With the popularity of multigenerational vacations on the rise, the new trip-planning motto is: The more, the merrier.
By Chelsea Day
When grandma and grandpa live all the way on the other side of the country, the kids have soccer or ballet after school and mom and dad are lucky to get a work-free weekend, a vacation is often the only “family time” left in today’s world. It’s a big part of why more families are now making the most of precious trips by including the whole clan—from children to grandparents and even great-grandparents, making for bonding experiences across generations.
The popularity of rest and recreation with more relatives has led top destinations to begin catering specifically to a new demographic; the term “family-friendly” isn’t just synonymous with “kid-friendly” anymore. Accessible tours, activities and amenities to match every generation’s interests are top priority.
Coordinating multiple schedules may require some creative thinking, but with a strong focus on family, many locales are able to accommodate every mix of travelers.
Whether you want to cross new places off your bucket list or return to a city that holds special meaning, choosing the setting and activities for your trip is half the fun. Here are some of the cities across the country that offer exceptional options for multigenerational travelers along with top picks for family entertainment and bonding.
Play in the Park
Families flock to Orlando, Fla. for good reason. A theme park offers a unique chance for family members of all ages to enjoy themselves at their own pace, and there is no place quite like Universal Orlando Resort for multigenerational groups to play together. “It’s a resort for the young and the young at heart, a place where you can get an adrenaline fix or just relax and unwind,” describes Craig Curtiss, the reservations manager for Loews Hotels & Resorts at Universal Orlando Resort. Families will find their fill of fun at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
“I especially love the thrills, rides and shopping at CityWalk, along with the great restaurants at the on-site hotels,” Curtiss details. “From a luau show to the Blue Man Group, the entertainment options here appeal to all ages.” Guests at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort and the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando enjoy the benefit of complimentary Universal Express Unlimited ride access, letting them skip lines on most rides and attractions in the parks. Families will be excited by the option to ride again and again, leaving plenty of time to lounge by any of the hotels’ swimming pools.
For an East Coast beach-side sojourn, many families take to Florida’s St. Pete Beach, where warm ocean waves and soft sandy beaches are the backdrop for lasting memories. Featuring a harmonious blend of outdoor activities, chances to lounge and unique cultural attractions, this resort city is also ideal for fall and winter travel, when temperatures are mild. “St. Pete Beach has been known as a family destination for years,” says Susan Owen, concierge at Loews Don CeSar Hotel, located right on the coast. “The best part is, there are lots of other families here. The gentle Gulf of Mexico is great for old and young alike and the tourist-friendly trolley provides fun transportation for all.”
Whether family members are interested in an active vacation or a low-key, relaxing retreat, the area offers plenty of choices. Sailing and fishing trips are exciting ways to enjoy the gulf, while St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center and St. Pete Beach’s historic district, Pass-a-Grille, are fascinating places for families to explore at their own pace.
“Whenever possible, encourage each member of the family to try activities outside their comfort zone—it can make for lots of fun,” Owen suggests. One way to do that in St. Pete Beach: a dolphin watch trip. The Loews Don CeSar Hotel concierges are happy to help plan your cruise, either a tranquil tour or a thrilling ride, depending on your family’s preference. Either way, everyone will love seeing dolphins swim and play in their natural habitat. Back at the hotel, be sure to reward yourselves with a stop at Uncle Andy’s Ice Cream Parlor.
Love and Learn
From St. Pete Beach, head north for a classic family retreat, Washington, D.C. The White House, Embassy Row and monuments on the National Mall are ripe with entertaining educational opportunities. Older generations are often eager to share history with the younger, and sites rich in culture are perfect ways to bridge the generation gap. “Washington, D.C., is great because most of the museums and sites are free,” says Eileen Ogintz, author of “The Kid’s Guide to Washington, D.C.” “Grandparents love teachable moments and you can find them at every turn.”
Arlington National Cemetery is a special place for grandparents who may be able to share family history as they tour grave sites. Kids and adults will delight in the International Spy Museum, which explores the mystique of espionage. The museum delivers fascinating facts through interactive exhibits and explores intriguing fantasies through “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.” Return to reality with a visit to the Smithsonian Institution, sure to delight any aspiring astronaut or geologist. With 19 museums and galleries, everyone in the group will learn or see something new.
Close on the Coast
On the other side of the country, San Diego has embraced multigenerational travelers with its plethora of offerings ranging from outdoor fun in the sun to journeys into the past by way of historical tours and educational sites. Those in search of active adventure can discover any one of the city’s pristine beaches for quintessential Southern California activities like surfing, body boarding, beach volleyball and building sand castles. Or, explore downtown Coronado’s collection of boutiques, restaurants and landmarks. Everyone in the family will find something of interest before returning to watch the sunset together.
Groups wanting to see even more of San Diego can enjoy easy access to fascinating attractions by way of the Old Town Trolley Tour, a fun way for families to spend more stress-free quality time together since no one has to drive. The tour’s diverse range of stops will give families a feel for the area and sightseers can choose how long they stay to explore each attraction, a key component for groups traveling with little ones or grandma and grandpa.
The world-famous San Diego Zoo is another chance to bond with the whole family; it gets visitors up close and personal with wildlife and features double-decker buses that allow guests to traverse attractions with ease. Nearby Balboa Park offers dozens of institutions to discover, many of which are free or low-cost. Young travelers love romping in the expansive lawn and fountain area, and riding the miniature train and carousel. Older-generation family members will savor world-renowned dining amid inspiring Spanish-style architecture at The Prado at Balboa Park. And everyone can come together for the summer concerts at Spreckels Organ Pavilion, marvel at locomotive innovations at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, or stand in awe next to larger-than-life dinosaur bones at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
No matter where you choose to spend your vacation, be sure to bring the entire family along. With so many options for multigenerational travel, it’s now easier than ever to plan the perfect trip that’s as exciting or relaxing as you would like it to be, in a unique destination primed for memory making.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a new haven for families that offers retro-themed comfort and value with lots of options for active travelers. Great for large groups, suites sleep up to six and are equipped with a kitchenette, living area and two flat-screen TVs. Younger travelers to Orlando will feel right at home at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort and the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando. Select suites at these hotels are perfect for multigenerational travel, with one bedroom for adults and a connecting room for kids.
Loews Madison Hotel is a short stroll from capital landmarks, so exploring the city together is particularly convenient for Loews guests. Spacious accommodations immerse visitors in history—former guests of the historic building include almost every U.S. president.
St. Pete Beach
All generations can find something to love about Loews Don CeSar Hotel, whether it’s the building’s storied past as a former hangout of “Gatsby”-era celebrities or the Camp CeSar kids program. “Families meet each other here and even start planning vacations together,” explains concierge Susan Owen. “We had a family from England and one from Pittsburgh meet here and then, for more than 10 years, plan overlapping vacations every year.”
Loews Coronado Bay Resort offers kids the chance to splash around while adults can opt to join in the fun or relax in a cabana. For parents and grandparents who take unwinding more seriously, an array of services await at the Sea Spa. “Loews Coronado Bay offers its own marina on property where guests can rent boats, WaveRunners, paddleboards, paddle boats and more,” concierge Travis King says.
For more information and reservations, visit loewshotels.com.