The last time my now-teenage daughter Chloe and I visited Atlantis, Paradise Island together, she was in second grade. While we had a great time, I remember thinking that the resort seemed to be taking the family market for granted.
Yes, the outdoor aquarium and rides were stellar, and there was an interesting children's program, but the overweening casino culture and a lack of activities for families at night made for a somewhat disjointed experience.
Fast-forward several years to a recent Atlantis press trip, and it was clear that the opening of the Atlantis Kids Adventure program is the latest in a series of innovations designed with small fry in mind.
The trip, a joint venture with JetBlue, Lego and the resort, marked the official kickoff of the 8,000-square-foot kids' facility, designed for ages 3 to 12. The program offers something lacking in many kids' clubs: the freedom to choose their own activities from among the menu of options. Instead of the usual "now it's story time" model, the Kids Adventure program encourages youngsters to explore the club under the supervision of seasoned staff.
The look and layout of the facility reflect this philosophy, with a series of interconnected rooms tricked out with enough interactive technology to woo even today's sophisticated children. Huge touch-screen walls, banks of iMac computers and just about every video game system known to man are among the attractions.
Chloe and I participated in an AKA Culinary Adventure that involved a hands-on chocolate-making class, followed by virtual finger painting with touch technology at the Arts & Crafts room. Other favorites include the Imagination Area, complete with a play grocery store, and, of course, the Lego Construction Zone, where kids in hard hats can spend hours playing among thousands of Lego bricks.
The children's program, which is available in partial- and full-day sessions and during select theme nights, is priced from $40 per session.
Of course, no children's club can keep kids indoors all day. At Dolphin Cay, Chloe and I participated in an interactive program with one of the 31 dolphins in residence; shrieked our way down the various water slides at Aquaventure; and visited the resorts' classic attractions, such as the Dig and Predator Lagoon.
Evening activities for families have made huge strides since our last visit, most notably with the Bear Factory Atlantis and the Atlantis Speedway in Coral Towers, where kids can create their own stuffed animals, pottery and race cars to take home. Older kids can check out the no-adults Club Rush in Beach Tower, the Generation YSpa at Mandara Spa and movies at the Atlantis Theatre.
A fourth-night-free package, priced from $499 per person, double, is available for travel through Sept. 30 when booked by May 1. Children ages 11 and younger always stay free. Go to www.atlantis.com.