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5 Kid-Friendly Boutique Hotels for Your Next Family Vacation
With spa treatments, play areas and kid-friendly accommodations, these boutiques appeal to families.
Whether you're traveling with toddlers or college students, these retreats offer coveted amenities, immersive experiences and convenient locations for exploring vibrant locales.(Getty Images)
Hospitality pioneers Bill Kimpton and Ian Schrager invented the boutique concept in the 1980s, bringing wine receptions, celebrity chefs and elevated design to American hotels. Nowadays, in a crowded hospitality market, boutique hotels must also provide more than a room with a view, personalized service and access to local experiences to stand out among the pack as leading family hotels. Here are five family-friendly hotels offering an authentic ambiance and unique amenities that deliver superlative style and perks for families.
The Graduate Berkeley
The venerable Graduate Berkeley opened in 1928, across from the UC Berkeley campus. It's now part of the Graduate Hotels chain – boutique hotels whose humor and collegiate aesthetic clicks with local students, parents and alumni. "We play the Game of Know here, looking up every guest online before arrival, so we can greet them with a meaningful personal note," says Graduate Hotels Sales Manager Gary Kohler. The Durant encourages guests to swap daily housekeeping for a bottle of California wine or a basket of locally made treats. Varsity plaques sport room numbers, and extra credit goes to the artwork by alumni, custom glass bong bed lamps and a fun Cal Parents Club loyalty program. Study hard and you can check into Graduate Hotels properties, which touts the tagline "where smart never goes out of style" in college towns across the country, including Ann Arbor, Michigan, Charlottesville, Virginia, and Madison, Wisconsin.
Don Hall's Guesthouse
Fort Wayne, Indiana
What began as rooms around Don Hall's Guesthouse Grill off Interstate 69 has turned into one of the trendiest places to stay in the Midwest, where families can dine and watch visiting bands from tables at the bar. While the Guest House Hotel and Conference Center retains 1980s-style fixtures and lobby furniture, the next generation of Halls refreshed 86 rooms and created 35 themed boutique suites, many with partner Sweetwater, a leading musical equipment retailer. "We're trying to create more than a hotel room – people want a real experience," says manager Tim Hall. The property features themed music rooms, including a Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and a Fabulous 50s suite to cater to performers and fans who come to town. Room decor includes album covers, memorabilia, vintage furnishings and instruments. Best of all, kids will love the indoor and outdoor pools and the on-site Don Hall's Bakery. Plus, family loft rooms are inspired by the local botanical gardens and zoo, with a treehouse, bunk beds and daybed. "I asked local artists about designing a room, so every guest can have a Fort Wayne experience and buy artwork off the walls," Hall adds. Nightly rates range from $89 to $225.
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club
When this classic 1960s Waikiki hotel was reborn as the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club in 2016, the mosaic "Wish You Were Here" on the pool bottom became an Instagram star. Surfjack's winning combination of warm Aloha spirit, rattan and Hawaiian kitsch make it great fun for families. Plus, the staff offers genuine hospitality. Younger guests can delight in freshly baked cookies at check-in, explore around the island on a fat tire bike, find a cozy lobby nook to play board games and grab free poolside cabanas or chairs along the beach. "The property's Director of Experience curates monthly happenings [such as] our Aloha Friday workshops and surf lessons with special pricing for children," says General Manager Lynette Eastman. Another family perk is the field-to-fork Mahina & Suns (also available with 24-hour room service) from celebrity chef Ed Kenney. What's more, guests can tour his source farms. More than half of the property's 112 beach-casual rooms are configured as one- to three-bedroom suites that appeal to multigenerational groups and larger families. "Most of the hotel reviews note Surfjack's outstanding service, and it's fairly common that families who are checking out can be found hugging the staff," Eastman adds.
Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites
"We see that today's parents are willing to pay a premium if they get quality," says Chitra Stern, co-owner with her husband of the young Martinhal brand. Their four family-friendly luxury resorts in Portugal are all about service, with a baby concierge who reaches out with whatever amenities, organic toiletries and snacks guests need. The unique Martinhal Chiado Family Suites in Lisbon's hippest quarter is the first city hotel in the Kinder Europa Hotels portfolio. Each of the 37 homey apartments has a washer and dryer, a step stool to make parenting young kids easier. Plus, kitchens are stocked with complimentary breakfast supplies, and only refills are billed. "We listen to what our guests say, whether it's among our 135,000 Facebook fans, or on TripAdvisor or Instagram, so we can adapt every day," Stern says. In addition to a cafe with play area, Martinhal Chiado has a supervised camp for ages 6 months and older. "Lisbon is a great nightlife city, but you can only enjoy it if you know the kids are in good hands," Stern adds.
Hotels Löwe & Bär
Werner Bilgram is managing director of Family Select Hotels, whose strict inspections certify luxury hotel members "offer everything, so that parents have a choice to do what they want, at any time." The properties offer connecting rooms and on-site swim lessons, among other discerning amenities and facilities. "Kids animation, activity, and entertainment programs are hyper important, so that our guests have the feeling their kids are in good hands," Bilgram adds. The Hotels Löwe & Bär is a prime example, offering child safety locks, petite bathrobes, computerized sound monitors, child care, afternoon snacks and a supervised kids' dining table, so parents can have a romantic meal. Children can choose from a dozen wellness treatments at the spa, including a Goat Butter Cream Pack designed to soothe skin allergies. "Both the spa and swimming pools are very important to families, and they want to see that the facilities are adapted to kids use," Bilgram says. In addition to indoor waterparks and outdoor heated pools, there's a sand beach and ski slopes for toddlers, a climbing wall and myriad playgrounds. Guests can borrow mountain buggies, back carriers and a baby seesaw at no additional charge. Plus, the neighboring Tyrol resorts of Fiss and Ladis have invested in infrastructure for families and, between them, offer three amusement parks, car-free zones, a summer attractions pass and an underground railway. A Family Classic weeklong summer package covering lodging, meals and activities for two adults and one child begins at $2,200.
Bilgram, who has seen many trends come and go, says today's families are interested in healthier food, connecting rooms for grandparents and city sightseeing, at any price. "People will pay because they get what they want. Families are very demanding," he says.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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