Amber Matheson, Photo of Coco Key at Cherry Valley
The Drive: Newark, Ohio Miles: 138 Happy Trails: Each weekend from Sept. 22 to Oct. 19, the lodge hosts the Devine Fall Getaway for families, with pumpkin massages and tickets to Devine Farms, home to a pumpkin patch and hayrides.
No matter how well you plan the packing (and especially if you let your 4-year-old do it herself) something crucial will inevitably be left at home. But when you finally hit Newark, Ohio, and one of you notices the giant blue and green tubes bursting out of a massive white hotel, nothing else will matter except getting in a bathing suit and getting on those slides. This is Cherry Valley Lodge, where the luxurious hotel came first, and a new waterpark and spa followed suit.
Guest rooms are a neutral territory between the fancy-yet-rustic atmosphere of the lodge proper and the 50,000-square-foot CoCo Key Water Resort. At CoCo Key, swimwear is encouraged at the Galley Snack Bar (featuring a Pizza Hut Express and Dippin’ Dots galore). Back at Sunflower’s Restaurant, no swimsuits are allowed, but the staff seems well versed in accommodating young diners. You can choose a “Soup of the Moment” while the kids get their chicken nugget fix.
The room layouts feature a swiveling, flatscreen TV between beds situated at opposite sides of the room, so family members get a little more privacy than usual. While Mom’s getting a massage at the Banyan Leaf Spa, Dad can take the kids on an exploratory adventure through the hotel’s grounds — the large pond and labeled foliage are easy to find, but a thorough investigation will yield even more distractions, from a fire pit and playground to secluded spots for a lazy lounge. 1-800-788-8008, www.cherryvalleylodge.com