8 quintessential summer resorts offering fun for the whole family

May 21, 2022

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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

aerial photo of castle-like resort on a lake
(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

aerial view of resort waterpark and lazy river
(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.

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

fireworks exploding over mountain resort
(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

aerial view of large white resort on lake with beach access and waterpark
(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

large white resort with red roof in mountains
(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

room overlooking mountains with adobe fireplace
(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

aerial photo of ranch resort with large house
(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

swimming pool with umbrellas
(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 photo courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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