Club Med Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Why kids will love it: A short plane ride from the States, Club Med Punta Cana is a beach-friendly all-inclusive reort that offers a wealth of activities for kids from 4 months to 17 years old. Baby and Petit Club Med provide indoor and outdoor programs for children up to age 3 and includes two dedicated pools, along with a splash park, playgrounds, and a variety of supervised games and activities (so mom and dad can get some well-deserved alone time!). For kids in the 4 to 17 age range, activities vary from circus school to petit tennis lessons to cooking classes, where kids learn how to create local dishes. Add gorgeous beaches and plenty of daily entertainment and kids won’t want to leave.
What makes it green: Club Med uses recycled materials and biodegradable products and sells eco-bags on-site, where $1 of each purchase is donated to a local school or organization. Club Med Punta Cana, in particular, is Green Globe certified and an almost zero-waste facility, which means plenty of things are recycled, like used cooking oil (that’s turned into biodiesel). The resort also collaborates with the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation to restore the coral reef and contribute to the preservation of indigenous endangered species. A program has been implemented where guests and staff can donate clothes, books, and other goods to the resort at the end of their stay—which are then donated to two local schools in the area.
Where to stay: The new Tiara accommodations are the most spacious on the property and include family suites, with separate bedrooms for the kids. If you’re traveling with a baby, Club Med provides high chairs, cribs, strollers, bottle warmers, and baby bathtubs. Also, new this year: kids under 4 stay free. For more info: clubmed.com
Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA
Why kids will love it: From the adored Sesame Street characters walking around, to the mealtimes where kids can dance and sing with Big Bird, Elmo, and the rest of the cast, to the waterpark and dry rides, little ones have plenty to do and see here. Don’t miss the “Neighborhood Street Party” parade, which is shown twice a day at 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. during the summer. It’s lively enough to keep a 2-year-old’s attention, but short enough not to make them antsy. Think of it as a block party full of singing and dancing with giant floats—plus the full cast of Sesame Street characters. The nighttime parade incorporates a light show, which is synced to the music.
What makes it green: A major sustainability initiative at the park is the Plastic-to-Paper commitment. By the end of 2013, only reusable bags or bags made from recycled paper will be used throughout the facility. Plus, napkins are made from 100 percent recycled fiber, are 100 percent bleach free, and utilize biodegradable vegetable-based inks. Sesame Place’s commitment also extends to the food served in the parks. From sustainable seafood to organic coffee, many menu items promote environmental responsibility. Shrimp, scallops, crab, and numerous varieties of fish are purchased from sustainably-managed fisheries and aquaculture farms, many of which are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and Global Aquaculture Alliance.
Where to stay: Element by Weston Ewing Princeton Hotel. This LEED-certified hotel uses carpeting with up to 100 percent recycled content and low-VOC paint throughout the property. Plus, it’s less than a 10-minute ride from Sesame Place. For more info: sesameplace.com
Seaworld San Diego, California
Why kids will love it: How often will your little ones have a close-up encounter with penguins, dolphins, and belugas? At SeaWorld San Diego, kids not only interact with these animals, they also enjoy shows (Shamu Rocks! is one of the biggest crowd-pleasers) and exhibits like Turtle Reef and Shark Encounter. Through this, plus educational exhibits and creative entertainment, kids (and parents!) will get a better understanding of the plight of animals in the wild—and why we need to ensure their survival.
What makes it green: SeaWorld gives grants to wildlife research and conservation projects that protect wildlife and wild places worldwide. They also operate one of the world’s most respected programs to rescue ill and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitate and return them to the wild. Their animal experts have helped more than 22,000 ill, injured, orphaned, and abandoned animals over the past 45 years. Along with what they do for animals, SeaWorld’s green initiatives can be found throughout the park. The “Dine with Shamu” experience features menu items that are sustainable, organic, and locally sourced. Additionally, the park partnered with the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) to assist guests with allergen needs. “Chef Cards”—filled out in advance by guests (who can download the cards online) to outline what foods to avoid—are handed to a chef before the preparation of the meal. Plus, more menu options, like gluten-free pizza, are available. (SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Antonio have these same green initiatives).
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina. They are certified Green by the California Green Lodging Program. Their eco initiatives include the use of eco-friendly cleaning products, low-flow showerheads and toilets, and low-VOC paints. Kids will love the pools and waterslides. For more info: seaworldparks.com