This time of year, everyone in the family is antsy and hot and arguing about who gets to use the Wii next. Get out of the house and explore what a city has to offer before school starts. These packages are geared specifically toward families, with rates that won't break the bank and activities that will keep everyone happy.
Laidback Charleston, South Carolina has its charms, architectural, historic, and otherwise, and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 843/853-8000; www.explorecharleston.com) has put together several packages are priced under $200 geared toward families who want to explore it. The newly renovated Comfort Inn, located downtown, gives families a one-night stay, two adult and two child admissions to the South Carolina Aquarium, along with a tote bag packed with items for the beach. The package starts from $168 per night and is available through August 31. The Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, a full-service facility that offers fishing and sailing excursions, offers a package from $129 per night through September 30 which includes overnight accommodations, transportation to and from Sullivan's Island, a tote bag of beach toys, boxed lunches and beverages for everyone in the room, a cooler, and more.
Baseball loving families, take note. The Hotel Sax Chicago (tel. 877/569-3742; www.hotelsaxchicago.com) is capitalizing on summer, baseball, and cross-town rivals Chicago White Sox and Cubs. It's called the North Side/South Side package, and rates start at $159. It includes valet parking, complimentary drink, sports backpack, Garrett's popcorn, water bottles for the game (along with sunscreen and disposable camera), a round-trip card for public transportation, a walking map to either baseball park, and other goodies. All you need to do is buy your tickets. The hotel's technology lounge has Xbox, flat-screen televisions and laptops for guest use, along with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It's also located next to Bin36, a bowling lounge.
The Crowne Plaza in Houston (tel. 713/739-8800; www.visithoustontexas.com/citypass) is offering the City Pass package, which gives guests two adult and two child city passes (worth $136), complimentary breakfast and complimentary valet (worth $96 for four people for two days and $48 for two nights, respectively), and a $25 food and beverage credit. The rates start at $179 for a two-night minimum. The city pass gains you admission to things like the city's zoo, aquarium, museum of natural science, the Space Center, Museum of Fine Arts (or the Children's Museum of Houston), George Ranch, or The Health Museum. You can speed to the front of the line in most of these places if you are a city pass holder, too, which is a bonus if little ones are getting fidgety.
The Children's Museum in Indianapolis (tel. 317/334-3322; www.childrensmuseum.org) has partnered with several hotels in that city (tel. 800/323-INDY; www.visitindy.com) for a package whose rates range from $159-$189 per night. It's the largest museum of its kind in the world, and the package includes admission for two adults and two children for an entire day, and four tickets to the Indianapolis Zoo. Some of the properties in the promotion are the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Union Station, three Holiday Inns (East, North and South), and the Crowne Plaza at the Indianapolis Airport.
Every summer, Milwaukee's Irish Fest (tel. 800/558-8222; www.irishfest.com; www.mkeirishfest.com) lures families to the shores of Lake Michigan for a large celebration that includes a bunch of activities, including music, step dancing and a freckle and red hair contest (no kidding). The Hilton Milwaukee City Center has a package geared toward the August 13-16 event, starting from $179 per night. It includes four tickets to the festival, four weekend passes to Paradise Landing indoor water park, free parking and shuttle to the event, and more.
This one is brand-specific -- Gaylord Hotels -- (tel. 800/965-2000; www.gaylordhotels.com) with four destinations in mind: Dallas, Nashville, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. The D.C. destination has a handful of special events geared toward families, including dive-in-pool movies on Friday and Saturday nights, scavenger hunts, and more; accommodations are priced from $199 per night for a standard room. In Nashville, the Gaylord Opryland Resort has a "Discover Nashville with your family" package from $163 per night. Kids 11 and under stay and eat for free, but you'll also receive a self-guided audio tour of the hotel with a scavenger hunt game card, and admission to two of the following: the Nashville Zoo, the Adventure Science Center or the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art.
The Millennium Broadway Hotel (tel. 800/622-5569; www.millenniumhotelnyc.com) in New York City has a special deal for families starting from $199. The "MB Loves Times Square" package includes 20% off savings on tickets to see the Broadway show Mary Poppins, discounted admission to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum (up to $40 off) for four people, $10 game cards to the ESPN Zone, and other coupons. The package is available through September 30.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort San Diego (tel. 800/81-LOEWS; www.loewshotels.com), which was recently named one of the best resorts in the country for families by Parents magazine, offers a whole slew of activities for free. If your family is traveling until September 7, you can get free access to the resort's activities, including marshmallow roasts, pizza-making workshops, sandcastle building, bingo, educational beach tours, family baking classes and "battle of the band" competitions vis-à-vis Guitar Hero. If your children don't like getting out of the pool, or you're not ready to relinquish the lounge chair, the resort offers something called dive-in movies -- they set up a big screen near the pools outside. If that's not enough to keep your clan entertained, the resort also has four restaurants, basketball and tennis courts. Guests also receive a Fisher-Price welcome gift; baby gear, toys, and games are available as part of a lending library. Rates start from $199.
Our nation's capital is perennially popular with families because of all the free museums and attractions. The Hyatt Regency Washington (tel. 202/737-1234; www.hyattregencywashington.com), which is located within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol and National Mall, is running an offer for families starting from $144 per night. It's valid for Friday-Sunday stays in August, and the package includes breakfast, snacks for kids, full breakfast for both adults and children, a room with two double beds (with 50% off the second room if you want more space), and other discounts.
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