When I was a child, a motel with a swimming pool and a children’s meal at Howard Johnson’s was my idea of a vacation. My simple 1970s childhood is so over.
Today’s resorts cater to kids (and their parents) with an array of perks. To help make searching for your family’s next getaway a bit easier, we've rounded up our top picks for all-inclusive hotels, lakeside lodges and island retreats across the U.S., Caribbean and elsewhere, that offer soup-to-nuts holidays that will please the most discerning pint-sized guests.
Read on for 23 family-friendly resorts that make vacations easy, so you can kick back, relax and just enjoy.
Slather on the sunblock and enjoy a ride through Boothbay Harbor while staying at Maine's Spruce Point Inn. Photo courtesy of the resort.
1. Spruce Point Inn — Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Few towns spell summer as quintessentially as Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Its throwback quality is tailor-made for families, with its iconic harbor brimming with lobster boats and schooners. Spruce Point Inn is a seasonal resort set on 56 bucolic acres. Seaworthy vessels of every kind, events and programs just for kids, a variety of room and cottage configurations and locally sourced food make this place special.
For another Maine vacation idea, read our review of Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake.
2. Madison Beach Hotel — Madison, Connecticut
If you’re looking for a beach getaway with New England flavor, family-run Madison Beach Hotel is a winner. The 32 rooms are just seconds away from the pocket-sized sandy beach. The Long Island Sound’s usually gentle surf is great for babies' and toddlers' first dip. Families with older children can borrow the sea kayaks and paddle to nearby islands and explore. The restaurant aims to please kids of all ages.
Check out our coverage of another Connecticut vacation town, Old Saybrook.
3. Doral Arrowwood Resort — Rye Brook, New York
Located only 40 minutes from NYC, Arrowwood is an easy overnight getaway for New Yorkers. A golf course, tennis courts, indoor-outdoor pools and kid-perfect weekend entertainment like cupcake decorating means fun for the entire family. Dive-in movies, a bouncy castle and more add up to rambunctious fun. Dine at the bar and dance family-style to '80s music on weekend evenings.
RELATED: 10 Best Indoor Water Park Resorts for Families
Young children suit up for swim lessons at The Tyler Place where personal nannies are on hand for babies! Photo courtesy of the resort.
4. The Tyler Place — Highgate Springs, Vermont
This seasonal resort is excellent for families with babies and toddlers. The children’s program is comprehensive and includes a personal nanny for newborns to one-year-olds. They have plenty of baby gear, so no problem if you forget the stroller. Parents will have plenty of time to unwind in strategically placed hammocks. Nearly everything is included in the price (all meals, bike rentals, etc.), though there is an additional fee for the personal nanny.
RELATED: Top Family Resorts in the Poconos
At Woodloch Pines in the Poconos there are endless activities for kids from a petting zoo to boating and swimming. Photo courtesy of the resort.
5. Woodloch Pines — Hawley, Pennsylvania
Plentiful meals, activities galore and bedtime-friendly evening entertainment are all included in the price at this top-notch rustic resort on a scenic lake in the Poconos. There’s a petting zoo, playground, paint ball and much more, so no one will ever get bored. In 2016, it added an indoor "splash zone" with slide. If you’re searching for a multi-generational getaway with the grandparents or a family reunion spot, hospitable Woodloch is a fine choice. This family-run resort is kid-friendly in every way, but adults can have fun on their own when they head to the serene spa at the stunning sister property, The Lodge at Woodloch, located just 2 miles away.
For more ideas on family spa getaways, read our coverage of 7 Family-Friendly Resorts with Spas.
6. Rocking Horse Ranch — Highland, New York
With supervised programs for babies-to-teens, parents have the option to choose whatever blend of kid-free time they desire. Ponies and horses abound, three daily meals and all activities are included in the relatively modest price. Rocking Horse Ranch is two hours from Manhattan.
7. Hanover Inn — Hanover, New Hampshire
If your family likes hiking, kayaking, culture and small town charm, this in-town property in collegiate Hanover is a good bet. The Appalachian Trail cuts through the village and the Connecticut River is the place to paddle. Hanover is a pedestrian’s dream, full of ice-cream shops and independently owned stores. The Hanover Inn is home to a fabulous farm-to-table restaurant, Pine, or dine with locals and Dartmouth students at Lou’s Diner.
If you're curious about New Hampshire's White Mountains, read our Loon Mountain review.
8. Stoweflake — Stowe, Vermont
This resort offers four-season recreational possibilities in a picture-perfect setting. Winter is king, but consider hiking, biking and the nearby Ben and Jerry’s factory tour in warmer seasons. Stoweflake is family run, with a great spa and plenty of kids romping poolside or enjoying cookies at the daily teatime.
RELATED: 9 Best Florida Beach Vacations for Families
Family-friendly hiking abounds at the Blue Ridge Mountains Wintergreen Resort. Photo courtesy of the resort.
9. Wintergreen Resort — Wintergreen, Virginia
This ecologically sensitive resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers a variety of condo and vacation home rentals surrounded by lush forest. In winter, enjoy skiing and snowboarding while summer brings hiking, golf, tennis fishing and swimming. The Treehouse provides children’s programming for all ages. Wintergreen is just a few hours from Washington, D.C.
Paddle through salt marshes, spy a dolphin from a boat or hit the dock for fishing at Wild Dunes. Photo courtesy of the resort.
10. Wild Dunes — Charleston, South Carolina
This large resort presents families with a smorgasbord of recreational activities on land and sea. Hit the beach, pool, boats or head to historic Charleston in the evening to enjoy the region’s famed low country cuisine and Southern charm. There's tennis and plenty of golf, too, plus a spa for relaxing parental massages after all that activity. Stay in a variety of accommodations, including hotel rooms, condos or cottages.
For another South Carolina option, check out A Family Beach Vacation at the Kiawah Island Resort and Sanctuary Hotel.
11. Sunset Key Cottages — Key West, Florida
Located on a 27-acre island seven minutes by launch from Key West, this resort delivers family vacation bliss. Pastel-colored cottages are sprinkled amidst the lush tropical vegetation and fragrant flowers. The private beach, swimming pool, tennis courts and nurturing spa only add to the relaxed vibe. Dine at the resort or explore Key West’s casual culinary scene.
12. Hilton San Diego Bayfront — San Diego, California
If you think all big brand hotels are cookie cutter, prepare to have your mind changed. The Hilton San Diego Bayfront incorporates indigenous elements into its ethos and esthetics. It features a gigantic salt-water pool and a separate kid-zone pool with a slide. It’s a five-minute walk from San Diego’s lovely Gaslamp Quarter, where you’ll find shops, eateries and Petco Park, home of baseball’s Padres. Hilton guarantees the lowest room rate when you book directly on their site. Its guest loyalty program, Hilton HHonors, is free to join and offers a plethora of perks, so join before you visit.
For more family fun in San Diego, see 50 Things to Do in San Diego with Kids.
Camp Richardson in Tahoe offers rustic lakefront fun from swimming to kayaking, as well as plenty of biking trails. Photo by the author.
13. Camp Richardson — South Lake Tahoe, California
The pine-scented trails at Camp Richardson are the perfect way to commune with nature. This historic lakefront resort offers many recreational and lodging options, including simple cabins and a campsite. The marina is loaded with boats and kayaks or ski and snow shoe the groomed trails in winter. It’s a paradise for cyclists and the flat trails may be just the place to say goodbye to the training wheels.
Breathtaking views at El Tovar. Photo courtesy of the resort.
14. El Tovar — Grand Canyon, Arizona
America's National Park Service celebrates its centennial in 2016, making this year a great time to explore these national gems. Consider the Grand Canyon’s full-service El Tovar Hotel, situated directly on the canyon’s rim for arguably one of the best views in the world. The park offers a variety of ranger-led programming for families and of course, unforgettable scenery.
If Grand Canyon doesn't entice you, consider a fun, kid-friendly getaway at Yosemite.
The Grand Wailea Resort offers a kids-only mini resort with activities like hula lessons, celebrating local culture. Photo courtesy of the resort.
15. Grand Wailea Resort — Maui, Hawaii
The six-level Wailea Canyon Activity Pool will have the kids in water park heaven. Caves, waterfall, slides and a rope-swing are just a few of the fun ways to get wet. The spa offers treatments for kids, so consider splurging on a chocolate-coconut massage. The Rock is a kids-only mini-resort with activities like lei making with fresh flowers and hula lessons. The resort has an extensive art collection with works by master like Botero and Leger, so there’s lots of eye-candy.
Other U.S. Family Favorites
16. Bridgeport Waterfront Resort — Door County, Wisconsin
Door County is revered among Midwest families for its natural beauty and plethora of activities. The Bridgeport Resort sits right on Lake Michigan’s shores. It offers a splash park, easy access to the Door County’s recreational options and competitive rates.
17. Wildcatter Ranch Resort — Graham, Texas
If your family likes horses and wide-open spaces, this Texas Hill Country ranch is for you. The Western theme is prominent without being kitschy. After you’ve had your fill of being in the saddle, enjoy a wagon ride, nature trails, play horseshoes and watch a Western movie. Excellent food, an infinity pool and a spa add a touch of Lone Star glam.
RELATED: 25 Best Warm Winter Family Vacation Destinations
18. Spice Island Beach Resort — Grenada, West Indies
Located on stunning Grand Anse Beach, this casually elegant, intimate resort tops the list for families seeking an exclusive retreat. Family-owned and operated, your every whim is accommodated. Children age three and older can hang out at The Nutmeg Pod, a full-service kid’s club. They will arrange childcare for younger kids and make sure cribs and any baby gear you need is available. The food is outstanding and the rate includes all meals, even British-style afternoon tea. All beaches in Grenada are public, so you'll be able to mix with friendly locals.
If you'd prefer to travel to the tropics without a passport, consider El Conquistador in Puerto Rico.
For another great family resort option in Cancun, read our review of Azul Beach.
Homemade meals make the beachside Villa Rodriguez stand out in Italy. Photo courtesy of the hotel.
19. Villa Rodriguez — Elba, Italy
This small, family-run hotel will have you singing the praises of La Dolce Vita. Three homemade meals each day are better than Mama's, the beach and aquamarine sea are at your doorstep and the helpful staff speaks English. Elba is a treasure for history buffs and nature lovers alike. A strong U.S. dollar makes this the time to consider an Italian getaway.
The sparkling Cikat Bay beckons visitors to Croatia's Hotel Bellevue, along with great food, pools and a kids' club. Photo by the author.
20. Hotel Bellevue — Losinj, Croatia
This breathtaking island is still blissfully under the tourist radar. Losinj sits in the Northern Adriatic Sea, a stone’s throw from Italy. Its climate, crystalline sea and air infused with the scent of hundreds of native plant species put it in the “vacation of a lifetime” category. The five-star Hotel Bellevue was totally refurbished in 2014, but thanks to a favorable exchange rate, it remains a good deal for American families. The flexible, multilingual staff at the kids' club will work with your family on a customized basis to find a schedule that suits your specific needs. Fresh food, sparkling clean Cikat Bay and multiple salt-water swimming pools seal the deal.
Top image: Water sports for all ages are available at Vermont's Tyler Place situated on a gorgeous private lakeshore. Photo courtesy of the resort.