The calendar may say that June 21 is the first day of summer, but for most of us, the season kicks off over the long Memorial Day weekend. Just as higher gas prices are threatening to make a summer road trip less affordable than last year, family resorts are tempting families with wallet-friendly rates and activity-packed schedules. Here's a sampling of top getaways for families this Memorial Day:
Mission Point Resort
Where: Mackinac Island, MI
Why: Because nothing says summer fun like this no-cars-allowed island with horse-drawn carriages, bike paths, and fudge shops. The 243-room resort overlooking Lake Huron has a heated pool, a movie theater, a kids' club, an observation tower, historic museum, four restaurants, and a spa. The Memorial Day Family Escape Package starts at $549 for four people, with two nights' hotel, breakfast daily, dinners, bicycle rentals, tickets for two activities, and everyone's round-trip ferry tickets.
Tyler Place Family Resort
Where: Highgate Springs, VT
Why: Because Memorial Day weekend at America's original all-inclusive resort (see our review) is one of the unbeatable values in the country, with prices up to 50% lower than in July and August. For more than 75 years, the Tyler Place has been creating summer vacation memories on Lake Champlain. All season long, the resort offers boat rides, ziplines, mini golf, fishing, climbing walls, campfires, and a stockpile of other fun-filled adventures. Holiday weekend prices start at $129 per night for adults and $94 per night for children. Rates include lodging, all meals, family sports and activities, extensive kids' and adult programs, and complimentary bike rentals for everyone.
Where: Pismo Beach, CA
Why: Because this down-to-earth beach town offers excellent values as well as great access to the sand. At this hotel on Shell Beach, the holiday weekend promises daily outdoor games, kids' crafts, ice cream socials, movies and goodies around the fire pit -- not to mention nightly wine tastings in the lobby. Year-round, the hotel has a pool, an on-site spa, and easy proximity to Hearst Castle or wine country. The Memorial Day Family Getaway starts at $189 per night for three nights; you can add Monday night for just $99.
Where: Colorado Springs, CO
Why: Because this Grande Dame of the mountains is offering a pile of perks for the price of a regular night's stay. For the holiday weekend, the resort is hosting family bingo, paddle boat races, fireside tables, and discounted kids' day and evening camps. The Memorial Day Family Escape package includes free kids' meals, daily bicycle or paddleboat use, and discounts at the spa, golf course and the nearby zoo; each person in the family also gets a horseback trail ride or Jeep tour. We found rates that average out to $320 a night -- a little less than the regular $360 rate.
Cragun's Resort & Hotel
Where: Brainerd, MN
Why: Because Memorial Day weekend at this family favorite on Gull Lake means horse-drawn trolley rides, bonfires with marshmallow roasting, fishing clinics, an animal show, evening entertainment, and much more. The resort also features a huge indoor pool, spa, and top-notch golf course. Three-night Memorial Day weekend packages start at $129 a night and include a dinner buffet, free round of golf, welcome reception, fishing clinic, buffet breakfast, and lodging for four.
Resort at Squaw Creek
Where: Squaw Valley, CA
Why: Because this year you can have both summer and winter at this mountain resort. Thanks to this past winter's record snowfall, there will still be some skiing and snowboarding this Memorial Day weekend. Beyond that, the weekend features a fun roster of activities, from outdoor movies and lawn games to tie dying. Squaw Creek also features a giant waterslide, full-service spa, river rafting, and golf course. The Resort at Squaw Creek's Memorial Day Bed and Breakfast package starts at $179 per night and includes breakfast for two adults and two children.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
Where: Seven Springs, PA
Why: Because kids will love cruising down the mountain on the 1,980-foot alpine slide, and soaring through the air on the Eurobungy. There's also bowling, disk golf, game rooms, and chairlift rides. When the grown-ups need a breather, they can head to the full-service Trillium Spa. The Memorial Day Celebration Package costs $194 per person, and includes a two-night stay, breakfast daily, an Italian dinner buffet, and an all-access wristband for all of the cool activities. Kids 11 and under can stay and play for free.
Westgate River Ranch
Where: Lake Wales, FL
Why: Because this rustic dude ranch brings the Old West to the Sunshine State. The resort features a real-life rodeo with bull riding, barrel racing, and a calf scramble for the kids. During the holiday, there are a slew of old-fashioned family activities planned, such as potato-sack races, water balloon fights, egg tosses, watermelon-seed spitting, and crafts. On Sunday, kids have an opportunity to play cowboy at the Kid's Rodeo. The three-night Memorial Day Weekend Package starts at $118 per night for a family of three (add $15 for additional children) and includes lodging, tickets for a sundown hayride, a picnic lunch, admission to the River Ranch Rodeo, and the Kid's Rodeo.
Woodstock Inn & Resort
Where: Woodstock, VT
Why: Because this classic New England inn puts you smack dab in the middle of a quintessentially quaint Vermont village and near plenty of outdoor fun, including Quechee Gorge, a.k.a. Vermont's " Little Grand Canyon." The holiday weekend in town means a big parade, a dairy festival and horse rides; year-round the 142-room upscale resort offers a spa and a 18-hole golf course. For Memorial Day Weekend, its Three-4-Thirty deal, which starts at $240 per night, includes a 30% discount off a three-night stay, as well as passes to the local dairy farm. You can book the holiday deal by calling tel. 888/481-8802.
Where: Midway, UT
Why: Because this secluded resort makes a handy base for exploring the great outdoors. Families can go hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and horseback riding, or take a dip in the Homestead Crater, a 55-foot limestone rock filled with 90-degree mineral water. The resort also features a championship golf course, a video game room, and an indoor spa. The three-night Memorial Day Packages starts at $90 per person and include one breakfast for two, one dinner for two, and one evening event on the resort lawn -- either the Friday night movie or a Saturday night concert.
Point Sebago Resort
Where: Casco, ME
Why: Because Memorial Day weekend is the start of this ski resort's summer season, and to celebrate in style, there will be live music entertainment and bonfires until after the sun goes down. Besides the musical concerts, families can also enjoy an assortment of activities such as hayrides, scavenger hunts, and tournaments for different age ranges -- from t-ball to bocce ball. The Memorial Day Getaway Package costs $265 per adult for a three-night stay in one of the park cottages ($195 per adult for an RV or campsite). Packages include eight buffet meals (including a lobster dinner), a one-hour cruise, free mini golf, and daily supervised activities. Up to two kids 12 and under can stay and play for free. Add Thursday night to your package and they'll throw in a free pizza dinner, too.
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