dance moves so you can join in when the impromptu dance party begins.
Rocking Horse Ranch Highland, New York
The unlimited horseback rides through the woods are just the beginning of the all-inclusive activities at this mini ranch-meets-adventure-park in New York's Hudson Valley. In addition to the trail rides (or pony rides for kids younger than 7), equine activities include wagon rides, barn tours, and horseshoeing demonstrations. Don't forget to wait by the fence as the wranglers send the 100 horses to pasture for the night. You're likely to get a nuzzle or two!
The Old West-themed resort also has an exotic wildlife exhibit, boating activities on its private lake, a mini golf course, rock climbing walls, and bungee-harnessed trampoline jumping. The resort's new mountain tubing, where riders coast down a 500-foot slope on an inflatable tube, is open year-round, and skiing is available in the winter. Rocking Horse Ranch prints out a daily schedule for guests, marking the times of organized family activities such as scavenger hunts, kickball contests, and games at the outdoor heated swimming pool (which also has a 125-foot slide). Indoors, the "fun barn" has a bouncy house and foam cannons, the arcade has coin-operated games and mini bowling, and the shooting range offers archery and BB targets. An indoor water park features sprinklers, dumping buckets, and a 250-foot long slide.
Though full of activities, the resort's small footprint and homey vibe makes it an easy place for kids of all ages to enjoy on their own, with parents, or with staff in the kids' club. The kitschy and rustic main lodge houses the dining room for the included meals, the Silverado Saloon, and a stage for nightly entertainment like jugglers and magicians. Guest rooms in the lodge, which has a grand log-filled lobby with comfy couches and a large fireplace, and the adjacent Oklahoma building have log-cabin-style wood furniture and can feature bunk beds and two bathrooms, perfect for families.
Kids Sea Camp, Buddy Dive Resort Bonaire
Get your children active in the underwater world with a week-long family diving adventure at this kid-friendly scuba-diving resort in the Caribbean. Kids Sea Camp founders Margo and Tom Peyton crafted this diving experience (as well as the other Kids Sea Camp (KSC) vacations around the world) with families in mind: They and their team of Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) have made it their mission for the last 16 years to provide children and their parents with fun, safe, and environmentally conscious scuba-diving vacations.
With its easy diving and crystal clear, warm water, Bonaire's Buddy Dive Resort is perfect for novice divers or seasoned dive-hards. Children of almost any age can start their unique KSC scuba-diving adventure: kids ages 5 to 7 can start to learn via a SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) unit, while 8- and 9-year olds—or "seals"— learn to dive to 10 feet in full—but much smaller—scuba gear. At age 10, kids can get certified down to 40 feet for a complete scuba experience. Adults and kids can jump off the dock at any time to enjoy large schools of fish and shallow wrecks, and take boat-diving trips, including a night excursion, with Buddy Dive's PADI's five-star IDC dive shop. The all-inclusive accommodations include seven nights in an ocean-view villa, three meals and snacks daily, a pizza-and-movie night, donkey safari, island tour, family sunset cruise, kayaking, photo classes, and poetry presentations. Your kids will stay active both above water and below!
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Yellowstone for Families Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
What better place to be active than in one of our nation's national parks? With the Yellowstone for Families package, families with kids ages 8 to 12 can explore and experience the park from Mammoth to Old Faithful in a unique—and fun!—learning adventure they embark on together. Led by a Yellowstone Association Institute naturalist guide, your family can explore canyons, waterfalls, and geyser basins on daily hikes and participate in animal tracking, wildlife watching, photography, and painting. Kids even become Yellowstone National Park Junior Rangers! Both parents and kids will leave with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the park. The package price, which is offered in partnership with the Yellowstone Association Institute, also includes two nights at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and two nights at Old Faithful Snow Lodge, plus four breakfasts and four lunches per person.
Tanque Verde Ranch Tucson, Arizona
Located on 60,000 acres of Tucson's breathtaking desert landscapes, nestled amongst the Rincon Mountains and adjacent to Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest, Tanque Verde Ranch offers a dude ranch experience with a resort-like feel that both adults and kids will enjoy. Nearly 75 percent of the visitors are return guests—and the majority of these guests are families, some multigenerational, who come to reconnect with one another and the great outdoors.
The all-inclusive ranch provides spacious accommodations, three daily meals, and free access to a long list of activities for all ages, including horseback riding lessons, nature walks, mountain biking, tennis, fishing, swimming, watercolor classes, and more. Plus, guests can attend Cowboy Cookouts with line dancing under the stars, Breakfast Rides to score the Ranch's famous blueberry pancakes, story-telling with s'mores roasting, and outdoor movie nights.
Tanque Verde Ranch also offers a supervised kids' program for children ages 4 to 12 as part of its all-inclusive rates. The kids' program allows parents to enjoy scheduled adult activities solo, or join in with their children in an array of fun-filled kids' activities, such as horseback riding lessons, horse grooming sessions, arts-and-crafts, games, and visits to the nature center. Parents (and grandparents!) can also enjoy massages at La Sonora Spa, or simply relax by the pool.
Massanutten Resort Harrisonburg, Virginia
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Massanutten Resort is all about packing in the adventures. Families can spend their days on the slopes hiking, horseback riding, and skiing in the winter (yes, skiing in Virginia—the resort makes their own snow). Or you can hit the water for fishing, kayaking, and tubing on the river, or kick up the thrill levels mountain biking and zip-lining.
There's also an enormous water park with slides, obstacle courses, and a lazy river. It's both indoors and outdoors; the indoor section is heated so even in the middle of winter, kids can splash around. However, it's not an all-inclusive resort, so families do have to pick and choose activities according to their budgets.
The entire resort property covers 6,000 acres and has a variety of lodging options. You can stay in a traditional hotel room or rent townhouse-style accommodations that can sleep your entire extended family.