With summer vacation looming on the horizon—or already here—there’s nothing like an actual vacation all together to reconnect. Whether the kids are 2 or 20, make your next trip one they’ll be 100% on board for in a destination that considers everyone, no matter your identity or orientation, part of the family.
1. Step inside a favorite cartoon.
Have the theme park vibe sans the crowds when you stay at one of the beachfront Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts. Offering all-inclusive “F.U.N.” (as SpongeBob SquarePants would say) for all families, you can choose between two stellar Caribbean destinations: Riviera Maya, Mexico and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Both are year-round family favorites, but the newly launched Summer of SpongeBob makes now the time to visit. Kids—and kids at heart—can feel like they’re down in Bikini Bottom as they take part in special activities celebrating the beloved yellow sea sponge.
At Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana:
- Catch classic episode showings every Sunday
- Earn a Bikini Bottom driver's license just like SpongeBob
- Snack on Patrick-approved snacks at Zest (where you can also meet the starfish himself during a pajama character breakfast, bookable at extra cost in advance)
- Do the next best thing to jellyfishing and go on a scavenger hunt
- Meet SpongeBob, Sandy, Patrick, and other Nick friends in person
At Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya:
- Discover themed surprises across the resort
- Team up with the whole family for a splashtastic scavenger hunt at the six-acre water park, Aqua Nick® (admission is free for guests)
- Check out new SpongeBob Mondays at Club Nick for kids 4 – 12
- Join in the Bikini Bottom tiki party on the beach on Fridays
- Hang poolside for a SpongeBob-ified Nick Live! on Saturdays
While the kids play, adults can live it up with Gourmet Inclusive® amenities like chef-driven dining—or celebrate SpongeBob their way with a cocktail at the Bikini Bottom Bar™.
The Summer of SpongeBob is happening now through 9/5 and comes with up to a 40% discount on your room and $350 in resort credit toward those “I want that!” extra experiences for the kids. (Private sliming, anyone?)
2. Embrace the aloha spirit.
Hawaii might bring couples’ trips to mind, but it’s actually an incredible place for families to visit as well. Oahu is a great introduction to the Islands; the atmosphere is laid-back and friendly and there’s never a shortage of things to do, from paddleboarding to cultural pursuits. Tapping into the beach lifestyle of the Honolulu scene, OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel is a headquarters everyone can enjoy—just ask Tripadvisor. Rated the top Waikiki hotel, it celebrates the Beachcomber Originals, artists and influencers whose touch can be felt in the property’s design, décor, and energy.
The OUTRIGGER Way, the vision of OUTRIGGER Resorts & Hotels, is all about respect and hospitality, and you can see it in practice at the Beachcomber, where guests are invited to learn about, and participate in, the local culture. Expect unique Hawaiian touches throughout your stay, from the New Sound of Waikiki digital album code in the rooms to the Kona coffee served up all day at Hawaiian Aroma Caffe. Located poolside, its reputation as “Honolulu’s most Instagrammable coffee shop” makes it a hit with teens. Circle back at night for live music from 8 – 10; adults who want to imbibe can try a craft beer or tropical cocktail. Or, make it a family movie night with a flick under the stars. Every Saturday, 7:30 PM is the time to take your seat on the pool deck for a “dive-in” experience you just can’t get at home. But if the kids are early risers, it’s the biweekly sunrise yoga sessions in the same spot that’ll get them smiling.
An all-new Beachcomber Activities Lounge offers up even more entertainment, ensuring you’ll never hear the dreaded “I’m bored.” Stop by for ideas and deals, like one free junior admission (ages 4 – 12) per paying adult at the nearby Waikiki Aquarium.
Though every season has its perks, the Honolulu Pride™ parade and festival makes fall an especially nice time to visit. Coinciding with Honolulu Pride Month, LGBT History Month, and National Coming Out Day, the event kicks off on 10/21 this year to a “Rooted in Pride: Homecoming” theme.
Kids 17 and under stay for free when sharing a room with their parents or guardians, as long as you use existing bedding and cap your room occupancy at four.
3. Experience genuine Southern hospitality.
Home of jazz, beignets, and Mardi Gras, it’s easy to see why the Big Easy is the South’s #1 destination. For more than 300 years, New Orleans has been a stomping ground for artists and innovators, revelers and travelers. It’s a city of “easy”-going hospitality, welcoming folks of all cultures, backgrounds, and lifestyles—as proven by its perfect mark on the Human Rights Campaign’s MEI scorecard. Actively inclusive programs like Everyone’s Welcome Here, which has businesses sign a pledge to follow this mentality, contribute to that status ... and to the overall warm NOLA energy. Just look for the sticker—now updated to represent queer people of color and transgender and gender nonconforming people—on a storefront, and know you’ll be treated with open respect.
Of course, you could always stop by a few LGBTQ-owned businesses as well. From galleries to shops to restaurants, you can feel good about where you spend your dollars and support the local community. If you’re traveling with a teen who loves a makeover, why not make them an appointment at Bandit Hair Company, featured on the most recent season of Queer Eye? Fans can continue their set-jet tour at Stein’s Deli and SisterHearts Boutique and Thrift Store, both run by “heroes” featured on the show.
If your interests lay less in the small screen and more in the great outdoors, hit up Audubon Park. Admission is free, and the nearly 2-mile walking trail offers plenty of scenic views—and shade—while the golf course and zoo, home to King Zulu, a rare white tiger, give you more family-friendly ways to spend a morning outside. In the afternoon, head over to The Fly, a popular picnic spot on the Mississippi. Watch the boats pass by, or an amazing sunset, if you time it right.
Not to be outdone, historical City Park is New Orleans’ largest outdoor attraction, spanning an impressive 1,300 acres. Catch a live concert, explore the New Orleans Museum of Art, or make for Storyland, a fairytale-themed playground, with the littles or Carousel Garden Amusement Park with older kids. Don’t miss the chance to ride the namesake handcrafted carousel; it’s one of only 100 in the USA. After, recharge on powdery, fried goodness; the legendary Café du Monde, famous for its beignets, has a location on the park grounds. But if you really want to make your time in City Park matter, give back by volunteering a few hours to help restore a trail or clean up litter.
For a break from the sun, check out the Louisiana Children’s Museum or the French Quarter’s Mardi Gras School of Cooking (most classes are for ages 5 or 10 and up). Countless shops, restaurants, and entertainment—including the challenging Escape Game New Orleans for the 13-and-over crowd—easily turn time in the French Quarter into a full day of fun. Come evening, enjoy all-ages jazz at Preservation Hall, or swing over to JAMNOLA (Joy Art Music New Orleans) for interactive art with its own soundtrack.
This June, $1 from every JAMNOLA ticket sale is being donated to PFLAG New Orleans, an organization serving local LGBTQ+ families, making for an even more rewarding experience.
4. Do a little of everything in one of Mexico’s friendliest beach scenes.
Sister destinations Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit know a thing or two about being fabulous: fabulously beautiful, fabulously affordable … and fabulously welcoming. Named the Top Beach Destination at the 2022 LGBT+ Travel Awards Mexico, diversity here isn’t just celebrated: it’s the local lifestyle. From boho street art and surf spots at Sayulita to the amazing hand-beaded sculptures of the indigenous Huichol people to the unreal luxury of all-inclusive hotels, there’s a natural respect and free-spiritedness that lets everyone feel at home.
No one reflects that attitude better than our top two resort picks in the area for families, Dreams® Vallarta Bay Resort & Spa and Sunscape® Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa from the Inclusive Collection, part of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. The staff welcome you “home” as soon as you arrive at the resort, and if there’s a particular pronoun you use or gender you identify as, they’ll gladly make note of it to ensure your stay’s that much more comfortable.
So which hotel do you pick? If your family can always agree to disagree on what to do on vacation, opt for Dreams Vallarta Bay. Everyone can design their own culinary retreat, adventure trip, eco-getaway—whatever gets them off their phone and out having fun. Say, for example, you have an 11-year-old daughter who loves sports. Three words: trampoline fitness class. Sure to be a highlight, it’s just one program on a full roster that includes water volleyball, horseshoes, plus an arcade. Younger guests can also go do their own thing at the Explorer’s Club for Kids, busying themselves with arts and crafts, treasure hunts, face painting, the playground, and even a weekly campout, while teens can socialize at Core Zone Teens Club. All-day hours and optional dinners at the club free up the adults for a day date or date night—like the worth-the-splurge Chef’s Table dining experience. Young chefs can join in the culinary fun, too. Once a week, you can see what goes on behind the Unlimited-Luxury® scenes of a restaurant as you sample freshly made small bites and desserts.
If your family likes to keep active all year, Sunscape Puerto Vallarta, located close to the shops and sights of downtown, is the right choice for Unlimited-Fun®. Kids, teens, and adults alike can join dancing or Spanish classes; play a round of mini-golf or a game of basketball; make handicrafts; and dress to the theme at events like Monday Night Football tailgate parties. Of course, that’s not to say you have to spend all your time together. With both an Explorer’s Club for ages 3 – 12 and a Core Zone for the 13 – 17 set, the kids may want to go off and hang out with new friends … freeing the adults up for a private dinner on the beach or optional spa treatment. (Though the Escape Family Journey packages and kid- and teen-specific treatments may have you turning your spa day into family time.)
Be sure to head off site at least once to explore Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. A full line of excursions through Amstar takes care of the transportation, admission, and details; just book in advance with your travel advisor to guarantee your spot.