Is there a vacation destination that both of us would enjoy?
May 29, 2014 8:51 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I would like to plan a nice vacation for an upcoming anniversary. Unfortunately, our ideas of what would make it a nice vacation are pretty far apart. Is there a place that would suit us both? Our special snowflake requirements inside.

I love visiting big cities with museums, performing arts, cool food and drink, and cultural events. I've greatly enjoyed London, New York, and Washington, DC in the past. I also have a fondness for cheesy tourist-trap stuff. He doesn't like cheesy stuff, doesn't really like museums much, and isn't much of a performing arts person (rock shows, yes, Broadway or symphony, no.) However, he is really into Shakespeare and other Renaissance-ish theater (commedia del'arte, etc.)

He loves theme and amusement parks. I am physically unable to ride most rides and therefore am not big on these things.

We are both huge geeks (we met at a sci-fi and fantasy convention) so having geek-friendly entertainment options would be cool.

We both agree that an important part of our ideal vacation destination would be a lovely hotel with a nice pool and hot tub (preferably both indoor and outdoor options.) It is important for both of us to have places where we can retreat from crowds.

We like the beach but burn easily, so if we go to a beach we'd enjoy it more if there are beach-adjacent but shady places to enjoy it (beachfront balcony, available sunshade for rent, etc.)

We do not want to go on a cruise. We are also not outdoorsy or sporty people, so availability of things like hiking, kayaking, tennis, etc. is not a factor in our choice. We are curious about all-inclusive resorts but don't know much about them.

The only place we've really vacationed in the past is Myrtle Beach, SC. This has the advantage of having the beach/pool/hot tub/hotel/privacy part of the vacation located conveniently next to a lot of shopping, dining, tourist cheesiness, and other entertainment options, so there's something to do if it rains or we read all the books we brought. But we've gone there almost every year since we got married and I'd like to do something new and special for this trip.

So with that said.... where is the perfect place for us to go? This trip would take place in 2016, so we've got some time to plan something cool, though the more we spend getting there the less we have to entertain ourselves with once we arrive. We would be gone at least a week, though I'd love to stretch it out to two if possible. Again, that would depend primarily on cost.
posted by oblique red to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You want to stay at the beautiful beachfront all-inclusive Occidental Grand Xcaret, which is adjacent to Xcaret Eco Theme Park.
posted by erst at 8:56 PM on May 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Southern VA-- Richmond, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach.

There's not one, but two great amusement parks (Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens), as well as colonial Williamsburg (which has nice resort hotels) and all the museums and such in Richmond.

Another option would be Tampa, which also has a Busch Gardens, (But I prefer the one in Williamsburg).
posted by empath at 8:57 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ashland Oregon has a Shakespeare Festal, is a cheesy tourist trap with B&B's on most corners. Award winning restaurants, idyllic summer weather, and its very nerd friendly. There are also tons of hotels, including a beautiful historic one in the middle of town. There are also free "green shows" and a lovely park full of people who juggle. First Fridays of the month have the many galleries in town offer free food and open up to the public. IT's the kind of place where you can spontaneously dance with strangers. It's worth looking at at least.

And look at the pictures!
posted by becomingly at 9:09 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to mention Ashland, too, until I read the bit about them not being outdoorsy people. So much of what Ashland and Southern Oregon are all about is the great outdoors.
posted by zagyzebra at 9:22 PM on May 29, 2014

I was thinking maybe a combination trip where you could hit Toronto, Canada and then also Stratford, Ontario for the plays and maybe Canada's Wonderland or something. Then you get big world-class city culture stuff plus Shakespeare plus amusement park if you wanted it...
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:24 PM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Tunisia: coastal resorts, Roman and Arab ruins, a few museums filled with Roman mosaics, and tours inland to the desert to the Star Wars sites. Geek heaven, with couscous and camels.
posted by kanewai at 9:25 PM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Las Vegas or somewhere else in Nevada? There are nice hotels and a wide variety of performing arts, cultural things, and miscellaneous amusements.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:37 PM on May 29, 2014

I was going to make a suggestion similar to treehorn+bunny. Toronto has world-class shopping, dining and museums. It has a thriving rock music scene, and a pretty nice amusement park. It has a significant in-city theater options and there are two major summer theater festivals, Stratford and Shaw just outside of the city where you can get your classic theater on. It's not a particularly beachy city, though we have beaches on the lake. There are hotels with pools, but they're mainly indoors, not outdoors, if that's really important to you.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:42 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could stay at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, PA. Then you're close to Hershey Park (of course) as well as the PA Renaissance Faire. There's plenty of touristy things to do nearby in Lancaster as well. It's a 1.5 hour drive to either Philly or Baltimore so you could day-trip it for your city fix.

Warning: The whole town smells like chocolate.
posted by rouftop at 9:59 PM on May 29, 2014

Ashland is awesome on its own without indulging in sports. I wasn't doing sporty stuff either time I went there and I had a great time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:36 PM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

My suggestion is pretty much always San Diego. Instead of a hotel, look for a vacation rental somewhere in North County in the beach communities - Oceanside, Carlsbad, Leucadia, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar. Snow sports are about the only thing not within a 2-hour radius, and while you do need sunscreen it's not actually hot except for Aug-Oct (May and June are known respectively for their Gray and Gloom). You're an easy day trip from Disney/California Adventure/Knott's, if you like wine there's Temecula, if you like wine and pie there's Julian. There's a desert and casinos and shopping and history and all that. If you got a reasonable apartment for a week or two as home base, you could even do an overnight or weekend trip to LA.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:44 PM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Old Globe Theater (San Diego) and Cal Shakes (SF Bay Area) both do Shakespeare-festival type things in the summers - though neither one does them in repertory, so you'd probably only get one show at any given time. But both San Diego and the Bay Area have more going on theatrically. In SD you could hit ComicCon at the same time.
posted by expialidocious at 10:58 PM on May 29, 2014

Note that you would need to buy ComicCon tickets the moment they go on sale this year (which might already have happened?) to have the slightest chance of getting in, and oh dear god don't go to ComicCon. It's not a bad deal to be in town if you stay far north and just dip into downtown when needed, because there's a bunch of live podcast recordings and performances and stuff that don't necessarily require a CC badge, but if you're a comedy nerd just come to LA for a couple days any other week of the year and do the UCB-Nerdmelt circuit.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:02 PM on May 29, 2014

Maybe combine Portland with a visit to Ashland for a festival?
posted by stormyteal at 11:48 PM on May 29, 2014

On second thought: scratch Tunisia. It should be on your bucket list, for sure - check out this site on Star Wars filming locations and squee. And there are all-inclusives on the coast ... but even with that it might not be the best first couples exotic vacation if you two haven't traveled internationally yet together.

So let me second erst's recommendation for the Yucatan. I've never stayed in a resort, but the area has everything from the kitsch to the deeply cultural. And it's easy - you don't have to be an experienced traveler to enjoy Mexico.
posted by kanewai at 12:20 AM on May 30, 2014

If Toronto appeals to you, maybe you can time your visit to catch fanexpo or comicon, which are lot of fun
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:26 AM on May 30, 2014

San Diego. It has all of the things you seem to mention. From history, to amusement parks, to shakespeare, to beaches.
posted by Flood at 4:08 AM on May 30, 2014

I'm also a museums-and-cathedrals-and-culture kind of vacationer, and I'd suggest you at least consider Disney World, actually. You say you don't like theme parks because you're not able to ride rides, but most of the rides at Disney World are actually quite mild, and they have incredibly accommodations for most disabilities; they'll stop rides so you can take more time coming on and off, there's a shorter line if sitting/standing and waiting is painful to you.... It's at least worth having that conversation with them.

And even beyond that, there's a ton to do at WDW that isn't ride-related at all, particularly at Epcot. Tour a hydroponics lab! Watch glass-blowing, taiko drumming, acrobats! Taste cuisines of the world! Animal Kingdom is kind of a gussied-up zoo and conservation center if you like that kind of thing, and the Lion King show there is spectacular. Hollywood Studios is FULL of shows (and Star Wars!), plus you can sign up for a drawing lesson, eat in any of various goofy retro restaurants, etc. The parades and fireworks are just lovely, too.

Some of the food in the parks is exceptional though you have to be willing to spend -- there's a lot of advice out there telling you what's worth it. Many of the top-rated restaurants in all of Orlando are on Disney property. We personally love it because we have a ton of food allergies to contend with and the service culture around food and medical issues at WDW is nothing short of incredible. It's nice to go on a vacation and leave behind even those baseline worries.

The resorts vary, but a pool and a hot tub are very easily come by. And if you visit at a time of year that isn't summer vacation, the weather can be perfect and the crowds are much less -- think October or March.

Take another look at it -- you may still come down on not-my-thing, but there's a chance it's a lot more your thing than you realize.
posted by Andrhia at 5:04 AM on May 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

You will both LOVE Gatlinburg, TN.

Stay at the Holiday Inn Club-Smoky Mountains. It's a time-share, but you don't have to be a member, they rent units to non-members as well. I have spent many happy vacations here. Indoor and outdoor pools and a hot tub. Whirlpool baths in the rooms as well.

Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge is a fun amusement park, and there is PLENTY to see and do if you're not a rides person. (I'm not anymore, so I can attest).

Plenty of cheesy touristy crap for you. Walk the streets of candle and fudge shops, mini-golf, and Aquarium, stuff like that. More cheesy tourist crap in Pigeon Forge.

In addition you have the Great Smoky Mountain Park right at your doorstep. Check out Cade's Cove. You drive to it, and drive around to check out the different buildings and whatnot.

You can drive through the park (about 40 minutes) to Cherokee, if you want to do Casino stuff. There's also the typically depressing Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and Unto These Hills, an outdoor drama.

Another option would be Orlando, FL, Walt Disney World to be specific. WDW is an artificial world, it's lovely and goofy and totally fun. Most of the rides are soft and gentle, with a few thrill rides to punctuate the experience. I recommend staying on the property (they have hotels at every price-point, including camping,) and taking advantage of the dining plan, which, if you're going to be in the parks is a darn good deal!

If you stay for a week, you have 4 theme parks to explore, 3 water parks, a mini golf course, restaurants, etc. Downtown Disney has other entertainment options including movies. Each resort has pools, game rooms, etc.

You really can't go wrong with this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:40 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm chiming in with another strong recommendation for the Yucatan. You can usually get a very cheap flight to Cancun and then rent a car there (or get a hotel shuttle). Instead of somewhere expensive and crowded like the Occidental Grand Xcaret, I'd recommend one of the many small places that line the beach around Tulum. (And local food is way better than anything at an all inclusive, if that matters to you.) There's a gorgeous beach, with palapas and hammocks, and amazing Mayan ruins are within easy reach (along with lots of other cool stuff). Not much geek stuff around, but we didn't really miss it...
posted by mkuhnell at 6:18 AM on May 30, 2014

Chicago has everything on your list, if not in the city proper, than within an hour's drive.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:14 AM on May 30, 2014

Many thanks to everyone - I want to go to ALL of these places! This has given us some great new options to explore and I really appreciate all the help.
posted by oblique red at 5:58 PM on June 1, 2014

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