When you only have so much family vacation time, choosing where to go becomes a decision largely based on ROI — where will you get the greatest return on your investment of time and money? Of course, you also have to consider where the kids will be happiest with the activities and attractions available. Our annual list is here to help you choose where to go with 10 surefire choices for 2015!
Written by Traci L. Suppa
In 2015, SeaWorld Orlando also introduces a new show, Clyde & Seamore's Sea Lion High, and two new restaurants, Morimoto Asia and The BOATHOUSE, will open in Downtown Disney -- soon to be Disney Springs.
There are several new hotels in the area, as well, including Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World. A massive remodeling project at Disney"s Polynesian Resort will bring over-the-water bungalows and a large pool with a new aquatic playground later in the year, too.
Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, a family-friendly resort located just outside the park gates, is also celebrating an anniversary in 2015 -- its 25th. It"s introducing a new Grand Family Adventure Package, available January through March, to encourage intergenerational stays. Onsite, seasonal activities include mountain biking, rock wall climbing, archery, ice skating, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, sledding and kids snowmobiling. The lodge also has a Kids Adventure Club and Kids Camp, as well as a kids-only pool complete with water guns and mushroom water features.
Mt. Washington Valley, N.H.
In 2015, the Town of Conway -- the hub of Mt. Washington Valley -- is celebrating its 250th anniversary with a number of family-friendly events, including a Winter Carnival in January; the re-dedication of the Abenaki Indian Shop and Camp -- a historic Native American site -- in May, and a town-wide July 4th celebration with a parade and fireworks.
Beginning in April, BritMovieTours will offer a guided, three-hour Paddington Bear Tour of London, so you can follow in Paddington"s paw prints to some of London"s famous landmarks, film locations, as well as sites mentioned in the book series.
A more historic occasion, the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta on June 15, is being commemorated throughout England during 2015. Introduce your children to this important milestone of freedom in English history, which established the rule of law through the various celebratory events that will take place along six designated trails. Enjoy flower festivals, art installations, a town Ã¢â‚¬Å“fayreÃ¢â‚¬Â in Wiltshire with a medieval sport demonstration, and a children"s choir concert series at Salisbury Cathedral.
In Negril, Azul Sensatori Jamaica by Karisma Hotels (formerly Beaches Sandy Bay) offers multigenerational accommodations for up to eight people. On the north coast in Ocho Rios, the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande (formerly the Sunset Jamaica Grande) is the first Palace property outside of Mexico, and will feature the Playroom for children 12 years and under, the Wired teen lounge, and a FlowRider double wave simulator when it opens in March. The Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Golf Club features four international villages: Greek, French, Italian and Caribbean. In addition to a private beach, there"s a Pirates Island water park with swim-up soda bars, too. Also in Ocho Rios, the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall (formerly the Ritz Carlton) now offers five swim-up pools, a children"s program, and many five-star services, such as beach butlers and complimentary airport transportation.
This new program follows the 2014 introduction of the cruise line"s partnership with Chicco to provide childcare equipment on board - guests now have free use of strollers, backpacks, bouncing chairs, and bottle warmers. Chicco nutritionists collaborated with MSC chefs to create new kids" menus, as well.
MSC also offers a Kids 11 and Under Sail Free program. Four ships -- Armonia, Lirica, Sinfonia, and Opera -- are being renovated to include separate supervised clubs for five age groups: Baby (under 3); Mini (3 to 6); Junior (7 to 11); Young (12 to 14) and Teen (15 to 17). The line cruises year-round in the Mediterranean, and seasonally in the Caribbean, Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the French Antilles, South America, South Africa, The United Arab Emirates and the Red Sea.
Tauck created this special tour with the award-winning nature documentary filmmakers at BBC Earth, so there"s an additional tech element that will win over the most nature-averse teens. Guests will be able to utilize high-tech devices used by the filmmakers, like underwater cameras and motion-activated infrared camera traps that capture images of indigenous nocturnal animals. Tauck offers 19 family itineraries in Europe, North America, Africa and Latin America as part of its Bridges Family Travel programming.
On Tahiti, the largest of the 118 French Polynesian islands, families are welcome at resorts such as the InterContinental Resort & Spa Moorea, Le MÃƒÂ©ridien Tahiti, Manava Suite Resort Tahiti, and the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti. Beyond resort activities, family fun can be had visiting the Harrison W. Smith Botanical Garden, Museum of Tahiti, or the Point Venus Lighthouse. More adventurous kids will enjoy snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding, or renting a four-by-four excursion vehicle to explore the interior. You can also take an inter-island flight to Bora Bora to visit the sea turtle refuge at the Le MÃƒÂ©ridien resort there, or a ferry to Moorea to see the Dolphin Center at the InterContinental Resort & Spa Moorea.
Opening in the spring, the Camelback Lodge & Indoor Waterpark will include an eight-story hotel with a 125,000-square-foot themed indoor adventure water park -- the largest in the northeastern U.S. With this addition, the 50-year old Camelback Mountain resort also adds a luxury spa and conference space to its outdoor recreation programs, which include skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing, zip lining, a ropes course, mountain coaster and Segway tours.
In July, Kalahari Resorts will open a $230-million, 150-acre complex featuring 457 African-themed guestrooms, as well as indoor and outdoor water parks. Much like the Kalahari resorts in Wisconsin Dells and Sandusky, Ohio, this property will feature Kamp Kalahari activities, a 30,000-square-foot Family Entertainment Center with bowling and mini-golf, several dining options, and a spa.
St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Fla.
The award-winning, white sand beaches of Clearwater and St. Pete are enough of a draw for families, but this destination is also home to miles of biking trails and other parks and natural attractions, sports venues, and historic sites, as well as cultural and science attractions. Magnificent sunsets are celebrated nightly on Pier 60, with street performers, kids" activities, live music, and free weekend movie screenings. And you can still visit Winter, the dolphin who inspired Ã¢â‚¬Å“Dolphin Tale,Ã¢â‚¬Â along with her companion, Hope, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). After the original movie was released in 2011, this marine rehabilitation center expanded and introduced new programming. In the fall of 2015, it will break ground on an entirely new marine rescue center in downtown Clearwater with larger, state-of-the-art facilities to treat animals.
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