25 Vacation Spots Where You and the Kids Can Get Your Splash On
Camp Long Creek at Big Cedar Lodge, Table Rock Lake, Ridgedale, MO
You’ll be tempted to stay in the Ozarks awhile at the just-debuted Camp Long Creek at Big Cedar Lodge, especially once you splurge on a water ski school outing for up to six passengers. Put your kids to shame with the muscle memory of slaloming during your own summers (yass, queens, Mom can still get up on one ski!).
From $229/night; bigcedar.com
Grand View Lodge Spa & Golf Resort, Gull Lake, Nisswa, MN
That license plate motto, “10,000 lakes”? Get a sampling on Gull Lake at the Grand View Lodge Spa & Golf Resort, which just opened a 60-room boutique offshoot called North. You’ll never compete for Kadima real estate with 2,500 feet of beachfront. And the 54 holes of golf? Surely your kids will caddie when bribed with a chance to drive the cart.
From $225/night; grandviewlodge.com
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Shore Lodge, Payette Lake, McCall, ID
Kayaking and jet skiing will seem tame compared to cliff jumping off granite outcrops, but you can do it all at this 77-room lakefront resort. After rafting on the nearby Salmon or Snake rivers, hang by the Lodge’s fire pit, which overlooks Payette Lake.
From $260/night; shorelodge.com
Lakeway Resort & Spa, Lake Travis, Lakeway, TX
Just 22 miles from the hipster central that is Austin, you’ll find the Lakeway Resort & Spa. Set the kids loose on kayaks and paddleboards at the adjacent marina while you spend time at the (favorite words in the English language) adults-only pool and its (second-favorite words) swim-up bar.
From $299/night; lakewayresortandspa.com
Sunriver Resort, a Destination Hotel, Deschutes River, Sunriver, OR
If you could catch a drone’s-eye view of the Deschutes River, you’d spy a parade of rafts carrying floating passengers through the scenic wilderness of Central Oregon. From your home base at the Sunriver Resort, toggle between river float trips, horseback rides and golf.
From $180/night; destinationhotels.com
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey, Ranch Scottsdale, AZ
Ten pools, 20 fountains, 45 waterfalls (including one dubbed Big Gun “thunderfall”), a Grecian-style water temple (oh, how your daughter could get used to the goddess act) and a high-speed water slide—your kids won’t know where to start at this two-and-a-half-acre H2O playground. But we know where you’ll end: the adults-only pool. The gently cascading waterfall provides justtttt enough background noise to drown out the kids.
From $139/night; hyattregencyscottsdale.com
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Marriot Marquis, Houston, TX
At this downtown hotel, the sixth-floor rooftop has an infinity pool and (you know you’re in Texas when...) a Texas-shaped lazy river. If your kids don’t instantly name you parent of the year for teeing up the ultimate Instagram post, they’re crazy.
From $249/night; marriott.com
Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Remember that time you dreamt of throwing your testy teenager to wild animals? You can do it here for real. (Kidding, kidding!) The water slide shoots them through the center of a three-story aquarium teeming with sharks.
Rooms from $49; day passes for non-hotel guests, $25 (Monday through Thursday), $40 (Friday through Sunday); goldennugget.com
JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, Orlando, FL
Pit your spouse against your 16-year-old on the new AquaCourse 360, an obstacle adventure in which participants are harnessed in and traverse everything from swinging bridges to overhead buckets of water.
From $229/night; jwgrandelakes.com
Grand Wailea, Wailea, Maui, HI
Prepare for Aquaman transformation: Your kids will spend every waking minute in the nine interconnected pools at this splurge-worthy resort. They got whitewater rapids; they got waterfalls; they got a 22 mph water slide and the world’s first “water elevator,” which blasts up from the pool through lava-like rocks.
From $439/night; grandwailea.com
Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham, Cape Cod, MA
For all those times your kids complained about your cooking (no matter how butter-soaked the veggies), here’s to making them work for their dinner. Guests can arrange to set off from the shores of Chatham Bars Inn aboard the LobStar for a firsthand lesson in hauling, emptying and baiting traps like true local lobstermen.
From $189/night; chathambarsinn.com
Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, Kā’anapali Beach, Maui, HI
This beach resort is your one-stop shop for getting into the aloha spirit, between the nightly hula show and the daily outrigger canoe tours. Just prepare yourself for seeing family members way more blissed out than you’re at all used to.
From $205/night; kbhmaui.com
Solag Skim School the Inn at Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach, CA
If your kids are addicted to the skatepark (or, worse, the electric skateboards you got conned into buying), challenge them to the water-based equivalent: skimboarding. Pro Paulo Prietto offers private lessons just down the road from the Inn at Laguna Beach, a boutique resort with primo sunset views.
One-hour lesson, $100; solagskimschool.com. From $300/night; innatlagunabeach.com
Baker’s Cay Resort, Key Largo, FL
Your daughter, who’s always harping at you about the sins of your plastic straw use, will be in earth-priestess heaven when she communes with dolphins at the conservation center near Baker’s Cay Resort. She can hitch a ride on a fin—and also tag along with a real-life marine biologist to learn all about coral reef restoration. (But mostly she’ll be there for the dolphins.)
From $350/night; bakerscay.com
Sanderling Resort, Duck, Outer Banks, NC
Now that they’ve had a day to perfect their underwater somersaults, your teens are ready for their close-up: Guests can hire a pro photographer to do a deep-dive session—as in fully submerged—right in the pool. So let the Insta bragging begin.
From $399/night; sanderling-resort.com
SoundWaves at Gaylord Opryland, Nashville, TN
You’ve made a pilgrimage to Nashville to eat hot chicken and pay homage to Emmylou and Dolly. Your kids couldn’t care less, thanks to this new indoor-outdoor water park, set within the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center near the Grand Ole Opry (book a package for guaranteed access to the park). Your thrill-seeking kids can get their fix on the Beat Drop, where the floor drops out and they plunge down a tunnel into a looping water slide.
SoundWaves Water Experience package from $299/night; soundwavesgo.com
Great Wolf Lodge, Pocono Mountains, Scotrun, PA
The Poconos outpost of this fam-favorite chain is fresh off a $12 million reno. While your kids rip down the Hydro Plunge water-coaster, you can order “wine down” service to your newly redone suite.
From $219/night; greatwolf.com
The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark, Monticello, NY
The last time you saw them, your kids were racing headfirst down the Jiggerty-Jaggerty slide for the fifth time. If they need you (or, LBH, your wallet), you’ll be well hidden in the day spa.
Day passes $59; thekartrite.com
Tidal Cove at JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, Aventura, FL
This brand-new park is decked out with seemingly Mach speed water slides and VIP cabanas for mom and dad to chillax. Yes, the FlowRider Triple surf simulation pool is trademarked…as will be your Mom Moves after you drop in.
Day passes from $75; jwturnberry.com/tidalcove
Big Rivers Waterpark & Gator Bayou Adventure Park, New Caney, TX
If a Tough Mudder obstacle course took itself way less seriously and had vacay vibes, it might resemble Wild Isle, which has ladders, slides and trampolines—all floating on a lake for your kids to romp on.
General admission, $45/adult, $35/children under 4 feet; bigriverswaterpark.com
Yankee Freedom III Ferry, Dry Tortugas National Park, FL
Your wannabe Jack Sparrow will die for the IRL Pirates of the Caribbean that is this marine sanctuary/19th-century fort located 70 miles off Key West. It’s BYO sword but not BYO flippers: Yankee Freedom III day trips include round-trip ferry service, breakfast, lunch and snorkeling equipment—so the whole fam can spot everything from tropical fish to starfish and queen conchs.
Adults, $180; children 4 to 16, $125; drytortugas.com
Yorktown Sailing Charters, Yorktown, VA
For the budding sailor and the Hamilton diehard (and Peggy!), there’s the two-hour cruise aboard Yorktown Sailing Charter’s schooner Alliance. As they figure out what the bejabbers a jibboom is, everyone will learn about the Battle of Yorktown.
(Don’t be shocked when your AP history buff gets all “OMG, Mom, Revolutionary War, not Civil!”)
Adults, $37; children 12 and under, $25; sailyorktown.com
Roseland Wake Park, Canandaigua, NY
When you don’t have a boat and the beach is too far—but your kid wants to rip it like Kelly Slater—head to New York’s Finger Lakes region. Beginners can learn all the wakeboarding fundamentals at Roseland Wake Park, which has the Northeast’s only full-size cable system, pulling up to nine simultaneous riders.
Two-hour passes, $35; private lessons, $100; roselandwakepark.com
Liquid Descent, Idaho Springs, CO
Your kid can re-enact The Revenant (minus the grizzly bear attack!) shooting down class II and III rapids on Clear Creek. Local outfitter Liquid Descent pairs whitewater rafting trips with dips in riverside hot springs (you’re welcome, sore muscles).
Age 13 and up, from $55; 12 and under, from $50; coloradorafting.com
River Ventures, Crystal River, FL
Manatees are like teddy bears crossed with chocolate Labs crossed with your-guess-is-as-good-as-ours, which is to say: They are indescribably adorable, and your kids will fall in love. They’ll want to jump out of their kayak and hug one feeding beneath the water in this home to the largest population of West Indian manatees in the world. (Unfortunately, that’s a hard no, but River Ventures can get them pretty close.)
Swim and paddle tour, $74 per person; riverventures.com