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Family Travel

10 Unexpected Family Vacation Ideas

You've done Disney (twice!) and are ready to plan your next great escape. Where to now? Check out these 10 unexpected family vacation ideas, from a villa-style stay in Vegas to an epic water park in New York.

See recent posts by Kathryn O'Shea-Evans

Bar at Basecamp Hotel Boulder, Colorado
Outdoor space at Basecamp Hotel Boulder, Colorado

Basecamp Hotel Boulder, Colorado

Outdoor movie at Basecamp Hotel Boulder, Colorado

Basecamp Hotel Boulder, Colorado

Just a few blocks from the Boulder Creek trail, Basecamp is more jaw-dropping than the surrounding Rockies—at least for kids. There are indoor climbing walls at every turn, plus ping pong tables and loaner bikes for exploring nearby trails. The room décor includes transistor-esque radios and canvas drop cloths, screen-printed with a local map, while walls of unfinished wood, sprinkled with rock-climbing holds, make the communal lounge feel more like a mountain lodge. JS Tip: Book the Great Indoors room, which is set up like an outdoor picnic area, with s'mores fixins and twin beds submerged in faux grass.

Bedroom at Hotel Del Sol
Living room at Hotel Del Sol

Hotel Del Sol

Colorful Exterior of Hotel Del Sol

Hotel Del Sol, San Francisco

Kids are treated like VIPs at this SF hideaway, whose retro style was inspired by the hotel’s former life as a 1950s motor lodge. The rooms are as rainbow-bright as the inside of a Crayola box done up in shades of bold orange, teal and yellow. There's a spacious saltwater swimming pool and a tranquil courtyard strung with hammocks for late afternoon naps, but what we love most: the four sets of adjoining rooms and a "Kids Are VIPs" program that offers a lending library, welcome amenity and, in the summer months, snow cones on Fridays and Saturdays. FYI: Wifi, continental breakfast, milk and cookies in the afternoon, and town car service to the Financial District on weekday mornings are all complimentary.

RELATED: 9 Amazing Restaurants in San Francisco to Try Now

Bedroom at Ace Hotel Palm Springs

Ace Hotel & Swim Club

Outdoor space at Ace Hotel Palm Springs

Ace Hotel & Swim Club, Palm Springs

Celebs on the lam from La-la-land are rumored to hole up at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, so why not your own star-studded brood? Where else will you find poolside fire pits, a guests-only dog park, and rooms stocked with turntables complete with classic vinyl records? Grab breakfast at King’s Highway Restaurant, which serves amped-up roadside diner food, then bring the fam to the Indian Canyons, with more than 15 miles of spectacular desert oases to explore. JS Tip: Caffeine-addicted parents will be thrilled to discover the hotel serves piping-hot Stumptown coffee upon demand.


Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, Nevada

If you've ever wanted to go to Vegas—but without the "Vegas" (you know what we mean)—this is your spot, a 20-minute drive from the Strip, yet worlds away. The hotel looks a bit like something you'd find along a canal in Venice, Italy, with a grand villa-style exterior, manicured gardens and breezy waterside walkways. Over-the-top amenities include two gorgeous pools; nearby hiking trails; biking, fishing, and sailing excursions; a massive spa; iPads; bicycles; and a kids club. Did we mention you're only eleven miles from the Hoover Dam?

RELATED: Take the Plunge at These Epic Las Vegas Pools

pool at Brasada Ranch
golf course at Brasada Ranch

Brasada Ranch

Outdoor fire pit at Brasada Ranch

Brasada Ranch, Oregon

Just a few hours from Portland, you'll find this cooler-than-thou ranch escape, with outdoor experiences even the crankiest tween will saddle up for: horseback riding, waterslides, hot air balloon rides, whitewater rafting, backcountry skiing... there isn't enough room on the internet to list the activities at Brasada. All suites have a rustic look, and many come with gas fireplaces, private terraces, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks.


Hope Lake Lodge & Indoor Waterpark, Syracuse, New York

New York City can wait. Upstate near Syracuse, you'll find this 41,000-square-foot indoor water park, with a wave pool, body slides, hot tubs with both indoor and outdoor pools, and (wait for it) a 500-gallon deluge bucket. Landlubbers will be perfectly comfortable holing up in the on-site lodge, with its 40-foot stone fireplace, timbered ceilings, and rustic-chic suites.

RELATED: Where to Take Your Jetsetting Kids in NYC

Exterior view of Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont
Pool at Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont
Bedroom at

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont

If you've climbed every mountain and forded every stream—just like the Von Trapps in The Sound of Music—why not stay in their actual hotel? On 25,000 acres in the outdoorsy paradise of Stowe, the Trapp Family Lodge has every family-friendly activity you can think of, from crafting a wood bowl on a lathe to croquet, tennis, hiking and maple sugaring. Don't blame us if you start twirling on mountaintops while belting out show tunes—it's that kind of place.

Exterior view at Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon

If "Lighthouse Keeper" is your dream job description—or, if you've been reading the The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge to your kids—there's no better getaway than this 1894 lighthouse and B&B on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The idyllic spot is just a quick drive from Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where your brood can go horseback riding or ATVing, hike or board the sand dunes, or search for sea lions in hidden caves. That the innkeepers at Heceta Head Lighthouse will whip you up a seven-course breakfast is just a bonus.

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Bedroom in the The Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA
Deck view on the The Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

View of The Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

The best part of "sailing" on this 1930s cruise ship? It's docked at a pier in Long Beach, CA, so you can forget about seasickness. Onboard, it's all about family fun: swimming in one of five pools, getting soaked at the 4-D movie theater, going on a nighttime ghost tour (the ship is rumored to be haunted). Book the Family Stateroom for Art Deco-built-ins, operable porthole windows and extra wiggle room. Bon voyage, fam.

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