Family-friendly attractions like dude ranches or national parks offer full immersion into nature. Which is just fine until it storms.
For those seeking a connection to nature and an escape plan in case the weather — or tempers — don’t cooperate, the following new and improved hotels and resorts offer ready access to wild places and alternatives on the mild side, too.
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, Scottsdale
Few places combine access to nature and comforting bases from which to explore it as well as Scottsdale, the resort-filled suburb of Phoenix.
Much of that outdoor space is devoted to golf courses, but there are plenty of Sonoran Desert preserves in which to hike, including the granite terrain of Pinnacle Peak Park. The new 201-room Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa occupies its own 23 landscaped acres with a relaxed style, from the glass-walled restaurant to spacious midcentury-designed rooms and two outdoor swimming pools.
The resort offers tours in a local artists’ community. And downtown Scottsdale, with its walkable streets filled with shops, restaurants and unique museums, is a few miles away. Rooms from $399; scottsdale.andaz.hyatt.com.
The Hideaway, Carmel-by-the-Sea
Beachcombers, surfers and boogie boarders will find plenty of fair-weather activity on the Monterey Peninsula along California’s central coast. Whale-watching is good virtually year-round, and there are bike rentals for exploring. When the weather gets bad, visitors can seek a controlled communion with nature at the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium.
A handy base for coastal exploring is the new Hideaway hotel, a 24-room bed-and-breakfast in Carmel-by-the-Sea that opened last spring. The hotel, from the PlumpJack Group, which is well known for its Bay Area restaurants, stocks playing cards and board games for rainy days and will arrange family surfing lessons and aquarium tickets. Rooms from $220; hideawaycarmel.com.
Moose Hotel & Suites, Banff
The lively mountain town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies was born to serve travelers who were tentative about scaling snowcapped peaks but excited about riding the Canadian Pacific Railway to some of the railroad’s most elaborate hotels, including the castlelike Banff Springs Hotel (now the Fairmont Banff Springs).
Banff serves as base camp for excursions into nearby Banff National Park, with its 2,564 square miles available for adventures ranging from soft to extreme. From town, visitors can ride the Banff Gondola to the newly renovated summit center, which has a theater, interpretive center and restaurant at an elevation of 7,486 feet. The new Moose Hotel & Suites, with 174 rooms, family-friendly suites and rooftop pools indoors and out, puts many of these attractions within walking distance. Rooms from 175 Canadian dollars ($130); moosehotelandsuites.com.
The Inn at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Lexington
Between 1805 and 1910, the third largest community of Shakers, the Christian sect known for its spare architecture and furniture, lived on the 3,000 acres that now make up Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in northern Kentucky. Spread over 13 original Shaker buildings with 72 guest rooms, the Inn at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill offers access to horseback riding and hiking on 37 miles of trails in the compound’s nature preserve of prairie and woodlands.
But there are also new cultural activities, including workshops in making your own Shaker broom. New nature programs include brunch with baby animals on the working farm and guided treks to identify spring wildflowers. Rooms from $110; shakervillageky.org.
Nine River Road, Callicoon
Travelers go to the Catskill Mountains for nature, of course, but village life is a secondary attraction at Nine River Road, a riverside house that opened in August in Callicoon.
The 1884-vintage house on the Delaware River, once home to a furniture store, holds eight rooms spread over three floors, some with claw-foot tubs and river views. Guests can borrow bikes to go exploring or sign up with an outfitter to go tubing or canoeing on the river. Spend time indoors lounging by the communal fireplace or playing board games. Town is a quick walk away and is home to restaurants, galleries, antiques shops and a historic movie theater. Rooms from $149; nineriverroad.com.
Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, Charleston
Seven miles from downtown Charleston, the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina offers easy access to the historic attractions of the city along with the relief of two pools and a beach. The children’s club emphasizes nature in the coastal low country with adventures in crabbing, hunting shark’s teeth and investigating bugs. Bikes are available to take on area trails, and the marina offers opportunities to sail.
Guests can get to Charleston’s historic center via a water taxi or a free trolley. There are three restaurants; on-site entertainment includes movies screened each Saturday at a private 30-seat theater. Ninety-two rooms include some family suites that feature two bedrooms. Rooms from $229; charlestonharborresort.com/beachclub.