As a mother of two young children who often accompany me on my travels, I can say that most of the hotel kids’ clubs I’ve seen — that is, if a property even has one — tend to be single room spaces with little consideration to youthful interests. Most offer predictable activities like arts and crafts and board games.
But increasingly I’ve begun to see clubs that have unique settings and entertainment offerings that aim to stimulate children and give them a sense of place. The best connect children to the culture of their destination while giving them space to play.
It’s not a surprising move, explained Amanda Norcross, features editor of Family Vacation Critic. “Parents want their children to be happy and engaged on their trips,” she said. “Having an innovative kid’s club is certainly a way to do that. It also gives a hotel a differentiating factor in an industry that’s always competing for guests.”
Lessons in Culture and Wildlife
The kids’ club at the Marbella Club, a beachside resort in Spain, is a good example of a club that puts culture first. It’s in a 55,000 square-foot villa that was the original home of Prince Alfonso of Spain. It has its own shallow pool and plenty of outdoor space with extensive gardens.
Children between the ages of 4 and 12 (there’s a separate area for children from 5 months old to 3 years old) have a choice of six different activities a day. They may pick lavender and other herbs from the vegetable garden and use them to blend their own perfumes in Andalusian style. Or the counselors might take them to the nearby beach where they can try their hand at kayaking or paddle surfing and learn about local birds.
Access to the club is 90 euros per day. Meals are included, and are always traditional Spanish dishes like paella or gazpacho that the youngsters help prepare themselves.
Jam-Making and Recycling
Located in the heart of Provence, the kids’ club at Domaine de Manville is headquartered in two collector caravan cars.
Children entertain themselves with pottery making, gardening, jam-making classes using fruit grown on the property, and recycling workshops where they create arts and crafts using secondhand materials. There is also a court where children can learn to play Pétanque, a sport — similar to bocce — that’s native to Provence. Plus, the club is free to children (up to 13) staying at the resort. Room rates begin at $215.
Treasure Hunting in a Medina
Similarly, Royal Mansour, in Marrakesh, has a new kids’ club set in a private pavilion within the property’s gardens, but still brings children all the richness of the local culture.
Access is included in the room charge (rates start at around $1,000 a night), and activities include Moroccan art workshops, Arabic lessons and a treasure hunt in the hotel’s medina. The hotel also offers a hands-on chocolate making experience for children in their on-site chocolate laboratory — the best part may be when the youngsters taste-test the bonbons, truffles and other confections they’ve created.