For family fun as big as the state of Texas itself, look no further than The Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio.
Relaxation … Renewal … Bliss! If those are keywords you search for when seeking out the ultimate family vacation, then the exquisite Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, Texas (210-558-6500; westinlacantera.com) has exactly what you’re looking for. This spectacular upscale resort perched atop one of San Antonio’s highest points is big on fun and pampering for everyone in the family. The resort is steeped in rich history and pride shining bright through the architecture of the buildings and play areas to the utmost in hospitality during a stay there.
Fun and Recreation
La Cantera boasts two championship golf courses, one designed by and bearing the name of golf-legend Arnold Palmer. And, by the way, if you’re hungry for authentic Texas barbecue, pop into The Palmer Grille.
Active families can enjoy a semi-rugged hike along the nature trail hugging the property while learning about local plant and wildlife through strategically placed signs. Next, bask in the waters of the winding Lost Quarry pools. There are several — including one for little children — a lap pool, activity pool with a water slide, sports pool and a secluded adults-only pool. Kids can wander up to the nearby Discovery Junction, an area just for them boasting inflatable water slides and a basketball court. Be sure to head down to the courtyard area’s fire pit near the pools every night at 7:30 p.m. for free s’mores!
La Cantera has a lot more activities for kids, too. The Kids Club features organized activities, a nice-sized play room area with games, toys, arts and crafts supplies, and more … perfect for giving kids a break from Mom and Dad when they want. While most of the resort activities are complimentary, there’s an additional fee for Kids Club. Children can opt for an hourly drop in visit or a four-hour session. Next door to their club is a teen lounge, suitable for ages 10 – 18 during the day. This free area features video gaming (Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360) with the latest games available. From 8 – 11 p.m., it’s for ages 13 and older only.
Special presentations for kids at the resort take place regularly, including the cool ZooMagination animal encounter. Kids can meet and learn about a variety of animals ranging from a sloth to a cockatoo. Additionally, Dinosaur George sets up shop in the luxurious main lobby each day, bringing fossils and dinosaur bones. And while there, you’ll likely be entertained by a strolling magician adept at card tricks.
You will definitely want to take advantage of the Kids Club, because a visit to the resort’s Castle Rock Health Club and Spa is a must. Offering relaxation at its best, luxuriate in the Tranquility Room before and after an amazing massage (a variety of them are available), facial or other spa service. The health club has several cardio machines and an impressive weight room, so you can keep fit while vacationing.
Five restaurants adorn the resort, all of them superb. Brannon’s Café is perhaps the most kid friendly in both atmosphere and menu options. Plan for breakfast there either Saturday or Sunday so your kids can meet Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny and other surprise Looney Tunes characters. Mom and Dad should plan at least one dinner outing to the wonderfully romantic Francesca’s at Sunset, the resort’s most upscale dining option. The farm-to-table concept is incredible, and while it seems hard to make a decision on what to order, take it from me: the Corn Crepe-Lobster Enchilada and the Steak Diane (South Texas antelope filet) are succulent and unforgettable.
Beyond La Cantera: Six Flags and Sea World
As easy as it is to be drawn into the lull of sheer comfort at La Cantera, your kids will want to explore a couple of fun, nearby attractions. First stop, Six Flags Fiesta Texas (210-697-5050; sixflags.com/fiestatexas), conveniently nestled down the hill from the resort and built in a former quarry. Lots of rides cater to thrill seekers of all ages. The Superman coaster is a must for older kids, and if you really want to push the envelope, get on Goliath, the park’s inverted coaster sporting powerful G-force twists and turns that passionate coaster buffs require. There’s nothing quite like seeing your feet flying overhead in the air against the bright, blue sky when you’re upside down going over the loop!
Sea World (800-700-7786; seaworld.com/sanantonio) is an absolute on your to-do list. Check out one of the amazing live animal shows where you can get soaked by an Orca’s splash. See the dolphin show that incorporates human aerialists similar to Cirque du Soleil. Sea World has rides, too, and if you have preschoolers, hang out at the awesome Sesame Street Bay of Play area. This larger-than-life spot features water splash pad areas, climbing structures, kiddie rides and photo ops with characters including Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Big Bird and more, who also perform an outdoor stage show. Visiting with kids at least 7 years old and 48 inches tall? For $159 a piece, you can do the private beluga whale experience. This amazing opportunity finds you zipped into wet suits walking out on a six-foot ledge that is waist deep on most adults. Of course, you receive training for the activity first! What’s fun about this experience with the friendly belugas is that you get to “work” with them just like one of their trainers works with you! You’ll learn specific hand signals used for directing the whales. For instance, with the slap of a palm on the water, your first whale is ready for action and instruction. Have fun getting them to do different stunts in the water. You also get to feed them treats and pet the tops of their heads — which feel like peeled hard-boiled eggs! The climax of the experience is when the trainer has a beluga rise out of the water to “kiss” you on the cheek! A professional photographer is on the other side of the tank to snap your picture, which you get for free along with a souvenir towel to dry off with post-excursion.
A vacation to Westin La Cantera Resort and the nearby attractions will certainly be as memorable and relaxing for you as it was for me. I can’t wait to go back!
Chad Young is managing editor for this publication.