Many seasoned cruisers know you can purchase day passes to resorts in popular port locations like the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But did you know that you can treat the kids to a circus school day trip at an all-inclusive in Florida; a warm winter swim at an indoor/outdoor pool in frozen-over Toronto; or sun and fun at a five-star resort in Texas (often for a fraction of the cost of an overnight stay)?
These ultra-fun properties offer affordable daytime entertainment options for children of all ages, from tots to teens.
Family Resorts with Day Passes
1. Glenwood Hot Springs
So hot that it has its own webcam, the historic Glenwood Hot Springs Pool complex features a two block-long main pool heated to 90 degrees, a kiddie pool and waterslides (both seasonal), plus the benefit of healing mineral waters, which have drawn guests for over a century. Daily rates run from $10.75 to $21 per person, depending upon visitor age, day of the week and season. Children ages 2 and under are free. For an added fee, enjoy the waterslides or a round of mini-golf (open seasonally). Pools are open daily, year-round. Reduced price evening, night pass and combination ride and slide packages are available.
2. Holiday Valley Resort
Most Western New Yorkers are familiar with the ski offerings at Holiday Valley Resort, a family-owned ski resort in Ellicottville, located an hour south of Buffalo. But did you know that you can also take a summer day trip to the family-oriented resort? Open daily to the public from late-June to Labor Day, Holiday Valley’s three-pool complex includes a toddler pool, a lap pool and an activity pool with a slide and diving board. Daily pool rates are $3 to $10 per person, depending on age and day of the week, with special pricing available after 5 p.m. Adventurers ages 3 and up (must be 36 inches tall) can take a ride on the Sky High Mountain Coaster. Hours for the resort coaster vary seasonally. Day passes, as well as one-time tickets, are available onsite. I must add that if you chose the stay overnight too they have beautiful beds for the parents and twin size beds each with a twin mattress for the kids.
3. Hope Lake Lodge & Conference Center
Located in New York’s Finger Lakes region, the Hope Lake Lodge lets families combine a visit to balmy Cascades Indoor Waterpark with a trip down the snow-covered slopes at Greek Peak Mountain Resort. Open to the general public, the indoor water park, best suited to children ages 2 to 10, is located inside the lodge, a family-friendly, four-season destination. Access to an onsite arcade and an outdoor pool (seasonal) are included with water park admission. Across the street, at the Greek Peak Adventure Center, kids ages 3 and up can ride a mountain roller coaster, and tweens and teens can take a zip-line tour or navigate an aerial adventure course.
Daily water park passes, zip-line tours and aerial adventure courses must be booked online in advance. Day pricing is available for both the water park and Outdoor Adventure Course, with special adventure activities available for children ages 3 to 6 in both summer and winter. Special Splash and Ride and Tube and Ride packages combine repeat access to the mountain coaster or the tubing hill with water park admission on select days.
4. Okemo Mountain Resort
Spring for a day pass to Okemo Mountain Resort’s Spring House ($14 per person; free for children under 3) and spend the afternoon splashing and sliding in the indoor complex’s warm waters, heated about 85 degrees year-round. At the resort’s Adventure Center, the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster (must be at least 36 inches to ride) is open year round, too. Seasonal kid-friendly activities at Adventure Zone (available mid-May to late-October) include mini-golf, a climbing wall, zip-line tours (ages 10 and up), a giant air bag (ages 8 and up) and Camp Gokemo, an all-day summer camp program for kids ages 6 to 13. Summer day passes to the resort’s Adventure Center include a full-day pass to the Spring House pools, unlimited access to the Center’s climbing wall, air bag and mini-golf, and three rides on the mountain coaster. In winter, families can ice skate, go tubing or take a one-hour Snow Cat excursion, and kids ages 5 to 12 can steer a scaled-to-size Polaris snowmobile on a 15-minute guided tour.
5. Bromley Mountain
Bromley Mountain has long had a reputation as a great place for families to make the most of Northeastern U.S. winters. But did you know that it’s a first-rate summer destination, too? Featuring America’s first triple-track Alpine slide, Vermont’s longest waterslide and New England’s longest zip line for hard-core adventurers, plus bumper boats and a KidsZone with an inflatable slide for little ones, Bromley’s Mountain Adventure Park (open seasonally) offers a little bit of everything for families.
Four family members can zip simultaneously on Bromley’s half-mile long, quadruple track Sun Mountain Flyer. For the less adventurous, there’s an 18-hole mini-golf course, also open seasonally. Situated in Southern Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains, the family-friendly ski resort is an easy 75-minute drive from Albany, New York, three hours from Boston and four hours from New York City. The Mountain Adventure Park is open daily from mid-June to Labor Day, and on weekends only for part of the month in May, June, September and October.
All-day Mountain Adventure Passes, which include unlimited access to rides in the Mountain Adventure Park (except the Sun Mountain Flyer), are $45 per person, or $25 for children under 48 inches; children’s passes include access to the Kids Zone. Combo tickets, which add on a 2.5 hour visit to the Aerial Adventure Park, or a 2.5 hour pass for Aerial Adventure Park and one trip on the Sun Mountain Flyer, are $59 and $69 respectively, and are available to children ages 7 and up (additional height and weight restrictions apply).
If you’re tired from all that adventuring, you can stay at the onsite Lodge at Bromley.
6. Peek’n Peak Resort
For over 50 years, Peek’n Peak Resort in Clymer, New York, has been making downhill history. But with a brand new Aerial Adventure Course, dual mountain zip lines, golf and opportunities to swim year-round, there’s much more than just snow sports at the Tri-State family destination.
During warm weather seasons, visitors can visit the resort’s new Aerial Adventure Course, which features eight courses, 69 obstacles and 12 zip lines. Side-by-side mountain zip lines, a bungy trampoline, mini-golf and Segway tours are additional activity options. Single day individual and combo activity prices are available. Day passes to the resort pool complex are $12 for adults, $9 for children ages 11 and under and $3 for spectators.
7. Snowshoe Mountain Resort
Whether you’re looking to make memories or simply blow off steam, Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Snowshoe, West Virginia, has an option for you. At the resort’s steaming Split Rock Pools, a geyser and both indoor and outdoor swimming areas will keep the kids entertained for hours. SnowCat, snowmobile and off-road Polaris Adventure tours also provide appealing subject material for “what I did on my vacation” essays. Summer brings a variety of fun opportunities, from zip-lining and fishing to boating and beach games.
In winter, kids can pay a visit to the Big Top indoor play area. Activities at the family fun zone include a climbing wall, inflatables and Wii games. Big Top admission is $20 per person for non-resort guests. Admission to Split Rock Pools varies seasonally, with complimentary access available for smaller children. Purchase a Family Summer Fun Pass ($59 for two adults and two children; additional family members $10 each) and enjoy access to Split Rock Pools, the climbing wall, Eurobungy, lake activities and the scenic lift ride.
8. Squaw Valley Resort
Looking for an amazing alpine adventure? Take a scenic aerial tram ride to High Camp atSquaw Valley Resort in Lake Tahoe and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, along with fun family activities like swimming, ice skating, roller skating, disc-golf and hiking. Aerial tram rides are $39 per adult and $10 for children ages 5 to 12. Ice-skating (open seasonally depending upon conditions) is $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 12 and under. The High Camp pool and hot tub also operate seasonally with day passes costing $10 per person. At the resort’s base camp, kids can go snow tubing, take a mini-snowmobile ride, or sign up to scale indoor and outdoor climbing walls. They can also navigate a recently remodeled ropes course at the Squaw Valley Adventure Center.
9. Grand Hyatt DFW
Conveniently located in terminal D of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the third largest airport in the world in terms of operations, the Grand Hyatt DFW offers families facing long layovers respite with reduced-price Day Use Rooms. The rooms, which are made available specifically during daytime hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. based on availability), include access to all hotel amenities, including a rooftop pool with runway views, a spa, room service and luggage assistance. Day Use Rooms start from about $89 per day.
10. Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport
Instead of camping out at Orlando International Airport after your family cruise and before your big flight home, families can relax, rest up and escape the airport crowds by booking a Day Use Room at the onsite Hyatt Regency. An excellent option for weary families, Day Use Rooms at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and cost up to two-thirds less than a traditional room. All standard hotel amenities, including use of an outdoor heated pool, room service and luggage assistance are available to Day Use guests. Day Use Rooms start from about $99 per day.
11. Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel
What do you do to thaw out on a frigid winter’s day in frozen-over Toronto? Purchase passes to the heated indoor/outdoor pool at Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel and enjoy a warm mid-day break during a day of city touring. A favorite winter destination for locals, the facility offers day passes for non-guests, as well as special discounted day rates during holidays — there’s even a Family Day. Passes are available based on occupancy (not available on long weekends) and are $35 for guests ages 16 and up and $20 for those 15 and under. Family Passes are $80 for two adults and one child under 16 years. Pool hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Passes may be purchased at the third floor pool desk.
12. Club Med Sandpiper Bay
Have you always wanted to visit an all-inclusive resort, but weren’t sure you were ready to commit to a week-long package? At Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, situated two hours north of Miami, kids can swim, then swing from a trapeze at the onsite Circus School while parents golf, take a yoga class and enjoy all-you-can-eat meals and snacks — all on a resort Day Pass. Good from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., Full Day passes ($94.50 for adults, special youth pricing available) include lunch, dinner, snacks, nightly entertainment and standard activities, including golf, tennis and use of pools and water toys. Shortened day passes, which are good from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and include lunch, are also available. If you wanted to prepare yourself for some serious tennis fun, my friend suggested that Boston tennis lessons prepared her for everything tennis. She said the instructors were so helpful and great teachers.
13. Hotel del Coronado
With the introduction of Del Beach in 2014, the historic Hotel del Coronado really raised the bar for family travelers. In addition to an interactive children’s play area, the renovated beachfront resort features a new and improved waterfront scene, complete with water sports rentals, luxurious lounge chair and cabana rentals, and food and drink service. Rentals begin at $18 for day visitors.
14. Tween Waters Inn
The early bird gets the worm — and the lounge chair — at Tween Waters Inn. Available on a limited basis, resort Day Passes sell out early at the Southwest Florida property, located on unspoiled Captiva Island. Included in the $35 price is complimentary parking, access to the resort beach (additional fee for umbrellas and lounge chairs), access to the Olympic–size pool and toddler wading pool, and a voucher good for use at one of three food outlets. At the resort marina, you can rent kayaks and canoes (fee) or sign up for a guided wildlife excursion. Bike rentals are also available. If you haven’t yet toured the island on two wheels, you’re in for a treat. Stay for dinner at the Crow’s Nest and enjoy the crab races — Monday and Thursday nights at 6 p.m. for families, October through August — a longtime resort tradition.
15. Kalahari Resort – Sandusky, Ohio
Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio offers day passes for those who can’t swing an overnight trip, but there are so many onsite activities — both indoors and out — that you’ll feel inclined to pay a return visit. An uphill water roller coaster, two FlowRider surf stations and a 12,000-square-foot wave pool located under a transparent Texlon tanning roof, are the highlights of the massive 173,000-square-foot indoor water park, which is open to the public and features attractions for every member of the family.
In winter months and throughout the year, visitors will find a veritable host of indoor venues to entertain the troops, from a massive arcade and a pottery studio to laser tag, black-light mini-golf, mini-bowling and a 5D virtual reality ride.
Open seasonally, an expansive outdoor complex includes a three-level ropes course, two water playgrounds and a four-tower zip line tour, where explorers can enjoy awe-inspiring aerial views of both climbing walls and water. A resort Adventure Pass includes these activities, plus access to an animal park, the latter of which is open year-round. Non-resort guests can visit the animal park any time for $7 per person. For an additional fee, you can feed the animals or ride a camel or a pony. General admission day passes start from $40 per person.
Day passes are also available at other Kalahari Resorts.
16. Malibu Dude Ranch
Dude ranches are common in the western U.S, but did you know that portions of the Northeast are also rich in ranching history? Take a day trip to the newly renovated Malibu Dude Ranch, just 75 miles from New York City in Milford, Pennsylvania, and experience the oldest working dude ranch west of the Mississippi. Day Ranch Package passes ($75 per person with tax) are valid year-round from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Saturdays, and include all amenities, including horseback riding, archery, lunch, fishing and swimming.
17. Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch
Treat the kids to the ranching life for the day at a Catskill Mountains dude ranch. Day passes to Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch are $19 for children ages 4 to 6 and $39 for guests ages 7 and up, and include lunch and kid-friendly activities like snow tubing, ice-skating and swimming in the winter, and fishing, swimming and mini-golf in the summer. Horseback trail rides (ages 7 and up) are an additional $10 to $20 per person for Day Pass guests.
18. Boyne Mountain Resort
Horseback trail rides, sleigh rides, Michigan’s largest indoor water park and, oh yeah, skiing — what’s not to love about Boyne Mountain Resort? Boyne offers a great variety of onsite lodging options for families who can stay a while, but for those with limited time, there are plenty of day trip activities in both the summer and winter that don’t require guests to book accommodations. At the resort’s Adventure Center, kids can race each other on a twin zip-line ride, head out on a family snowshoe or snow bike excursion, or take a horseback trail ride or pony ride. Full-day and half-day e-splash passes to Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark can be purchased online in advance, too. Pricing is reduced for children ages 3 to 10.
19. Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center
It’s nothing fancy, but passes to the outdoor pool (open seasonally) at Canaan Valley Resort in Davis, West Virginia, are a reasonable $3 to 5 per person. Before you jump in, pay a visit to the Climbing Wall ($6 per person) or take a few turns on the Turtle Slide Tube Ride ($15 per person, ages 4 and up), a 300-foot downhill tubing course that’s fun for the whole family. If you’re visiting in the winter, options at the state park-operated resort include Alpine and Nordic skiing (rates vary), followed by a dip in the heated indoor pool at the Beech Club (day passes from $4 to $7 per person).