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When you’ve got children, a vacation isn’t really a vacation until the littles are taken care of. Sure, a resort might have a destination spa, fine dining, and a jacuzzi in the bedroom…but is there a kid’s club? What makes for a truly special family vacation are the millions of tiny details that add up to perfection: children’s menus, ample pools, welcome amenities, and a sense that mini-mes are desired rather than detested. We’ve compiled a list of the top spots around the country for families seeking a sublime stay. Here, spanning budget to luxury and everything in between, the best family-friendly hotels across America.
Best Overall: Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
No surprise that the top spot goes to a Disney hotel: Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is arguably the perfect family hotel. A Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence winner set on 40 acres, the AAA 4 Diamond hotel has long been the finest at the most iconic kid's attraction in the country. With more than 800 rooms, suites, and villas, the Grand Floridian’s location on the Disney property means guests are a short three-minute tram ride away from the Magic Kingdom gates, as well as a quick hop over to EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.
Dining options are plentiful here, including Gasparilla Island Grill for sandwiches, burgers, and salads, carousel-themed 1900 Park Fare (which also serves up an in-demand character breakfast), and waterfront seafood Narcoosee’s. For those looking for fine dining without kids, meanwhile, there’s AAA Five Diamond destination spot Victoria and Albert’s, Florida’s best restaurant, including a wine cellar with more than 4,200 bottles. The resort will organize in-room babysitters to do arts and crafts, read, and play games through service Kid’s Nite Out, allowing mom and dad some quality alone time. Wi-Fi is free, while both valet and self-parking are available for a fee.
Best Pool: Grand Wailea – A Waldorf Astoria Resort
There are pools — and then there’s the epic water complex at Grand Wailea in Maui. A massive 40-acre property directly on kid-friendly Wailea Beach, the Grand Wailea is a child (and adult) water paradise. At the heart of the resort sits the massive 25,700-square-foot, 770,000-gallon Wailea Canyon Activity Pool, featuring four jungle pools, five slides, a whitewater rapids slide, a rope swing, six waterfalls, grottos, three jacuzzis, a water elevator, and a swim-up bar. There’s also a shallow sand beach within the complex for the littles to paddle and splash around in, and free sunscreen and water stations.
When parents want alone time, the kids can visit the 20,000-square-foot kids club, The Rock, while mom and dad hit the adults-only mosaic Hibiscus Pool or the 50,000-square-foot spa — complete with Hydrotherapy Circuit, water therapies, a Roman tub, saunas, waterfalls, Swiss jet showers, a Japanese furo, and five specialty baths. Pool cabanas and casabellas for both Wailea Canyon and the Hibiscus Pool can be purchased up to a year in advance, and only hotel guests are allowed to use the facilities. Guests older than 12 can also take complimentary scuba lessons in the pool through DIVE Wailea. Rooms are simple but cheerful, many with beach views or pool views.
Best for Luxury: Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
When you combine the luxurious amenities of a Four Seasons with the childlike wonder of Walt Disney World, the results are magic, and this family-friendly luxury hotel in every sense of the word. Set on 26.5 acres, the 375 rooms and 68 suites are decorated in shades of blue and cream, featuring twice-daily housekeeping, balconies, Bose Bluetooth speakers, and terry cloth bathrobes.
Guests have access to the same coveted perks as those at other Walt Disney World resorts, such as character breakfasts, access to Disney FastPass+ up to 60 days prior to arrival, and extra magic hours (aka early entry into the park). There’s a five-acre playground, including a lazy river, waterslides, 7,590-square-foot family pool, climbing wall, and Kids for All Seasons kids club with beach volleyball, basketball, video games, and giant screen for movie nights. Many rooms have views of the firework displays at the Disney parks, as does the Capa rooftop restaurant.
Best History: Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island
Located on Michigan’s car-free Mackinac Island, the five-star Grand Hotel has been delighting summer travelers since 1887. Accessible only by ferry boat or plane, the 397 room, the 332,500-square-foot hotel feels like traveling back to the Victorian-era (and, in fact, was the setting for the iconic time-travel romance flick Somewhere in Time). Year after year, multiple generations of families return, traveling around the island on foot, bicycle, or by horse-drawn carriage to participate in a myriad of activities.
Offerings including lawn games, dancing, Quidditch matches, duck pin bowling, bocci ball, croquet, horseback riding, movie nights, arts and crafts, tennis, and pickleball. A 660-foot long front porch, complete with rocking chairs, is the ideal spot to relax. The 220-foot long pool is named after old Hollywood star Esther Williams, and features poolside food, free snow cones, two jacuzzis, and pool toys. Rooms are colorful, quaint, and individually-designed by Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper & Co; guests can choose from standard guestrooms, one- and two-bedroom suites, and private four-bedroom cottages.
Check out our picks for the best places to stay on Mackinac Island.
Best Kid's Club: Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
Aulani’s epic kid's club ensures that parents and kids will have a perfect stay. Located on Oahu’s small leeward Ko Olina waterfront community, the resort features twenty-one acres overlooking a quiet, calm beach ideal for kiddos. Disney touches are ample but subtle — character breakfasts and dinners, hidden Mickeys, sightings of Goofy by the waterslide — with numerous “regular” dining options available such as Hawaiian-themed Ulu Café, ‘Ama’Ama fine dining, appetizers and cocktails at The Olelo Room, a fish and chips shack, and a shaved ice counter. (There’s also a Four Seasons next door, and an off-property shopping and dining complex across the street, providing numerous dining opportunities at every price point.)
The complimentary kids club, Aunty’s Beach House, is a 5,200-square-foot kiddie paradise, complete with themed activities, superhero and princess dress-up, trivia, arts and crafts, fresh lei making, beach excursions, a movie room, video games, and a backyard play structure. Guests hoping for a bit of island culture can book the Ka’Wa’A lu’au, exploring the area’s island culture through a canoe exploration story, which can be enjoyed with or without kids.
While the kids are at Aunty’s, mom and dad can play a round of golf at 18-hole, Ted Robinson-designed Ko Olina Golf Club or get a massage at Laniwai — and if the kids want to join, there are group massages and salon treatments for the whole family together, too. And, of course, there’s the property’s water slides, lazy river, numerous pools, grotto, splash zones, and private snorkeling lagoon. Rooms vary in size and price, with everything from standard 382-square-foot rooms sleeping four to 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom villas sleeping twelve.
Best All Inclusive: C Lazy U Ranch
With activities for all ages — even infants and toddlers, as well as picky teens — the entire family will be in heaven at C Lazy U Ranch. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, the family-owned ranch is set on 8,500 private acres about two hours from Denver in Grand County Colorado. The resort features an abundance of outdoor activities, including fly fishing, swimming, tennis, mountain biking, a zip line and ropes course, archery, snow tubing, ice hockey, skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. (Whew!) Anchored in sportsmanship and horseback riding, the ranch allows even the smallest guests to commune with horses, offering pony and donkey rides for kids ages 3 to 5, trail rides, hayrides, a family rodeo, and extended outings.
Meals are served family-style, lending mealtime a lively communal atmosphere, with a full breakfast buffet plus a la carte menu, poolside lunch buffet, and formal four-course dinner in the main lodge. Accommodations are 40 one- to three-bedroom cabins — all within walking distance of the main lodge — many with stone fireplaces for a rustic yet elegant vibe, plus one 3,600-square-foot four-bedroom private villa called Midnight Trail Lodge. Daily housekeeping, nightly turn-down service (during high season), L’Occitane bath amenities, robes, coffee, tea, and cocoa are all-inclusive. There’s also a full-service spa, on the banks of Willow Creek, featuring both traditional and signature treatments like an outdoor moonlit copper tub soak with champagne and strawberries.
Best Skiing: Smuggler’s Notch Resort
Located less than an hour outside Burlington, Vermont, Smugglers' Notch is a mountain resort paradise. With numerous activities on offer for each of the four seasons, winter highlights include alpine and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, hiking, and zip lining. Three chairlifts are accessible from residences. There are eight pools and four waterslides, a 26,000-square-foot family entertainment complex called Fun Zone 2.0, plus two teen centers and a child care center featuring ski lessons, lunch programs, movies, dance parties, and variety shows.
Rooms here are large, clean, and quiet, with condos including kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces, jacuzzis, and mountain views — although some guests report the cozy décor is dated. There’s also a country store, sports shop, spa, and ski rental shop on property, as Smuggs — as it's commonly known — is renowned for its kid-friendly ski schools which accept students as young as three.
Best Activities: The Broadmoor
Located in Colorado Springs, the 100-year-old Broadmoor is a wilderness lover's dream. Guests report a supremely attentive staff that makes children feel welcome and family activities are plentiful, including horseback riding, junior tennis camps, an activity center with six lanes of bowling, two zip line courses, and more. Guests can paddleboard or canoe on Cheyenne Lake, and there’s also an 11,000-square-foot infinity pool with waterslides, a children's pool, two whirlpools, thirteen cabanas, and a pool café. Kids under 12 play golf for free with accompanying adults after 2 PM, while the resort runs an immersive camp called Bee Bunch for kids 3 to 12, featuring movies, games, field trips to the Cheyenne Zoo, arts and crafts, nature walks, and lunch and dinner (for a fee).
The hotel's 784 rooms and suites are large and elegantly decorated, with turndown service, Keurig coffee makers, stocked fridges, monogrammed towels, plush robes and slippers, comfortable bedding, and many added bonuses like terraces and fireplaces. Ten restaurants, plus ten cafes and lounges, ensure there’s plenty to feed hungry mouths, and mom and dad can spend adult time at the Forbes Five-Star Spa or at one of the resort’s three golf courses.
Best Waterpark: Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge is a veritable kids paradise with a 105,000-square-foot indoor waterpark tucked inside a 603-room resort. Located in Garden Grove, minutes from Anaheim and only three miles from Disneyland, the indoor waterpark keeps pools at a comfy 84 degrees, while the park includes 14 slides, four pools, a six-story funnel, dual body surfing experience, 20-foot free fall, tandem tube ride, water tree house, wave pool, and lazy river. There are also a variety of dry activities here, including laser tag, miniature golf, bowling, Yoga Tails (a morning exercise program) and Story Time (fireside bedtime tales). On top of all that, the resort also offers Cub Club, a roaming entertainment team providing crafts, dancing, music, and fun activities.
Rooms are specifically designed to be family-friendly, including Great Wolf themed suites with log cabin or wolf den kids’ sleeping quarters and bunk beds. Meanwhile, dining options include a character breakfast, a pizza place, poolside grill, and wood-fired grill, with in-room wine and chocolate or charcuterie pairings available. While the Anaheim location is Great Wolf Lodge’s largest, the company maintains indoor waterparks in sixteen locations around the country, including Colorado Springs, Atlanta suburb LeGrange, Mason, Ohio, and in the Poconos.