Pick Your Next Vacation
Announcing our family travel award winners, just when we need them
On your family’s first trip after a long year of being stuck at home, you may still need to socially distance. But that shouldn’t be a problem if you choose one of the 20 outdoorsy getaways selected by the judges of Parents’ annual travel awards. Dust off the duffel bags and get ready to go!
Best Resort for Kids of All Ages Smugglers’ Notch, Jeffersonville, Vermont
The huge array of outdoor activities for toddlers to teens swayed the vote for this retreat affectionately known as Smuggs. “Our favorite was the hand-guided llama trek, where we explored the wooded trails with these cute creatures by our sides,” says judge Erin Gifford, founder of Kidventurous, who also suggests zip-lining and disc golf. Nestled in the Green Mountains, the resort’s condos fit families of all sizes. Starts at $250 per night.
Best Resort for Decompressing Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg, Virginia
Even though it’s just a few miles from Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg, this resort with one- to three-bedroom condos feels secluded. You can visit the attractions and retreat here afterward or make the resort your bubble. Trails lead to the marina on the James River, where you can enjoy water sports. A small beach is perfect for the toddler crowd to dip their toes in and collect shells and pebbles. Wooded bike paths and two playgrounds add to the fresh-air fun. Starts at $249 per night.
Best All-inclusive Resort
Quisisana Resort, Center Lovell, Maine
The name of this peaceful getaway means “place of healing,” and judges couldn’t think of a better year to test that promise. By day, families at this 56-acre resort that opened in 1917 build castles at the beach or partake in water sports, and then at night, Broadway-style musical performances (now held outdoors) entertain all. Repeat guests—there are many—rave about three included meals a day. You’ll stay in one of 40 wooded or lakeside cottages, all with AC, a private porch, and up to three bedrooms. Starts at $225 per person, per night, including meals and most activities.
Best Resort for the Whole Family
Nemacolin, Farmington, Pennsylvania
Even though this remote 2,000-plus-acre resort in the Laurel Highlands area is widely known as the location for last season’s episodes of The Bachelor, there’s as much to do for kids as for adults. Your little animal lovers will adore both the resort’s vintage carousel and the pony rides. Playgrounds, a kid-size zip line, a climbing wall, and mini golf are all part of the adventure. Two-bedroom townhomes have full kitchens and mod decor. Starts at $599 per night (for townhomes).
Best Multigenerational Resort
Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, Florida
A canal runs through its Harbor Village, where two- to four-bedroom townhomes with gourmet kitchens and grocery-shopping service make it easy for extended families to cook some of their meals. That’s what judges Ric and Saj Garcia, Miami-based Instagram travel influencers (@ric.saj_adventures), did when they visited with their boys and Ric’s parents, who wanted to avoid restaurants. Their crew saw the outdoor pirate show and hung out on the grassy area with ocean views. “The resort’s enclosed beach gives you a sense of security, and it was steps away from the pool,” Saj says. Starts at $400 per night (for townhomes).
Best Beach Town on the East Coast
Cape May, New Jersey
Time-warped in the best way possible, the southernmost shore point in the state attracts families with its Victorian cottage rentals, red and green trolleys, and saltwater taffy shops. (The entire town is a National Historic Landmark.) But the 16 beaches are the true gems. Congress Beach, across from Congress Hall resort, is wide, has sand perfect for castle building, and holds an oldtimey carnival for families. Tides at Sunset Beach bring in colorful quartz crystals—“cape May Diamonds”—nature’s souvenirs.
Best Beach Town on the West Coast
Laguna Beach, California
Socal vibes are strong in this seaside spot that’s as synonymous for its kidfriendly cove beaches as for its art scene. Across the 7 miles of coastline, Shaw’s Cove beach is a local fave because of its gentle waves and tide pools teeming with marine life, while Victoria Beach’s 1926 pirate tower provides the ultimate backdrop for kids to pretend they’re swashbucklers. The heritage of Laguna Beach, founded as an arts colony, is evident all around town. At Bluebird Park, kids can climb on a 9-foot mosaic tortoise. Along Pacific Coast Highway, Robert Wyland’s Whaling Wall mural of a gray whale and her calf may be the town’s most famous artsy landmark. “It was magnificent to see it in person,” says judge Samantha Nelson, a Nashville-based family travel influencer who blogs at Those Crazy Nelsons.
Best Beach Town on the Gulf Coast
Stroll down the brick streets past pastel-colored cottage rentals, each more gorgeous than the last, until you reach the white-sand beaches and emerald Gulf water. That’s how life goes down in this community in the state’s panhandle that was designed so families could walk or bike everywhere. The row of vintage Airstreams serve up all kinds of deliciousness, the amphitheater offers music and children’s shows, and the indie bookstore features a lovely children’s selection. Paradise found.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Active families will be in their element. With 100-plus miles of leisure paths and bike trails, “Hilton Head is one of the most bike-friendly places we’ve visited. My family even cycled on the hard-packed beach,” says Gifford, the author of the forthcoming Hiking With Kids Virginia: 52 Great Hikes for Families. Water-sport rentals abound: Kayakers