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TRAVEL SLEUTH - WINTER 2013/2014
 
(2013 - Winter Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



Breaking out of a comfort zone, completing tasks in an unfamiliar environment, playing with kids who speak a different language, processing impressions, learning by asking questions—what better reasons could there be to travel with children?

Youthful hearts and minds will soak up everything, every minute of a trip, giving them lifelong knowledge without referring to any textbooks at all. The red-carpet treatment is waiting for them as well. A considerable number of hotels, resorts and cruise lines are as intent on pleasing your children as they are on impressing you—even to extremes.

Look at the Giraffe Manor hotel (giraffemanor.com) in Nairobi, Kenya, for instance. While it is true that a safari in East Africa is going to give everyone plenty of big-game opportunities to admire and photograph, if you book a night at this place, your kids will get to see the tallest ones up close and personal—right in the hotel dining room. That’s because every morning and evening on their way to munch on the savannah grasslands, eight resident Rothschild giraffes routinely pass by the open windows—and none of them are shy to thrust their sky-high appendage right through the openings to sample food on your plate. Clean plates are provided once the coast is clear.  

Animal pals are surprising little visitors in Canada, too. Enter the Fairmont hotel (fairmont.com) in Vancouver, Edmonton, Lake Louise, Québec City or Montebello and you’ll be greeted by the property’s “canine ambassadors.” One puppy, sometimes two, sit in wait for the very minute your child walks through the door for a totally unexpected greeting that makes little ones instantly excited to be there. 

Here’s a sampling of a few more kid-pleasing places.

FLORIDA

For sure, a visit to Universal Orlando Resort will blast your cinephile family into a totally different universe of Hollywood fantasies, never knowing what life-like surprises lie around the corner. Learn about movie production, take part in live shows or experience the special effects of nail-biting thrill rides. Right on the property, stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, all decked out with authentic rock ’n’ roll memorabilia and enhanced by an underwater sound system in the gigantic sand-beach swimming pool. Each guestroom is a hi-tech entertainment centre in its own right and, best of all, as a Universal hotel guest, you get to skip the long lineups for rides and attractions. universalorlando.com

TEXAS

Here in a state where everything is proclaimed to be bigger and better, Dallas certainly struts its stuff with the best of both worlds. For adults, this is a grand city for shopping, dining, sports and the arts; for kids, the multiple family attractions are larger than life. In addition to the 40.5-hectare Dallas Zoo plus the Dallas World Aquarium, wait until your little rascals hear about the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park, featuring five different “extreme” rides. The space-age Aloft Dallas Downtown hotel gives two- to 12-year-olds an immediate adventure with not just a goodie bag at check-in and daily food surprises, but also a camp-style air mattress with special bedding. If you stay at the Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West, children are welcomed with backpacks full of games and books for their amusement until it’s time to jump in the outdoor pool or go cycling along the lake. visitdallas.com

MEXICO

Just south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula’s most beautiful stretch of sugar-white beach is the eye-popping, Iberostar Paraíso Maya, a temple-themed property with soaring atriums and towering sculptures of native deities. You will be bathed in otherworldly opulence while your kids answer their own calling to do nothing but enjoy. One of five hotels in the Playa Paraíso resort, the Maya property offers kids a heart-pumping wave pool, a long lazy float river and a swimming pool with a shallow rim for little ones. Go boogie boarding at the beach or sign up for kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, diving or a banana boat ride. If everyone prefers independence, the fully supervised Lucy’s Kids Club puts children, ages four to 12, on their own cloud nine all day. iberostar.com/en/hotels/playa-paraiso

Over on the Pacific coast, the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is a AAA Five Diamond property (on the newly developed Nayarit coast north of Puerto Vallarta) giving you top-quality guestrooms and dining, plus golf, tennis and spa. “Give your family the gift of play,” says the hotel management, pointing to its dedicated kids’ club. This means parents can indulge shamelessly while their young ones, who really prefer to play with other children, also have the time of their lives. vallarta.grandvelas.com

ARUBA

If you want to be assured constant sunshine and reliably warm temperatures year-round, Aruba is your champion. And it so happens this island’s silky spearmint water and endless bleach-white beaches are among the most alluring in the Caribbean. Aruba is also rated tops in hospitality. At the Tamarijn Aruba, for example, there is much for families
to do such as swimming, sand-sculpting, face-painting, beach games, scavenger hunts, basketball, movies, soccer tournaments, bingo and more. This modestly priced all-inclusive hotel has set the bar at such a height, it is challenging every other resort in Aruba and on other islands, too. tamarijnaruba.com

POLYNESIA

In New Zealand, summer has just arrived so be sure to add some beach time when you explore. In fact, if you stay at a resort on the Bay of Plenty, a historic schoolbook explorer just might come to life. Here, from the deck of his galleon in 1769, Captain James Cook wrote: “This is a bay of plenty full of plantations and villages.” Today, places such as the Papamoa Beach Resort keep on delivering the bounty in the form of surf and boating recreation, all of it flanked by fertile orchards and gardens as well as an active volcano that hisses, belches and rumbles. You’ll also eat well. This salt-water bay provides plenty of seafood to complement the award-winning wines from the surrounding vineyards for you and kiwifruit juice for youngsters. papamoabeach.co.nz

In Hawai‘i, your very first step into the fun and frolic on Waikiki Beach will convince you and your young ones it was definitely worth the long flight to get there. Situated right on the beach is the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a special haven for children with its oversized swimming pools and waterslides. For kids, ages five to 12, the supervised Camp Penguin schedules plenty of excitement, although the hotel’s own gardens with turtles, penguins and parrots are clearly the star attraction. hiltonhawaiianvillage.com

CRUISING

The Carnival Magic vessel magnifies every child’s fascination with going for a ride on a great big boat. This one gives them no less than 1,765 square metres of dedicated kid space plus a mega, deck-top water park with swimming pools, whirlpools and slides. To guarantee delight, the Camp Carnival program wisely creates separate age groups from tiny toddlers up to 17 years and keeps the magic alive with sing-songs and games, talent shows, scavenger hunts, pool party dances and specialty shore excursions. carnival.com

The Norwegian Epic vessel is known for “freestyle” cruising, which allows passengers to design their own schedule for wining, dining and entertainment. Children’s recreational choices include fully supervised programs that highlight arts and crafts, video games, karaoke, stage shows, rock climbing, a bowling alley, a water park deck, plus a teen nightclub with a light-up dance floor. For larger families, ask about the “villa” staterooms that can accommodate up to six people. ncl.com

CANADA

Supreme skiing and snow conditions are among the main winter attractions in British Columbia and, since most families have varying skills, Sun Peaks Resort has developed a way to please you and still keep you together. The same chairlift can take you up and then each skier chooses the level of difficulty for the way down. Spend each night at the Delta Residences where children are made to feel especially important. On check-in, little ones from infants to seven years old receive an age-specific kid essentials kit while older children quickly discover the arcade games. The cost of your stay is controlled since children under 17 stay free in a room with their parents; children six and under eat free from a kids’ menu; and children seven to 12 years, eat for half-price. sunpeaksresort.com

 
 
 
 
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