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Five best-value resorts for active families

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.

Use of the resort’s pool, playing fields, tennis courts, indoor sports facility, wilderness trails, and miniature golf course are free. Other activities such as mountain biking, rock-climbing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are offered for a small fee. Family programs led by the staff are also options.

Woodloch Pines Resort, Hawley, Pennsylvania

Nestled in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, Woodloch makes an effort to please both kids and adults with amenities ranging from camp-type outdoor activities to luxury spa services. Woodloch started as a small family resort in 1958 but has since grown, adding accommodations for up to 900 guests and a championship golf course. In June, it opened a full-service, 40,000-square-foot destination spa.

Resort lodgings range from standard rooms to private guest homes with two to five bedrooms. Most guests book the “Traditional American Plan,” which includes accommodations, meals, nightly entertainment, most resort activities, and daily housekeeping. The list of included activities is lengthy, with tennis, miniature golf, cooking classes, bumper cars, and water sports among them. There is an extra fee for some amenities, such as spa services and golf.

Rates vary depending on when you visit. Three-night packages for summer stays through September 2 start at $684 per adult based on double occupancy. Prices for kids staying with two adults are $185 for ages three to six, $313 for ages seven to 12, and $392 for teens ages 13 to 19. Prices for stays outside the peak summer months are cheaper. There’s also an option that excludes meals, which is helpful for those staying in guesthouses with kitchens. For more details, go to the Woodloch website.

Club Med Sandpiper, Port St. Lucie, Florida

Located on the St. Lucie Waterway about an hour north of West Palm Beach, this resort provides the upscale, all-inclusive Club Med experience without the need to book pricey international airfares. This family-friendly Club Med has children’s programs for kids ages four months to 17 years old, and also features 19 tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. The age-specific children’s and teens’ programs are led by trained counselors and include activities such as hip-hop dance workshops and tennis lessons. Other activities open to everyone include sailing, waterskiing, flying trapeze lessons, and group golf sessions.

All resort stays include luxury accommodations, all-day gourmet meal service, full open bar, live entertainment, land and water sports, use of resort amenities and grounds, Mini Club Med for kids, and all gratuities. There is an extra fee for kids ages three and under to participate in the Baby and Petit Club Med activities and for some activities, such as individual rounds of golf.

While Club Med vacations can cost more than stays at other resorts, you can save hundreds by taking advantage of Club Med’s frequent discounts, such as its current Club Med Family Plan deal which offers discounted rates for stays through November. With this promotion, a family of four can stay seven nights at Club Med Sandpiper for $1,999—a savings of more than $1,000 off regular prices. Read more about the resort on the Club Med website.

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