The rustic and elegant Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Lake Oconee, is best known for its five championship golf courses and world-class luxurious spa. But here’s what you may not know – it’s the best resort for families in all of Georgia. From the spacious suites to the outdoor activities and from the ample amenities to the dining options, Reynolds Plantation lives up to the Ritz-Carlton name with their attention to detail and superb customer satisfaction — even for the youngest of customers. Here are six reasons we believe that Reynolds Plantation is a superior destination for families.
Suites that are sweet on families
The Executive Suite is ideal for a family. A separate living room ensures there is ample space to relax and unwind. It includes a large flat-screen TV, honor bar and mini fridge, and Nintendo. The sofa folded out into a bed where our oldest slept, and a half-bath sat off the living room. This area also offered access to the expansive balcony overlooking Lake Oconee. It was a sight to behold!
The main bedroom included a king bed with a featherbed topper – pure heaven! It also granted access to the balcony through the same style of floor-to-ceiling glass doors. We avoided work at all costs, so we didn’t leverage the grand work desk, but even with the desk and multiple chairs, there was plenty of space for a rollaway bed for the littlest kiddo, turned down for us at the time the fold out bed was arranged.
The bathroom was grand, with a separate tub and shower and walk-in closet area. Showerheads are important to me, and Ritz did not disappoint. I adored the rainforest showerhead.
The Ritz Kids program is fun for kids and parents
Ritz Kids programs provide exciting fun for kiddos ages 5-12 visiting the resort, allowing mom and dad a short respite at the spa or on the golf course. Full-day and have-day Ritz Kids Camp programs are offered seven days a week, and Kids Night Out is available every Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.. Program activities are physical and creative, based on four pillars- water, land, environmental responsibility and culture. We didn’t have a chance to experience the program this time; little brother was too young to attend and we didn’t want to split them apart. I did see a few children exploring with a Ritz Kids counselor and they seemed to be having a blast!
General amenities with kids in mind
The first thing I noticed upon arriving was the abundant number of families. Easily, 50- 75 percent of the guests we encountered were with children. Reynolds knows this and offers included resort amenities to cater to families. We spent almost all of our time relaxing by the pool and at the beach.
The infinity pool overlooks the lake with breathtaking views of Lake Oconee. There were a dozen kids in the pool for our children to play with, and they spent hours swimming back and forth. The kind staff working the pool area always ensured we had towels, lemon water and plenty of refreshments. A full poolside menu was available from Gaby’s By The Lake- it must have been the first time that the boys savored french fries and ketchup without ever leaving the pool waters. Dan and I enjoyed cocktails (especially the pina colada,) and the boys were fixated with their mocktail – Un-Buzzed Lightyear. It was lemonade with blue raspberry flavor and gummy bears, to boot.
I should also mention the children’s pool, with an umbrella, small fountains and zero-entry. We visited several times, but it was a hot spot for little ones younger than my boys so we found ourselves at the “big pool” most of the time. I appreciated that the kiddo pool was in the shade, near the restrooms and far from the bar. It made a great escape for several new moms I saw there.
If we weren’t at the pool, then we were tackling the lake. We built castles in the sand, snorkeled in the water and played on the floating rafts provided by the resort. The water was clean and there were deck chairs and towels available, too.
Additional activities were also on the grounds. We loved swinging in swings hung between trees, lounging in hammocks, playing on the playground (also pocketed in the shade – thank you Reynolds!) We played basketball on a hoop that was adjustable for kids, tried a game of outdoor Ping-Pong, attempted corn hole and threw several rounds of ladder golf (a favorite game we play at home.)
NEW FOR 2017:
Kids and adults can enjoy biking along the top of Lake Oconee without getting wet with the resort’s new Water Bikes. As the only Ritz-Carlton destination to offer Schiller Water Bikes, both kids and adults can participate in the fun new lake activity.
In partnership with Charlie Elliott Nature Center, the Falconry Assoc of Ga and the Regional Audubon Society there are three new tours available. Enjoy a Guided Bike Tour at 8am, Guided Paddle Tour across the lake at 11am, or a Guided Nature Hike and Bird Walk at 1:30pm on Saturdays.
The Resort Activity Package extends the family fun
If you have an active family like ours, I encourage you to invest in the Resort Activity Package. In addition to complimentary valet and Internet, it affords you all non-motorized sports activities for one low fee. This means that you can try canoeing, kayaking, Yolo-boarding or bike riding with your little ones for as long (or as short) as they can handle. And you can come back to favorite activities several times during your stay. In my opinion, this is ideal with finicky children!
We tried the Yolo board for the first time. It’s like a stand up paddleboard, for beginners. We went early in the morning, which was a serene and beautiful way to experience Lake Oconee. I even saw striped bass jumping from the water!
Nothing beats a train ride and s’mores
Your little loveys will enjoy two additional free activities at Reynolds Plantation: the Linger Longer Express and S’mores by the Lake! Our youngest proclaims regularly that these were his favorite activities.
The Linger Longer Express train runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday around the scenic parts of the Ritz-Carlton Lodge. The 10-minute ride is eco-friendly and gives youngsters a fun spin. No reservations are required, so hop aboard when it is right for you.
S’mores by the Lake invites you to enjoy a roaring campfire with complimentary s’mores and lemonade every day of the week beginning at 8 p.m.. My boys ate their weight in marshmallows, and had the most fun roasting them on the fire with gigantic (re: safe) sticks. Staff were on hand to pre-make the cracker part of the s’mores, meaning that as parents, we were able to spend more time enjoying the boys than constructing the concoctions (thank you again, Reynolds!) Plenty of lemonade and water were available to wash it down!
NEW FOR 2017: In addition to nightly s’mores around the campfire, the resort is now offering a new complimentary Family Fun Hour daily from 4-5pm with games, crafts and more.
Dining options for the whole family
Last, but not least, Reynolds Plantation provides astounding dining options for everyone. We skipped the Linger Longer Steakhouse at the golf clubhouse. This is an elegant dining option for older kids or date night. Instead, we lunched by the pool (see above) and relished an outstanding dinner at Gaby’s By the Lake. With a view of the lake and casual but upscale menu selections, we relaxed and indulged. As usual, Ritz doted over the boys, ensuring their Un-Buzzed Lightyear drinks had plenty of gummy bears, and that their coloring pages and crayons were up to par. The Ritz Kids Menu included fruits and veggies; our staples, grilled cheese and PB&J; spaghetti; ravioli; chicken and more.
Hubby and I selected seafood. I heard that the sea scallops were a signature dish of Gaby’s, and I was not disappointed. The quinoa and scallops were divine. I also sampled from hubby’s plate of mahi-mahi and pepper jack grits. Oh my. I could not get enough of those grits!
A breakfast buffet is available Georgia’s Bistro, but since the boys don’t eat much we opted for breakfast at The Coffee Shop. We woke with help from Starbucks coffee while the boys had OJ, and we ate our hot oatmeal and blueberry muffins on the balcony of the lobby area, taking in the morning view of the lake.
Want to read more about Reynolds Plantation? Click here for Your Reynolds Plantation Family Bucket List.
If you happen to be visiting without the kiddos, or you can grab a break (that’s what grandparents are for, right??) then try the spa and a romantic dinner.
Lake Oconee Spa and Dining
Ritz-Carlton, Lake Oconee Spa
An unassuming annex to the left of the Ritz-Carlton’s main entrance holds the door to an escape that is millions of miles from the stress and strain of everyday living. Hubby and I were staying at the neighboring Reynolds, Lake Oconee so I booked a deep tissue massage…and I didn’t want to leave!
Facilities and Check-in
What looks like a small building from the outside is actually a 27,600 sq ft oasis that underwent a multi million-dollar renovation in 2015. Enter the main doors to be greeted with the personalized service Ritz-Carlton is known for.
As you enter, you’ll find an impressive shop with loungewear, beauty products and gifts. Check in at the desk, or sign in and head straight to the lower level where you will find an indoor lap pool, co-ed hot tub and complete circuit-training fitness center. The pool room is a site to behold, with warm tones and dark wood accents, a stacked stone fireplace, gracious lounge chairs, tropical plants and views of the outdoors. (Note: kids are welcome at the pool from 3pm – 8pm daily, so plan around this if you want adult time- or plan for it if you’re visiting with kids in colder weather.)
Back upstairs, the front desk staff escorted me beyond the private doors to the spa area. I was again greeted by another staff member that asked for my slipper size, assigned me a locker and led me on a short tour of the facilities.
The locker room area included personal lockers, private changing areas, restrooms and showers and a makeup/toiletry area. Spa guests can also enjoy a community area…my favorite place! This gorgeous area included a fireside hot tub, which single-handedly destroyed my ancillary stresses. There is also a gorgeous pressure shower, a eucalyptus steam room, sauna, cold tub and relaxing outdoor patio.
Ready for services? Enjoy the peace and quiet of the waiting room, where your aesthetician will call you. You’ll wind to the back area where each of the service rooms are located.
I should also note that if you’d like to order lunch or a snack, you are more than welcome to do so from within the spa.
You’ll find a plethora of treatments to choose from at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Oconee Spa. Body treatments, facials and massages dominate the spa menu. You’ll also find mani- and pedicures, hair stylists and multi-treatment packages. Men’s grooming services are available, as well.
I opted for a Deep Massage with Arnica and Steamed Towels. HEAVEN. Arnica is a flower, much like a sunflower, known for it’s anti-inflammatory qualities…the perfect companion to a deep tissue massage.
Dee, my masseuse, brought 16 years of experience to the table (literally!) She was spot on, noticing what parts of my body needed extra attention, checking with me about temperature and pressure multiple times during the experience and bringing me from high-stress to high-serenity in less than an hour.
I want to make a special note about a personal pet peeve at spas. Sometimes the aesthetician is out of tune with my mental state- I want to chat, and she is super quiet…or worse, I need peace and quiet but she’s a Chatty-Kathy. No surprise considering Ritz-Carlton’s superior service, Dee was completely in tune with me through the entire experience. She engaged with me when I needed it, and she gave me silence and peace when I entered bliss. Thank you Dee…thank you!
Payment and Gratuity
Guests of the Ritz-Carlton are welcome to use the general areas of the spa free of charge from 6am – 8pm each day. If you are staying at the rentals at Reynolds, Lake Oconee (as we were) then use of the spa is $30 per day- a steal!- unless you purchase a service. Spa treatments include use of the spa for the entire day without an additional fee.
A 22% service charge is added to all spa treatments, but you are welcome to add additional gratuity if you are so inclined. (Trust me, if you see Dee for a deep tissue massage, you will want to give thanks!)
Check-out is back at the gift shop area near the spa entrance. Be sure to take a look at the products. I didn’t have a facial, but I notice they use and sell Eminence Organic SkinCare. I’ve been using this at home for years; it is the best skin care regime out there.
I purchased Kneipp Foot Repair and Arnica Bath Salts. It was the product used on me in my massage, and I loved it so much that I wanted to bring it home for extended pampering. I also picked up a few gifts for Grammy (who was home with the wee-ones,) and adorable alligator goggles for the kiddos. Even if you are not enjoying the spa, it’s worth a trip to the gift shop for a few luxuries for yourself and those back home.
Dining at Georgia’s Bistro at Ritz-Carlton, Lake Oconee
We enjoyed a delightful dinner at Georgia’s Bistro. Here are the details.
Georgia’s Bistro is a comfortable but classy restaurant on the lower level of the the Ritz-Carlton. Exposed wood ceilings, a stacked stone fireplace and breathtaking views of the lake welcome you warmly. I recommend dinner reservations, especially on the weekends. This is a favorite dining location for guests and locals. Breakfast is also available.
The inside restaurant also extends to the patio, with more stone-scape, warming areas and stupendous views. We were dining alone that evening, but Georgia’s Bistro is family-friendly.
Georgia’s Bistro strives to serve local, regional and organic fare when ever possible. We started with the Local Fashioned, a twist on an Old Fashioned. It featured 13th Colony Southern Rye, ginger ale, honey and orange bitters. Dare I say they improved on a classic? I should also note that their wine list is extensive and was recognized with Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
We noshed on fried green tomatoes as a starter, which included house-made pimento cheese, bacon jam and crispy kale. It was delicious – the pimento cheese was heaven! For dinner I savored a sweet-tea marinated thick-cut pork chop with house-made baked beans and braised collards. I highly recommend it.
I noted that the couple at the table next to us ordered the Bison Ribeye. They had it split in half in the back (along with all the sides,) and delivered on individual plates. I thought this was a spectacular idea since the servings are exceptionally large. Our waiter indicated that this is done regularly and free of charge. What a great idea!
We topped off the evening with a cup of almond coffee and a slice of buttermilk pie…a must-try indulgence!
Disclosure: We are exceptionally grateful to Ritz-Carlton for hosting my family and me at Reynolds Plantation. Their graciousness in no way impacted my opinion. Without a doubt, this is THE best family resort in the state! No one else holds a candle to their customer support and attention to detail. I sincerely cannot recommend this resort more highly! #keepingitreal *Thank you to Ritz-Carlton for the photos.
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.
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