Kids' clubs in hotels offer unique experiences

NEW YORK • There is only so much fun that a hotel swimming pool can provide for young kids.

As many parents travelling with children will know, there is another option – a kids’ club.

But most of these facilities – that is, if a property even has one – tend to be single-room spaces and with often little consideration to youthful interests.

Most offer predictable activities like arts and crafts and board games.

But, increasingly, travel-industry observers have begun to see clubs that have unique settings and entertainment offerings that aim to stimulate the 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 is not a surprising move, said Ms Amanda Norcross, the features editor of Family Vacation Critic.

“Parents want their children to be happy and engaged on their trips,” she added.

“Having an innovative kids’ 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.”

The impetus has grown more urgent, giving the business rivalry from Airbnb.

The kids’ club at the Marbella Club, a beachside resort in Spain, is a good example of a club that puts culture first.

It is in a 55,000 sq ft 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 four and 12 – there is a separate area for children from five months old to three years old – have a choice of six 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 counsellors 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 (S$140) a day.

Meals are included and are always traditional Spanish dishes like paella or gazpacho that the youngsters help prepare themselves.

Elsewhere, in the heart of Provence in France, 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 second-hand materials.

There is also a court where children can learn to play petanque, a sport that is native to Provence.

Plus, the club is free to children (up to age 13) staying at the resort.

Room rates begin at US$215 (S$290).

For those who are willing to splurge on a memorable holiday for everyone in the party, there is the Royal Mansour, in Marrakech in Morocco. It 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 charges (starting at around US$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 comes when the youngsters taste-test the bonbons, truffles and other confections they have created.

NYTIMES

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