This mother and daughter enjoyed a relaxing beach, plus great programs for children and adults, at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida.
While Florida certainly has plenty of resorts to choose from for a weekend getaway, not all are family friendly and boast distinctive Old World architecture and upscale ambience to boot. The Boca Raton Resort & Club (888/543-1277) fits the bill in all these areas while also offering plenty of active diversions for parents too.
Year-round, children from 3-11 years old can participate in the Camp Boca program. It operates in two "sessions" from 9:30am-1pm and from 1:30pm-4:30pm daily. Or parents can opt for a full-day session from 9:30am – 4:30pm. The Boca Tots activities are for children from 3 to 5-years-old, while the Boca Bunch is for 6 to 11-year-olds. Since counselors do not change diapers, all parents receive a beeper in case a diaper change is needed. Both programs offer the option of letting your child stay for lunch.
In past years, older kids ages 12-17 have been able to enroll in the Boca Sport program, which focuses on more teen centered activities like basketball, snorkeling, and volleyball. According to the resort's concierge, because the teen program relies on a minimum enrollment, it will continue to operate mainly on major holidays.
My daughter Alexandra enjoyed the Boca Bunch program and we found the counselors to be very caring and gentle. The camp themes change daily so that if a child comes for an entire week, they will not be repeating the same activity. The Bunch youths go swimming every afternoon except if it rains, as it did during our short stay. Thus the activities were very craft oriented with some game playing. Since Alexandra is really into arts 'n' crafts, she loved creating sand art, painting sculptures and making pasta pictures. The youth room for the Boca Tots and Bunch program is located on the main property.
As part of its ongoing upgrade and renovation, the Boca Raton Resort created a new playground and children’s waterpark. The playground includes slides, ladders, a climbing apparatus and more, a waterpark with a "spraying" palm tree and fire hydrant, as well as spouts which spray water out of the ground. In addition, the playground features a tricycle track. These facilities are ideal for children of all ages and provide a great place for parents to reconnect with kids who are not interested in being enrolled in the supervised clubs.
Sleep At The Cloister
Boca Raton Resort & Club has two distinct lodging and activities areas: the main property, which is home to the well-known landmark the pink Cloister; and the oceanfront Boca Beach Club. The 359-room Cloister, the original part of the resort, is quite lovely with its fanciful archways and many secluded courtyards with mosaics and fountains. In addition to the circa 1920's Addison Mizner-designed Mediterranean castle, there are 244 rooms in a contemporary Tower, another 120 Bungalow rooms and 112 more at the Yacht Club marina. This part of the resort is located on the Intracoastal Waterway and is not seaside — a minus — but is in the midst of more renovation, with many rooms still in need of refurbishment after $100 million was spent on sprucing up facilities.
In the late 1980's the resort bought the Boca Beach Club which is a modern, oceanfront hotel complex accessible by shuttle bus or boat ride from the main property. While a resort guest can use facilities at both properties, there are plusses and minuses of staying at either spot when it comes to toting kids around.
Sleep By The Beach
Many families stay at the more stylish 212-room Boca Beach Club because of the sand and surf. Another-family friendly plus of the Beach Club is the proliferation of cabanas which can be rented on a daily basis and provide parents an opportunity to be poolside while also having a shaded, private area to set up cribs if infants need to nap.
The primary problem with staying at the Beach Club is that it does not have the distinctive, club-like atmosphere prevalent at the main property. If you stay at any of the lodgings on the main property (the Cloister, Tower or Villas) you are also close to the youth program room. When Alexandra participated in the Boca Bunch program, I felt that too much of my day was spent shuttling back and forth between the main property and our room at the Beach Club. However, she loved the boat shuttle option rather than the mini-busses.
Boca For Grown-Ups
While both properties have plenty of family and adults-only pools, the main resort is home to two world-class golf courses, $10 million state-of-the-art tennis center with 30 courts, six pools, and spa. There are plenty of other adult activities including shuttle service to a number of local, upscale malls.
Since the resort has many club members, it provides a host of daily activities for club and non-club members and their families. During our stay, there were complimentary caricatures at the Beach Club, make your own ice cream sundaes and huge blow-up slides and ball pits for the kids. For a fee, there was hair braiding and sculpture painting. Every Saturday morning there is a complimentary karate for kids course as well as other special events such as Pokémon Master training or storytelling by Gramps, co-author of "Curious George" books. Staff that I spoke with said that these activities are offered for those who do not want to enroll their children in a half or full-day program yet would like to participate in activities other than swimming. Some of the adult-oriented activities include dance lessons, bridge games, watercolor class, aqua aerobics, tennis clinics and mini-seminars on various topics.
With all the above to choose from, along with a half-mile of beach, our long weekend at Boca Raton Resort and Club was not enough time for us to enjoy all that the resort has to offer. I always can judge how a vacation spot rates by whether or not my daughter cries when it is time to leave — and in fact she did when it came time to say good-bye to Boca!
Rates start at $190 per room at the Cloister during the summer months and range up to $775 per night at the Yacht Club during the winter high season.
On the website, you'll see a variety of specials focused on golf, tennis and the spa, but in summer there is often a good package aimed at families, with deluxe accommodations, breakfast and dinner daily, unlimited golf green fees and tennis, unlimited use of the fitness center, and fees for the children's program. When not booking a package, youth program rates for Camp Boca are $35 for one of two half-day sessions with an additional charge if you opt to have your child stay for lunch, or $60 for a full day. Cabanas are available to rent on a daily basis at the Beach Club; staff will set up a crib or playpen for you in your cabana if requested.
Private babysitting with fully screened and CPR-trained caregivers is available with 24 hours' notice. Rates start at $17/HR per child with a three-hour minimum; rates for additional children are pro-rated. Children under 16 stay free as long as they're in the same room as their parents.
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