When you have a mega-resort that thrills all ages and you add a new kids club, tween and teen entertainment, and a Lego playroom, you get paradise.
LEGO fans, mini divas and pint-sized chefs are among the young guests we predict will swarm the new Atlantis Kids Adventure (AKA) program at Atlantis, Paradise Island. The resort teamed up with Lego and Jet Blue to inaugurate the 8,000-square-foot facility this spring, and from what my daughter and I could see during the opening event, the junior critics were enthusiastic.
Chloe and I had visited Atlantis some years ago, and while we enjoyed it then, we especially liked that the new AKA program allows children the freedom to choose their own activities, although always under the supervision of the on-site Adventure Guides. Designed for children aged 3 to 12, AKA is a warren of rooms that children can wander through, each offering its own dÃ©cor and activities.
From High-Tech to High Arts & Crafts
High-tech features, from touch-screen walls to walls of computers and video consoles, are among the options, but more creative outlets are available, as well. One of our favorite activities was an AKA Culinary Adventure, available every day for two dozen or so kids, where we watched the head chef create a spun sugar seascape followed by a hands-on chocolate-making class. The lessons take place in a colorful kitchen outfitted with stools that pull up to a U-shaped counter surrounding the chef and her assistants. Kids are given mini chef hats and aprons for the session, as well as rubber kitchen tools festooned with cute shapes.
In addition to learning about measuring and tasting, children are also taught a few lessons in table manners and other aspects of dining etiquette.
Arty children can express their creativity in the Arts & Crafts Room, where they can engage in virtual finger painting on an iTable using touch technology, and where their creations are displayed on an iWall. Kids can also use the iTable to send postcards to Grandma or their friends, or they can engage in more traditional crafts, such as coloring souvenir tote bags to take home.
Chloe and I loved the Imagination Area, designed for tiny guests aged 3 to 5, which includes a play grocery store, filled with toy canned goods and produce that children can shop for in their miniature carts, and the Wizardology Room, complete with a built-in tree with a friendly face and an electronic voice that reads stories out loud to children.
Master Builders & Stars Accommodated at Atlantis
A highlight of the facility is the LEGO Construction Zone, where children can don hard hats and go wild making their own creations from literally thousands of LEGO bricks, which they can then attach to a special LEGO wall.
Another favorite room was the Victorian Kitchen, whose entrance was so small that we had to duck, like Alice in Wonderland, to enter. Inside we saw a table set for a play tea party and pink and white kitchen equipment and cozy furniture, as well as a friendly staff member ready to supervise.
Children who love the spotlight will be drawn to the performance area, complete with a stage, costumes and — for budding rock stars — musical instruments, as well as a Fun Cam that allows kids to see themselves snowboarding or playing soccer. Atlantis has been a leader at bringing teen idols to the Bahamas for performances, and Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber are just a few of the young celebs who have visited.
Youngsters who can’t keep still can jump around on the Lightspace Play floor, where they can play musical squares, dodge ball and jump rope with square, balls and strings of light.
The high tech features at AKA also extend to the bathrooms, where sound effects range from trumpets to racecar and jungle noises, and where holograms of the resort’s marine life float in the mirrors above the sinks.
Water Features Thrill All Ages
Fans of Atlantis know that the resort is known for its aquascapes that cover the grounds and feature a dazzling array of marine life. A daily Aqua Tots program allows several children at a time to help the marine life staff to feed the smaller fish in the Estuary Lagoon.
There are numerous pools at the resort, including areas designed for the tiniest visitors. Splashers, for example, is a Mayan-themed water play area designed for kids under 54 inches tall and their parents, complete with junior-sized, slides, water cannons, rope bridges and a 320-gallon bucket overhead that flips out its water every hour.
At Dolphin Cay, Chloe and I participated in an interactive program with one of the 31 dolphins in residence, some of which were rescued from Hurricane Katrina. We also braved the various water slides at Aquaventure, where we especially loved the mile-long river ride, which is by turns relaxing and adrenaline-thumping as guests in inflatable tubes float along rapids, are doused with water and shot down slides, at one point in total darkness.
Atlantis After Dark
In the evening, Chloe and I spent several happy hours making and dressing our own stuffed animals at The Bear Factory Atlantis Pals and painting our own pottery at the Earth & Fire Pottery Studio. Kids can also design, build and race their own remote control racecar or monster truck at Atlantis Speedway in Coral Towers, which features two courses where the cars can compete.
Older kids can check out Club Rush in Beach Tower, which offers a supervised club space for teens and tweens, with dance and lounge areas and computers. Younger children can access the club earlier in the day; teens 13 to 17 own the space from 8:30pm to midnight.
We also explored some of Atlantis’ classic attractions, including The Dig, a maze-like aquarium inspired by tales of the lost continent of Atlantis, and Predator Lagoon, filled with shark and barracuda. Had we had time, we could have taken in a movie at the Atlantis theatre, watched a live comedy or musical show or joined a tennis clinic.
We did manage to squeeze in a spa treatment for Chloe at the Generation YSpa at Mandara Spa, where treatments range from $23 for a Magical Manicure to $198 for a 50-minute Mother and Daughter Paradise or Father and Son Chill Out massage.
Atlantis has a wide variety of accommodations from simple guestrooms with a garden view to high-rise ultra-luxe condos with full kitchen facilities and several bedrooms. Their website features regular specials on different room categories, and some offers include airfare from major US gateway cities.
Family dining options include three family buffet restaurants — including the newly reopened Seagrapes — and casual fare at Johnny Rockets and Marina Pizzeria. There are also upscale eateries like Nobu and Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, and many other choices in the nearby Village commercial shopping area. The above-par quality is accompanied by high prices, so many families prefer to take advantage of the resort’s Dining Plans, which grant access to four-course meals at certain restaurants depending on whether you select the Casual or Gourmet option (priced accordingly).
The AKA children’s program is available in partial- and full-day sessions, as well as during Candy Carnival and Buccaneer’s Bash themed nights, from $40 to $65 per session.
A series of three, five-day LEGO Atlantis Fantasy Camps, priced at $425 per child, also are scheduled to debut in July 2010 for kids who want to work with a LEGO Master Builder. For more information, contact your travel agent or visit the Atlantis website or call 800/ATLANTIS.
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