Guided nature walks around the grounds of The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage reveal desert flora and fauna. // © 2015 The Ritz-Carlton
Feature image (above): Children can go snorkeling and hiking with a naturalist while at Ritz Kids at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. // © 2015 The Ritz-Carlton
Family vacations provide myriad opportunities for parents and children to connect with one another in a new environment. Of course, every so often the kids might like a break from their guardians, and vice versa. A good kids’ club can be the answer.
The vast majority of kids’ and teens’ clubs are home to cozy, colorful spaces stocked with toys, books, art supplies, board games and video-game consuls. At Ritz Kids, the kids’ club available at select Ritz-Carlton locations around the world, parents can also expect their children to be inspired by educational programming tailored to the destination — an animal encounter or two may even be part of the mix.
Created in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society, Ritz Kids clubs are designed around four key environmental pillars or themes: water, land, environmental responsibility and culture. Water-related programming sheds light on the importance of the sea and other proximate bodies of water, while the land theme encourages exploration and discovery of a site’s local area. Environmental health and local history, art and culture are focal points of the final two Ritz Kids pillars. Eco-travel program Ambassadors of the Environment (AME), available at four brand properties, is another arm of the Ritz-Carlton and Cousteau partnership.
At The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage in California, for example, Ritz Kids programming highlights fascinating facts about the property’s desert location. A half- or full-day experience is likely to begin with an up-close encounter with the club’s resident Komodo dragon, Drako. Kids can pet the bearded reptile and watch him eat live worms before taking a nature walk on the grounds in search of desert plants such as saguaros and red yucca. They’re also likely to spot hummingbirds and a cotton-tailed rabbit or two in the surrounding hills.
While the themes provide a general structure for the curriculum at Ritz Kids locations worldwide, each site and its club leaders can adapt discussion points depending on participants’ ages and interests. That’s precisely what recreation attendant Frank Sheckler does at the Rancho Mirage property. After retiring from his primary career, Sheckler worked as a ranger in nearby Joshua Tree National Park, and his firsthand experience in the desert comes in handy on a daily basis at The Ritz Carlton, Rancho Mirage.
“I can play some things by ear, going with the flow of what the children are asking, as well as where they’re from,” Sheckler said. “If they have traveled from the East Coast or Europe, they may have never experienced the desert. Then I can cater to them in a different way than I might to someone from California.”
If clients’ children are intrigued by the sea, consider booking a stay at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Here, children’s programming ranges from half-hour presentations on sea turtles and sharks to a naturalist-guided snorkel and hiking trip. Afternoon tea and French etiquette classes are among options for older children participating in Ritz Kids at The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai. Come winter at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Colorado, kids might make snow sculptures or go snowshoeing. The site also offers its popular Ski Nanny program, which includes ski lessons at nearby Beaver Creek Resort, plus transportation back to the property, where more themed fun awaits.
According to Jean-Michel Cousteau, “Ritz Kids offers globally consistent, immersive programming that builds upon the adventures of travel your child will always treasure. These experiences will be remembered long after their stay.”