Favorite Fall Hotels with Kid-Focused Programming That Won't Blow Your Budget

Are you ready for fall fun? These hotels are rolling out the welcome mat for family visitors with wallet-friendly programming aimed at kids and parents.

An image of a family at Mar Vista Farm + Cottages.
Photo: Courtesy of Mar Vista Farm + Cottages.

With 172 million Americans currently fully vaccinated, many families are back to traveling—and they're booking many hotels as part of their getaways, according to several industry reports and trackers, which indicate that as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread, reservations for trips are experiencing a substantial uptick.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association reported that 56 percent of Americans are likely to travel for leisure or vacation in 2021. Even more encouraging, the latest Deloitte State of Consumer Tracker (which posts monthly updates) shows that 65 percent of consumers feel comfortable staying in a hotel once again, while 55 percent are planning to travel in the next three months and will stay at a hotel.

Of course, we all still want to be assured that the places we're visiting with family in tow are offering activity options that are COVID-19-conscious—meaning there will be plenty of outdoor or at least socially distanced options for entertainment for those as-yet-unable-to-be-vaccinated young kids. And many of us continue to be very budget-conscious as the nation emerges from historic levels of job loss and economic downturn.

With that in mind, we've rounded up 10 hotels that are keeping tight COVID-19 safety protocols while also rolling out the welcome mat for family visitors this fall—with specific kid- and family-friendly programming that won't break the bank.

Campfire Hotel, Bend, Oregon

Created to be an urban basecamp for adventure seekers, the Campfire Hotel opened its doors last October. The property, just minutes from Bend's chic and historic downtown, bills itself as value-priced outdoor-themed lodging. To that end, the entire place oozes a retro-camp-culture vibe.

Highlights include vintage camp-inspired guestrooms and a lobby "camp store" filled with kids' books, coloring books, and snacks. There's also a giant fire pit at the epicenter of the property, where guests can safely come together, enjoy the great outdoors, and share stories. As an added touch of whimsical fun, hotel rooms include acoustic instruments for kids to play if the mood strikes. And did we mention what an ideal place Bend is for stargazing? This fact is not lost on Campfire Hotel management. The property has launched a new Stargazing Package that's perfect for kids and families.

"Stargazing in Central Oregon is quite amazing," James Pearrow, Campfire Hotel general manager tells Parents. "We wanted to harness that unique feature as one of the many kid-friendly amenities we offer onsite. With the use of branded Campfire blankets and hot chocolate, we invite our families to cuddle up around the fire pit and spend some time outside exploring the skies." Room rates start at $119 per night.

Garza Blanca Resort, Cancun, Mexico

Okay, we know one look at the gorgeous Garza Blanca resort, right outside Cancun and a short boat ride to neighboring gem Isla Mujeres, is enough to make you assume this is a vacation spot for rich and famous families only. Not so: Before you balk at phrases like "all-inclusive" and "luxury accommodations" on Garza Blanca's website, know that room rates start as low as $295 per night; book a bundle on TripAdvisor and you can save 15% more.

Garza Blanca's pricier all-inclusive family program is still a ridiculously good deal at $508 per night for the whole team. It lets you travel light and leave your worries (and high chair) at home; kids both stay and eat for free, and everything is included—from baby amenities to an on-site kids club to complimentary activities like kayaking and Garza Blanca Cancun's famous floating water park.

Plus, this is not your average all-inclusive on the Caribbean sea; Garza Blanca perfectly balances elegance without a hint of stuffiness—and that all-inclusive rate includes top-shelf liquor and premium signature cocktails by local mixologists. Because let's be real: Sometimes, the best perks for traveling families are the ones for the parents.

Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico

A short drive further down Mexico's eastern coast from Cancun (and Garza Blanca) is the Riviera Maya, where your absolute best bet for balancing indulgence and affordability is the beautiful Fairmont Mayakoba, just north of Playa del Carmen.

Families can hop a boat ride through the mangroves all together, where you'll have a chance to spot monkeys, coatis, even Moray eels. Then, you can go your separate generational ways; the Fairmont's drop-off kids' Discovery Club and Adventure Camp keeps littles living their best lives for hours while parents get some much-needed R&R (or party time, whatever your preference!). Kids' activities include everything from water games to piñata decorating to navigating a jungle maze.

Other perks of choosing Fairmont Mayakoba with kids? It's notable for its mid-mangroves location and connection to nature; the hotel feels much more isolated (in a good way) than it is. And it's a fully gated luxury resort with security, so you can feel free to let those teens wander without worrying. Plus, kids under 5 eat free throughout the Fairmont Mayakoba property, and kids ages 6-12 eat half price. Not too shabby for bringing the whole crew! And while this is definitely a property where you can go luxe if you want to splurge—you can also easily suss out room rate deals for as low as $216.

Whaler's Inn, Mystic, Connecticut

A historic 45-room hotel in downtown Mystic, The Whaler's Inn recently announced a kid-themed package that aims to bring the sights and sounds of an aquarium right into your hotel room.

With family safety in mind, the property collaborated with the nearby Mystic Aquarium to develop an immersive, in-room experience for parents of young children who want to get out of the house but are perhaps not yet ready to be part of large crowds.

The hotel's new Aquarium Suite has been decorated with bedding that has sea life designs; walls are adorned with marine life photos, and there's a white noise machine mimicking ocean sounds, as well as ocean wave nightlights. If all of that doesn't leave you feeling thoroughly immersed in sea life, there's also sea-themed movies on demand, and a stuffed animal for each child to take home. And if and when you're ready for the crowds, there's also free admission to the Mystic Aquarium.

"The Mystic Aquarium is an iconic destination in southeastern Connecticut and a highlight for families traveling to the region. I can still remember the magic of family trips there as a young kid; the excitement of encounters with the whales and the opportunity to see the seals and sea lions,"says Amanda Arling, president of The Whaler's Inn.

The nightly rate for the suite, which is designed to accommodate two adults and two children, is $500.

Bayside Resort, West Yarmouth, Massachusetts

There's nothing quite like Cape Cod on Labor Day weekend. And the Bayside Resort is designed to allow families to make the most of all that a quintessential New England getaway has to offer. The locally owned and managed property overlooking Lewis Bay has a number of family-oriented packages featuring fun in the outdoors.

The Whale Watch experience, (starting at $199 per night) includes accommodations, tickets on the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruise, and even breakfast every morning. There's also a kid-tastic Beach Campfire and S'mores getaway option ($139 per night) that in addition to accommodations includes a deluxe family S'mores kit, sticky fingers, chocolate mustaches, and breakfast every morning.

"We designed these packages for families that enjoy open air activities featuring the best of Cape Cod. Families want to get away to a safe place without having to get on a plane, wait in long lines, or be packed into indoor spaces," Rod Sroczenski, the hotel's general manager, tells Parents. "We've also expanded our beach area, added more outdoor seating, an additional fire pit, two corn hole games, and installed party lights outside. We're totally ready for families with kids."

Woodstock Inn & Resort, Vermont

Think fresh air, wide open spaces, and an abundance of outdoor activities. Woodstock Inn & Resort offers all of these things and more. New this year—and specifically for the youngest visitors—there's the Kids Concierge, which offers fully customizable experiences for guests five to 12 years old. Activities range from hiking Mt. Peg or Mt. Tom to river walks to visiting the nearby Billings Farm & Museum, or the Knox Meadow Fitness Loop, a one-mile outdoor route with 10 exercise stations. There's also optional add-on activities such as private lessons in falconry, golf, tennis, fly fishing, or mountain biking.

"The new Kids Concierge is a wonderful opportunity for our younger guests to create memorable experiences of their own at the resort," Courtney Lowe, vice president of marketing and business development tells Parents. "These private, outdoor adventures allow kids to independently discover new hobbies, or hone favorite pastimes."

Pricing for the Kids Concierge activities starts at $30 per hour, per child and includes chaperone services for the outing. Room rates at the property can be found on some dates this summer starting at around $279.

Novotel Miami Brickell, Florida

Watching movies under the stars is another classic activity and Novotel Miami Brickell clearly recognizes this fun fact. The downtown hotel recently redesigned its rooftop pool deck and after the unveiling in February the property added an outdoor movie night as a COVID-friendly way for families to spend evenings.

Rooftop yoga classes are also available for all ages, (just in case you have a budding yogi in your brood.) Within a five-minute drive, families will find the kid-friendly Frost Museum of Science and the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Rates start at $129 per night.

YOTEL, Boston, Massachusetts

Want to be your child's hero? Take them to a property where a real life robot mingles with guests and delivers items to your room. At YOTEL Boston, the resident robot YO2D2 is the star of the show. But that's not the only draw.

The property has also just announced a new School in the Seaport package that includes a one-night stay in a premium queen cabin with bunk, and passes to the beloved Boston Children's Museum for the entire family. The package also includes fun welcome treats for families including a YO2D2 plush toy, milk and cookies, and food and beverage credits.

Rates for the School in the Seaport package start at $150 per night.

Mar Vista Farm + Cottages, Gualala, California

A property that relaunched in April, the Mar Vista Farm + Cottages, is one kid delight after another. The list of complimentary kid-focused activities is enough to make any parent gleeful. Options include self-guided star bathing and forest bathing; chicken chats and egg collecting; feeding goat triplets, S'mores by the fire, and if all of that's not entertaining enough, there's also a cottage playhouse. Can you feel your family unwinding and finding its happy place (at least mentally) just reading that description?

With 11 cottages and a small farm set upon nine acres along Mendocino County's "Secret Coast" in Northern California, Mar Vista is a property that's all about safety in seclusion and allowing travelers to slow down and reconnect.

"Our guests engage with the environment and each other," Owner Deanna Boettcher tells Parents. "We want people to be as free from artificial distraction as possible—so they can focus on reconnecting with the things that truly matter."

Let's all say it together: Bring it on. Rates start at $215 per night.

Deer Path Inn, Lake Forest, Illinois

After a year of COVID isolation, the Deer Path Inn decided to add special programming that's specifically designed to allow grandparents quality time with the grandkids. Cue the Gramping Getaway Package, which features completely socially distanced and private experiences ranging from scavenger hunts around Lake Forest's historic Market Square to custom pre-packed picnic baskets and tickets to the nearby Chicago Botanic Garden. And what grandparent bonding experience would be complete without an in-room milkshake and a selection of children's books (curated by the Lake Forest Bookstore) perfect for bedtime stories?

"With so many seniors getting vaccinated and feeling more comfortable traveling again, we wanted to create a completely customized and private experience for grandparents who haven't been able to spend time with their grandchildren in over a year," Patrick Lacassagne, of Deerpath Inn, tells Parents. Rates start at $319 per night.

InterContinental New York Times Square, New York

It's a rare child that can resist a new stuffed animal—and the entertainment planners at the InterContinental New York Times Square totally know this. In celebration of the return of family travel, the hotel recently announced that it's partnering with Build-a-Bear to make your children's stay at the hotel more memorable than ever. The new package includes a $25 gift certificate to the local Build-a-Bear, a special Build-a-Bear NYC backpack, and a surprise welcome amenity for the kids.

And not to worry: Parents won't be left in the cold; they'll also be treated to a $20 minibar credit. (Maybe non-drinkers can ask for a spa credit?) For still more fun, the property recently began offering upon-request magic shows with mentalist Jason Suran, which can be conducted virtually or in a socially distant, in-suite format. Guest rooms start at $195 per night.

Hotel Bennett, Charleston, South Carolina

The priciest pick on this list, The Bennett offers full-on luxury for a not-exactly-budget-friendly $425-per-night starting price for its stunning, expansive rooms with sweeping views of historic downtown Charleston (plus giant bathtubs that are to die for).

However, savvy travelers know there are ways to shave off that rate: Book a mid-week stay, and you'll get 20% off—and there's also a little-known option for families to get a complimentary fourth night. Plus, staying in such a prime location—the Bennett is walkable to all of downtown Charleston's shopping and dining, King Street, "Rainbow Row," and plenty of playgrounds—will save your family a ton in Uber/Lyft fares.

But the best part of visiting Hotel Bennett with kids? It's only $34—and you don't even have to be a hotel guest to attend. The hotel hosts an absolutely glam and adorable (glamdorable?) children's tea at its iconic Camellia's champagne bar, just off the Bennett's main lobby. Camellia's is a true gem of gloriously over-the-top Charleston design; its plush pink seating surrounds a (also pink, of course) marble bar fashioned from reclaimed marble that once lived its life as the facade of the public library that was Hotel Bennett's predecessor on this spot.

While most nights, Camellia's is populated with adults and their corresponding cocktails and caviar, afternoons it becomes the stuff of childhood dreams, complete with tea cakes and puff pastries aplenty. In short, Camellia's is a guaranteed multi-generational good time, and it's open to hotel guests and non-guests alike; just call in advance to reserve.

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