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8 quintessential summer resorts offering fun for the whole family

May 21, 2022
9 min read
two people kayaking on lake in front of castle resort
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Is there a better time than summer? Some may argue yes, but for me, the sun, the heat and the carefree spirit of the season make for the happiest of months.

It's a time when families can more easily gather to spend quality time together, festivals and fairs fill city streets and folks crisscross the country defining their own version of the Great American Road Trip.

Picking a place for a summer vacation here in the U.S. can be tricky because the choices are often overwhelming. There are stunning cosmopolitan cities, diverse national parks, beaches galore, deserts, plains, forests and everything in between.

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To make it easier for you to decide where to go this summer, we've honed in on a handful of resorts and hotels that offer a quintessential summer experience that harkens back to our favorite memories of summer camp — but with better food and no forced games of capture the flag. You'll find adventures in nature and in and around the water at hotels and resorts ranging from properties you can book with points to a dreamy all-inclusive castle.

Wherever you go, just don't forget to pack the sunscreen.

Mohonk Mountain House

(Photo courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House)

I can say without a doubt that one of my all-time favorite resorts in the country is Mohonk Mountain House, a fairy-tale castle just 90 miles outside of New York City. Originally built, in part, in 1869 and surrounded by 40,000 acres of forest, Mohonk is perfect year-round. Here, everyone in the family can find an activity to partake in: canoeing or swimming in Lake Mohonk, archery or ax throwing, hiking, horseback riding and even outdoor movies, campfires and concerts. Even better, a stay includes three meals a day (alcohol is extra), afternoon tea and cookies, and most activities. That means you'll (more or less) have an idea of exactly how much you'll spend on a trip to Mohonk, as the price of summer travel continues to skyrocket.

How to book: Mohonk Mountain House is on the pricey side. However, when you factor in what all is included — especially meals — it may actually be a better deal than the sticker price would have you think. This summer, rates are easily more than $1,000 per night for two guests.

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

As a native Texan, I can say with certainty that there's no better time to visit the Lone Star State than summer — if you can handle the heat (hint: you can!). For an unforgettable experience, book a stay at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, about 20 miles outside of Austin in the Texas Hill Country. At this Category 5 World of Hyatt property, you can beat the heat by floating around a winding lazy river, zipping down some waterslides or retreating to an adults-only pool for a little peace and quiet. Golfers will enjoy an 18-hole golf course. For a little more action, there are also horseback riding, zip lining, archery, fishing and trap shooting. You won't go hungry, as the resort boasts plenty of restaurants, including an upscale farm-to-table option, a new sushi offering and an ice cream saloon.

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How to book: As a Category 5 World of Hyatt resort, nightly rates here are between 17,000 and 23,000 points per night. Cash rates fluctuate throughout the summer and can be found for as low as $388 per night.

Big Cedar Lodge

(Photo courtesy of Big Cedar Lodge)

Missouri’s Ozark Mountains are about as beautiful as they come. The best place to set up a temporary home there is at the sprawling Big Cedar Lodge near the 10,000-acre Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. During the property's summer season, which runs from May 27 through Sept. 17, guests can enjoy special activities like mini-golf tournaments, '80s-themed concerts and family campfires, as well as sand volleyball, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and swimming in the pools or lazy river. There's even a theme park with go-karts, bowling, a ropes course and more. If that's not enough, why not rent a boat to cruise around the lakes or sign up for wakeboarding lessons?

How to book: Big Cedar Lodge offers tons of different accommodations, from glamping tents to full-size cabins and plenty of options in between. You can find cash rates for as low as $221 a day for off-property "camp huts" and as high as $1,000 per night for large cabins.

Grand Hotel

(Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel)

On Mackinac Island in Michigan, the Grand Hotel (known as "America's Summer Place") offers a slightly different take on the quintessential summer resort. It's one where each eclectic room is different from the next, history is on full display and horse-drawn carriages are the norm, as cars are not allowed. Hotel guests can enjoy tons of outdoor activities like hiking, walking through lush gardens, horseback riding, tennis and golf. Plus, the hotel debuted its new pool and pool house this year after completing a $10 million renovation. It also added the Woodlands Activity Center, which features a mini-golf course, a nature center and even BMX trails. With 16 on-site restaurants, nobody will go hungry.

How to book: You can find summer rates at the Grand Hotel starting around $428 per night, but they fluctuate significantly throughout the summer, with many June dates at $900 (or more) a night.

Omni Mount Washington Resort

(Photo courtesy of Omni)

Up in New Hampshire, the beautiful and historic Omni Mount Washington Resort is set among 800,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest. Here, a summer visit consists of busy days full of fly-fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, guided rock climbs and the chance to soar across New England's longest zip line. The resort also has an 18-hole golf course, as well as a disc golf course for those of us who haven't swung a club. You can soak up scenic views of the area on a gondola or ride "The Cog," the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world.

How to book: Starting cash rates for rooms at the Omni Mount Washington Resort this summer are between $300 and $350 a night.

Bishop's Lodge

(Photo courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection)

On TPG's list of the best new hotels of 2021, Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a luxurious escape that offers a Southwest take on summer favorites. If you visit, it might be difficult to leave the gorgeous room and its traditional kiva fireplace, but a world of adventure awaits outside. Take a wild rafting ride on the Rio Grande, ascend in altitude on a mountain bike or learn the art of fly-fishing. For a calmer experience, sign up for a chocolate tasting class or an alfresco art class, join a mindfulness session in the fresh air or enjoy a leisurely hike. For the kids, the new Coyote Camp Kids Club offers skill-building activities so children can explore the stunning surroundings and ignite their own imaginations.

How to book: Room rates at this Auberge-affiliated hotel that are booked directly average $649 a night.

JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa

(Photo courtesy of JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa)

Want to be a cowboy this summer? Or maybe you just want plenty of space to spread out? Either way, giddy on up to Sonora, Texas, a few hours west of Austin for a stay at this elegant and intimate resort with just 16 rooms and 16 cabins. While the spa is a great place to unwind, it's the immersive activities offered on the 13,000-acre ranch that really steal the show. Master the ins and outs of the cowboy way of life by learning how to ride a horse, then pig out at a traditional cowboy cookout. Next, take a bike out for a trail ride before hitting up the infinity pool to cool off and heading to karaoke night. Off the resort grounds, you can explore the otherworldly Sonora Caverns.

How to book: Rates for rooms tend to average around $400 a night. Keep in mind that bookings require a two-night stay.

Carmel Valley Ranch

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Carmel Valley Ranch is an all-suite resort set on 500 acres outside Carmel Valley, California. It's not too far from Carmel and is part of Hyatt's Unbound Collection. At the resort, guests might just be overwhelmed by all the activities available; options include classics like tennis and golf, as well as less-expected experiences like beekeeping and falconry. Hone your archery skills, meet local artisans or engage with the resort's ranch animals like fluffy alpacas and adorable goats. Guests can also explore the local wine region or just set up shop around a fire pit for s'mores. Great for everyone in the family or as an adults-only getaway, this resort may be the best way to cash in on some World of Hyatt points this summer.

How to book: A Category 7 World of Hyatt Resort, you can snag a standard award night for between 25,000 and 35,000 points. Cash rates start around $800 per night.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees