The very best family vacations are the ones where there's something fun for every family member to do, and kid-friendly resorts offer just that. If you can locate a destination that's within an easy driving distance, even better!
Fortunately, the Garden State and surrounding areas offer plenty of spots where you can rest, recharge, and enjoy a little recreation without the hassle of long-distance travel. Whether you want a beachy getaway down the Shore, or indoor/outdoor adventures in the Hudson Valley or the Poconos (including lots of water park fun), we've rounded up a dozen close-to-home holiday havens that all but guarantee a great time for the whole crew.
Asbury Hotel – Asbury Park
This swanky hotel in Asbury Park includes family-style rooms with bunk beds that the kids will adore. Providing a stay that's equally relaxing for Mom and Dad, the hip hotel features a rooftop lounge space with games, bean bag chairs, and a movie screen (weather-permitting). A lobby lounge serves coffee and snacks, and an adjacent bar presents live entertainment. Chill out by the pool, or walk two blocks and check out the legendary Asbury Park beach and boardwalk scene. Restaurant options abound, with something to fit every budget and palate. A beachfront playground at Seventh Avenue is also sure to keep kids happy and entertained. Pinball wizards won't want to miss the Silverball Museum Arcade.
Once known as the "Summer White House," Congress Hall in Cape May is America's oldest seaside resort.
Congress Hall – Cape May
The iconic yellow Cape May resort is one where you'll feel right at home. Enjoy family nights in The Blue Pig Tavern with Blue, the eponymous pig, who may stop by your table for a one-of-a-kind swine selfie. Don't miss horseshoe crab night tours during May and June. Bring your binoculars for whale-watching season, when the humpbacks put on a show for onlookers. Bicycle through the town and learn more about the area's rich history. Or, climb the 199 steps to the top of the Cape May lighthouse. Then treat yourself to something sweet at Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard shop.
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The Biosphere Tropical Pool complex is a year-round paradise.
Crystal Springs – Hamburg
Nestled among the picturesque Kittatinny Mountain range in northern New Jersey, the Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs offers luxury accommodations as well as oodles of family entertainment, including Saturday daytime shows, weekly evening entertainers, pony rides, a putting course, and glow golf, as well as summer movies on the lawn. Ensuring families have a fantastic stay regardless of weather, the facility features an indoor Biosphere Tropical Pool complex, complete with a 140-foot water slide (48 inches is the height requirement), which serves as a year-round paradise. Enjoy sandwiches, salads, and gelato at the Biosphere Cafe.
Icona – Avalon
Overlooking the beautiful beaches of Avalon, this resort offers suites, studios, and rooms that accommodate up to a dozen guests, making it perfect for family getaways. Rooms are equipped with the comforts of home, including compact refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee makers. This luxury destination runs family specials throughout the year. Naturalists can take a Dolphin and Nature Cruise aboard the Miss Avalon, which offers fishing excursions as well. From homemade sticky buns and 15 different types of pancakes to seafood restaurants and ice cream shops, bring your appetite to this culinary mecca by the sea.
Ocean Place Resort – Long Branch
This beachfront resort in Long Branch has plenty to keep kids busy, including an indoor pool open year-round and a game room stocked with TVs, board games, billiards, and a life-size chessboard. Located on the mezzanine level, the outdoor pool has a view of the ocean so you can smell the sea air while you lounge. Stroll to nearby Pier Village for shopping, dining, and a small arcade. Designed with families in mind, the resort's suites are spacious and feature separate bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchenettes.
StarLux Boutique Hotel – Wildwood
Give kids a glimpse into the architecture of the past when you stay at this retro-inspired hotel at Morey's Pier. While the beach and boardwalk are steps away, there's plenty to check out and enjoy at this classic Americana resort, which features an all-glass lobby, festive pool promenade, and 27 holes of beach-themed mini-golf spread over two levels. Thrill-seekers of all ages love the amusement rides that line the pier, and Wilhelm's Biergarten lets you celebrate Oktoberfest regardless of the month. For a unique dining experience, make a reservation for the "Ferris Wheel Breakfast," offered Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays from July 21 through August 20, 2019.
Camelback's indoor and outdoor water parks guarantee a good time, no matter the weather. Photo by Sara M.
Camelback Resort – Tannersville, PA
There's no way for Mother Nature to spoil your plans at this resort, which boasts both indoor and outdoor water parks. If it rains or you're visiting during a cold snap, hang out inside at Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, where it's a balmy 84 degrees all year-round. Kids can enjoy the water slides and rides while parents relax on an underwater bar stool at Flyboys swim-up bar. If the weather cooperates, you won't know where to begin—the outdoor water park has dozens of water slides and a kiddie section. Nearby, Camelback Mountain awaits. Ski or go tubing in the winter, or try out a ropes course or zip line in the milder months.
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The indoor water park is the big draw at Great Wolf, but when you're done getting wet, there's a lot more to explore.
Great Wolf Lodge – Scotrun, PA
This beloved resort recently completed the first phase of its multi-million dollar renovation, which has guests howling for joy. Guest rooms got an upgrade, complete with new beds, flooring, and furnishings. The water park caters to all ages and includes action-packed water slides like the Double-Barrel Drop for riders 48 inches and taller, and smaller slides for little guys. A zero-entry wave pool is a lovely spot to pretend you're actually in the ocean. Once you're done with the water fun, check out Oliver's Mining Company, which takes visitors on a walk-through adventure which employs mirrors and projection technology to create an interactive and educational coalmine tour. The first Build-A-Bear Workshop in the Pocono Mountains makes its home inside the Lodge.
Kalahari Resort is a great destination for families with little ones. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
Kalahari Resort – Pocono Manor, PA
Known as America's largest water park, think of Kalahari as an oasis in the mountains. From teens to toddlers and ages between and beyond, there's some slippery excitement for everyone. In addition to water slides galore, a lazy river, and all the water-related action you could imagine, visitors can now check out Gorilla Grove Treetop Adventures. Test your balance on a ropes course, play a round of mini-golf, or just cruise through the countryside aboard the Gorilla Express train ride. Three-dimensional films get even more real when paired with motion seats, wind, sound, and gaming inside the 7-D Motion Theater. With suites that feature as many as five bedrooms, bring the cousins, classmates, or neighbors for a trip you won't soon forget.
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Enjoy a meal together while taking a break from the more than 30 activities Woodloch has to offer.
Woodloch Resort – Hawley, PA
Love mountains and lakes? Then this Pocono-based resort, which has been enchanting guests since 1958, is for you. There's no shortage of fun at this woodland wonderland where more than 30 exciting activities are on the schedule daily. With two go-cart tracks, your little speed demons will think they're at a miniature Pocono Raceway. Smaller kids can ride along in the family carts, while bigger boys and girls can take the wheel and wind their way through the scenic landscape. An indoor splash zone features a double corkscrew waterslide. If the weather's warm, check out the outdoor pool.
Mohonk Mountain House offers a variety of indoor and outdoor family activities in a stunning setting.
Mohonk Mountain House – New Paltz, NY
Blending fun and play with learning and adventure, this resort was named one of the "Best Hotel Kids' Programs" in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure. The Kids' Club is open daily throughout the summer and most weekends throughout the year, giving children and teens an opportunity to play tennis, take a hike, or hunt for fossils. Guests can explore the grounds on horseback with guided trail rides while tiny visitors can take a pony ride. A pristine lake offers paddle boating and row boating, canoeing, and fishing. There's really no need to leave the grounds—but if you do, there's lots more to explore in New Paltz!
Rocking Horse Ranch – Highland, NY
This all-inclusive family resort is a definite crowd-pleaser in summer or winter. Rocking Horse Ranch provides non-stop activities for all ages, including an indoor water park, horseback riding, snow tubing, skiing, live entertainment, and more. Supervised kids' programs, including the Wild Buckaroos Kid's Club and Little Tykes Nursery, allow kids to have fun while parents enjoy some grown-up activities, including spa services. In-room babysitting is available, too!
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the resorts/hotels