For our Friday Favorites we are talking vacations. Specifically, vacations with kids. Coming up with a family friendly vacation ideas can be challenging at times so it is always great to have some recommendations from people that have been there.
I should start this by saying that my kids think any hotel with an elevator and a luggage cart that they can ride on in the hallways is a GREAT VACATION, so they are definitely easy to please. See evidence below…
Growing up my family did almost every vacation by driving to our destination so I am going to start with a place that is within a reasonable driving distance from Chicago.
Wilderness Resort– Wisconsin Dells WI
aka, what my kids call the “Moose Hotel” (the mascot is a Moose and you can meet him when you stay at the hotel). This place has a little of everything and plenty of stuff that is indoors because with crazy Midwest weather, we need to be practical. From indoor and outdoor waterparks, arcades, mini-golf, go-carts and kid activities you can’t really go wrong. Plus, if there is a big group they have condo’s and log cabins so everyone can bunk up and enjoy the fun. It can get pricey during peak season (summer and holidays when the kids are out of school) but you can score great deals if you are willing to go during the week or off season. The town itself also has a ton of activities from Dells Duck Boats (which you can get on and off right on the resort), a cute downtown with little shops and plenty of restaurants.
Sea Pines Resort– Hilton Head Island SC
Now, this place is a family tradition. For the last 16 years my family has been traveling to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. This island is at the very bottom of South Carolina. And yes, we drive the 17 hours there over two days, with kids in the car. #passmommathewine or you can fly into Savannah and rent a car and drive the hour. I can probably dedicate a whole separate post to how to travel in the car with kids. We have always stayed within Sea Pines and love it, the scenery is awesome . The beaches are clean and not very crowded and is very family friendly. The resort has bike paths throughout the entire place and bikes to rent and that is the most popular mode of transportation around the resort. There are plenty of restaurants there and Harbour Town has the famous lighthouse (not to mention for all the golf loving Dad’s out there, it is home to the PGA tour event every year and has three courses on the resort). The popular times are of course whenever school is out but if you go at the end of May or beginning of June the crowds aren’t bad and the temps stay in the low 80’s.
St. Joseph, MI
Ninety miles from Chicago, St. Joseph is a charming town nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan. We were looking (last minute) for a long weekend getaway that would allow us to relax, play, eat and drink, and after a few friends suggested St. Joe, we booked a room and packed up the car. We stayed at the Boulevard Inn, an all-suite hotel, which was nice to have the space and refrigerator, since we traveled with our daughter, but it does not have a pool and is pricey. However, the location can’t be beat as it is right across from the lake and a block from dining and shopping.
Steps from the hotel is the Silver Beach Center which is home to the Silver Beach Carousel. The carousel features 48 unique carousel figures and two chariots and there are a few other activities as well. Since it was cool, but sunny, we made our way to the playground on Silver Beach. What is more fun than sliding into sand? The beach was clean and a great spot to burn off some energy. The water was too cold for a swim, but we couldn’t leave without putting our toes in. If you find yourself hungry, you don’t want to miss Silver Beach Pizza in the former Amtrak depot. It’s so good a 2+ hour wait for your pizza is normal.
The small town is also located in the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Country, has several good restaurants and quaint shops to check out.
Azul Beach – Riviera Maya
The winter blues hit us in January and we knew a warm weather vacation was what we needed. I contacted Hayley at Beach Bum Vacations (LOVE her!) and we got booked for Mexico. We went in March right before spring break, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Azul Beach is a family-friendly boutique hotel right on the beach and only 20 minutes from the Cancun airport. When I say family-friendly, I mean — Nickelodeon themed, Fisher-Price toys, Gerber baby food, baby monitors, kids club, and a playset on the beach. The hotel is an all-inclusive with several gourmet restaurants, 24-hour room service, five pools, beach cabanas, character meals, and a spa.
As we walked in to the lobby, we were welcomed with a glass of champagne, a green smoothie for the little one, a cool towel, and an assortment of pillows and aroma therapy options to choose from for our room. (#winning) We got settled in our room, which we booked a family suite and I would highly recommend, we checked out the pool and swim up bar, because vacation, and relaxed. Being early March and no heaters for the pools, the water was a bit chilly at first dip. The beach at Azul Beach is white and powdery, nice for walking on barefoot, and the water was clear. There are beach butlers to order drinks and bites, and fun activities throughout the day. We surprised our daughter with breakfast with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the kids club was a big hit for our daughter who cried when it was time to go at the end of the night. Every restaurant had a children’s menu and the food was delicious. We didn’t leave the resort, though there are plenty of excursions to go on if you want to get in some culture. This was our trio’s first all-inclusive vacation and it will not be our last. The size of the resort was perfect, the activities, the food, the drinks, the service – amazing! We cannot wait to go back (or to check out another Karisma property). If you’re looking for a family vacation, I cannot recommend Azul Beach enough. If you are not traveling with kids, I would look into another Karisma property because if they’re anything like this one, you will not be disappointed.