2015 America’s Best Family Hotels
T+L readers found Aulani’s combination of Hawaiian cultural touches, kid-friendly activities, and a spectacular beach setting to be pretty magical, ranking it America’s No. 1 hotel for families in our annual World’s Best Awards survey. Overall, the top 25 hotels range from coast to coast, mountaintops to valleys, each offering plush, spacious accommodations and fun for both kids and grown-ups.
Related: The Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts
A day at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, TX, might begin with horseback rides and end with s’mores by the campfire—or Moonshine Margaritas at Shellers Barrelhouse Bar. In West Virginia, the Greenbrier hosts an indoor arena for games of laser tag on its historic 10,000-acre property. And just down the road from Epcot, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas features a strip of old-fashioned arcade games and a Fantasia-inspired miniature golf course.
Many kid-friendly resorts take pride in pampering families, from creative activities at kids’ clubs to available baby products to spa treatments cateringto all ages. The staff at Virginia’s Tides Inn, for instance, offers marine-inspired full-body scrubs as well as bedtime servings of homemade cookies and milk.
Related: World's Top 50 Hotels
This year’s crop of top-ranking family hotels is further proof that luxury and multi-acre water parks can seamlessly coexist. Book a room or suite at one of these 25 properties, and you just might make it a new family tradition.
No. 1 Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Kapolei, HI
On Oahu’s western shore, the beachfront Aulani embraces Hawaiian tradition while making it easy for families to feel at home—from the bassinets and baby-proofed balconies that come with most rooms to the complimentary kids’ club. Guests can explore the private snorkeling lagoon, relax in the infinity-edge grotto, or tube through the caverns on the lazy river.
Parents Love: Private, naturalist-guided hikes through Manoa Valley’s bamboo forest to a majestic 200-foot waterfall.
Kids Love: The Starlit Hui, a night of ukulele music and hula dancing hosted by Uncle, the resort’s resident storyteller.
No. 2 Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Keep an eye out for zebras, giraffes, and gazelles on the 43-acre wildlife preserve of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can spy wildlife from your own private balcony, or from an open flatbed truck during the three-hour signature safari experience. African influences turn up everywhere from the grand lobby with its thatched ceiling to the upscale restaurant Jiko, which serves piri-piri chicken and South African wines. Make a reservation for two and drop the kids at Simba’s Clubhouse.
Parents Love: A sunrise wildlife excursion, followed by a private breakfast buffet at Pizzafari.
Kids Love: The 67-foot waterslide at the savanna-facing, zero-depth-entry Uzima Pool.
No. 3 Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, SC
From the oak-lined-avenue entrance to the fictional family portraits, everything about this beachfront resort feels like an authentic antebellum mansion. It also has a comprehensive kids’ program, with everything from glassmaking and tie-dyeing to guided nature hikes, fly-fishing lessons, and archery. You can rent beach cruisers from the Bike Pavilion or head farther afield to soak up Charleston’s history.
Parents Love: Cocktails at the Ryder Cup Bar after a round on the seaside Ocean Course, the site of the 2012 PGA Championships.
Kids Love: Friday night ice cream socials at Beaches & Cream, the Sanctuary’s own sweet shop.
No. 4 Cloister at Sea Island, GA
The resort’s luxurious English manor–style suites come with a kitchen, a fireplace, and a balcony. Still, the kids will get antsy sooner or later, and when they do, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure on this Georgia barrier island. Try open sea kayaking, beach horseback riding, or skeet shooting. Indoor activities come courtesy of the children’s center and the movie theater.
Parents Love: Sunset cruises around the island aboard the Cloister Belle, a restored vintage yacht.
Kids Love: Learning how to bait hooks and cast rods on a fishing trip to the salt marsh.
No. 5 Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, FL
Let the kids loose at this Atlantic Coast resort’s 91,000-square-foot water park, complete with a lazy river, water flume, and multilevel pool complex—all while you relax on the stretch of pristine pink shell beach. Another perk: the convenience of staying in a two- or three-bedroom unit with a full kitchen.
Parents Love: Hitting the links at one of the resort’s two golf courses, designed by legends Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
Kids Love: The s’mores kits and hot chocolate served with a personal fire pit rental on the lawn.
No. 6 Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai, HI
Baby-proofed rooms with ocean views, a lounge for teens, and a dreamy location between white sand and lush rainforest are a few of the reasons to book your next family getaway at this five-star resort. See if you can spot a humpback whale from the wave-protected ocean pool or one of 10 seats at the ‘ULU Sushi Lounge.
Parents Love: Private chartered helicopter rides over an active volcano, followed by a picnic lunch in the valley.
Kids Love: Feeding the spotted eagle rays at King’s Pond, a snorkeling aquarium carved from lava rock.
No. 7 Tides Inn, Irvington, VA
This tranquil waterfront hotel has old-school charm and first-class service. The Tides Inn Marina, on-site sailing school, and paddle-powered watercraft also provide unfettered access to the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. And junior tees are available at the Golden Eagle Golf Club, situated around a 50-acre lake.
Parents Love: Any of the marine-inspired treatments at the Journey Spa. Try the signature Tides of Change for a full-body scrub and massage.
Kids Love: Milk and homemade cookies in the View Room before bedtime.
No. 8 Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, FL
Two hours from the crowds of Orlando’s Disney World, this Indian River County resort shares its slice of Atlantic coastline with nesting loggerhead sea turtles. And there’s plenty more wildlife to discover at the nearby state park and river preserve. At the resort, you can join a treasure hunt or an alfresco cooking class, or just hang out at the heated, Mickey Mouse–shaped pool. Accommodations range from guest rooms to three-bedroom cottages.
Parents Love: Kayaking among the manatees in the Indian River Lagoon.
Kids Love: The family-style Pirate Character Dinner with appearances by swashbucklers Goofy and Donald.
No. 9 Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, TX
Outdoorsy types who don’t mind a bit of pampering will love this farmhouse-style resort on the lower Colorado River outside of Austin. After a day of rafting and hiking the trails in McKinney Roughs, treat yourselves to s’mores around the campfire. Horseback riding, skeet shooting, and hayrides put a decidedly Texas spin on your vacation.
Parents Love: Moonshine margaritas and live blues performances at Shellers Barrelhouse Bar.
Kids Love: The resort mascots—Percheron draft horses, Texas longhorns, alpacas, miniature donkeys, and miniature horses—that roam the grounds and greet guests.Vote for your favorite hotels in the World's Best survey >>
No. 10 Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL
You guessed it: the theme at this Florida resort is nautical, from the brass fittings to the hardwood floors to the steak-and-seafood restaurant’s portholes. After a day of splashing around Stormalong Bay, the on-site three-acre water park, families can stroll along Orlando’s Crescent Lake to the lighthouse nearby.
Parents Love: Renting a 10-seat pontoon boat from Bayside Marina to navigate through the resort waterways—no experience necessary.
Kids Love: Being buccaneers for the day to search for treasure on a pirate adventure cruise.
No. 11 Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Families who stay here get easy access to the theme parks. Ferries travel from the lakefront marina to the front gate of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it’s a few minutes’ walk to the Epcot side entrance. The New England–style resort is more casual than the neighboring Yacht Club. It shares access to the Stormalong Bay water park, the Fantasia-inspired miniature golf course, and the pirate adventure cruises.
Parents Love: Wrangling bass on a guided fishing excursion.
Kids Love: Sundaes from the boardwalk-style ice cream parlor, Beaches & Cream Soda Shop.
No. 12 Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Lake Buena Vista, FL
This Florida resort embraces the Pacific Northwestern wilderness with its twisting network of pine tree–studded nature trails, rocking chairs, and cozy hearths. Of course, a rustic lodge look-alike wouldn’t be complete without a marshmallow roast around a crackling campfire.
Parents Love: Renting a 12-footer at the marina to sail around Bay Lake.
Kids Love: The waterslide carved from rock in the property’s heated pool.
No. 13 LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, Naples, FL
The spacious suites at this boutique resort have the added appeal of unobstructed, sweeping water views. Seek out dolphin pods on pedal boats or wave runners, or among the clouds on a parasail over the Gulf of Mexico. Families can also explore the flora and fauna of the surrounding wetlands along the raised boardwalk at nearby Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Parents Love: Drinking wine by the glass while warming up by the beach fire pit.
Kids Love: Tug-of-war, shell collecting, and lifeguard games at Kids Aquatic Camp.
No. 14 Stowe Mountain Lodge, VT
New fully automated snowmaking machines on Spruce Peak—visible from the floor-to-ceiling windows in some of the ski-in,ski-out resort’s cabins—all but guarantee fresh powder. And you get to warm up by a gas fireplace in your room afterward. While the mountain town of Stowe is a great place to embrace winter (the plaza becomes an ice-skating rink), it has its charms whatever the season.
Parents Love: The after-dark snowshoe tour through the Spruce Loop, followed by dinner in a yurt.
Kids Love: The Mini Me Facial and Massage offered at the Chillax KidSpa Lounge, complete with aromatherapy and cucumber slices.
No. 15 Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, Anaheim, CA
The private on-site entrance to Disney California Adventure Park is reason enough to stay at this Craftsman-style hotel, just minutes from the Downtown Disney District. Beating the lines will leave you with more time to cool off in one of the property’s three themed pools.
Parents Love: The selection of 450 international wines and seasonal dining at Napa Rose, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant.
Kids Love: An evening of arts and crafts and Disney films in Pinocchio’s Workshop.
No. 16 Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Lake Buena Vista, FL
Little tikes will love running between arcade games on the old-fashioned, brightly lit boardwalk along this hotel complex that was inspired by the Jersey Shore circa 1940. You can snack on saltwater taffy or wrap up a day at Epcot with dinner at the Carnival-themed Flying Fish Café (within walking distance).
Parents Love: Bike rentals for breezy rides around Crescent Lake.
Kids Love: The nearby miniature golf course modeled after Disney’s Fantasia.
No. 17 Reunion Resort, Orlando, FL
You can entertain the whole gang at Reunion, a sprawling resort six miles from Disney World but with its own bona fide attractions, from the on-site water park to the 10 pools. Activities at the kids’ club include scavenger hunts. Did we mention the three Signature golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson?
Parents Love: Golf clinics with links legend Annika Sörenstam, whose teaching academy lies just off the driving range.
Kids Love: The water park’s lazy river and twisting 110-foot slide.
No. 18 WaterColor Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach, FL
With 60 rooms facing the sand dunes, this refurbished retreat channels both southern hospitality and island charm. Families can easily explore the emerald gulf waters by setting out from the BoatHouse on kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or motor-powered crafts.
Parents Love: Hikes through the scrub and dunes at the pristine Deer Lake State Park.
Kids Love: The movies projected onto a giant screen in Marina Park at sunset.
No. 19 Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater, FL
Kayaking, paddleboarding, and soaking in the zero-entry pool are all in a day’s work at this chic and sustainable Gulf Coast property. When the Sunset Bell rings, head straight for the beachside fire pit. Book a suite, and you’ll get a full kitchen and deep soaking tub, too.
Parents Love: Prime-cut steaks and seafood (with an ocean view) at Caretta on the Gulf.
Kids Love: Painting with dolphins and feeding puffer fish at the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium.Vote for your favorite hotels in the World's Best survey >>
No. 20 Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, HI
At 600 square feet or more, the guest rooms here are the largest on the island of Maui. The five-star beach resort stocks a bevy of complimentary items (including high chairs, baby monitors, strollers, and video game rentals) and also caters to families with daily activities and pools tailored to toddlers and bigger kids. Guests can spot humpback whales from shaded chaises and enjoy refreshing spritzes from the attentive staff, all while the little ones bounce around on the water trampoline.
Parents Love: Handpicking cuts of meat, fresh fish, and local produce from displays for dinner at DUO Steak and Seafood.
Kids Love: Lei-making and ’ulu maika (Hawaiian bowling) at the free kids’ club.
No. 21 Hotel Terra, Jackson Hole, WY
LEED-certified Hotel Terra blends luxury and sustainability, with fair-trade organic cotton robes, reclaimed-wood tables, and discreet in-room recycling bins. It’s easy to feel pampered when your room comes with floor-to-ceiling windows, rain showers, and heated bathroom floors. The hotel comes across first and foremost as an appealing couples’ retreat, but T+L readers vouched for its family credentials, too. Consider that you can book a suite with a full kitchen and that you’re within a mile from Grand Teton National Park and ski-in distance from Jackson Hole Mountain.
Parents Love: The rooftop infinity hot tub with views of Teton Village Commons and the Snake River mountain range.
Kids Love: Ordering in wood-fired pizzas from Il Villaggio Osteria, the hotel’s Italian restaurant.
No. 22 Hotel Hershey, Hershey, PA
Built by Milton S. Hershey during the Great Depression, Hotel Hershey is bigger and better than ever, with 276 rooms and a 2014 renovation that introduced a grass putting course, a fitness center, and a revamped indoor pool. Explore the grounds by joining a legacy tour led by the resident historian or zipping through the wooded paths on a Segway. HersheyPark is just next door.
Parents Love: Gourmet sandwiches and salads served by the infinity-edge adult pool.And plenty of room to spread out in the Woodside Cottages, which sleep eight to 12 guests.
Kids Love: Maneuvering through The Odyssey, an elevated obstacle course with a zipline finish.
No. 23 The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WV
More than 200 years ago, travelers began using the Greenbrier as a home base while taking in the healing waters of White Sulphur Springs (used in spa treatments today). Interior designer Dorothy Draper, known for her sophisticated florals, put her mark on the 10,000-acre historic resort in 2011. Now families are more likely to turn up for the carriage rides, falconry, ice-skating, and sheer beauty of this remote valley in the Allegheny Mountains.
Parents Love: Bunker tours of the declassified Cold War fallout shelter.
Kids Love: Games of laser tag at The Greenbrier’s expansive indoor arena.
No. 24 Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa, HI
Grand is the operative word at this luxury beach resort, where the art collection includes 17 sculptures by Fernand Léger, the spa is Hawaii’s largest, and the lazy-river pool stretches for 2,000 feet. (Look for a water elevator, a rope swing, a lava slide, and a swim-up bar.) Get certified in the on-site SCUBA training pool or take advantage of unlimited use of paddleboards and snorkel gear at the beach club.
Parents Love: The Terme Hydrotherapy Circuit, a meld of water therapies that use a Roman tub, saunas, and Swiss jet showers (to name a few).
Kids Love: Taking a turn in the Fishpipe, a 90-second-long rotating-barrel water ride.
No. 25 Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley, Park City, UT
This recently renovated mid-mountain property resembles a traditional Norwegian lodge, yet has all the amenities of a luxury resort. The après-ski experience is top-notch, with slope-side valet service, jetted bathtubs in every room, and a 23,000-square-foot spa. It’s five minutes from Main Street and right by the lifts, with ski valets for every age.
Parents Love: The custom vintage-look skis, poles, and goggles designed by Stein and Bjorn Eriksen and available for purchase.
Kids Love: Being whisked through the backcountry by a team of huskies.