Wednesday, December 1, 2021

    The best hotels for families in the US

    The best hotels for families in the US

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    Best Family friendly Hotel Roundup 4X3

    JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort; Grand Wailea Maui Resort; Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

    • Expectations are high when it comes to planning a family vacation and picking a hotel to please all is no easy task.
    • From picky eater toddlers to too-cool-to-hang teens, tired parents, and potentially mobility-restricted grandparents, there’s a lot to consider — especially when adhering to a budget.  
    • We sorted through top-rated hotels in the US and selected well-reviewed properties that deliver on spacious rooms, family-friendly perks, amenities such as water parks and kids’ activities, and offer accessible prices from budget-friendly rooms starting at $149 to worthy splurges at $651.
    • Read all Business Insider Hotel Reviews here.

    A note from your Insider Reviews travel editor: Coronavirus has interrupted travel on a global scale forcing travelers to cancel and reassess plans in the coming weeks and months. We understand that right now is a challenging time to plan travel. But when this time passes and things return to normal, we know you’ll be eager to explore the world again.

    Whenever that happens for you, and we know it will, we hope our travel content helps you make informed, useful, and inspiring choices on the best places and hotels to book. So whether you use our reviews now, bookmark them for the future, or simply need an escape from the news, we’ll continue to share the world with you. In the meantime, we encourage all travelers to stay safe, follow guidelines from the CDC website, and take precautions.

    Choosing a hotel for a family vacation can be daunting. There’s a lot of pressure to please a range of personalities, from young children who need safe play areas to teens who want their own space, and parents seeking relaxation.

    And that’s not all. A great family vacation hotel needs to hit the right blend of on-site activities to keep kids busy, while still offering a vacation parents and even grandparents will appreciate, too. And of course, rooms should be spacious so everyone isn’t on top of each other, or better yet, come with multi-bedroom options. And all of that needs to be priced affordably for the average family.

    I’ve spent several years covering family travel and a writer and editor and as such, I’ve combed through, stayed at, and compared hundreds of hotels across the country. I know that it takes a lot more than a basement kids’ club or a dinky playground slide to impress, and can firmly vouch that each of these properties brings the wow factor when it comes to meeting family needs.

    I’ve carefully selected the best family vacation hotels based on my own experience, along with insights from other families and industry colleagues, plus past traveler reviews and rankings on sites such as Trip Advisor and Scattered across the US, each one of these hotels goes above and beyond to deliver strong family offerings, whether that means unique kids’ programming, large rooms with full kitchens, or incredible amenities such as sprawling waterparks and VIP theme park access. 

    Additionally, all are rated at least 8 and above on, and 4 out of 5-stars on Trip Advisor. Properties range from perk-filled ski-in/ski-out hotels to multi-bedded coastal beach retreats, and top-notch Disney resorts.

    Nearly all the hotels start under $400 in low season with the cheapest option starting at just $149 per night. There are a couple of options for those looking to splurge too and make a compelling case for spending a bit extra for an outstanding location or impeccable family amenities and activities.

    Read on for the best family vacation hotels in the US, sorted by price from low to high.

    The Magic Castle Hotel – Los Angeles, CA

    The Magic Castle Hotel

    Book The Magic Castle Hotel starting at $149 per night

    The Magic Castle Hotel is not officially associated with its exclusive neighbor, the Magic Castle Club, but staying here provides access to the iconic landmark that has served as the headquarters of the Academy of Magical Arts for over 50 years. It bills itself as the “most unusual private club in the world,” and is a famous gathering spot for magicians and magic enthusiasts. 

    At the hotel, budget-friendly apartment-style suites sleep up to six guests and come with full kitchens, and include breakfast. The rooms are extremely basic, and could generally use a refresh, but the hotel makes up for it with perks like a free snack bar, free daily ice cream, and a magical popsicle hotline that kids will surely get a kick out of using.

    The property is also conveniently located just a few minutes from Universal Studios, and there’s a heated on-site pool with a few scattered lounge chairs. Laundry service is also free, which means families can pack lighter.  

    Trip Advisor Ranking: 6 of 380 hotels in Los Angeles Rating: 8.8 out of 10

    Pros: A budget-friendly stay near Universal Studios with great family perks like apartment-style rooms, free snacks, breakfast included, and complimentary laundry service. 

    Cons: The rooms are very basic and could use a refresh.

    The Limelight Hotel Snowmass – Snowmass, CO

    best family vacation hotels limelight snowmass

    Limelight Hotel Snowmass

    Book The Limelight Hotel Snowmass starting at $159 per night

    Aspen Snowmass is a popular mountain destination for families seeking a ski vacation and The Limelight Hotel Snowmass is the mountain’s newest hotel built with kids in mind. It has an open-concept plan with a courtyard area for games in the summer, which turns into an ice rink during winter. The on-site game room, two large swimming pools, and 55-foot climbing wall run by Aspen Skiing Company is free for hotel guests keeps active kids busy. 

    The rooms have simple but cozy decor, and families needing more space can book multi-bedroom residence condos with kitchens and slope views. The hotel is ski-in/ski-out in winter so there’s no need to haul equipment at the end of the day. It’s also an excellent summer destination with hiking outside the front door, and the nearby Breathtaker Alpine Coaster does just what its name implies.  

    Trip Advisor ranking: 7 of 18 hotels in Snowmass rating: 9.3 out of 10

    Pros: A new ski-in/ski-out hotel with plenty of activities and programming to keep kids active, including a climbing wall, swimming pools, game room, and more.

    Cons: During the most popular winter months prices can soar into the $400s.

    Kingsmill Resort – Williamsburg, VA

    Kingsmill Resort

    Book Kingsmill Resort starting at $169 per night

    In Colonial Williamsburg, kids and families can learn about the foundations of our country in a thrilling way thanks to a living-history museum with interactive simulations and fascinating artifacts. After a day of strolling through the past, retreat to Kingsmill Resort, a hotel firmly rooted in the present with a host of great family amenities. 

    Set on hundreds of acres along the James River, Kingsmill was founded by the Busch Family, as in Budweiser Beer and Busch Gardens amusement park (which is not far away). The sprawling property has plenty of water features (lazy river, waterslide, outdoor pool, indoor pool, hot tubs, and more), plus two 18-hole golf courses (including family golf), tennis courts, miles of biking paths, and more. There’s also a full-service marina where guests can rent jet skis, pontoon boats, kayaks, and paddle boards. 

    The resort offers basic guest rooms, as well as one-, two-, and three-bedroom condos. If you really want to stretch out, splurge on the four-bedroom estate that was once the private mansion for the Busch Family with its own private chef and custom golf carts for getting around.

    Trip Advisor ranking: 11 of 70 hotels in Williamsburg rating: 9 out of 10

    Pros: A large resort conveniently located by Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens Williamsburg (with free shuttle service), and Water Country USA water park. There are plenty of restaurants and activities on-site, so you never really need to leave the property.

    Cons: Condo buildings do not feature elevators, and the daily mandatory resort fees that start at $22 do not include all activities.

    Congress Hall – Cape May, NJ

    best family vacation hotels congress hall

    Congress Hall Hotel

    Book Congress Hall starting at $206 per night

    Overlooking Cape May’s wide beach on the southern New Jersey Shore, Congress Hall is one of the most historic hotels in America, dating back to 1816. The property was opened by a developer named Thomas Hughes, who thought Americans would like to have a vacation getaway by the ocean. He was right: Over the years, Congress Hall has hosted plenty of families in search of sun, fun, and relaxation, as well as five presidents. It even used to be called the Summer White House.

    The L-shaped yellow brick hotel has a wide porch lined with rocking chairs, a sprawling lawn, two pools (one is adults-only), as well as classic Adirondack chairs. Families love the varied programming, including bonfires with s’mores, croquet on the lawn, wilderness adventures, sock hops, and more. There are also several places to eat, including the buzzing Blue Pig Tavern, the Boiler Room (a basement pizza parlor), Tommy’s Folly Café for light bites, and the poolside cafe. 

    In the summer, rent a cabana on the beach and watch dolphins frolic in the waves. Guests may also take excursions to Beach Plum Farm, a 62-acre working farm that supplies many of the ingredients for the hotel’s restaurants.

    Trip Advisor ranking: 12 of 37 hotels in Cape May rating: 9.2 out of 10

    Pros: This historic hotel is conveniently located just a few steps to the beach in one direction and downtown Cape May in the other, so you don’t need a car when staying here.

    Cons: Rooms overlooking the porch may experience noise carrying from guests talking downstairs. The hotel’s restaurants are popular with locals and can book up fast; make reservations in advance.

    The Phoenician – Scottsdale, AZ

    best family vacation hotels phoenician booking

    Book The Phoenician starting at $215 per night

    A desert oasis in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Phoenician is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, and is an excellent spot to earn or use Bonvoy points for a sophisticated stay ensconced in nature.

    Families can choose from different levels of accommodations including the main resort, the Canyon Suites, and the Phoenician Residences. While the Residences come at a higher price, they include multiple bedrooms and full kitchens. However, even standard rooms at the main resort come with plenty of space and start at a generous 530 square feet.

    Surrounded by 250 acres, the resort features serene mountain views reminiscent of Palm Springs, and a large outdoor pool complex dotted with palm trees. Lounge decks, cabanas, a nearly 200-foot water slide, and a Kid Zone with a suspension bridge and tree house can all be found at the impressive pool area. 

    Daily activity options range from property sculpture tours to nature hikes and a round of golf. The Funicians Club is for kids ages 5-12 with fun half and full-day options like Cactus Garden tours, arts and crafts projects, and playing with the resident bearded dragon, but does incur an additional daily fee. Other amenities include tennis courts, bike rentals, a game room, as well as a peaceful spa and calmer adults-only rooftop pool.

    There are eight different on-site dining options including a steakhouse, poolside Mediterranean casual spot, a grab-and-go market, and more. The resort also hosts seasonal culinary events.

    Trip Advisor ranking: 19 of 83 hotels in Scottsdale rating: 9.3 out of 10     

    Pros: A relaxing retreat in the desert with mountain views, multiple room categories, and everything from tennis and pool complexes to a kids’ club and game room to keep younger guests entertained. A spa and adults-only pool means grownups can have fun, too. 

    Cons: Paying for food, the kids’ club, and the resort fee, on top of the room rate, can quickly add up.

    Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa – San Antonio, TX

    best family vacation hotels hyatt regency hill country

    Hyatt Hotels Corporation

    Book the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa starting at $219 per night

    The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa is 20 minutes from downtown San Antonio and makes a strong case for staying outside the center with sprawling grounds and a curated slate of programming and activities.

    The standard rooms are fairly simple when it comes to decor and amenities, but rustic details like wood panel art and leather armchairs add charm. Rooms with two beds only come with Double beds, not Queens, so parents will have to squeeze or opt for two rooms, or a suite.

    Family-friendly activities include making s’mores at fire pits, outdoor movies on the lawn, and ranger-led nature walks. The hotel even has its own mascot, Sammy the Squirrel, who will pose for photos with the kids for a souvenir. Like most Hyatt properties, Camp Hyatt is available for kids ages 4 to 10. During popular times like spring break, the hotel offers additional activities like organized water balloon tosses, animal encounters, and flag football tournaments.   

    But the best kid-friendly feature by far is the whopping 5-acre water park with a lazy river surrounded by oak trees. It even looks and feels like a true natural body of water. Kids can also take a turn on the two-story waterslide and FlowRider wave machine, while parents go for a dip in the adults-only pool.

    Trip Advisor ranking: 33 of 368 hotels in San Antonio rating: 8.9 out of 10

    Pros: A Hyatt property with a plethora of organized activities for kids, plus a massive 5-acre waterpark.

    Cons: While there are six different dining spots to choose from, the on-site food is mediocre. Luckily there are plenty of delicious barbeque options and other restaurants nearby.

    Nemacolin Woodlands Resort – Farmington, PA

    Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

    Book Nemacolin Woodlands Resort starting at $229 per night

    Set on 2,000 acres in Western Pennsylvania, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is one giant playground for children with an adventure center offering everything from bungee jumping to ziplining. 

    The resort also features two golf courses, a bowling alley, and a Wildlife Academy where kids can learn about lions, billy goats, and wolves through interactive educational programs. For an additional fee, head out on a Safari Tour of the area for up-close encounters and feedings with the safer animals. Pony rides and backwood trail rides are also available.

    Despite the emphasis on kids’ activities, there’s plenty for parents to appreciate, including elegant room decor, the luxurious Woodlands Spa, and the Holistic Healing Center. Rooms range from the stately Chateau Lafayette to the more casual Lodge, or even larger Townhomes. 

    Off property, Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater House is just minutes away. Plus, the entire city of Pittsburgh is ready for exploration an hour and a half drive away.    

    Trip Advisor ranking: 1 of 4 in Farmington rating: 8.9 out of 10 

    Pros: The expansive property and grounds make for one giant playground for kids, while the elegant rooms and upscale spa will keep parents and adults happy.

    Cons: It’s an hour and a half drive from the closest airport, so queue up a road trip playlist.

    JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa – Aventura, FL

    best family vacation hotels jw marriott miami turnberry


    Book the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa starting at $231 per night

    Located in Aventura, an enclave in North Miami Beach roughly 30 minutes from downtown Miami, this idyllic property with ocean views has an inviting resort-style feel.

    Standard rooms are spacious and suites with kitchenettes are available, too. But the real reason families love the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa is the new on-site water park, Tidal Cove. The park features seven epic water slides, a lazy river, a lagoon pool, and a FlowRider surf simulator where kids can catch the perfect wave every time. The cabanas lining the area are an ideal spot to take a break from the Florida sun.

    The property also sits on two championship golf courses. Kids and parents can work on their swing with private lessons and kids under 15 can play for free every afternoon. The hotel also offers engaging activities like scavenger hunts, cooking classes, and complimentary family photoshoots. 

    Trip Advisor ranking: 2 of 10 hotels in Aventura rating: 8.0 out of 10

    Pros: Tidal Cove, the new on-site waterpark, is an outstanding family amenity with everything from tubing water slides to a surf simulator.

    Cons: It’s about a 30-minute drive from downtown Miami so you’re not right in the city, if that’s something you seek.

    Inn by the Sea – Cape Elizabeth, ME

    best family vacation hotels inn by the sea booking

    Book Inn by the Sea starting at $249 per night

    A charming Northeastern coastal getaway is found at Inn by the Sea, a quick 15-minute drive from downtown Portland. Upon arrival in this scenic spot, you’ll likely feel more like you’re staying at your own beach house than a large hotel.

    The spacious, multi-bedroom Beach and Cove Suites are ideal for families with full kitchens, large living rooms, and balconies or patios overlooking the front lawn, where guests play games like cornhole or take part in family yoga. 

    A short wooded path leads directly to a picturesque stretch of beach, and there’s also a small on-site pool open seasonally. Special programs like art classes and gardening are offered, as well as Bug’s Life, where children dress up like insects while learning about the ecosystem alongside a naturalist teacher. 

    Even pets are pampered here. Not only does the delicious on-site restaurant have a special dog menu, but pooches enjoy their own turndown service, including homemade dog treats.

    Trip Advisor ranking: 1 of 1 hotel in Cape Elizabeth rating: 9.5 out of 10  

    Pros: A coastal beach getaway with multi-bedroom suites ideal for families, direct beach access, and unique kids’ programming options that take advantage of its natural setting.

    Cons: During the busiest summer months of July and August, prices can surge into the mid-$400s.

    Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach – Clearwater, FL

    best family vacation hotels wyndham grand clearwater

    Wyndham Resorts

    Book the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach starting at $259 per night

    Clearwater Beach is consistently ranked one of the best beaches in the US, aptly named for its truly crystal clear gulf. It’s no surprise the area is a hit with families with its soft, white sands, calm waters, and the nearby Pier 60, where a beach playground, bait house, and sunset views can all be found. 

    Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is a favorite beachfront hotel here that caters to families with colorful and lively decor, a large pool, and spacious rooms and suites. Most rooms come with a balcony or terrace that overlooks the ocean. 

    Kids will especially love the Winter & Friends Bunk Rooms decked out with dolphin-themed decorations featuring Winter, the star of the movie “Dolphin Tale.” Families can visit the real Winter down the road at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and a portion of the proceeds when booking this room go towards the care of rescued marine animals.

    Trip Advisor ranking: 10 of 96 hotels in Clearwater rating: 9 out of 10 

    Pros: A beachfront property located on one of the best beaches in the US. The dolphin-themed bunk rooms will be a hit with kids.

    Cons: The pool and beach cabanas get very crowded during peak season and it can be tough to claim a spot.  

    LEGOLAND Castle Hotel – Carlsbad, CA

    best family vacation hotels legoland castle

    LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

    Book the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel starting at $328 per night

    Kids who love playing make-believe can take it to the next level here with themed adventure rooms inspired by what else, Legos. LEGO woodland creatures await in the Princess rooms, dragons and potions are found in the Knight and Wizard rooms, and extra LEGOS are always supplied for playing. 

    The LEGO theme continues outside the rooms too, from the LEGO wizard who greets guests in the entranceway to the more than 2,000 models found throughout the property built by Master Model Builders, and the royal-themed LEGO restaurant. Building stations throughout the hotel give kids a chance to make their own creations, and LEGOLAND characters make appearances to bring the fun to life. Families can cool off at the on-site pool with interactive water features, or at an open-air movie screening.

    The hotel is located right next to LEGOLAND resort in California, but park admission isn’t included in the room price unless you upgrade and book a special package. 

    Trip Advisor ranking: 15 of 41 hotels in Carlsbad rating: 8.8 out of 10

    Pros: Well-located right next to LEGOLAND resort, and little LEGO fanatics can let their imaginations run wild in the royally-themed rooms and at building stations. 

    Cons: LEGOLAND resort park admission isn’t included and will cost extra. 

    Montage Palmetto Bluff – Bluffton, SC

    best family vacation hotels montage palmetto bluff

    Montage Palmetto Bluff

    Book Montage Palmetto Bluff starting at $395 per night

    In South Carolina’s Lowcountry, families will find a peaceful haven on the banks of the May River. In addition to rooms at the main inn, on-site cottages, suites, and entire homes are available. The five-bedroom homes can even fit up to 16 people, so multi-gen travelers, family reunion planners, and multiple families vacationing together can all find plenty of space here.

    Bikes and tricycles can be rented, and pedaling around the massive property is a great way to get outdoors, including exploring two big tree houses complete with wooden boardwalks, rope ladders, and slides that kids will love. There’s an incredible amount of on-site activities available, including tennis, kayaking, golf, horseback riding, archery, three pools, a maritime forest, and more. Particularly unique excursions include Dolphin Discovery Tours sailing through local hidden creeks and spotting bottlenose dolphins, and tubing excursions just for teens.  

    Young visitors can challenge themselves to earn Montage Merit Badges for triumphs like catching a fish, and everyone in the family will enjoy playing with the property’s canine ambassadors. In warmer months, family’s can stomp their feet to bluegrass, Southern rock, and jazz at the hotel’s summer concert series.

    Trip Advisor ranking: 1 of 6 hotels in Bluffton rating: 9.1 out of 10 

    Pros: A quieter southern getaway where there’s so much to do on property kids can’t possibly be bored. Dolphin Discovery tours, kayaking, tennis, and more are all right on-property.

    Cons: The hotel is located between Savannah and Hilton Head Island, but both are about a 30-minute drive away, so this is best for families looking to mainly stay on property.

    Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa – Oahu, HI

    best family vacation hotels disney aulani

    Disney Resorts

    Book Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa starting at $524 per night

    Hawaii is one of those destinations that’s on the top of every family’s bucket list, and Aulani goes all-in on family fun in typical Disney fashion, but without overloading on Disney paraphernalia. 

    Situated on 21 acres on the western side of the island of Oahu in the area of Ko Olina, Disney has encapsulated Hawaiian culture in every inch of this resort, including the lobby designed to resemble the inside of a canoe house. They even consulted with the local cultural center to get the details just right. 

    A central pool area is equipped with a lazy river, two adult pools, a snorkeling grotto teeming with fish, and two infinity-edge jacuzzis overlooking the ocean. There’s also a pristine beach reserved just for guests and the neighboring Four Seasons. Disney provides boogie boards, lounge chairs, and umbrellas for free, and the kids’ club, called Auntie’s Beach House, is also complimentary. Choose from a range of daily free activities such as sunrise yoga, hula lessons, and hearing traditional Hawaiian legends around the fire pit. 

    Two towers shaped like canoes house various rooms ranging from standard one-bedroom accommodations to huge Grand Villas suites. Some suites come with eat-in kitchens and washer/dryers, adding extra convenience. The rooms are thoughtfully decorated by Hawaiian artisans from the fabric of the duvets to artwork on the walls. 

    Trip Advisor ranking: 5 of 6 hotels in Kapolei rating: 8.8 out of 10 

    Pros: The nightly hotel rate might seem expensive but offers strong value given the fact that it includes kids club admission, family activities, nighttime entertainment, pools, beach activities and more. 

    Cons: That being said, on-site dining options all cost extra and can be expensive. There is a grocery store across from the resort so paying extra for a room with a kitchen could help off-set costs. 

    Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – Orlando, FL

    Grand Floridian Boat

    Sunny Chanel/Business Insider

    Book Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa starting at $651 per night

    There’s no getting around the fact that this hotel is the most expensive in Walt Disney World. However, it makes the case for spending the extra cash given the location right next to Magic Kingdom and perks like early park entry and VIP airport access. 

    There’s plenty to entertain younger guests, including the Alice in Wonderland water playground, and kid-friendly pools with water slides. But unlike the other hotels, The Grand Floridian sets itself apart with strong offerings for parents. Disney can be a frenzied vacation spot focused on all things kids, and parents can return frazzled and in need of their own vacation. Not so here. 

    Inspired by the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, this regal resort brings a sophistication factor adults will appreciate with a white-sand beach, high-end dining, pool bar, boat rentals, and a spa..      

    Trip Advisor ranking: 9 of 403 hotels in Orlando rating: 9 out of 10 

    Pros: This Disney hotel not only comes with great park perks but also allows parents to enjoy their own relaxed vacation despite the frenzied park experience.

    Cons: It’s the most expensive hotel in Walt Disney World and even standard rooms start at a high price point.

    Read our full review of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

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