A few years ago the owners of the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal placed a very big bet on their property and their city. They undertook a state-of-the-art $200 million transformation to give luxury travelers the kind of experience they could readily find in most major cities but not so much in Montreal. My family and I had the pleasure of being guests at the hotel last summer during the first leg of a family vacation that led on to Quebec City and continued north into the rustic Charlevoix region of Canada. Most of our activities were warm-weather minded, but a visit to our friendly neighbor to the north is equally compelling in the winter, where the mix of foodie dining, first-rate culture, and all sorts of fun and attractions for kids is buttressed by heaps of snow and a great ski mountain in nearby Mont-Tremblant.
For all its tasteful opulence, the Ritz-Carlton has a welcoming vibe (there were lots of families) and prices that are commensurate with the hotel group’s quality but that aren’t for zillionaires only. Notably, the hotel abounds in smart techie advances, allowing guests a lot of control over the climate and lighting in their rooms. (At the risk of sharing too much, I’ll tell you that my family’s favorite electronic accoutrement was none other than the high-tech toilet, which upon first discovery my 9-year-old son rapturously described as “sick!”)
But if the digital stuff is new and necessary, it is seamlessly folded into what the Ritz does best: Being an oasis of comfort and luxury, a big hotel that feels boutique. Whether enjoying their penthouse infinity pool with my son, stealing some quiet time to myself in their trademark grand court, enjoying a sumptuous breakfast at Maison Boulud (as in that Boulud), or chatting with one of their five-star helpful concierges, I loved our time at the Ritz-Carlton—as I did in Montreal.
Boca Raton Resort & Club
There is a time for the Magic Kingdom. There is a time for the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. But if you’re visiting Florida and the big amusement parks aren’t on the itinerary, it’s hard to imagine a better place for family-friendly luxury travel than the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
As its name suggests, it’s a kind of two-for-one destination—a resort and a club—both operating at the highest levels of comfort, relaxation, and fun. There is the sprawling inland property that was originally founded in 1926 by the legendary Florida tycoon Addison Mizner and still radiates a distinctly old-school Floridian grandeur, with a mix of Spanish-Mediterranean architecture and pink facades. Its lush environs include great tennis and golf, a wondrous spa, several outdoor pool options, and a number of notable eateries. I’d be remiss if I didn’t hone in on one of them: the legendary Serendipity, with its glorious ice cream concoctions, has an outpost in the resort’s main building, and it’s every scoop as good as the original on East 60th Street.
And that’s only half the story. There’s also the Boca Beach Club, a swanky contemporary beachside property that the resort reopened in 2009 after a $120 million renovation. Here’s what I found: It feels as good as it looks, a perfect spot for families like mine who want to spend as much time as possible alternating between the pool and the beach. Given that goal, it won’t surprise you to learn that we opted to stay at the beach property, where we’d get up every morning and enjoy a wonderful breakfast on a veranda looking out on the ocean.
In addition to tennis and golf, the Boca Raton Resort & Club’s menu of amenities includes boating, surf school, a kids’ camp, volleyball, croquet, and an outdoor oversized chess board. We dabbled in this and that, and also enjoyed meandering walks on both properties, though mostly stayed true to our deepest pleasures: pool and beach. Just imagine all these options—both inland and beachside—and imagine a place where kids are as common as the palm trees. It was family heaven.