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Last-minute family vacations to take before school starts

07/25/2013 12:53 PM

07/26/2013 12:42 PM

When school lets out in June, summer seems to stretch gloriously ahead.

But all too soon it’s August, and in the frenzied day-to-day of camps, play dates, Little League games and lemonade stands, you may have forgotten to seize the day and get out of town.

Fear not, harried parents. We’ve got a few good suggestions for how to spend the dog days with just-in-time last-minute trips.

One bonus: Sometimes good deals come to those who procrastinate.

1. Splash down in the Hill Country

It’s hard to think of a greater crowd-pleaser than a sprawling resort with a spa, tennis court and golf course for the parents and an expansive water park for the kids.

Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa just wrapped up a $35 million renovation that included remodeling all 500 guestrooms and expanding its water park from 4 to 5 acres. Named Edge Falls, the water park expansion includes Texas’ first FlowRider wave machine for surfing, body boarding or knee-boarding and a 22-foot-tall water slide, a sand beach, an activity pool with water volleyball, two hot tubs and even a Texas-shaped pool for adults only.

Rates from $199. 210-647-1234;

2. Soak up San Antonio on the cheap

Visit San Antonio during Kidcation Week, Aug. 12-18, for family-focused deals such as free trolley tours, mini golf and movie admission for kids.

Omni La Mansion del Rio ( has a Kidcation package starting at $179 per night, including daily breakfast, tickets to the San Antonio Children’s Museum, a hotel scavenger hunt, a kid’s backpack, and cookies and milk at turndown.

More information at

3. Don’t pass on Houston

This spring, Kemah Boardwalk (, a bay-front attraction with amusement park rides, nine restaurants, midway games and shops, was added to the Houston CityPASS (

The discount ticket booklet normally costs about $90 per adult, with fares online of $46, nearly half off regular combined admission prices. Other attractions in the CityPASS include Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo, Children’s Museum of Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Visit Houston offers hotel deals starting at $43 per night,

4. Chow down in the Big Easy

In August, the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau will launch COOLinary New Orleans, in which more than 50 restaurants, including Galatoire’s and K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, will offer three-course lunch and dinner menus for $20 and $35, respectively.

Hotel deals also abound in the low season. The Windsor Court Hotel (, home to a rooftop swimming pool, is offering rooms from $199, including a $50-per-night credit. The newly renovated Sheraton New Orleans ( has rooms in August starting at $94.

More on the dining event at

5. Experience a Rocky Mountain high

Ascend to a cool 9,000-plus feet north of Denver in Estes Park for an old-school family camp offered by the YMCA of the Rockies. Bounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park, the Estes Park Center, one of two resorts run by the YMCA in the area, offers hiking, wildlife watching, swimming, fishing, horseback riding and a zip line, plus frequent arts-and-crafts sessions and nightly campfires ideal for stargazing.

Food options range from bargain buffets to a fine-dining room. In August, lodge rooms start at $79 and cabins at $134.

More information at

6. Play like an American Girl

The 2013 model American Girl doll, Saige Copeland, hails from Albuquerque, N.M., and the city visitors’ bureau has launched a Web page to help her fans explore her interests in her hometown, from hot air ballooning and horseback riding to drawing classes at the Harwood Art Center.

American Girl packages from the 25-acre Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm ( start at about $175 and include a mini hot air balloon, a pony plush toy, a VIP barnyard tour and a watercolor kit.

Learn more at

7. Unplug and float

Take the kids where they can’t bring their video games or smartphones: on a river-rafting trip. An outfitter with 40-plus years’ experience guiding families, O.A.R.S. highlights the lack of Wi-Fi and cell service on its Utah river trips.

Furthermore, August is an ideal time to float with the family; water levels are low and calm, allowing kids as young as 4 years old to raft on three-day Green River trips ($699 per adult, $629 per child, all-inclusive). Kids must be at least 7 to ride Class 3 sections of that river in four-day trips, but even day trips, from $99 per adult and $76 per child, offer ample opportunities to swim, paddle and chase lizards — in the real world, rather than electronically.

More information at

8. The wide world of Disney in Florida

Adult Walt Disney World tickets start close to $90-$95 per day, but Aug. 1 through Sept. 30, seven Downtown Disney resorts are offering end-of-summer value rates, most starting under $100 per night.

Options include the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista (from $89) and the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton (from $109). Residency includes complimentary shuttle service to Walt Disney World and dining reservations and golf course tee times.

The savings should help defray admission to the park, home to the new Fantasyland, the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history.

Learn more at

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