The Top Resorts for Families with Preschoolers

Frommer’s

Great Wolf
Vacationing with a preschooler can be a delight you remember forever. Their infectious giggles remind you of the joys of simple things--muddy sandcastles, big dinosaur bones, fireflies that glow at night. The slowed-down pace of park strolls, storybooks, and napping is relaxing, helping you tune into your destination. But let’s be honest—most of the time, it’s take the young’uns or stay home. 
 
A successful vacation with a preschooler requires planning. To accommodate bottles and snacks, consider booking a condominium or hotel room that comes with a refrigerator and a microwave. The properties suggested here provide family-friendly comforts and offer plenty of ways to play with your preschooler and most offer an engaging children’s program as well. 

Photo by Great Wolf Resorts

The Tyler Place, Highgate Springs, Vermont
The Tyler Place, Highgate Springs, Vermont

The Tyler Place
, an all-inclusive resort located on Lake Champlain about 11 miles from the Burlington Airport, has maintained the same philosophy since 1933: Give parents and kids lots of activities to do together and apart. Programs operate mornings and evenings, allowing families to be together in the afternoons. 
 
For preschoolers: The resort is a rarity. It welcomes newborns, divides preschoolers into five age groups and maintains excellent child to caregiver ratios. Each infant through 11 month-old and 12 to 18 month-old has their own caregiver (available 12 of summer’s 15 weeks). The personal attention soothes anxious parents and tots plus keeps your wee one on a feeding and napping schedule. Toddlers 18 to 30 months-old tumble, “work” in the children’s garden and splash in a kiddie pool, supervised by one caregiver for every two to three kids. Ages 2.5 years to 3 years fish, do gymnastics, and jump on a trampoline, watched by one counselor for every three to four children. Led by one counselor for every four to five children, 4 and 5-year-olds, bike, create crafts, make S’mores at campfires and enjoy pirate parties and movie nights.  
 
For the family: Swim at the indoor and outdoor pools; kayak, canoe and fish at the lake; and during the Vermont Family Afternoon, ride ponies and churn butter. First graders through 10th graders also take part in specialized programs.
 
Lodging: Cottage and suites, most with kitchens or kitchenettes.

Photo by The Tyler Place Family Resort

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York

“Go jump in the lake” has been a favorite summer rallying cry at Mohonk Mountain House  since its founding in 1869.  The property, situated in the Shawangunk Mountains 90-miles north of Manhattan, sprawls on 1,200 wooded acres. The castle-like main building, blooming with towers and turrets, impresses little ones.
 
For preschoolers: The Kids’ Club separates Tykes, ages 2 to 3 years, from Explorers, ages 4 to 6. Each group spends much time outdoors. Tykes search for butterflies in the gardens, take mini-hikes to the koi pond, and ride ponies (led by staff). Explorers go on scavenger hunts, run relay races, search for frogs, and play parachute games. 
 
For the family:  Boat and fish, hike on trails, scramble over rocks, go mountain biking, try disc golf, play tennis and splash at the indoor pool. An Adventurers program targets kids aged 7 to 12.   
 
Lodging: Hotel rooms and housekeeping cottages. 

Photo by Monhonk Mountain House

Smugglers’ Notch, Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Smugglers’ Notch, Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont

A top-ranked family ski resort, Smugglers’ Notch, 30 miles from Burlington’s airport, takes advantage of its Green Mountains location to offer slopes of fun in summer. 

For preschoolers:
Smugglers’ Treasures child center, with 5,400 square feet indoors and 4,000 square feet outdoors, cares for babies six weeks to 3 years old. Even Fireflies, for ages 6 weeks to 16 months, enjoy Vermont’s breezes while being pushed on swings or crawling in the screened area. Along with singing and painting indoors, Little Dippers, 17 months to 2.5 years, search outside for bugs and float boats in a water table. Little Rascals, 2.5 to 3 years, go on picnics, look for pollywogs and get wet at the resort’s splash pad. Ages 3 and 4 years can also join Smuggler’s summer camp. As Discovery Dynamos, they tackle obstacle courses, go on nature hikes, make costumes and join the Thursday parade.
 
For the family: Zip down waterslides, swim in pools and in the reservoir, craft puppets, and go mountain biking. Evenings bring family karaoke, bingo, outdoor movies and bonfire sing-alongs. The resort also offers camps and activities for ages 5 to 17. 
 
Lodging: Condominiums with kitchen facilities. 

Photo by Smugglers' Notch Resort

Club Med Sandpiper, Port St. Lucie, Florida
Club Med Sandpiper, Port St. Lucie, Florida

Stretching along east coast Florida’s St. Lucie River, Club Med Sandpiper, about two hours north of Miami, focuses on sports, offering tennis, golf and beach volleyball academies plus fitness and triathlon training. 
 
For preschoolers: At the Baby Club, tots 4 months to 23 months crawl and stretch at the Baby Gym, make music with toys, and listen to stories. At the Petit Club, ages 2 to 3 years, create art projects, go on walks, dress up, watch puppet shows, and play water games. At the Mini Club, geared to ages 4 to 10 years, 4-year-olds cool off at the Splash Park, step to Zumba tunes, go on treasure hunts, learn to fly on a trapeze, and participate in the weekly talent show.
 
For the family: Play bocce ball and ping pong, swim in the pool, and learn juggling, trapeze flying, and other circus skills. The Mini Club operates for ages 4 to 10 years and Club Med Passworld offers activities for ages 11 to 17 years.
 
Lodging: Hotel rooms as well as 2-bedroom, deluxe family rooms.

Photo by Club Med Resort at Sandpiper

Aulani—A Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaii
Aulani—A Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaii

Aulani
, presents Hawaii Disney-style. Located on Oahu’s leeward side 20 miles from Honolulu, the timeshare comes with larger than average rooms and Disney entertainment.  
 
For preschoolers: Nursery-age kids find magic in shaking hands with Goofy, posing with Minnie, and hugging Stitch, characters found at mealtimes at Aulani. Although most activities at Aunty’s Beach House, the children’s center for ages 3 to 12, are free, for an extra fee, your tyke can dance with Chip and Dale or feed the property’s fish. At the 5,200-square foot center, kids watch Disney movies, learn the hula, and dress up in costumes. The spa offers a lesson in how to massage babies to 2-year-olds—bring yours along. Through a service you can rent strollers, car seats and other gear.  
   
For the family: Have fun at the water playground, listen to Hawaiian stories around the fire pit, watch Disney movies on the lawn, attend the Shake-A-Shaka pool party with Disney characters, and enjoy hula and Hawaiian music at the Starlit Hui performance. 
 
Lodging: Hotel rooms plus deluxe studios with kitchenettes, and 1- to 3-bedroom villas with kitchens.  

Photo by Aulani—A Disney Resort and Spa

Great Wolf Lodge, nationwide
Great Wolf Lodge, nationwide

The formula for Great Wolf Lodge: start with an indoor mega-waterpark with tight security, marry it to family-friendly rooms, and mix in child-oriented activities. The more-than-a-dozen U.S. properties rate as kids’ water wonderlands, averaging 68,000-square-feet of ways to get wet. 
 
For preschoolers: While the waterparks differ in size and some attractions, all feature slides, bucket dumps, sprays, multiple pools, and the zero-entry Cub Paw Pool, targeted to toddlers. You and your little ones can float in an inner tube along Crooked Creek, a lazy river; climb a fort treehouse to shoot spray guns; and splash through several pools. 
 
For the family: Towel off to go bowling at half-length lanes and to play mini-golf. Before bedtime, gather for goodnight stories in the lobby. Older children can twist down slides, tackle a ropes course, hit the arcade, and take in Howly Wood XD Theater, a 4-D ride.

Lodging: Along with standard rooms, Great Wolf Lodges offer themed rooms with separate children’s areas. KidKamp has a tent-like space for them, Wolf Den creates a rock patterned nook, and the KidCabin offers a log-cabin area. 

Photo by Great Wolf Resorts

Deer Valley Resort, Park City, Utah
Deer Valley Resort, Park City, Utah

Located in the Wasatch Mountains, Deer Valley, a Park City ski resort, gains fame for its service and food. The property, 36-miles east of Salt Lake City, keeps its state-licensed children’s center open in summer.  
 
For preschoolers: The Children’s Center accepts little ones as young as 2 months old and divides preschoolers into five groups, all of whom go outdoors, even the Sunflowers, 2 through 11 months old, who wriggle around on blankets. One caregiver attends to three Sunflower babies. Grasshoppers, 12 to 18 months; Little Ramblers, 19 to 23 months; and Ramblers, 2 to 3-years-old, have a 1:4 ratio of caregiver to tots. The kids listen to stories, play lawn games, do finger painting and get pushed in strollers to feed the ducks at the pond. Ramblers also ride a funicular to the top of hill so they can walk down. Older Trekkers, with a 1:5 supervision ratio, ride the bus to the city park for picnics and kickball and also splash at the municipal pool two afternoons a week. In summer the Children’s Center operates Monday to Friday, not weekends. The resort also offers active programs for ages 5 to 6 years and 7- to 12-year-olds.
 
For the family: Go hiking, take a scenic chairlift ride, and enjoy the outdoor concerts.
 
Lodging: Hotel rooms, 1- to 3-bedroom condos as well as 3- to 5-bedroom homes. 

Photo by Deer Valley Resort

Winnetu Oceanside Resort, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Winnetu Oceanside Resort, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

New England summers are sweet at Winnetu, situated on 11 oceanside acres at popular South Beach, three miles outside Edgartown. The resort, along with recognition for its children’s programs, is noted for its food and laid-back élan.
 
For preschoolers: Little kids love a beach. At Winnetu’s children’s program, Red Lobsters, ages 3 to 4, collect shells, build sandcastles, and go for seaside strolls. The tots also finger paint, dress up as pirates, look for turtles in a pond, and tie-dye shirts. The program, like all of Winnetu’s complimentary children’s activites, operates from 9 a.m. to noon. At the free Pee Wee tennis clinics, tots 3 and older get a swing at the basics. Winnetu also hosts free morning programs for ages 7 to 12. The little and big kids also hop a ride on the resort’s 1956 pumper fire truck.  On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings in summer, for a fee, ages 4 to 12  play Frisbee, kick soccer balls and watch movies while  parents enjoy evenings out. In spring and fall, you can get programs for free on some days. 
 
For the family: Play tennis, bike ride, book a clam bake, and make s’mores around the fire pit.
 
Lodging: Hotel rooms, plus 1- to 4-bedroom suites with kitchenettes, 1–2 bedroom cottages, and 3–5 bedroom homes with kitchens.

Photo by Winnetu Oceanside Resort

Wintergreen Resort, Wintergreen, Virginia
Wintergreen Resort, Wintergreen, Virginia

The 11,000-acre Wintergreen ski resort in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, one hour from Charlottesville, two from Richmond and three hours from Washington, D.C., lures city folks with scenic ridgetop views and varied activities. 
 
For preschoolers: In summer, the Kids in Action program schedules plenty of outdoor play for ages 2.5 to 5 years. The youngsters go on nature hikes, try tennis, build sandcastles, and swim in the lake. At the Discovery Ridge Adventure Center, preschoolers climb a mini rock wall, swing through miniature golf, and jump on a trampoline while indoors, they play air hockey and foosball as well as try to ride a slowed-down mechanical bull. Kids In Action also offers activities for ages 6 to 12 years. Those 7 to 18 years old can sign up for golf and tennis camps.
 
For the family: Swim in two pools, canoe on the lake, take The Plunge (a slide that whizzes you downhill at up to 30 mph), and glide down a Zipline. In the evenings, listen to storytellers around a campfire, play bingo, and watch movies.  
 
Lodging: Hotel rooms, 1- to 5-bedroom condos and 3- to 6-bedroom homes. 

Photo by Wintergreen Resort

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida
The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

Oil magnate and developer Henry Flagler built the first Breakers in the late 19th century. The hotel drew Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, and other high-society callers. While upscale, the oceanfront property welcomes families and children.
 
For preschoolers: At Camp Breakers, the Shortboards club, ages 3 to 5, explores the beach, goes on nature walks in search of lizards and parrots, plays soccer on the resort’s green lawns, and creates chalk art. The Family Entertainment Center offers arcade games, an aquarium, and an arts-and-crafts space. Choose from half, full-day, and evening programs with dinner. Camp Breakers also has activities for “Longboards” aged 6 to 12, and ages 6 to 13 can take lessons at the Breakers’ junior golf and tennis camps.
 
For the family: Along with golf and tennis, parents and kids fashion tie-dye shirts, create sea shell crafts, enjoy bonfires on the beach, attend drive-in movies on the golf course, and cool off the zero-entry pool, perfect for tots.
 
Lodging: Hotel rooms and suites

Photo by The Breakers Palm Beach

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