25 Resorts in the U.S. That Are Perfect for Families
This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.
When a trip for two suddenly turns into a party of three (or four or five), vacation planning can get complicated — particularly, when it comes to choosing a property that caters to the whole clan, from tiny tots and tough-to-please teens to downtime-starved parents, and yes, even furry, four-legged family members. Finding accommodations that are not only big enough, but also entertaining enough, can be a tall order to fill.
The truth is, there are plenty of hotels in the U.S. that purport to prioritize families, but some go above and beyond with kid- and adult-approved amenities and atmospheres.
Take, for example, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming, which offers guests a choose-your-own-adventure getaway, with hiking, horseback riding, and fly fishing — all set to the secluded, stunning backdrop of the Sierra Madres. Or, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort or Wilderness Lodge, which feel worlds away — channeling the South Pacific and American West, respectively — despite being a short monorail (or boat) ride from the beloved theme parks. Some properties even throw in all-inclusive packages to make the planning (and budgeting) process worry-free.
Related: The World's Best Awards 2020
Every year for the World’s Best Awards, Travel + Leisure asks readers to rank travel experiences across the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers taking the survey even rated hotels on how well they cater to families. With that in mind, here are the 25 best family resorts in the U.S.
1. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming
Perched on 30,000 acres in southern Wyoming’s North Platte River Valley, the wonderfully remote Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch caters to folks who want to saddle up on a horse à la John Wayne as much as those who prefer to be pampered with sumptuous meals and soothing spa treatments. Simultaneously rugged — the unspoiled landscape encompasses rivers, creeks, parries, and the Sierra Madre mountains — and ritzy, guests here can pick their pleasure: fly fishing, sunrise yoga, mountain biking, massages, or dining around a fire pit. Interiors, too, pair rustic flair with luxe conveniences, like antler chandeliers, plush throws, and fireplaces. The all-inclusive rates only add to the overall ease, with all meals, drinks (even alcohol), and activities covered.
2. C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado
Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, just a two-hour drive from Denver, this 8,500-acre ranch resort beckons city slickers wanting to slow down in the Wild West: Picture guests on horseback, galloping through meadows, or holed up in the tented spa overlooking the river. The purposeful lack of in-room TVs and telephones is a literal breath of fresh air, encouraging both kids and adults to stay off their screens and get out into nature, whether that means fly fishing, mountain biking, or hiking in the summer, or snowmobiling, cross-country-skiing, and ice skating in the winter. In addition to a full kids’ program and convenient all-inclusive plan, accommodations also focus on families, with homey rooms and one- to-three-bedroom cabins perfect for multi-generational groups.
3. Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club, Florida
Florida may be flush with family-friendly hotels, but Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club in Fort Lauderdale stands out with a slew of perks that are guaranteed to keep kids off their iPads. Owned and operated by the same family for 60 years, the resort is home to a private stretch of beachfront, two pools, a mini golf course, tennis courts, games like ping-pong and shuffleboard, a full-service spa, and multiple restaurants and bars, which is just a roundabout way of saying you’ll never be bored. Plus, all 204 rooms come with kitchenettes, and some have balconies and pull-out sofas — an ideal setup for families with little ones in tow.
4. Deer Path Inn, Illinois
Modeled after a 15th-century Tudor manor in Chiddingstone, Kent, the Deer Path Inn opened its doors in 1929 and has been charming guests ever since. These days, the boutique Lake Forest property, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, lures a roster of guests: couples looking to tie the knot in the fairy-tale English garden, visitors stopping by for afternoon tea, and families seeking a break from bustling Chicago, located just 40 minutes away. And though the building underwent a major renovation in 2016, it’s held onto its enchanting roots, which can be found in the cozy stone fireplaces, the elegant, English-inspired rooms, complete with Frette linens, and the personalized service (hotelier Matthew Barba even traveled the English countryside to master the art of inn-keeping).
5. The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection, Utah
The Lodge at Blue Sky, located just outside Park City, appeals to active families who like their Mother Nature with a side of modern comforts. The photogenic landscape — 3,500 acres of undulating hills, dotted with roaming wildlife — lends itself to outdoorsy pursuits (mountain biking, fly fishing, horseback riding, or heliskiing), but you’ll be far from roughing it here. After an activity-packed day, you can unwind with a treatment in the 7,400-square-foot spa, enjoy a drink at the High West Distillery, which produces its own whiskey, or soak in the infinity pool overlooking the mountains. Or, simply retire to your lavish accommodations, which include spacious lodge-like rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, canyon-facing suites built into the hillside and equipped with a private terrace and outdoor fireplace, and freestanding suites situated along the banks of a creek.
6. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Florida
This family-centric hotel sits across from Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, yet it feels like it was plucked from the plains of an African safari. Inspired by a traditional kraal (village) and surrounded by four savannahs, the lodge is home to 30 wildlife species — zebras, giraffes, flamingos, and gazelles — some of which can be spotted wandering past room windows. Experts are even on-hand to answer questions about the animals, and guests can also book private safaris around the grounds. But the massive, 972-room property is not without a dash of Disney magic in the form of evening campfires with s’mores, outdoor movies, storytelling sessions, restaurants serving African-inspired cuisine, an arcade, and an 11,000-square-foot pool that will delight kids and adults alike.
7. (TIE) Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Set at the base of the Teton mountain range, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Jackson Hole, this ski-in/ski-out property offers prime access to some seriously extreme hiking, biking, and skiing trails. Between strenuous runs on the slopes, though, guests are spoiled with luxe comforts, from the heated towels and robes to the hot chocolate and s’mores to the dedicated ski concierge who advises skiers on snow conditions. The well-appointed rooms are warm and welcoming, equipped with fireplaces, marble bathrooms, and balconies with mountain or valley views. For some apres-ski entertainment, there are several restaurants and a bar (all with mountain vistas), a heated outdoor pool, and a serene spa with treatments to help you decompress before another active day in the great outdoors.
7. (TIE) Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando, Florida
Like most theme park resorts, this 1,000-room property — steps from Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Universal Citywalk — is family-friendly to its core. Staying at the resort means reaping special privileges at the parks, including VIP line passes for rides, though the property has plenty of on-site amenities to keep kids occupied, too, including but not limited to a huge lagoon-style pool and adjacent beach, a kids’ club with games, movies, and arts and crafts, and suites with kid-approved themes like Jurassic Park.
9. Taconic, A Kimpton Hotel, Vermont
With in-room fireplaces, outdoor fire pits, a fully stocked library, and a wraparound porch for taking in the idyllic views, this boutique hotel in Manchester, Vermont, will make families feel at home in no time. Kids will love the complimentary bikes, while parents will praise the in-room spa services and daily wine hours hosted every evening. Meanwhile, kiddos and adults will find equal pleasure in the seasonal outdoor swimming pool and on-site restaurant serving American fare. Even four-legged family members are well taken care of here, with plush beds, water bowls, and mats available in pet-friendly rooms.
10. Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Hawaii
Billing itself as “a tropical paradise with a touch of magic,” this gorgeous resort in Ko Olina delivers on all the quintessential Disney accoutrements (character meet-and-greets, Mickey-shaped foods), but the experience is more island getaway and less theme park vacation. Kids are kept top of mind, with Disney movie nights, ukulele lessons, fire pit storytelling, sunrise yoga, and an impressive pool area featuring waterslides, a lazy river, splash zone, and man-made reef for snorkeling. But adults aren’t overlooked either: The spa offers Hawaiian-inspired treatments (the lomilomi massage is a popular choice), the beach is beautiful, and there’s a quiet pool without the added soundtrack of splashing, squealing tots.
11. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, Tennessee
Much like the Dollywood theme park next door, the 100-acre DreamMore Resort and Spa, dreamt up by Dolly Parton herself, is a destination unto itself — one that’s loaded with fun for the entire family. Multiple pools (including an indoor option and another with a waterfall), restaurants serving hearty fare, a game room, playground, spa, and story time around the fireplace provide around-the-clock entertainment for visitors of all ages. Of course, perks for Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country abound, from free transportation to both parks, early Saturday entry, TimeSaver passes for expedited entrance, and more. But the property is just as much of a draw when Dollywood closes for the season. Guests can make use of the free shuttles to explore Pigeon Forge or indulge in some rugged recreation in the Great Smoky Mountains.
12. Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Florida
Designed to evoke Old Faithful and Yellowstone National Park, the Wilderness Lodge marries the spirit of Disney with the rustic character of the West. The outdoorsy theme is apparent throughout, from the cabin-inspired décor in rooms to the 82-foot-tall stone fireplace to the artificial geyser that erupts every hour. But don’t be fooled by the wilderness vibes, as you’re only a short boat ride to Magic Kingdom (free transportation is available to guests). Book a stay here, and you’ll even get added benefits like Extra Magic Hours. Two pools, four restaurants, and bike and boat rentals round out the facilities on offer.
13. Disney's Beach Club Resort, Florida
Step inside this whimsical property in central Florida, and you’ll wonder whether you’re in Orlando or New England. A light blue color palette coupled with nautical details like seashells and wicker furniture create a cottage-like feel throughout. The resort also happens to be within walking distance of Epcot and a brisk boat ride from Hollywood Studios. But the real crown jewel is Stormalong Bay, a three-acre water park that includes a lazy river, a life-size ship replica, a 230-foot waterslide, and a sand-bottomed pool.
14. Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Florida
Opened circa 1971, this aptly named Disney resort elicits images of the Polynesian islands: tiki torches, lush tropical plants, and koi ponds set the scene. Much of the fun here is family-focused, with a prime position on the Seven Seas Lagoon (kayaking, fishing, and sailing excursions can be arranged), a 140-foot waterslide and faux volcano at the pool, a white-sand beach for swimming and sunbathing, and one of the most popular (and decadent) breakfast dishes — Tonga Toast, slices of sourdough stuffed with bananas, deep-fried, and rolled in cinnamon sugar. To top it off, the resort falls on Disney World’s monorail, making reaching Magic Kingdom and Epcot a snap.
15. Big Cedar Lodge, Missouri
Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, overlooking Table Rock Lake, Big Cedar Lodge is all about quiet perfection. The historic property, originally built in the 1920s and now in the hands of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, is sprawled across 4,600 acres, though it manages to give off a picture-perfect small-town vibe. Families can do as much or as little as they’d like — several world-class golf courses, a full-service spa, an outdoor heated swimming pool, complimentary canoes and kayaks, two marinas, multiple dining venues (including one with panoramic views) and much more await. No matter what your itinerary holds, the accommodations (log cabins with wood-burning fireplaces, charming lodge rooms, and inviting cottages) offer a snug respite.
16. Sunriver Resort, A Destination Hotel, Oregon
Tucked in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains just south of Bend, Oregon, this Pacific Northwest resort fully maximizes its woodsy location. As such, guests can take their pick from a long list of outdoor pastimes: hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, skiing on nearby Mount Bachelor, golfing, and swimming in the outdoor pool. If you consider yourself more of an indoor cat, take refuge in the spa or swim laps at the indoor pool. Best of all? Despite its many visitors, especially during the peak summer season, the resort’s expansive grounds mean it never feels crushed by crowds.
17. Disney's Yacht Club Resort, Florida
Consider the Yacht Club Resort the refined, more buttoned-up sibling to Disney’s Beach Club Resort. Both properties put guests within easy reach of Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Boardwalk (an area brimming with restaurants, bars, and boutiques). Both also share the fantastic facilities at the Stormalong Bay pool complex, but the lakeside Yacht Club has an air of elegance, from the fine dining offered at the Yachtsmen Steakhouse to the nautical motif, which resembles a seaside retreat in New England.
18. WaterColor Inn & Resort, Florida
Much like the name suggests, the David Rockwell-designed WaterColor Inn & Resort is splashed with a cheery color scheme of soft blues greens, lending the Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, spot an airy, laid-back feel. When visitors aren’t sunbathing on the beautiful private beach, you can find them on the water, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding, or on land, hiking, biking, and golfing. Factor in a coastal dune lake setting, food using ingredients from local farms and fishermen, and beachfront rooms with balconies that look out onto the Gulf of Mexico, and you’ll soon understand why this property is a favorite among families.
19. Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, Colorado
Smack in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, this secluded getaway sits on 6,500 acres of pristine wilderness. It’s under a two-hour drive to Denver, though the resort is its own adventureland, with a full schedule of activities, from cross-country skiing and sleigh rides in the winter to zip lining, biking, and fishing come summer; horseback riding is offered year-round. The rooms, some of which have stone fireplaces, are rustic-chic, while three restaurants (which use organic, locally sourced ingredients) provide spots to refuel and a full-service spa and heated outdoor swimming pool are at the ready to soothe muscles after an active day.
20. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, Florida
Before you even enter the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, you’ll be asking yourself: Is this Florida or the Italian Riviera? Reaching the main building requires driving past towering cypress trees, but the cues don’t stop there. Reminiscent of Portofino, the 750-room hotel is home to a piazza, where colorful buildings line the harbor and singers perform classic ballads every evening. There are also cobblestone streets, several pools, including one with a waterslide that mimics a Roman aqueduct, large, luxurious rooms, a gorgeous spa, and yes, even Italian-inspired restaurants. But the property’s location — just minutes from the theme parks — and preferential park treatment (guests can skip the line at both Universal attractions), will remind you that you’re in Orlando, after all.
21. The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection, Rhode Island
For a glimpse at life in the Gilded Age, book a stay at this stately brick mansion, built in 1909 by the Vanderbilt family. Inside, the Gatsby-like space shelters a huge fireplace, museum-worthy art, and a grand staircase that leads to the crisp, contemporary rooms. In addition to subtle signals to a bygone era, there’s also a peaceful spa, two swimming pools, and in the summer, a garden terrace and rooftop bar with sweeping harbor views. Guests can also easily explore nearby Newport — the hotel is close to the action, but lacks any noise, thanks to its location on a quiet leafy side street.
22. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Florida
A palatial, Victorian-style resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa nods to Palm Beach’s golden era. Between the live jazz orchestra in the lobby and the turn-of-the-century decor (wingback chairs and a stained-glass ceiling that draws the eye up), guests will feel like they’ve traveled back in time. There are, of course, elements that bring you back to present day: two pools, modern suites, a white-sand beach, upscale dining venues, and a luxurious spa. Plus, its proximity to Magic Kingdom — just a Monorail stop away — is unmatched.
23. Rosewood Miramar Beach, California
The relatively new Rosewood Miramar Beach has come a long way from its original incarnation as the Miramar by the Sea Hotel in the 1800s. Act two sees the oceanfront resort, backed by real estate mogul Rick Caruso, turning heads with its coastal-chic design, tranquil spa, cabana-lined pools, multiple restaurants and bars (including a swanky Italian eatery overlooking the ocean), and ultra-luxurious rooms, suites, and multi-bedroom bungalows set directly on the sand.
24. Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
For those visiting Disneyland, it doesn’t get more convenient than the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, a Craftsman-style property built directly in the heart of the park. In addition to putting California Adventure Park right at your doorstep, rooms here are comfortable and sizable (some offering views of the park), the three pools provide refreshing oases to beat the heat, and a number of dining and bar venues serve up hearty sustenance. More proof this place really is “The Happiest Place on Earth”: Parents looking for some peace and quiet can head to the spa, where character interruptions won’t bother.
25. Kimpton Shorebreak Resort, California
Kimpton Shorebreak Resort, located across the street from Huntington Beach, blends in with its sunny Southern California surroundings. The Surf City, USA spot is as mellow as they come, with miles of beach, a yoga studio, bikes for riding around town, an outdoor space with fire pits, and an inviting restaurant perfect for an après-surf meal. Drenched in sunshine and decked out in ocean-centric art, the rooms add to the overall laid-back coastal vibe. All the suites also come with living rooms, so your brood can spread out comfortably. Plus, all pets (furry, feathery, or scaly,” as the website states) are welcome, no matter their size or weight, and treats, bowls, and beds are on hand. Bonus: The resort is just a short walk from Huntington Dog Beach so Fido can run free.
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.