Last-Minute Summer Vacations for All Ages

PHOTO: Catalina Aerial over Avalon
Santa Catalina Island Company

Still looking to sneak in a summer getaway with the family? Pro tip: Keep the travel time short if the full trip won’t be more than a week. Here are our favorite luxe yet kid-friendly destinations within easy flying or driving distance of the mainland United States.

PHOTO: Catalina Island, California
Santa Catalina Island Company
Catalina Island, California

From Los Angeles, Orange County or the Inland Empire, Catalina is such an easy getaway: just drive to Long Beach Harbor and jump on a ferry. Once you’re there, it’s almost like being transported to some Mediterranean cruise port. Chic boutique hotels, seafood restaurants and an old-fashioned wooden pier comprise downtown Avalon, while outside of town is a huge preservation area rich with wildlife and adventure.

PHOTO: Dreams Riviera Cancun
AMResorts
Dreams Riviera Cancun

Although there’s tough competition for the best family destination in the Cancun/Riviera Maya area, this luxury all-inclusive ranks way up at the top because of its swimming offerings. White sand beach: check. Enormous infinity-edge pool: check. Swim-up bar in pool: check. Plunge pool suites: check. In the last sweltering month of summer, it really improves a vacation if you have cool-off options at every turn, and this place has ‘em.

PHOTO: Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia
Delaware North
Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia

An ideal family getaway, this Pacific Cascades destination is all about swimming fun. There are multiple accommodation choices, but landmark Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa, managed by Delaware North, is the most luxurious and is really at the center of the action. It has five mineral pools, some indoor and some outdoor, plus its own marina that is home-base for BC Sportfishing Group. There’s an inflatables waterpark in front of Harrison Hot Springs Resort, as well as an area where bumper boats are rented by the half-hour. Teens will beg to rent Sea-Doos and go on the banana tube tow ride. If you’re staying elsewhere but you want to take the mineral waters, the Public Pool is open daily for a minimal fee.

PHOTO: Wild Dunes, South Carolina
Wild Dunes Resort
Wild Dunes, South Carolina

So many family-friendly adventures are on offer at this beach resort 30 minutes’ driving distance outside Charleston, there’s a Family Vacation Planner tool to help you get them all on the calendar. Go biking and crabbing, kayak through creeks and rice fields, take a painting class, learn how to stand-up paddleboard, or make a DIY body scrub featuring sugar as a key ingredient. Definitely devote half a day to the Historic Charleston Market and lunch in the city.

PHOTO: Finger Lakes, New York
Finger Lakes Cheese Trail
Finger Lakes, New York

With animal sanctuaries, a “sweet treat trail,” lake flotillas on big weekends and tons of other indoor-outdoor adventures, the Finger Lakes really gives Northeast city escapees the wide range of activities they’re used to, in a rural setting that’s totally opposite and balm to the senses. Stay in a lakeside lodge or on a CSA farm, eat cheese from local small dairies, and grill outside in the evenings. If it’s a rainy day, check out Cascades Indoor Waterpark or WonderWorks at DestinyUSA.

PHOTO: Beaches Turks & Caicos
Beaches Resorts
Beaches Turks & Caicos

Although Sandals Resorts has brought a higher level of quality to the Caribbean all-inclusive scene, sister brand Beaches has remained more of a casual family fun brand – until recently, with the debut of tropical-posh Key West Village at Beaches Turks & Caicos. Credit current CEO Adam Stewart (son of founder ‘Butch’ Stewart), who decided to bring a level of sophistication that friends and family his own age could enjoy while the kids were off playing with Sesame Street characters or going down the SkySlide at Pirates Island Waterpark. (Naturally, if parents want to brave the waterslide, that’s fine too.) The nearly 20 dining options range from Bobby Dee’s diner to French bistro Le Petit Chateau.

PHOTO: Skyland Resort at Shenandoah National Park
Delaware North
Skyland Resort at Shenandoah National Park

Up the mountains and down in the valley, kids will never tire of exploring this vast East Coast wilderness. Take them to the limestone caverns, hike a tiny part of the Appalachian Trail, go blackberry picking or ride horseback through the woods. Skyland has its own stables, and also offers guided hikes and rock climbing excursions. Lodgings are rustic but comfortable, but the resort cuisine is farm-to-table gourmet. If Parents can partake of a grownup beverage or two at the Taproom, from mid-afternoon to 11PM in high season.

PHOTO: Big Sky and Yellowstone, Montana
Austin Adventures
Big Sky and Yellowstone, Montana

Late summer is the ideal time to visit national parks and do the guest ranch experience in cooler-climate northern states. Austin Adventures has a six-day/five-night itinerary tailored to families, which includes two nights at top-rated 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky, one night at Yellowstone Lake Lodge and the final two nights at elegant-rustic Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Every day brings a different adventure, from horseback riding to photo ops near natural wonders to swimming in mineral pools.

PHOTO: Whitewater the Lower Salmon River, Idaho
O.A.R.S.
Whitewater the Lower Salmon River, Idaho

This is the trip that’ll get little ones (and, OK, probably parents too) hooked on outdoors adventures for life, and totally eclipse all swimming parties and camping adventures before or since. Spend either four or five days rafting the Lower Salmon River in Idaho, floating the laziest portions, swimming in hidden pools, and having catered cookouts for every meal. Tour operator O.A.R.S. is one of the premier whitewater vacation providers in the world, and of many trips, this is one highly recommended for guaranteed quality family time and supervised fun. Ages 7-plus are allowed on this tour. Space available on multiple August departures, bookable at www.oars.com.

PHOTO: Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio
Delaware North
Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

A Great Lakes getaway is the quintessential U.S. summer vacation formula, and this Lake Erie resort offers all sorts of different adventures. Geneva-on-the-Lake is a classic resort town with a throwback “Strip” main drag catering just to summer vacationers. Go to the lake for fishing and boating all day long. At Geneva State Park, there’s a swimming beach with lifeguards on duty. But if you don’t want to leave the lodge, there’s an outdoor pool with children’s splash area and a view of the lake from your sun lounger.

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