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TOURISM : Ritz-Carlton Gives Parents Break, Offers Children’s Programs

Compiled by Chris Woodyard, Times staff writer

Nothing like a night away from life’s troubles to calm the soul. All it takes is a quiet dinner and a movie, just a few blissful hours away from your problems and responsibilities.

Problems, that is, such as picking up your socks, making decent grades or trying to impress the girl who sits three desks away. A child, after all, can use a break, too. And that’s where the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel thinks it has the answer.

For the third summer, the Dana Point hotel is trying to capitalize on the family vacation market by sponsoring a children’s program. It is designed to give parents a rest from watching junior and to give children a chance to, uh, chill out.

Children’s programs at hotels are not a new idea, but the Ritz-Carlton version is more elaborate than most. For $40, parents will be able to put their child through a daylong list of events that includes gymnastics, sandcastle contests, swimming pool games, arts and crafts, and kite flying.

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On Friday and Saturday evenings, the hotel organizes a dinner and movie for children--allowing parents the chance to escape for a romantic dinner if they choose.

For teen-agers, the seaside hotel will be offering informal volleyball and croquet.

Despite room rates that start at $185 a night, the Ritz-Carlton has been a destination for vacationing families. The hotel promotes itself as an ideal location for visits to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, as well as to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.

“This is where families come, and to have something to do with the kids is important,” said hotel spokeswoman Christie Johnson. The children’s program starts June 22.

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At the end of summer, the hotel, which is only 6 years old, will undergo a million-dollar refurbishment.

For starters, the Cafe restaurant will be remodeled and its name changed to the Terrace Restaurant.

The lounge will also be made over. Though the furniture looks as new as ever, General Manager Henry Schielein points out wobbling antique replica chairs as evidence of the effects of five years of power lunches and sunset cocktail parties. The hotel will remodel its suites later this year and eventually plans to redo its guest rooms.


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