Take a break from work, school and routine. Add a healthy dose of sunshine or snow, or better yet, both, as a quick-fix remedy for those eager to explore. Here are eight great ways to recharge.
Road Trip. If you’d like to cover some country with your kids consider teaming up with the folks at Tracks & Trails. They create custom, self-drive RV vacation packages that take the guess work out of an adventure-filled road trip. Specializing in the western U.S. and Canada as well as Florida, these travel pros make all the National Park and activity reservations and chart your itinerary from start to finish. You’ll receive your own “Adventure Kit” chock full of detailed maps and travel tips as well as suggested family-friendly hikes, points of interest and outings along your route.
Contact: (800) 247-0970; www.tracks-trails.com
Volunteer in the Virgin Islands. Give back during your beach holiday and receive a $100 resort credit. Stay at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas and everyone benefits when you join the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park for a day of beach cleaning and trail maintenance. Junior guests receive a free sports bottle or tippy cup when checking in to the resort. Later the containers will be filled with free beverages. The Westin Kids Club also offers a full range of outdoor activities as well as arts and crafts and movies. Teens have their own special place to convene, a 1,200 square foot Teen Center where young people can make plans to enjoy water sports, watch movies or play volley ball on the beach.
Contact: 888.627.7206; www.westinresortstjohn.com
Barbados Bound. With 3000 hours of sunshine each year and an average temperature in the mid-80s, sun-seeking families will find plenty to smile about when visiting this 166 square mile destination in the Caribbean. Expect history, culture, food, music, beautiful beaches and the chance to see Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles. Book the Take me to Barbados package and receive one free when staying for five nights. Also, children 16 and under stay and eat free at participating hotels. This and other value-added packages are available through travel agents. American Airlines has nonstop service from Dallas-Fort Worth to Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Beech Mountain, NC. Visit “Eastern America’s Highest Town” . The resort, which rests at 5,500 feet, offers 13 runs and two terrain parks on 95 acres, as well as views of four different states. If slope-side skiing or snowboarding wear out the younger bunch, head to the free youth sledding hill, sponsored by the Town of Beech Mountain for the benefit of those 12 and under. Check out the tubing park and the 7,000 square foot ice skating rink for more winter weather fun. Receive two free lift passes with a three night stay. Some restrictions apply. In summer, hike, bike and enjoy the natural beauty.
South Beach, FL. After a full day splashing in the surf, what could be more fun than building a tented fort in your hotel room? Loews provides extra in-room sheets plus flashlights so kids can get creative once they’ve emptied the sand from their shoes. As part of their Sundown Survival Kit for Kids, junior guests can also take advantage of movies and enjoy a milk and cookie nightcap. Youngsters will also want to visit SoBe Scoops, a retro ice cream parlor, decked out in vintage style and offering old-time favorites like rock candy, candied apples and crème soda. Kids can invite their parents to join them at SushiSkool, where the whole family can learn how to roll sushi and maneuver chopsticks. The resort also offers camps for kids of all ages, healthy menus and swanky Kidbanas by the pool. Pets are welcome too.
Contact: 1-800-235-6397; www.loewshotels.com/en/Miami-Beach-Hotel
Aruban Holiday. Enjoy family travel specials at this all-inclusive resort where meals, snacks, resort activities and the Kids Club are all included in your rate. The whole clan will also enjoy an Aruban Beach Party featuring live entertainment, festive music and local food. Enjoy snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, tennis, pool play or building sand castles on the white sand beach.
Contact: 1-800-858-2258; www.occidentalhotels.com/grand/Aruba.asp
Big Bear Mountain. Southern California’s Big Bear Mountain sees plenty of the big white flakes during the winter season, bringing smiles to the faces of skiers and snowboarders who always want to make tracks during the snowy season. During the off years, the resort has top notch snowmaking systems providing quality snow for thousands of skiers and snowboarders in the region. Who knew you could enjoy mountain life just two hours from Downtown Los Angeles?
Contact: 909.866.5766; www.bigbearmountainresorts.com
Limelight Lodge, Aspen, CO. Join your college-aged kids and take part in the Limelight Lodge’s Insider Tracks tours, designed for experiences skiers. Professional adventure specialists will show those with intermediate to advanced ski or board skills, the local take on the four mountains that make up Aspen and Snowmass. Participants will find the best powder and the secret chutes along with tips on how to make the most of a day on these famed Rocky Mountain slopes. Back at the lodge, enjoy homemade granola, a soak in the hot tub, a family dinner and the use of multi-lingual computer stations. Ask about the Ski Free package which includes up to two lift tickets per day in the room rate. Pets are welcome. During the summer months, hike into the hills, stroll through town, catch the latest at local museums, check out the mountain biking trails and be on the look out for Hollywood stars who like to relax in the mountains just like you.
Contact: 1- 800-433-0832; www.LimelightLodge.com
Diving boards and the deep end have been replaced by slippery slides, raging waterfalls and lazy rivers.
Today’s resort pools and water parks offer enough excitement to keep the kids engaged for a weekend or longer.
Here are a few cool pools worth the plunge:
Grand Wailea Resort, Maui, Hawaii.
This island haven may be most famous for its beaches, but don’t pass up the chance to explore what this resort has to offer. The whole family will be eager to check out the 25,700 square foot area that includes nine free form pools. Travel via a “river” to check out the slides, waterfalls, caves, water elevator, swim up bar, rope swing and more that are part of this water wonderland. The tropical 40 acre resort also includes an infant pool.
Fairmont Scottsdale. Scottsdale, AZ.
With the magnificent McDowell Mountains as a backdrop, families relish this oasis in the desert. By day, keep cool within the 6000 square foot Sonoran Splash complex, featuring a zero deck area for the youngest set. Kids wade right into the water, just like at the beach. Nearby a large sandbox with Tonka trucks and a bounty of beach toys beckon, keeping the kids entertained. Have fun slipping down two of Arizona’s largest slides. Come nightfall, enjoy dive-in movies from deck chairs or while floating on your raft.
Atlantis Resort. Paradise Island, Bahamas.
With more than 141 acres of water rides and pools, who has time to hit the beach? From the Mayan Temple to the ominous Power Tower to fun-filled Splashers Island, water play lovers will find 18 adrenaline-pulsing slides for kids of all ages. Ride the waves and rapids in the Current. Lounge around your choice of 11 different pools. Twist and turn through tunnels and emerge in an acrylic tube deep within a shark-filled lagoon. The thrills never end in this water-filled fantasy park.
Marriott World Center, Orlando, FL.
Think 1,000,000 gallons of cool water. That’s what you’ll find at this Orlando resort where indoor pools, outdoor pools, whirlpools, waterfalls and a 106 foot slide make for an enticing recreation area. Pool side fun includes sidewalk chalk, ping pong and pool tables, limbo contests and scavenger hunts. Lounge on deck or join in a game of water volleyball.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, San Antonio, TX.
Float through the resort’s beautifully landscaped grounds aboard a trusty inner tube, making your way 950 feet along the Ramblin’ River. Stop by the activity pool and join in a game of water volley ball or basketball. Or make it a beach day and settle on the private, sandy man-made beach. Lounge on the sundeck before heading to the golf course or an afternoon at the spa. Grown-ups can enjoy the Texas-shaped adults only pool, while the kids take advantage of Camp Hyatt activities or teen-focused Underground events.
Our table in the cocktail lounge is conveniently situated with a clear view of the promenade. Offering more promise than the yellow brick road, the wide, tiled pathway leads from the nearby hotel towers to the main lobby, then beyond to restaurants, shops and casinos. People watching has rarely been so compelling.
Thigh high leather, flowing caftans, plunging necklines, sparkling jewels and hair piled high; the women, from teens to aging beauties, have clearly taken their time to prepare for the evening ahead. Smiling, and exuberant, they chat enthusiastically, clicking by in Sarah Jessica Parker inspired footwear.
And the men.
They too have taken time to style. Strolling tall in designer duds, tan and bright eyed, they are eager to enjoy all this glittering resort has to offer.
It brings out the peacock in all of us. Whether you choose to strut your stuff in the celebrity infused restaurants and casinos or on the beach with the kids, you’ll find plenty of bright spots to color your stay.
Created by hotel luminary Sol Kerzner and designed after the mythical lost Continent of Atlantis, this is where tropical chill meets Vegas vim and vigor. You’re on Paradise Island, a glistening gem in the Bahamas, that sun-drenched archipelago known for both palm-strewn island getaways and cruise ship landing zones.
Making a plan.
Given the Atlantis resort’s grand scale, you will want to do some pre-trip research. Gather notes from friends who’ve been there and peruse the web site to determine the home away from home that will best suit you and your fellow travelers. Choices range from the relaxed ambience of the Beach and Coral Towers, to the iconic Royal Towers and the condo-style accommodations offered at The Reef.
You’ll want to consider the chic luxury and contemporary vibe enjoyed by those who check into the suites at The Cove. The 600 room, adult’s only digs are located on the north end of the property, directly on Paradise Beach. Guests get comfortable at the Blackjack tables on the pool deck and enjoy music crafted by a live DJ. For an extra special treat, reserve a cabana that offers flat screen TVs, couches and a bar plus breezy access to the pool and the ocean.
With the kids.
From the perspective of many, Atlantis is one giant theme park. Yet few resorts have a more imaginative and expansive kids and teen activity program. Daily themed adventures include discovering the mysteries of Atlantis, visiting a fish hospital and enjoying outdoor games and activities of all kinds. The newest addition to the program is AKA or Atlantis Kids Adventures, a high-style, 8,000-square-foot mecca for kids where culinary lessons, Lego –inspired crafts, a mini castle, outdoor adventures and theater play make heading back to school seem ….well, they’ll think about that later.
Teens enjoy time at Club Rush where they can surf the net, dance the night away, watch movies or play their favorites on Game Cube or X-Box. Teens also enjoy the pottery studio and climbing wall.
Parents can plan a night out while their kids, ages 3 to 12 have fun during their own” evening escape”. The program offers themed activities each night of the week including Willy Wonka Wednesday, Pajama Party Friday and Pizza and Coketails Saturdays.
With more than 141 acres of water rides and pools, you may have to schedule time to simply relax on the three miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches. From the Mayan Temple to the ominous Power Tower to fun-filled Splashers Island, water play lovers up the tempo with 18 adrenaline-pulsing slides for kids of all ages. Pop on board your own luxury inner tube or grab a partner and ride the waves and rapids in the Current.
Lounge around your choice of 11 different pools. Twist and turn through tunnels and emerge in an acrylic tube deep within a shark-filled lagoon. And don’t miss the seven-acre saltwater swimming and water-sports area known as Paradise Lagoon where you’ll find snorkeling gear, kayaks, and pedal boats available for rent.
Whether you were a Flipper fan or have more recently come to admire these playful creatures you will want to take part in what is happening within Dolphin Cay. Home to a pod of bottlenose dolphins rescued following Hurricane Katrina, this 14-acre habitat is the scene of Trainer for the Day programs, shallow and deep water encounters and the chance to experience the speed and agility of the animals up close and personal.
Because Atlantis is home to more than 50,000 marine animals representing 250 species, your opportunities continue. Get to know friendly sea lions. Later snorkel amid the sunken ruins and artifacts of the lost city of Atlantis in the Ruins Lagoon where brilliantly colored tropical fish and spotted rays will keep you company.
Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the six lighted clay and hard-surface tennis courts, a four-lane lap pool and an expansive fitness facility that includes all the bells and whistles. Check out the menu of classes that includes spinning, yoga and kickboxing. For those who enjoy time on the links, plan to tee it up on the private Tom Weiskopf-designed 18 hole championship Ocean Club Golf Course, located a complimentary shuttle ride away.
World class dining.
With 21 restaurants and 19 bars and lounges from which to choose, your options for culinary exploration are many. Grab a bite while lounging at the pool or enjoy a family-style meal with the kids.
Allow the Atlantis celebrity chefs to bestow their special brand of epicurean delight. Choose from Chef Bobby Flay’s award-winning Mesa Grill where you will thrill to the taste of his award-winning Southwestern cuisine. Unique dishes like Bahamian Spiced Chicken Skewers with Yogurt Cilantro Sauce, Crispy Squid and Cracked Conch Salad with Orange-Chipotle Vinaigrette, and Bahamian Lobster Tail with Red Chile-Coconut Sauce and Green Chile Rice will keep your mouth watering long after the last bite.
Classic gourmet French cuisine is on your menu thanks to the extraordinary experience offered by legendary Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Café Martinique, originally made famous by its appearance in the 1965 James Bond classic, Thunderball, now recreated for Atlantis guests. Expect outstanding fare amidst old world ambience.
Just off the casino floor and steps away from Aura, you’ll enjoy the fine work of famed Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s in his acclaimed restaurant, Nobu. Enjoy an unusual and delectable twist on traditional Japanese fare.
Spending the day at the beach won’t hinder your plan for finding plenty of casino time. The expansive 50,000 square foot state of the art environment includes more than 850 slot machines, 90 game tables plus baccarat, roulette, Caribbean stud poker and black jack. Wagering on major sporting events and the racetrack action plus regular special events and tournaments will keep gaming enthusiasts thrilled by the action. Guests also enjoy lively music, often provided by local calypso or salsa bands. Oddly enough, you won’t be gambling elbow to elbow with the locals. For Bahamian residents, it is illegal.
After sun down.
Look forward to an evening mesmerized by the luxury and ambience of Aura, a 9,000-square-foot Jeffrey Beers-designed nightclub, and the sister to popular Las Vegas night club PURE. As the DJs spin the latest, guests enjoy dancing the night away or watching the scene unfold from banquette seating that surrounds the illuminated glass dance floor. You’ll also find two bars, two VIP sections and a private VIP Parlor. The casino below can be accessed by a grand staircase.
Also popular is the Atlantis Theatre featuring current Hollywood feature films and the Joker’s Wild Comedy Club spotlighting stand up acts from around the world. You may want to plan your stay around the performance of popular artists including the likes of Lady Antebellum, Rihanna, Carrie Underwood, the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift.