Five best-value resorts for active families

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Family biking in Colorado (Photo: IndexOpen)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on July 25, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, family travel, hotel, Molly Feltner, resort.

Some families prefer to spend their vacations lounging by the pool. For others, a vacation isn't a vacation unless it's packed with activities and adventure—rock-climbing, horseback riding, hiking, even flying trapeze lessons. Many resorts in the U.S. cater to such families, offering top-notch recreational facilities and daily schedules packed with activities, classes, and sports. However, not all are worth the rates they charge. To help you plan an affordable getaway, I've highlighted five of the best-value active resorts for families in the U.S.

The Tyler Place, Highgate Springs, Vermont


Set on the banks of Lake Champlain, this all-inclusive country retreat is one of the most acclaimed family resorts in the U.S. and has won over countless visitors who return year after year. Founded in 1933, the resort is known for offering activities that appeal to a wide range of age groups, and for its ability to balance a camp-like atmosphere with touches of luxury, like private candlelight dinners just for the adults.

Rates at Tyler Place include accommodations, all meals, indoor and outdoor activities, and age-specific child and teen programs. The resort has something for everyone, including windsurfing, yoga, mountain biking, and fishing. It even includes off-site tours to Vermont farms and sites in nearby Quebec.

Rates for adults run from $166 to $308 per day, and rates for kids ages two-and-a-half to 15 cost $104 per day, for stays through September 2. Cheaper prices are available for "Family Retreat Times," which run from May 26 to June 24 and from September 2 to 9. The resort is open from late May to early September. For more information, go to the Tyler Place website.

Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, Highland, New York

Not all dude ranches are located in the remote West. In fact, one of the best-value ranches for families is located less than two hours from Manhattan. Rates at the highly-praised Rocking Horse Ranch include typical dude ranch activities like horseback riding and hay rides, plus a variety of other things to do such as a climbing wall, archery, and even water skiing on the ranch's private lake. The ranch also has tennis, basketball, handball, and bocce courts, a giant water slide, and a video arcade and fitness center. Families can participate in activities together or kids ages four to 12 can play with their peers at the ranch's day camp.

Prices are highest in the summer, but you'll pay less per day the longer you stay. Seven-night stays start at $1,185 per adult, $565 for the first child ages four to 14, and $530 for additional kids. Rates include accommodations, meals (three meals per day for kids, breakfast and dinner for adults), use of all facilities and equipment, and most activities. Babysitting is extra. You pay significantly less for stays in the fall and winter, beginning in September. To learn more, go to the Rocking Horse Ranch website.

YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch, Winter Park, Colorado

This resort of more than 5,000 acres in the heart of the Rockies was named as the number-one place for affordable family adventure by Outside Magazine. While definitely not a luxury experience, you will get low-cost lodging and meals, and the opportunity to participate in a multitude of recreational activities, many available at no cost.

Operated by the YMCA of the Rockies, this family resort offers rustic cabin, lodge, and camping accommodations. Rates range from $20 per night for campsites to $361 per night for a five-bedroom vacation rental. Rooms in the resort's lodge start at $54 per night. Meals are not included with accommodations, but you can eat at the ranch's buffets for a minimal charge or cook for yourself if you're staying in a cabin with a kitchen.

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