Best Resorts for Family Reunions
Being the first to check out the latest high-design hotel may have a certain cachet, but for many families, it’s all about the tried and true. And for many families, returning to a much-loved destination has become an annual vacation tradition.
Related: U.S. + Canada Travel Guide
We talked to 13 clans like the Pickerings—families who travel to the same resort every summer (including one family whose repeat visits have spanned nearly 70 years...and counting). As the setting for milestones like birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries, the resorts have woven themselves into the fabric of each family. And meaningful rites of passage—swimming to the dock in the middle of the lake; becoming old enough to shoot pool in the lodge; bringing along a significant other—have become touchstones as each generation comes of age.
The Rosenbergers, for example, spend vacation days at Skytop Lodge in Pennsylvania’s Poconos, where activities range from Champagne celebrations and performances by the resort’s own orchestra to outdoor pursuits like canoeing and biking. Asilomar Conference Grounds, a cluster of rustic lodges spread over a forested expanse on California’s Monterey peninsula, has hosted the Berliner-Brady family reunion for more than 30 years.
Related: Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts
In Michigan, grandmother Carolyn Middleton still returns to the Inn at Watervale, a set of quaint lakeside cottages she first visited as a six-year-old. And so devoted is the Stephens family of Edgewood, Kentucky, to Georgia’s Callaway Gardens that a daughter named her son after the resort’s founder.
So click through and discover what makes these resorts so beloved to their visitors. Whether your gang is activities-inclined or beach-bound, whether you have cousins and grandparents in tow, or even if you’re a family of three—now’s the time to start a vacation tradition of your own.
Callaway Gardens Pine Mountain, Georgia
A seemingly endless expanse of forest is the backdrop for this nature-minded retreat 70 miles southwest of Atlanta. In addition to the botanical gardens that draw day visitors, there’s a butterfly center and a falconry program, as well as almost-daily summer performances from Florida State University’s “Flying High” circus. Enlist your crew in the family adventure program for waterskiing, stargazing, and scavenger hunts.
Guest Tip: The Stephenses of Edgewood, Kentucky, have been coming since 1974. Now that their group has grown to 29, they book five two-bedroom cottages, each with a well-equipped kitchen and screened porch. “We request the cottages closest to the pool,” says family member Jill Sutkus, who first visited the resort when she was three years old. “It’s hugely popular in the late afternoon, when the kids’ camp lets out.”
(Doubles from $139, cottages from $185; 7-day Summer Family Adventure program $2,701 for up to five people, including a two-bedroom cottage, a cookout, and activities for adults and children.)
Moorings Village Resort Islamorada, Florida
Equidistant from the buzzing streets of Miami and Key West, the Moorings Village is the place to bask in blissful solitude—with 18 cottages and an equal number of acres on this former coconut plantation, your brood has ample room to roam. Kayaks and hammocks dot the 1,100-foot white-sand beach, and local waters are an angler’s mecca. Cook up your catch in your private kitchen, a staple in each cottage.
Guest Tip: “We like to head across the road to the resort’s Morada Bay Beach Café , which faces west over the water,” says Ruth Ann McSpadden, who’s been taking her family to the Moorings Village for 17 years—and even modeled the back porch of their home in Long Island, New York, after it. “They serve drinks in mason jars with glow sticks, so the sunsets are downright magical.”
(Cottages from $375.)
Tides Inn Chesapeake Bay, Virginia
Built in 1947 on a former farm, the recently revamped Tides Inn is set on its own emerald-swathed peninsula between the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Budding sea dogs of all ages are drawn to the on-site sailing school; other kid-friendly offerings include a Fred Findley–designed par-3 golf course, fresh- and saltwater pools, and classic games such as croquet and shuffleboard.
Guest Tip: Allen Roberts has been taking his D.C.-based crew to the Tides each Memorial Day for 14 years. He recommends taking a paddleboat from the marina to explore Carters Creek, where you might see ospreys, blue herons, and pelicans darting about the estuary.
(Doubles from $319.)
Skytop Lodge Skytop, Pennsylvania
This Dutch Colonial stone resort overlooking a 5,500-acre forested estate in the Poconos has long been a respite for city-dwelling Northeasterners. Despite the buttoned-up vibe (dress for dinner, kids!), the outdoor activities are endless—from mountain biking to paintball—and there’s a new adventure center with a climbing wall. The resort goes all out for holidays and theme weekends.
Guest Tip: The Rosenbergers of Philadelphia, now on their 20th year of visits, go for Mother’s Day, when the resort hires a photographer to take family portraits and serves a seven-course dinner followed by dancing to a 16-piece orchestra.
(Doubles from $582, including meals.)
Hotel Iroquois Mackinac Island, Michigan
Time moves molasses-slow on this car-free isle, but most guests at the Hotel Iroquois wouldn’t have it any other way. The white-shingled Victorian inn hugs Lake Huron’s shoreline, a block away from the island’s quintessential-Americana offerings (think fudge shops and Schwinn rentals). The 46 rooms are a homey alternative to the area’s large-scale resorts.
Guest Tip: Mitzi Vander Kamp and her husband, Dalwyn, of Holland, Michigan, have returned to Hotel Iroquois with their kids and grandkids every summer for 12 years. “We book Rooms 102, 104, and 106—just off the side porch, which we use as our meeting place,” Mitzi says. “We play games on the wicker settees and listen to the clip-clop of horses.” Go on the Fourth of July for the annual stone-skipping tournament, a fund-raiser for the local library for some 40 years.
(Doubles from $320.)
The Broadmoor Colorado Springs, Colorado
Three golf courses (with lessons for juniors), a top-notch spa (with treatments for kids and teens), a movie theater, a tennis club, an infinity pool with waterslides, and an endless roster of outdoor activities: the only question at the Broadmoor is whether you’ll have time to do it all. New in 2009: one- and eight-bedroom cottages with beamed ceilings, wood floors, stone fireplaces, and verandas—perfect for larger groups.
Guest Tip: When grandmother Florrie Katchen (who’s been going to the resort for some 60 years) plans her family’s annual trip, she reserves a pool cabana for their entire five-night stay. “Now that our children are grown and there are grandchildren involved, it’s our gathering spot all day long,” she says. “Plus, it’s right next to the kids’ wading pool, and we have our own server from the pool café.”
(Doubles from $420.)
Sun Valley Resort Sun Valley, Idaho
America’s first four-season destination resort—founded in 1936 by a railroad tycoon and an Austrian count—is a family magnet in summer: there are 35 miles of paved bike trails, chairlifts to the scenic peak of Mount Baldy, and a year-round skating rink that’s hosted Olympians Scott Hamilton and Sasha Cohen. Kids flock to the six-lane bowling alley and the heated pools, which open to the fresh mountain air.
Guest Tip: The Leishmans have made the trek from their home in Bountiful, Utah, for 57 consecutive years; they book rooms in the apartment-style condos a quick walk from the main lodge. “The condos are great for families because they have full kitchens and laundry facilities, and bike paths winding around them,” says Nate Leishman. “On summer evenings you can hear the Sun Valley Symphony right outside your door.”
(Doubles from $275.)
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Active types will love the Stanley Thompson 18-hole course and on-site horseback riding. But for those ready to relax, a seat in the classic wooden lodge overlooking snowcapped Mount Edith Cavell and sparkling Lac Beauvert is just the ticket.
Guest Tip: Chris and Bill Pickering of San Diego, who have returned annually since they honeymooned here in 1990, book the same lakefront junior suite, Room 510, every year. “It’s not as palatial—or expensive—as the cottages,” says mom Chris. “But it has a picture window and an amazing view. When the kids were young, it was especially handy because of its proximity to the lodge’s game room.”
(Doubles from $163.)
La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club La Jolla, California
A resort with all the bells and whistles (12 tennis courts, two restaurants, a nine-hole golf course, and a kids’ club) is a no-brainer for those with children in tow. But it’s the extras—like charcoal grills on the beach and a staff that delivers tables and chairs for seaside picnics—that keep families coming back to this adobe resort just north of San Diego.
Guest Tip: For immediate access to the water (and additional prep space for elaborate barbecues), Les Smith of Kansas City, Missouri—who returned for his 59th year in 2008—likes to book the kitchen-equipped beachfront suites. “We’re in and out of our rooms all day,” says Les of his multigenerational crew of 15. “Our doors stay open.”
(Doubles from $379.)
Lake Crescent Lodge Olympic National Park, Washington
A fleet of rowboats provides the recreation at this hemlock-shrouded camp, where the absence of in-room TV’s and phones means more time outdoors. In 1937, FDR stopped by the main lodge (then a tavern with rooms for a men’s mountaineering club) and, over a breakfast of local trout, reviewed the proposal that created the surrounding national park.
Guest Tip: Though the resort has added rooms in outbuildings over the years, the Rasmussens of Vancouver, Washington (who have returned for 32 years), prefer the Shingle-style Roosevelt cottages. Built in 1938 and outfitted with fireplaces and rustic wood furniture, the cabins have plenty of historical charm—and romping room—for their extended family of 13.
(Doubles from $158, Roosevelt cottages $222.)
Inn at Watervale Arcadia, Michigan
The Inn at Watervale is something of a time capsule: a 19th-century main house and 17 cottages, set among sand dunes between Lake Michigan and the smaller, warmer Lower Herring Lake and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the afternoons, the kids catch up with their friends, paddling around the lake in one of the resort’s rowboats, combing the shore for the region’s fossilized Petoskey stones, or hiking the enormous Mount Baldy dune. Wednesday is barbecue night at the inn, with hayrides and locally made ice cream; Thursday brings bingo games in the “casino,” a hall once used for town meetings and dances.
Guest Tip:: “A Fourth of July reservation is hard to come by,” says 73-year-old Carolyn Middleton, who has been coming to Watervale for seven decades, but worth a try. On the holiday, Watervale’s guests gather on the lawn for a cookout, complete with deviled eggs and cherry pie. As the sun begins to set, the group makes its way to the beach with blankets and sparklers to watch the fireworks.
(Doubles from $170, including breakfast and dinner; cottages from $2,075 weekly, plus $32 per person per day for breakfast and dinner.)
Asilomar Conference Grounds Pacific Grove, California
Asilomar, on the Monterey Peninsula, covers 107 forested acres fronting the Pacific shoreline. The property still bears a striking resemblance to the 1913 summer camp it once was: there are the rustic Craftsman-style bungalows—no televisions, no phones; the ringing of a brass bell to signal mealtimes in the cavernous, beam-ceilinged dining hall; and a wealth of activities ranging from biking to bird watching.
Guest Tip: For more than 30 years, the Berliner-Brady clan has held their annual family reunion at Asilomar. Most of the group stays in the 14-room Stuck Up Inn, where light-filled hallways connect rooms that wrap around a courtyard and the living room is big enough to hold their entire crew, which includes some 50 relatives. On the final night of their stay, they gather at Viewpoint, a small cottage next door that the staff sets up with tables and refreshments to celebrate the past year’s occasions.
(Doubles from $143, including breakfast.)
Congress Hall Cape May, New Jersey
The Flood family of Ridgewood, New Jersey, marks the bittersweet end of summer the same way each August: they spend a week at Cape May’s Victorian-era buttercup-yellow Congress Hall hotel, which they’ve been visiting since 2001. “It’s like a summer house where you never have to lift a finger,” says mom Lorraine. The four kids (ages 11 to 15) practice cannonballing into the hotel’s pool and boogie board along the cabana-lined beach. The clan’s roster of field trips always includes mini-golf outings and strolls along the pedestrian-only Washington Street Mall for frozen-custard cones at Kohr Brothers. But their favorite activity?Reconvening on the hotel’s back-porch rocking chairs at the end of a full day, waterlogged and exhausted but ready to wake up in the morning to do it all again.
Guest Tip: Lorraine and her husband, Mark, sometimes treat themselves to massages at the hotel’s spa—or sneak into the lobby’s cozy Brown Room for cocktails before heading to dinner.
(Doubles from $309.)