5 go-to resorts for your next family reunion
By Robin Cherry
With apologies to Charles Dickens, family reunions can be the best of times or the worst of times. But with careful planning, it’s easy to create a vacation the whole family will remember fondly. Here are five resorts that have something for everyone (including private space).
The Hotel Hershey, Hershey, Pennsylvania
One of the few places you’re happy to smell before you arrive. Chocolate perfumes the air, guests are given a chocolate bar upon check-in, and there’s a decadent chocolate spa where adults and kids alike can indulge in an edible chocolate facial. In addition to the normal amenities, the resort has four golf courses, a year-round skating rink and a shuffleboard court (you know you love it). After a day at Hersheypark testing out the new Skyrush roller coaster, book a privately catered picnic; choose between The All American Ball Park (hot dogs, peanuts and funnel cake fries) and the Hawaiian Luau (Hawaiian BBQ, Polynesian fried rice and pineapple upside down cake).
The Homestead Inn, Glen Arbor, Michigan
This collection of four small hotels overlooks the blue waters and white dunes of The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (voted the most beautiful place in America by Good Morning America’s viewers). If you’re bringing Fido, check into pet-friendly Fiddler’s Pond. Kids from two months to ten years will enjoy Camp Tam-a-Rack’s activities, which include treasure hunts and Kid’s Night Out with Story Time (and hot cocoa). At Nonna’s (Grandmother’s), Chef John Piombo prepares some of his Genovese grandmother’s specialties, like pesto risotto and pan-fried whitefish with tomatoes, basil, anchovy and olives. He also shares his secrets in cooking classes and demonstrations.
Red Rock Ranch, Westcliffe, Colorado
At the base of the Sangre de Christo mountains, you can rent an entire ranch for a family hoedown. It accommodates up to 40 people in three separate houses. Belly up to the 12-barstool saloon or gather around the antique piano in the parlor for an old-fashioned sing-a-long. There’s also a sauna/spa/workout room. And each of the houses has a state-of-the-art kitchen so you can cook up a feast. If you’d prefer to have someone else handle the cooking, the Buffalo Gals Catering Company can prepare “heapin’ helpins” of spicy “Rip Your Lips Off Chicken” and Linguisa (Portuguese red wine sausage). Tell stories (family and/or ghost) around the campfire circle or test your skills on the horseshoe pit, billiards table and volleyball court. Teenagers will love the privacy of the five-bed bunkhouse. At the end of the day, curl up on the screen porch with a book or challenge grandpa to a game of Texas Hold ’Em (poker chips are provided, but you’ll need your own bankroll).
The Beach Club, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Overlooking the impossibly white beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, this resort has one- to five-bedroom cottages a short walk from the beach. There are eight tennis courts, a golf simulator and the world’s tallest inflatable water slide. Onsite activities include karaoke and TV-inspired games like Family Survivor (in which families are split into teams, pick a tribe name, set up their own campsite and compete against each other in challenges) and Amazing Race (teams race around the resort searching for clues to lead them to the next location). The local grocery store delivers, but the resort’s Southbeach restaurant serves not-to-be-missed Southern specialties like Fried Green Tomatoes and Creole Gumbo. At night, challenge your folks to a game of black-light (glow-in-the-dark) volleyball.
Villa Royale, Palm Springs, California
For a slightly more formal reunion, consider this Tuscan-style hideaway originally built for Olympic figure skater/actress Sonja Henie. Enjoy spectacular mountain views from its flower- and hummingbird-filled gardens by day; then sip drinks around its pool patio fireplace as afternoon turns to evening. The refined Europa restaurant serves Mediterranean specialties like braised short ribs and house-made gnocchi in its wood-beamed dining room. It’s very Old World. But if you need some New World excitement, you’re within walking distance of downtown and there are more than 100 golf courses nearby.
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Robin Cherry’s travel writing has appeared in Afar, Islands, Wine Enthusiast and The Atlantic. Her family used to meet every summer in San Antonio, Texas for her grandmother’s birthday, which alas was in August. Fortunately, the hotel had a pool.