Roadtrips worth taking with grandkids
If you’re like many grandparents who can’t get enough of their adorable grandchildren, nothing could be better than an overnight trip with them.
But vacations can also be tricky and even stressful, especially when traveling with a wide range of ages. There can be meltdowns, fights and temper tantrums. (And the grandchildren can have them, too!)
When friends ask me about intergenerational travel, I have a few suggestions: First, make sure everyone knows up front who’s paying for what. Second, plan but be flexible. Third, choose a destination with age-appropriate activities for everyone in your group.
Finally, spend some time apart; nothing can ruin a vacation more than being together 24-7. And most importantly, grandparents, don’t try parenting. Your turn is over, so just enjoy.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
So, where can you go? Perhaps the easiest vacation is at a resort where everything is in one place. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in western Pennsylvania offers just that, with a variety of accommodations, activities and places to eat.
Located about three hours from D.C., the resort has several hotels on site at different price points and styles, ranging from casual (The Lodge) to opulent (Chateau Lafayette) to sophisticated luxury (Falling Rock, the only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond property in Pennsylvania).
Townhouses and luxury vacation homes are also available for families who want to be under one roof.
Luckily, entrepreneur Joe Hardy built this resort as the ultimate playground for all ages, so you don’t have to over-think how to satisfy those hard-to-please teenagers and even 20-somethings.
Outdoorsy daredevils should test their courage at the Adventure Center, with two 3,000-foot-long zip lines that reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour; a 50-foot free fall; the 40-foot-high canopy tour; and an off-road adventure in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).
All family members can enjoy the nearby 18-hole miniature golf course. Or visit the Wildlife Academy, swim indoors or out, or just relax around the adult pool that features a Jacuzzi, a fire pit and a bar area.
Need a little time without the kids? For children ages 4 to 15 there is Kidz Klub, and a program called Little Tykes for ages 6 weeks to 3 years. Both offer full and half-day sessions, as well as “night out” sessions until 10 p.m. All require advance reservations. Professional babysitters are also available.
Sans the kiddos, play on one of the two championship golf courses (Mystic Rock hosted a PGA tournament). Take a tour of the multi-million-dollar art collection. Schedule a massage or pedicure at the spa. And I highly recommend going off property to Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s true masterpieces, only 20 miles away.
With an eclectic collection of places to eat, it’s easy to find the right one for your family no matter how large a group.
Don’t worry about the kids getting up and being rowdy. You can enjoy a casual meal minus the dirty stares at some of the more casual venues.
Or leave the kids in the club and savor Aqueous, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired restaurant with modern cuisine and a nod to the sea, or the Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond rated Restaurant Lautrec.
Who doesn’t love chocolate, especially now that dark chocolate is (finally!) deemed good for you? Indulge and immerse yourself in “The Sweetest Place on Earth” — Hershey, Pennsylvania, where you can smell chocolate in the air. It’s about a 2 ½-hour drive from the D.C. area.
If you really want to make the trip easy, book either the Hotel Hershey (old world charm with modern amenities at splurge prices) or Hershey Lodge (casual, family friendly with Water Works, an indoor pool complex).
Staying “on property” means you’ll get VIP benefits, including: the best price on Hersheypark tickets; free shuttle bus service to the park; one-hour early access to the park; free admission to Hershey Gardens; and access to the Hershey Golf Collection, including the private courses at the Hershey Country Club.
Both hotels provide a long list of recreational facilities, have events during the summer and help plan family activities.
Hersheypark — which has more than 70 rides, a full water park and a zoo with more than 200 animals — is a perfect spot for the little tykes, teens and way beyond. Be it something mild or hair-raisingly wild, you’ll find it here.
If grandparents are thrill seekers, they might join the kids on one of 13 roller coasters. If they are more like me and want something tamer, ride the 100-year-old carousel with the littler ones.
Chocolate lovers of all ages will enjoy Hershey’s Chocolate World, a free ride located just outside the amusement park. Think of it as a Disney ride that tells you how chocolate is made — with a free Hershey kiss at the end of the ride.
To learn more about Milton Hershey, America’s most prolific chocolate maker, visit the Hershey Story Museum downtown. For the grandparents, old Hershey tins and other Hershey packaging will bring back fond childhood memories.
For an extra fee of about $12, visit the Chocolate Lab to create and decorate your own personalized candy bar. Or take the Hershey Trolley Works ($13 to $16), where you can choose a family-friendly tour of the town or a separate history tour that’s best suited to parents and grandparents.
Need a break from chocolate? Visit the gardens, great for the older folks or kids that need to burn off all that chocolate energy. And don’t miss The Butterfly Conservatory in the garden.
Both hotels offer kids’ clubs and nighttime activities. Parents and grandparents can take advantage of this time to play golf or have a treatment at the spa. Keeping with the chocolate theme, enjoy such treatments as the Whipped Cocoa Bath and Chocolate Fondue Wrap.
Perfect for any family history buffs or architecture lovers, take a tour of Pennsylvania’s State Capitol in close-by Harrisburg. Add a visit to Broad Street Market, founded in 1860.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Myrtle Beach is a true hybrid vacation destination. It runs the gamut from long stretches of sandy beaches, to championship golf, to rides for all ages, to shows and boardwalk delights such as fries and funnel cake. It’s about a seven-hour drive down I-95 from this area.
North Myrtle Beach area is less congested and frenetic than the original Myrtle Beach. Its permanent show venues, such as The Alabama Theatre and The Carolina Opry, have great shows. At the Opry we saw a variety of musical acts from country to pop to Broadway tunes, a comedian and a high-energy finalist dance troupe from “America’s Got Talent.”
Another great option there is “Broadway at the Beach,” an amusement park area with rides for young kids and daredevils. They include a zip line, Beach Rider Jet Boat, wave pool, The Simpsons 4D film, helicopter rides and a Grand Prix raceway. Most attractions require tickets that range from $10 to $25 each. Be sure to visit at night, when all the neon and LED lights make the place magical.
If you really want “classic beach crazy,” go down to Myrtle Beach and stroll along their boardwalk for the super-charged energy you would expect.
Myrtle Beach has no shortage of miniature golf. I’m not talking about your average mini-golf. I’m talking extravaganzas, mountains, waterfalls and volcanoes. The names say it all: Mayday Miniature Golf, Hawaiian Rumble and Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf.
If mini-golf makes some family members yearn for the real thing, you’re in luck. The Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach areas are known as The Golf Capital of the World for a reason: they have more than 100 courses. You’ll have no trouble getting a tee-time.
If you want something entirely different from anything else at Myrtle Beach, visit Brookgreen Gardens. Located south of Myrtle Beach, this 9,127-acre floral jewel is a combination of beautiful gardens and spectacular sculptures.
Myrtle Beach’s accommodation choices are wide-ranging. We stayed at the North Beach Plantation in a two-bedroom, two-bath terrace apartment with a kitchen and, thankfully, a washer/dryer. There are even five-bedroom units. Our 19th-floor apartment overlooked the ocean, a view I never tire of.
Besides the beach, our resort had several pools, including an adult-only one for some quiet time. And the area has an endless array of restaurants that serve everything from tater tots to tapas.
When you’re on vacation, don’t forget to bring your digital camera or snap pictures on your phone. That way you and your grandchildren can create a slideshow or photo book together (at Shutterfly.com or other sites) to remember the trip.
If you go
Rooms at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort range from $459 at Chateau Lafayette to $419 for a night at Falling Rock. The Lodge’s rooms are $439 per night. To make a reservation at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, visit Nemacolin.com or call 1-877-724-5165.
In Hershey, you’ll pay about $460/night at the historic Hotel Hershey and $379 for the Hershey Lodge. To book a room at the Hotel Hershey, visit hotelhershey.com or call 1-844-330-1711; contact the Hershey Lodge via hersheylodge.com or 1-844-533-3311.
Myrtle Beach hotels can range from $130 to $350 per night in the summer season. For more information about Myrtle Beach sites and hotels go to visitmyrtlebeach.com or call 1-800-356-3016.