Wish your kids were a tad more — well, active? Want a surefire weapon to combat couch potato syndrome? A great way to tempt kids outdoors and keep them active and engaged is to plan a family getaway around a hotel with a great kid-friendly pool. Add features like water slides and lazy rivers and they won’t even notice they’re getting exercise. Heck, you might even have trouble getting them to come indoors, rather than the other way around.
An added plus: Some fun family time together can help you connect, build good memories, and counter that all-too-common blight on modern family life: headphone isolation.
This Spring, a great break destination for a pool-centered trip is Arizona, where the weather’s so fine it almost comes with a written guarantee. Even better, deals abound right now thanks to the tough hit the region’s taken during the economic downturn. On a recent trip with my daughters, we sampled several Phoenix and Scottsdale area hotels with spectacular kid-friendly swimming areas. My top 3 picks:
1. Westin Kierland Resort and Spa.
Floating down the lazy river in a plump yellow inner tube, you won’t be able to remember why your kids sometimes drive you crazy, or even that they do. Not when you’re listening to their happy sounds as they splash and slide behind you. (There’s a water slide, too.) But if you do want a little non-kid time, hey – the Westin Kierland has a separate adults-only pool and jacuzzi, and a gorgeous spa as well. There are lots of organized activities out of the family fun center including stargazing my girls made a movie during our visit, and the staff gamely joined in with cameo appearances.
2. The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass.
This gorgeous resort just southeast of Phoenix is, in my opinion, not marketing itself actively enough as a family destination. Located on the Gila River Indian community, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass is staffed by members of the Pima and Maricopa tribes who live nearby, and provides an impressive cultural and historical experience for kids — on top of a lot of fun. The pool area is huge, with several separate pools of different depths and a spectacular water slide that rivals many you’d see in an amusement park.
But that’s only the beginning; there’s also horseback riding, with trail rides leaving regularly from the resort’s stables. Riding across the shrubby pinon-spiked sand with a Pima Indian guide, you get a quick and moving lesson in tribal history and the battles over water rights that left so many Indian tribes struggling for survival. (The Gila River was diverted by ranchers and farmers, decimating the once-fertile valley.) Parents can also escape to the Aji spa, with its lovely pools and gardens, health-oriented snack bar, and vast menu of revitalizing treatments.
3. The Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain
You might not think a resort with the word “sanctuary” in the name would be kid-friendly, but Sanctuary Camelback is beloved by families for good reason. For one thing, the casitas are surprisingly spacious, and many are equipped with full kitchens, so it’s almost like having a desert cabin all to yourself. There are also rental houses on the property with resort privileges. Camelback would not be my first choice for younger kids, but for preteens and teens, it’s perfect. The pool area, while not large, has plenty of room for soaking up the desert sun, and there are also tennis courts and a spa. Carved into the stony ridge known as Camelback, the Sanctuary is adjacent to the state park, where there are lots of hikes and places to rock climb.