Resorts Kids Love
Here are three resorts, from as far away as the Caribbean to nearby Myrtle Beach that have much to offer kids, while still meeting the vacation needs of busy parents. So, fire up the computer and make your reservations — and start packin’!
Turks & Caicos: Paradise only three hours from Charlotte
Still relatively unknown, the Turks & Caicos islands are loved by those who have visited. US Airways’ non-stop service makes it easy for Charlotte families traveling with kids. A quick morning flight and we were seated poolside enjoying a delicious conch salad at the Ocean Club Resorts’ Cabana Bar & Grille, with the beach only steps away. While Crawford, our 7-year-old son, ran off to grab his swimsuit, we marveled at the ease with which we were transported from city to island life.
The Turks & Caicos, in the British West Indies, consists of eight inhabited islands and several uninhabited cays, with more than 230 miles of pristine white sand beaches and, quite possibly, the most beautiful clear turquoise water I’ve ever seen.
Providenciales, known as "Provo," is the most developed of the islands, covering about 38 miles, and the location of the family-friendly Ocean Club Resorts. Ocean Club Resorts offers two properties on Provo — Ocean Club and Ocean Club West — each perfectly situated on the famous 12-mile Grace Bay beach, voted by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as the Best Beach in the world. A leisurely 20-minute beachside stroll will take you between the two resorts or there is a complimentary five-minute shuttle that goes back and forth.
The resorts have all the comforts of home with Studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans and full kitchens or kitchenettes. Our two-bedroom suite had a wrap-around screened balcony overlooking the beach, perfect for lazy breakfasts and watching the sunset. And the staff is well trained at keeping kids and parents happy with in-room VCRs and free movies at the front desk, though you will seldom want to stay inside.
Fun for the Kids
Winding pools, a bin full of toys and, of course, the beach, keep the children busy. "Kids love it here," says Tom Lewis, Ocean Club’s General Manager and father of two, "between the two resorts, families have three pools to play in and 12 miles of beach to run around on. They have a ball."
The boys in our group entertained themselves chasing geckos on the poolside paths in the early morning and evening hours. These island lizards — literally hundreds of them — were hard to catch, thankfully, providing an endless source of fascination for the kids.
A trip off-property to tour "Conch World Provo" is a must for the whole family. It is a fascinating look at a working conch farm and "Caribbean Queen," the beautiful pink-lipped shell coveted by seashell lovers. The kids loved the hatchery and got to meet Sally and Jerry, the resident conchs. The tour takes less than an hour, but is worth it.
We walked down the beach to Ocean Club West to have breakfast at the Seaside Grille one day. The menu is a casual blend of seafood, salads, sandwiches and island specialties. Guests have signing privileges at both resorts and dining on property is highly recommended. The Gecko Grille at Ocean Club is listed as one of the top fine dining restaurants on the island. The shuttle between the properties makes it easy to try restaurants at both resorts.
Snorkeling and Cruising
Snorkeling is the main attraction in Provo. Even in the shallow waters of Grace Bay, directly in front of the hotel, we saw a barracuda-type fish, (though we never confirmed its true identity), a manta ray and schools of silvery anchovies swimming nervously around us.
A full-day cruise on the "Atabyera" a 77-foot chartered sailboat, took us with eight guests to Little Water Cay, an island refuge for more than 2,000 Rock Iguanas, indigenous to Turks & Caicos. Afterward, we set out to open waters, keeping our eye out for "JoJo" the bottlenose dolphin, whose people-friendly antics have made him a local celebrity of sorts. The captain anchored the boat and everyone dove in for a look at the reef below. Snorkeling in open water is intimidating for some kids, but Crawford loved it. When he grew tired, he used his lifejacket to keep him afloat while he stuck his facemask in the water viewing the abundant sea life. Later we headed to explore the beaches of an uninhabited cay. We walked on white-sand beaches alone except for the conch shells, marveling at the wonder of the unspoiled island, while on-board staff prepared a catered lunch of lobster salad sandwiches, conch salad, fresh fruit, cookies and rum punch. Delicious!
Our days were sun-soaked and our nights were spent poolside and early to bed. Though we never saw JoJo the dolphin, our trip was perfect — magical in every way. The Turks & Caicos’ hospitality and natural beauty is enchanting. We made a vow to return with our family to the Ocean Club and experience once more, a little slice of heaven in Provo.
Ocean Club Resorts
Ocean Club/Ocean Club West
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, BWI
Rates: $160 - $600
Kids Clubhouse for children 4-12. Fee.
Offers half/full day camp, "dinner and a movie" nights and babysitting services.
Conch World Provo
Hours: Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Closed Sundays and Holidays
Cost: Adult $6, child $3
Sun Charters, Turks & Caicos
Nickelodeon Family Suites: Have the Slime of Your Life
By Elaine Heitman
If your kids watch the Nickelodeon channel, undoubtedly they’ve seen the picture of the giant orange and green waterslide at Nickelodeon Suites in Orlando. Shortly thereafter, they’ve probably asked, "Can we go?"
I found myself there with my niece, Ruby, last April. It was a dream-come-true vacation for her. From the moment we checked in, it was obvious that this is a kids’ place – the lobby sports Nickelodeon signature colors and an area where kids can lounge on beanbags watching Nickelodeon shows while parents stand in the (long) check-in line. Upon registration, guests over 4 years old are fitted with wristbands that allow them passage into all the resort areas.
We stayed in a two-bedroom Nick-themed KidSuite. (Entry was via our Jimmy Neutron keycards.) The adult bedroom was standard, with built-in storage and a tropical theme. The kids’ room had Rug Rats characters on the walls leading into it, as well as on the wall in the room. Red bunk beds , a child-sized table, a TV recessed in the wall and even a gaming station delighted Ruby, who shares a bedroom at home. Clothing storage was built in and she could just slide her suitcases underneath the lower bunk after unpacking.
The suites have a kitchen area with microwave and refrigerator, which is extremely handy for a quick breakfasts on the go and storing bottled drinks.
It is important to note that Nickelodeon Family Suites is very close to Disney World and provides free shuttle service to the Disney theme parks, as well as Universal Orlando, Sea World and Wet ’n Wild. Transportation to the airports or to other nearby sites is available for a nominal charge. When you check in, you’re provided with a bus schedule and a schedule of shows and activities at the hotel.
In-room Internet access is also free, so you can e-mail photographs to envious friends and family back home.
There is so much going on at the Nickelodeon Family Suites that you could tell your kids you are at a theme park, and they would believe you. Our first day in Orlando we enjoyed a delicious character breakfast with SpongeBob and Dora at the Nicktoons Café (a great way to get your child warmed up to various characters). Later that day we played in the pool under showers of water at one of the two interactive water park areas and tried the giant slide (there are varying degrees of slides for the more timid). I’m convinced I was the oldest person to ever traverse the slide, but Ruby convinced me it would have been a terrible waste not to try it. While at the water park we watched live Nickelodeon shows put on by the Recreation Team, in which kid guests compete and eventually some get "slimed." Their lucky parents might get "pied," adding to the hilarity. The main pool stays open until 11 p.m.; the slides close at 9 p.m.
The hotel’s mall features a 3,000-square foot arcade, a gift shop, a minimart, a buffet, a lounge, a food court and various "beauty" areas. We never had time to get braids or a temporary tattoo, but both are available. Also in the arcade is Studio Nick, a state-of-the-art theater with nightly interactive entertainment. The show we saw at Studio Nick featured two families competing, with the inevitable slime/pie-in-the-face finale!
The grounds are beautiful. The walk to the mall took us by a beautiful lake with turtles, live swans and other water birds – and, of course, the omnipresent Nick characters sprinkled around the lake. Oh, and did I mention the basketball court and mini golf course?
When childish entertainment becomes too much, parents can escape to the cocktail lounge by the lake. Some parents might want to look into the fully-supervised interactive Nick After Dark program where "the kids will play while the parents are away."
There’s no doubt about it: If your Orlando trip allows you free time at the hotel, this is the place to choose — your kids will love you for it!
Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn
(866) GO-2-NICK (462-6425)
Rates: $299 and up
Myrtle Beach’s Compass Cove Resort:
One of the Carolinas’ best destinations welcomes families
By Eve White
The weekend trip to Myrtle Beach was a quest for a family adventure with as many pool, beach, burgers and kid-friendly attractions as we could pack into 48 hours. And Myrtle Beach, S.C. — voted best family weekend getaway by Charlotte Parent readers — was where we were going to make it happen.
With an estimated 460 hotels, 50 miniature golf courses and 1,800 full service-restaurants, Myrtle Beach is located at the very heart of the Grand Strand, attracting millions of visitors each year, more than 60 percent of whom are adults traveling with children. Families flock to this destination for golf, warm water beaches, daily attractions, entertainment and shopping.
On Ocean Boulevard, in a slow-moving stream of cars, we rolled past new resort hotels and old beachfront motels — part of the charm of this city established in 1957 — as we headed to Compass Cove Resort. The boulevard was lined with people enjoying the warm summer afternoon, strolling to local restaurants, stopping at souvenir shops and heading to the beach.
Compass Cove Resort, located at the south end of Ocean Boulevard, offers family-style beachfront accommodations. In the nautical themed lobby, helpful registration staff directed us to our room in the Schooner building, one of three guestroom towers and part of the hotel’s recent $8 million dollar refurbishment. The third-floor mini-suite had two small queen bedrooms decorated in cheerful blue and yellow fabrics and separated by a kitchenette and bathroom. The best feature was the balcony with an expansive view of the beach. For a blissful moment, all was forgotten but the slow-rolling foam of the ocean waves.
But only for a moment . . . within minutes we were jumping into our swimsuits. On the ground level we discovered a maze of water areas (22 in all) including six indoor and outdoor pools, three lazy rivers, whirlpools and a colorful water park-style attraction dubbed the Yellow Submarine Jungle Adventure wading pool. Before the end of our stay at Compass Cove Resort, we (water-) logged countless hours splashing from one pool to the next, making new friends along the way.
If you want to remain at the resort, there is plenty to amuse, but when it’s time to eat, dining off-property offers more variety. Besides, Myrtle Beach beckons and we were on a quest!
So we took off to Myrtle Waves, billed as the largest water park in South Carolina. Aside from the typical long lines, the park delivers with wave pools, chutes, slides and lots of wet, wild fun. Arooba Tuba offers smiles and giggles, with a fast two-person tube ride into a yellow and orange bowl that swirls you around several times and shoots you out backwards to the splash pool below.
More fun is found the next day at Broadway at the Beach, boasting 350 acres of shops, restaurants and attractions, including Ripley’s Aquarium. There, we marveled at the underwater tunnel with hundreds of colorful fish and hungry sharks swimming overhead while we rode on the 330-foot glide path.
After seeing all those fish, we opted for a quick (well, maybe not so quick) cheeseburger in paradise at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. We sat on the patio overlooking Lake Broadway, a 23-acre oasis in the heart of the Broadway at the Beach complex. There’s plenty of kid-fare, entertaining props and an icy cold margarita for Mom and Dad. If you’re trying to "break that carnivorous habit," there are more than a dozen other dining options nearby from pasta to sushi.
Our final quest . . . was magical. MagiQuest is an indoor realm of wizards, dragons and fairies where teens and children use an interactive wand that powers special effects in an enchanted three-dimensional scavenger hunt. (Note: May not appeal to very young children. It can be frustrating if they are not reading yet, but if you help them read the clues, enjoy the illusions and complete a quest — their faces will beam with pride! Parents can accompany, but not play, for a reduced price.)
It is intriguing, interactive and totally addicting. Even I wanted to grab the wand to bring a spell book or woodland fairy to life. But, alas, after 90 minutes, it was time to end our vacation weekend at Myrtle Beach. The quest for a family fun-packed trip was complete.
Myrtle Beach’s Compass Cove Resort is a great home base for families who want to explore the area’s local attractions. But save some energy for your return to the room, because the pools and beach will entice you to have just a little more fun before the day is through.
Myrtle Beach Facts
Seven live entertainment venues
More than 100 golf courses
Nearly 50 miniature golf courses
13 million visitors annually
More than 300 outlet stores
Compass Cove Resort
2311 South Ocean Blvd
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
Rates: $89 and up
Myrtle Waves Water Park
U.S. 17 Bypass and 10th Ave. N, South End
Myrtle Beach, SC
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
$20-$27 full day/$13-$17 after 3 p.m.
Under 2 free
Broadway at the Beach
21st Avenue North & Hwy. 17 Bypass North
Myrtle Beach, SC.
1185 Celebrity Circle
Myrtle Beach, SC
$24 — 90 minutes + magic wand
$8 Non-player admission
1100 Celebrity Circle
Myrtle Beach, SC
$3.99-$17.99 (2 years to adult)
Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville
1114 Celebrity Circle
Myrtle Beach, SC
Open for lunch and dinner daily