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Spring Break: Family Style

Ashley Evanson and Jamie Cline - March 12, 2011

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The words “spring break” may bring to mind some things that make you want to shut off the TV and lock yourself in the house. But we’ve got you covered—this year, we’ve come up with a list of family-friendly spring break vacation sites for you to consider.

Nickelodeon Family Suites:
Orlando, Florida
Staying at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Florida is a vacation in and of itself. After all, daily activities, an on-site mall, and gigantic water parks are all available. The hotel offers great entertainment (like games where kids and parents compete to see who knows more about the other), rock band competitions, live nightly entertainment in the Nick Studio, slime time, and more Nickelodeon-inspired fun.

The resort offers great amenities for kids, like the mini golf course, a kids’ spa where they can get a manicure, two pool complexes with a 400-gallon dump tank and slipping slides, and an arcade. Even parents can enjoy their own retreat with the resort’s “Nick After Dark,” which provides fully supervised activities for kids and evening entertainment packages for adults.

As far as the actual “suites,” Nickelodeon has gone above and beyond to make your stay comfortable. Even the 1-bedroom suite has a private master bedroom, a full-functioning kitchen (including dishes), and a parlor with a flat screen TV. If you want to give your kids more privacy, upgrade to a 2-bedroom suite, which includes all the amenities of the 1-bedroom plus a semi-private Nickelodeon cartoon-themed room for the kids with bunks or twin beds.

The hotel can get booked pretty quickly, so make reservations early. You can do this at nickhotel.com.

Although the hotel itself is amazing, take at least a couple days to explore the rest of Orlando! If theme parks are your thing, you have various options: SeaWorld Orlando, Disney World, and Universal Studios just start the list. If you would prefer to do something a bit different this vacation, consider one of the fun museums Orlando has to offer. WonderWorks has hundreds of interesting exhibits for your family to enjoy. Experiencing a 5.3 earthquake, creating your own roller coaster, and landing a spaceship are only the beginning of WonderWorks’ kid-friendly interactive displays.

Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capital has a lot more to offer than news and politics, even if your kids won’t believe you at first. It can actually be a very fun place for the family if you know where to go. Of course, there are the typical tourist sites like the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial—which are still great places to take the kids—but there are other options kids will especially enjoy.

The great thing about museums and parks in D.C. is that admission is usually free. The National Zoo is one such place. It’s located in the Rock Creek National Park and is home to over 400 species of animals. Your kids will become wildlife biologists for the day!

The Smithsonian Museums in the National Mall are also free, but even better, they’re educational as well as entertaining. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History easily inspires curiosity of the natural world. The museum includes a variety of artifacts, including an 80-foot dinosaur skeleton, a 45-and-a-half carat blue diamond, and photographs of never-before-seen places in the Amazon jungle.

The National Air and Space Museum is out of this world. The collection of air and spacecrafts is the largest in the world, and can be seen hanging from all over the museum’s ceiling. Learn about the Apollo missions, see how much you weigh on different planets, and enjoy the planetarium show or IMAX film. The Discovery Theater in the Ripley Center is a live theater for children. Daily puppet shows, musicians, actors, and dancers will make your kids—and even you—smile. Also, there’s the Imagination Stage, another theater that puts on both modern and classic plays, dance, and music for children.

Don’t miss out on seeing real money being printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for you to show your kids once and for all that money does not grow on trees!

Grand Cayman Island, Caribbean
This island, located off the coast of Cuba, features beautiful Caribbean waters and pristine sands. Noted as one of the three top diving spots in the world, it’s a fantastic place to visit with family as it features hotels and resorts for many budgets. It’s also got a fantastic opportunity to swim with dolphins, so if your kids are a fan of Flipper, this might be the spring break for you. Dolphin Discovery has three different “Dolphin Experiences,” depending on the amount of interaction you want and, of course, the price you want to pay. Dolphin Discovery is different from other dolphin excursions because participants actually swim with the dolphins—they are not limited to standing on an underwater platform, like other companies. In two of the three experiences, the dolphins take participants on a ride, and during all three, participants are given free time with the dolphins. The company also gives a free pass to their Turtle Farm for all those who participate.

While you’re there, don’t miss out on the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Admission is only $10 for the whole day, and there’s so much to see, you’ll want to take advantage of it! The park is home to endangered blue iguanas, which are a real treat to see. They also feature several different gardens boasting gorgeous tropical flowers. You can bring your own lunch in and eat at the picnic tables available by the picturesque lake, which is home to many rare birds, such as the West Indian Whistling Duck.

If you’d like to continue enjoying the simple beauty of Grand Cayman, don’t forget to visit the Butterfly Farm. Go early on in your vacation, since your admission ticket is good for your entire time at Grand Cayman. This tropical garden is bursting with beautiful butterflies from around the world. This exhibit will teach you about the lifespan of these amazing creatures and, if you take care to arrive early, you might be able to see a butterfly break free from its cocoon and take flight for the first time!

Once you’ve spent a few relaxing days, it’s time for some excitement. And what could be more exciting than swimming with friendly stingrays? Stingray City is one of the most popular attractions in Grand Cayman. Docile rays will swim around you and “nestle up to you like puppy dogs,” says one reviewer. Participants are even taught how to properly feed them—right out of hand! Thousands of people safely swim with the rays each year and come away with lasting memories. To have these wild but friendly animals brush up against your legs and arms is truly an amazing experience. A friendly and professional purveyor of this trip is Frank’s Watersports.

Don’t forget to visit Seven Mile Beach, an enormously long stretch of sand recently voted “The Caribbean’s Best Beach” from Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine. It’s a fantastic spot for you and your family to relax and enjoy. There are few regulations for this public beach, which makes it very enjoyable for visitors. Visitors can easily walk the length of the beach and have the option of stopping at one of the restaurants. Or, take the opportunity to rent a couple of jet skis or even some horses for a few hours.

Park City, Utah
This little ski resort town is tucked into Utah’s Rocky Mountains and boasts having the best snow on earth. Park City has recently become the “it” place to visit during winter, especially now that the Sundance Film Festival—which takes place in Park City every February—brings Hollywood to this small mountain town.

Spring break in Park City is a winter wonderland, with the snow still heavy on the mountains and lots of winter activities for you and your family. Deer Valley, The Canyons, and Park City Mountain Resort have some of the best runs in Utah, and skiers and snowboarders come from all over the world to shred the snow.

While here, make sure to check out the Utah Olympic Park, a venue for the 2002 winter Olympic Games. The park now serves as a training and competition ground for some of the world’s best athletes, whom you can watch practice and compete. Your kids will love watching skiers twist and flip through the air.

Gorgoza Park is the best place for extreme tubing. This sledding hill features a lift service that takes tubers to the top of the ultimate tubing hill, which saves you from weary legs and preserves all your energy for the crazy ride down. The hill features seven lanes, each ranging from beginner to expert level. Without tiring from hiking up the hill every five minutes, this fun winter activity can last for hours.

For some other fun winter sports, All Seasons Adventures offers guided activities like snowshoeing, sleigh rides, cross-country skiing, and even hot air ballooning! You can find them located in the Snow Park Lodge.

And after a long day of playing in the snow, head over to Main Street—the life of Park City. Along this street are restaurants, shops, and art galleries, all with old-fashioned facades. The night life is great, and your family will enjoy the cozy, mountain resort atmosphere.

Great Wolf Lodge Water Parks
Ever been to a water park when it’s 35 degrees outside? No? Well, welcome to Great Wolf Lodge—a year-round water park, built inside, where the weather is a constant 84 degrees. Most of the 12 different locations are located in cold climates (such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and
Wisconsin), which will keep your plane ticket rates down when everyone else is spending big bucks on flights to warmer places.

The Great Wolf Lodges offer comfortable suites for up to eight people and have optional cabin- or tent-themed rooms for younger visitors. “Fort Mackenzie,” a four-story interactive tree house, features several water slides, spray stations, and a 1,000-gallon soaker bucket that dumps on swimmers every few minutes. A lazy river, lounge chairs, and hot tubs are some of the other wet and wild options.

When your kids are settled at the water park, steal away for a trip to the Elements Spa. Enjoy a massage, facial, manicure, and whatever else you need for a pick-me-up after the long winter. If your daughters are envious of your spa treatment, arrange for a pedicure at the Scoops Spa, an ice cream–themed kids spa.

If this sounds like the vacation for your family, check out the discounts offered for both suites and the water park on the Great Wolf Lodge website, greatwolf.com.

© LDS Living 2011.
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