Insider's Guide to Spas

10 Ideal Family Getaways

“In the old days, the elders knew the stories of their sons—because they lived together,” writes Sam Keen in his... Read the full article »

Mary Bemis


“In the old days, the elders knew the stories of their sons—because they lived together,” writes Sam Keen in his beautiful joint memoir Prodigal Father, Wayward Son: A Roadmap to Reconciliation that Sam co-wrote with his son Gifford. “But you and I spent all too little time together when you were young, and once you were grown, we lived far apart. So you have accumulated a vast storehouse of experience about which I know nothing.” If Sam’s lament rings true for you—and you don’t have a year to write a book together—maybe what you can do right now is create time for a family retreat. These retreats are not necessarily quiet, spiritual places. Rather, they are places with a wide range of experiences and distractions that paradoxically can help you connect more deeply with your own distant and perhaps wayward clan.

The Omni Homestead Resort, Hot Springs, Virginia

Billed as America’s first resort, The Homestead recently celebrated its 250th anniversary this year. An iconic property nestled in the Allegheny mountains, it has long been revered for its numerous natural springs. George Washington soaked here, and generations of American families have vacationed here ever since. Now there is something for all ages, including the Allegheny Springs, a two-acre water park complete with lazy river, sandy beaches, slides, a whirlpool and Downtime, a game area where families can wind down with mini bowling, billiards, and more. There’s also a noteworthy spa with its Aqua Thermal Suite (and special spa menu for teens ages 14 to 17). The serene, adults-only outdoor Spa Garden is well worth an entire afternoon, while the KidsClub and all of its activities will keep three- to 12- year-olds happy. omnihotels.com/HotSprings

Aulani, Ko Olina, Hawaii

The Hawaiians have a rich culture of wellness and spirituality—and Disney did its homework when it came to creating this outstanding family getaway on Oahu. The company spent years working with a group of eight cultural advisors to build a resort that shares and perpetuates Hawaiian culture. Aulani is home to Laniwai Spa (meaning “freshwater heaven”), and embraces the Hawaiian connection to and reverence for nature. The heart of the spa is the popular hydrotherapy garden with its unique water circuit. There’s also Painted Sky, what may be the best dedicated teen spa in the States. Younger kids (three to 11) will enjoy all that Auntie’s House has to offer. In addition, there’s the really fine beach, watersports (paddleboarding is big here), fitness classes, wonderful restaurants, and more to keep all ages happy. While there are a whole lot of reasons to stay inside, you’ll want to take the family out on one of the excellent guided excursions: think rainforest and bamboo forest hikes to waterfalls and beautiful beaches. resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort

 Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York

This historic Hudson Valley resort set on 1,200 unspoiled acres, has been in the Smiley family since it opened in the 1870s. Founded by twin brothers who imagined it as a peaceful retreat, Mohonk remains so to this day. (Think classical music concerts, Afternoon Tea, and an award-winning spa with a number of mindfulness programs.) Mohonk has been designated a National Historic Landmark, and received an award from the United Nations Environment Programme in honor of the family’s “125 years of stewardship.” Generations of vacationing families have enjoyed the destination and all that it has to offer. Put simply, this is a nature-lover’s dream with all sorts of outdoor activities like boating, canoeing, fishing, and rock climbing that beckon throughout the seasons. Not to be missed in winter is the wonderful outdoor skating rink. mohonk.com

Out N’ About Treesort, Cave Junction, Oregon

The Treesort is for kids of all ages—and one that no family will forget. There are 15 tree houses that sleep from two to eight, although not all are for overnight lodging. They are simple, rustic and safe, and you’ll have fun up high, climbing ladders and traversing a 90-foot-long suspension bridge. If you book the Swiss Family Complex, enjoy the swinging bridge that separates the adult and kids’ units. There is also horseback riding, rafting, ropes courses, ziplines, and more fun for the entire family at this Oregon escape. treehouses.com

La Costa Resort & Spa, Carlsbad, California

History reveals that this Southern California resort was originally designed as a residential resort with activities for all ages, and 50 years later (and a recent $50 million renovation) La Costa is going strong. Spread out over 400 acres, the resort features award-winning golf courses, eight swimming pools (waterslides, as well as adults-only) and one of the first resorts spas in the US. It’s also home to the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. There are a number of local family attractions nearby, including Legoland, SeaWorld, and the San Diego Zoo. omnihotels.com

Glenwood Hot Springs, Glenwood, Colorado

The Yampah spring feeds the mineral hot spring pools at this historic property, peacefully located next to the Colorado River and surrounded by the Rockies. Yampah translates to “Big Medicine” in the Ute Indian language—and the spring, originally used by this tribe, is still considered sacred. If you’re a lover of hot springs, you’ll be happy to note that Glenwood boasts the largest mineral hot springs pool in the world. In business since 1888, the 107-room lodge and springs are an ideal family destination. All ages will enjoy swimming, splashing, and soaking in the healing waters. There’s also an 18-hole miniature golf course, noteworthy athletic center, and The Spa of the Rockies that can be found inside the historic bathhouse building. hotspringspool.com

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, Costa Rica

You’ll arrive by small boat at this secluded eco lodge and magical learning adventure. Laid out on 165 lush acres, home to all sorts of creatures (howler monkeys, bats, ocelots, and lots more), the resort’s core is a sustainably harvested timber-framed, solar-paneled lodge where all meals—cooked from food that is locally grown or caught—are served at a single long table. During the day, explore one of the many adventures, including a guided hike to learn about the multitude of plants that cure or kill, scale a waterfall, take a boat ride, or visit the neighboring monkey rehab center. Later, chill out in one of the hammocks, on the yoga deck, or in a hanging chairs. Nights get very dark and flashlights are issued to get you back to your room. Watch out for the alligators! Nicuesalodge.com

 The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

This is a lovely lakeshore resort in a village that has been attracting visitors since the late 1800s. The lake is a joy to amble around, and its water refreshingly clear and clean. As one may imagine, there are a variety of water sports on hand and a number of boats to rent from pontoons to fishing boats to sailboats, canoes, paddle boats and boards, kayaks, and even hydro-bikes. Beachfront bonfires make evenings more enjoyable for the whole family. The Pleasures Activities Program for kids (four to 10) is both educational and fun. For adults, the award-winning Aspira Spa is a welcome haven for the healing arts. Osthoff.com

Tyler Place Family Resort, Swanton, Vermont

This family-run resort on Lake Champlain has been around since 1933, and hosts up to 70 families a week. In a unique set up, there are nine age-specific camps (each with their own facilities) created for babies and children up to 15. (Your teen won’t have to worry about being seen with toddlers.) As you may imagine, the lake takes center focus when it comes to fun things to do—kayaking, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and water tubing. Don’t miss “Nature Dave’s” bass fishing cruises. tylerplace.com

GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, Oracabessa, Jamaica

There’s kid’s yoga, doll making, kite-flying lessons, and a number of fun watersports on the menu, making this a wonderful, albeit pricey, family destination. Originally the home where Ian Fleming wrote all of his James Bond novels, GoldenEye is spread out over 40 acres and is a compound of tropical buildings, gardens, and private beaches. A fellow named Ramsey, Fleming’s gardener, still works here, and leads some of the children’s activities like coconut carving and nature walks. You can rent Fleming’s five-bedroom villa, or book a one- or two-bedroom. Don’t miss the open-air FieldSpa, a real sanctuary, and note that you can swim or kayak through the lagoon to get there. Goldeneye.com

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.