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Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark, Beijing

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, August 17 07:00 AM

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Ever since Michael Phelps left the building, the National Acquatics Center in Beijing seemed a bit like a fish out of water. But now, the Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark has opened in the translucent bubble-covered building to put the sparkle back in its splash.

Ribbons of color sail wavelike through schools of pink and blue jellyfish suspended from the ceiling, and a rainbow of slides twist their thrill-ride tentacles down into splash pools. Swimmers can seek out swells in a wave pool, float around a lazy river, or brave a near-vertical speed slide. Seems Mr. Phelps isn't the only one who knows how to live life in the fast lane.

Photo: Courtesy of Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark

"Saving Grace" App

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, August 04 07:00 AM

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Just because you're always on the road doesn't mean you're any good at packing. Somehow, the cab is always honking outside as you hurriedly shove things into a carry-on. Thankfully, there's a new app to help whip your suitcase into shape.

Meet Saving Grace, your own personal trip organizer. Created by the folks at Grace Hotels, this helpful (and free) app asks what kind of trip you're taking and suggests specialized, thematic packing lists. You can adjust them, add or subtract categories such as baby stuff or videography, check things off as they go into your bag, and save lists for future use. Grace also looks after your other pretrip chores, by suggesting that you clean out your fridge and stop your mail before heading out. And you don't even have to send her a postcard!

Photo: Courtesy of Grace Hotels

Block Island, Rhode Island

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, August 02 07:00 AM

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Block Island celebrates its semiseptcentennial (that's a 350th anniversary) this year, which means the old gal is livelier than ever. A season-long party is in full swing, including vintage ship displays, concerts, and festivals, such as the Taste of Block Island weekend (September 23-25). And you're invited.

Stay here:
The Atlantic Inn
Built in 1879 on a hilltop just outside the main town of New Shoreham--the smallest U.S. state's smallest town--the Atlantic Inn is a gracious place to enjoy life's little pleasures. Antiques and a ban on TVs and radios lend the 21 individually styled guest rooms a Victorian sensibility. You'll wake each morning to warm pastries and house-made granola served on a wraparound veranda. Children play tetherball in the backyard; a sunny garden provides a relaxation spot for parents. Among all this yesteryear charm, it's easy to unplug and soak up the island's timeless natural beauty.

Eat here:
Three Sisters
Three Sisters, a one-room wooden cottage on Old Town Road, is the sandwich shop of choice for beach picnic-bound islanders with coolers to fill. Favorites such as the Hippie Sister (a roasted vegetable and hummus wrap) and the Twisted Sister (turkey, bacon, Cheddar, avocado, and romaine) are scrawled on a chalkboard. Too lazy to head to the beach? You can chill at the picnic tables outside--or in a hammock--while the kids play with gratis hula hoops and spoil their dinner with gooey chocolate-chip cookies.

Drink here:
The Porch at the National Hotel
Most of Block Island ends up at the National Hotel's scenic wraparound porch at one point or another. Mostly for the postcard-perfect view of sailboats in Block Island Sound silhouetted against sunset-pink skies. But also to throw back a few ice-cold lagers and catch up on the local gossip.

Photo: Courtesy of Block Island Tourism Council

David Citadel Hotel Playroom, Jerusalem

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, July 14 10:54 AM

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Kid-friendly hotels are like magnets: On the one hand, we're attracted, knowing we're welcome to tote our lil' jet-setters along, but on the other hand, we're discouraged imagining all the other children running wild through the corridors. Yet with the opening of a new activity space for children at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, it's all positive.

Bright and poppy and oh, so mod, this kid zone feels like the Pritzker Prize-winner of playrooms. With a wry playfulness, Israeli designer Sarit Shani Hay has deftly incorporated local iconography: a Jerusalem lion embedded on a cushy chaise, a windmill, a padded cave, the Mahane Yehuda Market with wooden fruit for mini hagglers. There's over 1,000 square feet of space for young explorers to expend excess energy, while flat-screens and computer stations keep older ones content.

Parents can stay or leave kids to play. Although with Mamilla Avenue shopping just a block away, we recommend the latter--let their inner Eloise roam.

Photo: Courtesy of Epoque Hotels 

A-to-Z Family Travel Contest, Turks and Caicos

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, April 27 03:39 PM

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Summer vacation will be here before you know it. So if we said you could score a $16,000 Caribbean vacation and kick back in a luxury villa while someone else entertains your kids, you'd be interested, right?

Condé Nast Traveler's A-to-Z Family Travel Contest is your ticket to paradise. The flashy prize includes five nights' accommodation for two adults and two children in a two-bedroom villa at Grace Bay Club, a five-star resort in the Turks & Caicos; $2,000 toward four airline tickets; membership in the resort's Kids Town and Very Important Kids programs; a full breakfast for four daily; and a $100 spa credit.

For a chance to win, all you have to do is submit an awesome tip for making travel with kids easier or more fun, by 5 pm Eastern time on May 3, 2011. Yup, it's that easy.

Photo: Courtesy of Grace Bay Club

Jean-Michel Cousteau Oceanography Sailings, South Pacific

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, March 22 06:51 PM

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Children are our future, and if you treat them well--perhaps with a luxury cruise in the South Pacific--you'll be surprised by how they lead the way. At least that's the idea behind Paul Gauguin Cruises' new ten-night sailing headed up by Jean-Michel (son of Jacques) Cousteau.

Cousteau aims to get your kids on board with conservation by giving them an up-close introduction to the wonders of French Polynesia. Lectures aimed at both parents and children describe the ecology of the Society Islands and the Tuamotus, and the explorer leads dives to legendary spots like Rangiroa, home of the world's second-largest lagoon. Because what kid (or kid at heart) wouldn't want to protect the ocean after coming face-to-face with a playful dolphin?

Paul Gauguin Cruises' Jean-Michel Cousteau Oceanography Sailings, May 25 and June 29, 2011, $4,447 (double occupancy).

Photo: Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

Kids Stay Free, St. Lucia

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, March 08 06:46 PM

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There's no such thing as a free lunch. But there is such a thing as a free vacation--at least if you're a kid. Thanks to St. Lucia's new Go Bananas summer family program, luxe resorts like Coco Palm, Cotton Bay Village, and Discovery at Marigot Bay are inviting your offspring to stay, eat, and play for free.

We dig the idea of an island-wide program that goes beyond your average hotel deal to include perks like a special line to speed families through immigration and complimentary excursions such as zip-lining, horseback riding, and whale watching. And since St. Lucia knows who is paying the bill, they throw a little indulgence toward the parentals, including room upgrades and a complimentary night of babysitting. Happy parents, happy kids. We have a new contender for "Happiest Place on Earth."

Photo: Courtesy of the St. Lucia Tourist Board

Our Favorite Hotel Skating Rinks

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, December 27 05:15 PM

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The Standard NYC

Sitting at street level in New York City's Meatpacking District, the Standard's winter wonderland (pictured) is a good spot for people-watching both on and off the ice (note the sexy staff clad in custom Roxy snowsuits). Blade runners can refuel with cheese fondue and tempura onion rings. But go easy on the spiked hot chocolate, or the only thing you'll be putting on ice is your behind.

Open through winter. Tickets $12, skate rental $3.

Hotel del Coronado
Forget frozen fingers and tingly toes. At the Hotel del Coronado, in San Diego, you can practice your figure eights and work on your tan. The palm treeringed rink overlooks the Pacific, and a portion of the proceeds from each two- or three-hour skating session goes to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Open through January 2. Three-hour session: $20 for adults, $15 for kids. Two-hour session: $15 for adults, $10 for kids. Skate rental: $5.

St. Regis Atlanta
Tented in billowing white fabric and illuminated by twinkling fairy lights, the St. Regis Atlanta's rink is the place to go to win you serious romance points. Afterward, cozy up for hot chocolate and s'mores around the outdoor fireplaces or head upstairs for free leg and foot massages at the spa.

Open through January 3. One-hour session: $30 for adults, $18 for kids.

Día de los Muertos, Mexico

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, November 01 09:02 AM

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You can expect high spirits in graveyards, endless fireworks, and all manner of colorful decorations like papel picado (tissue-paper banners) today and tomorrow to mark Mexico's Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Stores overflow with trinkets to offer to the deceased, such as skull and coffin candies and yellow marigolds. As you can see from the drunken skeletons, this is a time to party with (or even mock) death rather than fear it.

Photo: Chan Kah, Flickr

Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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