CLOSER TO HOME
All-inclusive resorts make vacations easy and can be a good value considering all they have to offer, especially when they're not far away in tropical locales. These 14 highly rated resorts and family camps in the continental United States charge nightly rates less than $250 a person, including activities and at least two meals a day. Rates for children typically are lower. Some resorts in colder climates are open only in the summer, but most offer something to do year-round.
SIRATA BEACH RESORT: ST. PETE BEACH, FLORIDA
This Gulf Coast resort is ideal for families, reviews say. Costs range from $300 a night for a room with a kitchenette in winter to less than $250 a night in summer. Sirata Beach enjoys a 4 out of 5 rating averaged from more than 3,500 TripAdvisor reviews. It has plenty of oceanfront amenities, such as beach volleyball, cabanas, and a fire pit. The resort features three restaurants, where package guests enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including well drinks all day long. The resort welcomes cats and dogs, but the number of pet-friendly rooms is limited, and restrictions apply.
COMMON GROUND FAMILY CAMP: STARKSBORO, VERMONT
For people looking for a community-minded experience, Common Ground offers a variety of weeklong summer camp experiences and special themed camp programs. TripAdvisor reviewers give this unusual camp a 5 out of 5 rating overall. Various arts, music, and nature pursuits are available for kids, as well as games, swimming, and other water activities. Yoga, dance, and movement classes entice children and adults alike. Community service of some kind is required for three hours during the week. Meals are vegetarian and made with food from local farms. Pricing is on a sliding scale based on ability to pay, with scholarships available. The most basic accommodation -- a tent -- costs $675 for adults for a week. Prices in cabins or the lodge (with electricity) are higher.
WOODLOCH RESORT: HAWLEY, PENNSYLVANIA
Woodloch Resort offers a full roster of activities year-round and a range of accommodations to suit different budgets. In colder months, the focus is on skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, and other winter sports, but there are also plenty of indoor amenities, such as a pool, basketball court, and climbing wall. In summer, attention centers on Teedyuskung Lake, where water-based activities abound, along with outdoor venues for basketball, tennis, volleyball, bocce, and golf. Nighttime sees a range of entertainment, contests, games, and classes. More than 1,100 TripAdvisor reviews rate the resort an average of 4.5 out of 5. Classic rooms that sleep up to six start at $129 a night for each adult; less for children. Packages are available throughout the year. The resort offers full and modified meal plans, featuring two or three meals a day, and also a la carte dining.
UC SANTA BARBARA FAMILY VACATION CENTER: SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
Operating only in summer, this highly rated, weeklong camp costs about $1,070 for adults and less for children -- the younger the child, the lower the rate. The dorm room accommodations are what you remember from college, but with all the activities offered, guests don't spend much time in them. Camps for kids, organized by age group, feature kayaking, horseback riding, surfing lessons, tennis, and field trips. There's a pool with a water slide, bike and scooter riding, and arts and crafts. Adults have their own activity list: hiking, biking, surfing, wine tastings, golf, painting, and yoga, among other things. Typical camp entertainments such as talent night, campfires, and a family carnival add to the fun. Meals are cafeteria-style and a bit better than college-dining-hall quality. TripAdvisor reviews give the resort an average rating of 5 out of 5, and the camp sells out well in advance. It's best to book early.
CHULA VISTA RESORT: WISCONSIN DELLS, WISCONSIN
The big attractions at Chula Vista are the water parks. In warm weather, the resort operates outdoor and indoor water parks, as well as a host of activities for kids, such as miniature golf. Adults can relax at the spa, play beach volleyball, golf, bike, and hike. There are plenty of things to do in winter, as well, including skiing, tubing, and snowboarding, along with indoor activities such as bowling and an arcade. A variety of accommodations and prices are available, including many special package deals. Guests can opt for a meal plan, which includes beverages. With meals, a stay in a condo starts at about $130 a night for each person, including all activities. TripAdvisor reviewers give the resort an average rating of 3.5 out of 5.
MAYAN DUDE RANCH: BANDERA, TEXAS
This ranch in Texas Hill Country is all about the horses. Packages include two trail rides a day, one of which takes guests to breakfast. In addition to riding, guests have access to a pool, fishing, tennis, golf, and other activities. There is nightly entertainment, along with contests, hayrides, and barbecues. Meals are hearty, and beer, wine, and soda are included. The cost is $165 a day for adults in a cottage or the lodge; children cost $80 or $100 a day, depending on age. TripAdvisor ratings average out to 5 out of 5.
INDIAN HEAD RESORT: LINCOLN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
There are a variety of places to stay at Indian Head Resort, including cottages and motel-like rooms in the main building. Located on 180 acres in the White Mountains, the resort is open year-round, with special Maple Sugaring Weekend packages in March. In winter there is ice skating and snowmobiling, as well as a heated indoor pool and spa. Warmer months bring hiking, biking, and all sorts of water sports. Prices vary depending on the type of accommodation. In summer, the cost is less than $200 a night in the cottages, plus meal plans priced by the person. TripAdvisor reviews give the resort an average rating of 4 out of 5.
FAIR HILLS RESORT: DETROIT LAKES, MINNESOTA
A family resort with a rustic atmosphere, Fair Hills averages a 4.5 out of 5 rating on TripAdvisor. Open from May to September, accommodations are mainly in cabins around a lake. Sports and activity weeks are planned throughout summer. Activities are organized by age groups, with sandcastle building and fishing for young children; kickball, soccer, and Capture the Flag for teens; and golf, tennis, and hiking for adults. The resort organizes talent shows, hootenannies, and other camp happenings, as well. Three meals a day are included. Prices generally start at less than $200 a night for each adult; the cost is less for children, and kids under 5 are free. A few weekly packages come out cheaper.
MIGIS LODGE: SEBAGO LAKE, MAINE
This lakefront vacation spot has a main lodge and 35 cabins of various sizes among pine trees. Although the resort offers activities for children, this is a good place for adults to unwind, especially outside the summer months. Guests of all ages can indulge in hiking, sailing, water skiing, tennis, golf, and fishing. There are camp counselors for kids and family activities such as campfires and bingo. Food is locally sourced, with lunch cookouts and cocktails available daily. This being Maine, the lodge hosts a Friday-night lobster bake. Kids can eat separately and have supervised playtime during the adult dinner hour. Prices depend on the time of year and size of the cottage. In early autumn, the cost is about $200 a person daily for a one-bedroom cabin, including all meals and activities. TripAdvisor reviews give the resort an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.
ROCKING HORSE RANCH: HIGHLAND, NEW YORK
Although the focus at Rocking Horse Ranch is horseback riding for all skill levels, including pony rides for young children, there are indoor activities for rainy days and plenty of other things to do year-round. In the winter, guests can go tubing, skating, skiing, and snowboarding and take horse-drawn sleigh rides. The ranch averages better than 4 out of 5 in ratings on TripAdvisor, with users highlighting the family atmosphere and impressive range of activities, including water sports, day camps, and a spa. The average cost is $250 a night for each adult through the end of May; children cost less. Several midweek packages cost only $149 for adults and $79 for kids; in all cases, children 2 and under are free. Three meals and hors d'oeuvres with wine are included in the price.
SKYTOP LODGE: SKYTOP, PENNSYLVANIA
A year-round playground that appeals to families, Skytop Lodge emphasizes sports and other activities such as skiing, ice fishing, and dog sledding in the winter. There are daily events for kids, including snowman building, movies, and campfires. In summer, guests can explore hiking trails and take part in water and land sports, including archery, paintball, rock climbing, and wilderness survival. A meal plan option offers dining opportunities including formal (jackets required) and more casual venues. The cost is about $320 a night for a cottage that sleeps four, although there are many other options and prices. TripAdvisor reviews give the resort an average rating of 4 out of 5.
TROUT LODGE: POTOSI, MISSOURI
Run by the YMCA of Greater St. Louis, Trout Lodge is a year-round retreat on a lake with guest rooms and cabins for larger families. Rooms are on the rustic side, and meals are simple and served buffet-style, but reviewers posting on TripAdvisor give the lodge an average rating of 4.5 out of 5. Because this is a not-for-profit operation, prices are low. Rooms at the lodge, which have balconies with lake views and accommodate up to five people, start at $200 a night, including meals. Cabins with wraparound porches sleep up to 10 and cost about $500 a night. Activities are water-centric, particularly in the summer, although there are other amusements such as zip lining and arts and crafts. The lodge hosts themed vacation weekends throughout the year.
CLUB MED SANDPIPER BAY: PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA
Active families who love sports will find this resort on Florida's east coast a solid choice. More than 3,500 TripAdvisor ratings average 4 out of 5, with praise for the food and attentive staff. Programs in tennis, sailing, and golf are included, as is a flying trapeze academy with circus activities. The resort hosts activities for all ages, with child care for children under 6 and a special club for teens. A spa offers extra relaxation. Meals, alcohol included, are available at a variety of restaurants. Rooms start at $560 for a four-night stay for each adult in winter and $450 in the off-season, and there are seven-night summertime package deals for about $113 a night for each adult.
TYLER PLACE FAMILY RESORT: HIGHGATE SPRINGS, VERMONT
Tyler Place, which averages 5 stars on TripAdvisor, is open from the end of May until mid-September. Prices are on the high side, but outside the high season (July and August), a family of four can spend a week in a cottage starting at about $4,000. Located on a mile of lakeshore, the resort offers every imaginable summer activity, from archery to trampolines to farm tours, with plenty of woods for exploring -- and everybody gets a bike. There are counselors and playgroups for kids. Adults can take classes in yoga and climbing, and there's a spa for post-workout relaxation. Nightly entertainment includes dancing, jazz, and games, along with candlelight dining and cocktails (sitters are available). Family meals are healthy and ample, with an emphasis on farm-to-table fare.