North America – Where to Stay and What to Do
Note: This page is part of my Top Spots recommendations. It’s organized alphabetically by country and then by city, but it’s purposely not indexed since I want to inspire browsing, and help you to discover places you may not have thought of as kid-friendly. If you attempt to book one of these activities, restaurants or hotels and it’s not in business anymore, or you don’t find it to be kid-friendly, please let me know!
- Activity: Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. We loved all three elements, and really loved the playing with the lemurs. Easily the best kid activity that we’ve done on the island.
- Restaurant: La Trattoria in Hamilton. Excellent kid-friendly atmosphere and food, right in the middle of Hamilton.
Lake Louise, Canada
- Destination: To get to Lake Louise fly into Calgary, rent a car and drive two hours. You’re then in the middle of Banff National Park, with absolutely stunning views and a lot of outdoor activities to choose from. Even with very young kids we went hiking, canoeing and horseback riding.
- Hotel: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It’s iconic with amazing views.
- Hotel: Hotel Punta Islita is a perfect family destination for a week, and I love that they include virtually all activities like horseback riding and zip-lining in the (very reasonable) room rates. My blog post is here.
- Hotel: Marriott Los Suenos. Our kids loved the meandering pool and the swim-up snack bar. We did zip-lining and a day trip to Manuel Antonio Park from there, and there are some good places to eat down the beach so you don’t need a car to be able to get a little local flavor.
- Hotel: Round Hill Resort. Montego Bay isn’t an exciting destination, but we loved spending five nights at Round Hill. We chose beachfront rooms and couldn’t have been happier with the kid’s club, the food, the pool/beach, the water activities and the laid-back atmosphere. A good getaway option from practically anywhere in North America now that there are non-stop flights from LA to Montego Bay.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Hotel: Rosewood Mayakoba is one of the nicest, most kid-friendly hotels we’ve ever stayed at. The service level is incredible, including how the staff interacted with our kids. My blog post is here.
- Tours: We saw Chichen Itza with Your Private Tour. It was far less expensive than similar tours that our hotel and travel agent had proposed. We had a great time at Chichen Itza with Roberto, although the cenote (Ik Kil) and lunch there were disappointing – we should have headed to Valladolid for lunch instead.
- Destination: Panama is a great alternative to Costa Rica. It has the canal of course, but also the Caribbean coast, gorgeous islands, the cloud forest, and lots of animals.
- Tour Company: We traveled with Thomson Family Adventures. It was an excellent trip – very kid-friendly, but still fun and interesting for the adults. My blog post is here.
Los Angeles, California, United States
- Hotel: Los Angeles is huge and you’re going to need to base somewhere. Loews Hollywood is a great choice. We loved the location, right in the middle of Hollywood, the view of the Hollywood Sign from our window, and the rooftop pool.
- Activity: LA Zoo. One of the best zoos we’ve been to. Not far from Loews Hollywood. Don’t miss the wombats!
- Activity: The Santa Monica Pier in the evening. We can easily spend hours playing at the beach and on the pier, and we never skip the Ferris Wheel!
Mammoth Lakes, California, United States
- Destination: A perfect weekend getaway. We loved the hiking, kayaking and overall experience (outdoor movies, late evenings) in the summer. And in winter there’s skiing. My blog post is here.
- Hotel: The Tamarack Lodge is perfectly located right in the middle of the lake area, just minutes to virtually everywhere we wanted to explore. And I loved walking around near the lodge at sunrise. Gorgeous!
San Diego, California, United States
- Hotel: We loved the Rancho Bernardo Inn‘s Halloween package for kids including in-room camping, s’mores, scavenger hunts, toys, games and free kid meals. A great base for exploring San Diego.
- Hotel: The Hotel del Coronado is iconic, with a great beach and pool and rooms that can easily sleep families. There are a lot of stores and restaurants within easy walking distance, and the zoo is just minutes away.
Aspen, Colorado, United States
- Hotel: The St. Regis Aspen Resort is extraordinarily kid-friendly. Our three kids slept upstairs in our loft suite, and they even had their own bathroom. Great location with coffee and wifi included. The teddy bears at check-in were a huge hit, as were the periodic surprise snacks.
- Restaurant: We ate at a lot of good restaurants, but our best meal was at Mezzaluna. Great staff, excellent food and a comfortable atmosphere for kids.
- Restaurant: We also loved lunch at the Highlands Taqueria at the base of Aspen Highlands ski area. There’s a free city bus that will take you there. Excellent carnitas tacos – some of the best we’ve had.
- Activity: Rafting with Blazing Adventures. We took our three kids (5, 7 and 9) on their Lower Roaring Fork trip with Class II rapids. It was a great introduction to rafting for the kids and everyone had fun, despite it being a rainy day. Note: there’s a discount when booking online.
Orlando, Florida, United States
- Activity: I know I said in the introduction that we aren’t a theme park family, but we love Universal Orlando and its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We always go mid-week during the off-season to avoid lines, and find that two days at the parks is perfect. My tips are here.
- Hotel (Universal): Hard Rock Hotel Orlando. It’s perfectly located for the two Universal parks and the pool is excellent. Our kids didn’t want to leave.
- Hotel (Disney): The Four Seasons Resort Orlando. It’s kid-oriented from check-in to the rooms to the pools, while still finding the balance between luxury and comfort. We planned a day at Disney World, but never left the hotel – the kids were having too much fun! My post on our stay is here.
Big Island, Hawaii, United States
- Restaurant: Cafe Pesto, Kawaihae. Casual with great food. The pizzas are excellent.
- Restaurant: Merriman’s, Waimea. One of our favorite restaurants in the world. Local ingredients, great service, excellent food.
- Restaurant: Canoe House, Mauna Lani. We had our wedding reception at the Canoe House. The food alternates between good and excellent depending on the chef, but the setting is always perfect, right on the ocean.
Oahu, Hawaii, United States
- Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Waikiki. Excellent service and location, easy parking, and nicely affordable (with breakfast included). My post on their True Hospitality is here.
- Activity: The Secret Beach and Jungle Expedition Tour at Kualoa Ranch. We loved both. My Oahu post that includes Kualoa is here.
- Restaurant: Eating House 1849. Located right in the middle of Waikiki, it’s our favorite restaurant on the island. Highly recommend the butterfish. And the spicy edamame are crazy good.
Glacier National Park and Whitefish, Montana, United States
- Destination: We love Glacier National Park and the nearby town of Whitefish. Stunning scenery and great hiking, kayaking and fly fishing. With direct flights, it’s an easy weekend trip from Los Angeles or San Francisco.
New York, New York, United States
- Destination: New York has been one of our kids’ favorite destinations since they were little. It truly has everything to offer. Whether it’s shopping, playing in Central Park, exploring museums, going to plays or just wandering around taking it all in, there’s plenty to occupy families for a week. It’s an easy city to navigate with strollers too.
- Restaurant: Osteria al Doge has excellent Italian/Venetian food and is perfectly-located in the theater district. We’ve been to dozens of restaurants in the city, but Osteria al Doge is the one that we make a point of returning to every visit. Get a reservation at least a week in advance, especially if you want to eat at a peak time (before or after shows).
- Restaurant: We’ve eaten at Spice Symphony twice now and loved it. Excellent Indian food.
- Restaurant: If you’re looking for Greek/Mediterranean, Loi Estiatorio on 58th is amazing, and very authentic.
- Activity: Ice skating outside in the winter. There are a lot of places to skate – Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Bryant Park and many others. We like Bryant Park because of the easy location. Go early and on a weekday when kids are in school. It gets crowded on weekends.
- Hotel (Family): The Pierre has an excellent location and room setup for families. We tried out both their standard connecting rooms as well as a two-room suite and both worked great for the five of us – albeit at different price points. Definitely the best view we’ve ever had, overlooking Central Park.
- Hotel (Family): The Westin New York at Times Square is perfectly located for families, easy to walk from there up to Central Park or down to the High Line, and minutes from all of the theaters. Plus it’s only a 10-15 minute walk from Penn Station if you’re taking the train from the Newark airport.
- Hotel (Family): Hotel Giraffe is one of my favorite hotels anywhere. Located near Madison Square Park / Flatiron, it’s far more boutiquey than the Westin but still has family-friendly room options.
- Hotel (Couples): The Library Hotel is our favorite hotel for a romantic weekend. Great rooms, perfect service and an excellent breakfast.
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
- Destination: Cleveland is a very cool city, and remarkably kid-friendly. My blog post on everything we did is here.
- Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland is the best place to stay. Excellent location too.
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
- Hotel: French Quarter Inn. Excellent hotel in a great location, and their queen suites are perfect for families of five or six.
- Restaurants: We didn’t have a bad meal in Charleston. I list all of the places we ate on my blog post here. If we had to choose our two favorites: Monza and Amen Street.