The secret to keeping teens happy while on a family vacation is to give them the freedom to choose their own fun. But, where on earth can you find truly teen-friendly activities? The family travel editors at Family Vacation Critic think they have found the solution with their picks of the 10 best resorts for teens.
1. Atlantis Paradise Island— Bahamas
This Bahamian resort offers a massive aquatic playground with 20 swimming areas, the world's largest open-air marine habitat and Aquaventure, a 63-acre water park. Other activities include a state-of-the-art climbing center, teen spa treatments and the "no adults" hangout, Club Rush.
2. Smuggler's Notch—Vermont
A summer vacation at "Smuggs" features excellent outdoor activity programs. Ages 11 to 15 years can join the Notch Squad, a full-day experience with active games, high and low rope courses and unique sports like mountain-boarding. High Adventure Experience Camp offers climbing, kayaking and zip lines for daredevils up to age 15— while older teens (ages 15 to 17) get the freedom to choose their own itineraries with the Mountain Explorers program.
3. Universal Orlando Resort— Florida
Two popular theme parks and a sprawling entertainment district will keep your teens entertained both day and night. On select nights, visitors ages 15 through 19 can get their groove on at CityWalk, a dance club at Universal's 30-acre entertainment and dining complex, which plays host to regular teen nights.
4. Walt Disney World Resort— Florida
Teens will enjoy thrill rides like the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. Beyond the theme park gates, two water parks, an indoor interactive playground and 24 Disney-owned resort properties offer boundless entertainment options.
5. Beaches Turks & Caicos— Turks and Caicos
After a day spent sailing, water-skiing, windsurfing and scuba diving, teens can try their hands at surfing on a SurfStream simulator, make their own CD's at Scratch DJ Academy, chill at Trench Town Lounge or hang out at Xbox 360 Game Garage or Liquid, an aqua-themed dance club. The Travel Group's John McMahon visited Beaches Turks & Caicos with his family last year, and they had a great time.
6. Triangle C Dude Ranch— Wyoming
The Teen Dude Ranch Program (ages 13 to 19) includes overnight mountain-bike trips with breakfast cookouts, Dude Disco nights and Teen Cowboy classes. Weekly group excursions to Yellowstone National Park (included) and Grand Teton National Park (Snake River rafting fee) are a draw, even when parents tag along for the ride.
7. Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort & Spa— Mexico
This all-inclusive resort offers value for parents and a paradise for teens, featuring lively entertainment and food 24/7. Included in your stay are a number of water-centered activities, such as kayaking, snorkeling and windsurfing. The Black & White Jr. teen club offers Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, while live nightly shows, teen disco parties and a 24-hour beach/snack bar keep teens entertained into the wee hours.
8. The Tyler Place Family Resort— Vermont
Lose the Blackberry, the video controls and— dare we say it— the TV at this all-inclusive resort that's big on classic outdoor family fun. Activities include water-skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, hiking and climbing, among others, and teens get around on their own resort-issued bikes. Daily programs for kids, from infants to young teens (ages 13 to 15), are included in the rate at this exceptionally well-run family resort.
9. Fairmont Scottsdale— Arizona
A great stop on a Southwestern U.S. family road trip, the resort offers golf, tennis, a free-form lagoon pool with two water park-style slides, a new Sport Court and The Hang Out, a private lounge for guests, ages 13 to 17. Teen-friendly excursions include hot air balloon flights, horseback riding, mountain bike trips and off-road ATV and Hummer tours.
10. Four Seasons Costa Rica at Papagayo Peninsula— Costa Rica
At this secluded resort, families can surf, snorkel, sea kayak, hike, go horseback riding or zip through the rainforest on a high-flung canopy tour. Three hotel pools are cradled by two popular beaches, and a nearby Beach Club, Tuanis Teen Center, free cooking, salsa lessons and an onsite spa provide even more diversions for teens.