PHOTOS COURTESY OF SOUTH SEAS ISLAND RESORT
Captiva Island, Florida
Why It’s Awesome: Just a short ride from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, this Gulf Coast island is known for its pristine, white-sand beaches, unforgettable sunsets and magical encounters with dolphins and manatees.
Where to Stay: South Seas Island Resort sprawls across two-and-a-half miles of beach and a 330-acre retreat and nature preserve. Stay in a villa at the Harbourside Hotel, or rent a vacation home to feel like you’re in your own private oasis.
What to Do: Spend your days snorkeling in the turquoise Gulf waters, walking the beaches looking for seashells, birdwatching or lounging under an umbrella. The massive resort has a spa if you want some pampering, or you can stretch on the beach with morning yoga while the kids splash in one of three pools and two water slides. Rent a golf cart and head to the famed golf course (with unbeatable vistas) and drop the kids off for sailing lessons at Offshore Sailing School.
Get up close to the dolphins and manatees by kayak, paddleboard or wave runner. Sign the kids (ages 6-13) up for Sanibel Sea School Day Camp, where they can learn about the marine life that surrounds them, or take them to Skully’s Family Interactive Center where they can do crafts or play lawn games.
Dine at the Harbourside Bar & Grill for fresh island seafood (they’ll even prep fish you catch!) or grab a seat on the deck in the morning for a spectacular sunrise view. Trade your traditional Philly hero for a Sanibel cheesesteak at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille (a local fave). End your day at a nightly gathering with music and amazing sunset views then wish upon a shell and toss it in the ocean.
What Else to Explore: Take an evening Captiva Cruise on the Gulf of Mexico or rent bikes and cycle around the island. The kids will love the Bubble Room restaurant and shop, where it’s Christmas year-round. Take a day trip to Sanibel to explore the larger island for more shopping and dining options.
Details: Off-season rates start at $179. Discounts available for longer stays. Rates include hotel, amenities and select activities. southseas.com
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MOHONK MOUNTAIN HOUSE
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY
Why It’s Awesome: Nestled in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley, this massive family-owned Victorian Castle resort is surrounded by stunning views of the Catskill Mountains. Set on 1,200 acres, Mohonk has 85 miles of hiking trails for all ability levels. Your stay won’t be inexpensive but includes plenty of activities like guided hikes, nature walks, rock scrambles and farm-to-table fare. You’ll feel worlds away from home even though the resort’s just a 90-minute drive from NYC.
Where to Stay: Choose a regular room or suite, or opt for something bigger like a lodge or cottage, which will make you feel like you have your own home tucked away in the mountains.
What to Do: A stay at Mohonk is all about being active while taking in some seriously gorgeous scenery. Ice-skating, fireside meditation and snowshoeing are go-to winter activities. You can take in spectacular foliage in the fall or go on a meditative walk (officially dubbed forest bathing) that’ll give you a new appreciation for the outdoors no matter the season.
In the warmer months, you and the kids can swim, boat or paddleboard on the lake. Horseback riding, carriage rides, mountain biking, rock climbing, disc golf, tomahawk throwing and tennis are also popular. If you’ve got kids too young for an advanced hike, drop them off at Mohonk’s Kids’ Club. The club is included with your stay and gets children outside on hikes while you take on more challenging terrain.
The other star of your stay will be the locally-sourced cuisine. Hudson Valley farms play a big role in Mohonk’s menu, which has kid-friendly items, too. Another plus: The resort’s main dining room features stunning panoramic views of the Catskills.
What Else to Explore: With so much to do, see and eat, you won’t want to venture off resort grounds. But when you leave, spend some time in New Paltz, a quaint college town. Visit Minnewaska State Park Reserve for a family hike or check out the mix of shops and restaurants on Main Street.
Details: Average nightly rates start at $660 for two, but midweek winter rates are $440 for two. Rates include three meals and most resort activities. Alcohol and special dining options are available for an additional charge. mohonk.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF NICKELODEON RESORT PUNTA CANA
Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Why It’s Awesome: This all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic is Nickelodeon-themed and totally unique. The kiddos will be greeted with a slime smoothie (grown-ups get sparkling wine), and it only gets more relaxing from there.
Where to Stay: There are traditional suites or extra-special ones at the Nickelodeon Resort that have patios with pool access right outside your door. Guests can even stay in SpongeBob’s pineapple home complete with a private pool, concierge and two stories of fun that’ll really make you feel like you’re under the sea.
What to Do: The resort is split into two halves. One side boasts the beach and cabanas, a massive infinity pool, swim-up bar, paddleboards and spa. There are a variety of restaurants catering to families who want to snack at all hours, or parents looking for fancier fare. We recommend making reservations at BRGRS.PH and ordering the massive Machete burger (you’ll need a big knife to cut and share). Try family-style Sicilian at Verdello or take advantage of all-inclusive in-room dining. Trust us, the kids will love ordering room service.
Hop on a chauffeured cart to visit the other side of the resort, which is all about play. There’s an indoor kid area with on-site babysitting, a giant ball pit and treehouse.
Your little guy won’t want to miss the character meet-and-greet area where he can rub elbows with the Paw Patrol gang. The water park area is the resort’s signature fun spot with slides, dumping fountains and even a sliming area. Squeeze in a workout, dabble in Spanish lessons, cooking classes or have a character breakfast with Dora the Explorer. You’ll also be treated to nightly musical performances.
What Else to Explore: Head off the resort for sailing and snorkeling, or plan a visit to the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park or Dolphin Discovery. You can also hit up a zip line park or take an off-road ATV tour.
Details: Nightly rates start at $199 per person. Kids ages 3-12 are free. Dinner at the adults-only Kitchen 23 and airport transport are an additional charge. nickresortpuntacana.com
PHOTOS COURTESY OF TOPNOTCH RESORT
Why It’s Awesome: Home to the Trapp Family Lodge of Sound of Music fame, Stowe is as quaint and charming as it gets. It’s the perfect getaway for families that love being outdoors all year. A mecca for skiers and hikers alike, Stowe is known for its vibrant local food scene, craft breweries, eclectic shops and art galleries.
Where to Stay: Topnotch Resort is a luxury boutique hotel with a cozy feel. Surrounded by Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and Spruce Peak, it’s a picturesque landing spot for cold- and warm-weather activities. The resort has two restaurants, three pools (one for adults only), a spa and tennis courts.
What to Do: In the winter, hit the slopes, go snowboarding or on a snowshoe adventure, try Nordic and cross-country skiing and compete in a snowman building contest. In the summer, you and your crew can hike Mount Mansfield, mountain bike, take a tennis lesson, hang by the pool or dine outdoors at Flannel, where you’ll be surrounded by mountains as you sip a local beer or signature cocktail. Pair your drink with the charcuterie platter, which boasts a range of local cheeses.
You won’t want to miss a visit to C.C. Putman State Forest, where our resort guide led us on a gorgeous hike up the Stowe Pinnacle Trail Head. Be warned: Vermonters consider this a beginner’s trail, but it’s actually a bit challenging. We took the 1.65-mile trek with a 7- and 10-year-old. By the time we reached the pinnacle, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the valley and the best photo op of our vacay.
What Else to Explore: Your stay won’t be complete without a visit to Ben & Jerry’s in nearby Waterbury. You’ll get a tour of the factory (go during the week to see it in action) and the kids will get to sample the flavor of the day.
Other can’t-miss activities include a visit to the Cabot Farmer’s Store in Waterbury, where you’ll get to sample a range of cheeses, or one of Lake Champlain’s shops to try Vermont’s most-loved chocolate. In the warmer months, take the kids on a gondola sky ride or zip lining at Stowe Mountain Resort.
Details: Topnotch off-season midweek rates start at $199 per night; resort homes start at $345 per night. topnotchresort.com
Editor’s note: Some places provided accommodations for review purposes, but opinions in the story are our own. Rates are subject to change.