Easter is a great time for the first family holiday of the year. There’s a couple of Bank Holidays to make the most of, the children get two weeks (in some cases more) off school, and the arrival of a new season to replace winter is bound to put - pun alert - a spring in your step. It’s a great time to regroup and reconnect after the dark days of winter, and taking a timeshare holiday is the perfect way to do so. Spacious units mean there’s plenty of room for everyone - you might even want to bring grandparents along - and resorts often have a variety of amenities and activities to ensure all generations are catered for. But where to go? As usual the RCI world is your oyster, but here’s four of our favourite options for a family-friendly Easter holiday…
If you want guaranteed sunshine at Easter - or any time of year for that matter - the Canary Island of Tenerife is always a safe bet, as well as a fantastic place for a family break. The sunny skies, sandy beaches and wonderfully warm sea are the perfect recipe after a long British winter, and while spending time at the coast will almost certainly be among your priorities - who doesn’t love the beach? - the year-round holiday paradise has plenty more to keep children of all ages entertained too.
One of the island’s best-loved attractions is Siam Park, which regularly tops TripAdvisor polls as the best water park in the world. I’ve never really understood the Thailand theme, but the lovely green landscaping and a beach that looks more like Phuket than the local coastline of Costa Adeje definitely add to its appeal, even though I can’t honestly say how or why.
Not that the children will spend much time wrestling with that conundrum, not when there’s the Tower of Power - a high-adrenaline ride that involves an almost vertical plunge through a shark tank - to contend with.
Younger children will love the slides, water guns and dunking bucket of The Lost Kingdom, and everyone will get a splash out of the park’s renowned wave machine - which gets bigger and better as each hour progresses. And if it all gets too much you can relax with a float along the Mai Thai river. And before you Google, that is a boat ride and not an invitation to hit the bar for a cocktail.
Not that you won’t get an opportunity - Tenerife is blessed with a range of great venues to eat and drink - but if your prime focus is keeping the family entertained then you’re in the right place. If there are animal lovers among your brethren then Loro Parque is a terrific zoo that started out as a parrot park but is now home to a more elaborate menagerie, from gorillas, tigers and jaguars to orcas, dolphins and sea lions. And if you’re not worried about potential flashbacks to that miserable winter back home, it even snows in the Antarctic environment of Planet Penguin.
If you prefer to see animals in the wild, then whale and dolphin watching trips operate from an array of spots along the island’s south coast, to hunt down the variety of species that frequent the stretch of water between Tenerife and its neighbouring island of La Gomera.
Finally, another great natural attraction is Mount Teide, the world’s third largest volcano, where the fascinating lava landscapes make for a truly unique holiday experience. Better yet, pay an evening visit and you can enjoy some wonderful stargazing - an activity bound to enthrall all the family.
The Greek island of Crete is a hugely popular summer holiday hotspot, but also a wonderful place for a family Spring break, not least because the temperatures are agreeably pleasant and rarely get up to the ‘scorchio’ heat of the summer.
That’s good for the youngsters too of course, and while the island doesn’t perhaps cater for children in the modern sense - with a few exceptions, theme parks are relatively thin on the ground - the Greeks are very family-oriented people, so there’s a real sense of social inclusion and pretty much everything is for everyone.
That particularly includes the family-friendly coastline, where clean accessible beaches, sandy coves and shallow seas are pretty much the perfect combination for children. You can hire boats and pedaloes for a gentle roam in the water, or take an excursion to some of the island’s more remote beaches such as Balos and Sfaki. Better yet, many of those trips take place on glass-bottomed boats, so there’s a chance to check out some of the marine life along the way.
For an even closer look you can visit the CRETAquarium Thalassócosmos in Gournes, an ultra-modern aquarium containing hundreds of native species, all kept in 60 huge basins, some of which are open so you can even touch the animals. It’s all great fun but also (whisper it) educational, with stereoscopes and microscopes provided to give visitors young and old the chance to understand the ecosystems of the world under the sea.
There’s more fun to be had next door too, in the shape of Dinosauria Park, a dinosaur exhibition featuring more than 50 species, as well as interactive exhibits and 5D and 7D movies to get your senses working overtime.
Both attractions are just a short distance from Heraklion, but in truth nothing is too far away in Crete, which is a really easy island to drive around, and is really worth exploring in a hire car, whether to discover villages off the beaten track or seek out some of the variety of entertainment on offer. The latter not only includes those exceptions to the theme and water parks rule - Labyrinth and Watercity are probably the most popular - but a surprisingly wide range of museums and cultural attractions, including the Natural History Museum, the Nautical Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Botanical Park in Chania and the palace of Knossos, home of the mythical bull-headed Minotaur… and who doesn’t want to see him at least once in their lifetime?
Away from the mythology - and the sunshine - another great Easter break option is to make the most of the last of the winter snow in the Austrian Tirol. The beautiful mountainous area in the west of the country remains a winter wonderland well into April, with great conditions (augmented by snow-making machines when necessary) and first-rate resorts for a range of snow sports and other activities.
And while the tail end of the ski season might not be great for fresh snowfall, the warmer weather more than compensates, as you get to ski or snowboard in glorious sunshine, as well as enjoy clear skies and panoramic views from the mountain tops.
Winter sport holidays are surprisingly family-friendly too, as most ski resorts have fantastic facilities for youngsters, where you can leave the really little ones at crèches and ski nurseries while you hit the slopes. Be warned though - if they’re taking lessons, the fearless little tykes are likely to be zooming past you within days.
They’ll probably be having more fun too, as the childrens’ playground areas at resorts such as Zell am See and Saalbach-Hinterglemm are packed with things to do. In particular, the family-oriented Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, where the Kinderschneealm features igloos, merry-go-rounds, obstacle courses and wooden figures to climb and play on.
Older children can also get lessons of course, and if you’re joining them in the same class, again be prepared to be both proud and embarrassed as they leave you in their wake.
Easter in the Tirol isn’t just about winter sports of course, but the ski resorts and mountains are a really big, in every sense, deal, so even if you don’t ski or snowboard the slopes then a ride in a cable car - check out the Nordkette cable car or Hungerburg funicular near Innsbruck - to enjoy the mountain landscapes and incredible Alpine scenery is a must.
Skier or non-skier, there’s plenty more to do at ground level too. Innsbruck is the capital of the Tirol, and offers a range of activities and cultural attractions, including a medieval centre, a Museum of Folk Art and even an Alpine Zoo. One of the biggest deals is Swarovski Crystal Worlds, which is equal parts art museum, crystal shop and foodie haven, and includes the 17-room Chambers of Wonder crystal exhibition and a lovely park with a fabulous grass and crystal covered head that spouts water as well as a huge play tower for the kids.
Lake District, UK
There’s more crystal to be found in the UK’s Lake District, in the form of the Lakes Glass Centre in Ulverston on the southern fringe of the National Park. The centre is home to leading manufacturer Cumbria Crystal and is much more than a glorified showroom, giving you the chance to see glassmakers at work as well as pick up products at discounted prices in the factory shop.
It’s certainly one of the more unlikely attractions in the Lake District, which offers a surprising number of quirky places to visit, including museums dedicated to pencils, famous cars (both in Keswick) and Laurel and Hardy (Ulverston), a puppet theatre on a farm (near Penrith) and an interactive maritime museum located in a lighthouse (The Beacon in Whitehaven).
More attractions celebrate two of the Lake District’s most famous residents, literary legends William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. You can see where the magic was created by visiting their former homes of Dove Cottage (which even has its own resident poet) and Hill Top respectively, while The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere will thrill the young (and young at heart) with its range of interactive exhibits telling the story of Peter Rabbit and his chums.
The Lakes Aquarium at the southern end of Lake Windermere is another great place for youngsters, and you can combine a visit with a ride on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway and a cruise on the lake itself, which is a wonderful - as well as peaceful - way to take in the stunning views.
And I’ve mentioned all these indoor attractions because you probably know the Lake District is prone to a bit of rain, and you really shouldn’t let the chances of that happening (it’s not a given!) put you off visiting one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’ve been countless times, lived there for six years and am still mesmerised by its natural beauty every time I go back.
The pristine lakes and beautiful lush green valleys are obviously fed by the rains, and while the children might struggle to embrace it, to quote Billy Connolly: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes”.
So come prepared, bring your waterproofs and make sure you get out and explore the region regardless of the weather. Some of it - such as the magnificent waterfalls at Aira Force near Ullswater - looks better in the rain, and that first pint of beer or hot drink (the region is packed with great pubs and coffee shops) will taste so much better if you’ve earned it from a bracing walk.
Speaking of which, there are hundreds of hiking routes, whether you’re here to climb England’s highest peak (Scafell Pike), bag a Wainwright (the author identified 214 peaks in the Lakeland Fells), or looking for something a little less taxing. Tarn Hows near Coniston is a jaw-dropping beauty spot that’s an easy circular stroll accessible to all, while the stunning viewpoint at Orrest Head near Windermere is the reward for a relatively short (though steep) climb.
I guarantee you’ll all love it at the top - I’ve seen so many families doing exactly the same - and the sense of achievement will be something for everyone to remember from an eggs-ellent Easter break.
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