A successful family reunion begins with picking the right place for your clan. Start with a property that's reasonably easy to get to for most of your group. An all-inclusive resort or one with a package that covers lodging, meals and some activities keeps the add-ons to a minimum. Children's programs enable kids to get to know their twice-a-year cousins through organized play and allow the adults time to "schmooze." Also look for options in accommodations and activities. Let the big spenders book the suites, and those on a budget can take the small rooms. At least some activities should please each age group, from tots to octogenarians.
The following 10 vacation choices exceed these criteria. All of them can customize your reunion with private parties and dining, and depending upon the facility, special hay rides, horseback outings, hikes, barbecues, campfires, boat excursions and more. Whether you want a luxury resort or a simple mountain cabin, a beachfront gathering or a lakeside retreat, these resorts -- and cruises -- offer the kind of reunion that your family will remember forever for all the right reasons.
1. New York: Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz
Just 90 miles north of New York City, Mohonk Mountain House -- a National Historic Landmark, sprawled on 2,200 acres in the Shawangunk Mountains -- offers 265 rooms in a Victorian, castle-like building. In winter, families enjoy old-fashioned fun with snowshoeing, ice-skating, cross country skiing and snow-tubing. Parents can relax at the spa or read by a roaring fire. (The resort has 138 working fireplaces.) In the summer, hike the 85 miles of carriage roads, scramble over rocks, horseback ride, mountain bike or swim in the lake. From mid-June to Labor Day, the Mohonk Kids Club takes kids, ages 2 to 12, on frog hunts. They can also learn orienteering, do crafts and stargaze. For the remainder of the year, the program, complimentary to overnight guests, operates on Saturdays and Sundays. Book one of the many specialty weekends and get the bonus of workshops on a wide range of topics, such as photography, yoga, cooking with chocolate and winter wildlife. Rates include three meals daily, afternoon tea, children's programs and most activities.
2. South Carolina: Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island
The beach is a sure crowd-pleaser, and Kiawah Island features 10 miles of hard-packed sand that's good for strolling and bicycling, not to mention sandcastle-building and swimming. The resort also offers a top-rated tennis program, five golf courses, a spa and nature activities. Adults and kids can go crabbing, use paddle kayaks, try ocean seining and search for alligators. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Kamp Kiawah offers nature-based activities for ages 3 to 11, and babysitting services are available with advance notice. The variety of accommodations -- rooms at the luxury hotel and Sanctuary, as well as condominiums and rental homes -- gives your relatives plenty of choices. Rates reach their peak in summer, but spring and fall are also good times to gather.
3. West Virginia: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs
Drawn by the healing spring waters, travelers have been coming to this hotel since 1778. A National Historic Landmark, the Greenbrier, an Allegheny Mountain oasis on 6,500 acres, offers 721 rooms that include 91 guest cottages. There are a variety of activities families can choose from such as hiking, swimming at indoor and outdoor pools, bowling, tennis, horseback riding, outdoor picnics, billiards, golf and falconry. Older teens won't get bored, especially if you treat those who drive to an off-road lesson in how to maneuver over ruts and down hillsides. Afterward, melt away stress -- yours and theirs -- with soothing treatments at the property's noted spa. At the Adventure Zone, available Memorial Day to Labor Day and year-round with 48 hours notice, children 3 to 12 play tennis, create crafts, visit the horses and fish in the stocked stream. The resort also offers an 82,000-square-foot gaming and shopping complex. Meal plans are available.
4. RiverStone Resort & Spa, Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn., are popular Smoky Mountain destinations for people of all ages, with plentiful hiking, shopping, golf, water parks, and theme parks. A great resort for families is RiverStone Resort & Spa, which provides condo rentals with up to four bedrooms, kitchens, family rooms, and luxurious amenities for up to 10 guests. The resort features an indoor pool, outdoor lazy river, playground, game room, full-service spa, and picnic tables and a BBQ area family reunions can enjoy. If indoor parties are preferred, the resort offers space from 900 to 3,600 square feet to accommodate reunions of 22 to 75 guests in smaller rooms.
5. New Mexico: Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, Santa Ana Pueblo
Owned by the Santa Ana Pueblo and managed by Hyatt, the resort occupies 500 acres of the tribe's 73,000-acre reservation, a location that offers expansive views of the Sandia Mountains. To such typical hotel activities as spa treatments, golf and horseback riding, the resort adds complimentary Native American learning experiences that include visits to the tribe's museum, guided walks through the cottonwood Bosque and, in winter, Native American stories told under the stars. Available for a fee are hands-on workshops in clay working, silversmithing, archery, bread baking and other traditional Native American arts. At Camp Hyatt Tamaya, children ages 3 to 12 create sand paintings, weave and discover the reservation's plants and animals. Since the resort is located between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, relatives can easily explore both cities on their outings. Consider Regency Club rooms since these come with a Continental breakfast and afternoon hors d'oeuvres.
6. Wintergreen Resort, Wintergreen
Wintergreen Resort gives you Blue Ridge Mountain magic within three hours of Washington D.C. Sprawled on 11,000 acres in the valley and across slopes, the resort lures skiers and snowboarders November through March and hikers, mountain bikers and golfers the rest of the year. Known for its comprehensive children's programs, the resort offers snow play, as well as ski lessons for ages 24 months to 12 years and snowboarding for ages 8 and older. In the summer, the children's program takes kids on butterfly hunts and creek explorations. On select evenings, 'tweens and teens camp out at the lake. At the Out of Bounds Adventure Center, go bungee trampoline jumping or rock climbing. The accommodations -- studio to four-bedroom condominiums and houses with up to five bedrooms -- work well for reunions, providing living rooms for gathering and kitchens for cooking.
7. New Hampshire: Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods
Revitalized by a $50 million renovation and Omni's new management, the resort, at the base of 6,288-foot Mt. Washington, never looked better. Originally built in 1902 as a summer getaway for New England's wealthy, the 200-room Mt. Washington Hotel and sister properties -- the Bretton Arms Inn, the Lodge and the townhomes -- now offer year-round accommodations and activities. During the winter, go dog-sledding and cross-country skiing, or ski and snowboard at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire's largest ski area. Ages 3 to five enjoy ski-and-play programs. Those ages 4 to 12 will perfect their ski techniques, while ages 6 and older tackle snowboards. You don't have to beg grandma to watch the baby, as the nursery cares for tots as young as 2 months. Summer is about golf, biking, horseback-riding, fly-fishing and hiking the White Mountains National Forest, whose 800,000 acres surround the resort. From late June through Labor Day, ages 4 to 12 go on scavenger hunts and tree walks and create such crafts as apple dolls and pinecone bird feeders. Opt for room-only rates, or choose modified or full-meal plans.
8. Vermont: Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes
After more than 123 years of operating the Basin Harbor Club, the Beach family knows how to deliver an old-fashioned lake vacation with style. The resort, located on 700 acres along Lake Champlain and about 30 miles from Burlington, adds golf, good food and wine and a comprehensive summertime children's program to the traditional lake fun of fishing, boating and admiring the views. In summer, ages 3 to 12 go on nature walks, do crafts and cruise the lake during four-hour programs. Supervised activities start again in the evening, allowing your extended family plenty of time to bond over croquet, sailing or family Olympics. The teen program for ages 13 to 17 includes kayaking, bicycling and a ropes course. The children's programs, except for nursery care for tots 6 weeks to 36 months, are complimentary when parents book the full American plan. The 74 one- to three-bedroom simply furnished cottages give families the most space and privacy. Also available are 32 rooms in four guesthouses. As part of the sophisticated country ambience, "gentlemen" older than 12 must wear jackets in the main dining room. The resort is open mid-May through mid-October.
9. Colorado: Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby
Situated on 5,000 acres in the Colorado mountains, Snow Mountain Ranch is operated by the YMCA of the Rockies but is open to the public, offering a resort vacation at bargain prices. The ranch is so popular for family reunions that the facility offers a downloadable workbook to help you organize. Simply check off the items you want, from sessions at the climbing wall, archery lessons and cook-outs to picnic lunches, canoeing and zip lining. In the winter, block out time for cross-country skiing, tubing and indoor swimming. At the summer day-camp for 5 to 16-year-olds, the younger kids go on hay rides, nature walks and do crafts, while the older ones hike, horseback ride, canoe and play disc golf. The two five-bedroom plain, but serviceable cabins and lodge rooms book quickly, though group bookings receive priority.
10. Pennsylvania: Woodloch Pines, Hawley
A family resort with old-fashioned fun and values, Woodloch Pines makes a great place for family reunions with its programs for various ages, cabins and connecting room options, family-style dining that can accommodate even large families and space to host families for private events. The Poconos resort is situated on a lake, with summer serving up water activities galore and winter providing a place to stay warm after a day on the slopes.
Since the upfront price covers lodging, onboard entertainment, children's programs and more food than you could ever hope to eat, cruises are easy to budget. Family-friendly lines offer day-long kids' programs and teen hang-outs, plus spas and dance lounges for adults. The something-for-every-age-group activities keep multigenerational groups busy on board. In port on a Caribbean cruise, you can hike, bike, sail, snorkel and play golf. In Europe, explore real castles, centuries-old cities and world-class art museums.
Onboard many Royal Caribbean ships, families can rock-climb, ice-skate, surf and play basketball or mini-golf. RCI's mega-ship, Oasis of the Seas, adds a carousel and a zip line. Along with extensive programs for kids and teens, Carnival Cruise Lines is one of the few with supervised activities for tots as young as two and counselors who change diapers. To the entertainment lineup, Carnival Dream adds an evening laser show and a comedy club.
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