One of the reasons that the Atlantis Resort, LEGO, and JetBlue flew me and some other writers down to the Bahamas with our kids was so that we could be there for the official grand opening of the Atlantis Kids Adventure (AKA) Club. Like everything else at the resort, this club for children aged 3 to 12 is over-the-top and designed to be a state-of-the art experience where kids can choose from a wide range of fun options. So what kind of self-guided “adventure” did Teddy have?
He colored his own messenger bag games in the Arts and Crafts Room.
He hung out in the Performance Room, where he went backstage to find a costume and get his face painted before posing for his very own magazine cover. As is true in the rest of life, the clothing options for girls were much more exciting than those for boys, ranging as they did from princess to shepherdess to ballerina. Teddy had to settle for a horse, since there wasn’t an elephant available.
He also loved the high-speed musical memory floor games there.
Later, we headed over to the Imagination Station where Teddy played for a long time in the nice little Grocery Store, the Victorian Dollhouse, and the LEGO Construction Zone. He also sat (briefly) to listen to the talking tree in the Wizardology room as it recited The Lorax.
Our time there ended with Teddy getting in a “secret elevator” with one of the staff members (who was dressed up like Willie Wonka) and going to a room where, free of parental supervision, he got to pack a plastic bag full of Swedish fish and jelly beans. I’m not sure if every child gets to do this every time they visit AKA, but it may have been Teddy’s favorite part of the entire experience.
(True confession: Although I know I’m supposed to disapprove, I kind of liked this part too. There was something very sweet and innocent about how excited he was to get the candy.)
Would I make use of the Kids Club if I were staying at Atlantis on a family vacation? My answer is probably yes. I liked and trusted the Bahamian staff, who were young, enthusiastic, energetic, and just plain nice. Teddy was difficult during his photo shoot, and the young woman working the camera cajoled and loved on him until he was able to calm down and pose.
And they’ve definitely set the club’s schedule so that families with children of different ages can use it (note, however, that it’s only for children who are over three and potty trained). There are two sessions per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon – the former is three hours, the latter four. Each costs $45 with an additional fee for lunch or dinner, which I think is a not unreasonable price; it’s not that much more than I pay for babysitting. The facility is gorgeous, clean, and very secure – adults who don’t work there are not allowed in, photos are taken of children and parents, and a high-tech security system offers GPS wrist bands for each child so that their location is available at all times.
I do wish however that there was a little more emphasis on the more old-fashioned forms of fun, especially for older kids. I don’t like my kids to have a lot of screen time, and screens are definitely a key element in many of the rooms – even the storybook area for little kids has a DVD player where movies are shown. And the area that will most appeal to children who are Tommy’s age and older definitely relies heavily on this form of entertainment. Frankly, I’d rather he be playing on a real basketball court than on a Wii. But I know also that this is my personal preference and that lots of parents and kids will love the room full of Xboxes and Playstations, especially since the kids using them can compete against each other.
This of course isn’t to say that there aren’t some way cool uses of technology that I did like – iTables (just like the phones in furniture form) in the arts and crafts room are loaded with fun apps for kids of all ages that give them the chance to play educational games or color pictures.
Since I was there on a press trip celebrating the official opening of the gleaming, new, 8000-foot facility the resort understandably wanted all the parents to spend time there with the kids so that we could see it. Unfortunately, I think this created an impression that the children’s programs take place entirely onsite and indoors, which of course wouldn’t sit well with me in such a beautiful place with such fabulous weather. The club facility has a backyard, which is apparently where the kids so some activities and eat lunch, but it’s far from the main attraction. So I was happy to learn that children do get to explore the resort as part the programs offered there. Depending on the age of your children and whether you leave them in the morning or afternoon, these “field trips” include organized games on the beach, swims in the one of several kid-friendly pools, or behind-the-scenes tours of different areas of the resort, including one of the large aquarium called The Dig. I know that Teddy would have loved to see the animals being cared for and fed and that this experience would have enhanced his stay at Atlantis. On some of these field trips kids get to use digital cameras (provided by the resort) to record their experiences – upon returning to the club, they are offered the chance to e-mail the photos to family and friends, which I know Tommy would really enjoy.
And if I had older kids who stayed up past 8 p.m. I would probably take advantage of the evening hours, which run from 6 until 10:30, to go out for a nice meal. Although at $60 per kid, it would make for a pricey date (but cheaper than in-room babysitting, which costs $25 per hour).
Overall, I’d say that the AKA Club is one of those experiences that made me feel a bit more like a grandmother than a mom. When I was a kid, we sang along to AM radio as we drove in our car with no air conditioning to visit my grandmother – that was our vacation (got that Sonny?). AKA was so beyond the pale of anything I ever experienced or even dreamed of – and it’s just one small piece of what’s on offer at this resort. If I did leave my kids there, I would definitely limit the amount of time, just for fear of complete and total overstimulation. And also that they wouldn’t want to come home!
Although as I talk about limiting my kids’ time in the AKA Club, I know that if I were returning to Atlantis this summer I would definitely consider signing Tommy up for the LEGO Fantasy Camp.
This post is part of a series I wrote about my tip to the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island Bahamas. If you enjoyed it, you might also be interested in:
Almost all of the expenses for my trip were paid for by LEGO, JetBlue, and the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas. But I was under no obligation to write about my experience, was not compensated for this post, and the opinions it contains are (you guessed it) my own.