For the first New Year's Eve in years, Louly Williams plans to be awake at midnight, toasting the millennium at a fancy hotel party. She just hopes her 8- and 4-year-olds can stay awake too.
"One day my kids won't want to spend New Year's Eve with me, so I want to be with them while they do--especially this year," explained Williams, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Besides her husband and two children, she'll be joined at the Mohonk Mountain House, the sprawling Catskills resort in New Paltz, N.Y., by her parents, her brother and his wife. "I want to be with my family," Williams said. "No one I know wants to go away over New Year's without their kids."
Ski areas, tropical resorts and cities have begun to get that message loud and clear from parents.
"People want a little less glitz and glamour than we originally thought and more touchy-feely family time," acknowledged Ritz-Carlton spokeswoman Vivian Deuschl. "They want their kids to be able to tell their grandkids how everyone celebrated the arrival of the new century together."
As a result, there are a fast-growing number of kid-friendly millennium celebrations being planned from the Caribbean to Orlando, Vermont, Colorado, California and Hawaii with everything from lavish family buffets to laser tag, dances, slope-side children's torchlight parades, magicians and crab races--activities for families to share and for kids and teens to do on their own.
Ritz-Carlton hotels retooled their lavish, over-the-top millennium packages to offer more for families, from a glow-in-the-dark pool party and movie marathon at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Florida to a New Year's Eve ball for children 12 and up at the Ritz in Laguna Niguel. Call (800) 241-3333 for reservations or http://www.ritzcarlton.com.
The Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania will dish up more chocolate than any pint-size chocolate lover could eat and is transforming Hersheypark into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights through Dec. 31. Call (800) 533-3131 or http://www.hersheypa.com.
Universal's new Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla., is touting a four-day family millennium package for four people between Dec. 23 and Jan. 5 for just under $5,000. That includes all the time you want at the two theme parks plus a VIP tour of the park (no lines), welcome gifts for the kids and spa treatments for the grown-ups. Call (800) U-ESCAPE (837-2273) or http://www.uescape.com.
The Buccaneer Resort in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, will ferry families to the beach at Point Udall, the easternmost point of the United States, so they can see the sun rise for the first time in the country as they sip champagne or juice. Call (800) 255-3881 or http://www.thebuccaneer.com.
Many places are getting the local community involved. Crested Butte, Colo., one of my favorite ski haunts, is inviting junior skiers to a chaperoned bash at a local school while younger skiers join a glow-stick-lighted parade down the slope. Maui is hosting an all-day and evening Ohana Festival on Dec. 31 (Ohana means family in Hawaiian) at Lahaina, complete with a food fest and hula performances by local kids.
Boston's nonalcoholic citywide First Night party, meanwhile, has become so popular it has been expanded to a three-day festival (Dec. 31 to Jan. 2) and is expected to draw 3 million people, many with kids in tow and some opting to spend the night in city hotels. Other First Night celebrations are set for 220 small towns and big cities. "This is all for families," said Zeren Earls, who helped found Boston's First Night 24 years ago and now heads First Night International. (Check http://www.firstnightintl.org to find a First Night near you.)
There are a few bargains, too--even at Aspen, Colo. Buy your ski passes by Dec. 1 and get a 30% break from last year's prices at Aspen's four mountains. Kids snowboard or ski for $30 a day, parents for $39. Many of the millennium-week festivities are free for families at Snowmass, from seeing the 10-foot-square millennium cake to the Millennium Eve dance for adults and kids. Call (800) 262-7736 or http://www.skiaspen.com.
Many celebrations are slated to last longer than just one night. Disney World's party on land and at sea will last more than a year; Smugglers' Notch Resort in Vermont will celebrate for the entire month of December, with bargains for those families who fete the millennium a few weeks early. Call (800) 451-8752 or http://www.smuggs.com.
That's especially true for cruises because larger cabins that could hold a third or fourth passenger at reduced rates are already gone, explained Donna Esposito, president of the National Assn. of Cruise-Oriented [travel] Agencies.
Check out Carnival's new kids-cruise-free packages this fall and winter, available Christmas week but not over New Year's. Call World Wide Cruises at (800) 882-9000.
Jeff Mink wasn't looking for a bargain or a hot party when he booked his millennium getaway for his family and in-laws--just a lot of family memories.
"It's once in a lifetime," the Long Island business owner said. "The kids have got to be there. It wouldn't feel right otherwise."
Taking the Kids appears the first and third week of every month.