Any parent can tell you that the key to a successful family vacation boils down to one simple goal—keeping the kids entertained. At the new Legoland Hotel in Winter Haven, Fla., that highly sought entertainment starts at check-in. After passing by a smoke-breathing dragon made out of more than 445,000 Lego bricks, young guests enter a lobby populated with a pirate ship, a Lego-filled moat, 5,000 minifigures, and a pint-sized check-in desk designed to keep kids occupied while Mom and Dad are at the front desk. Guests can choose between four themed rooms—Pirate, Adventure, Kingdom, or Lego Friends—each of which is stocked with a bucket of bricks and at least eight Lego models.
Along with the toys, the obvious draw to this five-story, 152-room hotel, which opened on May 15, is the Legoland theme park just a few steps away, one of only six in the world. Yet the competition for parents’ wallets from all the other family-friendly destinations in the greater Orlando area can be pretty fierce. To stand out from the pack, the Legoland Hotel offers enhanced amenity packages, as well as exclusive activities and benefits that maximize the vacation experience and provide more bang for a family’s buck.
The Legoland Hotel’s tie-in with the park requires a seamless transition from the attraction to the guestroom, which the property achieves through its Lego-themed design and a series of nightly activities that allow kids to show off their own Lego creations. “You feel like you’re sleeping over at Legoland,” Julia Estrada, a spokesperson for Legoland Florida, says. “The kids get to decompress, and the parents get to decompress as well.” The hotel’s design also includes small touches geared specifically toward children. For example, the guestroom doors have two peepholes, one of which is kid height.
And Legoland Florida isn’t the only attraction to gain a new lodging option this summer. Dolly Parton’s Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., will open DreamMore Resort in July 2015 as the theme park celebrates its 30th anniversary. “The resort is something that Dollywood has wanted to do for years,” says General Manager Kevin Osborn. “It establishes Dollywood as a destination.” Adjacent to the amusement park and Dollywood’s Splash Mountain waterpark, the resort will offer visitors a 360-degree experience, as well as easy access to the attractions. “The proximity to the park lends itself to ease of access,” Osborn says. “There’s complimentary door-to-door transportation to the parks. We’ve invested in five trollies that will take the guests to and from the park throughout the day.”
A stay at the DreamMore enhances the park experience in other ways, providing more value to families who choose it as a vacation spot. For one thing, hotel guests receive front of the line access, meaning they can bypass lines at select rides, shows, and attractions with a complimentary pass. They can also enter the park through a guest-only entrance.
DreamMore’s guestrooms have porches lined with rocking chairs that will allow families to unwind at the end of the day, as well as a 6,000-square-foot lawn. The hotel will also partner with International Storytelling Center out of Jonosboro, Tenn., for a regular nighttime storytelling series that will complement the games, nature walks, and arts and crafts activities put on by Camp Dollywood.
In the end, the goal of properties like the Legoland Hotel and DreamMore is to help families create lasting, positive memories. Osborn says, “By creating elements like storytelling spots and porches, and creating rooms that are focused on the family, all of those things lead to opportunities for families to connect. We try to remember that vacation time is precious, so we do anything we can to provide more playtime and value and to help relieve any of the anxiety and stress that comes with planning one.”
CONNECT THE DOTS
Becoming a family-friendly resort is easy as 1-2-3
It’s one thing to attract families to your property, but turning Mom and Dad into loyal guests involves creating a valuable experience for the whole family. Here are three ways to tackle that goal:
Design with kids in mind. It’s easy to make a big impression on little kids. Design elements like bunk beds in the guestrooms, play areas around the property, and child-friendly menus will go a long way with creating a lasting memory for younger guests. You can go one step further, as the new Legoland Hotel Florida has done, by making its property extra kid friendly with disco elevators, guestroom peepholes and breakfast buffets at kid level, and toilet-training seats in the bathroom.
Alleviate typical travel stress. The stress that comes with family travel can ruin a trip before parents ever leave their house. Removing some of the burden can help parents enjoy the getaway as much as the kids. Providing transportation to and from the airport and area attractions, as well as kid-friendly spaces and entertainment, can give Mom and Dad a chance to relax, unwind, and enjoy the experience.
Create a comprehensive experience. If you’re connected to an attraction like Legoland or Dollywood, understand that parents are choosing your location not just for proximity but for a 360-degree experience for their entire family. Carry the atmosphere and activity of a theme park into the lodging area to immerse families in your brand.