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Taking the Plunge: Great Hotel Pools for Kids

How many times have parents lugged their kids half way around the country, spent an electronic bank’s worth of Canadian dollars on a dream vacation and then, once home, turned to their offspring to pop the magic question: “Well, what was the best thing about that holiday, eh?” And, how many times have the kids chimed, “The pool!” I know moms and dads who planned a week of fun-filled days at a theme park only to be dragged back to the hotel pool on the second day. And I must admit that with my own kids, a dicey holiday has been saved, by a great swimming pool. We’ve even set out on driving trips, bathing suits and towels at the ready, so that when moods and tempers flared, we could brake at the next town and find the local pool. After sidestepping a melt down with a refreshing cooling off, we could resume the drive in peace.

We’ve also come upon some amazing surprises—the Olympic-sized indoor pool at the Holiday Inn on Grand Island near Niagara Falls (where our four-year-old leaped into the water on his own for the first time), the top-of-the-mountain pools we came across in Watkins Glen State Park in New York after a sweltering climb up the gorge and one in Stresa, Italy that was floating in the lake across from our hotel. You couldn’t swim in the lake that was green with duck poo but the large turquoise pool suspended just offshore was an inviting, shimmering oasis that attracted the kids like a magnet.

Of course, parents have to be on guard wherever kids and water mix. We’ve pulled more than one kid in trouble out of water and even kids who know how to swim can suddenly panic. What’s unchanged, however, is that kids love water. So why not plan a vacation around great swimming? Here are a few good possibilties:
ACAPULCO PRINCESS HOTEL, MEXICO: “A little piece of paradise,” is how one mom described the jungle-like pool area at this Mayan style resort hotel on beautiful Revolcadero Beach. In fact, after seeing the freeform pool with waterfall, the saltwater lagoon with its rope bridge and water slide and the flamingos, peacocks and baby swans alongside, this family immediately checked out of their original hotel and moved right in. Now that new owners Canadian Pacific Hotels have opened up the quieter sister property Pierre Marques next door year-round, families can shuttle back and forth to enjoy the pools, beach and challenging golf.

This latter hotel, built as a secluded hideway by J.Paul Getty for his friends, is an architectural gem that’s perfect for toddlers who need naps in the afternoon. Parents will also appreciate the very shallow wading pools, new playground and large grassy expanses. Sunquest Vacations offers an all-inclusive week package starting at $1499 that includes meals, tennis, golf every day (for those 13 and up), and privileges at the nearby livelier Acupulco Princess. Kids 12 and under pay $499. An added bonus: because both of these hotels are serviced by their own water purification system and their restaurants have been granted the distintive “H” designation for health and sanitation, you won’t encounter the usual tummy troubles. Call 1-800-441-1414 or visit www.cphotels.com
SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH, VERMONT: There’s no excuse for not getting wet at this family-friendly resort about a seven hours drive from Toronto. The water inventory here includes nine pools including three children’s pools, four waterslides and a water interactive play structure with tipping buckets, water cannons and dripping spouts. Notchville Park, the new family playground built last year offers three interconnecting pools, a waterfall sitting area and a play area with nets for water volleyball. Smugglers’ Notch offers a mind-boggling array of activities for kids and teens, all subject to their FamilyFun guarantee: If after two days, your kids are not having fun, they will cheerfully refund the program portion of your stay. Canadian funds are on par during certain months if booked in advance. And certain weeks, such as those after September 3, offer special preschoolers discount rates. Call 1-800-451-8752 or visit www.smuggs.com
WALT DISNEY WORLD, ORLANDO: All Disney resorts come with pools but two favourite watering holes are at the Port Orleans Resort and at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club. Kids absolutely love the giant fluorescent sea creature water slide at Port Orleans—slide down the serpent’s tongue into the pool. Children find themselves deluged by water activity at the Yacht Club’s Stormalong Bay including a treasure ship kiddie pool and a broken mast shipwreck slide. Call 1-407-W-DISNEY for rates and details.

Other great hotel swimming pools we’ve encountered include Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas with saltwater lagoons (complete with fish), river rides and subterranean aquariums holding sharks and stingrays; the Biltmore Hotel in Miami—the largest hotel pool in continental U.S.A.— (although at room rates of between U.S. $475 and $2700 per night, these 600,000 gallons of water seem more reserved for royalty); and the art Deco-like indoor pool at Chateau Montebello in Quebec. Come to think of it, it was in that echoing, tiled historic space where I finally learned to stay afloat in fresh water. I’ve been a sucker for intriguing pools ever since.





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