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A family affair: One-of-a-kind weekend getaways everyone will love

Spend some quality time with your loved ones this summer with a family getaway to a kid-friendly city. Exclusive activities and behind-the-scenes tickets will entertain and educate, creating happy memories that last longer than the weekend. | By Paul Oswell | April 4, 2022

It’s never too soon to think about summer travel, especially for those weekend family trips. Two of North America’s most popular vacation spots, New York and Orlando, Florida, are brimming with exclusive, memorable experiences and attractions. Don't be dissuaded from less obvious destinations such as Phoenix, however. They offer all the same opportunities for fun with the added bonus of not as many crowds. All of these destinations have activities that are expertly curated for families, with fun ways for kids to learn and develop at the same time. Here are our suggestions for making magical family memories this summer:

  • Sneak a peek: See behind the curtain at a Broadway show in New York, or spend a night at the a museum

  • See the heights: Enjoy a visit to the Orlando's world-class theme parks, then go high in rockets and hot-air balloons

  • Stay up for stars: Get up close and personal with exotic animals before being wowed by night skies in Phoenix

New York

In terms of the sheer variety of family-friendly attractions and activities, it’s hard to think of a more impressive destination for a packed summer weekend of fun than New York. Parks, museums, iconic landmarks and just the energy of the city all make for a perfect short family vacation.

Top of the list for many visitors to New York is seeing a Broadway show, and there’s a good selection that kids will love. Many of them offer private, behind-the-scenes tours that come with additional perks such as exclusive merchandise, meet-and-greets with some of the cast and special seats for the show. Your concierge at Conrad New York Midtown (steps from the theater district) can help arrange these special seats. After the show, you and the whole family can relax in one the residential suites.

The city’s museums are great during their regular daytime hours, but for a special experience, sign up for a sleepover. The American Museum of Natural History offers overnight stays for families with kids ages 6 through 13, with access to special exhibitions, fossil fact-finding missions by flashlight and 3D movie showings. For living wildlife, head to the Bronx Zoo and its wonderful Family Overnight Safari. Kids will love the supervised animal encounters, late night snacks and a morning scavenger hunt.

Getting a bird’s-eye view of the city is a great way to learn about its geography, and the newly renovated Empire State Building is the perfect spot. You can see most of the city from the regular 86th floor observatory, but for an extra-special view, purchase exclusive tickets that get you access to the 102nd floor, where you can see for up to 80 miles.

Stay at the Conrad New York Downtown, which is located close to the World Trade Center and boasts views of the Hudson River. The hotel is an all-suite property, meaning that there’s plenty of space for families to spread out. The hotel also offers a new kid-focused travel guide called ‘Little Kid, Big City!’ which lays out a self-guided tour that celebrates the Big Apple’s child-friendly side, and includes stickers, crayons and a fun activity book.



Orlando, Florida

Since the early 1970s, when Walt Disney opened his first Florida theme park, Orlando has been a world-class destination for families. Its rapid development has resulted in an unmatched fantasy playground that is dedicated to family entertainment. The incredible theme parks are of course the most obvious draw, but there are delights to discover beyond the rollercoasters and rides.

If you are going to spend the weekend at the theme parks, ask your personal Concierge at Waldorf Astoria Orlando to secure those exclusive tickets that get your family the red-carpet treatment, which include dedicated tour guides, the ability to cut lines for rides, reserved seats for shows, special meals and merchandise. There are various options depending on group size, though book these well in advance — especially during peak season.

If your kids are fans of space, then the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a must-see. You can book a Small Group VIP Experience that includes round-trip hotel transfers, and then an expert-led behind-the-scenes tour of the center's most exciting exhibits. Each person also gets a reserved seat on the Shuttle Launch Experience, as well as a voucher to spend on food or souvenirs.

Waldorf Astoria Orlando is perfectly located for exploring Orlando’s theme parks and more, and the lavish deluxe suites come with spacious living and dining areas for relaxing family times after a long day of activities. You and your little ones can kick back at one of the on-site pools or even head next door to Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek for a leisurely ride down the lazy river and water slide.



Phoenix

Arizona should definitely be on your radar this summer. Not only are you virtually guaranteed good weather in cities like Phoenix, but the range of kid-friendly options is impressive.

Located in the so-called Valley of the Sun, the city has world-class attractions that all come with exclusive and behind-the-scenes experiences that will captivate your young ones. The Phoenix Zoo has private Discovery Tours where expert guides take your family to various animal encounters. You can try a Backstage Adventure for exclusive behind-the-scenes access to certain zoo exhibits.

If your kids are sports fans, then they’ll love the lavish game- day experiences available at the Footprint Center, home to the Phoenix Suns basketball team. The private luxury suites come with complimentary food and beverages, as well as incredible views of the court come game time. If they’re into motor sports, then the Phoenix Raceway also has upgraded experiences for NASCAR and other racing events that include up-close access to the track and cars.

Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, has an exceptional range of activities for their younger guests that make it the ideal hotel choice for families. The region is famed for its night sky views, and you can sign up for stargazing experiences where expert guides point out the highlights of the glorious constellations. The hotel can also arrange private hot-air balloon tours that show off the surrounding natural beauty and include a post-flight gourmet meal. You’ll find down-time endlessly relaxing by one of the resorts seven pools (one even has an incredible triple waterslide) or in one of the property’s spacious cottages, which come with their own patios and fire pits, and include lovely landscaped grounds to explore.



Make your family travel memory

A summer weekend getaway in a new environment is the perfect escape for families looking for exclusive, stimulating and memorable activities. Whether you’re out in nature, behind the scenes at a museum or cheering on a sports team, you and the kids can recharge, revitalize and connect with shared experiences that you’ll enjoy reminiscing about for years to come.

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Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”

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